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Santa Fe _ Iron_ by write_light

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Santa Fe _ Iron_ by write_light Powered By Docstoc
					    SANTA FE &
       IRON
Title: Santa Fe & Iron
Author name: write_light
Artist name: griseldajane
Genre: AU Wincest
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: NC-17 / Adult
Word count: ~66K
Warnings/Spoilers: two canon character deaths already seen on show, brief but severe mistreatment of
children, occasional gruesome horror and violence, explicit sex
Disclaimers: Not my characters, no profit made, no offense intended, no clever disclaimers.
Dedication: To CJ
Written for: SPN_J2_BIGBANG 2009

Summary: 1870s. The American Midwest.
Dean Campbell and Samuel Bennett aren't the Winchester brothers. At least, not yet. Twenty-two years
after a demonic attack shatters their family, a train trip gone awry drops the orphan Sam in Salina,
Kansas. There he meets Dean, owner of the most successful business in that small town and the last
person Sam thought he'd fall for. As demonic signs mount, they find in each other a useful ally and a
romantic entanglement neither is ready for. The shocking secret that connects them is unleashed by the
demon in a final attack that sets them on a very dark road.
                                           PROLOGUE

1850 – Lawrence, Kansas

In the third week of May, attackers poured into Lawrence from slave-state Missouri, intent on teaching
the populace of Lawrence a lesson about the cost of being abolitionists and free-staters. Lawrence
was leveled. Some of the mob focused on the press offices, others began a more profitable looting and
pillaging. A swirl of sparks caught the attention of others, who got it into their heads to set the town
ablaze.

They burned down nearly every building that would burn, but the townsfolk refused to fight them, for
Lawrence had good people. The mob torched homes and businesses, even with people still in them,
right to the outskirts of the town, all except for one house, which they found already fully consumed in
fire, a homestead with a handmade sign that said "Bennett".

Most blamed Mary Bennett's death and the death of her son (some said both sons) on the "Sack of
Lawrence" as it came to be known, but her relations doubted this, choosing instead to blame her
husband, John Bennett, whom they'd never liked much, and the rumors of insanity on the Winchester
side of his ancestry, rumors which surfaced quite soon after Mary died.

Blame for all the good it did, for John had vanished, utterly, and so had Samuel. It happened like this…
PART ONE: THE ROADS SO FAR
CHAPTER ONE

April – May 1850 – Lawrence, Kansas

"Wake up, damn you, Mary!" he yelled, tears and panic and frustration mixing on his face. When she
stopped screaming, John got up from the bed, unable to look at her and knowing she couldn't bear to
be touched at that point. The pain was fading out, and her swollen belly glowed like a forgotten
campfire, grey over embers. John hadn't noticed this, and Mary wouldn't let herself believe it but as a
remnant of her dream.

"What was it this time? Chased by a monster with glowing eyes? Weird messages from the beyond?"
It was all so far outside his experience, and it terrified him.

"It was burning me – a fire… flames… all around the baby."

"A week, Mary, a week. It'll stop then."

"I know." And she did need him to touch her, because he had cool, strong hands that kept her mind
clear. He left her sitting there, sweating, shivering, and terrified, and went to fix her medicine because
she had faith in that, he thought.

***

The porch, after day is done, should be restful and easy; John found neither rest nor ease. The smell of
smoke had him even more on edge. If it was a prairie fire or just a farmer burning off his land, he
couldn't tell yet. He couldn't even get a direction on it; it just seemed to be in the air, and yet the
afternoon was windless. And why was Mary crying again? Her first pregnancy hadn't been like this.

He stood at the top of the front steps, the open door behind him; occasionally the sound of his wife
crying reached him and his hand gripped the porch column tighter, thumbnail digging in, cutting into the
new paint. Three and a half months of crying, talking in her sleep, and now once a week or more with
the Terrors, unable to wake up fully – it wasn't normal. Doctors and medicine were no help at all, not
that he'd ever thought they would be. He'd even tried some of the sleeping powder himself and not
slept well at all, troubled by a nightmare of his wife gone insane.

"Dad?"

"What is it, Dean?" He didn't even turn, until he could compose himself.

"I smell something burning."

"It's all around, son. Most likely the Kellys burning off corn stubble."

"No, Dad, in here."

"Go help your mother, son. It'll be all right."

Dean was just four, and John had no intention of sharing his fear, let alone showing it.

***

Mary was able to pull herself up out of the chair, heavy with her second child, a boy. She knew this for
a certainty. They would call him Samuel. That day, her tears had built, and flowed, and passed; now
she was in a fortunate equilibrium and wanted to use this respite to prepare a proper meal and enjoy it
with her family. She'd long since stopped trying to explain her moods because she felt John was
looking at her with less and less love each week, and that scared her almost as much as her
nightmares.

John moved through each room, one by one, and all of them had a burnt odor. It was different from the
smell of prairie fire, almost like meat on the spit, but rank and pungent. John recalled an overnight trip
with his father, who'd killed a young deer and roasted it whole, and the acrid stench of the fur and skin
burning off that had ruined his appetite. It was strongest in the parlor, where Mary leaned heavily on
the table, eyes reddened as they were so often now.

"What is that stench?" The exhaustion in his voice surprised him.

"What are you talking about?" said Mary, taken aback.

With the months of strain came a harsh tone he could no longer control: "Don't you smell it? How can
you not? It's disgusting."

"I've been in here all day. All I smell is our home." Her voice was low and hurt.

Dean was at the door, listening as he always did, and so young that they often ignored him when they
quarreled. But he knew Dad was angry at Mom, again, and Mom was crying, again.

"You don't hurt her," said Dean, and his father head snapped toward him, angrily, guiltily.

The next night, Dean woke up not to the screams of his mother, but to a voice, a low, weird, throaty
rhythm that came from his parents' room. He couldn't understand what it was saying, but he went
toward it, just to see what it was; when he touched the doorknob of his parents' room, his mother
screamed loudly – so loud the door vibrated.

Dean jerked back his hand, frightened in the dark of the landing, sure he'd caused her scream. She
screamed again and again, and he heard his father yelling now too; his voice was so angry and afraid.
He turned the knob slowly and opened the door. His mother had the bedside lamp in her hand, but it
was dark. The oil sloshed as John reached for it, but her arm was rigid, and her face contorted. They
were fighting again, and he was hurting her, Dean was sure. Along her arm, a small lick of flame raced
up to the oil as it trickled over her hand. John got the oil lamp away from her and leaped back. Dean
saw the flames stop short, and then pool together, and vanish, but John saw none of that. Dean cried
out in fear and anger, adding to the confusion as Mary finally came to herself, her husband over her
holding a broken lamp, her firstborn crying in the doorway, and an unspeakable thing burning itself
deeper into her memory.

John gradually allowed himself to admit that his wife was losing her mind; she rarely spoke after that
night except to ask to leave Lawrence, their hometown, before it was too late. John was lost in his own
fears that Mary had brought this insanity to their sons as well – Dean had insisted, once they calmed
him down, that he'd seen fire moving across his mother's body and seen his father attacking his mother
with a lamp. The doctor discounted this as the nightmares of a child in a house with two suffering
parents, and Dean learned not to speak of it again.

***

On the night Samuel was born, Dean was wide awake. Mary had clawed her way out of her
nightmares twice that night, and John was pacing downstairs. Dean looked out his window at the night
sky, and the stars burning overhead. He heard the strange low voice of a week ago. On his way to his
parents' room, he saw his father pass from the parlor to the kitchen without looking up.
The bedroom door was open this time, and the room was dark and warm. He went to his parents'
window and looked out to see the same stars, and when he turned around, the stars were in the room
too. They were little points of light, like sparks from the fireplace, dancing on a warm wind, settling all
over his mother as she slept. She began to burn, and Dean stood gaping at the fire as it covered her.
Nothing else burned. There was no heat from the flames.

Mary saw the fire surround her. It was soft and golden and didn't hurt at all. It covered her and entered
her eyes and mouth; it passed into her skin, and there it burned, finally. She screamed, but no sound
came. She lurched up in bed, grabbing her belly as it glowed from within, as the fire flowed inside her.
She could see her own insides, and she was on fire, and her baby, her Samuel, was on fire. Her skin
blackened and hissed with steam and her eyes clouded.

Mary began shaking and moaning, and the flames gathered around her as she flailed and screamed.
John, downstairs at the table, put his head in his hands, praying it would pass quickly this time. Mary
struck out as Dean climbed up on the bed to help her, to wake her.

"Mom?!"

"Dean?" John came running up the stairs at the sound of Dean's panicked voice. Mary was no longer
burning visibly, but Dean was beside himself.

"Put the fire out, Dad! It's burning her."

"Get out, Dean! Go back to bed."

Dean backed away as John tried with all his heart to bring his wife back to him, and how many times,
he'd lost count. Mary tensed as if in a seizure, and he saw the sheets darken.

"Oh, not now! Don't come yet, Sam," he said gently. "Dean! Get back in here!"

Dean hadn't left, but was standing bravely by the door.

"Dean, I want you to hold Mommy's hand really tight. I have to go get Dr. Kimball."

"But Dad…"

"Dean, Mommy needs you to be good and strong for her. And for your brother." He put Dean's hand
over Mary's and squeezed them both tightly.

***

Two weeks after his birth and just a week after Mary and John returned home from the hospital with
Samuel, Mary stood looking at the baby in his rocking cradle. John snored behind her. She took each
of the lamps in the room and, one by one, emptied their oil over herself, the flat kerosene taste filling
her nose and mouth, dripping from her nightgown to the floor. The next lamp she poured around the
baby, and the next on the bed, and the last she swung at arm's length, leaving a swath across the
wallpaper and the pillow. Drenched in oil, she moved to her husband's table and picked up the
matches he used to light his pipe. She took one out, pushed the box closed, then walked slowly back
to the bed.

The baby isn't ours. It can't be. Maybe it was once, but not now. The fire had burned through her mind
for four months and there was little left she was sure of.
It didn't stop. You promised it would stop, she accused him silently, leaving him no way to reply. "It
burned in me and you stopped caring." She spoke now in a whisper, her voice flat and hopeless. "You
think the baby is going to be all right. You think we can survive all this."

In the distance, she heard the sounds of a riot spreading through Lawrence, rising terror and excited
bloodlust, mixed. The sky over Lawrence was glowing red.

The match struck well and flared, revealing her face, oily-wet and dead tired. In a gust of hot air, it went
out. She took out another.

"Let me," said the voice of her nightmares, now in the room with her.

The sparks, like fireflies, swirled out from the flaring match, surrounded her, and she burned.

John awoke to a scene his grandmother had once described as "the lake of fire that awaits us all." The
baby's cradle was ringed with flames, singeing John's forearms when he snatched Samuel out of it.
What he saw when he turned around he never forgot and never spoke of, not once. He remembered
her stillness, sitting there on the edge of the bed, the matchbox roaring red and yellow as her flaming
hand set the remaining matches ablaze. The oil-drenched bed burst into flames, and John fell back,
shielding Sam, who was crying fiercely.

When John grabbed Dean's arm, Dean wasn't even awake, perhaps not even until he hit the first stair
and tried to run so he wouldn't be dragged. They burst out the side door, Dean flying in the air behind
his father, Sam clutched tight in John's other arm.

"Daddy, what is it?" Dean yelled, half crying already.

John jerked their horse free of its stall with the hand that held Sammy tight against his chest, while
Dean squirmed in the other.

"Let me go!"

"Dean! We have to get out of here!"

The upper part of the house had caught on fire, windows shattering and belching flame; it was
panicking the horse as well as Dean.

"Where's Mom?!"

"She's gone …." His voice faltered at this and he didn't know how to say it in any way that was right, so
he repeated, "She's gone on alone. We need to go too."

"She didn't go. She's still in there," Dean argued, struggling to pull free.

"Dean, get up on the horse. NOW!"

"No!" He pulled free and ran across the yard as John chased after him and the horse reared up.

"Dean! Come back here, you ornery little shit! DEAN!"

He watched Dean run toward certain death, unable to catch up, his word no longer law.

In the house, Dean couldn't get more than a third of the way up the stairs to his mother. The flames
blocked his path, and in a second seemed to gather form. Dean froze, watching the sparks and smoke
at the top of the stairs become more … like a person. When the eyes opened, they were looking right
at him, eyes of fire and ferocious hate; he felt the full heat of the fire now, and the house cracked from
side to side. He stepped backward, fell from the fifth step to the floor, and didn't move again.

John set Samuel carefully on the paddock straw and turned to run back toward the house; it broke in
two pieces as he got close and a white-hot fire exploded out from within, swallowing the whole second
story down into the first. The fire scorched his face and turned him away; he was uncomprehending
now of anything but saving himself and the baby. With Samuel pressed into him, he mounted the horse
and fled into the night, clutching tight his only son.

The Sack of Lawrence continued on its own unabated until dawn, when calmer heads prevailed and
nothing was left but smoldering ruins in any case. Out of one of these ruins crawled a young boy, a
bad burn across his neck and shoulders, like a hand drawn over a frosted window leaves a trail. He
stumbled away across the yard, and into the fields, where he was found a day later, unable to talk or
remember much.

The Bennett sign stood at the property line, marking only a pile of ash and embers, and a ruined family.
CHAPTER TWO

1852 – Lawrence, Kansas

"What you are talking about is equal to murder."

"Nothing of the sort. He's resourceful; he's aggressive. He'll find a way to survive."

"Joanna, he's not even five and a half years old!"

"And already you've cuffed him twice today, yesterday it was the belt, and he defies you still."

"We cannot simply leave him there."

If Josiah had truly felt that, and meant it, his wife Joanna wouldn't have smiled at him. The smile chilled
him all the more.

"He's John's only living son. He's a Bennett like I am. And like you became when you married me."

"He's a Winchester, too, on his paternal grandmother's side, and there's no guarantee of sanity in that
lineage."

"He's not insane; he survived a fire that killed his entire family. He was injured." Josiah paused. It was
clearly old ground retread. The last year had been, as Joanna so often put it, "hell on earth," and he
was increasingly able to agree.

"Why did we take him in?" he asked her.

"Because he was quiet. And because we thought John was dead. But that was never proved."

"And if you believe that, Joanna, truly, what would you say if he returned?"

Joanna looked down at the sideboard, ran her finger along it. She had no ready answer, for either her
husband or his vanished kin.

That afternoon, Dean struck his cousin so hard that the boy nearly lost the use of one eye. Joanna laid
out her plan in detail, and Josiah silently accepted it.

Josiah remembered the confused and injured boy they'd found wandering the fields two days after the
Sack of Lawrence, a miracle child who had survived the destruction of his family with a horrific burn on
his back the only injury that was apparent to the eye. The deeper horror of all he'd seen that night
haunted Dean, but it faded as his head healed from the concussion, resolving into only three lasting
memories – something awful on the stairs that wanted to take him, his father making his mother sad,
and the loss of his mother, Mary, most of all. Samuel, whom he'd seen once on the day Mary and the
baby returned from the hospital and who'd vanished a week later, blurred gradually into an abstraction
over the years of his childhood, and was eventually forgotten. No one mentioned his family to him, out
of a misplaced sense of concern for his young mind and "all he's been through already."

Dean became withdrawn and angry over the next year, telling stories of fire monsters with such eerie
accuracy that his terrified cousins refused to sleep in the same room, or even play alone with him. His
willfulness and bizarre ideas upset the adults as well. They feared for his mind, assuming his injuries
had left lasting damage. His new family tried to bring him into their circle, but when Joanna, whom he
never called Mother, turned on him in front of his cousins, the split was clear, and grew with each new
transgression. They were unable to control him or discipline him with either reason or punishment or
outright violence. Threats to send him to a far-off reformatory (as some neighbors had suggested,
more than once) only encouraged him – he seemed to like the idea. Threats to send him away with
Comanche Indians were likewise useless.

On the morning of May 21, 1852, Joanna awoke Dean with such gentleness that he started back, not
knowing it was her. She pulled back her hand from his face, but maintained the calm sweetness in her
voice.

"Come get up now, Dean. We have a great surprise for you."

"What is it?"

"When you're washed and dressed, we're taking a boat ride. We're going down to the City of Kansas.
Now you go eat, then wash up and dress – no need for your special clothes; dress for play."

Dean was confused by her tone, so light and considerate, but the idea of a boat ride, of getting away
from Lawrence, was too appealing. When he learned over breakfast that his cousins would not be
coming along, he was sold on the idea. Josiah, whom he never called Father but only Sir, watched him
silently.

The boat ride was perhaps the most fun of his young life – sailing along the river toward the larger
Missouri and seeing the bluffs and the city ahead of him kept him occupied while Joanna talked and
Josiah listened. It also gave him time to plan how he was going to escape.

In the city, the biggest he'd ever known, Joanna held his arm tightly until they left the wharf and headed
up the hill toward the main street. They stood on the bluffs to see the land around them, visited a
church, and then headed back into town to get some nourishment. The city was crowded, but not
unreasonably so; the spring warmth had brought out a great many people who'd been waiting for the
streets to firm up after the rains. Joanna stopped to look in the milliner's shop window, and Dean kept
walking, down the street and around a corner. It wasn't her plan, or his.

She turned to look for him and gasped a little, then looked at Josiah. He called out for Dean but she
pinched his arm in her bony fingers and he stopped.

"Come with me," she said. "The next boat is at two o'clock."

Dean had followed the road for several blocks and then crossed paths with a smell he'd never met –
fresh berries baked in a pastry crust. Joanna never cooked such extravagant things. It wasn't hard to
lift one from the rack where they were cooling, but it made a mess in the eating of it.

"And who are you? And where did you lift that pie?"

Dean looked up at a tall woman in a dress that was far more elaborate than anything worn in Lawrence.
He didn't answer.

"Blackberry pie, by the looks of it. I'll call you Blackbeard, then. You call me Sally."

She had the unlikely but entirely real name of Sally Goodheart, one of the Goodhearts of Missouri
stock, one they didn't claim on their family tree. Sally was not the sort of woman respectable people
looked at as they passed, although many gentlemen found it hard not to. She was a reminder of the
less favored parts of the town, but she was known to all, whether they'd been to her brothel or only
heard tell.

"You can't be more than five years old – are you with your family?"
"I'm nearly six," said Dean with impressive confidence. "I don't have a family," he said, not entirely sure
if it was a lie.

Rather than get attached to yet another street orphan, she wiped his face and told him to run along
home.

"You're lying, Mr. Blackbeard, I can see it. You have a family and you need to get back to them. Run
along."

Dean walked off down the street, turning to look at her once, and saw a woman from a nearby house
chasing Sally off. He was quite happy to be on his own, but he did wonder if Joanna and Josiah would
care. At the wharf, he found no boat to Lawrence until two days from then, and no way to get a ticket.
It didn't quite sink in how bad things were until night fell and he crawled into a shed to sleep.

***

When John knocked on his cousin Josiah's door, it was more than two years after the fire and two
months since Dean had been "sent away" – a story that proved easy to tell around town. John returned
to Lawrence, dragged out of his grief by Samuel, who was now old enough to talk and full of questions
about the world. John needed to see what was left behind, and to say his goodbyes to Mary and Dean.
He came late at night, stopping by his old homestead, now a pile of burnt timber and stones, untouched
by the city because his death was never confirmed and had left the property hanging. He was unready
to face the worst, the thing he'd feared for the past two years, but he knocked.

Joanna screamed, and John pushed her back in the house before the neighbors could notice, hand
clamped over her mouth. She was wide-eyed in her terror of this man returned from the grave to
reclaim his son. Josiah came running and stopped sharply when he saw his cousin John, hand over
Joanna's mouth, her eyes filled with terror. The air in the room dripped with questions.

"Why are you here?" was the first one Josiah asked, followed by the even less hospitable "Didn't you
die?"

"I ran. It was all I could think to do."

"We thought you were all dead."

Joanna thrust John's hand down from her mouth.

"What do you want, John?" she asked him, looking back and forth at the men.

"I came back to see if … if it really happened."

"Yes, John, it did," Josiah whispered.

"Mary?"

"Mary died in the fire."

John closed his eyes as the thought of Mary, consumed by fire, overcame him in all its horror and pain
and incomprehensible death.

"And Dean?" he asked, finally.
"Dean was lost," Joanna answered with only a trace of concern, her answer was so practiced. Josiah
looked at her reproachfully.

Her words were true in John's mind, and they shaped his past and his future as he took them in. His
hand slipped up to his face to shield him from the images he'd lived with for two years, and tears
flowed.

"But we were most concerned about you because the horse was gone," continued Joanna. "People
talked, John. Some say you did it."

"What?!" John's eyes snapped open, his weary hand falling away slowly.

Josiah watched the evil lie unfolding, and tried to stop it.

"Many people believed that all of you died in the fire," he said.

John was too shocked to even mention Samuel. Joanna's strategy formed as she spoke, eyes blazing
at Josiah for contradicting her. Josiah had no idea what she would say next, what lie she would risk.
He helped John sit down on the stairs to recover.

"The law will likely want to talk to you, now that you're back," she added.

"Stop it!" said Josiah, "You are too evil for words!" Josiah's guilt shone on his face, but John had been
led into the accusations; now his own guilt kept him from seeing the way out. He had caused their
deaths, by not standing with Mary through every minute of her terrible madness, by running in fear at
what she'd done to Samuel and herself, by not holding tight enough to Dean. His face closed off his
emotions almost completely, but his torment only grew.

"I'm finished here."

"John, it's late. Stay and rest with us," Josiah begged.

Joanna played the final card.

"John, you do need to rest here. We can have the sheriff over in the morning and clear up this awful
mess, so that the real criminal is brought to justice."

Josiah was silent, complicit.

John left shortly thereafter, an hour past midnight, and rode north again, then east across to Missouri,
where Sam was safe, waiting with friends. Dean was gone, Mary was gone, and now his own flesh and
blood had turned against him. He rode long hours under a new moon, and a weak sun, his way not
clear except to get to Sam and leave no trace behind of who he was, or had been.

***

Into the fire went the clothes he'd fled the blaze in – old, unwashed in all this time, filthy from three days
of hard riding, punctured with buckshot and stained in blood, a consequence of John's first theft – milk
to feed his infant son.

Into the fire went the blanket Samuel had been wrapped in – oil-stained, singed at the ragged edge, the
blanket that had held him tight to John's chest as they rode northward, into the night, while Lawrence
burned, while Mary, and Dean, burned behind them, John's eyes streaming from regret heaped on loss
heaped on fear, tears that fell on Samuel that night.
Into the fire went his name, his history, his family, his every connection to the Bennetts. Betrayers they
were now. Into the fire went his ring, partner to the one consumed by the inferno in Lawrence, now two
years past. It glowed for a long time, as did the pink skin where it had pressed in on him. Into the fire
went Mary, and all memory of her, and Dean, and all memory of family past. That pain would not fall on
Samuel, ever.

The final items were a photograph from their wedding day, one from Dean's first birthday, and the Bible
that Pastor Clemens had forgotten to enter their names into. John had cried so much over Mary's
photo, kept it close to him at every moment, caressed his beautiful Mary's face with his rough thumb so
many times that now the picture was soft and pale, cracked in a million places, and barely showed her
any longer. His tears had passed some time ago, and now he looked at it without pain.

"Goodbye, Mary. I'll be with you again."

He let her burn, one more time, one last time. His teeth crushed against each other, but he watched
until she was gone. He looked at Dean's photo, his sadness still present, but muted, covered by
remorse, until he told himself that he was only regretful, and not shattered and ashamed.

Sam stirred in the crib at the far, cold side of the room away from the fire. John looked at his son, his
only son, and back again at what he'd lost. What HE had lost, what his fear and carelessness had cost
him.

"I couldn’t keep you safe, Dean. You're better off now, I’m sure. You were my best boy."

The pain surged through him again. The scream to stop Dean wanted to come out again; he couldn't
blink away the sight of the fiery explosion that brought the house down on his child. As if to make the
image go away, he threw the picture of Dean into the fire and it vanished as quickly as Mary had. Sam
cried out briefly in the night, but as the fire dwindled, he slept again. Now he and Sam were truly alone.

John picked up the family Bible, ready to throw it in the fire as well. The Bible was small, leather-
bound, and bore the same oil stains as Sam's blanket had. On that awful night, he'd never even
noticed it, or even thought to retrieve it; it was the next morning when he awoke on a hillside in
Nebraska to Sam's cries of hunger that he finally let him out of his embrace, opened the blanket, and
found the Bible wrapped up next to Sam, Mary's doing. He had looked at it for a long time, found the
pictures of Mary in her white dress, and of Dean tucked inside it. He'd read a few passages to comfort
himself, and then broken into a farmhouse to look for food for Sam.

He couldn't discard it. He put it away for many years, keeping it where Sam wouldn't find it until he
needed it. It was the only thing that now carried the name Bennett.

He and Sam needed to leave. The visit to Lawrence had changed things. Lawmen would be after him,
to ask about that night. To find out about Mary. And Dean. Time to move on. He looked down at Sam,
sleeping peacefully now.

"Sammy, we're going to start again, just you and me. A new place, east of here somewhere. And you'll
never come west of the Mississippi again, if you know what's good for you. I don't know what kind of
life I can give you, but I can give you a name to be proud of. My mother's side were Winchesters, and
that's what we are. John Winchester and Samuel Winchester, and nothing exists before now. That's
all we have. Just you and me."
CHAPTER THREE

1858 - The City of Kansas, Missouri

"He's stealing us blind. Want me to chase him off? He won't come back."

"Look at him; he's what, ten? He lifts merchandise better than you ever did."

"Boss, I let him go last week. Now he's taking three times as much with his little gang of friends."

"And no one sees it, did you notice that? He even talked to one of the Pinkerton boys for five minutes
yesterday and kept unloading all the while."

From the upstairs window, they watched the young boy taking crate after crate of food out of the rear of
their delivery wagon. Kelleher, good for many things other than being a swift thinker, finally pulled a
sentence together.

"So we stop him."

"We employ him," said the other man.


When the hand came down on his shoulder, Dean didn't even flinch. He looked up at James Kelleher,
a man who frightened proper citizens and many lawmen just by being across the street from them.

"Good day to you, sir," he said, tipping his cap. "Can you help me with these crates?"

"You got some mouth on you. Come with me, you thieving little rat. Boss wants to talk to you."

"I'm doing well on my own."

"You come talk to him, we'll see how good you're doin'."

Dean followed, without much choice, his arm locked in Kelleher's massive fingers. Inside the hotel, he
took in the very expensive décor and comforts, as well as a quick way out of the building, should the
opportunity arise. At the top floor landing, Kelleher banged on the double door twice and walked in,
dragging Dean along.

"Show your respects to Mr. Jennison," he said, pushing Dean ahead roughly.

The large man in front of him, mustache and beard shot with grey, looked down at Dean and said,
"You're stealing. From me."

"I have no idea what you mean, sir," Dean replied. "I was asked to get six crates out of the wagon at
the corner."

"Asked? By whom?"

Dean offered the name of a well-known criminal who'd beaten several of Sally's girls, one right in front
of Dean. His face, at twelve years old, was angelic, and Jennison was almost as easily taken in as the
Pinkerton guards had been.

"James, speak to the gentleman. Be sure he's on the first train out of town."
Kelleher clumped off down the hall.

"Now, you, what's your name?"

"Dean."

"Just Dean? No surname?"

"Dean." He repeated it stubbornly. No family, no family name. They made that pretty clear when they
left me here.

"You work for me now. I have some small jobs you can do, and I pay generously if you're good at it.
So far, you seem very skilled at theft. Can you do anything else?"

"I can con the skin off a snake, I've been told."

Balls like that on a little kid. "Show me," said Jennison, stifling a snort of laughter.

"Give me your wallet."

One of Jennison's men moved toward Dean to strike him for his tone, but Jennison blocked the man
with his arm, and quickly handed Dean a brown wallet of soft calfskin, full of banknotes, warm from his
inside coat pocket.

"It's nice, but I'd bet this gentleman has a nicer one," he said, pointing at the man who'd tried to cuff
him. "He's been stealing from you," Dean stated, matter-of-factly. He dodged the next blow quite
easily, stepping aside as the man swung.

"Give him your wallet, you imbecile," Jennison thundered. "He's just a kid."

Dean compared the second wallet, a thin black billfold that held only a few dollars.

"You see? Dean leaned in, and opened the man's billfold for Jennison's eyes only. "A key. To your
safety deposit box in the bank. You'd do well to check it, see what's missing."

The man had gone ashen, which Jennison noted.

"Give me back my wallet," Jennison said to Dean, who'd pocketed it unobtrusively. He inspected the
wallet and found nothing missing. He failed to see the con, and was torn between admitting to this or
believing the child had made it all up. He did, however, have a punishment in mind for the man with the
black billfold, and it was best handled out of sight.

***

"It's only starting, Dean. You keep your wits about you," said Sally Goodheart, as she dressed for the
evening.

"But it was easy. He believed me! Even the part about the stealing; he didn't look at me like I was a
liar."

"Well, you weren't lying, were you? I told you what to say and you said it."

"What'll Jennison do to him?"

"Never you mind. You come sit here with me and rest. I need to do some thinking about your future."
***

1861

Dean worked for the next three years with Jennison's gang, more often after Sal tossed him out. She
kept him supplied with information she and her girls gleaned at the most opportune, private moments,
deep in her brothel where people spoke too freely. Through this, she kept Jennison at bay, at least
until Dean began to run his own cons. On a visit close to the end of winter, she made him a job offer.

"I have something for you to do, Dean. There are gentlemen coming out from St. Louis– "

"Sal, I don't work for you all the time now. Don't call on me like one of your whores."

"No, of course not. It's not that kind of job, my dear. Have I ever asked that of you?"

"I wouldn't put it past you."

"I have had offers. I turned them all down, as a mother must. To keep you safe."

"You certainly aren't my mother," he said slowly and darkly, the trigger still as strong as ever. My
mother was a good person. I took her name, not yours.

Sal ran her hand up Dean's arm, then gently up the side of his face, in her attempt at a gentle caress.
She lingered on his eyes, and his unruly hair, which he cut short himself.

Over ten years had passed since Sally Goodheart ran across him in a side street, she in her finest
dress, Dean eating stolen pie. They'd seen each other often in the streets, and her resolve had broken,
finally, when she saw him cold and alone on the corner near her place. She took him in and he
wondered immediately why he'd ever lived any other way.

"Your hair is always a mess. Like a wheatfield after a twister. It's unsuitable."

"Get off me." He pushed her hand away insolently and she raised her forefinger – one night on the
street for him, it used to mean. He laughed to see her try that against him now, at fifteen.

The brothel where he spent his youth was not a proper home, nor was Sal a proper mother, but she did
her best, and it left its scars deep inside Dean, rather than on his back. Dean served her well, by turns
charming and violent, a weapon she could wield against all opponents without suspicion. Yet her plan
to have Dean work with the St. Louis gang represented a break with Jennison, and Sal had misjudged
her friends' motives as well. It cost Dean what little was left of his innocence, though he avoided
murder.

***

The jurors had turned a variety of pale, sickly shades at the details the prosecution offered up until the
judge declared a recess, for the sake of the humanity (and stomachs) of everyone in the courtroom.
Dean's attorney, who had appeared at his cell unbidden and seemingly unwilling, despite being well
paid by Sal, had made a valiant effort to disentangle Dean from the murderous actions of the St. Louis
gang he'd worked for. In the end, he was able to put some light between Dean, whose testimony
worked against him more often than not, and the savage vigilantes who'd massacred citizens in
Lawrence, Kansas. Sal, of course, was never mentioned, nor was Jennison; Dean was left to take
responsibility for himself.
Dean, for his part, insisted on his innocence by way of emphasizing his participation in a different scam
he'd used to cover the group's activities in Lawrence. This, and his frequent disregard for courtroom
rules, had the judge's blood pressure at a dangerous level.

"Your Honor, can I speak to defend myself now?" Dean interrupted.

"Instruct your client to remain silent."

The public defender gestured silently to Dean; it might have been "shut up" or "I'll kill you myself," Dean
couldn't tell which. Dean gave him a frustrated look.

"Having been found guilty of being an accessory to murder, and being unrepentant in his testimony to
this court– "

"I didn't KNOW what they had planned!"

The gavel slammed down, the sharp crack silencing Dean once more.

" – and being of unknown parentage– "

"HEY!"

" – and with no visible means of support," (here he scanned the room for confirmation) "the court
sentences Dean Campbell, despite his tender age of fifteen, to serve in the penitentiary in the City of
Kansas for three years without parole.

At the back of the courtroom, the door opened silently and Sally left in a sweep of skirts, as if he
wouldn't notice her abandoning him. He missed the last few words the judge said as he watched the
door close. She hadn't even looked back.

In the hallway, Sal sobbed once, pressing her handkerchief to her mouth to stifle it, and then turned it
all into anger. The boy was a disappointment to her, not a good son, not a loyal believer in her dreams,
and absolutely not someone she would trust again. She'd have to find another child to raise in her
image. Someone not quite so concerned with right and wrong.

I gave you a home, Dean, and you made me toss you out. Now you're locked up and gone away. See
how you like it.

Dean had several faces, one he wore against the cold of the world in general, another against the cold
of people who turned on him; in prison, a new mask took shape – one that would carry him through
unscathed, to emerge even more determined.

1864

What made Sally throw Dean out at 13 and not just beat obedience into him was a complex emotion
she had been ignoring for a long while; she called it being a good mother, teaching him a lesson,
keeping him away from disease and all the other things she'd heard people say to her when she was a
whore at sixteen.

That it was love mixed with jealousy, and not in fact any of the things she'd believed it was – her mind
didn't come to that conclusion until she heard from her runner that Dean Campbell was getting out of
prison in two weeks.

She left the brothel the morning of his release in an outfit she'd seen one of the society ladies wearing.
She'd copied part of it in cheaper fabrics and extracted other pieces of it from her clients, including the
husband of the woman whom she first saw wearing it. On Sally, it fit less well, and looked cheaper and
untrue. She felt it was a dress that showed forgiveness and warmth despite covering up her bosom.

With her parasol demurely tilted to block the glares of more respectable people, she lingered down the
street from the penitentiary gate until noon, when a brusque guard pushed Dean out onto the boards.
He'd matured into a young man she knew would turn heads – what she called a "cross", with an appeal
that reached some of the men who came to her brothel for their very private needs.

He was also thinner and ragged-edged. He blinked in the noon sun and coughed; a deep, wet cough
that worried her. She waited for his eyes to find her, but he looked at her and past her. She rushed up
to him and pulled him into her arms and he recoiled, then recognized her, and pushed her off.

"That dress makes you look like you work this street" said Dean.

"Prison taught you no manners, you little shit."

"What did you come for? Last I saw, you were sneaking out of the courtroom."

"It was just…."

"I'm sure it was." You left me, twice now.

"I'm glad you're free again."

Dean studied her for her usual signs of lying, but this was true for her.

"I was innocent. I don't recall hearing you say that in my defense."

"You were never innocent. You just got taken advantage of."

"By you! Look, Sal, I picked up a few skills in prison. And it turns out, people trust me. I can't explain
it, but I can make my own way from here."

"You need a place to stay." She dodged his attacks and concentrated on sinking at least one hook in
him.

"I'm not coming back to your place. I work for myself now. I have an address. I'll send you a card; you
can come for tea."

"Dean– "

"Don't call me that. Listen, Sal, you're established here and I can't afford to leave just yet, so let's just
say we're acquaintances, and if you run into me again, call me Mr. Campbell."

"There's a man who works the floor for me now. For special clients. If you ever need to be with him…."

Dean stalked off down the street, coughing again as he turned, once, to look back at her, eyes dark
and ashamed and hungry.

***

Dean survived well on cons, amassing a small amount of money without attracting any attention. It
didn't go far, though. The first real job after jail came from Jennison; Dean hadn't expected that, and
was suspicious.
"You found a way to trust me." That meant a lot, even if he didn't want to be pulled back into
Jennison's odd dance with Sal.

"You were a child," said Jennison. "Now I have a man who has learned how things work in our world,
and how not to say everything he knows when he's in a court of law." He chuckled. "You've got a
second chance, Campbell. I want you to work on the homesteaders coming through. Get what you
can off them."

"Clearly you don't think much of my skills."

"Start small, think big," Jennison advised, mockingly.

***

During the winter, when homesteaders fell to a trickle, Dean spent more time with other members of the
gang, most of whom he knew from childhood, or from prison. He ignored an attraction to Andrew
Pendergast, but they worked well as a team and became Jennison's favorites within the year. Dean
refused to be anything less than a man, but as Andrew told him one time, he was "a strange mix of
child and man." Dean punched him in the eye for that, and then spent the week covering Andrew's jobs
and telling him to lie down, and that he was sorry, almost fifty times.

Jennison had his lieutenant, Corseby, keep an eye on all the members, keeping track of their money,
and their brushes with the law. Corseby was a tall man, thin and battered, like an old signpost, but he
could read a lie, and never once got turned by a bribe. When word came down to Dean that he and
Andrew would be making a run deep in the Missouri countryside, he hoped briefly for some time alone;
Andrew had been sitting closer, laughing more at Dean's jokes, looking into his eyes more often. The
hope for more died when Corseby was added to the group.

"A simple robbery. Lots of money moving between banks, and they think they'll go unnoticed on back
roads in small coaches," he explained. "Jennison wants to see what you're made of, what you can do
besides the grift. And see if prison hardened you up enough," he added, laughing his dry laugh as he
looked at Dean.

***

1865 – East of Marceline, Missouri

"Dean! Come look at this," Andrew called.

The wagon, the first of three they'd been tracking, was hanging sideways, one wheel in a ditch. The
horse was mutilated, half-devoured and covered with flies, and the blood on the coach seats and
windows had dried.

Andrew turned hastily to vomit, while Dean kept some distance. Corseby was off his horse and
inspecting the door, curious but unafraid. He found the money, disguised as luggage, and tied the bag
to his saddle.

"Something is interfering with our plan," he said coldly.

"What the hell happened to the people?" Dean asked, hoping the answer would shut out the many
horrible alternatives he had in mind.

"Don't toss the name of Hell around so lightly," snapped Corseby. "Pendergast, get back on your
horse. We're going to find the other wagons."
The second wagon had taken a different route, and they rode well past nightfall to reach the next road
east. It wasn't hard to find in the blank gray and white of the moonlight, but the road dipped into a
wooded area. Where it rose to crest the hill, Dean found the wagon with its horse missing, driver gone,
money untouched, and not a drop of blood.

On the ground was a shotgun shell, and near it, a boot print, heel sunk heavily in. Dean followed the
trail with his eyes; he pictured the driver stumbling away as quickly as he was able, and noticed another
shell on the ground ten feet back. There was another set of tracks mixed in, which he didn't recognize.

"Andrew. You hunted up north. What are these tracks?" Dean asked.

Andrew leaned over Dean's shoulder, hesitating. Dean didn't move. It felt good to have him there, at
his back.

"No idea. Looks like wolf but it's not. Too big."

"We'll camp here," Corseby stated. "Need to rest before tomorrow."

"And where is the horse, and the driver? I don't want to stumble over any bloody corpses while I'm
looking for a place to piss," said Dean.

"I could care less about the bodies. If you want to go looking, go. Or how about Pendergast?" He
turned from Dean. "You need to toughen up that stomach for what's to come, son. Can't have you
bringing up meals at the first sight of blood."

"Come with me, Dean," Andrew said quietly, his tone pleading.

"We'll get the fire started, you find us some wood," said Corseby. "Look on the other side of the road, if
you're too scared to be on this side."

Dean looked at Andrew, but said nothing. He had no desire to be anywhere near a campfire, let alone
start one. Andrew sighed, and headed off with a lamp into the forest on the opposite side of the road.

"Miles of flat open fields, just the way I like it, until now, when we need them. Who the hell ran a road
through a wood like this?" he shouted back over his shoulder.

His voice trailed off, leaving Dean and Corseby to light the fire. Corseby took charge and the fire
sprang to life almost instantly.

"Little trick I learned from Dad," he said proudly.

"Useful," was Dean's cautious response.

The growl was low, angry, and not like any wolf Andrew had ever heard. He yelled and fired his gun at
the shape that moved against the dark tree trunks. Dean was on his feet instantly.

"Wait here with the money," Corseby ordered. He took off with his gun drawn, into the dark with no
lantern, heading for the sound of the screams. When he found Andrew, he was in the jaws of
something inhuman. It looked at Corseby with fury and hunger, briefly. Andrew, his face begging for
rescue as his head lolled sideways, neck tendons severed, could only hope his eyes conveyed
everything.

This can't be happening – it can't be. It's not real. He waited for Corseby to shoot the thing, but he only
stood and watched, and then blinked. Dear God no. His eyes….
The werewolf backed off, terrified, yet hungry for its meal.

"Leave!" said Corseby, eyes an oily black, reflecting the lamp and the moon through the leaves above,
and with a wave of the demon's hand, the creature fled into the silent forest.

"So, Andrew Pendergast, we come to a point of decision. You're gravely wounded; I could let you die,
or not. If you live, you'll be joining that thing soon enough, a vile existence if you can call it that. Or you
can draw the third straw, and take my offer, work for me, and my gang. Most people would say it's the
short straw, but it would guarantee a long life. A decade at least."

***

Corseby and Pendergast returned to the fire Dean had been avoiding, so noiselessly and suddenly that
Dean leaped up and stumbled closer to it, tripping on a log he'd just thrown toward the flames. The
sparks swirled up around and over them, and Dean flinched.

"You're all right!" Dean said, moving quickly away from the fire to see if Andrew was hurt, but found no
wounds, to his relief. Andrew was petrified, unable to talk. "Sit here by the fire. Not too close." He
guided Andrew toward an area he'd cleared. "What the hell happened, Corseby?"

The fire crackled behind Dean as the new logs caught fire and flared up. Corseby looked past Dean
into the flames, briefly, then back at Dean.

"I suggest we all pray for our good fortune and continued safety," he said, kneeling on the spot and
mouthing his prayer silently. Dean looked at Andrew, but he was staring at the flames, rooted to the
ground and unreadable. Dean sat with him, even put his hand on Andrew's back, let his leg go slack
and rest on his friend's leg, but nothing brought a response.

Corseby prayed the entire time, rocking back and forth like a faith healer. Dean watched Andrew
closely, and watched Corseby through the flames. When he dozed, he dreamed the fire was watching
him, reaching out to him.

In the morning, Andrew was gone, along with Corseby, but their horses were grazing quietly on leaves
and undergrowth. The money from the two coaches was still tied to Corseby's horse. Dean waited
nearly a full day, searching for signs of their trail and finding nothing. He returned to Jennison with one
bag of money, the other he hid in a small cave near the city bluffs.

Furious that he'd lost two men, two sacks of money, and that he might be tied to the brutal coachmen
murders, word of which came to the City of Kansas in no time, Jennison blamed Dean for lack of any
other clear target. There were no survivors, although bones were found some time later, odd tracks of
unknown beasts, and men's tracks that stopped suddenly at the edge of the woods, near a crossroads.

1867

Dean and Jennison quarreled more often than not after that, and Dean continued running his own cons
in town, larger and more successful ones. He feared Jennison would turn on him, unaware that Sally
held a shield over him, or that it was growing weaker by the day. Sally didn't see Jennison's anger as
much as feel it when he finally tired of their partnership.

"Be sure Campbell goes down first. Stupid sonofabitch pervert thinks he's going to cross me on this
Salina deal." Jennison's cigar glowed brightly for a moment, and he exhaled the aromatic cloud,
seeming to recede into it.

***
Dean woke at the first creak of the boards downstairs. It was a seedy hotel, capable of taking in guests
at any ungodly hour, but it had been quiet all night. Dean listened intently for a few minutes longer, but
the noise did not return. He waited a quarter hour, wide awake. Finally, he put down his gun and sat
up on the edge of the bed. He didn't want to wake the man curled next to him, Sal's latest offer. She
made several men available to him over the years, but he seemed unable to forge any connection to
them, often dissolving into anger after the sex was over. Sal had complained bitterly about losing her
hard-to-find talent because of Dean, and he believed her, and she counted on that.

He picked up his notebook and the glass-nibbed reservoir pen he'd lifted off a gentleman that evening.
The lamplight was low, as low as he could set it without being left blind in the dark.

This is all in ink now, permanent. I'm going to get out of town, get some distance from Sal, and from
Jennison's gang. With any luck, I'll be able to break him with this deal and get him sent away, him and
that ape Kelleher. Missouri is starting to stink. Oh, and curse my father, forgot to say that yesterday,
so double for today. Hope he rots in hell. Where are the angels when we need protecting, anyway? I
asked the prison chaplain that question nearly every day for three years and he never had the right
answer. If there's someone out there who can cover me while I steer my life to where it's my own, I'd
be grateful. So far, nothing.
PART TWO: HOLLER TO WHOREHOUSE
CHAPTER FOUR

1861 – Locust Ridge, Tennessee

I have no momma. My father doesn't talk about her. I know I had a momma, all the kids do. When I
asked Dad about her, the corners of his mouth sagged, like they were carrying a heavy load and I just
gave him one more thing to carry. He says he's had me "all my life", so I guess she died. I don't ask
about her anymore. I never knew about relatives, neither. Not one. I'm Sam Winchester, and I'm
eleven years old, it's me and my Dad, and I like that. But I wish I knew all the secrets.

Nothing was especially easy about Sam's life, not since he could remember. John moved them
around, first Nebraska, then Missouri, where they seemed settled. Sam resisted the moves, but more
out of discomfort than understanding of the threat that followed them. Detectives had appeared once in
Missouri asking questions, but John's friends had sent them on a cold trail, and the telegram he
received later was enough to convince him to keep moving. South of Kentucky, they crossed fields in
the night, almost always on foot, or on stolen horses, moving along valleys deeper into the hills.

"Never attract attention" was John's motto, and "It's how we have to live" was his only explanation. Sam
didn't ask about this either. John let Sam climb into bed in the mornings and talk about the things he'd
learned the day before in school, if he was fortunate enough to be in school, and he let Sam hold his
gun and practice shooting it when he was barely five. John became skilled at picking pockets and
lifting things from empty homes.

In Tennessee, they found an abandoned cabin and set up a kind of home there, off the map, a lower
profile than he'd ever thought possible. Once, he'd seen a dark-haired woman on the ridge line staring
down at him, but she didn't come to complain about them being there, nor did any authorities ever
question his use of the cabin.

Sam closed his journal. It hurt to write in it. He put it away, and went to find his father.

"Sam, good. Come here." John was packing. Sam looked around for the second satchel. His father
had told him nothing about this move.

"Where are we going now? I like it here."

"We're not going anywhere, not yet. I have to go away for a week or so."

"Why?"

"I need to clear up some things. Some things about the future. Grownups' business."

"Like why we have no family?"

"Samuel!" he barked, then relented immediately. "Come here, son."

Sam sat reluctantly on his father's lap, in the embrace of his strong arms.

"We have a family, Sammy. You and me. That's all there is and that's all that matters."

Sam shifted so he could hear his father's heartbeat through his shirt.
"I'll be gone for a week, and not a day longer."

"Where are you going?"

"That's not important. You'll be fine. I want you to stay with Widow Aulty."

"She's a crazy old lady."

"Sammy! She's not crazy. She just sees things how they are. There's a difference."

"One week?"

"I promise, buddy."

Sam burrowed in.

John held him like this, for hours sometimes, not saying anything, not making a sound. Sometimes
Sam fell asleep in John's arms. Sometimes Sam could feel the tears on his hair, on his scalp. They
itched. This time was a long time, but not long enough, and there were tears from both of them.

***

When the house was closed up, they took a forest path to Widow Aulty's, rather than walk the main
road in sight of anyone passing through. Samuel carried his case over one shoulder so he had a hand
free. He'd learned that trick by age four after a few falls and more than a few angry dogs who found a
way through their fences as he and his father cut across people's property on the nights they'd been
running.

Widow Aulty's place was deep in the holler, and even if they'd taken the road, it was still another long
hike up and over the ridge. She was waiting for them at the ridge top. She had long Cherokee hair and
told bizarre stories about the unseen world that made most people fear her. Sam had found her place
by accident on one of his long afternoons of exploration, and she'd rewarded his politeness with a story
about worms. He flung his arms around her today, because if his dad had to go, this was the next best
possible place to stay, even if she was crazy.

John and the widow spoke on the porch of her home, which leant somewhat into the slope, nestled
among ferns. He'd known her almost as long as Sam, and took comfort in how she was ostracized by
the local community; it meant a kind of bond existed between them. She'd never pressed him on what
the burden was that he carried, but she could see the mark of an old ring, and his love for his son, and
hear his wife's absence when he talked. Before he departed, John put his hand on Sam's shoulder and
looked at him for a long time.

"Be mindful, Sam. Don't let her fill your head with her wild stories."

Sam looked back, fixing his father's features in his memory.

John headed up and out toward the northwest, which would take him to the main road, and eventually
to the railroad line. He was heading to the biggest city outside of their area, into Knoxville, where
people would not know him or remember his face when he'd gone. He had some business to settle,
what with the risks of his new job in the coal mine weighing on his mind. He was carrying in his
suitcase the one thing he'd kept that still had his original name on it – the Bible given to him by the
fresh-faced pastor, beaming with joy at performing his first marriage in front of his new flock. He'd
dedicated the Bible to "The Bennett Family, Lawrence, Kansas" but in his exuberance neglected to fill
in the names of the newlyweds. John hadn't noticed until some years later, and he let it be. He wanted
to wait until the family was complete and then enter Dean's name and the name of the second son they
both wished for…

"Samuel…."

The name slid across his lips, tearing a thin line through the silence in the coach. The sudden tears in
his eyes spared him the uneasy sidelong glance of the man near the door, and he fell silent again.

In the lawyer's office, he wrote the simple phrases of his message to Sam, and left the Bible in a small
box with the note and the small bequest the lawyer had helped him prepare.

***

"Now tell me, sad boy, is your father gone for good?" Widow Aulty asked in her ringing, slightly teasing
tone.

"No," Sam replied, turning away from the ridge where he'd watched his father vanish.

"Then why are you sad? Cry when he's left the earth for the sky, not when he's promised to return."

Sam thought about that for a moment, and didn't much like the idea of his father being gone for good.

"Follow me. It's time you learned what's in your world." She pointed up toward the ridgeline, and a nub
of rocks that looked to Sam like the ruins of a poorly built fort.

"Stonefinger did that."

Sam looked up sideways at the widow's face.

"Who's he?"

"She," and she paused just long enough to let him grasp her meaning, "is a witch. The most powerful
one of them all and the most dangerous creature in your young life. She looks for children this time of
year, moving with the clouds, in the morning fog or the afternoon smoke when leaves and brush are
burned. And then, when she has you in sight, she takes the form of a kindly old woman." She paused
again and saw the questions form in his eyes. "She walks slowly down from the ridge, looking like your
grandmother or your auntie,…"

"I haven't got those," Sam said, as a simple matter of fact. She didn't miss a beat.

"…or like an old mountain woman, with long black hair and a hitch in her step."

"Like you."

"Exactly like me," she said dramatically and hid her hand inside her cloak. His eyes were on that hand,
she noticed.

"Her finger is sharp as obsidian, long as a dagger. She's smiling now, because her dinner is so close.
She has come for your liver, sliced from your body before you know it, eaten while you watch." Widow
Aulty had been slowly withdrawing her hand from the cloak and was about to reveal the long black
finger, a stone shard she'd saved for many years for just this sort of opportunity. Sam's lips were
pressed tight and his eyes had never left her hand, not even when she bent low over him and her hair
made a kind of curtain on either side. She had him, as she had hoped, ready for the kill, ready to be
scared out of his senses, made ready to face the world.
"So her hand is her power?" Sam asked deliberately.

She stopped pulling her hand out, keeping hidden the long black dagger. That question was one she
hadn't heard before, in all her tellings, and confirmed what she hoped for.

"Could I stop her if I broke her hand?"

She stood up, dropped the stone into the pocket in her cloak.

"You could, Samuel. Her heart beats in her hand. That is her only weak spot."

Sam stood rooted, heart racing. He was no longer sure he liked Widow Aulty, or if he'd survive the
week. But he had known what to do.

"Of course, she moves faster than an eleven-year-old boy."

Sam held back his boast. He was still watching her hand, which she now pulled from her cloak and let
fall. It was a normal hand, her normal hand.

"You don't scare, do you." She seemed impressed as she said it.

The rest of the week was filled with gruesome stories of cadavers, haints, and were-men (she told that
one on the night of the full moon). Each night Sam listened intently, mouth set, green eyes on her
black ones, or on her hands, or on the shapes she drew out there in the dark at the edge of the firelight.
Sometimes a passing animal would crash through the brush, but Sam only looked, never flinched.
Each night he slept peacefully, and asked for more stories the next day. She finally tried an old story of
a corpse returning to its home, waiting until Sam was entranced, and shouting "I've come home for
you!" as she grabbed his shoulder; he looked startled, and she would have to be satisfied with that, in
place of any genuine fear. Her lore was no match for this Winchester boy.

That night, their last together before John returned, Widow Aulty fell deep into a nightmare. She was
watching her home burn around her, white-hot. When Sam awoke the next morning, she was gone.
He looked in her room, and around the house, up and down the hill, then made himself some breakfast
and spent the morning throwing his knife at the dead tree by the creekbed. The birds in the trees kept
up a lively chatter overhead.

Sam went farther after lunch, venturing up across the ridge, where he called loudly for Widow Aulty,
realizing he didn't know her first name. He went back by his own home, closed and silent now. He
even ventured into town, but she was nowhere. Coming back down into the holler, he crossed out of
the sunlight into shadow and found himself upon the stone mound before he knew it. The birds had
gone, and so had the small creatures heading to the creek for a drink. He recalled the story she'd told
him on their first night to scare him. He was colder now, unprepared for the sun to dip below the ridge
so quickly, and for the forest to be so quiet.

Sam felt for the knife in his pocket, John's knife from his childhood, now his. A haze had formed in the
hollow. He moved off the rock mound slowly, his muscles drained and chilled. The black hills were
silhouettes and the trees were dark around him, but blazing with fire where the sun still hit their tops.
He headed for the house, watching all around him as the air thickened and the wind shifted without
seeming to move the mist at all. A small cry startled him, and then another, far off in the tree shadows;
the cry was familiar, neither animal nor human, but like a beckoning call. And they were out there,
watching him. Sam could feel it. He'd felt it before, running across uneven ground, through slapping
tree branches, with his father, cries far off as they fled through some distant forest.
After a week of the widow's stories, he was no longer sure the things out there were entirely imaginary,
as his father had once assured him. The hillside trembled deep beneath his feet and he ran faster
toward the widow's cabin.

The widow came running from her cabin toward him, swinging a handful of smoldering herbs around
them both, muttering words that Sam would learn in years to come.

John reached the crest in time to see this odd ritual; he focused on the herbal ring around Sam and the
Widow, and Sam could see the worry in his face. John hid many things from Sam, including his own
tutelage with the widow; he knew now some of what was out there, but resisted hunting it. Samuel was
his only concern. And I'm his only guardian now.

"Samuel, let's go home."

"I'm fine, Dad. I just got a little tired from walking around."

John bundled Sam inside his coat and trudged home, caressing Sam's head and singing softly to him,
in marked contrast to the recriminations for all three of them that rang in his head. He forbade Sam to
return to the widow, but of course he did, surreptitiously at first, then more defiantly as he grew taller
than his father and entered his teens. Things thawed between John and the widow after a while and
she taught him more about the things he should rightly fear.


1864

"Samuel? Put the knife down. Your aim is good enough." She waved him inside as the sun set. "Sit
here next to me and listen to what I tell."

Sam was more than happy enough to hear another of the endless stories she could tell, because she
told them with a thought to keeping a young boy's attention, and with her voice giving all the sounds of
the forests and streams and even the monsters, when they came forth.

"Your father doesn't like me telling you all my stories, so I want to ask you directly, Samuel. Do you
want to know what the Raven-Mocker is?"

Sam was delighted to hear something his father disapproved of, and freely agreed. The age of
fourteen had made him willful and stubborn where his father was concerned. The widow scowled
disapprovingly.

"I'll ask you again, Samuel. And for your sake, think on it. Is this something you want to know?"
He fidgeted, uncertain of her question, and what made this story different. She waited, watching his
face.

"I want to know what a Raven-Mocker is," he replied, softly, and when she cocked her eyebrow, he
repeated himself more clearly. He knew he was ready for any of the horrors she could think up.

"Then I'll tell you."

The fire crackled in the hearth.

"There's a dreadful witch in the hills, a Cherokee witch, the most feared of all the magic ones. It looks
old and withered, because it has lived too long. But it keeps on living."

"What's 'withered'?" Sam interrupted.
"Weak and sunken and wrinkled, like that dead tree you threw the knife into. Now where was I?"

"It lives on and on," he offered.

"And you know how? It eats the hearts of the sick and dying. It flies to them, and torments them in
their last hours, and takes the heart from inside their chest."

He fidgeted already; it reminded him too much of the story she'd told him about Stonefinger years
earlier, and would hardly be likely to scare him. Not even her best performances brought a hair up on
his neck anymore.

"Don't they see it?" he replied, less of a question and more of a challenge.

"Witches can be invisible, if they want. Many things can."

Sam waited silently. He was dying to ask, 'Can you?' but held his tongue.

"I once saw one. If you know the right medicine, you can see them, and send them away. When my
grandfather was dying, a Raven-Mocker came to him. It came on a rushing wind across the ridge, a
fiery thing."

Sam looked directly at her. He was digging his thumbnail into the floor planks.

"Behind it was a trail of sparks in the sky and a hot breeze."

The logs shifted in the hearth, hissing sharply and flaring up. Sam's eyes were now on the fire.

"I stood up by my grandfather, without fear, and named it Ahkyeli'skï and it fled from his room, parts of it
falling to the ground as stones. When my grandfather finally passed on, I knew his soul was safe and
his heart was there for his next life."

At this, Sam turned his face from the fire and asked, "You named it? That's all?"

"That's a powerful thing."

In his large eyes, nearly black in the low light of the waning fire, she saw the licking flames reflected, a
hint of her fiery premonition of years before. The fire was low now, the cabin, with chinks and loose
planks, was growing cold. Sam stood up to stir the fire back to life, sending a shower of sparks whirling
into the room with a life of its own as the wood-sap popped into twinkling spots of light.

"Catch them, Sam, before they set the place alight."

The story had shaken him, finally, after all the years of her tales of the supernatural, but he didn't know
why it should. He moved back as the sparks popped around him.

"Is the Raven-Mocker story supposed to be scary?

"It was when I heard it, and I repeated it to you every word," she said, curious as he was at its effect.

"I think I could stop it now I know its name," he said, his bravery returning.

"And what's your name?"

"Samuel Winchester."
"I could kill you too, now I know that."

Sam stopped eating his dinner, mid-bite. She'd caught him, as she always did.

"But I won't. You have a life to lead, and much to do."

Sam put down the knife and fork.

"Teach me more."

"After dinner, Samuel Winchester," she said, and his name gave him chills.

Sam stayed at her place that night and he slept poorly, dreaming of fiery creatures. The next morning
Sam asked Widow Aulty about it again.

"Why did that story scare you? Well, you should be scared, Sam. I've told you what's out there."

It was no answer, to his mind. He took another tack.

"Can you be invisible? Like the Raven-Mocker?"

"No, that's more powerful magic than I ever could do. And even Raven-Mocker bows to the older ones,
the all-powerful. Pray you never meet them." She correctly anticipated his next question as he opened
his mouth to ask it.

"And you shine like a light, too bright ever to be invisible, Samuel."

***

That day she taught him something she had feared would go lost, an Old Way that had to pass only to
those with a gift. She stoked the fire to warm them and pulled a coal out. It rested gray in her hand as
Sam tensed.

"You're burning yourself!" he finally shouted.

"Yes, Samuel, but it's no matter."

She tossed the chunk of charcoal back into the flames, and showed Sam the small blisters forming in
her palm, amid the reddened flesh.

He was worried and curious all at once.

"Come close, Samuel Winchester. I need to tell you what to do next."

She cupped her unburnt hand around his ear and told him of the way of being a burn doctor, of talking
the fire out of someone. And she shared with him the words that gave it power, and how to move his
hand over the burn.

"Is that all?" he asked, unimpressed.

"You must be still, Samuel, in mind and in body."

"I am still."

"No, you're not. Your eyes are darting, you're wincing at my injury, you're thinking a thousand things."
She was right, of course.

"Take my hand, Samuel. Still yourself. Show me what you've learned."

Sam rather reluctantly took her hand, now showing a clearly painful burn, but she seemed unpained by
it. He moved his hand over it.

"You're not stirring a pot, Samuel, you're shooing away the flames. Now say the words."

"There came two angels from the East…" he began hesitantly, struggling to remember all the words.

As he recited it, she watched him closely. To Sam's great amazement, her blistered palm was soon
less red, although just as blistered.

"Keep going, Samuel. Repeat the words."

Nearly an hour passed before he knew it, the damage fading before his eyes. The blisters were
smaller, he was sure. It wasn't possible, but he was having an effect. Widow Aulty was astonished as
well. Sam had felt no magical power flow through him, but could not recall the last hour.

"Just remember, Samuel. A burn doctor never accepts payment for this. It's a gift we freely give. We
can never really control fire, although we know the secrets of creating and extinguishing it. Fire is too
tricky, even for us."

As he walked home, Sam recited the words in his head; he'd learned another secret of the world.


1867

When the War reached its final throes in the winter of 1864-65, John Winchester found his world
crumbling around him, literally; the mine walls shaking, the timbers snapping, and an enormous
blackness swallowing him. He woke in a hospital, Sam over him, his face thin and panicked, looking
like he'd been nearer the graveyard than John. From then on, John walked only with a cane, and had
trouble breathing right. He spent more time at home, but felt useless. The warmth from the limited fires
he allowed no longer kept the damp from his lungs or the cold from his shattered leg. Sam built the
fires bigger, but John only hovered over Sam when he worked with the fire, warning him to stay clear of
it, preferring the earth and stone to what he'd seen all those years ago in Lawrence.

Sam spent less time at home, more at school, where he excelled, spent some of his hours with Widow
Aulty, who noticed his attention shifting to more mature things, and gave a few hours to a young friend
nicknamed Horatio, for his loyalty to Sam. John warned him not to get attached to anyone; Widow
Aulty encouraged him because it made him happy.

In late 1867, as winter laid its hands on them, John Winchester sat stirring the coals, a heavy cough
shaking his large but now lankier frame. He pulled the spark screen back into place after adding a few
logs. Snow fell heavily outside in blue-white swirls. Over the ridge, Widow Aulty was lost in
contemplation of the fire that burned bright and warm in her hearth. She'd fallen into a daydream, one
she'd been unable to shake over the past few days. Her house was burning in this dream, but she felt
no heat from the fire. She'd told Sam that morning as he passed on his way to school that she was
thinking of leaving, and that he and his father should too, which preoccupied Sam all day.

The snow fell steadily through the day, slowing Sam down on his way back from school. He was so
late that he cut straight across the widow's property to get back. A rankness that he dismissed as her
burning garbage clung low and drifted across the path, but he could not see any smoke from her
chimney.

John was nearly asleep, half-worried about Sam's late arrival, but he calmed when he saw Sam
through the window, coming up the grade in long strides, taller than John by the time he was fifteen.
The fire sizzled and the larger log slid, filling the area between John and the fireplace with tiny golden
lights as the sap ignited. They twinkled before him like the summer fireflies turned to gold. They
danced on the currents of warm air, some landing on the hearthstones, some swirling around him. A
few slid along his arm and settled, but didn't burn. They merely sat, light as dust, like miniature
embers, orange and gold flickering over their surface. A flame spread from them, equally mild and
harmless, and John stared with sleepy wonderment as it danced over him like St. Elmo's fire. He
should stamp it out, but it wasn't burning, so it couldn't be fire.

It rose quickly across him as he sat on the simple couch, covering his body in a soft flame that warmed
him now. He saw the danger, and feared that it could spread to the furniture and the house; he began
trying to pat it out, but it refused to be extinguished.

Sam opened the door, letting in a cold blast of air, but John felt no cold. The flames leapt up across his
face and eyes, shutting out sound, tinting everything yellow. He screamed for Sam, but nothing came
out.

"Dad? I stayed after school to talk to the teacher about college. Sorry I'm late."

No reply came, so he stuck his head into the kitchen, then into the main room. His next words died in
his throat.

SAM!

His father was screaming his name, Sam could see that, and was twisted over the arm of the chair, in
pain.

SAM! RUN! Get out of here before it takes you too! John felt the flames sink into him, into his bones,
into his guts; his brain was in agony but he could still feel the thing in him, and its hatred. He was
entirely on fire, now hot and roaring, consuming him faster than Sam had ever seen fire burn before.
Before Sam could get his coat off to smother the fire, his father turned red, then black, bones beginning
to show in his fingers and face.

And then it looked at him. Not his father, who was surely dead, but the thing that was in him now,
devouring him. His black face turned up towards Sam's, fire flickering within it, and his eyes burned
bright. It was so strong a presence that Sam stumbled backward and hit the doorframe. His father's
ashes fell to the ground amid wisps of black smoke and blazing fire that sank into the stone floor. Sam
turned and ran, as John had once, out into the snow, where he vomited up every bit of food his friends
had fed him when he stopped on his way home. The cold snapped him back to his senses, and he
went back inside, taking his gun from the wall rack it rested on. In front of the fireplace, the chair was
unharmed. The hearthstones were pitted in places as if glowing embers had sunk into them. Nothing
remained of John Winchester but a pile of cinders, stirring in the winter wind the open door had let in.

"DAD!?" Sam yelled, looking to all corners of the house, unable to accept the gray drift as his father.
He was panicked and hot, denial and disbelief and a lonely fear making his heart race and his face hurt.

He turned and ran out the door and across to the ridge, hard going in the knee-deep snow, but he knew
the way to Widow Aulty's and she would have the answers. He was breathing roughly, eyes streaming
in the cold air, looking for a way to make it right. She could explain what he'd seen.
Only she couldn't explain. She wasn't able to offer Sam any reasons for what had happened to his
father, or how what he'd seen was even possible. The floor of her cabin was scorched in one spot only,
but there was no fire in the fireplace, only a pile of ashes running about five feet from the scorched
mark, a smaller, thinner line of ashes than he'd seen in his house. Sam was alone now.
CHAPTER FIVE

1872 – Salina, Kansas

"Your father says goodbye, Sammy." It is another voice, not John's, a deeper voice. "And he says to
run. He'd run too, but his legs just aren't in it anymore." John's legs turn from black char to gray-white
ash, crumbling to the floor.

Sam jolted awake, sweating, fiery hot, and terrified.

"Time to stop running, Sam."

"Dad…!"

It was dark outside the train window; the train had stopped in Salina. It was near 10 pm, not mid-
afternoon, and it wasn't his destination, not by more than a hundred miles.

His nightmares hadn't been this bad in a long while, and his father had never spoken to him in all the
times his death replayed.

A quick look down the corridor showed the conductor coming through to check tickets again.

Sam waited, pack in hand, by the window, but it was fully dark outside. He handed his hand-made
ticket to the conductor, letting it slip just a second before the man had it, and it drifted to the floor, the
conductor chasing after it. Sam leaped off the train and vanished into the dark before he could be
caught. It didn't take a lot of skill to jump off a parked train, and he knew how to evade the private
security man that the conductor soon summoned.

"I have no idea where he got on. He was just standing there in the corridor, and when he handed me
his ticket, well, I mean, after I picked it up from the floor, he was gone. I'm sure it's a forgery, as well."

"He seems to have escaped; that is, if he's not still on the train somewhere," said the officer. If he
stalled, the train would have to depart and it would be Salina's problem, not his.

"I'm sure he left the train."

"If you don't know when he got on, or whether he got off, what can I do for you?" the man asked,
stepping briefly onto the platform in a show of concern. "I'll check the other cars once we're moving
again."

A loud whistle interrupted the conversation and the conductor gestured rudely at the engineer, who
pulled the whistle again. The conductor wisely withdrew to the train, as did the railroad guard.

"Amateurs," said Sam under his breath, as the train pulled out.

Sam waited in the dark a moment, then made his way down the tracks toward the next road into town.
He'd gone nearly 150 miles past Lawrence because he'd been stupid and let himself nod off; now he
was in Salina, Kansas, with nowhere to stay and no contacts, and a thin wallet.

As he entered town, only a few lights burned, but a brighter street lay ahead, lit by saloons and hotels.
A warm smell filled his nose and he was instantly hungry; Kansas City was many hours behind him, but
he resisted tracking the smell to its source. Halfway down a side street, a large bouncer dumped a
man off the boards into the dirt and the man knew better than to press his case. Sam watched the
large man re-enter what looked like a three-story hotel. None of the rooms seemed to have any lights
on, but one at the top did. He could see a man pacing up there.

"What are you doing here?" asked a drunkard who'd crashed into him.

"Leaving," said Sam, turning away quickly and heading down the street to a quieter area. At the next
street, he turned, more on a whim than anything else, because he saw a large cottonwood, shimmering
in the night breeze. It reminded him of the Tennessee forests he'd grown up in, and he stood there,
listening to the rippling water of its leaves. Just past the tree was a large house with a sign advertising
rooms (with shared bath) and full board. He was making a note to return there in the morning when he
caught sight of a woman in the lower window staring right at him. She opened the window and spoke.

"If you want a room, go to the side gate. Get in off the street before the Devil takes you. You haven't
been drinking, have you." It wasn't a question – she knew. At the gate, she raised her lamp and
examined Sam's face.

"Name? And in the sight of the Lord, don't you lie."

"Samuel. Samuel Whitman," he lied.

"Strong name. Take the cottage at the back. It's stocked already. Give me two-fifty now and we'll
discuss the rest in the morning."

With that, she turned toward the back door and muttered, " 'f I hadn't eaten that meatloaf at eight, I
wouldn't be up now with dyspepsia. Consider yourself lucky, Mr. Whitman." It seemed to be said as
much to herself as to Sam; the door closed just as she got to the end of his name. The yard was black,
lit only by pale lamplight from one of the rear windows of her house. He made his way to the cottage at
the end of the yard, and found it was indeed ready to welcome a guest. He needed to get back to
Lawrence. And he needed rest. Rest won out; a telegram to Lawrence could wait. He didn't even
undress, collapsing on the short bed with his greatcoat around and him his feet hanging off the end.

***

Mrs. Tyler, the landlady, cook, cleaner, and dubiously self-appointed moral guide for her guests, rapped
sharply on the cottage door at 6:00 a.m. Sam's dishevelment and the fact that she could see his boots
inside the cottage put her in a disagreeable mood.

"You weren't drunk, so there's no excuse for this behavior. Breakfast is served at 7:00 a.m. and not at
your convenience later. Put your boots outside and sweep up any mess you've made," she said,
gesturing to a broom by the door of the cottage.

Sam had learned discipline from his father, and how to put himself together well, and Mrs. Tyler was
clearly impressed with the tall stranger when he arrived at the main house for breakfast. He sat apart
from the other boarders, who nevertheless called over to him their questions.

"What brings you to Salina?" was asked at least three times before Sam answered.

"Investments." That seemed to settle the other guests for a while, as they buzzed among themselves
about what investments a person who stayed at a boardinghouse might have.

"Mighty poor ones!" said one woman to her companion, but Sam ignored them. They lost interest in
time. Mrs. Tyler, however, did not grow bored with questions or with Sam's recalcitrance and limited
answers. Gradually, Sam turned the questioning back on her, and she proved an endless resource of
local information.
"We ladies at the church, the Presbyterian Church, have formed a local group and now carry on the
work of the WCTL here in Salina."

"WCTL?" Sam asked.

"Woman's Christian Temperance League," she said, as if he should have known. "Surely you know of
our work. We're hoping to shut down three saloons this year, and the rest next year. Small steps lead
to great strides."

"I've had a… sheltered childhood, not from around here," Sam offered as his only excuses.

"Now you take care to avoid them – not that I think you'd touch a drink, I can see that in your face – but
if you were to sip, you'd be out of my house in a wink. And stay well clear of that… well, I won't name
it, but our town is cursed with a house of ill repute. The vermin that runs it has the support of nearly all
the councilmen and the deputies, but those women are tainted for life, as is our town's name."

She was flushed, whether from embarrassment or fervor, Sam couldn't tell.

"There's a brothel in a little town like this?" he asked, both disbelieving and hopeful that his detour
wouldn't be entirely boring.

"Since the rail came, this town has grown up and out, fat on the income of cattle and grain, and with
that came the sins of the flesh."

Sam nodded understandingly to encourage Mrs. Tyler's conversation.

"The saloons spread like wildfire all up and down Santa Fe Avenue. You must have passed right by it if
you came by train."

"That street with the hotel and the bars?"

"Yes." It was a clipped 'yes'.

"I'll be sure to stay clear. If you could direct me to the bank and the telegraph office, I'd be grateful."

***

The bank was closed, and Sam didn't realize why until he looked at the large clock on the building
showing 8:00 a.m. He'd been roused from bed so early and fed and cleared up after so quickly that he
didn't notice it wasn't yet time for civilized business. To get to the telegraph office required cutting
across Santa Fe, which Mrs. Tyler had apologized for in advance.

On Santa Fe, the change was remarkable. No noise, no lights, not a single person. The three-story
building on Iron Avenue was quiet. Sam sent a brief message to a fellow hunter in Lawrence, using a
rather simple coded telegram.

That afternoon was spent with Mrs. Tyler's sister Eliza and her niece, a charming girl who seemed
intent on showing inappropriate attention to her aunt's tall, handsome new boarder, so unlike the other
men and women she had met there before. They sent her inside to rest from the sun after she laughed
loudly at one of Sam's remarks. When she had left, the sisters raised a topic of concern – the death of
a young woman, one of the sinful "club girls".

"How did she die?" Sam asked indelicately.

"They don't know. Said she was burned. Like the Devil himself touched her."
"Liza, don't repeat gossip, especially not blasphemous stories like that."

"Blasphemous? I heard it from George, and it's what his newspaper writer heard from the deputy who
found her."

"Fires are very common; I'm sure it was accidental," Sam offered.

"Nothing else burnt. Nothing. Just her."

"When was this?"

"A week ago."

"Liza!" interrupted Mrs. Tyler, "do not pass on your husband's hearsay to my guests. If she worked for
that man Campbell, she would do better to be free and in God's hands."

Sam bit his lip and stared up at the cottonwood tree. It felt almost good to have a hunt on his hands
again after so many months, and he was sure there was something here worth hunting.

***

Dinner was early, at 4:30, and heavy, unlike breakfast, which Mrs. Tyler clearly excelled at. After-
dinner amusements consisted of talking and reading, board games being out of the question, and cards
unmentionable. By 6:00, Sam was able to use his indigestion as an excuse to slip away from the other
boarders (who commiserated out of earshot of Mrs. Tyler), and to take a walk through Salina. He
strolled up Santa Fe from the end nearest his boardinghouse, passing a few saloons and a card house.
It was typical of many booming towns, and a little seedy, he thought. The hotel was grand, for a town
like Salina, embellished with railway money. He returned down the other side of the street, and found
himself on the corner of Iron Avenue, looking at the three-story structure. Cottonwood fluff from the
river a couple of blocks away was blowing along the breeze in the twilight. He approached the building.
It seemed relatively lifeless. Over the large double front door was the sign, in white on faded black.

Two men came up the plank sidewalk and turned through the gate. They stood on the covered porch
after knocking. Soon the door opened and Sam caught a brief glimpse of a room lined in red curtains
and a few women talking to another gentleman.

The idea of a whorehouse certainly had its appeals, and this place looked more reputable than most,
even if the repute was ill. He didn't particularly approve of the idea of a brothel, but that voice wasn't
speaking up. Sam stepped back into the street to look at the place. The dark, curtained windows
made sense now, as did the bouncer. Up on the third floor, a man was pacing, again. After a bit, he
vanished from view.

Sam looked at his wallet, now a bit fatter from his stop by the bank that afternoon. He didn't need the
sex, particularly, but he could use some information about the woman who died so mysteriously. He
approached and knocked. The door opened quickly and he went in; it was shut just as quickly behind
him by the large bouncer he'd seen the night before.

"Welcome to the Impala Club, sir," said a soft-eyed woman about Sam's age. "Would you like a drink?"

"No thank you, I …"

"I only bring drinks, but Cora will be here in just a moment."
He stood awkwardly looking around, not wanting to make eye contact, which was exactly how the other
men felt as well. A sign on the wall caught his eye and he went toward it. It read:

                                          IMPALA CLUB RULES
                                   = for your benefit as well as ours =

                               1. No smoking anywhere on the premises.
                        2. When making arrangements, ask for what you want.
                                 3. Cash payment in advance, IN FULL.
                                         4. No overnight stays.
                            5. No fighting, unless the management starts it.

He felt a warm arm slip in against his and turned to find a different woman, somewhat older than him,
pulling him toward a large loveseat.

"Please sit with me. Tell me what we can do for you this evening."

"I, uh, …" He pulled himself together and began again. "I would like some information."

"Rule number two, my dear, be specific. Everyone wants some company, but this is the time and the
place to ask for what you want most."

Sam was at that moment unable to formulate what he wanted. Part of him wanted information about
the girl who'd died, but there was another need he couldn't articulate. Familiar with this condition, the
woman continued on as Sam grew redder and redder.

"Are you here for a brief or long visit?" She paused. "Would you like the company of more than one of
our girls?" She waited again, judging his reaction. "Do you prefer a rougher style of entertainment?"
Still nothing. "Do you…" – and here she leaned in closer – "like the company of other gentlemen over
that of the ladies?"

Before he knew his mouth was moving, he heard himself say, "Either would be fine," and felt her hand
squeeze his thigh. Lord, did I say that?

"Good. Just making sure you get what you want. Please wait here a moment."

"Aren't you going to…?"

"I dearly wish I could, sir. I do. But I'm not there quite yet. Front of house staff only."

She vanished behind a curtain.

Sam sat on the loveseat, blinking. Mrs. Tyler would no doubt know exactly what he'd done and what
he'd had to drink, as a young man with a tray of drinks and a welcoming smile pressed a cold beer into
his hand. If he returned smelling of a whorehouse, he'd be out on the street. When the older woman
returned, she settled graciously next to him and said,

"Ten dollars."

He choked on his beer.

"The Impala Club is not a whorehouse. It's a world made for gentlemen such as yourself."
He paid, definitely intrigued by the idea that men were among the choices, and was quickly ushered
behind a red curtain and through another set of doors. A bright, loud room full of well dressed women
and casually dressed men, loud piano music, and alcohol lay before him.

Around the room ran a wide landing on the second floor, with a broad staircase on the left leading up.
To the right were gaming tables and a long bar. His eyes went up to the landing straight ahead, and
the man looking directly back at him, a buxom woman at his side, arm around his waist.

The man was Mr. Campbell, owner, proprietor, manager, and a few other titles he'd bestowed on
himself. In Campbell's sights was a tall, green-eyed man with long hair and a greatcoat that had seen
him through journeys over rock and river and through many winters. It was not in tatters, but well worn,
and fitted (by his outgrowing it) to show off his broad shoulders and long legs. His boots added a bit to
his impressive height. Sam was trying to appear more than he was, that much was clear, but so did
many men who had just stepped into the Impala Club.

He's got a nice body, thought the man on the landing.

Sam hadn't taken his eyes off the man on the landing, mostly because that man hadn't blinked yet. He
had on a white shirt, a snug-fitting vest in a rich brocaded silk, and velvet pants over black boots.

He's wearing velvet pants! thought Sam, and his face expressed his disbelief.

"He's got a nice body," said Molly, echoing her boss's thoughts – one reason he let her put her arm
around him the way she did.

"He's wearing velvet pants," said Sam again, aloud this time. The man at the railing seemed to read his
mind, or his lips, and looked down at his pants.

"He always does, on Saturdays," said Pearl, one of the taller girls, as she threw her arms around Sam's
neck and added, "Oooh, you're a tall one. I'm Pearl."

Sam looked back up at the railing, but only the woman was there now, a woman with lively dark eyes
and a long braid of black hair, most unusual for the fashion of the time. Sam looked around but couldn't
see the man.

"Who was that?" he asked.

"That's Molly, the madam. And Mr. Campbell, of course. He runs the place."

"I think I could use a drink now. Whiskey. Could you get that? Thanks, Pearl." She left to get the
drink.

Sam turned around again, still looking, and found the outstretched hand of the man in velvet pants, the
Mr. Campbell so reviled by Mrs. Tyler – a man with green eyes, a disarming smile, a strong jaw and a
tight grip.

"Welcome to the Impala Club. I won't ask what brings you here; I never do." He winked. "But I would
like to know what brings you to our town. Dean Campbell at your service."

Sam took the whiskey from Pearl and downed it without letting go of Dean's hand.
PART THREE: THE INVESTIGATORS
CHAPTER SIX

1872 – Salina, Kansas

Double whiskey downed, Sam still hadn't let Dean's hand go. But neither had Dean let go of his. Sam
was putting together the pieces of the improbable story of this man in front of him, owner of a
whorehouse and yet not much older than Sam himself. Dean was familiar with the facial expression that
accompanied his first meeting with many people. He was watching Sam's reaction to the whiskey as
well, partly to see how his new top-shelf brand went down and partly to judge Sam's familiarity with
whiskey. Sam and the whiskey passed the test.

Pearl pulled Sam's arm around her shoulder like a stole, breaking the connection, and Sam snapped
out of his trance, disappointed. Dean's hand stayed out there between them a bit longer and he glared
briefly at Pearl. Pearl was oblivious, but Molly noticed the look and made a mental note to explain a
few things to her about keeping the boss happy.

Dean recovered his composure quickly and scanned the room to be sure his other customers were in
good spirits. He wasn't consciously giving Sam an opening but he didn't move very far away. The
whiskey had been a generous double, and it was making its lazy way around Sam's body, loosening
the restraints as it went. Working against the whiskey was Pearl, cuddling under his arm.

"Could I have another, Pearl?" Sam said to her, desperate to be rid of her.

It seemed a bit risky, given the flush of heat spreading up his neck, but Pearl had hospitality trained into
her and he needed her out of the way.

Dean was lingering just outside the line of what he'd call "close", talking to regulars and taking in the
new arrival. He was wary of all newcomers in his establishment, despite the bouncers and the high
cost of admission. The town leaders were a known quantity, a controllable element, but out-of-towners
were potentially risky. Caution was his natural response to having been put off balance by the first
attractive man in his establishment in years. Dean took the initiative, just as Sam, watching Pearl
retreat, turned back to speak.

"First time?" Dean grinned.

"I, uh…"

"…in Salina, I mean."

Sam blushed a bit more than the whiskey already had done for him.

"I ended up here by accident, but I think I can help you with that woman who died."

"Let's not talk about such unpleasant things out here," said Dean, his voice hushed and his face
noticeably less happy. He looked around, but no one had heard.

"Could we discuss this privately?" Sam continued.

Dean moved closer and lowered his voice further.

"I don't think we need any help. The sheriff had his men here twice."

Sam pushed on, mistaking distrust for simple reticence.
"I may know what's going on."

Dean's eyes were locked on his and didn't blink. His nostrils flared and Sam could swear Dean was
reading him like a book. That's got to be the whiskey, he thought. It can't be just his eyes.

Dean's recent encounters with Mrs. Tyler's anti-liquor-and-ladies group had him on edge, and he feared
the news getting out to them about how she'd died. It's time to contain this.

"Molly, bring him to me in five minutes."

She appeared suddenly, having not gone far herself. Sam moved after Dean, but Molly's hand was
firmly on his arm.

"I'll take you up in a moment. Sit with Pearl and enjoy your whiskey."

Sam took what came his way, although he rarely found men exactly to his taste. A brothel owner! What
am I thinking? Find the demon, send it back to Hell and move on.

Pearl returned with another double, and Sam did everything but enjoy it. Pearl proved both more
persistent and less charming than she'd been before, leaning on Sam and twining her arms around his.
Sam was reluctant to down a second glass before a serious talk about what might have killed the
woman. He nursed the whiskey and humored Pearl until Molly returned to collect him.

At the top of the wide main staircase, on the landing above the main hall, was a second staircase,
behind a nondescript door that Molly opened via a hidden latch. She showed Sam up into a room that
redefined excess, a room so gaudy it could only be the seat of a brothel owner. Sam sank under the
waves of red fabric on the furniture, walls and windows.

Hell has less red in it.

In the midst of it all, seemingly unaffected, was Dean Campbell.

"I’m not used to total strangers discussing my private affairs on the floor. Would you care to tell me
who you are?" His tone was a bit more aggressive now.

"How familiar are you with the supernatural?"

Dean snorted. He allowed the evasion to slide.

"We had a séance – Molly insisted on it. The table didn't so much as quiver."

"It's not a ghost," said Sam, dismissively.

"No, of course not. Ghosts don't burn people alive."

"Well, they could, but they rarely do."

The conversation had turned quickly in an unfamiliar direction. They each paused briefly to take in just
how much the other knew about the spirit world, and how they might have obtained that knowledge.

"I think I've seen something like this before," said Sam. "Have there been any suspicious fires?"

"There are no fires in my house. I pay the fire brigade handsomely to arrive quickly. And soon, no oil
either. Just electric light."
"Any fires in town?"

Dean hesitated. "Three this month. No deaths. None like Mary's".

"Can you show me where it happened?"

"Who are you working for?" Dean folded his arms, now tired of the evasiveness. He waited behind his
desk for Sam to respond. He set his jaw in an attempt to look resolute.

Sam stood looking at him, silently, as he'd learned to do from other hunters.

"Don't have the time now," Dean said, finally. "These are my prime business hours."

"Tomorrow then."

"Come back mid-afternoon. I'll be up by then, I think."

He took Sam's hand again, shaking it and guiding him toward the door with his left hand patting Sam's
back, like a politician hustling a defeated opponent off the stage. At the narrow door, they pressed
close and for a moment Dean could smell Sam – a dusty smell from where he'd slapped his hand on
Sam's coat and underneath it a harsh pine tar soap and a familiar tone he couldn't describe except to
think that he liked it.

Sam nearly slipped on the narrow stairs as he turned to look back up at Dean, seeing only the fixed
grin.

"You watch yourself," Dean said, and closed the door above as Molly appeared below to meet Sam and
see him out. As he closed the door, Dean's grin vanished, replaced with a muttered "Damn" and a
furrowing of his brow.

In no time, Sam was on the street, with stars overhead, raucous noise spilling from the saloon at the
corner, and whiskey on his breath. Mrs. Tyler was sure to notice that, as well as his late return.

"Damn," he muttered, and set off for the boarding house.

He became aware of a person following him as he turned the corner onto Santa Fe; the person was still
behind him a minute later, but when he looked back, he was a bit disappointed it wasn't Dean. Still,
having him tailed was an interesting tactic. The person behind him wasn't particularly subtle, so he
didn't fear for his safety. He reached Mrs. Tyler's, now fully dark, stepped over the gate onto the path
and let himself into the back yard noiselessly. The shadow had stopped across the street.

***

Sam couldn't get the moment out of his head – the smile, the handshake, the extravagant but well
tailored clothes. Dean presented an attractive package, and he knew it. Sam had been more than a
little distracted and it wasn't just the whiskey that stirred his blood and warmed his extremities. He lay
restlessly on the small bed in the cottage, knees bent, feet on the floor. He was already regretting how
forward he'd been. Far too much attention in this town was on him already.

The gaudy red room Dean used as an office struck him as a front. It was what anyone would expect
from a brothel, and Dean had played up the obvious – an ornate desk, furniture designed to distract
with luxury, and rich fabrics to impress on visitors their lower status. And that smell, when Dean had
moved close to him – Sam tried to recall it. A fresh smell, like a mild cologne; he thought he could
smell it still, and when he rubbed his eyes, he realized it was all over his hand. It filled his nose as he
inhaled. Dean Campbell.

***

Dean returned to his guests for the rest of the night and fell into bed at nearly 4:30 a.m. He woke up
sharply at 5:19, as he always had, and no doctor could tell him why. He sat at his desk with his head in
his hands for nearly half an hour, watched the sun rise from his large window, then went back to sleep.

Sam woke early with a headache and a ravenous hunger. He arrived at the main house promptly at
seven, hoping for some coffee. Mrs. Tyler looked at him closely, then asked him to come 'help out' in
the kitchen, and he gladly volunteered. No sooner had the door closed than she was looking at him with
a withering glance made worse by her magnifying spectacles. She knows. Sam braced himself for her
reaction.

"You, Mr. Whitman, are in grave danger. You've given yourself to drink in less than 24 hours, and
contributed to the very filth that I warned you against."

Her voice rose and Sam could clearly imagine the other boarders listening to the tirade from the
breakfast room. He bit his lip and tried a sheepish look. It broke her stride, but only for a moment and
then she was back at it, pelting him with Bible quotes and visions of the hell that awaited him if he
touched the demon alcohol again.

It was the cleanest chewing out he'd ever heard; so chaste in its avoidance of swear words that he was
actually listening intently. This seemed to work in his favor, as she soon ran dry and took a sip of
coffee from her cup, awaiting his apology. He gave her his sincere thanks for saving his soul, and for
having forbearance for him, lost in this new town and not yet familiar with its seductions. She'd entirely
missed his visit to the whorehouse, he realized. She pointed a long finger at him as her final emphasis,
and he retreated from the kitchen via the back door.

***

Molly came at noon as usual to wake Dean with lunch, and found him fully washed and dressed, as if
he'd never even been to sleep. Molly waited for Dean to speak.

Dean was distracted by the new arrival; unsettled, and when he admitted it, intrigued. The man was
smart and reminded him very little at all of the men he'd been with in Kansas City.

Samuel. Sam. Sammy. What was his family name? "Did he ever say his last name?"

"No."

"No one in the front caught it either?" He fidgeted with the tie.

"I've told them to let him through directly to me when he returns."

"If he returns."

"He will," she replied, with just the slightest tone of encouragement.

Dean grunted, his way of admitting she had won the point. He counted back across the months to find
a man, or anyone, who'd stood out from the scandalous world he'd created around himself, at once a
lively social scene and a focal point of small town loneliness.

"You're the one who got up an hour early, after all." Molly allowed herself a half-smile.
Dean ignored her insinuations, mainly because he had already spent a few hours entertaining his own
ideas of what might happen when Sam returned, and they were perverse ideas, even for him.

***

Promptly at 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, Sam arrived and was ushered in to see Molly; he didn't want to
see her, but he respected Dean's sense of caution and played along. Molly took a more inquisitive
approach. It was a risk to share as much as he did, but she seemed perceptive enough to spot a lie in
a whorehouse, and he needed their trust.

"Welcome, Mr.…?"

"Winchester."

"That's an interesting name. Are you related to Oliver and William Winchester?"

"I wouldn't know."

"How did you learn about the incident with Mary?"

"I can't really talk about that."

"Are you a newspaperman, Mr. Winchester? Or with the Temperance League?"

"I'm not. I just think I can help. Maybe stop it from happening again."

Molly tensed at that, but he had her attention and so continued.

"If I could see where it happened, I just need to check a few things."

"And I'll ask you again, who are you to care about this?"

"You might have missed something."

She eyed him, hoping to see what he was really here for. He smiled, a sincere smile.

"Let me leave you in Pearl's capable hands while I see if Mr. Campbell is free," and she waved the
eager Pearl over before leaving.

Visibly (and audibly) excited at her enormous good fortune, Pearl rushed to sit next to Sam and moved
her chair quite close. Sam gulped and gave his best forced smile.

***

"He's lying about a few things, but he's good at it. And he put on his best clothes, but they've been
folded up for a long while," Molly observed, as Dean buttoned his vest.

"Is anything he said true? What else did you get from him? What's his name?"

"He isn't lying about wanting to help. He says it could happen again."

"Send him up, then."

"His name is Winchester, so you know."
***

Sam entered the very red room on the third floor. The room was even more overwrought in the light of
day, but it was far better to be alone with Dean in this place than with Pearl in the main hall.

"Mr. Winchester! So glad you returned." His tone was rehearsed, but the look on his face was softer
and more genuine. The velvet pants had been replaced by a more sober pair in a canvas material and
a fresh white shirt under a simpler vest.

Sam waited. He watched Dean think, a surprisingly enjoyable activity.

"Molly says you think it'll happen again?"

"No, I have a suspicion. I need to investigate first."

"Are you an investigator for a private party? Employed by her relatives, maybe? Or a government
investigator out of St. Louis?"

"I'm not interested in what you do here, Mr. Campbell."

Dean's smile sank a little; he expected everyone to take an interest, and he didn't like being called 'Mr.
Campbell' by this man, even if he was a stranger.

"Can we speak plainly?"

"Yes, by all means," said Sam, hopeful again.

"You aren't a government official. No government official shows up here dressed in a worn coat and
boots, even one in disguise. And they don't show up not knowing who I am."

"Anything else you feel certain about?"

"Where's that accent from? Kentucky? Tennessee? You're trying to put it aside but we get a lot of
Easterners heading west."

Sam decided to push back a little.

"You're from around here, but with a lot of time in the cities – Missouri, from the twang. You've got
money and plenty of it. And you're not as beloved as you think."

"You know, Tyler's pastor does have his very profane needs; you should listen less to that witch and
more to my satisfied customers."

"The spy who told you where I was – the one you sent after me last night? He needs to work on not
being completely obvious."

They gave each other a good long look. Dean smiled and it brought Sam's hand forward; the
handshake this time was briefer, more self-conscious.

 "I'll show you where they found her," Dean said, unwilling to end the moment but not ready to see what
the next might bring.

He led Sam down to the second floor's wide landing where he took the master key from Molly before
she could register a protest and headed down a corridor off the landing to the left. Sam was lost almost
immediately in the turns of the narrow halls; doors opened and closed behind him; stairs led down and
then up again. He had the feeling of being led into a labyrinth without any clear path back out. Finally,
they stopped by a door with a small cross hung from the handle.

"When was that put there?" Sam asked.

"Never noticed it. Must have been Molly." Dean took it off the doorknob and slid it into his vest pocket.

"No smoke smell," Sam noted, surprised.

"Rule number 1: No smoking on the premises."

"I meant from her burning."

Dean grimaced at the memory. "Her name was Mary. And she didn't burn, she was cooked," Dean
clarified.

"She…?" Sam wasn't sure he'd heard right.

"Cooked. Inside and out, but it didn't look like any burn I've seen. The doctor was a little queasy, and
nothing gets to him, normally. Will you be here long?" Dean added abruptly.

"I didn't plan on being here at all." Sam was looking over the room, as Dean followed him. Dean
pursued the conversation.

"But now that you're here, it could be a day or so more, at least. Right?"

"I really couldn't say." Sam was having trouble concentrating on his search for clues.

Dean hovered while Sam inspected the room, getting in the way a couple of times in his curiosity. He
found the attention pleasant, though, and it never flagged, even when he made a second, fruitless
sweep of the surrounding rooms and halls. Nothing seemed to point to a demon – no burns, no smoke,
no sulfurous residue, or at least nothing that remained after the cleanup.

"Your cleaning is very thorough," Sam noted, a bit disappointed.

"Thank you. We run a hygienic establishment," said Dean with pride.

"That's not helping me."

Dean deflated at this, so Sam gave him another chance.

"Where's the bedding?"

"We burned it. After the sheriff's man was done. It was filthy."

"Filthy how?"

"Oily, a little blood. Stained yellow."

Sulfur, or just urine, maybe. "Who found her?" Sam continued.

"Bess, her friend. About ten minutes after last seeing her. She thought it was odd that she had a
customer with her so late; it was nearly 2:00 a.m."
"Did she?"

"The door was locked. Bess knocked and no one answered. She heard some noises so she came to
get Molly. The door was unlocked when they got back and there she was."

"Can I talk to Bess?"

"Left town a few days later. Didn't even ask for her pay."

"Then I'll talk to Molly."

The room was close, quiet, and yet, below the silence, which Dean found uncomfortable, was a low
roar.

"What's that sound?" asked Sam.

Dean listened, shifting his concentration from Sam to the sound in the background.

"That's the boiler in the basement. I wanted it shielded, or moved. Too much fire for my liking."

***

They found Molly on the ground floor, overseeing a liquor delivery. Dean left him there with a brief
"See me again before you go." Sam's insides twinged. And I'm still a child. Grow up, Sam.

"Mary came to us from Chicago years ago. She wasn't happy here anymore; she wanted to go back,"
said Molly with obvious regret as Sam continued to make notes in a small journal.

"You've been very helpful," he said, finally.

"And have you, Mr. Winchester? Are you any closer to knowing why she died?"

"Not yet."

"That was a sincere answer, and I thank you for it."

He could see why Dean kept her close. She was brighter than most and clearly loyal. He couldn't
place her trace of a Spanish accent, but Mexico seemed the likely choice.

"You're welcome, Molly." And now to you, Mr. Campbell.

***

Upstairs, Dean was putting on a fitted jacket and some better boots, ready to become the host for his
customers. Sam, privy to this clothing change, was feeling urges he hadn't paid attention to in a very
long time, especially as Dean bent to adjust his pants down over his boots.

"Spontaneous combustion?"

"I beg your pardon?" Sam choked, momentarily lost for an answer.

"Is that what killed her? I've heard of it – bodies burning up with no damage to the surroundings.
People just – catch fire, never even scream."

"There's no such thing."
"Oh, you know that?" Dean scorned.

"Trust me. It's always something worse." And Dad screamed, I just couldn't hear him.

***

Sam spent most of that evening in Mrs. Tyler's drawing room, making excruciating small talk with the
other boarders, each of whom seemed intent on winning a prize for asking the most questions. He
thought about leaving for Lawrence, but worried about the events at the brothel. The yellowed bedding
could have been a sign of demonic presence; the odd cause of death could just as well have an even
odder scientific explanation. Worse, he'd left the Impala Club without an invitation to return and he
didn't want to risk visiting in broad daylight as he had on Sunday (when most people were at home or at
church). There was a small flash of something – sincerity, vulnerability – that slipped through the
smiling showman when Dean was alone with him, and he very much wanted to see Dean again before
he left town for good.

Molly seemed suspicious of him, and Dean did as well, judging by the number of questions he asked.
Sam wasn't sure what to make of Mr. Campbell, brothel owner, in any case. It was a job he'd never
considered in his wildest dreams. To have your pick of any of the women there….

Sam returned to the cottage after a light supper to re-read all of his journal notes, and what he'd
recorded about demons before leaving for Lawrence. The scent of cologne from Dean's hands
remained everywhere they touched – on his coat, his own hands, and his arm, where Dean had caught
him and directed him to a more discreet entry and exit from the club. His mind wandered along the
paths of the scent and he closed his eyes; he imagined Dean pulling off the boots, and the velvet pants,
and laying back on his bed; an opulent bed, Sam was sure. He latched the cottage door, pulled the
shutters across the window, and extinguished the lamp. He sat on the edge of his small, hard bed and
relieved his desire in a dense, thick puddle in his left hand, and then licked it into his mouth while his
mind played. He slept in his clothes as comfort against the late chill in the unheated room.

Dean was planning various ways he could get in touch with Sam the next day; he'd discounted Mary's
last visitor as a murderer, but it still made sense to talk to Crawford; he was an important man in town
and Dean could get him to talk quite easily. Dean was in bed already, thinking to himself in the minutes
before sleep approached, thinking of his tall visitor in the worn black coat, who listened to him and
talked to him like he mattered. He lay on his stomach as he often did, his hand was under him as it
often was, and he came loudly and copiously as he often had, and fell asleep in it, immune to the cold.
CHAPTER SEVEN

1872 – Salina, Kansas

In the clear morning, Sam felt a new sense of urgency – not for the man he'd just met but about what
he was doing in a boarding house in Salina in the second week of June when he'd promised his
contacts in Lawrence that'd he be there by the middle of the month.

He could hardly believe he'd entertained the idea of sleeping with a stranger, and a brothel owner at
that, but he still needed to see Dean about the man who had been with Mary before she died. He was
the next logical person to talk to. Sam arrived at the main house only to be greeted by the curious
stares of the other boarders, all of whom had indeed listened intently to Mrs. Tyler's tongue-lashing of
the day before.

"You're still here?" said a young woman, none too politely.

"I am," said Sam, taking in the room's chilly atmosphere.

"That's a first," said the meek-looking elderly gentleman, and left it hang in the air as commentary and
accusation both.

They'd all seen good people run afoul of Mrs. Tyler's anti-drink mania, but something had changed with
this man Samuel, and they didn't appreciate change.

After breakfast, which she served with not a hint of favoritism, Mrs. Tyler approached Sam as he was
heading toward the side gate.

"Mr. Whitman," she called, and it was clear that 'stop' was the true message. Sam feared the worst.

"I must prevail on you, before you go about your daily business, to help me with a task that only
someone of your… youth and vigor," (and here she eyed him from head to toe) "can accomplish."

It turned out that she had meant "someone as tall as you" because Sam spent the next hour lifting
boxes down from the attic so that Mrs. Tyler could gather documents and photographs for her meeting
in town. When he was finally able to tear himself away, it was nearly 10 a.m. and he was sweat-soaked
from the stifling attic. As Sam headed out, one of the boarders was just remarking on the sudden
arrival of summer, when a delivery boy knocked with a telegram for Mr. Whitman. Sam snatched it
from his hand, provoking odd looks from the boarders assembling for mid-morning Bible study.

"It's from my business partner," he offered quickly.

***

Dean was making little progress at getting out of Molly's hands – she insisted, despite his obvious
impatience, that he discuss the business with her. He ignored her remarks about being "distracted" the
past two days and pushed her as fast as she'd allow him, but it was nearly noon when she finally gave
up.

"You wake at eleven or later, and you can't spare a half-hour to keep your business going."

"That's what I have you for, my darling Molly," he said, kissing her cheek and giving her a powerful
squeeze.

"You have me because you're a clever man. What's driving you today? Shall I guess?"
"I need to go into town. Meet a friend."

"Then I guessed correctly." This was a distinct departure from his previous behavior; he had no friends
in town, or in Kansas for that matter. If Sam could bring a change in him, then she had hope for the
world.

***

Dean escaped out the side door, and up the alley to Ash Street. The sun was hot and bright after the
cool shade of the alley and Dean blinked. He wasn't much of a day person. No sooner had he eased
the squint in his eyes than he was face to face with Monroe Spillman, town councilor.

"Mr. Spillman. Is this the best place to talk?"

"Campbell, you know where Crawford is?" said the councilor, his voice verging on desperation. Dean
had no time to respond. "He's missing. Not at the office."

"He's not in my place. Least not last night," Dean grinned.

"You watch your step, Campbell. There are things more important than your money. We keep you in
business."

"You do indeed. Quite regularly. Let's not push each other too hard, shall we?" He had no patience
for idle threats when he held the best cards.

Spillman paled, despite the noon sun.

"That god-awful harpy is coming to see me today – to complain about you," Spillman lamented.

"Give her my best."

Dean pushed past him and left him standing there, beads of sweat on his temples trickling into his
sideburns.

***

The telegram from Lawrence was in a more complex code than Sam had seen in previous messages,
so he retired to the cottage to translate it, after the momentary excitement of the morning ("A business
telegram! Oh Mr. Whitman, what's it about?") had dissipated. The note was brief but took the better
part of the morning to translate and respond to. It read: Will you come soon? Souls may be lost.
Midsummer is the close of days. – Longfellow

Sam headed out again to send a reply, only to be blocked in the backyard garden by Mrs. Tyler's new
boarder, Catherine, hard-faced despite her youth. Mrs. Tyler instinctively saved her from "certain moral
decay" as she stood on a Salina streetcorner the day before, freshly arrived. The woman bore her
Bibles everywhere, and said she was a missionary, but Mrs. Tyler knew that missionaries were often
the first to go astray and kept her under close supervision. Catherine pressed a tiny Bible into Sam's
hand, a copy she'd distributed to nearly everyone in her first day in the house.

"For you, Samuel. I've marked the Book of Samuel specially." She pointed with a gloved finger.

"Thank you," said Sam graciously. "I've been looking for a Bible. They always have a use."

She beamed.
"But I need to go into town right now," he said, cutting off what he knew from overhearing her was a
long speech about the value of Bibles. Behind her, he saw Mrs. Tyler heading into town with her friend
Emma.

"Please, read a bit of it," Catherine insisted.

He pushed the telegram into his pocket and opened the Bible where she'd laid the marker. He cleared
his throat and chose a passage at random.

"Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in
safeguard."

"Amen!" she said with conviction as his own voice faded out.

Sam read and reread the passage. He looked up at her, but she seemed entirely innocent in the sun of
high noon. A shiver wriggled down his back. Why did I pick that passage?

"I have to go now, thank you," he said, taking his leave and walking as fast as was polite out the side
gate and toward Santa Fe Avenue and the telegraph office.

***

Dean was making his way down Santa Fe toward the nearest saloon when Mrs. Tyler, forced onto the
main street by her need to find Mr. Spillman, caught sight of her nemesis and took the opportunity to
face him directly.

"Come along, Emma," she said, pulling the elderly woman along with her to be witness, audience, and
moral backbone.

Dean didn't notice it was Tyler until his hand was on the saloon door, and then it was too late to take it
off and pretend his intentions were otherwise than drinking. She drew herself up as best she could, a
respectable five-foot-eight, but Dean in boots was six-foot-two. He didn't feel taller, but he'd dealt with
her over the years since his arrival as head of the whorehouse; silence worked best.

"Mr. Campbell," she spat. "The lord is watching all of us, you most closely. Have you no repentance
yet for what you've done to our town? And now to go in search of drink at midday, in this pit, this
provider of…"

She sought the right word.

"Demon fire-water," offered Emma, to Mrs. Tyler's delight.

"It's quite hot today," said Dean flatly. "I'm quite hot."

"We are on our way to speak to Mr. Spillman. About you," she underscored.

"Don't lie to him. I'm quite sure that's a sin."

"I do not lie, Mr. Campbell. You won't be welcome here forever. This town will reclaim its original
grace."

"And not a moment too soon," added Emma.
"Hush," said Mrs. Tyler to her. "Take this for thought," she said to Dean, thrusting a small bill into his
hand. "Samuel teaches us many things."

Dean looked up at her, startled, then back down at the text, 1 Samuel 12:23. Mrs. Tyler knew it by heart
and recited it as he read.

“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you– "

Dean laughed rudely.

"… but I will instruct you in the good and right way."

"I'll get out of your way then, for today. Good-bye."

Dean entered the saloon, looking for a cool drink. The women set off for Mr. Spillman's office, glistening
with fervor and the day's heat.

Sam turned the corner onto Santa Fe in time to see Mrs. Tyler and Emma step into a doorway and
vanish. He had frozen, his heart racing, then shook off the fear, embarrassed. He passed the saloon,
where there was a loud argument going on, and crossed to the telegraph office, to send word to
"Longfellow" that he understood the seriousness of their situation and would be there as soon as
possible, and, in all events, before the 23rd. The telegram operator insisted on talking to both Sam and
his colleague in the office, which immobilized his hands. It was nearly twenty minutes later that Sam
was finally sure the telegram had been fully typed and sent.

***

Dean's search for a little understanding in the saloon was not rewarded. Joe, the saloon owner, was not
pleased to see him.

"Well, look who cares to stop by, and without the fancy clothes, even. Is my whiskey good enough for
you?"

"Joe, not today."

"That Tyler woman's on a rampage. Since she connected with the WCTL, she's been in here once a
month to beat the word of God into me, and my girls. It's hurting us all, Dean." Joe complained. "With
the church ladies pressuring us to close, business is down. Our customers are heading your way."

"And would you like me to leave town? Who do you think holds off Crawford and Spillman and Phillips
and the rest?"

"Hello, Mr. Campbell," said Martha, Joe's most expensive girl, whom Dean believed was taken with
him. "Is it you or that burnt-skin Molly who tells your girls they're better than me?"

"Martha!"

"No, Joe, I can handle it," said Dean, turning to look at Martha for the first time. "I don't tell them
anything. I just ask them to work for me and nowhere else. It gives them an air of exclusivity that has
nothing to do with your…availability to everyone who comes in."

She struck him hard across the face, and Joe seized her arm. Dean continued, his voice harder, and
louder.

"What I offer is a different type of woman, Martha. It's strictly a business decision."
"You should leave now, before I forget our years of friendship," said Joe roughly.

Dean swallowed his drink and departed. Joe let go of Martha's arm when the doors stopped swinging.

 ***

Sam's nose drew him from the telegraph office into the small shop just down from the saloon, and to
the meat pies fresh from the oven. He devoured two in no time and purchased two more, one that he
saved for later, one that he ate more slowly while talked with the owner of the shop, asking seemingly
innocent questions about the town. Behind them someone stalked angrily down the plank sidewalk and
away down the street. When Sam turned, the person was gone.

"That was the Mr. Campbell we were just talking of."

"It was? Thank you!"

Sam jumped to his feet and ran outside – Dean was nowhere to be found.

The day had grown unseasonably hot and still. Overhead was a solid gray-blue, and a white-hot sun.
Sam, in his black travel coat, was now sweating again. He went down Ash St. toward the river and the
shade of the trees there, walking along the bank. The air was still fresh and cool here under the trees,
and the river flowed lazily around Smoky Hill, past the branches that dipped into its silty water. Sam left
his coat by the riverside, pulled off his boots and socks, which he set next to the coat, and rolled up his
pant legs, then scooted out one of the lower branches over the river to where he could slip his feet into
the cool water. It reminded him of the green forests of home.

Dean, fresh from his argument with Joe, went right down Iron Avenue past the club, where work waited
for him, and headed to where the road crossed the river. He wanted to cool off, literally and figuratively;
he'd been visualizing holding Mrs. Tyler underwater. Why not myself instead, he thought.

He came down the bank quite fast, sweating and cursing loudly, which seemed to help him, and pulled
off his vest and shirt, tossing them aside. He knelt on the grassy shore and stuck his head under the
water. He kept it under for an alarmingly long time, then pulled it out and shook it vigorously. Across
the narrow river was Sam Winchester, smiling broadly.

"I've been looking all over for you," said Dean.

"You finally looked in the right place. I would have come by the, uh… Club, but … things interfered,"
Sam explained, still grinning.

"Yeah, Mrs. Tyler, I'll bet. That woman, seriously. And why the hell are you staying with her?"

"Why did you have me followed the other night?" It seemed the appropriate time to throw that back at
him.

Water was dripping down Dean's chest as Dean looked at him. It hung on his nipples, then rejoined a
rivulet that snaked across his stomach and into a pale line of hair leading down to his pants. Sam
looked down the length of his body once, then away, down the river, embarrassed at his own interest in
this man.

"How about you come back to the Club and we'll talk?" Dean knew a look when he saw it; his
customers looked over his girls the same way.
Dean watched as Sam moved up the bank and along to the bridge. Sam ignored him until he was back
on the same side of the river as Dean, who was now wearing his shirt open, vest in his hands, wet hair
hanging in an arc across his forehead.

"You're hot."

"Well, that's…" Sam stammered and ran his fingers through his hair.

"I come down here when I'm hot too."

Sam had his mouth tightly closed, nodding. Not every thing he says is an invitation.

"I had a thought about the case. Yeah, don't look so surprised. We know who was with Mary that
night. It's a town councilor, John Crawford. Goes by the name of John Parker when he visits the Club.
And he does that twice a week. He's also a church leader. Episcopalian. We should talk to him. Do
you agree?" Dean prodded.

"That’s good work, Mr. Campbell. Dean."

Dean smiled. He liked praise at all times, but from this man it worked on him like a massage.

"You'd be a good investigator," Sam added.

"You and I both. That is what you do, isn't it?" Dean asked.

"You could say that."

"So who do you work for?"

Sam thought about it for a moment.

"You know, I'm not sure. I think, for myself, right now. For what's right."

"My kind of man."

***

In the club, Dean breezed past Molly with Sam right beside him, talking intently about Crawford.
Molly wondered at Dean's wet hair and Sam's rolled up pants. Pearl wasted no time in joining them
when she saw Sam.

"How did you find out who it was?" Sam was asking Dean.

"We have detailed records. Molly's a stickler. Parker was in here weekly."

"Sometimes twice a week. We see him in here so often, he doesn't hardly attract attention," said Pearl.
"He tells us he's a 'Mr. Parker,' but it was John Crawford, plain as the nose on my face. 'Course his
secret was kept. That's why Mr. Campbell's business is so successful. No talking."

Molly interrupted before Pearl could prattle on any further.

"We open in three hours, Mr. Campbell. Go and get yourself ready. You too, Pearl."

"Come with me, Sam," said Dean, and Sam mouthed a prayer for escaping Pearl's clutches.
In his office, Dean dressed for another night while talking to Sam. Sam was sorely distracted by Dean's
disrobing, but he kept up the conversation as best he could. He focused on the details of the murder
and not on the compulsion to reach out and touch.

"We need to see him as soon as possible, especially if people are telling you he's missing."

"That was Spillman; he's a worrier. Crawford was in town yesterday, I saw him myself."

"Can we go this evening?" Sam proposed.

"This evening?"

"If it's what I think, we shouldn't wait."

"And what do you think it is, exactly? You haven't said." Dean waited for an informative response and
got none.

"Do you have a theory?" Sam dodged.

"I have no idea. I've seen my share of odd things – I seem to attract them. Ghosts, goblins, whatever
they are. Nothing like this."

"You've seen ghosts?" Sam was unprepared for this. He'd never met a normal person who took on
supernatural creatures.

"All the time. Scary things. I shoot them. They don't often come back."

"Well this is worse, Dean. The worst possible, if I'm right."

"Then I'll tell Molly to cover for me." If Sam's steady gaze and tightly drawn mouth weren't enough, his
tone of voice was sufficient to justify a change of plans.

***

They met up in early evening; the sun was a fiery red in the west and the heat hadn't broken yet. Sam
was late because of Mrs. Tyler's rule of Monday sharing – each guest had to share a moment when
they'd been steered onto the path by God. Sam went fifth and had time to shape a good tale. Three
people were in tears by the end of it, but not Mrs. Tyler. She was gripping the arms of her chair and
looking straight ahead, picturing Samuel Whitman in the pulpit of her church.

Dean pulled out a small rifle and Sam jumped back.

"What the hell is that for? We're going to pay him a social call, not kill him!"

"I modified this one myself – cut the barrel shorter, added the inlay. It was a mess when I found it."

"You found it?"

"On a soldier brought into the hospital in Missouri. He didn't need it where he was going."

"You stole it off a dying man?!"

"Well it wasn't so much stealing as keeping it for him. If he was to recover. He just didn't."

"Dean, guns lead to gunshot wounds, and gunshot wounds are not low profile."
"I'm good with a gun." He spun it around, looking like a Buffalo Bill impersonator, until Sam put his
hand out and took it from him faster than Dean even noticed.

"How did you do that?"

"We're just going to talk."

"Give it back."

"Put it away."

They started off toward Mr. Crawford's house, Dean looking a bit put out, but was soon back to his
cheerful mood. He seemed a bit more alive out here, less of a performer. Sam took him in, with
sidelong glances, over the half-hour walk to the remote Crawford farm. There was an openness in his
face that was never visible when he was working the main room of his brothel; it gave Sam hope that
there was a real person behind the masks.

The house was south of town, fairly grand but isolated. No lights were on. An unpleasant smell hung
in the still air. They knocked, but no one answered. Sam fiddled with the door and it clicked open.
Dean went in first, without any fear. The smell was far worse inside. Dean retched, Sam pinched his
eyes and mouth closed, just a second too late.

"Dead body," said Dean.

"How do you know that?"

At the back of the house was a large door with wisps of black soot around the edges. Dean opened it
and went in.

"It's like a little palace!" he said, mixing envy and a childish giddiness.

The room was lined with large slabs of white marble, now covered in oily soot.

"People with money do strange things," said Sam, looking at Dean.

"Hey, my washrooms are not lined with marble," Dean said, continuing to look around. "WHOA!" He
jumped back, his hand in front of his face for a second.

To the right, in a large claw foot bathtub, sat the charred remains of John Crawford. Sam's reaction
was visceral, but quickly controlled – it was Dad, for a moment, then just a corpse again. Dean's
reaction was surprise, but not disgust, despite the horrible sight in front of him.

"You don't seem very shocked," Sam observed. Nothing about the events of the week seemed to
phase Dean much, and this intrigued and worried Sam.

"I've seen worse," Dean replied, then changed the subject. "You look like you've seen your own death
foretold. It's just John Crawford. Or John Parker, the deacon and fornicator."

Sam noticed the matches, and the accelerant – three containers of gun oil.

"He killed himself…"

"You sound disappointed, Sam."
"What? No, just… I thought something else was going on."

Dean searched the area, while Sam stared at the blackened body and shook off the flashes of his
father's death. It isn't the same, he told himself, many times.

"To my fellow parishioners in God's house…" came Dean's voice from the hall. "He left a note.
'Sinned', 'turned from God', etc."

"Let me see that."

The body had no traces of demonic presence, no hellfire and brimstone, but the note confirmed Sam's
suspicions. Crawford feared being exposed as a hypocrite and a sinner, but worse, as a murderer.

"He claims in the note he was possessed and killed Mary in the brothel without being able to stop
himself. Only the interruption made him stop," said Sam.

"Possessed? By what?"

"By a demon."

"He killed one of my girls and then says he didn't do it because he was possessed? Possessed by a
big fat lie is more like it."

"No, Dean, it's possible. It's what I was afraid of. Read this last part."

"'I ask the Lord to forgive me and allow me to walk through the fire untouched into his kingdom.' Sam,
he's crazy."

"Keep reading."

"'…into his kingdom… I cannot defend my actions because they were not my own; another one took my
hands and did the work of the Devil with that poor girl.' That means it was a demon? Isn't that the least
likely option?"

"It is. But I think it's what happened."

***

The walk back, in the wan light of the last-quarter moon and the galaxy strewn overhead, was quiet.
Two lanterns swung with the men's long legs as they hurried home to town. They'd left the body
exactly as it was.

"Mary was one of the ones who stuck with me when I took over the business. She shouldn't be dead.
She didn't deserve to die at the hands of a prick like that. She reminded me of my mom."

"What?" Sam wondered for a second if the comparison was a glimpse into a sordid past.

"Don't look at me like that. My mom died when I was a child. I just mean Mary was kind to everyone.
She defended the other girls from customers until Molly or the door guard or I could get there. My
Mom's name was Mary, so I guess I just felt some sort of connection."

"My dad's name was John, just like Crawford."

"Well, that's a common enough name."
"It's just…odd."

"What's going to happen when they find him? And find that note?" Sam wondered.

"They won't be finding the note. I have it in my pocket and that's where it stays."

Sam stopped cold and glared at him in the darkness. He'd crossed a line that Sam didn't know
mattered so much to him: dishonesty.

"I am not going to lose my business over some demented gospel-monger who already put me at risk
once. You've noticed the way people talk about me? It's gone downhill since the day Mary died."

"This is where I get off," said Sam. They had come to the corner of Mrs. Tyler's street. The cottonwood
shimmered and splashed in the night breeze and the demons seemed very far away, but the man next
to him was… not what he'd hoped for.

"Will you be here long?" asked Dean, holding up his lantern to light Sam's face. He sensed something
had gone wrong.

"I need to be in Lawrence soon."

"Mr. Winchester, I think I've gotten off to a bad start."

Sam raised his lantern up as well, lighting the other side of Dean's face.

"I don't believe in lies, Mr. Campbell."

"In that case you'll have a hard time with me."

"I can't come by tomorrow; Mrs. Tyler has recruited me to help with her nieces and nephews."

"You're a saint," said Dean, softly.

"I'm planning to ask them all for deep dark secrets about their aunt."

Dean grinned from ear to ear.

"If you don't believe in lies, Mr. Winchester, you better be careful when I ask the questions."

"I'll be as honest as I can."

"I think we can still help each other. Come on Wednesday. I'll have dinner brought up to us. We're
closed Wednesdays, and you'll get my full attention," said Dean.

"I will." It was increasingly awkward to look at Dean's eyes, and trust their sincerity, given what Sam
had learned of the man in just two days. Sam looked down, and missed Dean setting his jaw, missed
the desperation in his face. He gave an inadequate "good night" and turned and walked toward the
boarding house. He didn't hear Dean's footsteps departing until he'd hopped the front gate. He turned
and watched the lantern vanish round the corner.


***

Tuesday with the children was excruciating – Sam was trapped at the boarding house as news trickled
in of the horror of Mr. Crawford's death. The guests each brought back a chapter of the story, often
wildly different from the previous one. Mrs. Tyler had left at the first hint of scandal; she had unwisely
chosen to visit Mr. Crawford in person and been turned back at his door repeatedly. She was by the
front door when the body was brought out, not entirely covered and a stiff wind tore the cover off. She
awoke in the arms of a fellow church matron who was waving smelling salts and fanning her.

As the news worsened, Sam found himself thinking of ways to get loose and get to Dean. In the
afternoon, Catherine burst in, flushed from walking as fast as was ladylike but not quite a run.

"One of the sheriff's men found a letter! He took his life with his own hand!"

"What did you say?" Sam knew Dean had taken the suicide note.

"I know! I can see from your face you are as shocked as we are. He has sinned gravely against God's
wishes. And he has implicated the whorehouse," Catherine added, her voice dripping with overtones of
victory.

"That's not possible," Sam said definitively.

"Well he has, and we have what we need to get rid of that odious Campbell and his filthy women."

The existence of a second note threw Sam; either Dean had lied about taking it, or they'd found
Crawford's rough draft.

Mrs. Tyler called an emergency meeting at which Sam was of course an honored guest; she still
recalled his story from the night before; the memory evoked almost the same transport in her that the
original telling had. Letters were written, six in all, to the Salina paper. One read, "The time has come
for our town to stand up against the forces of immorality…" which it then listed in great detail. Another
spoke directly to the women of "easy" virtue, veiling its threats in concern for their moral rectitude.

Mrs. Tyler signed her name boldly at the bottom of the last and most aggressive of the screeds, which
called out Dean Campbell by name, demanding that he close his sinful whorehouse and "lift the
scourge that rests on our town because of your wickedness. You are no longer wanted here." Mrs.
Tyler hand-delivered them to the editor by 3 pm, taking them back out of his hand briefly to add the
names of all her boarders as supporters.

The minister was not present at their gathering, but rather at the side of Mrs. Crawford, who had lapsed
into a hysterical crying fit upon returning from the City of Kansas that morning. His absence did not
stop Mrs. Tyler or the others from shaping the invective of his next Sunday sermon, a call for nothing
short of the closure of the whorehouse without delay, and all the saloons as well. A protest was
planned for that evening at the whorehouse. "And the saloons!" added a vigorous voice, and the idea
was swept up into the growing whirlwind. Sam was outnumbered and shouted down when he called for
calm.

***

Salina that night was full of fiery rhetoric, guilty consciences, and more than a little panic. Business for
Dean was booming, unexpectedly, although two of his girls had left without notice. The guests were of
various minds, but Dean put the best face on his club and the outside world was blotted out, just for a
bit. All traffic came by the side entrance, as a protest had formed in front of the whorehouse by dark.
The sheriff himself dispersed the crowd three times, but Dean saw from his window that they never
went far.

Sam finally returned the children to Mrs. Tyler's relatives as they came by the boarding house. The
children were less interested in the day's events except at the thought of perhaps getting to stay up late
or go into town in the dark, an unheard-of event. Dinner was forgotten in the turmoil until some ladies
detached themselves to prepare a meal for everyone. All the boarders agreed it was a marked
improvement over Mrs. Tyler's conception of dinner. Sam offered to help in the kitchen and then to
take the waste outside, where he was able to slip off to town.

The saloons on Santa Fe were doing a roaring business, as a mentality of "get it before it's gone" set in
and the sin level in town took a dramatic jump. Sam moved silently behind the crowd at the
whorehouse; Greeley, the door guard, was outside, blocking the entrance, which had pacified the
crowd; they assumed they had shut the place down; having never been there at night, they took the
darkened windows as further proof of this fact.

Sam wasn't able to get close, and followed his father's long-standing advice to keep a low profile. He
could see Dean up on the third floor, a pacing silhouette, but he decided to return the next day. There
was no mob after all, just a group of twenty townsfolk out of thousands. He slept badly that night,
nerves waking him hourly, the small cottage radiating the day's heat into him. Some time later in his
deepest sleep, he said to Dean what he wanted to say the night before, but Dean didn't hear it. Sam
woke dissatisfied and exhausted, hurting inside. He wanted nothing so much as to be with Dean,
watching Dean bask in the attention Sam willingly provided.

Dean was up at 5:19, looking at an empty street, the glow of sunrise behind the Smoky Hills in the east.
He went back to bed but found only a familiar nightmare, now with Sam in it. Sam laughed at him, no
matter what he said, so he stopped talking. He woke up drenched in sweat and sick of his life. He lay
low all day, thinking of what he needed to do. The paper had printed all six letters, most sharing
common language that he knew came from Mrs. Tyler's WCTL group even before he got to the list of
signers, and saw Samuel Whitman's name there. He stared at it for a long time. It made no sense, but
there it was.

"Dreams just keep turning out the same," he muttered.

***

Sam came into the Impala Club later that morning by the side door; protesters had gathered again by
the front door, which they felt was a successful way to shut down the brothel. Molly caught him on the
stairs and lashed out.

"How COULD you? Mr. Campbell trusted you. I trusted you!"

"What are you talking about, Molly?"

"That letter; you signed their letter? What was your reason?" She was livid at the betrayal.

"I signed nothing," said Sam, shocked, but not surprised.

"Your name is there. Samuel Whitman. The name you gave them. Yours and twelve others."

"Mrs. Tyler must have signed my name. I was there helping her take care of-. Wait, how did you know
what name I told them?"

"You'd best get up to him. He's taking it personally."

Sam raced up the narrow stairs, but Dean was not in the office. He went to the window and looked out.
Behind him and fifteen or twenty feet away, he judged, the floorboard creaked. Dean was just closing a
door behind him; it became part of the wall as it snapped shut. Sam stared at the vanishing door, then
at Dean's eyes. The mask was on.
"I thought you were going to get secrets from the tots." The same sort of betrayal Molly felt was all too
evident in Dean.

"I didn't sign that letter; Mrs. Tyler signed up everyone who walked through the house that day." Sam
moved toward Dean as Dean considered this explanation. "I'd never want my name in print."

"It's not very low profile, is it?" Dean admitted.

"What are you going to do?"

"Take the fight to her," was Dean's ready answer. He moved on to the new topic, overlooking Sam's
excuse because it just meant caring about Sam. And it's easier not to.

"I wouldn't recommend taking her on."

"But you aren't in this fight. You're leaving for Lawrence. You found two burned bodies and somehow
concluded it was a … a demon, and now you're heading back where you came from." His voice was
cold and practiced. He'd cut off the connections to Sam.

"I am in this fight. She's taking advantage of Crawford's death to shut you down."

"That's common knowledge. Two saloon owners told me that last night, as a matter of fact."

Sam turned and walked back toward the desk. On it he saw the house rules he'd seen the first night.

"Tell me how you came up with the house rules."

"What?" The request seemed random, and Dean didn't appreciate that.

"Tell me." Talk to me, Dean.

"Why now? Why do you care?"

"Dean…" Sam's face was tight, his voice gentle.

He decided to take the first step, reading out the rules in a shockingly good imitation of the Impala
Club's Mr. Campbell whom he'd met the first night, hoping to spark a reaction: "IMPALA CLUB RULES
for your benefit as well as ours," he said in Dean's deep voice. "#1. No smoking anywhere on the
premises. #2. When making arrangements, ask for what you want. #3. Cash payment in advance, IN
FULL.

Dean cracked a smile. Sam had regained his good standing, he hoped. He continued now with lifted
spirits, "#4. No overnight stays. #5. No fighting, unless the management starts it." He paused,
watching Dean's smile become a chuckle. "So tell me about your rules, Mr. Campbell."

"Rule #2 covers the gentlemen looking for gentle men, #3 keeps out the deadbeats, #4 keeps me clear
of the hotel tax, and #5, well, I like a good fight, but I want to be in it."

"You do have men working here?"

"I have two male employees, one who bears a striking resemblance to a woman, and one who is quite
clearly a man. They work a bit less but make a bit more."

Sam's face betrayed his inexperience with such things.
"Don't be so surprised. It's not like I sleep with my workers. All people have needs. I fulfill them."

"You certainly do."

Dean's eyebrow went up again.

"I mean…"

"You need to stop apologizing and blushing, Sam. It's useful if it makes people think they have the
advantage, but most of the time it looks like you should be holding your hand out for a good whipping.
Now as to Rule #5, this is a fight and I intend to be in it. I didn't start it but I can make her end it."

"Dean, you can't win this way. You're a marginal concern as it is; your support is only as thick as a
person's nerves when they walk in here. You need to not be such a lightning rod."

"If I don't confront her, she'll have this town dry in a year, or she'll have me closed down, or both."

"What about the deaths? I'm sure there's a pattern."

"You think this is some kind of demon? I've seen people do the Devil's work before, no need for the
Devil to be there. It's not as unusual as you think."

"Dean, it will continue. Demons don't just walk away."

"You expect me to believe this is a demon from hell? And that it's coming back?"

"Yes!"

"Well, I can't. I've seen a lot, hell, I even heard of an organ-stealing monster in Cairo, Illinois, but never
once a whiff of brimstone."

"Why can't you–?" Sam was growing frustrated with a man who seemed adept at hunting and yet
dismissive of the threats he faced.

"Sam, my business is in danger. This is who I am."

"It's a whorehouse, Dean!" he said, waving his arms out at the walls around them.

He quickly realized there wasn't a single worse thing he could have said.

"Dean?" he said pleadingly to Dean's back, now turned to him.

Dean walked to the main door and opened it. Sam was sure he was being shown out and started for
the door, but Dean went through and down the stairs without a word or a glance back. Sam followed
him, pursuing him down the staircase and across the landing, not quite catching up.

"Dean, stop for a minute." He wanted to apologize, to take back the careless, demeaning words.

It was no use; Dean headed off through the brothel on a path only he knew, avoiding any areas that
might have people.

"Dean, wait! I put my foot in it, I know, and I apologize. What kind of maze did you build in this place?!"
Sam finally caught up with Dean in a small foyer on a lower floor; he'd lost all sense of where he was,
and would need Dean's help just to get back out. He touched Dean's shoulder and Dean flared, turning
on him and pushing him back with his hand.

"YOU need to get out of my God damned house." Dean's eyes had taken on a ferocity, sunken under
his dark brows. Sam had no faith in him, Dean was sure, and with that loss, all of his other enemies
had pressed in on him.

"Dean, I'm sorry. I want to help you, but fighting Mrs. Tyler this way is a losing battle."

Dean was ready to explode with pain and anger.

"She is a damned hypocrite! She knows full well that Crawford's church bought land near hers to keep
them from expanding. She knows he came here to fuck twice a week for three years! EVERYONE
knew that! … Is someone SMOKING in here?!"

He spun around to find the source, ready to strike someone. Beside them, in a wastepaper basket, the
grease-soaked bit of paper closest to the smoldering cigar butt reached its ignition point, and the yellow
flame sprang to life, leaping up to burst into the open air. Sam had seen panic before, in the eyes of
people facing fear; Dean was in a complete panic.

"Put it out. NOW!" he yelled; he did nothing himself but back away, eyes on the flickering yellow light,
his jaw working and his breath shallower.

Sam pulled off his coat and began beating at the flames; sparks flew, and bits of burning paper. This
snapped Dean out of his inertia and he began to stamp out the bits of flame that Sam had scattered.
Some swirled and settled on the carpet, and some landed on Dean's neck, on the scar that showed
above his collar. More sparks swirled and lit a wall decoration on fire next; Sam couldn’t put out the
flames fast enough. As he threw his coat over the flames to smother them, the fire leaped up suddenly
in intensity and Sam fell back. Dean was struggling to put the flames out, but his eyes were terrified. A
low growl filled the hall, and the flames leapt out across Dean's arms; he barely noticed. Sam knew
those flames, the ones that had covered his father's arms and legs and face. They wavered silently,
without any scent of burnt flesh or cloth.

"Why the hell did you stop?" yelled Dean, looking up at Sam, who was backing away from the wall.

"Dean, move away from it!"

"Sam, help me put it out!"

"No, Dean, get the fire off you!"

He grabbed Dean by the collar and pulled him back violently.

"What is wrong with you? It's spread-" and he didn't finish that sentence because a deeper fear was
now awakening.

The flames moved to the carpet and over the wallpaper and drapery, and then took shape. Out of the
swirl of smoke and raging flames something formed. Dean's memory opened up for him, childhood
terror flickering back to life. Sam was back in the cabin in Tennessee, unable to move or look away.
The thing turned to them with black and orange embers in place of eyes, a swirl of black smoke behind,
forming a vaguely human, yet unearthly shape. Its voice, when it came, was personal, even jovial, but
with a threatening, rippling undertone, like a guttering candle flame.

"Boys. It's been such a long time."
PART FOUR: TIME APART
CHAPTER EIGHT

1872 – Salina, Kansas

Molly, one floor up, smelled smoke and ran for the kitchen to fill a bucket, calling an alarm to the few
others who were in the brothel at the time. She returned down the maze of corridors, but it took her
some time to find the right way.

Dean had moved between the demon and Sam, one hand on Sam's chest.

"How protective you are of him. Your mother would be proud," it said. "Yours too, Samuel. But I'm not
sure Daddy would be too happy. Maybe I'll tell him when I … run across him."

"What are you?" demanded Sam, staring at his father's killer, unable to move.

"I'm your final resting place." The flames spread around them, and the heat intensified. The flames on
Dean's arm spread up past his elbow, and he tried to pat them out, blow them out, anything. They
remained alight, and danced across his shirt without causing the least damage or pain.

"Don't let them stay on you, Dean."

"They don't hurt."

"Get them off you now!" Sam worked to extinguish the flames to no avail.

"Seeing you together again makes me … all warm inside."

Dean grimaced at the sick humor but he was caught by "together again." Had it been at Crawford's
place?

"I knew your mother," it said to Dean, then turned to Sam. "Every inch of her."

Dean was enraged now, as memories flowed back to the surface.

He pushed Sam back against the wall, and faced the demon.

"Get out of my house."

"Doesn't work that way, Dean. I've always been part of your house. Just like he has," it added, turning
the orange glow of its eyes at Sam again.

"Sam, can we get out alive if we run?"

"It could burn the building down. And I'm not going to run from this demon a second time."

"A third time," the demon corrected him, "if you're going to be accurate."

"What's it talking about?" Dean whispered.

"Demons spin lies, Dean."

"No, Sammy, not always. Your daddy did say goodbye to you. I guess you just didn't hear him."
Sam's face rippled with anguish and fury.

The wall of flames in the hall made Molly scream. She threw the water at the fire and doused most of
the flames at one go. With the first water, the demon lunged at Dean and its eyes burned white. The
flames dancing up Dean's arm sank into his flesh and he screamed in pain. Behind Molly were three
other staff, two with buckets of water and one with a tray of glasses – all they could gather. The second
bucket hit the wastebasket and the demon vanished – smoke and all, like a candle is snuffed out.
Dean was on his knees, Sam covering him protectively. Sam pulled him away from the remaining
flames as Molly worked with the staff to save the club. If she'd seen anything, she didn't say, but she
had her crucifix back, and was dipping it in every glass of water before she doused each last flame.

Sam guided Dean down the halls, following directions that Dean forced out around his pain. A few turns
and they came to a small parlor where they could sit. Dean's arm had gone almost numb now as shock
set in, and his head cleared as the pain eased. Sam set Dean down on the brand new custom made
divan that had just arrived, covering it with soot. Sam knelt at Dean's side, trying to see the burned arm.

"MOLLY!" Dean bellowed down the hall.

As if she were miles off, her voice came back, "GOT IT OUT!"

The fire was out, or at least under Molly's control, but they were both shaking.

"What accursed hellspawn was that?!" Dean demanded.

"Accursed hellspawn, I think," said Sam.

Dean raised one eyebrow.

"What?" He thought a second. "Actual hellspawn?"

"From hell."

"Truth?"

"It's a demon, but not like ones I've read about."

Dean was wary; he shook his head with disbelief.

"Trust your eyes and ears, Dean. I haven't been lying to you about these things." He needed Dean to
take this step.

"And Mrs. Tyler said I was the Devil's right hand." He seemed slightly disappointed. Sam looked at him
disparagingly, and with a trace of pity.

Dean paced the room now, cradling his arm. "I hate fire! Bastard damaged my home. This'll cost to fix.
The paneling was original and the carpets are Ottoman imports. God damned Fire-Bastard! OW!!"

The burn seared into him again now that the terror had passed.

"Let me see it," Sam said tenderly.

Sam lifted Dean's arm carefully, pulling back the burned tatters of the shirt to inspect the blistered,
cracking skin. There was a deep, broad stripe nearly the length of his arm, from wrist to bicep, black in
parts.

"You need to get this treated right away."

"Follow me," said Dean brusquely, pulling his hand back, and heading out the back way to a dead-end
hall.

"Where are we going?" Sam asked, puzzled.

"No exit, right?" Dean popped a panel on the wall to the right, and a full size door swung open where
none had been apparent. "Casing conceals it," Dean said, wanting to brag about it, but desperate for
something to dull the pain.

At the top of the long staircase was another dead end, and another hidden door that swung open on a
dimly lit, almost empty room. From a wall cabinet over a sink, Dean grabbed some gauze and a brown
glass jar. Sam took in the simplicity, the austerity of the papered walls, and the small bed in one
corner, piled with a thick eiderdown cover and rumpled sheets in need of a wash. On the bed table was
a small notebook and a small bronze object he couldn't make out.

"Where are we?" he asked, genuinely curious.

"It's my room. Why?"

"It's …" He wanted to say 'not as ugly as your office'. Instead, he said, "Don't put that on the burn, it's
useless," and took the salve from Dean's hand.

"Sit here," said Sam, directing Dean to the lone chair, and pulling a small trunk opposite it, squatting his
lanky body awkwardly.

"Let me get a drink first," said Dean, and poured two -- large ones.

"Give me your arm," said Sam, holding out both hands, one for Dean, the other for the whiskey. Dean
sat down and extended his arm slowly, the skin stretching painfully over the deep burn. Sam took hold
of Dean's wrist and the whiskey glass, which he drained.

"Easy there. That's my good stuff."

Sam braced Dean's hand against his own left knee, and put his left hand under Dean's arm. He was
more than a little aware of how good it felt to have Dean's hand there, but he forced himself to
concentrate. Sam's right hand moved in a fluid motion, back and forth, less than a half inch above the
burn. Dean swallowed half his whiskey and braced himself for whatever this was.

"Fanning it won't help."

"Just let me do this."

"What are you doing, exa-- ?"

Sam blew softly on Dean's arm, and Dean's mouth hung open, mid-word. There was power in Sam,
and strength in his hands, yet no one had ever treated Dean so gently. He watched, puzzled.

Sam began repeating the words he'd learned nearly a decade earlier, words that had done nothing to
help his father or the widow, but that he prayed would work now. Dean only heard some of what Sam
said, he was saying it so quietly.
"…from the East, one bearing fire, the other ice…"

The pain receded slowly, as if he were numbing his arm against a winter snowbank, and the whiskey
sat unfinished. He concentrated on the man before him, long damp hair hanging over his sooty face,
right hand moving over Dean's arm but never touching him. Dean was glad he was already touching
Sam, because he found himself wishing Sam's hands would make contact, pain or not. He wanted to
know this man who seemed aware of the secrets the world held, and who, in at least ten years or more,
had not bought himself a new coat.

"That's looking better."

Sam's voice brought Dean back from his thoughts and he leaned forward to look at his arm, now with a
bold red stripe along it, a few blisters, and only a little twinge now and then.

"What did you do?" He couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"Something a friend taught me. Talking the fire out of a body."

"Witchcraft? Can you fight that thing?"

Sam looked him in the eyes.

"God, no. It's probably just the power of the mind."

Dean chuckled to himself. "Not my mind."

It was late afternoon, nearly two hours since they'd come up, and Dean could barely remember the time
passing; the Demon had almost been forgotten. The room was still, now that Sam had stopped
chanting. Dean kept his hand on Sam's knee, and after a long wait, he asked the first question.

"Do you need to be anywhere?"

"No," said Sam, moving his eyes up to Dean's face.

"You can touch it," Dean said in a hushed voice.

Sam put his right hand near Dean's elbow, and moved his fingers alongside the burn, but what Dean
felt was not from his arm.

"I'm not that experienced," said Sam.

"You mean with the...?"

"It never happened that fast."

"No?"

Sam looked down at his fingers, moving over Dean's wrist and across the back of his hand.

"I should probably keep doing this," Sam said.

"Yeah." Dean was monosyllabic with lust. The conversation had become tangled in whiskey and the
close air of the room. Dean was still staring at Sam's face, had been for some time, but Sam was now
steadfastly avoiding eye contact, and instead watching his fingers move up and down Dean's arm.
Neither let go, even when Sam finally looked up again, his own breath now faster and his body aching.
"Need to stand up?" Dean asked, indicating with a nod of his head the concern he felt for Sam's back
and his long legs after sitting so long on the low trunk.

Sam stood gratefully, but slowly, now aware that his pants were revealing what he didn't care to
conceal any more, not with this man.

Dean touched Sam's cock, greedily, briefly squeezing it through the heavy fabric, and then looked up at
Sam for permission.

Sam felt dizzy, and the room darkened briefly as he wavered.

"I have a bed," he heard Dean saying awkwardly.

As hard as his cock was, Sam wanted it to just wait. He needed to explore Dean inch by inch. Dean
was less patient but, overwhelmed by Sam's hands and fiercely distracted by the firm cock pressed
against his hip, he stood watching like a voyeur as Sam unbuttoned his vest and shirt and spread them
open, a look of wonder on his face.

"Bed?" asked Dean.

"Bed, yeah," said Sam.

The bed was half lit with weak afternoon sun, half in shadow. Sam sank into it, the smell of Dean in his
nose and the narrow hips in wool pants now at eye level. Dean was in the same state as Sam, had
been for some time, and let his lust lead him.

Sam found the bed awkwardly small and tucked tight into the corner; after knocking his head once on
the sloping ceiling and once on Dean's knee, he decided to lay flat on the mattress. As Dean moved
around him, Sam inadvertently scraped his burnt arm, and Dean howled. Dean became rougher,
shoving Sam down under him, never close enough for Sam to kiss. Dean fucked him and came, Sam
just a second later, more out of pent-up drive than this new pleasure. And it was over.

Dean sat on the edge of the bed, which Sam now realized was filthy.

"You're not really very good at that, are you?" Sam lightened the tone as best he could, but he'd been
ready for so much more.

"I… I know what to do. I wasn't expecting to end up in bed with you."

"Dean, do you want to…"

"Get the repairs started? Yeah. I'll make a list of what we need to do and see who has the materials."
He got up, shifting a mask into place.

"I want to know if this is going to happen again," Sam persisted.

"No, I'm sure I could be much smoother next time."

Dean's eyes were tighter now, and as he stood there in his underwear, he could have been on the floor
of the brothel, playing host. "And no charge for my services," he said with a wicked smile.

What they'd both hoped would be a fantasy had been awkward and brief and deeply unnerving; Sam
felt like he'd been made into a customer at the brothel; Dean was unable to draw on previous
experience for the right response and watched his every word twist into pain on Sam's face. He slipped
into the only role he knew and it failed him entirely.

Sam's cheeks flushed bright red and he dressed in silence; he was embarrassed beyond belief. Dean
watched from the chair, as he finished the whiskey, not embarrassed by anything that they'd done, but
at his own plentiful ineptitude. Sam was cursing himself silently, but the things Dean was saying in his
head were far worse.

Sam turned to leave Dean's room and realized he had no idea how. He tried the only door he could
see and it opened onto a featureless hall.

"Where the hell are you going?" asked Dean, genuinely surprised that Sam would leave even though
he knew he wasn't winning him back.

Sam stopped and looked at him. He decided to be honest about one thing, if not about his feelings at
the moment.

"I've seen that thing before."

"Well that's great. Apparently you survived."

"My dad didn't."

Awkward silence followed, as Dean swallowed loudly.

"I need to contact some…people who might be able to help." Sam had almost said "hunters."

"I'll help."

"No offense, Dean, but you aren't exactly trained in this…

"Oh and you are?" Dean looked at Sam, desperate for something he wasn't getting. "What did it mean
about 'seeing us together again,' huh?"

"Demons say a lot of things they don't mean, Dean."

Sam desperately wanted to avoid going down that path if possible. It had to be lying.

"You and I need to have a long talk," said Dean.

"Later." Sam headed down the hall. He looked back once, clearly waiting for directions.

"Down the stairs; left; you'll know where you are then."

He followed Sam as far as the top of the stairs.

"Sooner!" he shouted at Sam's back. Threw that down the shitter. Good work.

Halfway down the main staircase, Sam passed Molly. The sooty mess on his clothes concerned her
but it was the distinctive smell of many a departing customer that caused her to turn sharply.

"Mr. Winchester," she said as he reached the bottom. "You won't mind if I look out for my employer's
interests… "

Sam turned and looked back.
"You've changed the game, Mr. Winchester. Be careful; when we play with fire, we get burned."

Sam gave her an odd look, but didn't reply.

He left for Lawrence the next morning.
CHAPTER NINE

1872 – Lawrence, Kansas & the City of Kansas, Missouri

June 7

Nothing could have made Mrs. Tyler more disappointed than to see her young hero leave. If Sam had
told her he'd just fought off a demon, it wouldn't have made up for this. If he'd told her how he didn't
turn aside Dean's affections, that too would have been left for another day's discussion. No, Mrs. Tyler
had worked him into several of her plans, without consultation of course, and so she took this departure
as an affront.

"I promise I'll be back. It won't take more than a week or two," Sam offered.

"Boarders rarely return to my house," she said without in any sense being aware of why that was.

Sam had everything in his pack, and headed west to Conroy Stables to rent out a horse. He couldn't
face the train again, didn't want to risk it or waste time counterfeiting another ticket. He wanted to be
out of town, out in the open, free of the questions and the religious mania and the memory of that
hallway, down deep somewhere in the maze that was Dean's whorehouse.

Other memories of that day stuck as well, dogging him the entire way to the stable.

"Just going to Lawrence, but I'm coming back in a week or so, I think," said Sam, uncertainly.

"You can leave him in Lawrence, as long as it's at Delahanty's, Rhodes Street, east side, new place just
opened last year."

"Thanks."

The horse was a tall roan, docile at first, spirited later in the countryside and prone to huffing around the
bit, which endeared him to Sam.

Sam stopped outside the club early in the morning, sun already hot on his face, and was relieved to see
the churchfolk were not yet assembled in protest. Pearl let him in, all smiles.

"Mr. Winchester! What can I do for you?" It was sincere, if a bit eager. She presented her bosom in a
most direct way, but Sam was looking around the room.

"Is Mr. Campbell in?"

"Surely there are other people here to see besides Mr. Campbell."

"I just need to give him a message. I'm going to Lawrence for a while, not sure exactly when I'm
coming back, but, … well, I'm not sure he'll care, but tell him." He turned to leave.

"I will tell him first thing when he comes down. He won't be awake until noon, anyway. Is it urgent?"

"I doubt it," he muttered, choosing depression over hope.

"Do come back, Mr. Winchester." Her tone was almost plaintive now.

Sam nodded, and let himself out quickly.
Sam's departure put Pearl in a sad mood, but she was soon conscripted into cleaning up the burned
section of hallway. The thought of what she had to tell Mr. Campbell became lonely in her head and
wandered away to find some company.

The route to Lawrence took him the better part of three days, as he was avoiding roads and farms,
preferring to ride the open lands. The first day, the horse got an earful of how Sam felt about Salina,
none of it positive. That night, far from any homesteaded land, Sam stopped and set about making a
fire, until he realized that he had no desire to be near any kind of flame. The food he'd scavenged from
Mrs. Tyler's pantry while "helping" again with breakfast was not going to last well, so he ate it, all of it,
and lay rubbing his stomach, pack under his head. Overhead the summer stars burned, a million fires,
each watching him, waiting for him to act. He'd never felt so exposed to the sky spinning over him.

June 8

The original message from Lawrence came from Michaela Gress, who claimed to know Mellie Constan,
once introduced to Sam as "the real resource in Memphis". Mellie confirmed that something was going
on, and it might be right for Sam to visit. The detour to Salina didn't change the fact that Sam had
promised a fellow hunter he'd help. Now is as good a time as any to head out. His clothes still smelled
of smoke, and he sat uncomfortably in the saddle.

That day he stopped less and rode more and the horse complained; Sam was silent until the twilight
came, then began talking.

"Dad, I found it. Or it found me. It was the same fire."

John didn't answer, wasn't even listening, but Sam needed him to hear.

"I'm sorry I ran. I can't believe I was that much of a coward. Not after everything you taught me."

The grass heads bobbed left and right in a breeze picking up from the south.

"I'm sorry, Dad. I won't run again." It was a familiar apology, repeated often in the years since John
and the widow died.

He avoided building a fire again that night, instead eating some jerky and filling his cup from the stream;
he'd follow the stream to the river and into Lawrence tomorrow. Now, he was tired and congested from
the sorrow that came with talking to his father. The pack under his head was hard; things had shifted,
and he rearranged them twice. Each time, the Bible was left over and it couldn't go on top. He opened
it and read, in the dim light, the passage from 1 Samuel that he'd picked just two days before in Mrs.
Tyler's garden. The words in this Bible were slightly different, but the meaning was the same: 'the
same person is hunting us both; stay with me and you'll be safe.' He flipped to the front and looked at
the inscription. Why did his father have a Bible from another family – were the Bennetts Mom's family?
Why are there no first names? Every time he'd looked at the Bible, he had another question, right from
the day in the lawyer's office when he'd received it. With sleep came the nightmare of his father, but
John didn't speak now, he just burned.

June 9

The third day brought him into town, where he met Nikolas Gress, Michaela's husband. Vengeance
born of loss drove them, he knew. It made conversation easy. The authorities had maintained it was
wild animals that devoured their children, but they knew what it was, and named it, and had been
ignored and ridiculed in their grief. They eventually found others who believed them, and became
hunters.

"Mickie's away at her mother's. She's always sick, Oma is," Nikolas explained in a husband's voice.
"I could start on the research if you're still offering a place to sleep and plenty of food. I ate the last of
the jerky last night and pushed the horse hard to get here before lunch."

"Research? It's a devil cult. What more do you need?"

"How to fight them? How to find them?"

"And where are you going to get that?" he asked sarcastically.

"Well I was hoping you'd tell me. But the city records office is usually good, or the library."

"You have your fun, then. Mickie'll be home in a day. Take the upstairs room on the left. I don't know
what you think you'll find, but I wouldn't trust them city folk and their records, nor the college. "

June 10

Sam spent most of the next day at the newspaper office, chatting with the men there about their favorite
grisly stories. They told him of the Sack of Lawrence and the bloody massacre seven years later, and it
made Sam more than a little uneasy that he'd been born just weeks before Lawrence burned. The staff
seemed almost proud that Lawrence was a mother lode of oddities, something Sam had heard via
other hunters for years. Several men in his line of work had gone missing in the 1850 attack, and the
number of signs of demonic activity increased around the days of the massacre, or so the tales were
told in the years after. Lawrence had only the Gresses to watch it now; other hunters avoided it, except
for brief visits.

The library, the new college, and the city offices each had gaps around the time of Sam's birth; more
often they had nothing of use, or just a fire-damaged set of papers.

"Here are the property records from 1840-1850. Most of the center of town was built by then, but a lot
of new families were coming, either here or the Deer River settlement - those were mostly Germans
and kept to themselves. Now their kids are in town; one's a councilman."

"Is there a room where I could…spread out a bit, without taking up your desk space?" Sam asked
quickly, before the clerk could continue.

Sam pored over the records from 1850, which were slim after the May Sacking, but full of names before
that. In the 1845 records, he stumbled on a name he knew.

Bennett family. Bennett, J. – homestead on parcel 85.

He went there that afternoon, after the clerk helped him figure out where parcel 85 was. It was no
longer the edge of town, but it wasn’t what he expected to find; it was a dry lot, not even weeds on it in
the summer warmth. He ventured onto the lot. The soil was ash-grey, and when he brushed it, a bit
yellowish underneath.

"You get out of there!"

Sam turned, still squatting, to find two very old men, one holding the other back, or holding himself up,
Sam couldn't be sure.

"That's not your land, never saw you around here, now get out."

"You shouldn't be on that ground," said the weaker one. "That's not good ground to stand on."
"What do you mean?" asked Sam, joining them on the road.

"Who might you be?" was the reply.

"Mr. Whitman," Sam offered.

"Like the poet?" said one.

"Whitman's no poet," said the other, as part of an apparently long-running artistic disagreement.

Sam was having trouble not laughing at them, but he kept a serious expression on his face.

"Was this the Bennett's property?" he ventured.

"That it was. Until the night of the Sacking. Then they were gone."

The other one drew his eyes tight and looked at the lot.

"They died?" asked Sam.

"The husband didn't die, he's the one that set the fire."

Around the corner came a young boy on horseback, yelling for his mother.

"What's wrong, Pete?" asked the stronger one.

"Been a killing, out west, in the cemetery! Bits everywhere!"

Sam headed directly for the Gresses' home, which lay on the far western edge of town, leaving the two
elderly gentlemen shaking their heads, as word spread. Michaela had been out to the cemetery at first
word to see for herself; the story had already taken on a life of its own, but the truth was that it was
three killings and no bits and the marks on the bodies were animals. So said the sheriff that afternoon
at a town meeting.

"He's lying, just like he did before," Michaela said to Sam in a hushed and bitter voice at the edge of the
crowd. "He can't believe those are devil's signs."

"Did you make any drawings of what you saw?" Sam asked her.

"Of course I didn't. I don't carry a sketchpad with me."

"Can you describe the marks?"

She looked at him as if he'd lost his mind.

"They were demon marks. I don't need to draw a pretty picture to tell you what I saw."

"Who were the people?"

"Germans. The ones who stayed out there, outside of town in their settlement."

"But you're German too."
"We separated from the community – they didn't want us to leave, but we felt so…. They watched us.
Especially after the children died." She had a practiced sincerity to her voice, perhaps from years of
telling the painful story.

***

Over dinner, which Sam dove into, the topic of what took him to Salina came up. Sam dodged it as
best he could. He didn't want to bring up demons, or that he'd been spoken to, addressed by name by
a demon he'd seen before. The thought of telling them about his week at the whorehouse with Dean
made him grow even quieter. He seized on Mrs. Tyler as a topic of conversation, and the WCTL was
apparently well known in Lawrence. They'd closed down a saloon favored by hunters, so Sam let the
Gresses talk of it for the rest of dinner.

He retired to the room upstairs with some books he'd borrowed from the library shelf in the sitting room;
one mentioned demon markings and ritual killing in the same paragraph. Killing three on a full moon
night was only a step to a greater evil, so it said, and Sam read on into the night, unable to believe the
story.

June 11

At breakfast, Sam shared what he'd found, but Michaela would have none of it.

"A gateway to hell? In our cemetery? No, Sam, that's not true. We'd know about it; you'd be able to
find it."

"Not if it hadn't been completed yet. It's not there yet. They're trying to open it."

"Sam, I know those people; they're devout Christians. They wouldn't do anything of the sort."

Sam gave up. It disturbed him that the entire region seemed to be swarming with demons and devil-
worshippers, and he ate his breakfast in silence. That day and the next, the Gresses bickered, the heat
grew, the funerals were held, and the cemetery proved useless because the area had been clumsily
handled by the local lawmen and everyone else who came to see.

Sam sat by the grave marker of the newly buried Tessie Roeller. The new graves were all in a line, but
large patches of blood stained the ground, forming points of a long triangle. In the middle of the triangle
was a smaller patch, but from where he sat, Sam didn't see the points as one connected shape.

June 12

Sam spent his last day charming answers from the local schoolteacher who was old enough to be his
grandmother. Something about the way he sat eagerly in the small chair at the small desk made her
open up to him about the Bennetts.

"Foul people. Well, not all of them. I cannot speak ill of the dead. But the living, well, they aren't
charitable souls. It's no wonder they shipped that cousin of theirs off to the reformatory in Boonville."

Sam went back to the city records office and asked about the Bennetts. They could only tell him that
two of the Bennetts had been killed in the massacre of 1857, and a whole family of them during the
sacking of 1850.

"Why isn't that in the death records?" Sam asked.

"No one was sure if they'd died in the fire, or just left town to escape. A lot of folks did leave."
"They found one boy, remember?" said a man at the next desk.

"No, the son died."

"Not at all! They had him for a while."

"I didn't live here then. I heard both died when the Missourians torched the neighborhood."

They went on with their discussion, ignoring Sam, who left when he realized he couldn't make sense of
what they were saying any more because it had become local gossip. Sam was in the way at the
Gress's after just the few days, and when he wasn't, he had his nose in a book; he'd been no help at all
finding out who had killed the three Germans, and the "gate to hell" theory was one that Michaela flatly
refused to explore. She'd become convinced that the thing that took her children was still out there and
had returned for more bloodshed.

Sam was unsettled by the events that had struck the Bennett family, strangers to him; he also felt
something more was happening at the cemetery than Michaela or Nikolas could see. He made several
notes that night in his journal, copied sections of the book on demon lore, and said his goodbyes the
next day. The Gresses weren't entirely sorry to see him go.

June 13

On the way back to Salina, the same horse under him, he put together the things that had been sitting
in pieces at the back of his mind, rattling parts that woke him up each night, waiting for his attention: he
wanted to talk to someone and he was alone. He'd been on the road for close to five years, and had
never felt alone. He'd been independent, and 'on his own' and despite his grief, he'd needed to move
away from Tennessee; finding other hunters had given him a purpose, but not a connection.

He wanted to talk about Dean. Dean was a prick. He was arrogant, and hotheaded, and went around
like he owned the town.

He brings a gun to a meeting, he sticks his head in the river when he gets mad, and he thinks he's got
a future in that little town! "He struts around in his velvet pants like a peacock, covers over whatever
he's got inside him that's real so I can't see it, he spies on me, he runs a whorehouse and he fucks like
a bronco."

He shut his mouth at the sound of his own voice saying that, and the prairie whispered his story onward
over the fields. The horse shook its head.

And he's exactly the person I need to help me in Lawrence.

Sam thought about a lot of things on the way back, his new hat offering protection from the high
summer sun, his hands browning slowly. He saw brown hands on a white chest with reddened nipples,
green eyes looking into his own. He lay back on the wide prairie that night and came three times
before dawn, just from holding that white chest down under his tanned hands, bucking on Dean.

June 14

Sam knocked late on Mrs. Tyler's door, road-weary, ill-rested and as clean as bathing in streams had
kept him. He got the cottage again, as none of the other boarders had changed. He went to the
whorehouse directly.

"Is Dean Campbell on the premises today?"
"He's in the City of Kansas," Pearl offered, and she leered a little when she said it, as if she had some
special information and was doling it out to him generously, adding, "…with Sally Goodheart."

"Sally Goodheart?"

"She's a madam, just like he…she's in his line of business," she corrected herself. She wasn't going to
be heard calling Dean a madam, even if he was far out of town.

"Will he return soon?"

"Most likely on today's train. Of course, he has been known to stay longer."

Sam got the distinct impression she was toying with him, but whether to keep him around for her own
pleasure or to pry into his business with her boss, he couldn't say. Both ideas were giving him a tickle
on his neck that made him twitch his head sideways every so often.

"Give this to Molly, please." Sam pressed a small sealed envelope of heavy grey paper into her hand.
"I'll be back Tuesday."

"I'll be here!" she said – a bit much, even she thought.




June 7

Sam's departure had not left Pearl's memory entirely, but any sense of urgency in passing along the
information to Dean had been lost that afternoon during the cleanup. Molly blamed the fire damage on
a careless customer and reinforced to the staff that Rule #1 was not on the top of the list without reason
and that each of them had a role to play in keeping the business going.

Dean made it through that day and most of the next without asking where Sam was. When he did,
finally, it was only through a sigh as he stood on the landing surveying the booming clientele. He was
smart enough to see the boom as a gold rush before all the wealth was gone forever, and it failed to
cheer him, even as he made money on it. Molly, again beside him, hand across his back and thumb
tucked under his belt, felt the sigh.

"He'll be back when things cool down. He can't be seen coming in here if Tyler's mob is out front," she
said soothingly.

"Huh?"

"You weren't wondering, were you?"

"Wondering what?"

"Where your gentleman friend was…"

"Don't call him that," Dean said, standing up straighter.

"He's a gentleman, that much is clear. And he's a friend, judging by how you entertain him."

"Molly!" Dean was upset at her astute evaluation of Sam, not because she was wrong but because she
was right. "You're too damned comfortable talking about my life. Look, you don't need to worry about
me," he added, as she squeezed her arm around him affectionately.
"I worry about the Club, Mr. Campbell."

Dean was silent for a moment, and looked at her briefly, gratitude on his face.

"Come to think of it," (and he was just then thinking of it consciously) "where is he?"

"It's only been a day or two."

"He said he'd seen it before." He stopped there and decided not to bring up the demon. "He didn't
seem too happy when he left." And that was my doing.

June 11

Over the next few days, Dean became less cordial to Molly, and ignored the girls entirely, focusing on
the customers, until Molly reminded him gently that his guests didn't come here to answer his
questions, rather to escape from just that sort of thing.

"And isn't it about time for your weekend escape?"

"I wasn't sure I'd go this time," Dean said, not sure why he'd turn down Sal's invitation. He never had.

"You've gone regularly since you took over this place. You're like a calendar, Mr. Campbell; come four
months, you leave for Missouri."

"Well, I'm reconsidering it," he said, but didn't sound like he believed himself.

Dean spoke to an employee, the same one that had followed Sam the night he arrived at Dean's
whorehouse in Salina. The man slipped out and returned nearly an hour later to report that Sam had
moved out of Mrs. Tyler's a few days earlier, on the Tuesday, with no forwarding address and no future
reservation or return planned.

Dean went upstairs in the middle of the busiest hour, leaving Molly to handle customers. When she
came up to check on him, he ignored her knocking. He was standing at the window, she knew,
watching the town below him. He always did when he was angry.

What he saw from the window was ever-changing. It was his town, and now it lacked a Sam
Winchester.

June 12

Molly knocked with lunch at 12:30 and found Dean standing at the window.

"You haven't been there all night!" she said in surprise and dismay.

"I slept well, thank you." He was pleasant enough, but frosty.

"Mr. Winchester will no doubt send a telegram when he arrives at his destination."

"He could be anywhere; he didn't bother to leave word for me?" Dean asked the town below his
window.

"Mr. Campbell, may I make a suggestion?"

"What is it, Molly?" he snapped.
"That you get past your infatuation and stop snapping at the staff and badgering the guests; you have a
business that is going to face a serious challenge from the town and you need your wits about you."

Dean turned on her, looking like he was about to snarl. His eyes were bloodshot.

"I'm going to Missouri tomorrow. I'll pack my things myself. Have someone get a ticket on the usual
train."

Molly eyed him, without saying a word. He softened a little.

"I'll be back by Sunday. You know where to reach me if you need to."

She turned and left, muttering to herself.

"You can handle things. I know you can!" he yelled down the stairs at her.

The night hadn't been good to him at all. Thoughts of their last day together had returned. His interest
in Sam had not abated over the past five days, despite the tensions that rose after they'd both crossed
that line in his bed. He was intensely curious about the fire demon, and why Sam would abandon the
chase after all the work they'd done. Was the thing gone for good? And why no word? No address or
contact? Where are you, Sam? He decided eventually that it was probably all Sam's own fault, and
he'd been right to distrust a quiet man.

The old fears had eventually come to him in the early morning, skirting around his mind until he couldn't
ignore them anymore. Sal closing the courtroom door quietly after her, as if he wouldn't notice her
leaving, coming back to him only when he'd done his time. The hooves of Dad's horse fading away,
never coming to rescue him from the fire burning down his back. He'd been hoping that Sam wouldn't
do what he knew everyone always did. Sal would still be able to calm him down. She could find
someone to help him out.

June 13

Dean settled uncomfortably into the seat opposite an older couple who paid him no mind except to give
him inhospitable glances when he banged his case onto the rack overhead and tried to fold his long
legs away from theirs. The morning hour was unkind to him as always, and if he was unfortunate
enough to be up with the sun, he passed that sentiment along to those around him. Now though, he
held his tongue and dozed off. The train jolted slightly as it pulled into Lawrence, and the couple got
off, giving him a parting dirty look for the hours of uninterrupted snoring they'd endured. Dean
shrugged it off.

He turned to look out at the platform and quickly pulled the shade and turned his back. Lawrence was
a bad spot in his memory, and the sooner it was past, the better. The train left on time without anyone
joining him in the compartment, and he dozed off again, head rocking against the curtain as the train
chugged toward the Missouri state line. He didn't dream of anything in particular that he could recall,
but he woke up flushed and sweaty, the air in the compartment almost unbearably hot, his face burning
against the sunny window. He stood a while in the corridor, letting the air from the windows blow
through his hair and around his collar.

Sal had sent a coach to pick him up, a luxury she would add to his bill, no doubt. Sal was an aging
beauty, a tall, powerful twenty when they'd first met, now a tall, fierce forty, still able to emasculate a
man with words, no longer quick enough to do it with her knife. She met him at the side gate, in a dress
more suited to a matron than a madam.

"Sal!" His grin was wide, but tired, she could see.
"Mr. C, my dearest one." She kissed him on the lips, more lasciviously than any whore in her employ.
Dean pushed her off, gently.

"It's been a hard month, Sal. Get me something to eat and I'll tell you all about it."

The coach headed off down Wyandotte Avenue at a wave of her hand.

"Someone else you're expecting?" Dean asked.

"A governor. Not ours, the tightpurse," she said, cursing the man. "I hear you're facing the church
ladies and their sanctimonious battle against drink and dancing girls."

"You know entirely too much."

Inside, in the light, he looked around, and looked at Sal again. He noticed the decline, but hesitated to
say anything about it.

"Still keeping things up I see."

***

Dinner was a banquet, "fit for a governor," Dean noted. "How can you afford this? It's got to be in the
hundreds."

"The governor pays well, my dear. Now tell me, what has the month brought you?"

"The usual troubles – drunkards helping themselves to my best whiskey, visitors who want to visit but
not pay, unhappy girls in town who don't make as much as my girls."

"You're an awful liar, Mr. C, in my eyes. I see all the things you hide."

"There was this odd stranger. He was helping me with some problems at the Club. Something
happened."

She laughed hard from the wine, a third bottle of red they'd opened over dessert. It was a nervous
laugh mixed with scorn. The way Dean said "something happened" made it all too clear to her.

"Well now that you have that out of your system, you can forget your little transgression. I still need
someone to help out here, run the new house on 3rd Ave."

"Sal, what do you have for me tonight?" Dean asked, bringing dinner and conversation to an end.

"A nice one," Sal said lazily, but a bit upset at having her pleasantly intimate evening cut short with talk
of other people. "You'll like him, and he's been prepped well. He's tall, almost your height. Came to
me a few months ago, said he'd been in New Orleans and San Antonio. Don't burn him out on his first
time, okay? I need this one."

She'd become deadly serious on that last sentence, and Dean resented the accusation despite the
truth behind it. He'd driven off a few of her employees over the years, usually by pursuing them too
long and asking too much of them.

"You can go up; he's there already."

"Sal, I…"
"We'll talk money later."

"We don't need to talk money; this is an old arrangement. I'll pay what you ask." He paused. "Why do
I come here?"

"You ask him that, Mr. C. I've given up trying to answer that for you – you're never happy with the
answers I give."

"See you tomorrow," he said, watching her down the last glass of wine. He felt something like love for
her, as a sort of family member, despite her betrayals.

He went up the stairs, hand gliding along the polished banister, lamplight reflecting off the tiny mirror
chips that were laid in a mosaic along the wall opposite.

Sal, you've still got awful taste in decorations. Good thing your taste in men matches mine.

At the top of the stairs, behind an oak door, was release, a painkiller, temporary sanity through insanity.
The door swung open as he reached for the handle, and he met the gaze of a tall man in an ivory shirt
open at the neck, suspenders, and bare feet at the end of long heavy brown pants. Dean went in and
closed the door. The man hardly moved, putting him very close to Dean. He kept silent, as instructed.
Dean slid his hand around the back of the man's neck and pulled him into a hard kiss, a long kiss that
bruised their lips. When he pulled the man off, he shoved him hard toward the bed; the man stumbled,
but caught himself and stood at the edge of the bed, facing away from Dean. Waiting. What came next
was not as violent, and he would almost have called it making love. Dean ran his hands up the man's
arms, down his broad, muscled back, and pulled the shirt off gently. He kissed the back of the man's
neck, and made it his neck. He kissed the hands one at a time and made them his as well. The man
waited, his cock firm in his pants, and Dean got there eventually.

Dean laid him on the bed in the position he wanted, steering him with his hands. The man had learned
well, and Dean enjoyed himself, finding the places that made the man whine like a dog in heat. He
pulled off his own clothes, and the man waited, lying face to the wall. Dean entered him from behind,
and found a rhythm that suited him. The man came first, and it brought Dean off, the feel of the man's
ass squeezing down around him. He froze when Dean pulled out and could hear him pacing. This part
wouldn't last long, Sal had promised him that, along with extra pay.

"You're new. Will you stay in Missouri?"

He didn't reply.

"Do you want to be here?"

The man held his tongue.

"I asked you a question!" Dean shouted.

The man did as he'd been instructed and lay still.

"You think you can sneak in here and take over as her favorite, you filthy little shit? You make me
sick." Dean paused, but he was only gathering strength. "You are worth nothing. There is only one way
to get through life and that is to be what they need you to be. Put the rest away and forget about ever
having that life."

The man was a whore, used to abuse, but the tone was menacing, and painful. He turned over slowly.
"And what have I come to, today? No family, no future, no life except my own whorehouse; twenty-five
and a whorehouse owner with no one around." Dean was at the bed, over him.

And then, sensing a connection, the tall man from New Orleans made two mistakes.

"No family?" he asked, and looked Dean in the eyes.

Dean struck him with the back of his hand. The man's arms went up to defend himself, but Dean had
him by the throat.

"You are never going to work here again. Where does that leave you?"

"I'm sorry," he rasped out around Dean's hand squeezing his throat.

"Not sorry for my God damned life, you aren't! He slammed the man against the wall for emphasis.
Who do you think you are to feel sorry for that? Tossed out by relatives, pulled into a gang, sent to
prison for three years? He dropped the man on the bed just as he was about to pass out.

"I don't have a purpose except to talk to greedy drunk perverts. I can't even keep that going. That may
be all I have, and god that's frightening, but I am NOT NOTHING!!"

Dean stopped suddenly, the pain of his drunken truths cutting off his voice. The man fled, pants in
hand, into a long, angry conversation with Sal, who convinced him that he'd done better than most.
She paid him handsomely and he finally agreed to stay in her employ.

Dean was left alone in the room, naked, mumbling.

"I just want to find him." He repeated it several times.

"You jackass, put your clothes back on." Sal had come in, furious, and Dean was quiet again. "What
the hell is wrong with you? I could see your handprint on his neck. Now he's gone!" That last part was
the lie she always used, and it always worked.

"Sorry."

"Sorry?! This isn't something I can afford any longer, Dean.

"You'll find more."

"I don't think you need more."

"Then I'll find him."

"He won't be back, if we're lucky, else we could have the law here."

"I'll find Sam."

Dean pulled on his clothes, eyes on the floor.

Sal came around to look him in the face. She was sick of this talk.

"You think that man likes you." Her dark smile grew as Dean looked up and into her eyes. "Oh, Dean,
always trying to build a family you'll never have."

He stood unmasked and unprepared for the assault.
"You can't seriously believe anyone but me would love you, after the life you've led. Does he know what
you did to end up in jail? Does he know all your secrets? Does he know you're here now? Sam, that's
his name?"

Her mocking "Sammy and Dean" became intermixed with laughter, and it stabbed into him. He pulled
on his vest and tied his tie, trying to ignore her.

"I'll be leaving tomorrow."

"Good luck then. He won't have you, and you'll be back here. If your business doesn’t fail first. Salina
will be dry in five years, and you can't even see it coming."

Dean's smile returned, colder than ever; the life in his eyes that Sam had seen by the river, vanished.

"There's the wall I helped you build. Sam won't like that; he'll run from it.

"He won't," said Dean in a whisper, sure that Sam had already fled.

"You make me sick with your hope of someone loving you – it isn't like a man is going to spend his life
with you. Your family is here, and your business. All the family you'll ever need."

Dean turned away from Sal, his one-time mentor. It was a darker side of her than he'd ever seen. He
was close to walking away from this relationship too, despite all she'd given him over the years.

"Dean, don't go mad." Her voice was loose with the wine, and her feelings were too. She couldn't lose
him, only to age and fail, alone in her own whorehouse. "Your place is here. You can have the life you
want."

"I'll see you tomorrow."

June 14

He walked for the first couple of hours, until the church bell rang midnight, and the streets were lifeless
and dark. He steered clear of the bad neighborhoods he knew too well. The law was easy to avoid as
well – they hadn't changed their regular routes in five years. He crossed Charlotte Street and kept
going, pushed on by his thoughts.

Sal had kept him well for many years, kept him alive, even. He did her bidding in ways that would
shock the tender ears of polite society, but as a child it had seemed fun.

The peculiar ache he felt when he saw her that day at the penitentiary gate was back again, but now it
called for Sam. Without the protective cover of that affection, he could see how Sal had wielded him,
her prize, her instrument of survival and success.

And now, in his own house, a thing unimagined had struck out at him, had known him. The thing that
looked at him as a child, that drew a line across him as he crawled and scrabbled in the furnace of his
collapsing home – it was back, and then gone again. He'd almost convinced himself there never was a
fire, or a blazing bedroom where his mother sat; he'd pushed away the memories of love his father's
arms had given him in his tight, breath-taking hugs. "Do you know how much I love you, Dean?" John
had asked him, every time.

In their place were resentment and a hungry fear that no one stayed long enough, or could. Not even
Sam.
An hour later, he came to the bluffs overlooking the river, and sat by the edge, watching the Missouri
flow. It was a warm night, unlike when his cousins had abandoned him here. The night's darkest hours
calmed him. This was his time. He talked to the river, and the air around him, wishing his parents
could hear him. He needed to go back again, not to Lawrence, but to them He had questions for them.
But it was a different one that came to mind now.

"Sam, could you and I– "

His neck prickled. The air grew cold, and he saw the girl near the bluff's edge. She wasn't real, not any
more. He approached her with surprising calm, because he knew her well. She'd been there for years,
off and on since before he set foot in town. Most people feared this part of the bluffs and thought the
ghost would lead them off the cliff; Dean knew her better. Black Katie was harmless, but not much of a
conversationalist.

"Katie," he called gently. She started.

"Don't call me that."

"You still here?"

"I need to find my brother."

"He's long gone, Katie."

"What time is it?"

"1872."

"What? That can't be. That makes no sense." She began crying.

"If I knew how to send you on, I would."

"Leave me alone! You're crazy."

She leaned far over the bluff.

"Is that him? Is he on that boat? Is he coming back?"

Dean turned his head away. What happened next still disturbed him: the flickering, the scream, the
disappearance. She needed her brother, and died looking for him. Dean didn't have the heart to tell
her he'd been murdered the day before she fell from the bluffs.

He headed back to town.

***

When the morning came, it came suddenly, and the city awoke. The early workers gave Dean strange
looks – a man too well-dressed to be sitting on the piers, but too rough looking to be dressed that well.
He needed to get back to Salina and put the weeks with Sam behind him. Sal was right – the WCTL
would have his place closed down if he wasn't careful. He returned to talk to her, but she was sleeping
off her hangover, so he took the first train back to Salina. This time he dreamed, but Sam wasn't there.

Dean walked to his club that evening with a grin on his face – a fragile, soulless grin that served mainly
to shut out the unpleasantness of the way Sal had turned on him, and the unnatural needs that she
fostered in him.
He stepped into the brothel, exhausted, only to find three of the town councilors, his regulars, sitting in
his main hall, with Molly gamely arguing for their continued support.

"Mr. Campbell!" shouted Monroe Spillman, catching sight of him.

"Not now, gentleman, I have another appointment."

"Does this half-breed woman speak for you in matters of business?"

Dean turned with a fierce look on his face, made fiercer by the nausea and fatigue he was suppressing.

"Whatever she may be in your eyes, Monroe – Molly speaks for me. You shouldn't throw around slurs
like that, considering your standing request for a Chinese." Spillman sat down abruptly as his fellow
councilors stared at him with disdain or at Dean with a mix of frustration and fear.

Dean made it to his room and threw up in the sink. He pulled off his shirt, now soiled, and looked at his
arm. The burn was nearly healed. He collapsed on his bed, and awoke in the night, shivering. He
looked at the side table and picked up the notebook, wrote for a while, then, when the shivering had
passed, lay back and slept into the afternoon. He ate only a little, and fought against the fever.

If Sam is gone, so be it.
PART FIVE: TIME TOGETHER
CHAPTER TEN

1872 – Salina & Lawrence, Kansas

June 16

Sam at least had the advantage of knowing that Dean was coming back, and when. He used his time
to tamp down the hysteria among Mrs. Tyler's expanding group of devout moralizers, but Bible-wielding
Catherine Henry, with Mrs. Tyler's warm embrace of her ideas, was pushing for less tolerance of any
opposition and more extreme actions. Mrs. Tyler was hosting another noontime meeting to plan next
steps and could feel the tide turning in her favor.

"If we need to close the saloons, then let's close them for good – make it impossible to reopen them,"
said Miss Henry, sitting at Mrs. Tyler's left, Mrs. Tyler's hand on hers.

"What are you proposing exactly?" Sam asked calmly. He received a chorus of suggestions.

"Board them up. Seize the property," offered Mr. Baxter, a normally meek man.

"Drive the owners out of town!" chimed in Mrs. Tyler.

"Set fire to the building!" said Catherine, and the response was heartier than Sam had hoped it would
be.

"That's not a good idea!" he said, looking around for any agreement. Gradually, a few people
understood the obvious problem of the fire spreading to neighboring businesses. Still, the appeal of the
idea was tangible and Catherine had flushed bright red with her own enthusiasm and the attention it
brought her.

"Perhaps we could work to change the town laws," Sam offered as an alternative.

"Who'd ever vote for closing down a saloon?" mocked Mrs. Linston. When the group didn't respond
well to her irreverence, she added, "I mean, good Christian men and women would, but are we enough
voices in Salina?"

This question steered the conversation away from violent actions toward soul-saving, and Sam could
breathe a little more easily.

***

Dean woke up shivering again, afternoon sun streaming in on him. Molly hadn't come with lunch yet,
he discovered when he went into his office. On his desk were three envelopes, one a letter from
Councilor Harrison, a long-time thorn, one from Nell, who had left his employ to return to Natchez; it
was a flowery apology and a resignation combined. Below them was a gray envelope addressed only
to "Mr. Campbell," and across the interlocking folds of paper the letters S.W. in a steady hand. His
head swam and the nausea returned. He sat down hard on the chair and rested the bridge of his nose
on the fingertips of his right hand while he opened the mystery note with the other; it contained a sheet
of paper in a handwriting he didn't recognize immediately. He scanned impatiently over a curious mix
of symbols, catching bits of sentences about devil-worshippers and prophecies, until he reached the
bottom, where the signature was no longer a surprise: Sam.

Dean stuck his head out the bottom door on the landing and yelled.
"Molly!"

She made her way up from the main floor, knowing full well that she wouldn't get halfway there before
he yelled again.

"MOLLY!"

"Mr. Campbell, the room is not so large that you need to bellow."

"When did this come? Why wasn't I told?" He waved Sam's letter at her.

"Mr. Winchester brought it just the day before you returned."

"He was here?" Anger and excitement competed in his voice.

"He was. And you were gone to Missouri."

"What did he say?" Dean pressed on, sounding to Molly as if he'd not put aside the infatuation at all.

"He said he'd be back today, Mr. Campbell."

"Today? Why aren't people telling me these things?"

"Perhaps he gives that information in the letter?" she asked pointedly, gesturing at the note in his hand.

"Oh. Yes, of course," he said, somewhat embarrassed, and retreated to his office to examine the letter
more closely.

               Dean,
               I'm at Mrs. Tyler's. We need to have that talk now. Right now.

               I found some things that don't make sense – the Bennett family, for one.
               There are things happening in Lawrence that I need help with, and you
               are the only person I can ask.

               I'll come by on the 16th.
                         Sam

"What the hell kind of help can I be?" And who does he think he is, disappearing for over a week and
then dropping in to see me?

Dean showered and dressed quickly, in clothes he knew would impress his nervous clients that
evening. There was little time to think about Sal, or Sam, or what they wanted, or what he wanted, but
it pressed in nevertheless. Sam was back, and that gave him new energy. Of course, he'd have to ask
Sam why he disappeared in the first place. He re-read the letter, and his stomach tightened at the
mention of "the Bennett family" and things in Lawrence, a place he'd sworn never to return to. Sal's
cruelty faded in comparison to this new worry, but he hadn't finished things properly with her. Maybe if
she met Sam…

Molly interrupted his preparations for the evening, which consisted of watching the street from his third
floor window and studying his reflection in the glass, adjusting his expression minutely until it perfectly
combined hospitality and authority and revealed nothing else.

"Mr. Winchester to see you."
Sam was right behind her, and closed the door as she left. Dean's face almost showed his joy, but the
false smile he wore to face the public still held, briefly.

"Mr. Winchester! You left town very abruptly."

"I went to Lawrence, but I told Pearl to tell you…" Sam explained, approaching the large desk that Dean
stood behind. He realized immediately that Pearl had forgotten, and that he'd essentially left Dean in
the dark for over a week.

Dean's anger, despite having found the proper outlet in Pearl, remained focused on Sam; he had a few
questions he wanted answers to, so he kept asking.

"You could have left a message with Molly."

"I didn't think you'd miss me." Sam was quite honestly surprised that Dean had missed him; it would
have been truer to add, "but I'm glad you did"; Sam's natural restraint kept his answer short.

"I didn't miss you," Dean lied, steadying his voice and doing a poor job of both.

"Well, … fine then," Sam retorted, keeping his own emotions in check. In one brief minute he'd been
reintroduced to Dean's attentions and his lies. He seized on a new topic to get out of this confusing
emotional terrain. "We have a bigger problem, Dean."

"What was that in the lower hall?" Dean asked, leaving aside Sam's 'bigger problem' in favor of solving
some problems of his own.

"The demon?"

"So we fought off a demon."

"Yeah, but there's a chance we might –"

"And you said you'd seen it before? That it killed your father?"

"Yes," said Sam, his voice slipping. He moved closer, and was stopped cold by Dean's next question.

"So why didn't you kill it back then?"

"I didn't know what I was up against. I'm not sure I could have killed it."

"Did we kill it this time? Or is it going to come back?"

"I don't know." Sam was frustrated by this man that he had no answers for.

"Well, I need to know. It damaged my home. It's costing me customers."

"Dean, it's a powerful demon, not dry rot. If it comes back, we need to be ready to fight it in every way
we can."

"We? Why don't you just tell me what magic words to say? Can I put water buckets in the halls? A few
crucifixes?"

"It's not a vampire."

"No, well… those wouldn't be so good for business anyway."
"Dean, there's a bigger problem right now, in Lawrence. My contacts there don't see it, but I think
something far more dangerous is coming."

"What does this have to do with me fighting to keep my business open?" Dean's chin tilted up in
defiance, his hands waving out left and right in anger. Sam had again missed the real point of what the
business meant to Dean.

"Did you read my note?"

"I… got most of it. Devil-worshippers. Some pretty odd symbols."

"Here, look."

Sam took out his journal and opened a map across Dean's desk. It showed the cemetery west of
Lawrence, and the locations of the three murders.

"Makes absolutely no sense," said Dean.

"This helps," said Sam, pointing to the journal page where he'd written down a story from Nikolas's old
books.

"'When five sacrifices are laid on the thirsty ground, the solid earth shall be as a veil, consumed by
hellfire when the throat of the underworld vomits forth' – Oh, jeez." Dean stopped suddenly as his
nausea returned.

"They killed three people last week."

"Who did?"

"The devil worshippers."

"And who are they?"

"I don't know." Sam looked at Dean with frustration, as if Dean had the answer.

"Unfortunate for the people of Lawrence," was Dean's cold response.

"We need to stop this."

Dean stared at him as if he'd lost his mind.

"I need to stop them," Sam said, a little less forcefully.

Dean relaxed.

"And I need your help. Look – " he added, cutting Dean off before he could object, "based on the
predictions in this book, June 23 is the day it will happen."

"June 23? Midsummer?"

"You know what that means?"

"Bonfires. Everywhere I've lived, they set huge fires. I can't stand it."
"I need you to help me stop this. You want to know what I do, what my work is? Come with me to
Lawrence." Sam needed assistance, and Dean was about as close as he was going to get to having
another hunter with him. But as far as going to Lawrence, Dean was the wrong person to ask.

"No." It had an odd note of finality about it.

"No? That's it?"

"Not Lawrence." Dean's façade slipped, and Sam could swear he'd turned paler.

"Why not?"

"I hate Lawrence. Swore I wouldn't go back. Even riding through on the train is an effort."

"What happened in Lawrence?" asked Sam sympathetically.

"I was born there. I lost my parents there. Raised by relatives." The word 'relatives' had a bitter sound
Sam hadn't heard before.

"You lost both parents?" Sam said in disbelief.

"My mother, she's the one I remember most."

"And your father?" Sam asked.

"He left us. He ran. He tried to take me with him, but I knew she was still in the house." Dean turned
away toward the window.

"At least he got you out."

"He didn't. I ran back in. I never made it upstairs because –" He stopped at the vision of glowing eyes,
the ones from childhood, the ones that had invaded his brothel.

"How did you get out?"

"I don't know. I was found nearby. That's what they told me."

Dean shivered. He'd gone cold from telling the story for the first time in 15 years. No one had ever
coaxed that story from him, no one until Samuel Winchester came, and with him a demon that Dean
already knew too well.

"Is that how you got the scar?"

Dean looked hurt when he turned to face Sam. No one had asked him that either, in years. He tried
being honest.

"I've always had it. They said it would fade, but it's still here."

"We can go back. Find where you lived. Seeing it again might–" Sam was all hopeful suggestions;
Dean's mask had vanished, entirely, and he saw what he'd seen before, a man in need of a friend, a
true friend.

"And we stop the Satan Club from opening the gates to Hell along the way?" Dean's interest had picked
up.
"We just need to find them and – "

"Kill'em?" suggested Dean, really getting into the idea all of a sudden.

"No! We just prevent it from happening. It won't be possible again for a very long time, if I counted the
years right."

"Killing them would work too," Dean persisted.

"No killing, Dean. It costs too much." Years of hunting had taught him that much about taking a life.

Dean considered the offer, and the fact that his openness with Sam felt good was not lost on him. He
was breathing easier and ready for a little adventure. But his home was still under siege.

"Sam, you're asking a lot. I was out of town for just two days and came home to find out that Spillman
is rethinking his support of this place – and I've got more dirt on him than the other two. If he tips the
council, I could lose all of this." A genuinely fearful Dean was looking at Sam now.

"I'll help you with Mrs. Tyler's group any way I can, but come with me to Lawrence. We can be there in
two days if we ride fast." The deal was closed, but Dean had the final say.

"Ride? Oh, we're not going on horseback, Sam. We'll take the train."

"I think it would be better to stay out of the public eye."

"We're taking the train."

That much was clear.

***


The trip to Lawrence on Saturday was odd, not the least for Sam and Dean. The other people in the
car didn't quite know what to say at the time, but they had plenty to talk about later. After Topeka,
Dean grew increasingly anxious and restless, like a jittery colt, jumping in and out of his seat, muttering,
the sweat on his temples collecting the hair into thick strands. Sam wavered between wanting to settle
him down and wanting to vanish out the window.

"Dean, calm down. Don't attract attention."

"Are you kidding? I thrive on attention."

Sam gave him a look, his nose flaring. The meaning was quite clear.

"Attention. Right. Trying not to, Sam. Not working."

Sam put his hand on Dean's but that did little, and may have made things worse.

"Don't do that magic again. Not here." Dean's voice was need and fear mixed, and caught the
attention of others in the car not already looking at them.

Dean finally got up to pace and Sam followed, ignoring the stares.

"You couldn't get us a private compartment?" Sam said in a whisper.
"I'm not made of money, Sam. And how was I supposed to know there was a full train coming east?"

He finally stopped in the space between cars, where the bucking floor seemed to take the nervous
energy from him, and where Sam could stop worrying about people overhearing.

"What is wrong with you?" Sam demanded angrily.

"I saw that demon before too, the one you say you saw kill your father?"

"What? You never said-"

"You left town on me, remember?"

"Dean, this is big. Tell me."

"It was in our house. I tried to get up the stairs to Mom, but it just… appeared there. That's how it
knew me here. It killed my mother."

"And you kept that secret until now?" Sam had his hand on Dean's shoulder, hoping he could take
some of the pain out of this man, get the mask off long enough to know all the secrets.

"We all keep secrets; I just kept mine longer than you did, Sam."

"Any more I should know?"

Sam nearly fell as the train braked around a curve into Lawrence, but Dean caught him.

"Is that why you hate Lawrence so much?"

"I hate Lawrence, I hate my relatives – all of them abandoned me." Each sentence came out like a
gunshot with all the attendant injury. "They didn't want me around. They left me in Missouri. I know
they did it on purpose. I've never been back to Lawrence since." Dean fell silent.

Sam felt truly guilty now for bringing Dean with him. The train wheels screeched at the pressure of the
brakes, and the conductor came to scold them about standing between cars.

"Oh, Mr. Campbell, I didn't know it was you. You're always alone."

"This is … Mr. Whitman. He's taking me hunting."

"Well, have a seat until we're out of Lawrence at least, so we can keep count."

"We're getting off here," said Sam.

Dean gulped. The conductor blinked uncomprehendingly.

***

No one was home at the Gress house. They waited a bit, and then Sam worked surreptitiously on the
lock.

"Use the tapered end of the file on the top bolt," offered Dean.

"Where did you learn how to…? Never mind."
Dean was already moving off, intercepting a neighbor who was on his way over. Dean put his hands
on his hips, flashing his gaudy vest, which worked perfectly to take the neighbor's eyes off Sam.

"Nikolas asked me to give this to a Mr. Whitman. That man on the porch fits his description. What's he
doing?"

"Just trying a spare key Nikolas gave him. Thanks for the note."

Dean waited until the neighbor got back to his own porch, then returned to Sam with the message.

"You're good at that," Sam noted.

"At what?"

"Talking to people so they forget what they came for."

"Thanks, I think."

"It's a useful skill for a hunter."

"Well, when we go hunting, you let me know. I'm not sure I could charm a wolf."

"This is hunting."

"This is breaking in, Sam."

"Just get inside," Sam smiled.

The house was cool and silent. When they reached the kitchen, Sam paused and opened the note.
Sam's face grew tight, his mouth straight and narrow as he read the note.

"What's it say?"

"Nikolas is in trouble."

Dean read the note over Sam's shoulder.

                        She has lost faith.
                   There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,
                    And, with his sickle keen,
                   He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
                    And the flowers that grow between.
                    -Longfellow

"And that means what?"

"They're hunters, Dean. Michaela's been keeping an eye on Lawrence with Nikolas, trying to prevent
this. At least I thought she was. She must have been working to open the gate all along."

"So where's Nikolas?" Dean asked, taking the note and scanning it for clues.

"At the cemetery, I think, and in danger."

"You got all that from a poem? Is it a code?"
"No, it's just symbolism."

"I'm not all that good at literary interpretation," said Dean, holding the poem up in Sam's direction,
looking at him for an answer.

"Michaela and Nikolas had two kids; she told me they were killed by a monster, but the authorities
believed it was wild animals."

"Still not there, Sam."

"She tried to start this once before, with her own children."

"That's sick."

Sam nodded.

"I thought his name was Gress."

"Longfellow is a poet. It's not a good idea to use real names."

"Winchester isn't your real name?"

"No, I told you my real name. It was my father's too."

"And you chose Whitman as your secret name? Like Walt Whitman?"

"We have a few things in common."

"I would have to agree."

Sam raised an eyebrow right back at Dean.

"Is that a new hat?" Dean asked, changing the subject.

"Yeah, I got it when I was here last week, why?"

"No reason." Dean smiled the tiniest of smiles. "You could do with a new coat too."

"We need to get to the cemetery before dark. Let's think of a nickname for you on the way there, Mr.
Campbell."

***

Near eight p.m. they arrived, having come the four miles on foot.

"If we'd had horses, this would have been so much faster," Sam noted pointedly.

"No horses. So what's the plan now, great hunter?"

"Michaela can't be trusted, no matter what she says. We need to find her and find Nikolas."

"Is she like Crawford was?"

"No, I don't think she's possessed. She just worships Satan."
Dean stared at Sam, realizing that the path diverged here, and Sam's road was taking him farther from
what he called normality.

"Why is your life so weird?"

Sam didn't answer that one. He was pointing at the cemetery ahead of them. Two figures, struggling
with each other, were moving from the woods toward the headstones. There were only five
headstones, but a larger area was reserved, clear of trees and shrubs.

"They'll see us if we can see them," Dean observed.

"Don't move," replied Sam.

The figures below reached the cemetery, and moved toward one of the stones. It was growing dark
fast, but Sam could see one figure pushing the other, then turning and moving back, pacing out steps. It
raised one hand over its head.

"Move, Sam, now!"

The hand came down repeatedly, and the first figure, a man, slumped to the ground. Sam followed
Dean out of the brush and down the road. The figure on the ground didn't move.

"Michaela!" shouted Sam as he got closer.

She spun around, a small blade in her hand covered with Nikolas's blood. She smiled.

"It's almost done now, Sam," she called to him. "I'll see my kids again."

"No, you won't. If that's what you were promised, it was a lie."

The ground trembled under them, then dropped an inch.

"A lie, Sam? He's never lied to me. We've waited hundreds of years to find this place, to open it and
begin the renewal."

"Who'll be your fifth?"

"Why, me, of course. And he'll resurrect me when he comes."

"She's crazy," was Dean's evaluation.

Michaela looked at Dean for the first time, as he circled around behind her. Sam was looking at Nikolas
by her feet, his blood running across the dry ground, soaking in. He was already gone.

"Who's this one? So many hunters came here over the years, and we did warn you all to stay away –
now you bring us another? Oh well, I only need one of you," she added sweetly. "Why die when I can
take you?"

She ran at Sam, who caught her arm before the knife blade could sweep down, and spun her around.
She had her other hand in his hair and pulled him down on her, slamming his head against a grave
marker and stunning him. She rolled him between herself and Dean as Dean aimed his gun, and
dragged Sam six feet to the other side of the gravestone. Sam came to his senses and began fighting
back against her, but she revealed a surprising strength, and was about to bring the knife down in a
killing strike.
"The final key, my lord. Let his blood dissolve your bond, let the veil burn!" She was enraptured.

"Stay down, Sam!"

"Dean, don't shoot!"

"I can get her! I won't hit you, Sam."

"Not now!" Sam yelled, trying to stop both of them at the same time.

Dean's shot caught her in the throat, and she fell across Sam, blood pouring out of her.

"NO!" roared Sam. "Help me get her away from here!"

"She was going to kill you!"

"Her blood can't be spilled here, it'll open the gate!"

As Dean tried to follow the connections and understand why Sam was so ungrateful, the earth shook
again. Sam dragged her body off the cemetery ground and rushed back to pour water from a canteen
in his pack on top of the blood as it soaked into the ground. It steamed. He ran to Nikolas's lifeless
body and poured a second canteen of water around it.

"What are you doing watering the grass?"

"Holy water, Dean."

"Do you have a Bible too?"

"Here, read this!" Sam thrust a paper from his pocket at Dean.

"What is this? Latin?"

"Read it, Dean! Just sound it out." As the ground shook again, he added "Fast!"

Dean read the passage as Sam looked back and forth at the steaming blood from Nikolas and from
where Michaela had fallen. He followed invisible lines to a third point and ran there, pouring the rest of
the second canteen on that spot. He found the final two points of the pentagram, each with a dark stain
on it. Dean kept reading. As Sam passed him to reach the final spot, he stared at Dean with
admiration.

"What?" Dean asked, unable to read the expression.

"You know Latin."

"I needed a hobby."

Sam shook his head, a tiny smile forming briefly.

"Read it again. Louder," he shouted and ran to pour holy water on the final spot, while Dean recited the
Latin text again. The tremors subsided after the third reading.

"Did we stop it? For good?"

"For a long time, I think."
"You do this all the time? How are you not dead yet?"

***

"We can bury them tomorrow," said Dean, pulling Michaela's body toward the trees, after they'd rested
for a quarter hour or so.

"We can't bury them here at all."

"Is that more of the holy faith, Sam? My iron bullet did just as well."

"We need to burn them," said Sam, ignoring Dean's mockery.

"Burn them!? How is that any better than what the demon tried to do to us?"

"You can wait on the road if you want to, but I'm going to burn them."

Dean decided to take the offer and stood at the far side of the cemetery, watching Sam drag some
wood from the tree line and lay the bodies atop it, stacked across each other. He took two things from
his pack to pour on them, and then set them alight. Dean was staring at the flames and at Sam in their
midst. He moved a bit closer, almost protectively. Keep away from the fire, Sam.

He recalled all too well how Sam had protected him in the hall when the demon first attacked. The fire
terrified him now, as it had then, but Sam gave him a point to focus on, a point that wasn't burning, that
he could reach for. He moved closer again, using Sam as a kind of shield against the fears of his
childhood; here was a man who had mastered fire when Dean couldn't, and Dean was never a coward.
When Sam turned to rejoin him, Dean was only six feet back; he would have been closer but for Sam's
efficiency with setting bodies alight.

"I knew people in Missouri who killed professionally. They weren't this cold about it."

"They won't rest if they come back as ghosts," Sam offered as explanation. "That's how this job works.
It's the least I can do for Nikolas," he added. And for Dad. Salting and burning bones was his way of
coming to terms with the theft of his father from his life. Each fire ended someone's pain, if not his own.

They talked about hunting as they waited for the bodies to turn to ashes, ranging among the
tombstones to recheck that the holy water had worked, and along the tree line until Sam found where
Michaela had tied the horses. The slow ride back under the full moon was somber, for Sam, but Dean
had questions, lots of them, and seemed strangely energized by the fight, and by the late hour, and by
Sam's tales.

They spent the night at the Gresses' house. Sam collected several books and papers that shouldn't fall
into the wrong hands; Dean searched the pantry for food and uncovered by accident the weapons
stash. He groaned with pleasure. Sam joined him to see what had caused that particular noise.

"Take what you can carry and lock that up again. No one will find it." Then a worrisome thought
occurred to him. "We're going to be suspected in the Gresses' disappearance. Are you brave enough
to take a less obvious way back to Salina?"

Before he was aware of it, Dean had agreed to travel the way Sam always had, the way most hunters
did, and he regretted his show of bravery immediately.

"It's not all that hard, Dean."
"I spent a lot of time sleeping in stables; I know what those things are capable of."

"They're just horses, Dean."

"Not when you're five and they're seven feet tall and you have to sleep in the stall in their shit,
wondering if they'll step on you."

Sam pursued this briefly, but Dean wasn't willing to go into it. He shut Sam down by settling himself
into a chair and closing his eyes. Sam ached to find out what sort of awful childhood this man had had;
it was written all over him but not in a language anyone could easily decode.

They slept for a few hours, dreamless and peaceful, Sam on the sofa, and Dean in Nikolas's old leather
chair, the summer night noisy with cicadas and crickets in the woods around the house.

***

Early the next morning, after nearly an hour of trying to get Dean out of the chair and on his feet, they
finally headed toward the stables. Sam took a route past the dead lot he'd seen on his first visit. It
woke Dean up, rudely.

"Why are we here?"

"It was the Bennett homestead."

Dean paled.

"You brought me here?" he asked, his anger rising. A darker memory was returning as well, one the
demon had awoken. "Sam, I don't want to be here. I have no connections to this town anymore."

"I have a connection, of sorts. It burned down in the Sack of Lawrence in 1850. Two weeks after I was
born.

"Well, happy very belated birthday. Let's go."

"That's the same day Mary burned," Sam reminded him.

"Mary…" Dean was lost in thought.

"Mary, your employee," Sam reminded him.

"My mother died in May. The night of the Sacking."

"When I was here before, some neighbors recalled the fire; they said the husband started it, and a boy
survived."

"That's about how I remember it," Dean whispered.

"I think that man was John Bennett."

Dean sank into himself at the mention of his father's name. Sam, looking at the lot, missed the weight
that pulled Dean's face down, but he wouldn't have understood it; John Bennett was a name of little
significance to him, a half name in his Bible, a curious connection he couldn't understand.

"Sam, let's get out of this town. Now do you see why I hate Lawrence?"
They walked away from the empty lot as the sun struggled to cut through the heavy clouds in the east.

***

The stable-hands were buzzing about news of further killings in the cemetery. Early-morning travelers
had ridden past the remnants of the fire and stopped to warm themselves, only to receive a nasty
shock. They'd told the stable owner before the sheriff even knew. There were two horses left, neither
of which suited Dean. He was considerably less interested in riding home like this, but Sam's impatient
face and the deep gnawing in his stomach at the idea of being in town long enough to run into one of
his relatives pushed him to mount the horse. He was distinctly uncomfortable, and remained silent as
they rode most of the first day.

They stopped a few times to avoid people traveling the road and eventually cut south across open land.
They spent the first night on grassy hillocks where the horses could eat. Dinner was what Dean had
taken from the Gresses' pantry, which proved to be less appealing after a long horse ride in a bag tied
to his saddle. Dean never mentioned Lawrence or the Bennett house again, but instead complained,
about the horses, the hard ground, the excessive warmth of the evening, and the insects. Sam found
this charming, on the first day.

By the second afternoon, he'd come to accept Dean's inability to function before 11 a.m., but it was
slowing them down, so Sam set a faster pace. He tried to stimulate some conversation by telling Dean
what he knew about demons.

"Can we just stop- "

"Not yet," cut in Sam. This was the third time Dean had asked.

"Can we just stop talking about death and devil worshippers and demonic fire-things, if you won't let us
stop riding?"

"Sure," said Sam softly, embarrassed.

The sun beat down on them, making them sweat.

"My ass hurts."

Sam snickered. He felt the same, but would never have said it.

"And how do you put up with these saddles?" Dean continued. "Your ass doesn’t have all that much
more meat on it than mine does."

Sam looked back at Dean, unsure how to respond, or if he should say anything at all. Dean was
absolutely correct, from first-hand knowledge, if a little coarse.

"Sam, you're giving me that look again."

"Maybe I should ride behind you so you won't fixate on my ass."

"Very funny. But it still hurts."

"We'll stop soon."

A few moments passed. Sam was reliving the brief afternoon in Dean's bed, and apparently, so was
Dean.
"Is this supposed to be making me hard?"

"What?!"

"Horseback riding."

"No!" I like this guy? Why? Sam was embarrassed by Dean, and shocked at his own desire.

"Must just be your ass then."

"Why did I ask you to come with me? Did I see something in you?"

"You see something in me?"

"A huge annoyance."

And none of it was unkind and none of it was taken unkindly.

***

That evening, Sam washed off the sweat and road dirt in a creek. Dean didn't bother to avert his eyes.
He wanted to wash too, but the idea of doing it in a creek….

"Animals drink from that. Probably they do other things in it too."

Sam looked at him. He wasn't entirely comfortable with Dean's gaze, mainly because it aroused him.
It was a steady gaze that wasn't ogling or even lustful, just…constant. He kept most of himself
underwater until he could shake the effects, and finally emerged behind some bushes.

"It's all yours. Wash yourself off," he called to Dean.

Dean stripped to the waist and rolled up his pants, rinsing himself with the tepid water that felt far colder
as he splashed it.

"It's freezing."

"Good, you could use a cold shower." Sam was already half-dressed and eating. He was wondering
why he wasn't treated to a nude Dean in the river, when his eyes fell on the scar he'd seen twice
before.

He stared as Dean stooped to pour water over his neck and let it run off his back.

"How did the fire start?"

Dean didn't respond.

"Dean?"

"Sam, enough with the Lawrence stories. Let it rest."

"I was wondering how you got that scar."

"In the fire, obviously."

"It looks like a hand."
"Does it?"

"You must have seen it."

"I stopped looking a long time ago. Takes two mirrors anyway."

Dean came up the slope, drips running down his fingertips, as the early evening breeze dried him.

"Can I look at it?" asked Sam gently.

Dean sat down next to him on the fallen tree, turning away.

"It's like an animal – just three claws, here."

He traced the scar, producing a shudder in Dean.

"It almost got me," Dean said, and Sam exhaled forcefully from the pain Dean's voice carried. "Stop
touching it," he said, so softly that Sam almost didn't hear it.

Sam stopped immediately and lifted his hand away.

"I barely know you, and…what happened in my room was…" came haltingly from Dean, trailing off into
unexplorable silence.

"Yeah, I apologize. It wasn't my–"

"No, I wanted to apologize to you. I don't always do that."

"But you work in a brothel. You must have your pick of any woman in the house. Or those men."

"I don't touch them," Dean confessed with such sincerity that Sam knew it was true. "Not the men
either. Never touch the staff."

"I assumed– " and Sam let the words die. "It wasn't something I do either. I'm sorry."

"No. What for? I loved it."

"It's been a while since it was anyone but myself."

Dean rested next to him for a while, then put on his shirt. He settled at Sam's feet, head resting on the
log at an odd angle.

"Thank you for taking that shot in the cemetery," Sam said, eager to break the silence.

"Thought I messed that up."

"You saved my life."

"No thanks necessary."

Sam moved down to the ground and lay next to Dean, head on his pack.

Dean dozed, briefly, and woke himself with a loud snuffle.
"This is killing my neck."

"Here, take my pack."

Dean pulled it from under Sam's head and lay back on it.

"Ow! Did you put all the hard things on top on purpose?"

He opened the bag and pulled out the old Bible John had left for Sam.

"Careful with that."

"Does it work on demons?"

"On some."

Sam sat up as Dean opened it.

"Where did you get this? Did you take it from the Gresses?"

"My dad left it to me in his bequest."

"Where did he get it?" Dean's voice was colder, angrier. "It doesn't say 'Winchester'."

"It says 'Bennett'," Sam replied, not knowing how to explain it. "I don't know whose it was. It doesn't
have any names written in it."

Dean was silent for a moment.

"I was a Bennett, when I was born. When they deserted me, I took my mother's maiden name as mine."

Sam had stumbled across another of Dean's untold secrets.

"It killed your mother the same year I was born, and killed my dad seventeen years later, and now it's
back again, happy to see both of us? What's the connection?" Sam asked without expecting any
answers.

"Were you supposed to return the Bible to me? Are we supposed to team up to fight this thing? Is it
after us?" Nothing made sense to him, not the fires, not the demon's relation to them, none of it. "Why
did you come to Salina, Sam?"

"I came by accident. I was on my way to meet Michaela and I fell asleep. Woke up in Salina."

"That doesn't seem a little odd to you?"

"Or that your employees and clients are part of this? That's a little strange too."

They settled into tense mutual suspicion, unable to make sense of the net they felt closing around
them.

***

In the night, Sam woke to thunder in the east as he lay on his stomach, head on his arm. His cock was
stiff, and wedged painfully against the ground. He wanted very much to return to his dream. Next to
him, Dean moved suddenly, rapidly standing up and walking toward the creek without making the
slightest noise. Sam didn't move or even change his breathing until Dean was nearly twenty feet away.
He rolled onto his back and propped himself up on one arm, watching Dean scoop water from the river
onto his scar three, four times. In the warm darkness of half-sleep, he imagined he was behind Dean,
arms around him, cock pressed against him.

To Sam, it seemed the scene was lit like midday, although it was a dark silhouette against starlit
midnight sky, the moon barely peeking out over the storms in the distance. Then Dean straightened up
and unbuttoned his pants. He took out his cock, as rigid as Sam's, and stroked it quickly; Sam was
awake now. His hand was in his pants the next second, his heart pounding; Dean continued to rub his
cock, knees buckling slightly, head dropping forward, then falling back. Dean was a hole in the sky,
black against deep blue, his arm moving faster. Sam heard Dean gasp and it made him come with a
shuddering breath that he couldn't quiet, yellow sparks in his eyes as he watched Dean's hips bucking
forward. The intimacy at twenty feet was astonishing.

Dean squeezed the last of the drops out of his cock and rinsed his hands in the creek, then put himself
back together and returned, all without a sound. He froze just for a second when he saw Sam sitting
up, then settled down beside him as before. Hope he liked the show.

Sam withdrew his hand from his pants; it was covered with cum, now running down his wrist. He flung
it on the grass, and licked the rest off quickly.

"Sorry I woke you," said Dean softly.

"Not a problem," said Sam, his throat suddenly choked and scratchy-sounding, so red-faced he had to
be glowing, he was sure.

He waited a few minutes for his mind to clear, unwilling to erase what he'd seen.

"Dean, is there any way we could– "

Dean snored.

***

The next morning, Sam slept well past 9 a.m. and still woke up before Dean. They would be back in
Salina soon, and Dean was in an unusually cheerful mood. He eyed Sam up and down several times,
a gaze so intense that Sam looked away each time, bashful. If he looks that good every time he plays
coy, I'm just gonna keep staring at him.

"You're a lot cruder than I first thought," Sam said.

"And yet I wash each day," countered Dean. "You still haven't cleaned up from last night. Are you
going to make us breakfast with that hand?"

Sam fumbled the knife he was using, missed it on the catch, and went hurriedly to the stream to wash.

They rode slower that day, sensing the approach to home meant an end to their fun. Sam dismounted
a few times to collect the odd leaf or seeds from plants that Dean couldn’t differentiate from the
background weeds.

"Cohosh, Dean. And angelica."

"Really. Tell me you're not gathering our lunch."
Dean was far more willing to talk than he had been; when they were resting in a rare patch of shade,
Sam took the opportunity of Dean's renewed chattiness to ask a question he'd been dying to ask for
weeks.

"How did you come to own a whorehouse?"

"Brothel is really a better name. I don't employ whores."

"Don't you?"

"Would you like to ask Molly that to her face?"

"I think she'd throw me over the balcony railing," Sam replied, picturing it as he answered.

"Oh, Sam, it's a classic story. Intrigue, con men, murder!" He settled back, legs spread, painting the
scene with his voice and his hands. "It started in Missouri, in the City of Kansas. I lived near a brothel.
Had sex with one of the girls when I was thirteen," he added.

"That's…disturbing" was all Sam could think to say.

"Yeah, well, we all have our own paths." He returned to being the storyteller. "I fell in with some rough
types, mostly small crimes. They taught me a lot of tricks. Turns out I was good at cons. People like
my face."

He waited for Sam to confirm that, but Sam was watching the horizon, just listening to the story.

"So, um, I got involved in some big cons, and one day they tapped me to take down a mark in Salina. I
didn't know who he was, and didn't particularly want to be in Kansas at all, but I was a businessman,
into the con, looking for some quick money. Turns out, the man who sent me out was running his own
con on me – he knew I'd get killed. He got a big surprise."

"You didn't get killed?"

"You're quick. Did you say you went to college?"

"Finish the story."

"The man he sent to kill me came to Salina, shot the madam – might even have been her former
husband, I heard later. But the fool, he got himself killed as well; she was ready for him. And there I
stood, with the papers that were supposed to make me look like I'd been the intended target."

"What papers?"

"The original deed to the brothel. Or whorehouse. It really was a whorehouse back then, the way she
ran it. With the three of them dead, most everyone accepted me as the new owner. The documents
never had names on them; someone at the bank must have been in on the con. Sal wasn't happy to
see me go."

"Sal?"

"Sally Goodheart, but that's a story for later."

The whole escapade sounded made up, but Sam wasn't going to puncture Dean's bubble. I hope
there's a real story in there somewhere.
"It was a way to get a little money set aside, a little stability."

Sam caught the inflection on that last word, and the honesty. Stability was something he'd given up on
after five years of hunting, and something he envied in Dean. For Dean, it was a goal accomplished
and not to be easily discarded.

"When was all this?"

"Youngest brothel owner in Kansas history – 21 years old," said Dean, his pride not concealed at all.

"Four years ago. Around when Dad died."

Dean repaid Sam's courtesy with some attention of his own; he'd heard Sam's change in tone clearly
enough.

"What was he like, your Dad?"

"He kept me safe. He hunted a little, but hid it from me for a long time. He kept a lot from me. Never
told me if we even had any relatives. Never told me who my mom was, where I was born, nothing."

"That must have been some fight, if he never mentioned her. But you got a father, at least. Mine ran.
God damned coward."

Sam had no response for that. John was far away from him now, and Sam was the coward who'd run.
CHAPTER ELEVEN

June 26, 1872

Dean and Sam rode back into town side by side, so busy talking that they didn't notice how quiet Salina
had become. They left the horses with a boy at the stable and walked back toward the club, Sam with
his hand on Dean's shoulder, Dean smiling a natural smile, and punctuating his replies with a hand to
Sam's chest. They were laughing at something unknown to anyone else, a story Sam had told about
his days in school in Tennessee. They ignored the crowd gathered at the saloon door, oblivious to their
stares. They didn't even notice Pearl, there in the middle of the street in her Sunday church clothes,
the best she could come up with when Molly had sent her out to see what was going on.

"Mr. Campbell!" she cried, running up to him. She was flushed and panicky and ignored Sam
completely, which told them something was truly wrong.

"Pearl! What are you doing out here?" Dean greeted her with mild surprise. "Shouldn't you be getting
things ready?"

"Mr. Campbell, they've cut us off. They've cut the whole town off!"

"What are you talking about, Pearl?" asked Sam.

"They turned back the liquor delivery from Lawrence. The entire shipment."

"Who did this?" asked Sam, on top of Dean's "There's no alcohol?!"

"Well, we have a fair supply left – it was that Mrs. Tyler's WTLC group," Pearl strained to answer both
of them at once.

"WCTL," corrected Sam.

"Does it matter?" Dean snapped at him.

He took off down Santa Fe with Pearl behind him and Sam following in long strides.

"Dean. DEAN! Let me talk to Mrs. Tyler, find out what's going on."

"No, Sam. This is a battle now. We're gonna fight. They're playing to win, and I can't let them. I have
a few cards of my own, you know."

"You do?"

"Thanks, Sam. Very supportive."

He cut straight through a small protest group outside the club, and the guard had the front door open
for him as he swore under his breath and continued on into the main room, Sam behind him and Pearl
trying to keep up.

"MOL-"

"I'm here, Mr. Campbell," she said from the foyer, the annoyance clear in her voice. "I closed the club
for today. It'll make the liquor last longer. We didn't know when you were coming back," she said,
without accusation.
"You closed the club?" Dean was incredulous.

"It's not safe here now. Things changed when you were gone."

"I was only gone five days."

Molly explained what hung over them now: "Mrs. Tyler's group has decided to act. They smashed up
one of the saloons two days ago, and turned back the liquor that was due yesterday. One of the men
was there when it happened, and it isn't hymns and prayers and stern looks anymore. He said they
almost set fire to the wagon."

"They can't be serious," said Dean, shaking his head.

"Who are these people?" asked Pearl.

"Mostly those concerned with us 'sinners'," Molly replied, "not with the saved – or the savable."

"I can defuse this, Dean," Sam promised. "I'm going to Mrs. Tyler and talk to her."

Dean stared at this man who was actually going to help him, when no one else had.

"You do what you need to, Sam. Just don't trust her."

***

"Mrs. Tyler, I thought you would want to know that Mr. Campbell is back in town. He came in on
horseback side by side with Mr. Whitman," Catherine reported gleefully.

Mrs. Tyler took up her Bible. The events of the last few days had given her hope that her dream of a
dry Salina free of whoring and cursing and debauchery was near at hand. But to see the young man
I've held to my heart revealed as the worst sort of betrayer…

"They walked down the main street arm in arm, laughing to scare the devil, as if they were friends from
long ago. Mr. Whitman even went into the whorehouse with him." Her voice was more confident than
ever.

"You may go, Catherine," and with that Catherine was dismissed, leaving Mrs. Tyler to ponder the
moral character of the people she'd brought close to her. I have allowed myself to be misled not once,
but twice. How could Samuel have befriended that serpent, after all my warnings? Yet whatever he has
done, Samuel was never mean-spirited. Miss Henry indulges in pridefulness and meanness; she does
not have a fully Christian heart in her yet.

When Sam came through the door, Mrs. Tyler had prepared herself for what needed to be done.
Catherine was busied elsewhere, and the parlor cleared of boarders.

"Mrs. Tyler, may we talk?" Sam began. He was a model of genuine contriteness.

"Certainly, Mr. Whitman, I've been waiting. Word of your return preceded you." And then her formal
façade cracked. "What have you done, my boy? I know you'd never betray me intentionally, but – "

"Betray you? How?"

"Consorting with that Campbell fellow and his sordid ways.... Samuel, you were here with us at every
meeting and now you're seen arm in arm with Mr. Campbell! It could not be worse for you."
"I came here to ask you to put an end to these attacks before things get out of control."

"And now you refuse to defend yourself – is this story true then?"

"I was with Mr. Campbell. We had business out of town."

"So he's the one you came to see? You're going to invest in the very demon whose poison will kill our
town?"

Sam was doubly confused now, but beneath her consternation he sensed something else, a worry that
she'd spun things too fast, out of her control, and regretted it.

"Mrs. Tyler, I'm not on his side. And I'm not on yours either. I stumbled into this town by accident and
was pulled into your battle. I'll leave, if you won't let me stay. But find it in your heart to talk to Dean –
to Mr. Campbell. Your attacks have gone far beyond what the WCTL should ever stand for."

"Leave now, Mr. Whitman."

He waited. She had looked him in the eyes until that last demand, and was now staring down at the
Bible in her lap. She never looked back up until after he had left to retrieve the few things left in the
cottage after his second trip to Lawrence.

Sam regretted that he hadn't been able to convince her to back down. When she appeared suddenly at
the side door as he passed, he was instantly hopeful again.

"These are for you."

She pressed a sack into his hand, and looked up at him, suspicion entwined with guilt. She seemed
about to say something and then hurried back into the house. Two of the women who lived there
permanently were sitting on the porch, and called to him as he rounded the corner.

"Off again, Mr. Whitman? More important business?"

"I see she's given you some of this morning's biscuits," said the other. "It's her own cooking, so she
suffers it with god-given strength of character, but the rest of us aren't so blessed. That bag will serve
you if you're going into battle, but I wouldn't eat what's in there."

"Thanks for the warning, Miss Ann. I'm off for good. Take care, Miss Nancy."

"For good? May He guide your footsteps," said the elder sister. "And thus consider ye throughout all
ages, that none that put their trust in him shall be overcome."

"Thank you," said Sam again.

There was a smell of smoke in the air, far off, like a prairie fire, as he walked toward Santa Fe.

"If I were but 25 again," said Nancy quietly.

"Oh but you aren't, you're 70, and there's little to be done about that. And Mr. Campbell is the finer of
the two," said Ann, even more quietly.

They both chuckled softly and watched Sam heading toward town.

***
Sam came to the club by the back way, but there was, oddly, no group gathered by the entrance to the
brothel when he peered around the corner. He knocked at the front door, and was let in by Cora, the
woman he'd met on his first night there.

"Mr. Campbell is in his office with Molly," she said. "They asked not to be disturbed."

"Can I wait here?"

"Certainly, Mr. Winchester." She paused, and then said, "We've seen a lot of you this past month, but
the staff are most disappointed not to have had the offer extended."

"I… I come here mainly on business. With Mr. Campbell."

She squeezed his hand lightly.

"Whatever it is, he's in a state. Things were much calmer before you arrived."

Cora left him at the gambling table with a beer, and returned to her duties. Like many of the women
there, she'd hoped for some sign of interest from Mr. Campbell's new friend, but Mr. Campbell had his
complete attention, it seemed.

Sam looked impatiently up at the door on the landing, almost invisible to someone unaware of it. When
he'd finished his beer, he headed up, determined to see Dean. He needed a place to stay and the
hotel was run by a friend of one of Mrs. Tyler's boarders – Sam would not be welcome there now, even
with money. At the top of the second staircase, he could hear Dean and Molly arguing. He listened.
The first thing he could clearly make out was, it turned out, Molly's final word. The door opened and
Molly jumped back from shock at the sight of him.

"I'm sorry, it's just me!" Sam said by way of apology, putting out his hand. She recovered quickly and
pulled him into the room by the arm. "You talk some sense into him. He wants to return to his old ways
and we can't have that."

She swept out with a parting "We open in six hours!" and slammed the door, leaving Sam with his
mouth open, looking at Dean.

"She threw you out."

"How did you know that? And what 'old ways'?"

"You're carrying two packs and wearing that coat in the middle of summer. Take it off. I'll get you a new
one," said Dean, ignoring both questions.

"I don't need a new one," said Sam resentfully; he was quite attached to the coat his father had given
him.

"Are you looking for a place to stay? I can recommend a couple."

"I was wondering if–"

"Here? That would break Rule #4, No overnight guests, and I'm not sure you could pay in full for more
than a few days. That's Rule #3." He gave Sam's tired, scorched coat a long, telling look. "Depending
on how long you plan to stay, that is."

Sam was now thoroughly embarrassed.
"I won't ask for a room here; I can't exactly provide the services your guests want."

"Oh, I don't know about that."

Dean was now chuckling silently, his smile spreading wider, and Sam realized he'd been had.

"You are so easy. What a mark you'd make!" Dean laughed, but Sam felt the good-natured kidding
behind it. "You'd be amazing in a Missouri Switch. That's a con I invented, by the way. It needs an
utterly sincere person; I haven't been able to do one since I was fifteen." He shifted from enthused to
proud, to mildly wistful at his lost sincerity.

"No thanks, Dean, no cons."

"Well, you think about it. Maybe some day."

"You're in an awfully good mood for having just argued with Molly."

"And you're not doing as bad as I'd expect after getting tossed by Mrs. Tyler. I am serious about the
room, if you need one. We have a lot of them. Oh, now don't make a face. There are rooms here that
aren't part of the trade. Molly and Pearl, a lot of the others, live here."

"I'll take a room, if you're offering."

Dean hesitated, but he was ready for battle and nothing seemed frightening now.

"And of course, you're welcome to share mine."

Sam covered the excitement in his voice with logic.

"No offense, but your bed is really only made for one person."

"Is it? I never really noticed."

Imagining the looks on faces if word got out he was sleeping with the owner, Sam said, "Just a regular
room would be fine."

Dean seemed distinctly less jolly. Sam rescued the conversation by appealing to Dean's ego.

"Can you tell me what insane plan you've got in mind? You can't just attack them, you know."

Dean was ready for the sales pitch; it hadn't worked on Molly, but he could sell it to Sam, no problem.

"We start telling secrets."

"That's a terrible plan!" Sam cut in.

"I'm not finished!" Dean was deflated in a second, and it wasn’t just because Molly had said it too; this
was Sam, and his word counted for something now.

"That's what you do in the worst-case scenario," Sam reasoned. "If you start blackmailing everyone
now, they'll know how weak you are."

Dean didn't have a quick reply. He sat back on the edge of his desk, legs straight and arms crossed.
He stared at Sam with newfound respect.
"I didn't expect strategy from you."

"It's just keeping the advantage for as long as you can. You did run cons, right?"

"I've kept this town's secrets for four years now, going on five," said Dean, mourning the
ineffectiveness of what he'd thought was his sure thing.

"And they trust that. Give it up and what do you have left? No weapon, no ammunition, nothing to drop
on them."

"When if not now? What am I supposed to do?"

"Business as usual."

Dean raised one eyebrow as his brow furrowed, which drew Sam's eyes away from Dean's for a
moment of distracted lust, until Dean turned toward the window. Every inch of this man, I like. Sam
exhaled.

"Look, Dean, I don't have all the answers right here and now, but there's got to be a way to calm things
down and find a compromise with Tyler's side."

"You don't understand much about this town."

"I know Mrs. Tyler is having doubts. She can see it's gotten out of her control. She asked me to leave
and then practically apologized as I was walking out the gate."

"If they turn the town dry…"

"What? People stop wanting sex?"

"Well, …" Dean turned quickly. He hadn't thought that far. Sam was right, again. "They sure won't be
as … loose," he countered, without much conviction.

Sam waited for Dean to sort it through in his head, as Dean walked toward him, thinking. It was Sam's
turn to raise an eyebrow, coax the thought forward.

"I'll talk to her if you're there," Dean said, finally, stopping just a foot away, looking up at Sam.

"I'll be there," Sam promised.

As the pause in the conversation grew awkward, Dean asked, "So how long are you going to stay in
Salina then?"

"I'm not sure. Till this is settled, probably."

"That could be a while."

"I'm not that fond of Salina."

"Honestly, neither am I," said Dean, voicing his true feeling about the town; home was home, but it was
also work, and increasingly a personal struggle against him from many sides.

"If I hear news about another hunt, I'll have to go."
"Where would you go, Sam? Do you have a home, besides Tennessee?"

"No." Sam looked down. "I'm sort of homeless. I just keep moving."

The pause was awkward again, and Sam moved forward in search of a better answer, a less lonely
answer. He bent his head close enough to see the pulse in Dean's neck, then Dean stopped him with a
hand to his chest, resting on the simple cotton shirt, Sam's heat radiating through it. Dean blinked
hard, twice, his eyes locked on Sam's. It was far too intense for him and he pulled his hand back as if
he'd burned it. He withdrew a half step, looking everywhere but at Sam, his mouth forming words he
never spoke. Sam stayed put, respecting it and hating his respect, his propriety. Dean's left hand rose
as his right slowly fell, fingers spread as if he were backing away from a hungry wolf he hoped would
still be stronger and devour him.

When Dean's hands came level at his stomach, Sam slid his own warm hands under them slowly, from
fingertip to wrist, palm against palm, not to arouse but to touch Dean, the thing he most wanted to do
right then. Dean allowed this, and was interested by the touch, staring at Sam's hands under his, large
but not controlling. He kept his hands on Sam's, and looked up again, eyes wide and frankly terrified.
Sam bit his lip and tipped his head sideways, just briefly, as his eyebrows rose. It was an offer. Dean
exhaled in one jerking breath.

"Been such a long time," he said softly, his lips hardly moving.

He was studying Sam, every inch of him, every hair on his head and cheek and hand, every thread in
his shirt and ragged coat, every tremor in the hands below his, every rush of air through Sam's nose,
each one shorter and tighter than the last.

"I feel bad you kept hitting your head on the ceiling last time."

"Why on earth did you put your bed in the corner where the roof slants in?" said Sam, laughing at the
intimacy and comedy of their first time, the tension giving way to an odd companionship.

"I like it there –" was all Dean got out before Sam had his hands up along Dean's jaw, pulling him into a
kiss.

"No- " Dean started to object, then was silent.

Sam held his position again; he knew his mistake was haste.

"Do it," Dean said after a few seconds, clearing his throat and squaring his shoulders.

Sam studied him, all bombast and utter terror at a little thing like a kiss. He pushed his face up against
Dean's, nuzzling along Dean's cheek until he reached one of Dean's sideburns, which he pulled softly
between his teeth, breathing in the smell from the first time they'd met. Dean took the lead after a
moment, unbuttoning his vest and shirt, kicking his boots off. Sam shed his coat into a heap on the
floor, and pulled his shirt off over his head. Dean pushed him back on the red sofa.

"Here?"

"Here first."

All of Salina lay outside the window, but Dean had never needed curtains. He needed Sam naked,
under him, and the couch was large enough for two, if they each kept a leg on the floor. He sat against
Sam's leg as Sam reclined, and unbuttoned Sam's pants. Sam's cock lay across his hip, swelling
under Dean's devouring gaze.
"You came prepared."

"I washed my undershorts in the creek this morning, remember? They're still wet."

"I like it like this." He slid his hand, still cool, around Sam's cock and ran his thumb across the tip, and
down the underside. Sam exhaled more strongly, then sat up on his elbows to watch. Dean leaned
forward and slipped Sam's balls free of his pants, then licked across them, around to where Sam's thigh
muscle strained, and tasted the sweat that had gathered there.

Dean's mouth was over his cock, around it, entirely accepting it. Sam closed his eyes and felt Dean's
tongue and fingers working – each marked clearly in his mind like points on a map.

He nearly came, but Dean eased off when Sam's balls tightened up, cock slipping free of Dean's mouth
for a second. Sam opened his eyes to see Dean, eyes heavy, lips thick and red, wet with spit and
Sam's one tiny spurt before the orgasm had slipped away. He knew what Dean wanted – what he'd
wanted the first time – a man under him who was his and his alone.

Sam waved Dean's hand away from his pants and ignored the tempting nipples he'd never get enough
of, in favor of getting to the point – he had Dean's pants unbuttoned at both sides and Dean's cock,
restrained by a set of worn cotton drawers, was nearly his. Dean stood up and shucked off the
suspenders and stepped free. Sam was up and next to him, his cock rubbing against Dean's under the
fabric. Sam slid his hand under the waistband, and then slowed down. It seemed to Dean like time
had stopped and he'd never get Sam's hand where he needed it. Sam took his time, finding first the
light trail of fur, then the dense patch of hair, then the wide base of Dean's cock and the slight curve
down, as hefty as he remembered it, skin stretched part way over the head.

He wanted to kiss Dean, but resisted. He went for the neck instead, grazing his teeth up and down the
muscles as they tensed, working Dean's cock with his hand until it was slick and Dean was grunting
short, hard noises in his ear, rubbing his face against Sam's.

"Now the bed," Dean said, lust again in charge.

"Where the hell is it?" said Sam, looking around.

Dean led him to the corner where he opened the hidden door.

"How many of these secret passageways do you have?"

"Just three."

"Handy."

Sam was back in the small, gray room, now dim and stuffy, where he'd healed Dean's burns from the
demon attack.

Dean pulled off his underwear, a new look on his face, something mixed with the lust. Sam sat down
on the edge of the bed. He spit on his hand and wiped it between his legs. Dean smiled in wonder and
appreciation of what lay before him - Sam, long legs bent, feet on the edge of the mattress, sliding his
ass forward so it hung over, his cock sticking up, swaying slightly with his pulse. He was no virgin, and
was sure Dean knew what to do.

Dean leaned across him, pulling the pillow to the floor to rest his knees on, then slid the head of his
cock up and down until he felt the right spot and pushed slowly forward. Sam let out a long moan as
Dean sank into him. He watched Dean with a fierce expression on his face; Dean fucked harder, deep
into Sam, his buttocks clenching tight as he took over Sam's body, watching Sam jack himself off.
Sam's head rolled back on the mattress as he arched his body and called out to Dean. Dean
concentrated on Sam's voice, muttering curses and directions below him.

" 'F I'd known you wanted it this bad, Sam, I'd have fucked you the other night too, right there on the
prairie."

Sam's brain was close to overloading, and the memory of that night faded from frustration into blessed
reality with every thrust.

"Get it all in," he demanded.

His ass started to squeeze tighter. His head snapped up, raising his torso off the bed, and he stroked
his cock with both hands. He could feel the vibrations in his cock shift to his ass and he came in short
bursts, punctuated by shouts.

"Jesus, that’s what I need," said Dean breathlessly, watching Sam cum first across his stomach, then
dripping down his fists with each shot. Dean was about to pass out, his legs straining, the spectacle
before him and the tight hole squeezing him – the dreams he had were nowhere as good as this. He
pulled his cock free and his body let go, covering Sam with more cum, thick white splashes in Sam's
dark hairs. Dean's cock bounced freely with each wave, dripping more on Sam's balls.

He rested against Sam's legs, then slipped back inside. It was warm in there; it made Sam permanent
and certain. Sam was dripping with sweat; their cum ran down his side to the sheet. He swept up most
of it in a few quick movements and swallowed it.

"You like that?" asked Dean.

Sam ran two fingers across hip, collecting Dean's cum. He licked it into his mouth and closed his eyes.
He could feel Dean's cock twitch in his ass. Dean liked what he was seeing, and Sam grinned.

"Yours is like– "

"Okay, you can hold that thought, Sam. I don't need to know," he said in mock horror.

Sam laughed, and squeezed his ass hard around Dean's cock.

Dean pulled out again, his cock still firm, and said, "Wait here. I've got a face cloth."

"This is going to take more than a face cloth."

Sam lay there, sweat tickling his neck. The sheets were rumpled and stained from more than just their
recent fun.

"Your bed is filthy. See, this is why I lick it off."

"Do NOT tell me about that, please."

Dean threw the cloth at him.

Sex had given way to an easy banter that wouldn't last. It never did, Sam knew, in his brief experience.
Sooner or later, the real world reasserts itself and this…life, really being alive, becomes a memory.

"You know this ends at some point. But I just wanted to say that I'm glad I met you, Dean. I'd be proud
to call you my friend."
"This ends?" said Dean, pushing his pleasant fiction further because the alternative was just not an
alternative, not any longer.

Sam sat on the edge of the bed wiping off his cock and his stomach. He looked at Dean, but didn't
know what he was seeing in that remote and unfamiliar expression. Of all the masks Dean dropped, so
many more were beneath them, still to be understood.

"This room is so…remote. Did you ever notice that?"

"Remote?"

"It's behind four or five doors. Hard to get to."

"It's my room. Who cares where it is?"

Dean crawled onto the bed behind him and lay along the wall.

"You're still hard," Sam noted appreciatively.

"I often am."

Sam was settling out of the euphoria and wondering how the hell he came to be yet again in the bed of
this brothel owner just days after fighting a knife-wielding Satanist. The weight of the month came
down on him, and he drooped his shoulders, and head. He was exhausted.

"Can I rest here for a bit?"

Sam didn't get an answer, because Dean was asleep, so he just laid his head on the pillow for a
second. A while later, he woke long enough to realize his feet were still on the floor and he pulled them
up on the bed. Warmth pressed against him on the other side, and he sank into it.

Dean woke up first, nearly three hours later, with Sam tucked against his side. He had his arm half
under Sam, and they were naked and he was fucking a total stranger who'd walked into his club a
month earlier asking about a dead girl, a man who fought demons. His mind leapt across the events of
the past month and stuck at the trip to Kansas City, the falling out with Sal. That night held on
savagely; every man he'd ever known found a way to get out. What will he use as his excuse?

Sam woke up with a start, totally disoriented in the dimly lit room, hot, naked and stuck to Dean's side.
He might have called it a fantastic dream, if it hadn't been so real. As it was, he had no idea what to
do.

"See this bed's big enough. You're just too tall," Dean observed.

Dean was warm against him, and moved his arm around Sam's back, hoping to keep him a bit longer.

"I'm sorry, Dean. I just wanted you – wanted it, I mean."

"Why don't you spare us the awkward speech. You can look back on this later and still think it was
nice."

"You're kind of an ass."

"I've heard that."

"Get your arm off me. God, it's hot in here. Don't you ever open a window?"
"My club, my rules, Sammy."

Sam pushed him off and sat up. He was still alive, still euphoric, somehow. The room was noiseless,
except for the faintest hint of music below.

"What is that?"

"That's Glenn, on the piano. I like that song. He even lets me sing along, if he's feeling charitable.
Nothing operatic, mind you, but I do have a strong baritone."

Sam smelled Dean and himself in the thick air of the room.

"You smell good," Sam said.

"I smell like I just fucked someone."

"No, you have a scent, it's really…'

"It's the bath salts, I tell you."

Whatever it is, it's making me hard again.

"Can I see your scar?" Sam asked gently, giving Dean his widest eyes and a small smile.

Dean was silent for a long time, looking at Sam, then rolled onto his stomach. Sam sat across him and
leaned forward. This pushed his cock into the cleft of Dean's ass.

"Oh, you can pull off a con!" said Dean, as he raised his hips up and pushed back, eager if not quite
ready for it. Sam quickly rolled back onto his knees.

"Just do it, Sam." Sam was not his first, but in ten years, about the only one that he'd allowed willingly.

Sam's mind was reeling at the thought of fucking this utterly charming man, but first he slid up under
Dean's legs, licking around his balls to find his cock swollen and heavy, waiting. He licked the tip,
coaxing a drop of pre-cum out as it twitched. Sam lay there, licking under the skin around the head and
sliding his hand up across Dean's torso. Dean fucked his mouth roughly as Sam slid his other hand up
to Dean's hole and rubbed lightly over it. Dean's cock swelled and stiffened more each time, but Sam
didn't go any further. He knew enough to let Dean take the lead. Two fingers massaging Dean, his
other hand wrapped around his own cock, stroking slowly, Dean's balls on his chin, cock deep in Sam's
throat – nothing else mattered.

When Sam slipped his fingers in, Dean moaned, a short, high sound that Sam couldn't get enough of.
Dean sat up, pulled Sam up under him and sat back on Sam's cock. He had a look of intense
concentration on his face, while Sam's was only desperation, to be in him, to be let in. Dean slid slowly
back and forth on Sam's cock until Sam felt a slick softness spreading along his shaft as Dean sank
down on him, finally. Dean's face was revealed now: young, timid, and trusting.

"Dean– " he gasped, while Dean leaned forward to lick his nipples, giving Sam a deeper angle to thrust
into.

It wasn't something Sam wanted to end, but he couldn't hold himself for long and came just a couple of
minutes later, grunting out each burst, Dean almost hyperventilating as he ground his ass down onto
Sam, his body tingling. Dean stayed there on Sam's cock, stroking himself and watching Sam's face
intently. Sam didn't dare break eye contact, even to see Dean come. Dean slid up and off Sam's cock
suddenly and his balls pulled up tight as he stroked.

"You want this?"

Sam nodded eagerly. Dean aimed his cock down as far as he could and let out a low groan, squirting a
long stream across Sam's chest and neck; a second, as he leaned forward and grabbed the headboard
rail, went full into Sam's mouth. He let go of his cock and rested it on Sam's chin, drizzling the rest of
his load over Sam's lips and tongue, as Sam eagerly licked it up.

"You're a sick man, Sam Winchester."

After a minute or so, Sam sat up in bed, keeping Dean across his thighs. One hand slid slowly along
Dean's jawline, urging him closer. Dean resisted only a little, and kissed stiffly at first, before he
relaxed. Sam's tongue played along his lips, and Dean responded strongly with a firmer push that
conked Sam's head against the wall. Dean tasted saltiness; the image of him filling Sam's mouth with
his cock and his cum made him kiss all the harder. Sam returned the kiss, head aching and lips now
pressed tight and raw against a man he couldn't imagine walking away from.
PART SIX: INTO THE FIGHT
CHAPTER TWELVE

June 26, 1872

A rapping sound snapped Dean out of the moment, out of the warmth of Sam's mouth and the strong
arms around him.

"What the hell does she want?"

"Is it time to open?" asked Sam.

Dean dashed into the office and saw to his dismay that it was indeed ten minutes to opening. Sam
heard a loud "Damn it!"

Dean opened the office door a crack, and it was enough for Molly to avert her eyes.

"Mr. Campbell, when you're dressed and ready."

"I won't be there by six. I need to wash and dress, and have some hot water sent up for Sam–"

He stopped right there, embarrassed, but Molly was nodding understandingly.

"Two baths, and you'll be ready by 6:15," she stated.

"Precisely. I do love you, you know."

"I'm thinking that's not entirely true, Mr. Campbell. I fall somewhere around third now."

"No, you're number-…. Third?"

"After Mr. Winchester." Sam was sure she'd raised her voice a little there so he'd hear the remark. "And
yourself, of course."

She left him to await his bath.

"You really got lucky with her," Sam said from directly behind him, chuckling.

Dean jumped and slammed the door, swearing at Sam for startling him.

"Jeez! And what are you doing naked in my office? That's just not right."

"We started out here, as I recall."

"You're to blame, making me late," Dean protested half-seriously.

"I just asked you for a room to stay in. You could have sent me to a hotel."

"Do you have anything decent to wear?"

"What do you mean?" Sam took that personally.
"If you're going to be hanging around here, you could do to look a little better than a gunslinger or a
homesteader."

"My clothes are– " was all the protest Sam got out.

"I'll loan you some of mine."

"Oh –no!" said Sam firmly. "No velvet pants."

"Why does everyone give me grief about those?"

"Just get ready. I'll find something myself."

Dean washed and dressed and Sam followed, using the clean cloth and hot water that arrived
surprisingly fast. Sam put together an outfit that met with Dean's approval, although Sam was sure
he'd never have dressed that way under any other circumstances. He had kept his own simple vest
(and its many hidden pockets) but was otherwise far more finely attired than ever in his life. Molly was
waiting on the landing when Sam stepped out of the door; Dean had gone on ahead. He flushed a little
and stammered at having his role in Dean's life made so plain to her.

"No need to worry, Mr. Winchester. I've seen far more shocking things in my life. Although seeing you
dressed like him, that's a disturbing vision."

Sam set down his pack and satchel and continued to look embarrassed despite his laughter, but he told
Molly what Dean had agreed to, and she was similarly skeptical that Mrs. Tyler's side would respond
fairly.

"You'll find him down there, in his element. I suggest you stay close."

Dean was making a circuit of the guests in the main hall – the night was busy, not at the normal levels,
but busy by the standards imposed by the WCTL's attacks – and Dean had found a new confidence
with Sam on his side. He greeted each person by name, with a sparkle in his eye to match the gold
threads in his vest. Sam headed down to the main floor while Molly took up her usual station on the
landing to oversee things. There was the man from the bank, and Councilor Spillman, and two young
men from the blacksmith's shop who'd obviously spent a year's savings on getting in and not on
clothing to suit. These old faces are becoming too familiar. Time to move on. Across the room heading
off down a corridor was Catherine Henry from the boarding house. She caught his glance briefly, her
eyes so dark it was uncanny. Sam's eyes widened and he followed her quickly, but she'd vanished.

"Dean!" Sam said, too softly to be heard but not wanting to attract the room's attention. Dean was
smiling blandly at the worst kind of customer – the unappeasable complainer. Sam caught his eye and
nodded him over as urgently as he could. Dean happily excused himself and strolled over.

"What is it?"

"One of the people from the boarding house is here."

"Well, welcome!" He grinned mischievously, looking around. "This ought to be fun."

"No, Dean, I don't think so. It's Catherine, the one who talked about setting fire to the place. We need
to find her."

Dean was instantly on alert.
"Where did she go?"

"Down this corridor. Where does it lead?"

"All different places. Damn her."

He looked up at Molly, who'd seen the exchange, and gave her a hand signal. She vanished from the
railing and appeared a minute later from the front of the house with the large bouncer.

"Catherine Henry, one of the WCTL crowd. She could be dangerous," explained Sam, without waiting
for the question. "About your height, Molly, in a grey dress."

"She's here to sabotage us, to set a fire," said Dean. "Stop her."

Molly and the guard took the hallway on the left; Sam and Dean took the corridor Sam had seen
Catherine head down.

Barely two turns in, they caught sight of her disappearing around a corner. Dean pressed on, almost
running. At each point where they could go two ways, they saw her hand, or her hair, or her dress for
just a second.

"Either she's lost, or she's waiting for us to catch up," said Sam.

"She's not lost," said Dean with certainty. "She's heading straight for the boiler room."

"That's two floors down!"

"And there are the stairs," replied Dean, as they rounded a corner and watched the stair door swing
shut.

"This is a trap," said Sam.

"Saboteurs don't take time for traps – she'll go straight for the boiler. If you know what you're doing, it's
not hard to shut off a few valves and overheat it."

The last flight of stairs ended at a metal door, but it wasn't the door that stopped Dean cold.

"It's open," said Sam, trying the handle.

"I haven't been in here since they lit it," Dean confessed, hesitating even to take the handle.

"Dean, you need to get past this fear of fire so we can stop her."

Dean pulled the door open slowly and it grated, a loud shriek of metal against metal. Surprise gone, he
pulled the door wide and they peered in, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. With only a knife Sam
carried on him and the pistol Dean carried in his waistband, they moved carefully into the room. It
wasn't large, but there was no sign of Catherine. Dean circled around slowly until he saw her, leaning
against the far side of the boiler, almost caressing it.

"Step away from that," he said, trying to keep calm.

Sam was right beside him. Catherine ignored them and ran her fingers down the side of the boiler
toward the coal door, sinking to her knees.
"Don't do that!" said Sam, knowing she'd burn her hand on it.

She stopped for a second, then grasped the door handle firmly. They could hear her flesh sizzle.

She let out a gasp as the door fell open, flickering orange light bathing her as she turned her hand over
to look at the blistering red burn, wondering at it. Dean looked at Sam, wishing he understood all this.
Catherine looked up at them, a lewd grin twisting her face.

"Everyone says fire is painful," she said, "but I'd forgotten how much."

Sam saw her for what she truly was, a demon, but Dean thought her merely insane. Concerned for the
safety of his house and his customers, he moved to grab her. A shudder ran through her and the
orange glow seemed to come from inside her for a moment.

"Dean, no!" Sam tried to warn him, but too late.

Catherine put her hands out like she was trying to block Dean from view, and he flew back past Sam,
hitting the wall hard.

"This is so much better." She swept Sam away with a wave of her arm, without even touching him. "So
much more power! Pity this flesh won't last." She turned her hands over and saw blisters on the palms
of both, while a red line of pain grew up her arm.

Sam got up first, and tried to get to her, but she held him back. The smell of burnt flesh came to Dean's
nose and snapped him back to awareness; he lurched to his feet, only to be slammed back against the
wall with an invisible hand around his throat. Huge, ugly blisters were forming on her arms now, her
cheeks bright red as if scalded.

"It's that thing, isn't it?" Dean asked.

"It's a demon. A powerful one."

"Ever the gentleman," she said, her voice sounding rougher. "You could take a lesson from that, Dean.
You're the older one - you're supposed to be a role model."

"Sam, how is she doing this?" he said, with effort, almost unable to breathe.

"Demons can unleash their full power once they've possessed someone."

"Such a smart boy. Pity John didn't save enough money to send you to college."

"How do you know us?" growled Dean.

"It hasn't been that long, has it? Just a few weeks since we talked in the hallway? And besides, I've
known you for years, Dean. I've known Sam since before he was born. It's taken me a long time to
find you two again and now here you both are. I can have the pleasure of devouring the last of the
Bennett family. And then you'll find out what Hell really is."

Sam's mind raced, to his father's letter, to his silence about relatives, to the Bennett Family Bible he'd
always assumed was borrowed. He'd been a Winchester since he could remember, and his father too.
"The last of the Bennett family" meant Dean.

Dean was choking on the smell of charred flesh, but he heard her words clearly enough. He knew he
was a Bennett, but Sam – he'd looked in that Bible for a long time that evening on the way back from
Lawrence, unable to fit the pieces in.
The more Sam fought against whatever was holding him back, the stronger the demon's force got. Her
face had flushed bright red, but not a drop of sweat appeared on it.

"Dean?" Sam called, unable to even turn his head now.

"Yeah?" It was ragged and shaken, but he could hear the strength left in Dean.

"Dean, fight her, with all the force you can. The more we fight, the more it hurts her."

Catherine's body gave vent to the demon's fury as she pulled both of them to their knees on the floor
just ten feet in front of her. Her fingers began to burn like overcooked sausages, brown then black, a
sickening smell filling the small room. Sparks swirled from the open furnace and burned wherever they
landed.

Sam fought to get his arm free, as the sparks grew into a cyclone around them. The heat was intense.
Catherine's eyes began to turn white, cooked from inside, her ears and nose burnt to ash.

"So weak you are," came a scornful new voice, one that Dean knew from childhood, that Sam knew
from his dreams – distant, like a low flame flickering in a gust of wind. "You never last long."
Catherine's body was rigid, hair curled up and burnt off, fingers cracking as the bones shattered. Sam
was unable to look away – it was his father's death all over again.

Catherine, what was left of her, shook now, the voice laughing at them. "You think your father had this
much fun, Sam? I finished with him so very fast. Now he's with my children in Hell."

"He isn't." Sam had every reason to deny it; he knew his father was too good a man ever to go to hell.

"Don't you think setting fire to his own wife was reason enough?"

"That's a lie!" roared Sam.

"Of course it is. But so many people believed it. You for one, Dean."

Dean stared with an intense hatred at the thing that held them.

"You got away from me that night, Dean, and yet you never went looking for anyone else in your family.
They were family, Dean."

"I couldn't…" Dean's deepest fears were on his lips; regrets he couldn't avoid seemed to rush at him.

"Dean, don't talk to it. Ignore it. It's lying."

"Samuel Bennett, I think you're the one who's lying. You got that from your father, John Bennett."

Dean turned his head to look at Sam anew, but Sam's face was only incredulity and confusion. Dean
realized he was able to move his left arm slowly.

They were no longer talking to Catherine, but to a charred corpse, meat that fell off bone, bone that
turned to ash. Small wisps of steam and smoke jetted from cracks as she cooked, and a dark shape of
smoke and fire gathered. Dean swung his arm around Sam and pushed back across the room – a
horrible sound came from behind them as the soul that had been Catherine screamed out for life, for
help, for forgiveness as it was consumed. There was a second cry, even more terrible, as the ground
shook and something even darker was obliterated.
Sam was against the wall, Dean covering him, both of them looking back at the blazing thing that they'd
fought once before. Flames lashed out from it, covering Dean's back. Sam swung him around to the
wall to smother them.

Reaching into his coat pocket, Dean pulled out the Bennett Bible.

"When did you…?"

"That night on the road. Sorry. I wanted to look at it."

"You carry it everywhere?"

"It's a Bible, Sam. You don't leave them lying around."

Dean held up the Bible as a ward against evil, and the demon's fiery eyes watched warily.

"Dean, don't play with things you don't truly understand," said the demon in its deep, windswept voice.

"Get out of my house, you flaming son of a bitch!" Dean yelled, moving forward.

Behind him, Sam was fumbling in a pocket of the vest he'd kept from his own clothes.

"Why isn't this working, Sam?" Dean asked, over his shoulder, angry.

"Not sure, Dean. Keep trying." He fiddled with the strings on a bag and got it open, finally.

"I can tell you why it's not working, Dean," the demon offered, scornfully.

Dean opened the book and followed the silk ribbon's guidance to a page. He began to read, but the
demon interrupted him.

"It's not – my – religion!"

The page caught fire. He closed the Bible to stop the flame and the outer cover burst into flames.

"Damn it!" Dean swore, dropping the Bible.

Sam pulled Dean back a step and bent to pour the last of the powder, closing the circle around them, a
thin line of leaves and powdered herbs.

"What is that?" asked Dean.

"Something Widow Aulty taught me."

"What do you think you can do, Sam?" said the fire before him. Your faithful friend, your 'Widow
Aulty'? She burned like the rest. She tried her spells and charms on me, so many more than you
know, and they worked no better than millennia before, when they were first tried."

"It's a protection ring, Dean. I've used it before. It should hold."

"Against a demon?"

"You need the herbs to burn, don't you?" the demon taunted, almost cocky. "Let me."
"What's it doing?" Dean asked, looking down for flames and seeing none. The herbs Sam had so
carefully collected turned black, then grey, with hardly a wisp of smoke from them.

"It burned the herbs," Sam said flatly, his protection gone.

"Isn't that what we wanted?" Dean asked, trying to catch up with the lore.

"The smell is a little off-putting, but not quite up to the banishment standard, Sam. You must not have
paid attention. Or your friend had no idea what she was talking about."

It moved closer to them, a wall of flame, arms and something like legs, and God help them, maybe
even a mouth. Its eyes blazed bright orange to yellow, then to white, and the room's temperature rose.
Sam moved in front of Dean.

"How noble, protecting your older brother. Shouldn't he be in front?"

"Brother?" Dean stepped forward to demand an explanation. It made no sense, except in the very
back of his mind, where it did.

Sam ignored the distractions, the implications of what was edging upward in his mind as the pieces fit
into place, so that he could call up the only defense he knew.

"How ARE you going to do it, Sam Bennett? How can you get rid of me when I'm everywhere? Some
other hoodoo? Magic tricks?"

"Sam – do something," Dean said firmly, a bit scared that his life would end in a dirty basement, at
the…hands?...of what killed his mother.

"Yes, Dean. You are worried, aren't you? Expecting him to do something to save your sorry ass. So
Sam, what's it going to be? What do you think you're dealing with here?"

"An elemental force that serves Hell."

"No need to be so formal; we're old friends."

"Sam? Now!" Dean urged.

Sam let go of the heat, the doubt, the shock of that word the demon had used to describe them, even
the feeling of Dean's hand on his shoulder was blotted out, and in the stillness, he recited the chant
he'd used to heal Dean.

It was inaudible to Dean, but the demon heard it clearly. It just didn't make sense at first. Sam moved
his hands across his head, over his face, down his body, as if washing himself. The demon watched,
unable to sense an attack.

"…out with the fire. In the name of…" was all Dean heard, and then the demon understood. It erupted
in a shower of sparks, and then demon fire, the kind that had burned into Dean's arm, rushed at them
and surrounded them, flickering up and down Sam's arms, which he moved in half circles, forward to
the demon, back on either side of Dean, whom he pushed behind him. The flames flickered down
Sam's neck and Dean tried to put them out, but they relit instantly. The demon's rage thundered down
on them, shaking the room, and the whole building, knocking the boiler against the wall, spilling hot
coals across the floor.

Sam kept chanting. The burn-talking had an odd effect, unforeseen by the demon or by Sam. It
seemed to stop, or rather, to gather the flames and keep them from sinking in. It drew more fire to the
two of them, but as it flowed over and around them, they were untouched, as yet. Sam knew, as Dean
knew, that the moment it touched them they would be lost, eaten away. Ultimately, they were doomed,
and Sam was already tiring.

The demon launched its final attack on them.

"Samuel, do you know what happened to your father? What really happened?"

Sam ignored the demon, feeling for a second both of Dean's hands gripped tightly on his shoulders,
before he sank back into the chant.

"Whatever you're doing, keep doing it," Dean whispered to him.

"John wanted to keep you safe. Forever. He saw the darkness around you. When we asked him what
he was willing to do, he said "anything". Sometimes a little key like that is all it takes to bring in a soul.
He's been burning in hell for nearly five years."

Sam's concentration was shaken, and the flames burnt into his clothes, and his leg. He staggered, but
Dean held him up.

"Keep going. I can take him," said Dean impulsively.

"Take me? You don't know what you're looking at. You're a lazy businessman who cares more about
his own happiness than the lives of others. Not that I care about your sin, but it does seem to have a
hold on you. And did you completely forget how your mother went mad before she killed herself?

"You sonofabitch, you killed her."

"I helped. She was having trouble with the matches. And not just your mother, Dean, I killed your
father, John, too. That had to happen fast, with Sam already on his way home. But your mother - there
I could take my time and enjoy it. She begged for release, for a way to escape the nightmares after so
many weeks. I didn't think she was going to break, but when she was offered a way out, she took it.
She's been in Hell so long…" (and here it paused, as if thinking) "… I just don't know if there's anything
left of her now."

Dean shrank a little, his jaw set tighter. The old fear was coming back strong.

"Sam, now or never." His voice was quiet and gentle. He was going to die, but with Sam, and that
almost made it better.

"I don't know if I can, Dean, I'm drained."

"Speak up, Sam. Just because I can read your mind, doesn't mean it's polite to whisper."

"Why us?" Dean asked, weakening from the heat and lack of oxygen, flames covering his body and
sliding up toward his mouth.

"Dean, think back. Your memory has such treasures in it. Do you see Mom? Her belly all swollen?"

Images flashed in Dean's mind like the flickering flames around him, images of his mother and father,
of her pregnancy, and the sound of the cries from their room, cries of a little baby.

"When your Daddy dragged you down the stairs, do you remember what he was carrying in his other
arm? What he couldn't let go of, even though he let go of you?" The flames crackled loud in the
silence of that moment, and his reply cut through to Sam's ears.
"My baby brother."

The words ripped a hole in Dean's mind so large that he lost sight of the room around him and saw only
the tiny baby that John was holding to his chest, and then he turned and ran into the flames to find
Mom.

DEAN! came the echo of his father's voice.

He shook with the terror of what had been revealed, his eyes screwed shut to stop seeing it, his mouth
twisted in the agony of his ruined life.

"And who is this then, Dean, this man you hold up, this man you've taken inside you?"

"My brother, Samuel," and the words seemed to be pulled from his mouth, joy and terror and disgust
and need all tied around them, cutting his tongue and choking his breath. Not even sobs came to him.

Sam's mind couldn't take any more. He turned his face toward Dean and in a weak whisper, gave him
a final choice.

Dean's hands slipped from Sam and he looked up at the ceiling of the small room, seeing past it to the
people above and the security it had given him. Before him was a man he loved, and a man who might
be No, was! his brother. He could save the whorehouse, and himself, and lose Sam. Or he could save
Sam and lose everything else. He hesitated, and this wounded Sam visibly, his neck blistering as the
cold flames pierced his protection. Sam said nothing.

Time hung, and hung, separate from everything. In that space, Dean decided. He leaned forward to
Sam's ear, thinking only of his awful, selfish choice, very clearly seeing Sam afire before him, burning
to ashes in order to save all the rest of Dean's world. He whispered something utterly different in Sam's
ear, and Sam fell to his knees, and let go. The fire surged around them, plunging into the heart and
bones of the building, as Sam kept the chant going. The demon was caught by surprise; each flame
that poured over Sam pulled a line of fire behind it, ripping the demon apart. It roared its hatred of them
as it disintegrated and vanished into the building, devouring the wood as it went, and the mortar, and all
flesh it found.

Overhead the beams burnt through in seconds, groaning and snapping as they gave way. Sam looked
around at his brother, unable to feel anything, not pain, not love, not even wonder, and collapsed.
Dean knelt by him, tears streaming down his face, a raw, aching, savage look in his eyes. The roof
gave way, debris crashing down on Sam. Dean dug him out, brushed the burning coals off him and
dragged him stumbling out the door and up the stairs, unable to catch his breath in the smoke and pain
and horror of his world.

The fire spread unnaturally fast, and the guests were fleeing in panic as walls caught fire and floors
gave way. Molly had gotten many customers out already, on the suspicion of danger when she couldn't
find Dean, and the rest were convinced by the creaking of the building and the mounting inferno. The
fire brigade came as soon as the first person had reached them and screamed "FIRE!"

Out the winding labyrinth that only he knew, Dean pulled Sam along until Sam passed out and Dean
threw him over his shoulder, Sam's left arm hanging at an odd angle. The brothel was ablaze and he
had no time to gather their things. He stopped once to look back, ripped the sheet of house rules from
the wall, then ran outside to the street with Sam. Molly came to him immediately.

"Mr. Campbell! You're alive!" Her joy faded when she saw his face, and Sam's lifeless body.
Dean said nothing, not even acknowledging her as he crossed the street and lay Sam down gently
against the wall of the building opposite, and then turned to look at his home engulfed in fire.

Around him was spectacle – the customers and working girls, the WCTL's protesters, and the fire
brigade, unable to make a start. Spectators poured into Iron Avenue to see the whorehouse burn, and
some found their loved ones amid the crowd of clients, for better or worse.

Dean was crouched, rigid, Sam lay unconscious, and Molly tended to both of them. She brought Sam
around first. He woke with a groggy look, then an expression of terror as he tried to back up, but the
wall stopped him.

"Samuel! Sit still. Your arm is broken," snapped Molly.

He looked down at it, and then up at Dean on his right. Dean was past tears, into shock.

Molly went around to him, and kept herself in Dean's line of sight, using her bluntness to its best effect.

"Dean. That's gone. He's here." She pointed to Sam until Dean turned slowly to look at Sam sitting
behind him.

Nothing affected him, not even Sam.

The building was fully on fire, and the fire brigade approached cautiously. The roof collapsed,
shattering some of the third floor windows, and a burst of flame and sparks swirled up into the Kansas
sky, and then, like a gas lamp losing its fuel, the fire flickered, then died all at once. The fire captain's
jaw fell open, and the spectators seemed almost disappointed. Sam and Dean sat there, oblivious to
the screams, unable to fit what they saw with what they thought was real.

A vibration from the front, the sound of mortar cracking and wood splintering had the firemen dashing
back, pulling the crowd with them as the top floor sagged and slipped and bent until it dropped
suddenly, stopping abruptly over the front door, and Dean's furniture flew out his window to break on
the street below.

Dean struggled to his feet and then just froze up, his hands clenching. He wasn't able to accept this,
any of it. The money he'd just lost was astonishing, but he'd lost a lot of other things: his ability to
protect Molly and Pearl and the rest, his family. All the stability he'd worked so hard to create over the
past few years was gone in one furious white-hot exhalation, and it hadn't even been the Temperance
women who'd brought him down. And that man behind him. He can't be. Dean wasn't even breathing
now.

"Breathe, Dean!" said Sam, who with Molly's help had stood up and come to him.

Dean took a huge gasp of air, and exhaled and then again, and then looked at Sam, breathing far too
hard and fast for it to be healthy. He was coughing and close to passing out.

"Dean, stop breathing," Sam said this time. He put his good hand on Dean's chest, and said softly, "It's
okay."

"It's not okay, Sam," Dean said, looking up into Sam's eyes, the green eyes that looked just like his,
and tears flowed without sobs.

And then Sam saw what he'd only glimpsed before – a lonely man who had risked, and lost, everything,
in order to gain the family he never had. He was Dean's mirror now, and Dean his, not his brother, nor
his lover, nor his friend. Sam could accept that for a while.
Dean, cheeks wet, stood looking at Sam until the building settled a final time and Dean's bedroom was
nearly at ground level. Dean looked over at the ruin, then looked up and down the street. The entire
town was crowding the length of Iron Avenue, far past Santa Fe and across the river bridge the other
way. They had fallen silent, for the most part, or stayed in hushed groups as the fire brigade and many
volunteers worked to put out the remaining flames.

"Mr. Whitman," came a familiar but strangely tempered voice from behind him.

Dean closed his eyes at the thought of facing her. He turned slowly and looked down at Mrs. Tyler.

"I will offer you and your… friends… a room in my house for one night," and here she included Dean
and Molly with a small nod. "It's the charitable thing to do," she concluded, more for herself than
anyone else.

"Thank you," Sam said, coughing from the smoke.

"You talk to Doc Hanford first." With that, she left.

"That woman brought the place down and now she offers us a room? For a single night?" Molly was
incensed.

"We'll take it," said Sam. "The offer was genuine."

Molly waved over the doctor, a sour old man that people avoided in all but the direst emergencies. He
took a quick look at Sam's arm, without even touching it, and appraised it as "one clean break, easy to
set, gonna hurt unless you want ether, and three weeks in a cast. My office is two streets up. Can you
walk?"

"Dean, come with me," Sam asked.

"I have to stay here," Dean said, suddenly lifeless again, numb.

Molly was the go-between for now: "Samuel, you go with the doctor; come back when you can. I'll stay
with him."

Dean stood looking at the whorehouse, and Sam saw him putting on a face to deal with the crowds,
and the customers, some of whom were still in their undergarments, holding onto the girl they'd run out
with.

"Dean – I'm coming back. Be here."

With that, Sam limped off with the doctor to have his arm set.

"Dean," said Molly.

"Why are you calling me Dean?" he asked, confused.

"Because I need you to hear me," Molly replied. "That was no natural fire. I need to know what we're
facing."

"It's gone," he said, praying he was right.

"Fire's never gone. It's never really under our control at all."
"You're like Sam with your supernatural tales," said Dean, sounding far away.

"He may well love you."

"Like a brother."
CHAPTER THIRTEEN

June 27, 1872

Sam left the doctor's office, still wobbly. It was well past midnight, and the town had just gotten to sleep
after the events of the evening. It'd been just barely 7:30 when he first caught sight of Catherine Henry
running down the corridor; somehow their encounter with the demon had taken almost four hours of
their lives. He saw Catherine now in the remnant of the ether's hallucinations and the powerful
painkiller Doc Hanford had given him. Her eyes were jet black through and through. He shook his
head and she vanished, but he stumbled sideways in his dizziness and had to stop for a minute to let
his head clear.

From the corner of Fifth and Iron, he could see at least thirty people in front of the smoking ruins of
Dean's club, helping to clear away the wreckage, or hand-pumping water through a hose they'd
patched together to reach the river two blocks away. Sam approached the structure. The buildings on
either side seemed undamaged, although one would need shoring up.

"Stay clear of that, sir!" warned the brigade leader, pointing up at the sagging roof and upper floor, a
foot or two above Sam's head.

On the ground lay several of Dean's books, and items from his now-shattered desk. Sam knelt to pick
them up. Pressed into the muddy ground in the bottom of a footprint was a small golden object, which
he recognized from Dean's bed table. The notebook that had lain next to it was not there now. Sam
held up the tiny sculpture, a mask in bronze, and examined the strange face on the piece. He pocketed
it in his vest. Standing up a little unsteadily, Sam headed for the boarding house to find Dean.

He was feeling nothing through the shock and codeine but nausea, and a mild throbbing in his arm. No
pain, no excitement, in fact, nothing the demon tried to taunt them with had taken hold yet. He
remembered running – running from his father's immolation only to discover Widow Aulty shared his
fate, then into the arms of hunters who were only too willing to blame him for both killings. I won't run,
Dad. Time to stop running. What he remembered most clearly from the basement was Dean leaning
close to his ear and whispering two words: "save yourself," and then all hell broke loose.

The boarding house was not dark, despite the hour. Mrs. Tyler had found her heart, true, but regretted
her decision deeply the moment Molly passed through the side gate, Dean beside her, in burned
clothes, hair singed and his eyes red and empty looking. Her house was now unclean, and it would
take a long time to restore her sense of calm. Lights burned in the front parlor, where Sam could see a
prayer circle. Light came from the kitchen as well, where Dean had settled when he first arrived, then
left without turning the lamps out. Sam slipped into the backyard silently, not wanting to face Mrs.
Tyler. The cottage was lit as well, but only Molly was there, and she couldn’t tell him where Dean was.
Sam was off across the yard toward town again, worrying now.

"Samuel!" she whispered as loudly as the hour would allow.

He turned.

"Give him time alone."

"No. He's had that." Sam strode off toward the gate and into town.

Only two saloons were still open, a quick look up and down Santa Fe told him, but Dean wasn't in either
one. Dean wasn't by his club, or near the river. Sam stood on the street, summer stars over him, a dull
ache in his arm and a numbness in his chest. How did I find and lose a brother so quickly in such a
small town? That word reached him now and shook him, as it hadn't in the middle of their fight against
the demon. His years in the dark, all those years alone without family, not even a distant cousin, now
seemed pale and incomplete. Why did Dad not tell me this, even when he wrote his will? Was he
ashamed of Dean? Was Dad guilty of something? The increasing absurdity of his questions struck him
and pulled him out of the daze he was in, momentarily. He didn't like questions he couldn't answer.

The medicine kept pushing him back toward drowsiness, toward bed. He knew Dean would be wide
awake at this hour, regardless of where he was, yet Sam, frustrated, could only talk with Molly, hoping
she had some advice. Molly sat him carefully on the bed next to her.

"We rescued most of your things," Molly said, looking briefly at his bags. In the corner were his pack
and satchel. "When the fire first raced up the wall of the main hall. Pearl grabbed them."

"Molly, you're a miracle!" he said, and embraced her with his good arm. "Everything I have is in those
bags."

"Sit here and let me see what the doctor did for your arm," she said, in her business-like tone.

She inspected it carefully, adjusting his thumb and fingers a few times until the cast felt more
comfortable. Sam grew drowsier with each minute.

"You ever had a brother?" he said sleepily, his caution blunted by the codeine.

"I had a sister, Mr. Winchester, but I lost her long ago. She was everything to me."

"I never had a brother… Is it good?"

"She was very good to me. We were separated when I was only four, but I never forgot her. She was
only a year older, but she took care of me like family always does. Or should," she said more softly, so
as not to wake the young man at her side. Not more than five minutes after arriving, Sam fell asleep
with his face on Molly's shoulder. She laid him down gently without waking him, arranging his newly
plastered arm carefully at his side. You've taken to my Mr. Campbell very quickly, and he to you. But
you won't last here, Samuel; you'll have no peace now.

***

Past the Smoky Hill River was Smoky Hill, a name Dean now found ironic and painful. And yet, it was
the perfect place to be. Lit only by the waning moon among the stars, this hill was a place to be utterly
alone. Salina lay before him, mostly dark, with some lamps illuminating the smoke and steam that rose
from his brothel, now gone. At the bottom of that heap of burnt, broken wreckage was a Bible charred
to ash, just like the man who'd treasured it and passed it to his son.

There was the hate he'd nursed for so long, for the father who'd left him, and lived to tell of it, but never
bothered to tell. The father who could have come to find him, but never had, or perhaps had come, only
to find no son there. The father who'd raised Sam to be the strong, loving man he was. His father,
John Bennett, who became John Winchester, who'd died at the hands of something so supernaturally
evil before Dean could have the chance to take his own retribution, or be held once more in the strong
arms he knew from childhood. Perhaps it was both revenge and reunion he wanted, but little was clear
to him now.

The occasional figure moved up Iron Avenue or down Ash Street. Dean even spotted Sam, he was
sure, one arm bent and wrapped in a triangle of white cloth, walking toward the brothel, where Dean
lost sight of him and turned away to walk along the hilltop. He couldn't face Sam now, but he couldn't
run from what his memory told him about his own failings with his little brother. I should have come to
find you, Sam. I can't blame Dad or demons for that. How did I forget you?
***
June 28

A knock on the door woke Sam, who momentarily found himself on that first morning a month earlier,
waking in his clothes, feet hanging off the bed. The rapping came again, and he braced himself for
Mrs. Tyler's pitying scold. Molly was not there, that much he knew.

He opened the door, eyes wincing shut at the bright light.

"I'll be there for breakfast, Mrs. Tyler," he said, running his hand over his eyes as his head joined his
arm in painful complaints.

Dean was biting his lip, a laugh trying to creep forth, a sad longing for lost time that he suppressed as
well, and a deep curiosity about Sam. My little brother. And I love him.

He cleared his throat and said, "I hear her food is atrocious."

Sam's eyes flew open, which made the headache worse, but what he saw worked nearly as well as the
codeine on the desk behind him. Dean looked exhausted, his eyes dark and lined underneath, up well
past his bedtime.

"Where were you all night?" Sam asked, clearing away the mundane questions first to make way for the
more vital things.

"Walking. And you? All fixed up?"

"Doc said three weeks I can take the cast off. Where's Molly?"

"Haven't seen her. Look, I'm starving," said Dean almost reflexively. "Would you like to eat?" No
mention of anything of significance, no sign he even remembered.

"Dean, that was a hell of a night. We have to talk – "

"We have to keep our strength up," he interrupted. "Come on, Sammy; bring your lame arm with you."

"Why did you disappear last night? I asked you to be there when I got back."

"Trust me, I was already gone. I have my ways of dealing with things, and for all we think we know
about each other, well, you don't know me just yet."

"I could say the same." It was gently contentious, almost a playful rivalry, and it felt odd and good.

"Sam, I know you're as hungry as I am. I've seen you shovel food into your mouth – must be how you
got so damn tall. And you'll probably want to do something stupid later, like talk to Mrs. Tyler about
letting us stay for a little while."

"And you're going to gorge yourself now and sleep until early evening, and probably longer."

"I'll buy."

"I'll tuck you in."

***
Dean paid for breakfast and Sam got to choose. Sam wanted the meat pies at Sillery's, where the
owners were quite empathetic about Dean's loss and cut the price in half, a good thing since they ate
nearly a dozen pies between them. The owner's wife, Aline, even went next door for a case of beer,
Sam having been one of their best and most regular customers. The disastrous night before seemed
like a curious event from weeks ago, not eight hours past. Dean's lack of sleep and Sam's medicated
state seemed to stretch their lazy morning out even further, and that had its own healing power.

"What are we going to do?" was Sam's question. Dean heard the 'we' and it registered somewhere
inside him.

"I love these pies," he said, at a loss for better words. "And I like you somehow."

"Um, thanks," Sam said lightly, unsure how to take the sentiment.

Dean looked up then at Sam, whose sixth pie was halfway to his mouth. Sam stopped, mid-bite.

"You're welcome. Do you - ?"

"Yeah, I do," Sam said quickly, then finished his bite and took another as well. He wanted his mouth
full before this went any further.

"I need to talk to the sheriff," Dean said next. "Tell them about that woman from the WCTL. It makes a
perfect cover for the, … well, for the fire. She was really there, so someone else must have seen her."
Dean bit into his own last pie, hoping to prevail on this topic.

"Dean, you can't blame her, or them. She was – " He stopped as Mrs. Sillery approached with two
more beers. " – not herself, " he finished, as she left.

"This could shut them down for good."

"The WCTL is already in retreat. They were up all night praying. They'll notice Catherine's gone soon
enough. Let them put it together themselves."

As they left, still disagreeing, Mr. Spillman approached them just outside the door.

"Mr. Campbell, although this may not be the best time, we thought you should know."

"Know what, Spillman?"

"The city council has met and decided to condemn your property. It will revert to city control on June
30."

Dean received this with a strange calm that made Sam take up the defense on his behalf.

"You did that between last night and this morning? Are you giving in to every demand the WCTL
makes?" he asked.

"And who are you?" said Spillman, looking at Sam as if he were an annoying pet. "Are you this investor
we've heard talk about? If so, you'd do well to take a good long look at what you're getting invested in.
It's a hopeless ruin. And so's the whorehouse! Heh!" he cracked, years of blackmail lifting from his
back.

"Spillman, I hope you find out what's out there in the dark, some day," Dean said, and took off down the
street.
"Your threats don't scare me any more, Campbell," he yelled after Dean.

"They aren't threats," Sam added, then caught up to Dean.

Where Iron Avenue crossed Santa Fe Avenue, they stopped. Three blocks further was the boarding
house – a place to rest. Just a hundred yards to the left was the club, a gruesome black hulk in the
midday sun. Dean approached it, and looked at the sign over the front door, charred and askew.

"Never did get that repainted."

"Be careful, Dean."

"What else could happen? Huh, Sam?" He sounded frustrated.

He stood looking at the walls, and the crumbling bricks in piles in the mud where they'd fallen, burnt
through with lines of hellfire. He'd stood there four years earlier, deed in hand, looking into the eyes of
a Guatemalan prostitute named Molly, who said she'd help him make a go of it if he wanted to, and if
he followed her rules.

He looked up, to keep the tears from running over, and found he was able to see, bizarrely, into his own
bedroom. The notebook he kept by his bed was lost now. The amulet too. Everything.

Sam could see the anger rising in Dean. Dean looked around, eyes cold. He found a desk leg and
twisted it free of the desk, then swung it at the wall, beating it as hard as he could until the leg
splintered and lodged in the hole he'd broken open. His arms strained to pull it out, to keep hitting.

"Dean!"

Dean turned around, tears down one cheek, rage leaking out of him at the sound of Sam's voice.

Not everything.

"Come back to the cottage and rest."

"Sammy, what am I going to do?"

"Come with me."

Dean followed a step behind until Sam slowed a bit to let him catch up and their shoulders rubbed.

"Sorry," said Dean. He was sorry for so many things, but most of all for the naked emotion and
desperation he'd shown.

"No" was Sam's kind, quiet reply. I'm not sorry.

***

Dean slept all afternoon and into the early evening, curled on the bed in the cottage, waking when Sam
brought supper from the boarding house. It was nearly inedible, but he made a show of enjoying it for
Sam's sake.

"Where's Tyler?" he asked.

"Avoiding us."
"Where's Molly?

"Avoiding us."

"What? Why?"

"I hate to think. Oh, I found this," Sam said, taking the small bronze figure out of his vest pocket.

Dean had no words, but reached for it with both hands.

"What is it?" Sam asked, seeing the reaction.

"Something Mom gave me. I guess I liked it as a kid."

"You must have been a strange kid."

"I thought it was gone." He held it before his eyes, then looked at Sam intensely. "Thank you."

"Molly did say she found some of your things." Sam pointed to a pile of bound records, the ledgers
Dean had asked her to keep. Among them he found a tiny notebook burnt along the front cover and
sides.

"My notebook!"

Dean opened the book to the middle, to the entry he'd made after Lawrence. He snorted at something
funny, but didn't share it.

Sam smiled. Dean was truly happy in that moment; some remnant of his former life had been kept
alive. Dean flipped back in his notebook, then asked suddenly, "Do you have any photographs of your
father?"

"No, he didn't like to be photographed. I wish I did."

"How did he pick Winchester? It's a great name."

"I don't know; it was always Winchester; he hid the past from me, buried the Bennett part of himself.
He seemed to hate the idea of relatives or family. He said we had to stay on the move. He sheltered
me from everything, and when I asked for the truth, he stopped talking."

The food had gone cold, but the summer evening was still light, and Dean was wide awake now. He
was not as punchy as in the morning, but not hitting emotional extremes either.

"What about Mom?" asked Sam hesitantly.

"My mom?" Dean said, and then apologized instantly. "Sorry. Mom. Mom was… great. I don't know
what to say, Sam. She died when I was four and a half."

"Two weeks after I was born." And then Sam had to ask the hard question: "How did you forget about
me?"

Dean thought a long time about that, but his answer didn't satisfy either of them. For Dean, childhood
was a blur, especially after so many attempts to blot it out, making himself forget the pain of
abandonment and abuse. Worse, he couldn't say exactly why Sam had faded out, except that they'd
been kept apart from each other. For Sam, it made logical sense that Dean could never have found
them in Tennessee, but he wanted Dean to have tried, to have come to him, years ago, so they
wouldn't have this awkward gap in their lives. He'd never say that to Dean outright.

"I was hurt," Dean ventured, after a long pause as he ran his thumb up and down the spine of his
notebook, his jaw working when he fell silent. "They said I had a concussion from the house falling on
me. And it all hurt, all of it, Mom, Dad…. And they didn't exactly show you off. You were at the
hospital for a week and in Mom and Dad's room for a week, and I didn't get to see you much."

He had Sam's full, rapt attention. The green eyes, so much like his, never blinked, not when he looked
up, or away, or back again.

"They fought a lot. Mom had nightmares." His voice trailed off, and his shoulders slumped down.

"Sorry." It was all Sam could think to say.

"Don't apologize, Sam! Be angry! That thing you destroyed yesterday killed my mother and your father."

"Your father, and my mother," Sam prodded him.

"Call it what you want," said Dean, sounding resigned.

"He was your father too."

"Sam, I never knew him. I spent my life hating him."

A silence fell, lit by the vibrant blue of the early twilight sky filling the window. After a moment, Dean
took up their slow reunion again, the demon's words lingering in his head.

"Our parents are in hell? The actual Hell? Lake of fire and all that?"

"We can't believe all the things a demon says." It sounded unconvincing because he was sure of what
they'd heard, and how it felt in his heart. The demon might have lied about some things, but not about
their being brothers, so what else was true?

Dean echoed his thoughts: "It was sure pretty accurate about us."

"Dad would never have made a deal for his soul, not with some flaming demon like we saw. He hunted
a little, you know? Widow Aulty taught him a few things, like she taught me. He would have known
better. He would have seen the trap." Sam refused to indulge the nagging doubt that his father might
just have been tricked, if the demon had found his weakness.

"What about Mom?" Sam asked in reply. "How could she be in hell?"

"If she is, she's been there a long time. That thing wasn't sure if she was still there." Dean didn't know
what that even meant, but it sounded bad. Hell was supposed to be forever.

"Dean, you don't just get out of hell. It's forever."

"How do you know so much about this? Is there a hunter school? If there is, sign me up."

"Everyone finds their way into it; we've all paid the same price. If you didn't want to kill the thing that
hurt you, or save other people from getting hurt by it, you wouldn't become a hunter."

"But you killed it, right?" Dean waited, looking at Sam like he would have this answer, at least.
"I don't know what I did, Dean. I kind of blacked out there. What I tried shouldn't have worked. That
demon was something much more powerful than anything I've ever encountered, or even heard of."

"It isn't gone?"

"I used 'burn talking', the very same thing I did for your arm. It was all I could think to try when the Bible
and the herbs had no effect. It's not a spell for demons; it's not even a spell, just focusing your mind
and saying a simple prayer. I didn't believe it would really hurt the demon, just buy us time."

Sam was helplessly out of his depth now, trying to explain demonology and folklore and how he'd
driven off something so strong; Dean was beginning to feel the hunting drive build in him; killing
monsters was sport, at least. Now it could be a form of vengeance.

"If it's not dead, I'm gonna make it dead," he said conclusively.

"Dean, you're not a hunter. You have a lot of the skills, but …"

"Then you hunt it down, call on me when you find it."

"Dean…" Sam gave up arguing. "I'm exhausted. Can we get into this tomorrow? You can take the
bed."

"Well thanks, but if you're so tired, you can have it. I need to get out of here, walk a bit."

Molly turned the door handle with a brief knock and came in, pushing the cottage nearly to its capacity.

"I hope you two are comfortable on the floor. I asked that old shrew if she could possibly find two more
pillows and she looked at me like I was asking her to an orgy. Honestly, and after refusing to let any of
us into her house. I think she's going to tear down this cottage when we're gone."

"Bed's yours," Sam said to Molly, tired of his legs hanging off the end.

"I'm out of here. See you later," said Dean. Restless again, he headed out to walk and think, to find
some way to escape the emotions and just be himself again, free from pain.

***

Molly settled herself into the bed after removing most of her clothes. Sam averted his face, which she
called "gentlemanly" of him. The night was airless; cicadas shrilled in the cottonwoods outside. Sam
found a patch of floor along the wall next to the desk, and cleared a similar strip where Dean could lay
down by the other wall. The pillow assured his head of a comfortable rest, but the wood floor made his
body ache after only a few minutes.

"Molly?"

"Yes, Mr. Winchester."

"How did you meet him?"

The darkness seemed to give them both a bit more freedom to speak.

"Some wonderful person named Kelleher, he killed the property owner and the madam who used to run
the place. She was sleeping with the owner, and found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time,
which was under him. Not that it was a loss for the world. Mr. Campbell showed up the next week with
some papers that gave him title and ownership of the business. He told everyone he'd outwitted a
double cross and survived because the killer took down the wrong man."

"That's what he told me."

"What he told you is likely not the whole truth, or even half."

"No?" Sam sat up to listen to this, newly interested, tiredness forgotten.

"He picked up the wrong package and forgot the address he was supposed to be at. If he'd been
smarter, he'd be dead."

"How do you know all this?"

"He told me himself. After I'd known him a while. When you hear more of the truth from him, you'll
know he's getting to be your friend."

Sam settled back to think about this.

"Mr. Winchester, if I might give you some advice?"

"Of course."

"Pay attention to him. It's the only talent you require, and the only care he really needs."

Sam found this last bit of advice particularly confusing, as Dean seemed to need a lot of care. He
dozed uncomfortably until Dean returned a few hours later, waking him. Rather than talk, Dean merely
closed the door behind him and then undressed and lay down. The cottage was stifling in the heat,
even with the window open. Sam rolled on his broken arm a few times, jerking awake in pain, until he
found a way to lay comfortably with his arm out. Dean tossed, snored, and fell into a nightmare of
childhood now fresh and vivid from the demon's attack – his mother, sitting on her bed, slumped and
weak, entirely on fire.

He woke with a shout, sweat dripping off him - the cottage had become a cook box. He shook his head
repeatedly until the vision left him. In the early light, he could just make out Sam's legs and mended
arm bent at a strange angle by the wall. Sam was sweating too; he hadn't removed his shirt or pants
and the temperature was well above that of the outside air; no wind breathed in the yard. He could
smell Sam, under the flowery perfume that Molly wore. It was the same pine tar soap he'd noted on
their first meeting, plus a lingering odor of smoke, and now sweat. And again, behind it all, a smell he
liked, but couldn't place. Even when he'd had rubbed his face over every inch of Sam's body, he hadn't
found the source of that particular scent. Great. I'm slowly roasting, dreaming of my mom's death, and
getting turned on. By my brother. Dean slumped back on the floor in the face of this cursed life that
seemed determined to embrace him. He fell asleep eventually, willing the dream to leave him alone
this time, willing his body to lust for someone, anyone else. Sam's soft snoring worked better than a
sedative in the end, and Dean slept.

Sam felt something moving around in his mind – the demon reading his thoughts, laughing at him and
his feeble attempts to stop it. He was back in the boiler room, neck blistering, leg pierced by the
demon's fire, the roof collapsing on him, crushing his arm. He turned around to find Dean and he was
alone with the demon, entirely alone. When he opened his eyes in panic, it was day, and Molly was
looking down at him, a sweet smile on her face.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN

June 29, 1872 – Salina, Kansas

"Wake up, Mr. Campbell! It's seven a.m. Mr. Winchester is already awake."

It was Molly, Dean's alarm clock.

"Breakfast will be served at nine. We have to eat in the kitchen, after everyone has left, says the
shrew."

Dean snorted in his half-awake state, a sly grin creeping up on one side of his mouth at Molly's
constant dislike of Mrs. Tyler. He dozed off and on as Sam and Molly talked.

Molly was pleased to report that Pearl was alive, having run to a friend's house and hidden, afraid the
WCTL would come after everyone. She was also happy to share that Mrs. Tyler and the others were
concerned that Catherine was missing, but as she couldn't have been in the whorehouse, they
believed, the possibility that she was dead was discounted. Catherine's absence fueled rumors that
she had set the fire and then fled the town, which Mrs. Tyler took great pains to deny when the
newspaper sent a reporter to talk to her. She explained the WCTL's mission and its absolutely
peaceful nature, but became flustered when the violence at the saloon and the rejection of the liquor
shipment were raised.

"When Miss Henry returns, she'll explain fully what she has been doing and where she was that night,"
Tyler told the sheriff and the agents from Topeka, who had been unable to find Catherine in Salina or
any of the surrounding towns.

***

Dean ultimately began the day closer to nine a.m., after Molly had led him, groggy and half-awake, to
the rain barrel at the corner of the house and dunked him into it a few times. Sam watched intently and
laughed at the spluttering, dripping man in front of him.

"That's very effective," he commented to Molly.

"Pay attention, Mr. Winchester. You may need this skill."

Sam was uncomfortable enough already at Molly's apparently complete (if unconcerned) knowledge of
their relationship, especially now that they were sharing a tiny cottage. That she might know (or that
Dean might let slip) that they were brothers unsettled him. She wouldn't understand that, even if two
men's affection for each other didn't trouble her.

Dean's burns were beginning to reassert their presence and after breakfast Molly tended to them,
before they could become infected. She did the same for Sam's worst burns, on his neck and calf.

"Can you do that thing on yourself that you did up in my room?" asked Dean casually in the middle of
Molly's bandaging.

"Never tried it," said Sam tersely, not wanting to discuss his healing prayer in front of Molly. Everything
that connected him to Dean seemed to be finding a way back to their sexual encounters, in his mind.
Worse, he was sitting in his underwear as Molly tended to his leg and Dean kept stealing glances at
him, never as far up as his eyes, but certainly not as far down as his calf, where Molly was bandaging.
Instead, his gaze, heavy as his hands, seemed to return over and over to his thighs and areas that
responded of their own accord. Dean was trying not to look, not to be drawn, not to remember the
afternoon before the fire and how good he'd made Sam feel.

By eleven, Dean was dressed. Molly had been able to gather a simple suit for him from one of the
Club's regular customers. It wasn't nearly as rich or tailored or eye-catching as he wanted, but he
understood the need for keeping out of the spotlight.

"Coming with me, Sam?" Dean asked.

"Where to?"

"Talk to the saloon owners. See if we can get them organized against the Temperance folks."

"Dean, the city council's already sided with the League to shut you down."

Molly noted, in a voice meant only for Sam to hear, "Mr. Winchester, it might be better if you were
there, in case Mr. Campbell needs your assistance. He doesn't always choose the diplomatic way."

***

Sam's presence proved useful, because Dean not only did not give up the fight – he got a new one
started as well. At the club, their first stop, now being dismantled and carted away, Dean found none of
the sympathy he had expected, not even from the volunteers or spectators who had been his
customers. Most of them pointedly avoided him. Mr. Falkener, the main insurance agent in town and a
regular visitor at the club, approached Dean and Sam.

"Payment of your claim will be held until a cause is determined, Mr. Campbell."

Dean looked at Sam, then back to Falkener. "Of course, Jack."

"Mr. Falkener, if you please." There was no one paying attention, but he lowered his voice anyway
when he said it. "Proving how this happened could be impossible. If, as you told the sheriff yesterday,
it was a boiler explosion, the evidence so far does not support that.

"It may have been sabotage. We saw someone inside just before the fire started."

"Someone?"

"Dean," Sam said quietly, but firmly, and it meant "hush" – Dean knew that.

"Someone who shouldn't have been on the premises," he explained.

"Rumors of Temperance League members attacking are troublesome to say the least. It's unfortunate
for you in any case, as that sort of damage is not covered."

"Do you have a point?" said Dean, cocky at the worst time.

"The point is, I don't expect my company will have to pay a penny. Gentlemen." He left with the curtest
of nods and returned to his office at the corner.

***

"Have you tried being polite to people?"

They were walking up Santa Fe before Dean formed his response.
"What the hell good does that do, Sam?"

"Let me show you."

They entered the saloon run by Joe Landon. It was empty, which at midday was unusual, except for a
few of the most loyal customers.

"Gentlemen!" said Sam cheerfully.

"What the hell do you want?" said one man at the bar.

"Mr. Campbell would like to discuss a strategy for dealing with the WCTL."

For this effort at civility, Sam got a right cross to the jaw and ended up hanging off Dean's arm when
Dean stopped him from falling.

"Sam, back off. You're in no shape for this."

Sam turned his body to protect his left arm, but didn't move from Dean's side.

"Gentlemen," said Dean in the most forceful voice he could manage that was still polite.

"Campbell, you and your friend need to get out of here," said Joe, emerging from behind the bar, hands
free and ready to fight.

"Joe, come on…."

"You ruined this town, Campbell. You and your damn whorehouse. Kept yourself in the public eye until
they couldn't stand to look at you anymore. Now you're taking us all down!"

"Hey, Joe, I'm the one who lost everything, not you," Dean reasoned in a cold but still friendly tone.

"You son of a bitch!" He swung and Dean dodged back. "That damn church group had more people at
the last council meeting than we did." He swung a wild left and missed again. "They're cutting the
licenses for all of us." He swung again and connected, sending Dean onto his ass on the floor.

Sam stepped in front of Dean, waiting until Joe took a swing at him, and kicked Joe's legs out from
under him with a quick sweep of his long leg. He had his foot on Joe's throat in a second, fist up and
ready.

"Teach me how to do that sometime," Dean said under his breath. He addressed the men who
approached them, as well as Joe, in a clear voice. "Are you going to let this happen? Let Tyler and her
busybodies shut down every saloon?"

From the floor, Joe rasped, "They got enough of the council to agree to take us out one by one, as the
licenses expire. We can't fight it."

"Dean –," Sam warned; the men were not happy seeing Joe literally under the boot of one of Dean's
men and were moving closer.

"Get out of town, Campbell," said Cal Sherman, owner of the Smoky River Saloon, emerging from the
crowd of men. "There's no more damage to do. Except to you, personally." He pulled a knife from his
hip and turned it slowly.
Dean wasn't used to this level of dislike. A month earlier, he'd held the town in his hands, and dislike
from hypocrites he had always shrugged off, even secretly enjoyed. It was part of his life. This was
hatred from former allies, and it stung.

"Sam. Let him go. We're leaving."

Sam lifted his foot from Joe's neck and backed toward Dean, and they withdrew.

***

Unable to find anything to his liking in Mrs. Tyler's pantry (during the brief times she allowed any of
them access), Dean and Sam had taken to eating at the Sillery's pie shop or at the home of Pearl's
friend.

They headed there after the fight and were fed to the gills by Pearl's friend Sara; the heavy meal left
them with little energy for anything. Two poor nights' sleep caught up with them on the shaded but very
warm porch. Dean was pressing a wet towel against the bruise on his jaw, and passing it back and
forth to Sam for his swollen lip. The chairs were large and comfortable, and close enough that Sam
could put his good arm out and rest his hand on Dean's thigh, once he was sure they wouldn't be
disturbed.

"I hate this town," Dean said abruptly.

"You loved it not so long ago."

"Well, I hate it now."

"If the saloon owners want you out, can they make that happen?"

"I'm not running, Sam."

"No, no, I just don't think you should die here in Salina at the hands of a bartender with a grudge."

"If I die in a fight, that's fine. I wouldn’t want to end up shoved out to the edge of civilized Kansas,
settled in some little house on the prairie." He paused. "What about you? Where will you go?"

"Lawrence, I think. It's where everything started."

"I was thinking about going to Chicago at some point. Get into a whole different line of business. Until
a couple of years ago when the whole place burned down." Dean froze, and his head snapped up,
then in Sam's direction. "That wasn't…"

"No, that was just a series of unfortunate events."

Pearl's voice drifted out the window, prompting Sam to ask, "Why did you keep the brothel?"

"I did the best I could to get the girls off the streets – not to be beaten, or develop sicknesses, or find
themselves pulled into crime," said Dean, staring at something far in the distance.

"Dean Campbell, the noble brothel owner?" asked Sam, skeptical but smiling.

"I ran a clean house. I know what I'm doing," he said defensively. "Place was a mess when I took it
over – half the girls had some kind of social disease, hell, even the pox. They didn't call them 'soiled
doves' without reason. Callahan – the madam's guard – beat them, and the madam didn't give a shit –
some of the girls just vanished when she was killed. Molly stuck around."
Sam wanted to ask, "Was it lonely?" but he held back, realizing how selfish that question was. He
wasn't surprised when Dean asked it later.

"Was that the life you wanted?" he asked instead.

"The life I wanted? Nobody gets that. I have the life I made."

"Well, you made a start at a normal life. I sure haven't," admitted Sam, thinking of their father's lies and
his own entry into the life of a hunter, too quickly, too easily.

"I wasn't living a normal life, Sam; I thought you noticed that."

"It looks better than what I've had the last five years."

"What did you do…" Dean paused to find the best way to put it, but couldn't. "What did you do when
Dad died?"

"I became a hunter."

"Just like that? Most people just cry and bury the guy and move on."

"A friend of a friend, let's say. They found me. Thought I'd killed him myself, at first."

"You're kidding." Dean turned his head to look at Sam. "You must have been lonely."

Sam found it puzzling to be talking about his private thoughts with this newly related man, but he
wanted to keep going.

"It was always lonely, just me and Dad. It just got a bit worse, is all."

"Answers don't seem easy."

"I wonder if they could be."

The flat prairie stretched south to the horizon, a deep afternoon heat creeping into them. They dozed
off, Sam waiting for Dean to ask, Dean waiting to be asked.

***

That evening they walked back to Mrs. Tyler's, a fair ways from where Pearl's friend lived on the
outskirts. It was still hot, and fireflies swarmed over the grass along the riverbank, making them both
unreasonably nervous.

"I used to like those," Sam said with some regret.

"I never did."

"So, you're my brother," Sam said awkwardly, even though Dean was essentially a captive audience.
He'd been trying it out in his head in several different ways, and needed to hear it out loud.

In the distance, south and west, a line of thunderstorms was flickering silently.

"Sam, do we have to talk about that?" Dean stopped walking.
"I always wondered if I had a brother. I always wanted one."

Dean was looking at the back of Sam's head, thinking about resting his face in the curve of neck and
shoulder.

"I didn't think about it that much. But don't take that wrong," he added.

Sam turned to look at Dean, to convey his honesty, as he said, "If I'd known you were my–"

"Well that goes without saying."

"The stuff we did…."

"Can we agree not to talk about this ever again?

"Dean Campbell, the prude. You ran a whorehouse. You knew the sex secrets of an entire town." It
was mocking, mixed with a kind of awe.

 "I'm not a prude, it's just,..." and he ran a hand over the back of his neck a few times, trying but unable
to finish the thought.

"No, not a prude. Prudes don't grow up whorehouses and sleep with the girls at fourteen."

"Thirteen." The correction was so matter of fact that Sam chuckled at the reddened cheeks and the
nervous fidgeting. He enjoyed it and decided to push a bit more.

"Well, you're twenty-five now, and you offered men in your club. You didn't hide your attentions from
me. That was risky."

"It's not the man thing, it's the brother thing. That doesn't bother you?" Dean found it odd, but almost
beside the point by now.

"It should, I guess. I've done things with my brother that you're just not supposed to do."

"Yeah, well I fucked my brother too; let's consider that."

"Okay, we…we – each other," Sam replied.

Sam turned and strolled on ahead, slowly, listening for the sound of Dean's sturdy boots hitting the
hard-packed trail. It was only a few seconds until he heard the regular rhythm matching his.

"Sam, we're so far past crossing the line, I think I'd be happy just to go back to walking that line."

"We should probably give all that a rest then," Sam said.

"Absolutely." Dean's voice was close behind him now.

Neither of them thought a flimsy patch like that would last long, but it covered a wound they didn't have
the strength to tend to.

***

They returned to town across the bridge on Iron Avenue, and Dean stopped to look at where his club
had been. Sam watched him as he stared at the pile of bricks and wood that had been his. It was like
Sam had vanished from his mind. He spoke twice without any response from Dean, who was squinting
or crying, Sam couldn't tell exactly. He touched Dean's shoulder and finally got his attention.

"I need to get back to the cottage – I've got to work on something."

"I'll be there in a bit," Dean said absently.

"Watch yourself, Dean," Sam cautioned. A brisk southwest wind and thunderheads piled up in the west
said a storm was on its way. The thunder seemed distant, but the smell of rain was in the air.

At the cottage, Sam went to work on a way to get out of town, creating counterfeit tickets and papers
should they need them. Molly was curious and helped him.

"Are you leaving soon?"

"I don't know. Things got pretty ugly today in the saloon."

"Is that where you got that bruise?"

"M-hm."

"And you left Mr. Campbell out there?"

"He can take care of himself."

The sharp rap at the door could only be Mrs. Tyler. When they opened it, her face was more drawn
than usual.

"You will have to leave tomorrow," she said tersely and pulled the door shut again.

She didn't bother to explain herself, but Molly ran after her and Sam could hear them arguing in the
yard.

"We are very grateful for your charity, Mrs. Tyler, but there is nowhere else to go," Molly said, trying not
to sound like she was pleading.

"You may as well leave town. There won't be any more work for you or your kind here."

"Are you saving me from sin? Telling me to get out doesn't give me a new start in life. I thought the
WCTL was about ending prostitution by helping women find new ways to fit in."

"Christian women, yes."

"Christian women with blue eyes. Do you want to see me saved, or not?"

"I want to see the back of you, or none of you at all!" was Mrs. Tyler's final slap.

Molly stormed back into the cottage, hands crushing the sides of her dress.

"Can you make me a ticket too? I can't stay here now, if Mr. Campbell isn't even safe. I won't be
welcome anywhere."

"Where do you want to go?"
 A low distant thunder came rolling across the town, and a breeze from the window ruffled Sam's
papers. Molly stood by the desk to watch him work.

"Can you make tickets into Mexico?"

"I can only make ones I've seen before, or copy one if you have it."

"Well, then," she said, "make it for St. Louis. I can get down the river to Memphis myself. There's a
coach that goes on Sundays."

"Won't they know you at the coach office?"

"I can get on just past the station, pretending I'm late."

"That's very clever. I'll remember that."

Sam worked up a ticket that could fool any coach driver, and returned to crafting train tickets for Dean
and himself.

"Molly?"

"Yes, Mr. Winchester."

"You asked Dean what we were facing. After the fire."

"He hasn't answered me yet, nor have you."

Sam struggled with the credo that said not to share the supernatural with the outside world. But there
were times when people needed help, and the sudden disappearance of the demon had worried him for
days now.

"When the first fire happened, I saw you dipping crosses into the water you threw on the flames."

"So I did." Her manner was cautious.

"And you hung that cross on the door after Mary was killed?"

"You didn't need me to tell you to pay attention, did you?"

"What were you protecting against?"

"Anything and everything evil," she said, crossing herself.

"You have faith that holy water will protect you?"

"La Santa Fe works sometimes; sometimes iron is better. Sometimes, when it's very evil, you need
both. I've seen it work, Mr. Winchester. A dark one took my grandfather's body one night. It was the
holy water my mother poured in his mouth that drove the darkness out."

"The darkness?"

"El demonio." She muttered something under her breath in Spanish, and spat.

Sam looked at her closely, leaving aside his counterfeiting work for a moment.
"Do you know what happened in the brothel?"

"I think it was the devil of fire."

"You know what it is? How do we stop it?"

"You can't kill it. It's always been. It will be wherever there's fire."

"How do you know all this?"

"Do you think you're the first hunter I've ever met?" she asked him without blinking.

The storm, which had seemed far to the south, suddenly broke just west of them, a flash of light and a
crack of thunder that shook the cottage. Rain fell on Salina, driven in the window by a strong gust. Sam
leaped up and slammed the window shut, and as the lightning shot across the sky, the yard was lit in
cold silver light. Dean was looking sideways at the cottage under a bloody mask of red lines, one eye
swollen shut. Sam froze, fingers gripping the window ledge. The next flash a second later showed the
pain that shot through Dean with every step, the useless leg, the hand pressed to his side, running red.

Sam was out the door and with three strides covered the distance to Dean, who collapsed into his
arms. He pulled Dean to the cottage, as the storm drenched them. Dean was already soaked, and it
had spread the blood down his right side. Molly helped maneuver Dean onto the bed, and began
opening his vest. The thin slit along the vest showed the line the blade had cut through Dean.

Sam pulled a needle and thread out of a sealed tin in his pack, while Molly wiped Dean's face clean.
The small cut near his scalp was not so serious. Sam pulled the shirt back gently to reveal a gash
where Dean had dodged the knife thrust enough to spare his liver, but not enough to come free of
injury.

Molly ran out, leaving Sam bewildered. A moment later, Sam heard a window break over the storm's
noise, but he concentrated on the wound and how best to sew it up. Molly returned with a bottle of
whiskey, and Sam gave her an odd look.

"I tried the next house. You didn't think Tyler would have liquor, did you? It helps all of us, not just the
wound."

"Good idea," he agreed, his admiration for Molly continuing to grow.

He lifted Dean's head up and Molly gave him the bottle. Dean drank five good swallows before Sam
pulled it from his hand and splashed some into the wound, causing Dean to spasm. Molly held Dean's
other arm down and Sam worked as quickly as he could with his arm in a cast, trying to sew the wound
together cleanly, alternating stitches with swigs until Molly took the bottle for herself.

"I'm not sure we could do anything more to be thrown out," Sam said, looking at the macabre scene
when they'd finished. The bed was soaked in Dean's blood, water from his clothes, dirt from his shoes,
and a little whiskey as well – on the last swig, the bottle hadn't quite made it to his mouth.

"Would you like some better clothes?" Molly offered.

"Well these are a bit flashy for me, and Dean's are ruined."

"I think Mrs. Tyler's friends can afford to make their donation to charity right now." She vanished out
the door again, and was gone for nearly half an hour. Sam stayed on his knees by Dean, who was
enjoying the benefits of a dry room and a third of a bottle of whiskey.
"Who did this, Dean?"

"Didn't see the cowardly fucking bastards."

"Where were you?

"Same place you left me."

"Dean, we can't stay here. If they come after you on the street, they aren't afraid to be seen. When
does the train leave?"

"What?"

"We can get on the train. I made us some tickets."

"Molly…"

"She's taking a coach on Sunday, that's …god that's tomorrow. Dean, when does the train for
Lawrence leave?"

"Never went to Lawrence."

"The train for Missouri."

"Train's no good. Too high profile."

"Dean!"

"Whut?"

"We need to leave soon," Sam said gently. His hands, soaked in blood, were gripping Dean's arm
tighter than his relaxed voice would suggest.

"There's a train at ten every morning, comes out of Utah."

"Rest, Dean."

Sam sat on the edge of the bed, not daring to rest on the mattress, until his thighs ached; he was
unable to make the cuts and bruises dissipate in the way he'd lifted the burns before. Dean drifted in
and out.

"I don't know how this world works," said Dean, briefly alert. "I don't know who's in charge of the good
and evil. I don't know who's stronger."

"I don't want to know, Dean. I just want a little less evil and a little more good."

"Can I come with you?"

Sam looked at him, not clear what was being asked.

"To Lawrence? That's where we're going in the morning."

"To Lawrence and the rest. To hunt this thing."
Sam knew Dean was drunk on whiskey and in shock. Still, he had no better partner in mind. He hadn't
even considered leaving Dean.

"Yeah. I could use the help. You get some sleep. We start early." I'll take care of you, brother.

Molly returned after the downpour had passed, carrying a bundle of sheets. Inside she'd wrapped up
some of the clothes from the chest of drawers belonging to Mr. Inishman. He had a severely plain
manner of dress, but he was the tallest boarder by far, and they stood the best chance of fitting.

Dean slept while Sam helped Molly lay the clothes out.

"Will you be okay until the coach leaves?"

"I can defend myself. The old madam, before Mr. Campbell came, she hated me. She thought her
lover looked at me too often." She laughed. "Came at me herself once and nearly lost a finger."

Sam was again impressed at the quality of people Dean called friend. He hoped they could find her
again soon, maybe in Memphis.

"We'll be in Lawrence, and then maybe– "

"I think we can find each other if we need to," was all Molly said.

Sam studied her face, deep black eyes and hair in a tight braid, the way he'd always seen her.

"You had better sleep, Mr. Winchester. I'll wake you when it's time."

***
June 30

They left Salina after a slow trip up the side roads west of town, Dean's stitches tugging sharply despite
steady support from Sam. The train was an hour late, so they sat at the end of the platform, after
saying a wrenching goodbye to Molly.

"Here's your ticket," Sam said, offering Dean a small square of heavy paper. "And I made you
documents in case you need to show who you are."

"I'm Dean Campbell."

"Not for now."

Dean opened the papers and scanned them.

"I'm Nate Hawthorne? Who's he?"

"A writer."

Dean digested his new name slowly, with skepticism.

"He's a dark romantic. Likes the supernatural," Sam added, hoping it would help.

"God, what have we done?" Dean sighed, winced, and then stuffed the papers in his coat pocket. "I
hate that I'm running from a fight."
"We're not, Dean. This is over. The demon destroyed everything – our family most of all, and everything
you built here. But there are still dark things out there, our parents could be alive,... Dean, we're
running into one hell of a fight."

THE END

				
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