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"Dean! Shotgun!"

Sam yelled as he dove for uncertain shelter behind a fallen log, scattering a pile of fallen leaves and moving amazingly fast for a man so tall. But again, he had reason as the harpy like creature dove for him a second time, wings lashing, barbed serpent tail flailing, as she screeched in fury, her long talons clipping a lock of brown hair and shredding the hood of his Carhartt jacket. Sam scrambled to elbows and knees and crawled, keeping his head low and eyes covered to avoid the pale venom dripping off her raptor's claws.

"Over here, bitch!"

Clear and cold, his brother's voice was punctuated with the unmistakable sound of a round being racked into a shotgun.

Dean stepped around the trunk of a huge hemlock, shotgun already braced securely against his shoulder, handsome face calm. The bird-like woman whirled in mid-air, hovering above Sam's prone body. She flung up one clawed hand in a gesture that was half denial, half ward---tracing a complicated sigil in the air, bared needle sharp fangs and screamed something incomprehensible at him, at the same time. Dean ignored the sudden, answering twist of sharp pain in his gut and responded by neatly blasting her out of the air in a cloud of blood and feathers.

She plummeted to the ground in an untidy heap of scales and feathers, slender body writhing in her death throes, limbs twitching and wings still flapping feebly in denial for a few moments more before subsiding into stillness.

"Goddammit, Sam! How the hell did you miss that shot!"?

Even as he moved rapidly forward to check his brother he kept both gun and eyes on the still creature, alert for any movement, ready to blast her with a second load of salt and iron if a feather so much as twitched. He flicked a glance at Sam, heart rate calming as he took in his brother's sheepish, dirty face. The taller Winchester had leaf mold and dirt smeared down the side of his face and assorted twigs and leaves tangled in his hair, but was unhurt. Dean bit back a relieved grin and scowled.

"Did you drop your fucking gun?" He growled, exasperated.

Sam climbed shakily to his feet, and began to brush off the assorted accumulated forest debris that clung to his lanky form. He was so tempted to crack a joke about Nature being all over him, but had the feeling that Dean wouldn't notice, much less appreciate the feeble attempt at humor. He sighed and glared at his brother instead.

"No Dean, I did not DROP my fucking gun again! I had it knocked out of my fucking hand by Bird woman there. He waved said hand at his brother, middle finger prominent.

The elder Winchester smirked at him.

"Aw, did the big bad birdie knock Sammy down?"

Sam huffed out an irritated breath and glared back at his asshole brother.

"Speaking of which, I thought you said there was only one? You know, the one you took care of while I was burning the nest?"

He immediately clamped his mouth shut at the fleeting guilty look that flicked across his brother's face and killed his smirk. It wasn't Dean's fault or his. They were both tired, worn ragged from a series of nonstop hunts over the past month. It was inevitable that they would eventually screw up out of sheer exhaustion. They were just lucky that neither of them was injured, or worse.

"Maybe its time for some R 'n R?"

He suggested hopefully, eyes on Dean's expressionless face. He had no desire to make Dean feel guiltier than the burden he already bore on broad shoulders. He knew blamed himself for their father's death, and Sam was determined to ease that self-inflicted pain as much as possible--eventually erase it entirely if he could.

"Yeah, we're both off our games. You may have the right idea, little brother."

Dean said wearily. He turned back to the dead creature, frowning down at the still body.

"Dude. What the hell is this thing? It doesn't look like a harpy to me."

Sam joined him, frowning. He reached into his pocket and withdrew his cell phone carefully snapping several photos from various angles.

Dean picked up a stout stick and carefully prodded, then lifted a wing for closer inspection.
"She has scales and feathers--some kind of bird/snake mix?"

Sam frowned and nodded, as he bent closer to take a picture of her curved raptor talons, then the slender barbed tail.

"Maybe some South American import? And that scale pattern looks almost like a diamondback rattlesnake's. We can email the pictures to Joshua or Jefferson. They hunt south of the border a lot don't they?"

He didn't mention Ellen or the Roadhouse. The Winchesters were carefully avoiding Nebraska, after Jo had stupidly followed them on a hunt and nearly managed to get herself killed, then had topped it all off by slandering their father's name. They had privately decided between themselves that whatever had happened on the long ago hunt that had resulted in the death of Ellen's husband, there was more than one side to the story, and John Winchester wasn't here to defend himself. So, for the time being, they avoided the Roadhouse and kept their contact limited to emails to Dr. Badass.

Sam straightened to his full height and sighed. Glancing down at his brother he frowned at the shadowed eyes and open fatigue he glimpsed. Dean started to stand, and then winced, one hand on his belly. He scowled when Sam reached out a steadying hand, waving it away, as he straightened slowly.

"Gas, man, those tacos for lunch were brutal."

San snorted in amusement.

"Yeah, thanks for the warning. I'll be sure and roll down my window when we get back to the car."

"Bitch, bitch, bitch. C'mon, lets barbeque this bitch and go."

He gave his brother a toothy grin.

"Hey! How about fried chicken for dinner?"

Sam sighed and rolled his eyes heavenwards. No help there. Dean was incorrigible and he was stuck with him. Turning he retraced his trail to the nest, where he had dropped his duffle bag of supplies and his gun, while Dean gathered dry tinder to aid the fire. Back to his brother, he didn't see Dean sway on his feet and nearly overbalance as he bent to pick up some dry branches from the undergrowth.

Dean glanced quickly at his brother's broad back, and slowly stood, one hand still on his aching gut. After a couple of seconds, he felt okay, so he wrote it off to fatigue and Taco Hell, and turned back to building his bonfire. He should have brought a bag of marshmallows just to gross Sammy out. Oh well, next time.

**********************************************************

Back at the dilapidated cabin they had rented for the week while on this particular hunt, Sam got his geek on and sat down to research the identity of the entity they had killed. He had even been able to persuade Dean to preserve several of the creatures iridescent green and yellow feathers to aid the search---handling them with gloves only and sealing them in a warded bag with salt for safe keeping. So for the next several hours he engrossed himself in his research. It was one of the aspects of their job that he really enjoyed.

Dean, meanwhile took off in search of food and supplies. They had decided to spend the next few days just kicking back and relaxing. The cabins at this old motel were quiet and peaceful in an isolated area of the Cascades. It was a beautiful area, complete with a small lake, and serene now that tourist season was over with. The weather had been good as well, clear and sunny with little rain. The owner was an old acquaintance of John's, a retired hunter himself, and gave them a generous discount, appreciative of their ridding his area of the child-stealing bird creatures.

Sam glanced at the clock on the nightstand between the beds, then stood and leisurely stretched the kinks out of his back. He had nabbed the first shower on their return and had changed into a pair of old sweats and a long-sleeved Henley. Dean hadn't showered, unusual for him, immediately setting off for the food and supplies. He had seemed unusually silent and preoccupied after their success, but Sam wrote that off to fatigue. His horndog brother would probably clean up and head up the road to the nearest bar after he returned, in search of female companionship. There was a leggy blonde working as a waitress there, and she was just Dean's type.

Sam sighed softly at that thought and smiled grimly to himself. Was it any use to even wish any more that Dean's taste ran to tall, dark and geeky? He had left his family for a lot of reasons, but chief among them was the fact that his love for his brother had become something more than the platonic love of one sibling for another. It had become Sam's dark hidden obsession. How could he tell Dean that his little brother's adoration had warped into something so perverted as lust?

Sam huffed out a breath and rubbed tired eyes. He had thrown himself frantically into his new life at Stanford, telling himself that 'normal' meant good grades, a law degree and eventually, a wife and children. He had deliberately not sought contact with his family even though he had missed them desperately. Missed his father's quiet strength and most of all his brother's vivid presence.

Until he learned to sleep alone in the freshman dorm, he had never realized how much he depended on Dean's solid companionship to feel safe. Dean had always been his one true thing in life. Parent, sibling, guardian, best friend---everything. It was Dean who had changed him, fed him, taught him his letters and numbers, kissed his hurts away---raised him to be the man he was, his father more often a stern, distant presence, preoccupied with his own obsession even while in the same room. That his father had loved him he had no doubt, but John had distanced himself emotionally from his youngest son from the start for reasons that Sam was only now beginning to realize.

It was Dean who had been there for Sam's first words and first tottering steps. Was it any accident that his first word had been "Dee!" and that it was his brother's arms he sought when he took those first steps? Predictably his first word to John had been, "No!"

That hadn't changed much over the years. When John distanced himself it was Dean's approval Sam sought, Dean's love. He had basked in the security of that unconditional love all his life. How could he tell his beloved brother that he bore incestuous feelings for him? That he had warped the shining love his brother bore for him into something so--dark?

Jessica had hit him like a steamroller. She had been his first real lover. Aggressive, sexy and determined, she had knocked him head over heels and he dove into the comfort of her arms with desperation as much as relief. Confident in herself and her sexuality, she had made all the first moves in their relationship and Sam had been happy to follow along in their complicated mating dance. It was only later after her death that he realized how much she reminded him of Dean. He had loved her, true, but when Dean had shown up that night, he had gone along with only token resistance. 'Normal' had begun to be mundane, and, as much as he had loved Jess, he would always love Dean more.

So absorbed with his own problems, Sam hadn't realized just how much his absence had hurt Dean until his run in with the shapeshifter in St. Louis had revealed some of his brother's darkest secrets.

"I know I'm a freak and sooner or later, everybody is gonna leave me."

Dear God. Was that how his strong, confident, intelligent, sexy brother actually saw himself? A freak that no one would ever love enough to stay with? It tore at his heart and he had no clue how to reassure his brother without revealing his own secret. He had come closest when Dean was dying from heart damage, but he'd been so determined to save his brother's life that he had focused everything on a cure--a miracle. Because, quite simply, there was no Sam without Dean--no life worth living for Sam without his brother.

He still had the spell book with the spell that had bound the Reaper hidden deep within his bag. Because Sam understood to the deepest fiber of his being the desperation that had made Sue Ann bind the Reaper to her, her love for Roy excluding of everyone and everything else. He would have done the same damned thing, even traded his own life for that of Dean's if necessary.

So he kept the book--just in case. He couldn't lose Dean again.

The low rumble of a familiar engine cut through his dark musings and he felt a familiar surge of relief and pleasure at the sound. Dean was back.

**********************************************************

Dean eased himself out from behind the wheel carefully. He felt like shit, but was determined to keep under Sam's mother hen radar. If Sam even suspected he was feeling sick he'd find himself tucked up in bed being force-fed soup and over the counter meds until he puked.

His stomach gave an aggravated heave at that mental reminder and Dean gulped. He had had to pull the car over to the side of the road twice on the way back to hurl, and if little brother found out about that---he would find his ass dragged off to a doctor so fast it would make his head spin. Sam had four inches of height and fifty pounds of muscle on him and knew how to use it.

When Dean had been dying after his bout with the Rawhead, he'd found that out the hard way. Sam had actually manhandled him several times to coerce him into eating and taking his medication. All Dean could do was fume silently and protest weakly. Although that experience had had its perks too, Sam had wrapped himself around Dean every night like a human octopus, determined to keep him warm and alive until he got him his 'cure'.

Despite the increasing pain and weakness, Dean hadn't slept so well in years, the years since Sammy'd left to find his normal life. They had slept together all their lives, to save money in the shabby motels they inhabited, and the absence of Sam's warm presence had hurt. It was like an amputation. He had missed Sam so much that he had ached, body and soul.

After Sam left for college, his father had gifted the Impala to Dean, bought himself a new truck and had immediately started hunting solo more and more often, leaving Dean to his own devices. He had been cast adrift, abandoned by both brother and father, hunting alone, increasingly on the edge---and simply not caring.

He had finally had some sense knocked into him after a vicious hunt where his own apathy had nearly killed him---or worse. The hunt for a werewolf had changed abruptly, with Dean suddenly the prey instead of the hunter when it turned out that he was stalking not one, but two, and they had turned the tables and were stalking him. He had survived, thanks to a combination of immediately taking the high ground, the inexperience of one of the creatures, a blessed silver knife and the thickness of the padded down vest he was wearing beneath his jacket.

The creature's teeth had ripped right through his leather jacket, shredded the fleece vest until his shoulder was wet with saliva, before he managed to drive the blade through the monster's eye into its brain. Thankfully his shoulder had been left intact, although heavily bruised.

Later, alone in a shabby motel bathroom he'd sat in the tub, arms wrapped around his knees shaking with belated adrenaline and sheer nerves at the close call, numbly nursing his cuts and bruises. The hot water cascading over him had masked his tears of fear and rage as it finally dawned on him that he could have died alone and that no one would have given a damn enough to even look until it was too late. The only legacy that Dean Winchester would have left behind would have been a few bones and shreds of cloth---and Sammy. The werewolf could have torn his throat out, or he could have been forced to put his own silver -loaded gun to his head afterwards.

It was a bitter, sobering moment and his one thought at the moment was to see Sam again, reassure himself that his little brother was okay.

He had hovered over Sam between jobs, an unseen presence covertly watching over his brother as he happily went about his normal routine of classes, student job, and studying. He'd made certain that Sam was indeed safe and happy. He had carved and inked wards around Sam's dorm, chanted protective prayers and charms to a dozen deities, done complicated purification rituals to ensure his safety, briskly rid the area within a hundred mile radius of anything remotely supernatural, and even deposited money in Sam's scholarship account anonymously.

After the werewolves, he had finally gotten up the nerve to approach his brother on the quad one sunny summer afternoon, only to stop in his tracks at the sight of his little brother laughing with a group of well-dressed, fresh-faced friends and classmates, arm around a stunning blonde almost as tall as he was, his lean body curved protectively around her.

He had once again felt like the freak and outsider looking in. Grungy and unshaven from three days of rough travel, clad in his shabby Goodwill clothing and worn boots, bones and bruised muscles still aching from a bad fall, graveyard dirt still under his nails-- he had stared numbly for a moment before turning and limping away, face hot. He couldn't bear the thought of Sammy being ashamed of him. For a moment he thought he had heard Sam call his name, but he hadn't looked back. Instead he headed southeast for Texas and another hunt.

Only when John had disappeared had he been desperate enough to seek Sam out for help. He couldn't bear the thought of losing either or both of them, so with some muddled idea of reuniting his tattered family, he had approached Sam and asked him for help.

He thought he had done a good job of hiding the sheer possessive rage that flared in his eyes when the tall blonde had taken his place at Sam's shoulder and looked down her pert little nose at him; the cool distance in Sam's face had cut like a knife. After all, Sam didn't know about his brother's unhealthy obsession with him and he couldn't bear the idea of losing any respect that his brother might still hold for him. So he did what he always did when he was hurting. He slapped on a brilliant smile and flirted and made inappropriate remarks to deflect the pain.

It worked like a charm. Sam would never know that Dean had loathed Jessica Moore on sight.

Dean opened the back door and hefted out a cardboard box filled with groceries. The screen door creaked and Sam stepped out to help, a welcoming grin on his face. Dean returned it and indicated the back seat of the Impala with a jerk of his chin.

"You wanna grab dinner, little brother? Kinda got my hands full here."

Shit, the box seemed twice as heavy as when he first carried it out of the grocery store. Balancing it carefully, he shouldered his way past Sam, who held the door for him.

Behind him, Sam hurried to grab the warm take out bags of food from the car. His stomach rumbled a querulous demand. Man, he was starving. It seemed like Dean had been gone far longer then three hours. He was relieved to scent the familiar aroma of Chinese take out instead of the threatened fried chicken. If he was lucky there might even be vegetables included. Getting Dean to eat healthy sometimes was like force-feeding holy water to a demon.

"What? No chicken?" he quipped anyway at his brother as he stepped into the small kitchen area and began to unload the bags on the rickety table.

Dean grinned at him and shot him a rude gesture as he gulped down a glass of water, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. He left the glass in the sink, and moved over to the table to join Sam, bringing two long necks with him from the six-pack on the counter. He plunked one in front of Sam with a flourish and opened his own, sinking into a chair with a sigh.

"Aw, Sammy, of course I got you some chicken. Chicken fried rice, General Tsao's, egg drop soup-- all your favorites."

Sam sniffed.

"Those were my favorites when I was seven, Dean. My tastes have changed, you know."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. To white rice and steamed broccoli. Can you say boring, Sam? Can you say bland ?"

Sam grinned fondly at the teasing tone. Sure enough when he opened the containers he found the threatened rice and broccoli, but they were his favorites; vegetable fried rice, beef and broccoli, as well as a hefty container of egg drop soup. He frowned as he dished out the food.

"Dude, did you forget a bag?"

"Nah. I'm just not very hungry," Dean answered lightly as he opened his own small container of won ton soup and a carton of lo mein. He spooned up a mouthful of soup, seemingly intent on his meal.

Sam stared at him for a minute, a tiny frown on his face. He started to open his mouth, then shut it firmly. Dean hated it when he fussed, but he couldn't help a tiny niggle of suspicion. Normally his brother ate like a horse, and Chinese food was one of his favorites. And for Dean to not order pot stickers and spring rolls was unheard of. Maybe his stomach was still bothering him.

"Tacos redoux, bro?"

Dean winced around a mouthful of noodles and nodded, before chewing and swallowing.

"Yeah. I figure maybe the beef was a bit off."

"Well, what do you expect from fast food crap that sits around under a heat lamp all day--"

Sam was off on one of his minor nutritional rants, successfully distracted, waving his plastic fork at Dean for emphasis. Dean gave an inaudible sigh of relief and sat back to nod and frown in all the right places. Hopefully Sam wouldn't notice how little Dean actually ate. He sat back contentedly, fondly watching his little brother make one of his favorite bitch faces. Irritating Sammy, just to see the various mercurial expressions that flickered over that beloved face was one of Dean's greatest pleasures in life.

After dinner, much to Sam's surprise, Dean took his shower, emerging clad only in a pair of black boxer briefs and flopped down on his bed to channel surf. Sam watched under lowered lashes as his brother clicked listlessly through the selections. Dean still looked tired and was way too pale for Sam's satisfaction. He had noticed that his brother had only toyed with most of his dinner, and then dumped the remains in the trash when Sam turned his back.

Since Dean's near-death, Sam's radar had been firmly fixed on his brother. After their father's death it had fixated there permanently. Dean was all that he had left in the world now, the only person left alive who knew and loved Sam unconditionally, flaws and all. The one who held him after his nightmares and painful visions, who stood shoulder to shoulder with him against an ancient evil that Sam secretly feared was determined to claim his soul. The only man who would literally and unflinchingly walk through hell for him.

He shouldn't feel so safe, but he did. When he was flying apart, Dean's no nonsense presence and love was the mortar that held him together. As much as he feared the future now, he couldn't help but feel that together with Dean he had a chance to survive the evil they faced. And being together was very much the whole point. Sam had finally, painfully, faced the facts and realized that he had zero chance for a 'normal' life or relationship. He knew too much about the evil that existed in the world, and worse of all, that evil knew about him. He could never again pretend it didn't exist.

He could not--, would not, endanger another woman the way he had Jess. He would not father children and bring them into a world to face a legion of demons. He would never forget the words the demon that had possessed his father had spat at him. His mother and Jessica had died because somehow they stood between him and the demon's plans for him. Now the only thing standing between him and that evil was Dean--and somehow he still felt safe despite the fact that his big brother was only human.

The corner of his mouth quirked ironically at the thought; it was as though some childish part of him firmly believed Dean's love was a foolproof invisible force field that could shield him forever. So now whenever Dean showed signs of vulnerability, of getting sick, Sam's radar went to all systems red alert and he had to clamp down hard on his desire to coddle his brother, no matter how much he wanted to.

He sighed wistfully, remembering the brief time Dean was too weak to fight him off, and the nights he had spent wrapped around his brother, one hand pressed firmly over his faltering heart. He had been determined not to lose his brother then, and he hadn't. If he had his way now, he never would. If only he could convince Dean of that. He had no intention of ever leaving him again. He flicked a glance over at Dean. His brother was slumped against the headboard, propped against his pillows, eyelids drooping, face shiny with perspiration in the light from the television.

Even as he watched, Dean slid down lower on the bed and yawned, eyes closing. He waited until his brother was more deeply asleep, then stood and silently walked over to carefully pull a blanket over the slumped form and turn off the TV. When Dean stirred, frowning, all it took was a shush from Sam for him to relax again. Gently Sam touched his fingertips to Dean's brow. He was hot, feverish, but not alarmingly so. Nothing that shouldn't clear up by morning.

Sam went into the kitchen area and removed a bottle of water from the fridge and left it on the bedside table within his brother's reach. He salted and warded the windows and door, and stayed up, enjoying the rare peace and quiet as he followed link after link on a cyber trail of information. He sent emails to Joshua, Jefferson and Bobby, as well as Ash--, seeking information about the creatures they had killed. It worried him that they knew nothing more about them other then the facts that they preyed on young children and could be killed with salt and iron.

He saved what few notes he had in a file in his laptop journal, including the pictures he had taken. Unlike Dean, who kept a paper journal in the tradition their father and other hunters, he kept his journal and information on his computer, carefully encrypted with a series of coded passwords. It would take more then the average cop to open and read Sam Winchester's private journal. It would take an elite level hacker, and even then his chances of gaining anything usable would be almost nil. Sam hadn't spent all his classes at Stanford studying pre-law. The computer labs had been a favorite haunt.

Around midnight, after a glance at his snoring brother, he carefully shut his computer down and turned in, rolling over to face his brother's bed. He lay sleepily listening to Dean's soft purring snore until he drifted off himself. Sleep was a valuable thing to Sam these days and he welcomed it. Tonight there were no nightmares of death and fire, instead he dreamed of flying in a cloudless blue sky, the earth far beneath his wings.

**********************************************************

He was awakened by a loud, outraged, alien screech close beside him. He was rolling away before he was even awake, one hand snatching his Glock from the bedside table, yelling reflexively for his brother.

"Dean!"

Bouncing to his feet on the far side of the bed, heart pounding, gun aimed at the sound, he was horrified to see only a writhing, screeching mass of blankets where his brother had been safely asleep the night before. Frantically, he looked around the room.

"Dean!"

There was an answering scree from the bed and to his utter astonishment a massive golden eagle emerged from under Dean's bed covers, wings unfurled, a pair of black boxer briefs dangling from one taloned foot. It regarded him with angry golden eyes and gave another outraged shriek.

"D-Dean?"

The huge bird cocked its head and gave a soft scree in answer, bright, intelligent eyes burning into Sam's, demanding that he understand.

"D-dude--Dean, you're a..bird."

If a bird could snort this one did. It clacked its beak at him in frustration and flapped enormous wings in a huff. Sam could almost hear Dean's voice in his head.

*No, shit, Sherlock!*

"It's a spell, or a curse--it has to be. That bird creature must have whammied you before she died."

Slowly, he lowered his gun, amazed eyes on his brother. Tentatively, he reached out a hand to touch. Just how much of his brother's intelligence remained in this avian form? What if Dean forgot he was human? What if he was stuck an eagle forever? What if Dean just flew away?

Sam fought down the steady barrage of panicked thoughts.

The eagle---Dean, gave an awkward hop and leaped the gap from his bed to the end of Sam's. He tilted his sleek head and gave a querulous cheep. When Sam slowly extended his hand he gave his index finger a gentle nibble. Obviously, he knew who Sam was and was trying to calm and comfort his brother.

"Wow."

Slowly Sam brought his hand up to touch, stroking carefully down the sleek head and over the beautiful wings. The eagle watched him, sharp eyes soft with affection, letting Sam touch and familiarize himself with this new shape. Fascinated, Sam couldn't stop touching. He ran careful fingers over the crest of Dean's head, along the powerful wings down the long pinions to the sturdy, feathered legs and the curved black talons. Dean shifted and lifted one foot to clasp Sam's hand. He gave another soft chirp and Sam smiled remembering a special he had seen long ago on the Nature Channel and the parent eagles who had chirped to their offspring in that same soft tone. Even transformed, Dean's first thought was to reassure his little brother.

"I assume it's still you in there and that you understand me. Is your memory okay?" he asked softly, giving the taloned foot in his hand a gentle squeeze.

Dean bobbed his head in an affirmative and gave a short squawk in reply.

Relieved, Sam gave him a grin and then had to visibly restrain himself from throwing his arms around the huge bird and hugging him. Dean gave a sharp squee and flapped his wings, effectively holding Sam off and saving himself from any mortifying chickflick moments. He looked Sam hard in the eye and then deliberately reached out and nipped Sam's earlobe hard in warning.

"Ow!"

Sam rubbed his stinging ear. The siblings glared at each other for a moment, before Sam grinned.

"All right, I won't hug or kiss you or anything. I'm just glad you remember who you are, Dean. I don't know a hell of a lot about falconry."

Dean gave another recognizable sound of indignation, then hopped to the floor where he proceeded to hop-flap his way towards the kitchen area, grumbling as his long, sharp talons kept hooking in the shabby carpet. Sam followed behind, still grinning and scooped up Dean's boxers.

"You lost your drawers, dude."

Dean gave an enormous flap of wings and hopped up onto the kitchen table. He glared at his smartass geek of a brother and pecked Sam's laptop sharply with his beak. The order was clear.

*Get your geek back on, Research Boy, and fix me.*

Sam obeyed, sinking down onto a chair, fascinated eyes still on his brother. Dean shifted to perch on the back of one of the sturdy oak kitchen chairs, extended a wing and began to carefully preen his feathers. Even as an eagle, Dean was vain. Sam shook his head, dazed grin still on his face and powered up the computer.

Six hours later, he was grim and silently starting to panic. He still had no clue as to what the hell the creature that had cursed Dean even was, much less how to break it. What if his brother was stuck? Dean had sobered as well and regarded him silently from his perch, yellow gaze unwavering.

Sam ran a frustrated hand through his hair, pushing it back form his forehead. He met the trusting gaze and swallowed hard. Even now, trapped in avian form, Dean trusted and depended on him to find a cure.

"We'll fix this, Dean. I promise."

Dean gave him a long sharp stare, then very deliberately turned his head and stared at the refrigerator, then back at Sam. Sam's jaw dropped.

"Dude, you're hungry? Now?"

Dean gave a sharp, affirmative screech and flapped his wings briskly, fanning Sam's hair out of his eyes, then watched in satisfaction as his brother absently took a needed break for food and coffee as well. He nibbled at the chunks of deli ham from the package that Sam had opened for him. He could really go for a nice, fresh fish right about now, but the important thing was that Sam was eating heartily even as he scanned a web site.

Dean leaned over and took a surreptitious sip of Sam's coffee. It really needed sugar.

It was early afternoon before Sam snapped his cell shut. After hours of web surfing and phone calls he had absolutely--nothing to show for it. Dean cocked his head and made a soft sound of inquiry. Sam raised weary eyes to his brother's.

"Nothing yet, Dean. But Bobby says he may know of a witch who can help. He'll call us back as soon as he gets in touch with her."

Dean chirped again, shifting restlessly from side to side, He stared hard at Sam and gave an imperious scree, neck feathers ruffled. He obviously wanted something from his brother.

Sam raised his brows in inquiry. What?

Dean gave an impatient hiss and turned his head towards the cabin door and the sunny day outside. He turned back to Sam and gave an impatient cheep.

Puzzled, Sam frowned.

"You want to go out? Oh! You need to go out. Oh!"

Flustered, Sam rose and hastily pulled on his jacket. He paused, turned back to his duffle bag to root out a pair of heavy leather gauntlets. They were used whenever it was necessary to handle toxic or magical objects. He pulled on the left one and carefully extended his arm to Dean. Dean eyed his arm thoughtfully for a moment, and then just as gingerly stepped aboard, razor sharp talons curled carefully around Sam's forearm. He gave a pleased chirp and Sam grinned back.

Sam grunted as he took Dean's weight. Dean had to be the magical, economy version of a Golden eagle, because he weighed a ton. Balancing his brother carefully, he headed outside. He figured Dean would be safe here, near the lake. Only one of the other cabins was in use now, and that rented to an elderly, determined fisherman who was on the lake practically from dawn to dusk.

Dean stretched his wings when Sam raised his arm and flapped happily, exercising his stiff, unused flight muscles. He couldn't wait to fly! He flapped briskly for a few minutes more, warming up, then squawked another imperious order to his brother, certain that Sammy would understand. Sam did, and hurled him into the air, a wide grin on his boyish face as Dean pumped his wings furiously and flapped across the parking lot, gaining altitude all the way.

Sam laughed softly and watched fondly as Dean gained both altitude and confidence, screaming with pleasure as he soared high above the trees and out above the lake, swooping and diving and scaring the shit out of a pair of gulls for the sheer hell of it. He was beautiful to watch, and it never once occurred to Sam that he might not return.

Several hours later, Sam was sitting on the porch of the cabin, intent on his laptop, a steaming cup of fresh coffee on the stoop beside him, when a shadow swooped low over his head and a large, wet, flapping fish fell directly into his lap. He yelped and fell backwards, knocking over his coffee and nearly dropping his computer, and cursed when he heard a derisive screech from overhead. His asshole, feather-headed brother was back.

Dean swooped neatly down to land on the porch railing, chortling to himself at the expression on Sam's face. Yes! Disgusted bitchface achieved! He so scored. He squeed happily at Sam and gave a series of cheeps that sounded suspiciously like giggles.

Sam glared; clutching his precious laptop to his chest and shook the fish vigorously back at his brother.

"Very funny, Bird Brain!"

He softened as Dean continued his goofy cheeping, a wide smile creeping across his face. He couldn't not smile at his brother's obvious, juvenile delight at having scared the crap out of him. It wasn't often that Dean got the chance to just enjoy himself, cut loose and have fun outside of their own private prank wars.

He grinned at his brother.

"I suppose you want this for supper later?"

Dean chirped an affirmative and strutted down the rail to peer intently at the computer and chirr an inquiry to Sam. As usual, Sam understood him perfectly.

"Not yet. Bobby hasn't called back yet."

Dean squawked, and gave a disgruntled huff, puffing his feathers out impatiently, and Sam winced in sympathy.

" I know. But I haven't stopped looking, Dean. We will get you back. I promise, and it's only been one day."

He leaned forward earnestly, dark hazel eyes locked with his brother's golden ones. Dean chirped softly in reply, then leaned over and very gently nibbled his brother's earlobe and then carefully began to preen his hair. Sam closed his eyes against the sudden sting of tears and leaned hungrily into his brother's loving touch.

"Yeah, I know," he said hoarsely. "I love you too."

He suddenly couldn't bear the thought that he might never feel his brother's strong arms around him again.

Dean crooned softly in his ear and gave a lock of hair an affectionate tug, grooming until Sam sniffed and wiped his face, pulling himself back together again. Sam gave him a watery smile and stood, fish gingerly in hand and laptop tucked under one arm.

"How about I open the front window and that way you can come and go as you please?"

Sam held out his arm and Dean stepped aboard, giving his brother an affirmative head bob. Together they went into the cabin. Ten minutes later the motel's other guest stomped past, fishing gear under his arm, and muttering under his breath about goddamned, thieving birds that stole a man's best catch.

**********************************************************

Sam woke abruptly at the asscrack of dawn to a sharp pain in his big toe, and opened tearing eyes to glare at Dean, who was perched on the footboard of Sam's bed, looking as smug as possible for a huge eagle. Dean popped his hooked beak threateningly at his brother and bobbed his head rapidly in a 'chop-chop' motion.

"Fuck, Dean. Was it absolutely necessary for you to bite my toe off to get my attention? Gimme a minute and I'll open the damned window."

Grumbling, Sam stumbled out of bed and limped over to reopen the kitchen window that he had carefully shut and salted the previous night. Dean gave him derisive scree as he hopped out that quickly changed to a startled squawk when Sam gave his tail feathers a vengeful yank as he launched himself out the window.

"Jerk."

He was fairly certain that the answering mocking screech translated as;

"Bitch!"

Sam muttered under his breath, but found himself smiling at the joyous avian screech that he heard as Dean launched himself from the porch rail into the sky. Who wouldn't want to spend the day flying if he had wings? He glanced longingly back at the bed, then sighed and turned to the coffee pot instead. He had a lot of work to do today. He was afraid that the longer Dean remained in avian form, the more difficult it would be to change him back. If he could be changed back at all. Sobered by that dark thought he turned to open his laptop.

An hour or so later, he was startled by the ring of his cell phone. Nearly dropping his coffee, he lunged across the room to snatch it from the nightstand. He flipped it open, heart, pounding, a hundred different prayers running through his head.

"Hey, Bobby. No. Nothing has changed--he's still..." He listened intently for a moment, and then scrambled for a pen and pad. "Yeah? Okay, yeah, give it to me--he did? I didn't know Dad knew a Navajo shaman. Okay. Okay. Yeah, wish us luck. I hope so too, soon. I'll let you know either way. Bye."

Sam shut the phone and stared down at the name and address on the scrap of paper. It was their only hope. Shaking off that depressing thought, and silently cursing his father's name for being so damned close mouthed when it came to sharing information, he carefully put the paper in his pocket and began to quickly pack up their clothes and gear. They had a long drive to reach the Navajo nation.

He finished his bag and zipped it shut, hesitating only briefly before reaching for Dean's belongings. As chary as Dean was of his privacy, it wasn't as though he could pack for himself. Sam quickly packed Dean's clothing, shaving gear and weapons. He checked under Dean's pillow and retrieved the wickedly sharp blade he kept there as well as the new chrome plated Colt .45 from the nightstand.

Picking up Dean's beloved leather jacket, he paused for a moment to inhale the familiar odors of leather, gun oil and crisp, citrus aftershave that merged into the musky scent that had always meant 'Dean' to Sam. He withdrew the Impala's keys from the pocket, then frowned at the lack of a wallet. Where was it? Dean wouldn't thank him if they left without it. Had it fallen out?

He searched briskly for a few minutes, then had a brainstorm and carefully felt under Dean's mattress. Bingo. He withdrew not only the worn wallet, but a fat wad of cash wrapped in a rubber band as well. Sam smiled, remembering the fat brown envelopes that had periodically appeared in his mailbox at Stanford. There had never been a note, just anonymous wads of bills that helped keep Sam comfortable, secure and fed. He had known better than to think the money was from John. Dean had been looking out for him, as always.

As he stuffed the money and wallet into the jacket pocket, the corner of a photo tucked inside the battered wallet caught his eye. Curious, because he knew Dean never carried personal photos in his wallet in case of arrest, he opened it to see what it was. His breath caught as he recognized a photo of himself from Stanford. He even knew when and where it had been taken. In the picture Sam was sprawled asleep on his back in the quad, stretched out in the sun, shaggy head pillowed on his book bag, red tee shirt riding up to reveal a strip of tan belly skin, one hand under his head, the other lax on his chest. It had been taken during finals in his sophomore year, and Sam had been up all night studying. He had caught a nap between finals.

This confirmed Sam's suspicions that Dean had hovered closer then he'd realized, keeping a protective eye on his brother. He remembered another summer day in his junior year when he could have sworn that he caught sight of his brother across the quad watching him, only to have him turn away and disappear into the crowd of students when Sam called his name. Sam had been disappointed and depressed afterward, brooding for days despite Jess' best efforts to cheer him up.

They'd had a fight, he remembered, because she'd said something sarcastic about his brother not even caring enough introduce himself. He had defended Dean automatically, curtly telling her to mind her own business, that his brother didn't concern her. They had eventually made up, but he had been in the doghouse for a month afterwards. As much as he had loved her, life with Jessica had always been a complex series of such delicate negotiations that sometimes he felt like a diplomat in a country where he couldn't speak the language or understand the culture.

He carefully tucked the photo back in its hiding place, touched and pleased that his brother carried his picture. He grinned when he saw that Dean carried not one, but two condoms tucked in his wallet-- sometimes his brother's ego amazed him. Then his breath caught. Tucked in with the condoms was a foil packet of Astroglide, and a card from a male strip club in Dallas with a scribbled note on the back. 'Call me. I miss you. Mike.' Sam sat down so hard he jarred his tailbone, blood pounding in his ears.

His sexy horndog of a brother was bi. Why the hell hadn't he noticed? When had the distance between them stretched into such a yawning chasm? And who the fuck was this Mike guy?

Sam blinked, then shook his head. Just because his brother was bisexual didn't mean that he had a chance with him. He was pretty sure that Dean frowned on incest.

Then again, two minutes ago he had been pretty sure his brother was pretty damn heterosexual as well.

Still feeling shell-shocked at his discovery, he resumed packing. The food left in the fridge wasn't worth taking, he decided, so he tossed it in the trash. Now all he had to do was rig some kind of perch so that Dean could ride comfortably in the Impala. And speaking of Dean, where was his feathered sibling? He had been gone all morning. Hopefully he wasn't off somewhere getting himself netted and tagged by the local biologists.

He lugged the bags out to the car and did a last check of the cabin to make sure he was leaving nothing behind, then stepped out on the porch and scanned the area for his wayward brother. Now that he had a goal, he was anxious to leave and get on the road. Hands on lean hips, he scowled out over the lake, were eagle ears as sharp as eagle eyes? He cupped big hands around his mouth and began yelling his brother's name at the top of his lungs.

He kept it up for five minutes, yelling himself hoarse before a pinecone plopped smartly down on his head. He stiffened and glared over his shoulder. Dean was perched on the porch roof directly over his head, watching him with amused golden eyes.

"How long have you been there? Never mind, very funny. Bobby gave us a lead--"

Dean gave a joyous scree and dropped onto Sam's shoulder, causing him to grunt and stagger at the weight, even as he brought his hand quickly up to make sure Dean didn't fall.
Sam laughed softly at his brother's happiness, hands stroking over soft feathers while his brother nibbled happily at his hair.

"Do you want to ride or fly?"

He grinned as Dean screamed and launched himself into the air, to circle the car impatiently. Stupid question. Sam yelled up at his brother as he slid into the driver's seat.

"We're heading east to New Mexico! Dad knew a shaman near Taos--and no; I won't wreck your damned car! If you get tired of flying, swoop down low over the road and let me know."

The Impala rumbled to life and Sam headed east on winding highways while a swift raptor shadow kept pace with the sleek black car, sometimes darting ahead, or circling the car and flirting with its long shadow, but never out of his little brother's sight for long.

**********************************************************

Two days and fifteen hundred miles later the Impala rumbled into the sun-baked yard of a small adobe house located at the dusty crossroads that formed the axis of a semi-deserted town up in the hills surrounding Taos. The house stood next door to what appeared to be a combination of garage, gas station and mom-and-pop market. A motley group of Native American and Hispanic men stood around the open hood of a ancient, rusty blue Ford truck parked near the gas pumps.

Sam unfolded his lanky body stiffly from the Impala. He stared uncertainly at the dilapidated house. It looked deserted. Half the windows were missing and the screen door was torn. He fervently hoped that Bobby hadn't sent him on a wild goose chase.

He glanced up at the brilliant blue sky. No sign of Dean. His brother was probably scouting out the area. Either that, or looking for lunch. Hopefully, Sam wouldn't end up with a rattlesnake dropped in his lap before the day was over.

Sam climbed up the rickety porch steps and knocked politely on the door. A tiny smile quirked his mouth at the sight of the two dusty pink plastic flamingos stuck jauntily in a small cactus patch beside the door. Apparently Hasteen Mosi had a warped sense of humor. Or else he was a lousy decorator.

He waited a moment, then knocked again. There was no answer. He peered through the screen, but saw no movement in the dark house. He stood on the stoop uncertainly for a few minutes, then decided to ask for help from the men next door. He noticed they had all paused in their work and were staring at him. They didn't look friendly, just suspicious and maybe a little curious.

Sam approached them cautiously. He saw that they ranged in age from teenagers to a wrinkled, white-haired grandfather, who sat silently beside the rusty truck on a pile of old tires, hands clasped on his walking stick. He stopped a few feet away and gave them a tentative smile. No one said anything, Dark eyed regarding him impassively from brown faces.

"Excuse me? I'm looking for Mr. Mosi? I was told that he lived here?"

One of the men spat contemptuously inches from Sam's feet. He was roughly Sam's age and wore his coarse, shoulder-length black hair tied back in a ponytail. A wicked scar curved across his brow, and he was stocky and broad shouldered with hard, calloused hands. He wore a knife in his belt.

" Mosi doesn't deal with white boys. You should just run along home now."

He stepped forward slightly into Sam's space, wiping the grease off his hands with a rag. His eyes were hard and challenging. Several of the other men also stepped forward, shifting as though to encircle Sam. Sam stood his ground, merely shifting his stance so that no one could get behind him without him seeing, and straightened to his full height.

He kept a mild, pleasant look on his face with effort and his hands in his pockets.

"My business is with Mr. Mosi. Can you tell me when he'll be back, please?"

Another of the men stepped out to the side. He held a tire iron down along the side of his leg. Sam glanced at him, but kept his attention on the ringleader, who gave him a toothy smile.

"You don't hear so good, white boy? Mosi don't want anything to do with your kind."

"My name is Sam Winchester. Like I said, my business is with Mr. Mosi and it's important. I'm not leaving town until I speak with him."

"We think you'll be leaving now---."

Scar Man tossed his grease rag to one side, and stepped aggressively forward, nasty smile on his face, big hands curling into hard fists. His friends began to sidle out and encircle Sam in earnest. One held a piece of hardwood board; they all had anticipatory grins on their faces. They reminded Sam of a pack of coyotes.

Sam never moved. He stood his ground and held the man's stare with his own stubborn gaze.

"I'm not going anywhere."

He kept his voice calm and even, although his eyes were beginning to narrow dangerously and he slid his hands from his pockets, shifted his stance, and braced himself, ready to fight if necessary.

Scar man gave him another white grin and lazily withdrew his knife from his belt. He held it low, with the edge up, and stepped forward again.

He never got the chance to use it.

Dean dropped screaming out of the sky like a ton of bricks. His curled talons struck the side of the man's head with an audible thud, and the man slumped in his tracks with a grunt of pain, clutching his head, blood flowing red down his face. Dean banked and landed lightly on his brother's broad shoulder, wings spread wide and held protectively over Sam's head. He lowered his head, golden eyes flashing angrily, and hissed a challenge to all comers.

The men froze in astonishment and there was a long moment of dead silence, as they all regarded the tall, grim young man and the pissed-off eagle. The man with the tire iron dropped it with a thud to the dirt and stepped quietly back.

The old gentleman seated on the tires tilted his wrinkled face and regarded the Winchesters silently for a moment.

"I guess I better speak with you then. Did you bring any root beer?"

Sam turned to him, a small smile on his face, one big hand automatically reaching up to soothe Dean's ruffled feathers.

"I brought two cases and some pipe tobacco as well. Bobby sends his regards."

The old man sighed happily, and pushed himself up from the tires. He beckoned and shuffled slowly towards the house.

"Come on then, tall son. I have ice in the house."

He paused, then turned slowly back to regard the astonished man still sitting in the dirt, jaw agape as he stared blankly up at the eagle on Sam's shoulder.

"Eagle clan, huh? Are you sure about that? I think maybe your daddy was snake."

He turned away and headed to his house, Sam following politely behind, shortening his long strides to match the slower elder's. Dean shifted on Sam's shoulder and swiveled his head around to keep an eye on the other men. He gave them a last jeering hiss and folded his wings with a satisfied rumble.

Inside the cool, dim house Hasteen dug a bag of ice out of an ancient humming Frigidaire and happily poured out tall mugs of the root beer that Sam brought in from the car. He settled them at the battered kitchen table, with Dean perched on the back of a chair, and listened attentively to Sam's story. He peered at the pictures of the bird creature on Sam's computer and carefully examined the preserved feathers. Then he sat back and in his chair and pondered silently while sipping his root beer.

Sam waited, reining in his impatience with an iron will. As much as he wanted to yell, impatient for answers, now was not the time. Beside him Dean muttered to himself and preened his feathers absently, pausing now and again to shoot a sharp gaze at the silent shaman. Finally, Hasteen cleared his throat and spoke slowly.

"I think this thing you killed was once a servant to the Plumed Serpent god. Once she and her kind would have carried the bodies of the sacrificed to him and fed upon the remains. His power waned long ago in this land."

He stared intently into Sam's anxious eyes, his own expression solemn.

"I know of a song that may help your brother and I will ask my ancestors and the spirits for help. You and your brother have great power together, but it is unfocused and weak. You need to learn to use it. I see Fire over you and in you, yet you are grounded in the Earth. Your brother is a child of Air, yet he moves like Water, ever changeable, ever adaptable. The old evil you seek will come soon enough and you will need to know how to fight it."

He paused for another sip from his mug.

"We must work quickly, before the next full moon. The longer your brother stays as Eagle, the less he will remember about being a man. If we wait too long, he will forget who he is and fly away to be with the Eagle people."

Sam sent a panicked look Dean's way, Dean responded with soft, reassuring scree and shot Hasteen a dirty look. The old man's eyes crinkled in amusement in response.

" I cannot promise that this song will work. My grandfather said it worked once for a Zuni man, long ago in the time before the white men came to our land. You will need to pray and fast too, Sam Winchester. You are your brother's only link to the world of men now. A lot depends on your strength and will."

"I'll do whatever it takes to get my brother back. I'll walk through f hell for him if I have too."

Hasteen's face grew sober at Sam's passionate response.

"I hope you do not have to. And I hope your brother won't either. This song is very old and very powerful. The power is dangerous and not an easy thing to bend to our will. We are only human. Your faith in your brother must be strong, and your brother's strength of will must match that faith, or the power will rebound and he could be lost to you forever---dead, trapped in eagle form, or worse, warped into something caught between two worlds. A monster among men."

Sam bit his lip and stared down at his tightly clasped hands. His knuckles were white with tension. Dean a monster? Something that he would have to hunt, even kill? The thought shook him to his core.

He set his jaw stubbornly and shook his hair out of his eyes, meeting the old man's eyes squarely.

"Sir, I don't think we have a choice here. It's our only hope and we have to try. I'm not gonna lose my brother. He's all I have left in the world. He's taken care of me all my life. Its time I returned the favor."

He turned his head and met his brother's bright golden eyes. Dean tilted his head and gave a soft, reassuring chirp. Sam reached out a hand, needing to touch, and Dean nipped affectionately at the web of skin between his thumb and forefinger. Hasteen watched them solemnly for a moment, then nodded.

"We will begin tomorrow. It will take at least three days to get everything together in preparation for the ceremony. Then you must pray and fast before we begin the song. I will call for the drummers and the supplies."

**********************************************************

It took longer than Sam expected, almost a week before he found himself kneeling inside a circle of black salt deep inside an ancient kiva. He had undergone a purification ritual and fasted the previous day. Across the round ceremonial space Hasteen chanted softly and carefully laid lines and patterns of colorful minerals in an elaborate sand painting.

A lone drummer knelt outside, waiting to begin. Dean perched at the roof opening above their heads, keen eyes taking in every detail.

Finally the old shaman finished the final line, laying a fine edge of red ochre to the finished painting. Sam didn't know the pattern, but he thought he recognized elements from various sky deities, like the Thunderbird and the Warrior twins.

Standing, the old man beckoned and Dean glided gently down to land in the center of the painting. Still chanting, Hasteen bent and gently sprinkled sacred golden pollen over Dean's head and wings in blessing. Then he climbed the ladder and left them to the growing darkness, as the sun sank behind the mesa. Outside the first drum began to beat steadily, like a giant's heartbeat, and Hasteen' s voice rose strongly as he began his song.

Sam stayed quiet, eyes on his brother as long as the light held. In his mind he was concentrating on images of Dean, remembering his brother as he had been before the bird creature's spell. Dean in action, fighting, laughing, acting like a goof, just being himself. He forced himself to breathe evenly and deeply, and fought down any panic or negative thoughts.

He had had a fright earlier that morning, a reminder of how easily he could lose Dean. He had been speaking quietly to Hasteen, reminiscing about his father, with Dean perched in the old pine tree above them. John Winchester had helped Mosi kill a Skinwalker who was preying on the reservation years ago, when he and Dean were small.

Suddenly a familiar scream came from high above---another golden eagle was circling the mesa. Dean had answered that call immediately with a high pitched, challenging screech, shifted on his branch and spread his wings as if to follow. Frightened, Sam had called his brother's name--and for one brief instant the golden eyes that shifted to his face were indifferent and utterly alien. Sam had sat frozen for an instant, and then softly called Dean's name again. The eagle had blinked and suddenly his brother was looking back at him.

Dean was depending on him, so he clung to Hasteen's sober final instructions.

In the dark he will change. It will be hard for him. He will suffer greatly. You must use your voice to remind him of who he is, of his place in the world of men, to give him hope, to shape a path for him to follow. You must hold in your thoughts and heart images of what he was and will be again.

You must not leave the salt circle until dawn, no matter what you hear. There will be evil things attracted to the magic waiting in the dark. They will not speak directly to you, but you will hear and feel them near, and they will hope to drag you or him away into the underworld and steal your power. You are safe inside the circle, as he is, inside the sand.

You cannot touch him until there is sunlight in the kiva again, or he will be trapped between shapes. I will not come back down into the sacred place again until the sun sets and rises again and the magic fades. Pray to whatever god you believe in, young Winchester. Pray and hope. Remember, you must not touch or look at him in the darkness, or all will be lost.

It was a long hellish night for Sam. The moment the kiva was pitch black; the change had begun for Dean. Sam had crouched inside the salt circle, eyes closed and hands knotted into helpless fists as he felt the air shift and chill and listened to the eagle's shrill, painful, screams, and the feeble flap of wide wings. These had morphed into other awful sounds later---harsh pants for breath followed by deep bass groans of agony accompanied by the snap of displaced bone and the scent of hot blood. Later there were harsh, rasping gurgles, retching and what sounded like choked sobs, as Dean fought for breath and the sound of his changing body thrashing around in agony on the sand, again accompanied with the sounds of the snap of twisting sinew and the wet pop of displaced bone.

Sam's face was wet with sympathetic tears and his voice hoarse from talking to his brother. He had talked all night, reminding Dean of their life together. Begging him to remember his family, telling him all his most cherished memories of their childhood.

Do you remember, Dean? Remember when you whacked Billy Joe Ransdall in the nose for stealing my G.I Joe?

Remember when I wanted a puppy so badly and you got a job at the pet shop that summer, just so I could hang out in the afternoon and play with the puppies and kittens?

Remember when you taught me how to ride a bike and I crashed head on into that fence and cut my knee? And you kissed it better and showed me the scar on your knee, and you said it was okay because we matched?

Remember that time we went swimming and you dropped a frog down my shorts? I jumped out of them trying to get away and streaked home while you nearly drowned, you laughed so hard--Do you remember that time you stepped between me and that werewolf in Texas? I thought I was dead, but suddenly there you were, mad as hell and you blew that thing's head off--Remember the summer you were trying to get into Julie Evan's pants and you called me the biggest cockblock in the state?

Remember when Dad took us to visit our cousins in Kansas and I christoed and sprinkled salt on Aunt Susan's poodle because I thought it was possessed?

But as midnight came and went, the sounds changed, a cold breeze hissed into the kiva accompanied by soft, mindless tittering, inhuman laughter and murmurs. Sam felt the air displace near his face, felt the hair on his nape rise and his skin crawl, and heard the buzz of rattlesnakes all around him. The evil spirits were drawing near, hoping to feed.

Outside, the drumming suddenly increased as other drummers joined in to reinforce the protective circle, and Hasteen Mosi's deep bass voice rose and fell, chanting out the song that guided the old magic that was warping his brother's body. It seemed to Sam that he heard other voices as well, some far away, that wove in and out of the shaman's chant joining in and reinforcing it.

Across the kiva, Dean suddenly gave a deep, agonized scream that trailed off into harsh, gasping sobs of pain. He sounded so hurt and human that it broke Sam's heart to hear him. Suddenly there was the thud of a falling body, a choked rattle of sound as Dean fought to breathe through his changing throat and then, to Sam's horror, a sudden dead silence. The sly murmurs around them rose in anticipation.

Sam shot to his feet, fists clenched and took an involuntary step, remembered the salt, and stopped.

"Dean! Dean! Breathe, Dean! Stay with me! You have to stay with me! You promised! Remember! You promised Dad that you would always take care of me! Don't you leave me! I love you Dean! Don't you fucking leave me! I swear to God, I'll follow you to hell if I have to!"

He clamped his lips together and listened hard, praying to every benevolent deity he knew for mercy for his brother. For a moment he despaired, and something giggled in the dark behind him. Then, he heard it ñ--a deep, ragged breath drawn into a human chest followed by a small, broken sound.

"Sammy--"

Tears were flowing down Sam's face unchecked now. Dean was still with him, still fighting to be with him. He scrubbed a big hand furiously across his wet face and spoke into the dark, straight from his heart.

"Stay with me, Dean. Stay with me and I promise I'll stay with you. I love you, man. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone else, even Jess. I spent those years in Stanford in a fucking pipe dream, and you gave me that dream, Dean. You let me go, even though it nearly killed you, and you watched over me too. I remember that day on the quad, Dean. I wish you had said something. I missed you so damned much. I fucking cried myself to sleep the first week I was there, I didn't know how to sleep alone. "

"I loved Jessica, but I lied to her every day we were together. Our entire relationship was built on a lie. It is my fault she died. I never gave her the chance to walk away and be safe. She never knew the real me at all. She was so beautiful, Dean, like you-- and she wanted me--I couldn't believe it at first. It was only later that I realized how much I was using her as a substitute for you. I missed you so damned much. God help me, but I love you more than a brother should--I looked at you one day, and you were everything to me, Dean, and that wasn't fair to you. So I left, I tried to be something else. I didn't want you to hate me, Dean. I couldn't stand it if you hated me when I loved you so much--just don't leave me, Dean. I'll do anything, just don't fucking leave me."

Sam fell back to his knees, sobbing, dropping his head in his hands in despair. If he lost Dean now, he lost everything good in the world, and the dark would overwhelm him. Sobbing harshly, he fought for control the night was far from being over and his brother needed him to be the strong one. So he took a deep breath and bucked up, and began to speak again.

This time he told his brother every secret feeling he had harbored for him, and the fears that feeling came packaged in, like a parcel wrapped in duct tape. He listened hard, anxious to hear his brother breathe. There was a stuttering, wet, breathy sound across the way, and then very faintly--

"Sam--you--girl."

 

He sobbed with relief at the weak joke, and kept talking for the rest of the night, hoarse words of love and affection and pride in his brother, until his voice cracked and died and all he could do was sit in the dirt and listen to his brother breathe.

Exhausted, voice long gone, weary head resting now on his drawn up knees, he dozed off just as the sun rose.

**********************************************************

Silence and the warmth of the sun streaming into the kiva through the round hole in the roof finally woke him. He sat up with a jolt, heart hammering in fear. God, he had slept for hours while his brother fought for his life a few feet away. He stumbled to his numb feet, and immediately fell over them, peering anxiously into the shadows across the kiva.

"Dean!"

There was silence for a long moment, then something moved in the shadows and edged forward into the light beneath the ladder leading up out of the kiva. Sam stood, swallowed hard and stared, torn between exaltation and horror. His jaw dropped and he could only stare in awe.

"D-Dean--you still have--wings."

He gave a soft giggle that he realized was hysteria, and stepped forward automatically to touch his brother. His naked brother, who now sported an impressive pair of bronze-feathered, angel sized wings.

Dean hissed and his wings flared out in an automatic protective reflex, and he flung one arm up in defense at Sam's approach. The golden eyes that regarded Sam were avian and alien, as distant as the moon.

Sam felt his pulse start to pound in fear. He held out his hands, pleading.

"Dean? It's me, Sammy. Remember? It's me, your brother, Sam."

Dean hissed and shrank farther back in the shadows against the far wall, the golden eyes locked warily on Sam's face. There was no sign of recognition in his face.

A shadow loomed over the entrance to the kiva, and Hasteen's gravelly voice rang out.

"Talk to him, Tall Son. The change is still upon him. Remind of his place in the world of men. We will return tonight to continue the song and keep the evil spirits away."

There was a scraping sound, and the ladder was drawn up, effectively trapping Sam underground with the creature that was now his brother. The Navajo were taking no chances on allowing Dean to escape the kiva. Sam had no doubt that there were men waiting above to destroy Dean if it became necessary. No way in hell was that going to happen as long as he was alive to prevent it.

He took a deep breath to calm himself and shakily pushed his hair out of his eyes. He felt queasy and dizzy; his last meal hours ago. He wished fervently for a tall, hot cup of coffee. Across the room, Dean stirred uneasily in the shadows but made no sound. Sam huffed out the breath and tried to think logically. Dean had spoken with him last night, trying to reassure him the way he always did. So Dean was still here, wavering in mid transformation, he just had to remind him of that.

Slowly, palms out in a placating gesture, he backed across the kiva to the spot where hasten had left a small pile of supplies. There was a bundle of sheepskins and a couple of sleeping bags neatly rolled together, three canteens and a set of saddlebags stacked against the wall.

Sam knelt and rummaged through the saddlebags and found a fat packet of jerky, cold fry bread and dried fruit as well as several ripe apples. He also found an ancient, wickedly sharp obsidian blade set in a crude bone hilt; there was a tiny jet fetish of a bird set into the bone. He stared at the stain of dried blood on the blade with dull horror. There was no doubt as to what it was intended for-- He dropped it back into the bag with a shudder of revulsion, picked up a full canteen and turned back to face the shadows where his brother hid with a shaky but determined smile.

"It looks like lunch is gonna be cold, bro. Hope you're in the mood for jerky."

An idea struck him, and he picked up the roll of sheepskins as well, bringing them over to the pool of light.

"How about a picnic? It's been a while since we had one. Remember that family reunion we crashed in Chicago? You told everyone we were the Kowalski brothers from the Kansas branch of the family, and you kept hitting on our 'cousins' all afternoon."

Sam spread the sheepskins out to form a comfortable nest, and sat down in a flurry of long limbs to arrange the food and water neatly before him. He kept his voice determinedly casual, hoping to reassure Dean with his nonchalant tone.

"Dude, you ate like a pig. I know you like barbeque, but you packed away enough to feed three normal people, and you talked 'Aunt' Barbara into giving you that huge Tupperware container of leftover pierogi. I thought you were gonna pop before the day was over."

He smiled reassuringly into the shadows when Dean shifted minutely closer, curious, no doubt to see what he was doing.

"But man, the minute the polka music started, you nearly stampeded over that herd of old ladies to get the hell out of there! Like a imp with an ass full of rock salt!"

He chuckled softly at the memory of the look of sheer horror on his brother's face at the first wavering notes from the accordions. He opened the canteen and drank thirstily, sighing with relief as the cool water slid down his parched throat. At the audible slosh of water in the container, there was a definite stir of interest from the shadows. Poor Dean must be dying of thirst, his throat raw from screaming.

Carefully, Sam patted the skins. Voice casual, he invited his brother to join him.

"Better get over here, before I eat it all. You'll be stuck with the trail mix, and I know how much you like that."

An idea struck, and he rolled one of the apples towards Dean so that it stopped at the edge of the light. There was a startled movement in the shadows and the rustle of huge pinions. Sam took a huge bite from his own apple and munched noisily, humming softly with pleasure at the tart sweet taste. He watched from beneath lowered lashes as a hand emerged hesitantly from the shadows and picked up the fruit. There was silence for a moment, then a hesitant crunch, followed by enthusiastic chewing.

Sam kept still, slowly eating his own apple. Movement caught his eye as Dean warily emerged from the shadows, avid eyes on the food. He watched as his brother edged nearer, wings hunched awkwardly over broad, freckled shoulders, eyes flickering cautiously from the food to Sam's face. There was apple juice trickling down Dean's chin and he was unselfconsciously licking his lips. Smiling, Sam slowly held out a second apple to his brother. The smile grew broader when Dean cautiously reached out a hand and took it.

Sam watched happily as Dean eagerly devoured the ripe fruit, even the core, and hungrily licked his fingers afterwards, then turned mute, expectant eyes back to Sam. Sam waited until Dean edged a little closer before offering a strip of jerky. The sheer hunger displayed as Dean gulped the food down worried Sam and he ended up carefully feeding his brother the majority of the food before offering him the canteen. By the time Dean finished thirstily gulping down the water, he was crouched beside Sam on the sheepskins.

Sam sat still, eyes on his brother. Except for the wings, he appeared uninjured, his skin smooth, he was even missing some old scars. Was it his imagination or were Dean's eyes a shade or two darker now, a familiar sheen of olive green swamping the gold? He stared at the set of exquisite wings that curved over his brother's shoulders. They were beautiful; there was no other word for it. Without thinking, he extended a hand and gently stroked a finger along the nearest wingtip. Dean lowered the canteen, chin wet, and watched him curiously.

Sam smiled at the guileless look. His brother was fucking beautiful in whatever form he wore. He continued to run his fingertips down the strong plumage gently, smiling into Dean's eyes when he leaned slightly into the touch.

"Dude, I could be making all kinds of corny angel jokes now," he said huskily and his breath hitched when Dean slowly reached out a hand and touched Sam's face, touching his lips, tracing the curve of his jaw, stroking through his hair. His hand dropped lower and curiously fingered the cloth of Sam's hoodie. Sam smiled at the intent look on Dean's face. It was the look he wore when he was studying a problem, trying to remember some vital fact.

" I should have brought your leather jacket down here. I bet you'd remember that", he joked.

Dean's absorbed eyes flickered back to his face, and to Sam's joy a small smile curved his lips in response. Smiling was a discernible human trait and Sam hoped it wasn't just in imitation of his own.

"There you are--I know you're in there. It's gonna be all right, Dean, I promise."

Impulsively he lifted a hand and ran his thumb along his brother's lush lower lip, tracing his smile. Dean blinked, then flicked his tongue over Sam's fingertips before gently nibbling his thumb. Sam grinned widely, remembering Dean's affectionate grooming gestures when he was in eagle form. He stoutly ignored the heat suddenly pooling in his groin at the sinful sight of his brother's full mouth delicately lipping his thumb.

He took a deep breath and gently patted Dean's stubbled cheek before reluctantly dropping his hand. Dean blinked uncertainly, and for a second his eyes flared pure gold again. Hastily, Sam brought his hand back up and patted his brother's broad shoulder reassuringly. It dawned on him that maybe a little human touch would go a long way in grounding Dean. Dean allowed very few people into his personal space; maybe Sam's familiar touch would help remind him of who he was.

So he sat and continued to pat and touch his brother while talking softly, and Dean accepted it, even leaning into Sam's hands. Sam's fascination with his brother's wings helped, and he explored the soft feathers and strong pinions, scratching and massaging them gently, remembering Dean's careful, daily preening in eagle form. When Sam scratched gently down the middle of Dean's back, Dean shivered and made a soft sound of pure pleasure and leaned back into Sam's hands, spreading his wings wide to offer better access.

"These are your scapulars, Dean. Do they itch where they join your skin? I bet those wings are pretty heavy."

He wondered if the wing bones were hollow as he stroked the broad, blunt feathers closest to where the wings joined Dean's shoulder blades, dimly remembering a Field Biology class from Stanford---'Flora and Fauna of the Northwest Pacific Coast.' Then he scratched the freckled shoulders, smiling at the soft blissful hum his brother made in response.

Sam slid his hands up the smooth skin of Dean's back and carefully massaged the base of his neck, working on the tension in the knotted muscles he found there. He paused to stroke the close-shorn, bronze hair at the base of his brother's neck, enjoying the feel of the soft bristles against his palm. Dean gave another soft sound of pure pleasure and turned his head to push demandingly back into his brother's hands.

Sam laughed softly, and then sobered. When was the last time anyone had bothered to touch Dean gently like this? No wonder Dean was so leery of being touched, maybe he associated it with pain--- fighting or being hurled into a wall--, --or being shot with rock salt by his own brother.

Biting his lip, Sam kept speaking as he continued to explore his brother's broad back, massaging the strong muscles, stroking and probing the soft down, soothing the long quills that quivered gently in response to his touch.

"These are your secondary coverts, and these are your tertiaries--and these long feathers are your primaries--your flight feathers. Dunno if you could actually fly now though--your body mass is way different from your eagle form, but I bet you could glide if you wanted--"

His impromptu lecture was interrupted when Dean suddenly twisted and lunged, pinning Sam to the sheepskins. Sam gave a surprised oomph and stared wide-eyed up into his brother's intense gaze. Dean's eyes were darker now all right--the pupils wide, blown black with undisguised desire, and Sam could feel Dean's arousal pressed against his own belly.

"Uh, Dean--dude, it's me, Sam, your--.um--brother. Remember?"

He spoke a little desperately, not afraid, but painfully aware of his own answering arousal. Oh, great. Fucked by an angel---was his first hysterical thought. My own brother, he forcibly reminded himself, who is not quite himself at the moment. Apparently the feral, avian side of Dean had associated the food offerings and gentle touches with an invitation to mate. He couldn't do this--he couldn't take advantage of Dean like this, not when he wasn't himself. He squirmed desperately, trying to wiggle out from under his brother.

Dean leaned down, wound a hand in his hair, and took his mouth in a deep, possessive kiss that effectively short-circuited Sam's higher thought processes and feeble attempts at preserving his brother's dubious virtue. He moaned softly, his hands rising to clutch helplessly at Dean's shoulders, as he gave himself up to the apple-sweet kiss. One fucking kiss from his big brother and he was on fire, every fantasy he had ever had evaporated in the sheer white-hot heat of the reality of Dean's touch and the taste of his mouth.

Dean gave a soft little purring growl that went straight to Sam's groin and began to tug furiously at Sam's layers---trying to find warm skin. Sam helped, shrugging his hoodie off and unfastening his belt and pushing his jeans down. The feel of Dean's smooth naked skin over hard muscle was intoxicating, he couldn't get enough. Sam decided right there that he was developing a definite wing kink as well.

They ended up in a tangled, moaning heap on the sheepskins, humping and rubbing with more enthusiasm then skill, just horny as hell and desperate to get off. Sam's Henley was rucked up under his armpits, his jeans and shorts tangled down around his boots. His hands clutched at Dean's hair as Dean nuzzled and bit at Sam's throat and nipples, his hips thrusting as he humped Sam's muscular thigh, hard cock slicking his hip bone with pre-come. Dean's wings flared above them, quivering and flapping, mirroring his enthusiasm.

Sam opened dazed eyes to the breathtaking sight of his brother's striking face above his. The heat in Dean's eyes combined with that wet, sensual mouth, framed by expansive, golden brown wings, caused him to buck up and come so hard he saw stars. Dean threw his head back a moment later, and followed, as he screamed his pleasure aloud, back arching and wings cracking open in accord with his orgasm.

They crumpled, long limbs tangled together, panting harshly, sticky, wet heat gluing them together. Dean nuzzled his head into the curve of Sam's neck, and Sam stroked warm palms down his sides, and then curled a palm around the nape of his neck, keeping him close. Exhausted, they dozed; Dean curled into his side, one of his great wings gently blanketing Sam in warmth.

**********************************************************

When Sam next opened his eyes, the gaze that met his was completely Dean. Typically, he was furious.

"Wings, Sammy! Fucking wings! And I have down in my pubes too!"

Dean's familiar voice was still hoarse from the screaming. He threw up his arms in frustration and the magnificent wings on his shoulders flared out in response as he paced back and forth through the pool of sunlight. Gilded and haloed in golden light, he looked like some ancient deity brought to earth.

"Ah--I really didn't need to know that, Dean."

But Sam couldn't stop staring at his brother. His handsome, pissed-off brother, who now stood nude and golden and whole before him, still sporting his irresistibly sexy set of wings, while Sam sat, disheveled, half-naked, reeking of spunk, and felt a wide stupid grin stretch across his face. He couldn't tear his eyes away. Dean was back. Granted, he still had his wings, but his brother was back! He adjusted his clothes and lurched unsteadily to his feet.

"So, then, while you took your little nap, Hasteen said I had to stay down here until he does a purification ceremony and burns those goddamned feathers, and hopefully that will appease the gods or ancestors or whothefuckever, and the wings should vanish tonight after the drumming--uh, Sammy, are you listening to me? Whoa--little brother!"

Sam swayed on his feet and Dean stepped forward and grabbed his waist to steady him, looking alarmed. Sam gave a choked laugh and wrapped his arms tight around Dean, hugging him close and refusing to let go, even when he grumbled and flapped and tried to wiggle away. Finally Dean sighed and relaxed, accepting the hug. It felt like forever since he had been able to just hold his brother like this.

Sam held him close, breathing him in. He didn't give a damn if Dean had horns or a tail, as long as he had his brother back. Happily he nuzzled into the spiky bronze hair, pressing a small kiss there, just enjoying the feel of Dean's sun-warmed skin over solid muscle. He smiled as he felt his brother's tentative, comforting pats on his back. It felt right to be holding him like this. Dean fit perfectly in his arms, and he was the perfect height to lean over and plant a kiss right between those bright hazel eyes. He did so, smiling at Dean's bemused blink.

"Ah, Sammy--getting a little mushy here, dude--wha--?"

Sam cupped his brother's face reverently in both hands and covered that lush, sinful mouth with his own, effectively shutting him up. Dean froze in his arms for a long moment, palms flat against Sam's chest, still wary, then slowly relaxed in his brother's strong arms and tilted his head and opened his mouth to the kiss.

Sam obliged by deepening it and slipping his tongue wetly in his brother's mouth. He couldn't remember anything feeling so right in a very long time. Their first time had been hasty and clumsy and over too damned fast. This time they were going to do it right. Dean may have been trying to pretend that first time never happened, in some misguided attempt to protect Sam, but Sam wasn't about to let it slide.

So he kept Dean close, one hand cupping the back of his head, the other firm around the curve of his hip, while he devoured that mouth. He couldn't get enough of Dean's taste, cool and still faintly tart with apples. They finally had to part to breathe, but Sam refused to loosen his embrace in case Dean changed his mind. Now that they were standing, he couldn't help but notice how well Dean fit in his arms. It was nice to be able to loom a little and hold him close, Dean fit perfectly tucked under his arm, mouth tilted to meet his.

Dean stood shakily in Sam's embrace. Those long arms cradled him like he was something breakable, while that sensual mouth nibbled and that sleek tongue probed his mouth. He kept telling himself to get a grip, to take charge, and push his little brother away.

This was so wrong it wasn't even funny---even on the Winchester scale of right and wrong. Brother wasn't supposed to fuck brother. He took a deep breath and tried to push back, step away from that loving embrace. The first time he could write up to being a birdbrain, but not this. He wasn't going to screw up Sammy's life anymore than he already had.

Sam felt Dean tense and refused to let go. In fact, he tightened his hold.

"Sam--"

"No, Dean. Just--no, you're not going to shrug this away and pretend it never happened."

Dean twisted in his arms, trying to break his hold, His wings flared and beat in agitation, and his face was anguished. Sam held on grimly. He held his brother's gaze, his own intense, willing him to understand.

"No. I'm not going to let you go. Not again. That was the biggest mistake I made, leaving you. I should have dragged you, kicking and screaming, to California with me. Leaving you with Dad was a mistake."

He glared into Dean's startled eyes.

"You've always been the good soldier, Dean. You always gave everything you had to us. When was the last time you took something you really wanted?"

He shook his brother, angry at the honest confusion in those wide, hazel eyes. Angry at all those years when all he had done was take while Dean gave everything he had so that Sam could have some semblance of normality in his life. Angry at their father for taking his brother's childhood, molding him into the good soldier, while he pursued his dark trail of vengeance. Their whole lives had been molded around that never-ending hunt. He had lost everything to it.

He couldn't stand the idea of losing Dean too.

They'd pursued this demon blindly, without weapons, without a plan. Nothing good could come of such poor tactics. It was time to stand down and regroup---rethink. He wasn't going to sacrifice his brother on the altar of his father's obsession. Dean was all he had left in the world. They needed to stop. Take time to heal and grieve. They needed to look outside the box, before they found themselves boxed in, boxed up and six feet under.

"You are not expendable Dean, in any shape or form. It's Sam'n'Dean now, man, all the way down the line. You need to get that through your stubborn head. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere without you ever again. We were raised as warriors, Dean, is there any surprise that we would become brothers in arms as well?"

Dean stared up at him, astonished at his impassioned speech, then blinked and shook his head, as though shaking off Sam's words. He gave a lithe twist of his torso and squirmed out of Sam's hold and stepped quickly back to give himself some distance. One hand rose automatically to scratch the back of his head as he tried to muster his thoughts.

Damn Sam for offering him the only thing he'd dare dream of for himself.

He shook himself again, and his wings flexed and quivered, reflecting his agitation as he brought his arms up and crossed them over his torso in what he realized too late was a defensive posture. His wings sagged and his eyes darted away, refusing to meet his brother's bright, intense gaze. He couldn't do it.

Once they killed the demon Sam would have a real chance at normal again. He could finish his degree, marry some smart, pretty girl like Sarah and have the home and life that had been stolen from them both as children. That was what Sam had always wanted--- not a dangerous, nomadic existence yoked to his freak brother for the rest of his life.

Dean couldn't take the chance; sooner or later Sam would leave him again. Everybody left him in the end.

Sam watched him, saw every negative, unhappy thought reflected on that handsome, expressive, boneheaded face. He scowled. He didn't need to be psychic to read his idiot brother's mind. Dean thought he knew what was best for his baby brother. Well, Sam had four inches of height and a good fifty pounds over his brother. It was time to put them to use. He pounced.

Dean gave a surprised squawk and reflexive flap as his brother grabbed him, hooked one giant foot behind his ankles and neatly swept his legs out from under him in one smooth motion. He found himself face down on the sheepskins, one arm twisted behind him, and Sam's weight on his back keeping him neatly pinned. He tried to use his wings to flap him off, but Sam was too damned heavy and was leaning square in the middle of his back, between the wings.

"Dammit, Sam! Have you lost your mind? Get off me, man!"

He struggled, breathless and fuming.

Sam calmly held him down and waited, before leaning over and speaking directly in one ear.

"No. Get used to it, I'm not going to let you go, and I'm not going anywhere without you."

He leaned over and pressed his mouth wetly to the nape of his brother's neck, and smiled when he felt Dean's full body shiver in response. Dean might claim he didn't want this, but his body sang a different tune. Sam shifted slightly and ground his groin against Dean's bare ass, and his brother gasped aloud. Sam smiled. He was right, Dean did want him as much as he did Dean. Now, to persuade Dean to stop fighting it.

He licked a stripe over to his brother's ear, and nibbled the lobe gently, dipped his tongue inside, breathing wetly. Dean groaned aloud and bucked again. He tried to twist his head away, but Sam just dug his teeth in the lobe and held on. Dean tried a different tactic.

"Sammy--what the hell are you thinking? Did you get mojoed too? I get the wings and you get the gay? You got a sudden kink for a little bro-yay? Hello? Remember the blonde with the long legs? Jessica? The girl you were going to marry? Wasn't she the love of your life? Or just a piece of tall tail? It must have been nice for you not to have to bend over too far to get some--"

Sam growled, and flipped him over, still keeping him pinned, big hands holding his wrists above his head, weight firmly over his lower body. He glared into Dean's eyes, anger flaring, even though he recognized Dean's tactic of using words to wound--to shield himself as well, he realized, seeing his pain reflected in his brother's eyes. He found himself softening: Dean was hurting, so he lashed out to protect himself.

"Listen to me you jerk, and listen good. I loved Jessica and I would have married her and pretended I was someone I wasn't--and it would have been a mistake, Dean. Because in all the time we were together, she never knew who the hell I really was. But you heard me last night--you know how I feel about you. You know everything about me, just like I know you, and you love me Dean, just like I love you. You may never be able to say the words to my face, but in the last few days, even as a damned bird, all you gave me was love, Dean. Love. And I loved you long before I loved her, so give it up, big brother. Bro-yay or not, its real."

Sam abruptly released him and stood, motioning him to his feet. Dean, obeyed, surreptitiously rubbing his wrists. Sam had a hell of a grip. The moment he gained his feet, Sam knocked him down again with one hard punch. Stunned, he sat at Sam's feet, licking his split lip, feeling blood trickle down his chin, surprised eyes on his brother's grim face.

"Thanks for the rain check. Now lets get all the emo crap out of your system so we can fuck."

Sam's voice was matter-of-fact as he motioned for Dean to get up again, shifting lightly on his feet, hands up and ready.

Dena snarled and lunged, taking Sam down at the knees. The big dumbass, he was serious here! Sam had a chance at a real future, a chance to grow old, not to die young and end up burned and buried in an unmarked grave somewhere.

He would just have to beat some sense into that dumb, shaggy head.

They fought hard and dirty, not pulling punches as they rolled, grunting and cursing, across the sandy floor of the kiva. Dean managed to black Sam's eye with a crack of his left wing tip, but in the end they were just in the way, awkward and heavy and tiring him out. Sam's height and long reach gave him the advantage and finally, once again, Dean found himself pinned by his brother's weight and held down.

"Get the fuck off me," he panted, and glared up into Sam's calm face, as he tried to get some leverage so he could toss him off, and cursing when he couldn't. Sam just held him down and waited patiently for him to give up. Angry, he stared over Sam's shoulder at the round opening in the ceiling above them. It was late afternoon now, he figured. He and Sam had dozed for a couple of hours. His split lip throbbed and he licked at it. He could feel drying blood on his chin and neck.

He could feel Sam staring at him, but he stubbornly refused to meet his brother's dark eyes, focusing his gaze over his head to the blue sky. He remembered how good it had felt to fly, how he had hated to come down out of the sky even when he got tired, but he couldn't stand to leave Sam for long, even with the wind and the wide sky was calling him.

Hasteen had been wrong. The other eagles would have called but he wouldn't have left Sam alone.

Reluctantly he met his brother's patient gaze. Sam was the only home he had ever had. The only one he wanted. The only home he had ever needed. It shook him to the core to realize that. He shouldn't depend so much on another person. It was a weakness, a chink in his armor. It would be the death of him in the end. Defeated, he slumped in Sam's hold.

He saw the acknowledgement in Sam's liquid eyes and closed his own in surrender, relaxing under Sam's hands. After a moment he felt warm breath against his cheek, then Sam began to press soft kisses over his face, and his hands came up to cradle Dean's face while he licked softly at his swollen lip. Dean shivered beneath him. He was covered with the scent, heat and weight and strength of Sam.

"You are so fucking stubborn,"

Sam murmured against his cheek, lazily nuzzling and licking. He couldn't get enough of the tangy, salt-sweet lime taste of Dean's skin, the iron tang of blood from his lip, the feel of that silk velvet skin, the rich scent of his sweat. He wanted to taste him everywhere, sink into him and never come out. Dean was everything, always had been, always would be. He could never get enough of him. Everything good in his life had its roots in Dean. He tenderly licked the blood off his brother's chin.

"You got a feather kink you never told me about, little brother?"

Dean's voice was gruff, as he sought to maintain some control, not lose himself in Sammy's sweet kisses. Sam ignored him, huffed a laughing breath against his neck and began exploring the delicate patch of skin behind Dean's left ear with a wet tongue.

"Mmm--only for sexy, naked guys with angel wings," he murmured, nipping a succulent earlobe and suckling gently, as he slid his thigh up between his brother's legs and smiled to himself at Dean's sharply indrawn breath. Okay-- note to self, ears were a hot spot for his big brother. He intended to map every one.

"Sam--what if I don't change--you'll have to--"

Damn, it was hard to concentrate when Sam did that with his tongue, and then scraped his teeth along Dean's throat.

"No. You're gonna be fine, Dean. I won't let anything happen to you."

"Sammy--"

"Hush."

Sam shushed him again, mouth covering his. Dean wasn't used to being blanketed like this, held by someone bigger than he was, Sam was all wiry muscle and hot, smooth skin, big hands holding him. Dean found himself curling into that heat, clutching broad shoulders, hungrily returning those deep, dirty kisses Sam was so good at. He could kiss Sam for hours no problem, but hi s body had more urgent plans. He was so hard it hurt, and humping Sam's leg again was not on the agenda.

Psychic boy obligingly read his mind, and he found himself tugged up off the sandy floor and pushed over to the pile of sheepskins. He made an embarrassing little whine of protest when Sam left him to stride over to the pile of supplies, and clamped his mouth shut hard. Sam grinned at him, and tossed him the sleeping bags.

"Unroll those, it's going to get cold tonight."

Dean obeyed, watching with heavy eyes, as Sam withdrew a packet from the saddlebags and began to pour a wide circle of black salt around their makeshift nest. He finished, tossed the empty package aside, removed his boots and began to strip, dropping his clothes in a neat pile outside the circle. Dean swallowed hard at the sight of that lithe, tanned body, the flares of dark body hair, the sway of blood heavy genitals, and those mile long legs.

"Where did you get the black salt?" he asked curiously, trying to stay cool. Sam turned with a wide grin.

"Hasteen said he got it at Trader Joe's."

"Guess we'll have to shop there a little more often then. I know how much you like that yuppie health food--"

Christ, He was babbling like an idiot. He met Sam's laughing eyes and clamped his lips firmly shut.

"Like you like their sushi or those little butter cookies--madeleine's?" his brother retorted, dropping his jeans and stepping back inside the circle.

He stalked over to his brother and Dean swallowed at the predatory look in his eyes. Christ, he felt like he was on a silver platter or something. Maybe Sam really did have a kink for freaks with wings or something--

Sam's expression softened at the flicker of barely concealed panic on Dean's face, and the way his wings drooped over his hunched shoulders, as if he was trying to hide. He had never actually realized before how much of his brother's overblown ego was just a front. It hurt that his brother actually thought of himself as nothing more then a nomadic freak. He knelt slowly on the sheepskins and smiled into wide hazel eyes.

"Like I have a thing for you, you mean?"

He tossed a small packet at Dean, who automatically caught it. Dean raised a brow.

"Astroglide? You been holding out on me, little brother?"

"Nope, I got it out of your wallet. You're the expert, so this time you drive."

"Dude! A man's wallet is private!"

"Dude. You were a bird. You had no pockets."

Sam grinned at his brother's scowl. Then he lay back and stretched, enjoying the flare of heat in Dean's eyes. He shot him a sultry look from under his lashes.

"So, are you gonna take advantage of my virgin ass or not?"

Dean growled and visibly restrained himself from jumping Sam's bones.

Sam sighed, liquid eyes soft at the inner turmoil so clearly visible on his brother's expressive, unhappy face. He held out his hand, palm up.

"You and me, Dean. To the end of the line. That's just how it is. Don't say no to me, Dean. You know we can never have anyone else---it's just us now."

"Sam--"

Dean's voice cracked at the sorrow in his baby brother's voice, and he took a deep breath and to try and regain some composure. Sam would leave him again eventually; he knew it in his soul. If he did this, crossed this final line, gave his body as well as his heart, when Sam left him again he was as good as dead.

"Dean--

Sam's voice was soft, coaxing.

"I will never leave you again. I swear."

"Goddammit, Sam! Quit fucking with my head! You know damned well you don't want this life, it's never going to be normal or safe. Right now you're all emotional because we lost Dad, and you thought I was going to fly off into the wild blue. Sure, you say you want me now, but it's only a matter of time before some smart pretty girl catches your eye and you'll start brooding about what you're missing--the yuppie job, the perfect wife, the white house, picket fence and assorted rug rats-- and the next thing I know you'll be packing your bag--"

Before he could finish his rant strong hands, grabbed his shoulders and shook him hard, Sam's angry face inches from his own.

"I am NOT leaving you. I fucking love you. If I have to spend the rest of my life proving that, then I will, but you're stuck with me big brother, so get used to it!"

He stared hard into Dean's wide eyes, willing him to believe him, lifted his hands to again cup his face, held it gently as he leaned forward and laid his mouth lightly against his brother's. Dean's lashes fluttered as he blinked, his mouth opening involuntarily under Sam's.

Sam kissed him. Raised his head and laid another reverent kiss between his eyes.

"There's only you." he whispered, before pressing another kiss on the tender skin beneath his brother's eyes.

"It's always been you."

Dean closed his eyes and opened his mouth to Sam's tongue. He was damned for this, he knew it, but he couldn't stop himself. He wanted to believe it so badly. He had been alone for so damned long and Sam was too damned close and he could never, ever say no to Sam.

Sam pushed him gently back down and began to cover his brother with kisses, mapping every freckle, every remaining scar. He nuzzled Dean's strong throat, dipped his tongue in the sweaty hollow before nipping along strong collarbones. Dean's feathers quivered in reaction, pinions rustling against his back.

He suckled greedily at tiny dark brown nipples, smiling against the puckered skin at his brother's involuntary moans, then licked a wet trail down the center of his torso along fine blond hair, to dip a tongue into his navel. Dean jerked beneath him with a breathy laugh at the damp tickle, and Sam grinned and nipped and sucked a deep rose purple love bite into soft belly skin. It pleased him to mark his brother. Dean's hard hands were tangled in Sam's hair, clenching and stroking jerkily as his body responded to Sam's mouth and hands.

Sam chuckled softly as he found himself nose deep in coarse hair intermingled with downy softness, as he nuzzled Dean's twitching shaft. He had no clue exactly as to what he was doing but he loved the taste of his brother's rich, tangy musk and the feel of his warm silky skin. He cupped the heavy silken ball sac gently and licked a long wet slurp up the thick shaft to lap at the wet slit, curling his tongue around the rose velvet head.

"Dude, you really do have down in your pubes--" he snickered, and ruffled the downy curls with his fingertips, tickling hair and tiny feathers. Dean made a frustrated, inarticulate sound deep in his throat and then strong, hard hands were curling around Sam's biceps and hauling him up for a fierce, deep kiss. He twisted, pinning his younger brother beneath him and kept kissing him, hungrily devouring his mouth, wings arched aggressively over them.

Sam moaned beneath him, returning the kiss and arching up in his arms, arms wrapped tight around his back, long fingers digging into strong muscle, clawing red lines down the broad back. This was what he wanted, the solid weight and heat of his big brother above him. He was safe here, nothing evil could touch him here in this sacred space they were making their own.

Afterwards Sam would remember their lovemaking in flashes. Dean's lips and teeth marking him from head to foot. Dean's wicked hot mouth on his cock, hard, wet pulls sucking him dry, one hand milking his balls for every silky drop. Dean's hard cock dripping on his belly, as he pulled Sam's ass up on his lap, draped one long leg over his shoulder and opened him expertly with come-wet fingers.

The gleam of white teeth as he bit open the lube packet and slicked himself, the other hand still busy working Sam's virgin ass. The pressure and burn as Dean mounted him and pushed deep inside. The way the pain had shifted to pleasure when his body finally opened and accepted his brother's thick cock. He had came again so hard, he lay breathless and panting on the sheepskins, only to open his eyes wide as Dean straddled him and anointed himself, then Sam's cock, stroking it awake again with one strong hand.

Dean rode him hard, wings flaring out like some decadent fallen angel, and Sam's third orgasm had put him out for the count, the sight of his beautiful winged brother over him and the feel of his heat surrounding him burned indelibly on his mind. He had drifted off in his brother's arms, still greedily mouthing his brother's skin, nursing sleepily at small brown nipples.

**********************************************************

Sam woke slowly, snug and warm in their sheepskin nest, a sleeping bag tucked carefully around his long, naked limbs. Eyes still closed, he smiled and reached sleepily for Dean. They had finally fallen asleep together with Sam held close, snug under the protective curve of one of Dean's wings. The salt circle had kept them safe and there had been no further visits from evil things in the night. Hasteen's voice and the steady drums had kept them safe in the dark shelter of the kiva.

He jolted awake when his hand found only empty space. He groped blindly, but came up only with a single bronze pinion feather, as long as his forearm. His brother was gone. Fighting the immediate surge of panic, San sat up, knuckling his eyes and groping for his clothes and boots. He blushed hotly and winced at the throbbing in his backside. He was swollen and sore, and he could feel Dean's come trickling down his thighs.

He sure as hell wasn't a virgin anymore.

"Dean?"

The kiva was empty except for him. The ladder was back in place and from the angle of the sun and the chill of the air it was early morning. Hurriedly he dressed, not bothering to button his flannel shirt, and hastily ascended the ladder, still clutching the feather and blinking in the bright daylight. The air was crisp, as one would expect on a New Mexico mountain morning.

He found Hasteen crouched over a dying campfire with a pot of strong coffee. The old shaman greeted him with a nod and held out a steaming tin cup. Before Sam could speak he nodded off to the left, indicating something with his chin. Turning Sam huffed out a deep relieved breath and drank in the sight of his now wingless brother seated high up on a massive, tilted slab of sandstone farther up the trail leading from the kiva.

Nodding his thanks at Hasteen, he accepted the offered cup, and took a cautious sip. It was strong enough to dissolve nails. He made a face and swallowed anyway and Hasteen laughed silently at him, twinkling dark eyes nearly disappearing in deep wrinkles.

"We will wait with the horses down at the end of the trail head until noon, Tall Son. Give your brother a little time to get used to being a man again."

Sam smiled at the old man. He owed him so much. He didn't know how he would ever repay him. He opened his mouth to say exactly that, but Hasteen silenced him with a gesture.

"We all stand against the Dark, Tall Son. For one to help another, makes us all stronger in the fight."

Sam nodded gratefully and took his leave as the old shaman began to break camp, eager to speak with--and to touch--his brother, now his lover as well. He strode up the trail, hungry eyes on Dean.

His brother sat shirtless on the rock, arms around his knees, head tilted back, eyes on the sky. He was barefoot and wore only a pair of faded, worn jeans. They were worn nearly through at the knees and thighs and were too long for him; he had had to turn the cuffs up at the ankles. The rising sun gilded his hair and skin with golden light.

Sam winced. Dean must have borrowed the jeans from someone, because Sam had totally forgotten to bring along a set of clothes for him. Dean didn't appear to have noticed his approach, and with a pang, Sam followed his gaze. High above them a lone eagle was riding the thermals, circling the mesa in lazy loops.

Carefully balancing the cup, Sam climbed up to join him. Dean tilted his head in acknowledgement at his approach, but said nothing, eyes returning to the brilliant blue of the cloudless sky. There was a wistful expression on his brother's face. What was like to have flown free only to find himself now grounded, without wings?

Yet another thing he had sacrificed for Sam.

"Hey." Sam said softly, easing his lanky body in place behind his brother, and setting his coffee cup carefully to one side. Slowly, he slid close, until he sat behind him, long legs bracketing his hips on either side and gently slid his arms around his waist with a small sigh of relief, coaxing him close to nuzzle a kiss into the nape of his neck, nose buried in the shorn hair there.

Dean said nothing, and was stiff for a long moment before slowly relaxing in his brother's arms. Old habits died hard. It would be a long time before he learned to accept Sam's public displays of affection, even longer before he grew accustomed to being touched. He glanced down the trail, but Hasteen was paying them no attention as he packed up the supplies from the kiva for the trip home.

The other men were already waiting down with the horses. When Dean had emerged from the kiva they had carefully avoided him, except for the occasional, superstitious sideways glance. The man he had struck wouldn't even meet his eyes, keeping his own carefully averted. It wasn't every day an eagle turned into a man. To them he was the stuff of myth. Hasteen had provided him with a pair of ragged jeans, to his great relief. He would be needling Sammy for weeks about forgetting his clothes and boots.

The eagle in the sky above screed suddenly, and Dean tilted his head back involuntarily, lips parted to answer--before remembering and clamping his mouth together firmly. The bird above was alone, and seeking a mate. He had already found his in the warm, strong arms holding him so possessively close, the strong, lean body at his back. He turned his head and nuzzled Sam's cheek briefly, felt him smile against his skin.

"What was it like-- flying?" Sam asked softly, almost shyly. His breath was warm against Dean's cheek, he smelled deliciously of coffee.

Dean stilled for a long moment and looked into his brother's eyes. Tilted, and a couple of shades darker then his own, they held a soul deep love and reflected the brightening sky. This was his brother. This was his lover. Eagles mated for life.

So did Winchesters.

He told him without words.

**********************************************************

Epilogue

They stayed for another week at Hasteen's house, just to be sure that the magic was permanent and Dean wouldn't be flapping off into the wild blue yonder anytime soon. They had both made an unspoken vow to steer clear of winged harpy-type women in the future.

In the evenings they sat around Hasteen's small kitchen table, drank root beer and traded stories and information. Hasteen had been generous in providing information on various charms and protective spells against such creatures as skinwalkers.

They decided to resume their interrupted vacation, take time to rethink and regroup as well as simply rest. They bickered over location for a couple of days before finally deciding to head south to the Gulf of Mexico, stay near the beach for a while. Sam liked the sea, it soothed his headaches and Dean had a yen to learn how to boogie board. He would never admit to enjoying anything as unmanly as beachcombing.

That evening they packed the car and bid Hasteen a brief farewell after exchanging contact information.

It struck out of the surrounding twilight so fast they never saw it coming. One moment they were standing next to the car, laughing and waving goodbye, the next Sam was felled with a savage blow to the head, while the demon turned its attention to Dean. It slammed him across the Impala hood, before latching one remorseless hand to his throat and squeezing--an evil white smile gleaming below pitiless ebony eyes. The man it had possessed was big; at least 260 lbs and six feet, six inches tall and built like a weightlifter.

Sam was struggling feebly upright to his feet, desperate to save his brother. Dean had had the wind knocked out of him when he hit the car and now he couldn't breathe at all with the meaty fist closing off his airway. His determined struggles were getting weaker by the moment, as he was slowly strangled to death.

The thing killing him laughed in his face.

"You killed my brother and sister, Winchester. Tonight I kill you and drag your soul to hell. Our father has plans for your brother."

It rapped Dean's skull almost casually against the Impala's windshield, and he saw white stars.

Dimly, Dean heard the screen door slam sharply behind them, then the distinctive hiss of an arrow shot leaving the bow, followed by the thunk as it met a solid target. The demon holding him gasped, then gaped in disbelief down at its own chest. The razor sharp tip of a silver arrowhead protruded from under its breastbone. Even as Dean watched, there was a distinct crackle and blue electricity radiated from the metal, slicing through the demon and irradiating it from the inside out.

"No! Impossible--you dare interfere--"

It dropped Dean and staggered away, body already wreathed in blue fire, turning in an abortive motion towards the doorway where Hasteen Mosi stood, framed in light, stout yew longbow in hand. As the Winchester brothers watched in disbelief it died in seconds, writhing in torment, consumed in blue white fire--trapped in its human host. In the next few moments there was only a tiny pile of black ash sitting on the path. All that remained of both the demon and its host. The only thing remaining untouched was the silver arrowhead, gleaming like new in the black ash; the wooden shaft had been consumed in the flames as well.

Sam and Dean clutched each other reflexively; Dean leaned gasping against his brother's chest. Sam just fisted his big hands in the back Dean's leather jacket and held on tight. Both of them gaped at the pile of ash. Hasteen had killed this demon. The arrow had acted like the bullets from the lost Colt, only faster and a lot more effective.

As they watched, still stunned, Hasteen walked over and bent to pluck the arrowhead from the ashes. He carefully wiped it off against his shirt, murmuring something under his breath in Navajo, a prayer or charm, they couldn't tell. He turned to the boys with a nod of satisfaction, and held the arrowhead up for them to see. It was obviously hand forged, and it shone in the twilight as though newly polished, the silver gleaming.

"Well. That worked. Rachael does good work."

Hasteen sounded pleased. He turned to the boys.

"But you would already know that." he added reflectively.

Sam stared at him, still holding on to his brother. Dean was breathing easier now, but he had no intention of letting go anytime soon. He licked his lips, eyes on the magical arrowhead.

"Know? How would we know?" he asked, bewildered.

Dean seconded him with a grunt, one hand rubbing his bruised throat. He leaned wearily back in his brother's arms, glad to be alive.

There was a flicker of surprise across Hasteen's wrinkled face.

"You know Rachael Bonesteel. Your father left you both with her for a year when you were small. It was the year we hunted the skinwalker on the reservation. It took a long time, and he felt you were safer with her."

He eyed them thoughtfully.

"He had a lot of anger in him that summer. Your mother had not been dead long, and he was learning to hunt, to take the rage and grief and make it a weapon. He had to work that out before he returned for you. I think he was afraid Rachael would keep you if he let you stay longer. She loved you both very much."

Bewildered, Sam and Dean stared at each other. Rachael? Someone who had taken then in for over a year, cared for them when they were little? Loved them? Someone who forged demon-slaying weapons, yet whom John Winchester had carefully avoided and never mentioned to them? They exchanged a speaking glance--before turning back to the old shaman.

"Tell us everything you know about Rachael."

It looked like they were about to put their vacation on hold again.