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I'll Wait for You

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As he watched his brother walk out the door for the second morning in a row, Sam Winchester wrestled with the decision presented with him again. Maybe she could help. She was the closest thing the Winchesters had ever had to an actual friend. Sam hadn’t seen her in over two years, but they emailed frequently. He knew that she and Dean had gone on a few hunts together in the time between when he left Stanford and when Dean dragged him back into hunting.

She and Dean weren’t close by any means, but Sam didn’t know who else to turn to. He wouldn’t talk to Bobby, he wouldn’t talk to Sam. Maybe she could help. Without letting himself think about it again, Sam pushed the “call” button on his cell phone. He put his phone up to his ear, closed his eyes, and listened to it ring, hoping he was making the right decision.


AC/DC’s Back in Black started blaring from Piper Finley’s cell phone on the floor. She groaned, cracked one hazel eye open, and flung her hand around the floor to find it. The man in the bed next to her groaned and slipped an arm around her waist. She pushed it off as she saw the caller ID.

Rolling onto her back, she answered. “Sam?”

A pause. “Piper? You answered quick.”

She smiled. “You know me, always at your beck and call.”

It didn’t get the chuckle she’d wanted. “Sam?” She asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Pipe, I think we need you.” Sam’s tear-filled voice had her sitting up, swinging her legs over to the side of the bed, and looking for her pants with one hand in the dark. “What happened?”

“Dad… Piper… We found Dad, and he was looking for the demon who killed Mom… And then, Dad and I, and Dean... We were in an accident, we think the demon who killed Mom… And Dean, he wasn’t waking up, we thought… We thought he wasn’t going to-”

“Stop, Sam.” Piper said gently as she pulled her skinny jeans on with one hand, still scanning the room for her shirt and shoes. “I’m on my way, tell me when I get there, okay? Where are you?”

“Pipe, Dad’s dead.”

Piper froze as dread filled her, and tears she wasn’t accustomed to filled her eyes. John can’t be dead, he’s invincible. He’s John Winchester. She took a deep, shaky breath to calm herself. Don’t break down right now, Sam needs you.

“Sam, where are you guys? I’m coming to you.”

“We’re at Bobby’s.”

Piper smiled. “Good, I’m already in South Dakota. I’ll be there in a few hours, okay?”

She flipped her phone shut and took another deep breath before pulling her shirt over her head. The man who was in the bed was awake and looking at her as she found her boots and sat to put them on. “So, you’re leaving?” He asked, gently.

She didn’t look at him. “Looks like.”

“Can I assume you’re not going to call? You don’t even know my name.”

She looked at him through the curtain of her obnoxious purple hair and smiled. “Well, how can I call if I don’t know your name?”

She stood and found her leather jacket, slipped her phone into her pocket, and pulled her keys out. As she turned, she realized that she felt a little guilty, leaving here like this. So she turned back and smiled as she opened the door. “Look, this is a family emergency. Last night was great, I just have to go.”

He was propped up on his elbows now, his chiseled chest being spotlighted by the morning sun. Honestly, if Piper wasn’t so worried about Sam (and Dean, her traitorous mind reminded her), she would have crawled back into bed. But she had things to do, family to help.

“So… Are you coming back?” he asked hesitantly.

Piper looked into his beautiful blue eyes, tamped down the wish they were a different color, and shook her head. No point in giving the poor guy false hope. “No,” she said, and slipped out the door.


The drive to Bobby’s place was quiet. Piper found the radio too overwhelming right now, so she let herself get lost in her thoughts. More accurately, her memories.


She was sitting at a crappy table, with a crappy blanket around her shoulders, glaring at Dean. “You cheated!”

His smirk made her flush with anger. “I did not, you’re a sore loser.”

Sam, who was sitting between them, laughed. “Piper, you really do suck at losing.”

She glared at both of them, then started hard as the door opened. Neither of the boys flinched, nor did they comment on the (luckily) empty glass she’d knocked over. She was still nervous, on edge all the time. Dean watched her with something akin to concern in his eyes.

She smiled as John came in. He gave her a half-smile back, and looked at Dean. “Dean, take your brother across the street for dinner. Piper and I will join you in a few minutes.”

Dean look startled. “Um, okay. Come on, Sammy.”

“Dean, watch out for your brother.” John warned. Piper frowned. As if Dean didn’t already spend all of his time worrying about Sam. The additional reminder really wasn’t necessary.

“Yes, sir.” Dean replied obediently, and pulled Sam out the door.

John sat across from Piper and looked at her for a minute.  Finally, he spoke. “Piper, you’ve been with us for a while. I need to know what you want to do.”

Her eyes widened. “What do you mean?” She’d been with the boys for three weeks, since they had hunted and killed the werewolf who had killed her parents. She had no close family, so John had taken her with them. She wasn’t sure why he had kept her around, surely she was a huge pain. He did, though, and it was good enough for her. “What are my options?” she asked shakily.

He sighed and kept eye contact with her. “What I should do is drop you off with social services. Or find someone in your family who can take you.”

Piper was already shaking her head. “I don’t want either of those things. I… I want to be a hunter.” she said shyly, lowering her eyes to the table.

John frowned. “Piper, this isn’t really a life for a sixteen-year-old girl-”

“Dean’s only seventeen.” she objected.

John’s frown seemed to deepen. “Piper, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Dean’s been doing this from a very young age, and so has Sam. You only found out about this three weeks ago, you can’t make that kind of decision in three weeks."

Piper’s chin tilted up, taking a stubborn slant that John would get to know very well. “Yes, I can. This is what I want.” Her pretty hazel eyes spit fire at him. “Is it because I’m a girl?”

John’s eyebrows rose. “No, it’s not. I know plenty of women who are good hunters, it’s because I’m worried about you.”

Piper’s frown matched John’s. “Well, don’t. I’m not a kid, John, and I want to do this.”

They stared at one another, battling each other with will. Finally, John sighed. “Fine, we’ll take you to Bobby…”


Piper smiled through the memory. She had gone to Bobby’s, where they had fought like cats and dogs until he agreed to train her, and things had smoothed out between them. Bobby had become her surrogate father, making sure she finished school, keeping her on the right track, trying to convince her to go to college. In the end, she had decided to become a hunter, but not for lack of other choices. Bobby made sure she finished growing up right.

The Winchesters had shown up periodically after that, mostly when John left Sam and Dean there to hunt alone. Piper had become incredibly close with Sam, and was still able to confidently call him her best friend. After Sam left for Stanford, she emailed him in secret frequently. She had offered her help when John had disappeared, but Sam had declined, worried for her safety, and worried that his brother would pitch a fit if he invited her. So she had continued doing her own thing, keeping an eye on her phone in case the Winchester brothers needed her. And now, they did.

She pulled into Singer’s Salvage late in the morning, maneuvering around the broken down cars in the lot. She heard the classic rock on the radio, and the sound of metal on metal, and assumed that Dean was somewhere in the yard. As was habit, she resisted seeking him out first, and went to the house to find Sam.

Before Piper got out of the car, he was opening the door, with Bobby quickly following. She opened her door and made to turn to get her bag, but before she could, she got a good look at Sam. So instead, she left her bag in the passenger seat, left the driver’s side door open, and ran to him. She jumped a little when she got there, and he caught her and held her close. He buried his face in her neck, and she whispered soothing nonsense into his ear. She felt the collar of her shirt dampen, and for the second time today, her eyes filled with tears at his pain.

“Shh, Sammy, it’s okay, I’m back. I’m here, we’ll do this together, okay?” she murmured soothingly.

He nodded silently, refusing to put her down (her feet were still about six inches off the ground) or to pull away from her. Instead, he muttered into her neck. “Nice hair.”

She smiled as Bobby cleared his throat. “How about putting my girl down and letting the rest of us say hello, too, Sam?” he grumbled.

Sam gave a watery chuckle and put Piper down. She smiled and ran a hand down his face before turning and launching herself at Bobby, who caught her with a surprised grunt. “Hi, Bobby.” she said softly.

“Hi, Pi. I’m sorry it took something like this for us to call you back home,” Bobby apologized gruffly, ruffling her vibrant hair as he pulled out of their embrace.

She smiled. “Don’t, Bobby. I would have come back either way.” She looked at them. “Is Dean working on Baby?”

Bobby snorted. “Don’t know what good it’s going to do, but yes, he is.”

Sam sighed. “Pipe, can you try to talk to him? He won’t talk to me or Bobby.”

Piper looked at the ground and scuffed her boot into the ground. “He won’t talk to me, either. Dean and I aren’t close like you and I are.”

Sam shook his head. “He’s just bad at showing it, Pipe, he cares about you.”

Pleading brown eyes met her concerned hazel eyes. Piper groaned and looked at the ground again to conceal her blush. “Fine, but don’t blame me if this doesn't work, and don't blame me if he runs me out of the yard on sight.”

Sam smiled as she turned and walked into the yard, stopping to sling her bag over her shoulder and shut the door to her Jeep on the way.

She wound her way through the cars, her stomach starting to knot up with nerves as she got closer to the music. She hadn’t seen Dean in over a year, since they had worked a relatively simple salt and burn together. She was actually kind of worried he would react violently when he saw her. Dean didn’t have a very cool head.

She found him working on Baby, laying on two big pieces of plywood scooted underneath her. Instead of announcing her presence, she sat on the hood of a nearby sedan, put her bag on the ground, and leaned back on her hands to soak in the sun. Dean would notice her when he was ready to.


She was actually starting to doze off when he did.

“Piper. What are you doing here?” he asked gruffly, eyeing her hair.

She opened her eyes and lifted her head to look at him. “Sam called.” she said simply.

Dean’s green eyes narrowed when he looked at her. “To what? To come check up on me?” He huffed as he went to the table near where he was working.

Piper rolled her eyes. “No, Winchester, Jesus. Not everything is about you, you know.” she sighed and softened her tone. “Sam called because he’s hurting. I came because you guys are the closest thing I have to family, and when something terrible happens, family comes together. I’m not here to ‘check up on you.’ I’m here to ask if you need anything.”

Dean showed no emotion at her words, but nodded. “Sure, come here, we’ll cuddle and talk about our damn feelings.”

His words stung Piper, probably more than they should have. Instead of getting upset, she just stood and pulled her bag up from the ground. “Fine, be a prick. I don’t care.” She leveled him with a look. “But when you realize you can’t do this alone, you know where to find me.” She turned on her heel and walked back up to the house. She heard him turn the radio up and slide back under the Impala.


Dean heard Sam approach, but said nothing. Sam didn’t wait. “How’s the car coming along?”

“Slow.” Dean grunted.

He heard Sam sigh. “Yeah? Need any help?”

“What, you, under a hood? I’ll pass.” Dean started to pull himself out from under Baby.

“Need anything else, then?” Sam asked.

“Stop it, Sam.” Dean said as he got up and walked toward the table where he was keeping the tools he was using.

“Stop what?” Sam asked, feigning ignorance.

“Stop asking if I need anything, stop asking if I’m okay, stop sending Piper down here to check on me. I’m okay.” He looked over his shoulder at his younger brother. “Really, I promise.”

Dean tensed as Sam let out another sigh.

“All right, Dean, it's just... We've been at Bobby's for over a week now, and you haven't brought up Dad once. “

Dean’s temper snapped at him. First Piper, who Dean knew was sent by Sam, no matter what she claimed, and now Sam. “You know what? You're right. Come here. I'm gonna lay my head gently on your shoulder. Maybe we can cry, hug, and maybe even slow dance!” he snapped, hoping the sarcasm that had driven Piper away would work on Sam, too.

Sam, however, was more stubborn, and just frowned. “Don't patronize me, Dean, Dad is dead. The Colt is gone, and it seems pretty damn likely that the demon is behind all of this, and you're acting like nothing happened.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Say something, all right? Hell, say anything! Aren't you angry? Don't you want revenge? But all you do is sit out here all day long buried underneath this damn car.” Sam shouted.

“Revenge, huh?”

“Yeah.”

Dean scoffed. “Sounds good. You got any leads on where the demon is? Making heads or tails of any of Dad's research? Because I sure ain't. But you know, if we do finally find it... Oh.” He stopped and pretended to ponder. “No, wait, like you said. The Colt's gone. But I'm sure you've figured out another way to kill it. We've got nothing, Sam. Nothing, okay? So you know the only thing I can do? Is I can work on the damn car!” Dean turned around and crouched to work on Baby again when Sam spoke.

“Well, we've got something, all right.” Sam pulled out a cell phone and started pressing buttons. “It's what I came by here to tell you. This is one of dad's old phones. Took me a while, but I cracked his voicemail code. Listen to this.”

Sam held the phone out to Dean. With a begrudging look, Dean stood and took the phone, holding it up to his ear. A strange woman’s voice. “John, it's Ellen. Again. Look, don't be stubborn, you know I can help you. Call me.”

Dean handed the phone back to Sam, who said, “That message is four months old.”

Dean’s eyebrows rose. “Dad saved that chick's message for four months?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, who's Ellen? Any mention of her in Dad's journal?”

“No. But I ran a trace on her phone number and I got an address.”

Dean thought for a moment. “Ask Bobby if we can use one of his cars.”

Sam nodded, and had turned to walk away when Dean spoke again. “And Piper is not coming with us.”

Sam turned around, irritated. “Why not, Dean? She’s a good hunter, we could use her help.”

Dean scoffed. “We don’t need your little girlfriend slowing us down, Sam. Leave her here. Put her on research.”

Sam scowled. “You know as well as I do that she’s just as good a hunter as either of us, she’s not my girlfriend, and she’s every bit your friend as she is mine.”

Dean scoffed again. Piper may have been close with him at one point, but the last few years she had pulled away. Hell, she barely even made eye contact with him anymore, unless she was angry with him. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d touched him, or that she’d let him touch her.

Her relationship with Sam, however, had not changed. She thought she was being sneaky when they had gone on the few hunts they’d gone on together, but he knew she’d been emailing and texting Sam. While her and Dean’s relationship wasn’t all business, it wasn’t nearly as close as she and Sam.

He looked at Sam and pointed a wrench at him. “No, Sam, she’s not going.”


Piper was fuming. The Winchesters had already gone. Who the hell did Dean think he was, dictating where she could and could not go? At least he could have had the guts to tell me himself, she thought coldly. Instead, they had pretty much gotten ready and gone while she was still settling in. Sam had text her as they drove out.

From: Sam W.
Hey, I’m sorry about this, but Dean doesn’t want you to go. We’re investigating an old voicemail that Dad had left in his mailbox, from a woman named Ellen.

To: Sam W.
What the hell, Sam?! Why does Dean just get to decide that I’m not going?

From: Sam W.
I’m sorry, Pipe. Just give him a chance to calm down.

Piper hadn’t responded, and wasn’t sure she was going to. If Dean honestly didn’t want her help, she wasn’t going to jump through hoops to provide it. She’d be here for Sam, but she wasn’t going to be left behind. She could be there for him from the road, hunting on her own.

Bobby came into the kitchen to find her seething at the table. “You know that boy is an idjit, right?” he asked casually.

Piper jumped. She hadn’t heard him come in. A soft smile spread across her face. “I know, Bobby. But what the hell?” She ran a frustrated hand through her hair. “I came to help them, and not an hour after I get here, they beat feet. What am I supposed to do?”

Bobby sat down and sighed. “Look, Piper, I can’t tell you what those boys are thinking, because I have no idea, and I don’t want to know.” They shared a smile. “But I can tell you this. It means something to them both that you’re here, not just Sam. They’re both going to be glad you’re around. You’ll just have to give them a chance to show you that.”

Piper sighed, and looked around the kitchen. “I’ll try, Bobby, but I’m not going to hang around here and hold my tongue for very long. I’m not going to become his punching bag,” she finished quietly.


Bobby looked at his surrogate daughter without speaking. He didn’t have to ask who “he” was. Bobby had suspected for a while that Piper’s feelings for Dean ran deeper than friendship. But she had kept her distance, only helping on hunts when he asked, and never staying long after. Bobby wasn’t sure what was stopping her. Surely she had to know that Dean would be luckier than he deserved to have her?

Bobby didn’t say any of that. Instead, “I know, darlin’. But try to stick around for a while, I think they’ll come around sooner rather than later.”

Piper smiled at him, stood, and looked around the kitchen. “All right, well, then. If they don’t need me, it looks like this messy-ass kitchen does. What the hell do you do in here, old man?” she asked cheerfully as she headed in to start dishes.

Bobby grumbled and grouched, but smiled as soon as she wasn’t looking at him. It was good to have his girl back.


A couple of days later, the boys arrived back in the van. Piper met them at the door, wiping her hands on the apron she was wearing. She crossed her arms as Sam looked at her sheepishly, and Dean just looked at her.

Piper didn’t want to fight. She had cooled off considerably since they’d left. So, instead, “So? Who is Ellen? What took you guys so long? And are you hungry?”

Sam smiled gratefully at her. “Her name is Ellen Harvelle. She’s a hunter, owns a bar called ‘The Roadhouse.’ She gave us a case to work on while one of her partners dug up some research on the demon who killed Mom.” He was speaking as he walked up the stairs, and she held the door open for him and Dean. She followed them inside.

“What was the case?” she asked, interested.

“Rakshasa,” Dean said, putting his bag on the table. “A race of ancient Hindu creatures. They appear in human form, they feed on human flesh, they can make themselves invisible, and they can’t enter a home without first being invited. Took him out with a brass knife.”

Piper didn’t meet Dean’s gaze, just looked back at the stove where she was cooking. “Well, good, I’m glad you guys are okay. You said Ellen’s associate is researching the demon?”

She saw Dean nod in her peripheral vision. “He’s tracking it for us. I don’t know how the hell he’s doing it, but if the omens surrounding the demon happen, he’ll let us know where and when.”

Piper nodded once firmly. “Good. Now, everyone go clean up, lunch is almost ready.”

She bustled around the kitchen, ignoring all three of them. She turned back to put the salad she had made on the table and almost bumped into Dean, who was standing behind her. She squeaked and caught herself. He backed up to let her pass. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She smiled. “It would take more than you to put a scare into me, Winchester.” She replied as she placed the salad on the table. She turned back around to find him looking at her. She hated the blush she felt rising to her face. Why couldn’t she just look at him without blushing like a damn high schooler? “What? What’s wrong?” she asked, her gaze dropping to the floor.

“I shouldn’t have yelled at you the other day. I’m sorry.” he said shortly, keeping his eyes on her.

She looked up at him, her eyes widening when they met his. “It’s okay.” she said shortly, turning to move the plate of burgers to the table. “Don’t worry about it.”

He kept his gaze on her for a few more seconds, then nodded and walked out of the kitchen.

She watched his retreating back and leaned back against the sink. Then she turned, ran cold water, and splashed some into her burning face. “Down, girl.” she muttered to herself. If she was going to stay, she was going to have to find a way to interact with Dean without yelling at him, and without totally ignoring him. He’s dense, but he’ll notice eventually, if he hasn’t already, she thought as she toweled off her face. It’ll keep until after lunch, at least.


Piper served Sam and Bobby lunch, but Dean had already gone back out to work on Baby. Piper ignored him, and spent the time talking to Sam about the case they had just worked, and the hunters they had met at Ellen’s bar. She was laughing at his description of Ash as they washed dishes when he sobered for a second.

“Piper, I think Dean was right. I don’t think I’m dealing with Dad’s death. I think what he said-”

She put a hand on his arm and looked up at him, studying his face. He had lost the last of his baby fat, his hair was getting long, and he was so freaking tall. “Sam. Don’t say this to me, say it to Dean. He’s the one who needs to hear it,” she said softly. He looked at her with tears in his eyes and nodded. He handed Piper the dish towel he’d been using to dry and walked out.

Piper sighed and leaned against the sink. She could feel herself being pulled back into the Winchester family. She had distanced herself for a reason. There wasn’t going to be a way to protect herself if she let herself keep down this path. They needed her, though, and God knew that she was completely helpless against those brown and green eyes needing her. She covered her face with her hands and groaned. It was going to be a long few days.


Dean’s chest was heaving with emotion as he looked after Sam. He was dreading looking at Baby, and the damage he’d just done to her with the tire iron in his hands. He felt tears start welling in his eyes and he fought to control himself. He felt something drip down his cheek and off of his jaw, and looked down to see that it was blood. He reached up to touch his face and realized there was a piece of glass embedded into his cheek.

“Great job, jackass. Way to be in control,” he muttered to himself as he dropped the tire iron and made his way to the house.

When he walked in, the first person he saw was Piper. She had pulled her violently purple hair into a bun, and she had her face covered with her hands and was mumbling to herself. He approached slowly. “Piper? Are you okay?” he asked, his voice rough with pent up emotion.

She jumped and looked at him. “Yeah, I- What the hell happened to your face, Dean?” she exclaimed, hurrying over to him with concerned eyes.

He took a moment to respond. He was trying to remember the last time she’d called him by his first name as she pulled him toward the table and forced him down into a chair. She grabbed the first aid kit from the cabinet and pulled a chair up next to him. “Hello? Earth to Winchester?” she asked, concern clouding her gaze.

Dean shook his head and tried to stand up. “Uh, I’m fine. Just got a piece of glass stuck, nothing I can’t handle-”

She grabbed his shoulders and pushed him back down. “No. Sit down and let me look at it.” Her tone was commanding, and her gaze was intent on his cheek. Dean blinked and obeyed as he watched a piece of hair fall from her bun and land on her forehead.

“Okay, it’s not too bad. Just sit still and don’t be a baby about what I have to do next,” Piper said shortly as she pulled out a long pair of tweezers out of the first aid kit.

He eyed them warily. “What exactly do you think you’re going to do with those?”

She bit her lip in concentration, ignoring his tone as she leaned forward and advanced with the tweezers. Quickly, before he could react, she had reached up, pulled the piece of glass out of his cheek, and put it back down on the table. “Ow!” he yelped, glaring at her. “Damn it, woman!”

She chuckled as she got out peroxide and a cotton ball. “Shut it, Winchester, I told you not to be a baby,” she chided as she dabbed his cheek with peroxide. He winced as it stung.

Piper pulled out a butterfly bandage and removed the backing. She bit her lip as she leaned forward and applied it to the cut. Dean watched her, her gaze unmoving from the cut. He watched the tiny flecks of dark green in her irises, and admired the way her purple hair contrasted with them. When did Piper get kind of hot?

Piper sat back and admired her handiwork. Then she looked at him, amusement and concern warring in her expression. “So,” she said casually, “Wanna tell me what the hell happened?”

Dean grunted and looked away. “No.”

She shrugged, to his surprise. “Okay. Well, if you need to talk about it, let me know,” she said, turning to clean up after them.

“Why did you dye your hair?” he asked suddenly. For some reason, he wanted to stay in here with her.

She raised her eyebrows at the question. “Because I wanted to. It’s something I wanted to do since I was a teenager, and I just kind of woke up one day and realized that there was nothing stopping me.”

“It wasn’t that way the last time I saw you.” he said gruffly.

She chuckled. “A year is a pretty long time, Dean. A lot can change in a year.”

He felt his face curving into a smirk when she used his first name again. “Yeah, I guess so.”

She suddenly looked down and was untying her apron. “Okay, well, I’m going to go do some research, see if we can get a head start on getting this demon. Let me know if you need me,” she said as she hurried into the library.

Dean watched her go, feeling confused. “Screw this,” he muttered, and made his way back outside to work on his Baby.

Chapter Text

“Jesus, Winchester, why didn’t you guys call me?” Piper huffed out at Dean’s back.

She was sitting on the same sedan she’d been sitting on a few days earlier, watching Dean put the finishing touches on the Impala. She was also trying to not watch the way his muscles moved underneath his shirt, or the way that shirt would ride up a little when he leaned forward and exposed that strip of dark, toned flesh above the waist of his jeans…

Dean shrugged, breaking her out of her reverie. “I don’t know, Pipes, it never occurred to me. We were… Busy.”

Piper was taken aback. “Busy? You were too busy to let me know that Sam’s having visions? Too busy to let me know that you almost died?” She slid off of the hood she was sitting on to stand up, crossing her arms and starting to get mad. Dean turned around to look at her with his eyebrows raised. “You called me when you needed help with that werewolf case. And when you were working that salt and burn in Indiana. So you can pick up a phone when you want someone around, but not when something is actually going on?”

Dean was getting angry. He put the wrench he was using down and stood up. “Why would I call you, Piper?” She watched his face work as he started getting as angry as she was. “You haven’t been around for over a year! Why would I have thought you would pick up?” he growled at her, stepping forward.

Piper refused to be intimidated, and stepped forward toward him. “When have you ever called me and I didn’t come, Winchester? I have always been here for you guys! I have never said no to you!”

Dean stepped forward, rage coming off of him in waves, until their noses were almost touching. He glared down at her. “Piper, you’ve been avoiding me for a year! I haven’t heard from you for months! If Sam didn’t want to call you, I wasn’t going to do it, because you wouldn’t have answered!” he shouted at her.

Piper stopped, and felt her flushed face cool as she paled. She backed away a few steps, not dropping her gaze. “You… You think I wouldn’t answer if you called and said you needed me?” She backed away a few more steps and turned her face away.  

Dean sighed. “Piper…”

She shook her head and tried to smile brightly back at him. “It’s fine, Dean. You’re right, we aren’t as close as we used to be.” She swallowed, refusing to meet his eyes. “Hey, I’m going to go make lunch for everyone. You can come back to the house and I’ll have it ready.” She turned and walked away.

She knew that she wasn’t close with Dean, and that they had drifted, and maybe she had been avoiding him. But being near him made her feel things, and she didn’t want to destroy their friendship. But will there be a friendship if I keep avoiding him?

Piper sighed as she opened the front door to the house. No, there wouldn’t be. Dean had been feeling the distance between them, and she needed to remedy it. Even if getting a little closer to him would be hard for her, Piper would have to suck it up. Dean was just as important to her as Sam was, and she wouldn’t let her feelings get in the way of the friendship she wanted to have with the Winchesters.

She sighed and squared her shoulders, the decision was made. She started moving around the kitchen, getting stuff together for sandwiches.

***

Dean watched Piper retreat to the house, her shoulders tense and hunched. Smooth, Winchester, very smooth. He sighed again and turned back to Baby, picking up his wrench again.

He knew that Piper would have come if he called. He didn’t know what his problem was. Piper was family, too, and he knew that. He was just frustrated that she had pulled away from him, unsure of what he had done. He tried to run through the last hunt they’d been on together, the last time he’d seen her...

***

Dean and Piper ran back to Baby, she was holding her left arm to her side. They dove in and he sped away.

“Shit, Piper, are you okay? I’m so sorry, this is my fau-” he started, looking at her with concern.

She shot him a tight smile as she pulled her hand away from her arm. He could see the blood smeared on her fingers. “It’s fine, Dean, watch the road. Just get us back to the motel, I can patch it up when we get there,” she said, pressing her hand back into her arm.

He sped all the way there, and slammed the Impala into park before jumping out of his side and ran around to open her door. She smiled her thanks at him and headed to the door. He got them into the room and sat her down on one of the beds. “Take your jacket off, I’ll take a look at it.”

She slipped her jacket off, hissing between her teeth as she pulled her left sleeve off and assessed the damage. “Honestly, Dean, it should be fine, I can just take a shower-”

Dean came over and helped her pull her sleeve off completely. He examined the deep cut in her arm, frowning. “Piper, that’s going to need stitches.”

She frowned back at him. “Dean, I think it’s-”

“Fine, yeah, I got that. Just shut up so I can stitch you up, okay?” He looked at her pleadingly.

She seemed to fight an internal battle, then nodded hesitantly.

After they were done, there were tears standing in her eyes, and she was biting down on the sleeve of her jacket. Dean was wracked with guilt, he had been so focused on stitching her wound that he hadn’t noticed the pain she was in. He winced in sympathy. “Okay, Pipes, I need to try to disinfectant it again, this is going to hurt, okay?”

She nodded and kept her eyes on the motel door, biting down on her sleeve again. Dean got the whiskey and poured it over her wound. She whimpered and shut her eyes as a tear rolled down her cheek. Once he put the whiskey bottle down, Dean wasn’t sure what to do, so he did the first thing that came to mind. He sat next to her and pulled her into his arms, being gentle with her wounded arm. He wrapped his arms around her and rested his lips against her head, closing his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Pipes, this was my fault,” he whispered to her.

She gave a shuddering sigh and leaned into him. “Dean, it was not. I didn’t realize he was so close. You saved my bacon, Dean, so don’t forget it,” she sighed at him as she snuggled closer.

They had been running on fumes for days, the vengeful spirit had a high body count and it was getting more frenzied by the time they understood what was happening. They had gotten in and started the salt and burn before realizing there were two spirits, and the second one had slashed Piper’s arm open before they knew what hit them. Dean had salted and burned the bodies, and they had gotten the hell out of there.

He held her tighter, guilt hurricaning through him. “Pipes, I should-”

“Dean!" she stopped him, laughing as she pulled away to look at him. “Dean, it happens.  We have a dangerous job, and you know it as well as anyone else.” Her hazel eyes searched his, urging him to hear what she was saying. He was mesmerized. “Dean, you have to stop this. You’re a hero , Winchester. Everyone knows it but you.” She smiled gently at him. “I see it every day, so trust me. I’m an expert.”

Dean was floored. He had been called many things, but never a hero. He looked at Piper, really looked at her, looking at her auburn hair spilling over her shoulder, her wide hazel eyes looking at him with dawning surprise, her soft lips opened a little.

His gaze didn’t leave her lips for a moment, and then flicked back up to her eyes. Dean felt like something important was happening, and he memorized her face, so he wouldn’t forget any of it.

Before he could lean forward, Piper had jumped out of his lap, tearing herself from his arms. “Thanks for patching me up, Winchester, I really appreciate it. I’m going to pop an Aspirin or six and take a bath. Thanks!” She grabbed her bag and retreated to the bathroom.

***

Dean shook his head, clearing his mind of memories. If something had happened, he could have understood, but she had left before anything had. They had gone back to normal the next day, but she had pulled away after that. And now that he thought about it, it was when she stopped saying his first name.

This isn’t helping, he thought sullenly, putting his stuff away. He started back to the house, determined to not let it be awkward.

He opened the front door to Piper and Sam laughing in the kitchen. He smiled at the sound, it was nice to hear them both being lighthearted. Her eyes met his and she quickly looked away, handing him a plate with a sandwich on it. “Here’s lunch! I’m going to go take one to Bobby,” she said brightly, and walked out of the kitchen with another plate.

Dean watched her go with a frown as he picked up his sandwich and sat down next to Sam at the table. “Does she seem weird to you?” he asked, pointing to the door.

Sam shrugged. “No, no more than usual. Hey, how’s the car?”

Dean looked back at him, glad to be back on a subject where he had solid footing. “Good, she’s almost done.”

“Good, because I think we have a case. Some mutilated cattle, and in the last few days, two beheaded bodies.”

Dean grinned. “Sounds like our kind of thing.”

“What does?” Piper asked as she reentered the kitchen.

“I think we found a case, and the Impala is almost done.” Sam told her.

She brightened. “Great! Do you think we can leave today?” She directed the question at Dean.

He nodded. “Yes, Sam and I can leave today. You are staying here.”

Her eyes squinted down to dangerous slits. “Look, Winchester, I’m going, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. So shut it and get ready.” She pushed her chair back and stormed out of the kitchen.

Dean huffed as Sam looked at him quizzically. “Dude. What’s your problem? You know she can hold her own.”

“Look, Sam, it’s going to be dangerous, and she should stay here to be safe.” Dean muttered, still glaring at the doorway that Piper had left through.

“Jesus, Dean, how caveman can you get?” Sam scoffed, standing up. “Piper is an adult, you know that she can do everything we can do. Handle whatever issue you have, because I want her with us.” Sam left to get his stuff ready for the hunt.

Dean looked around the now empty kitchen that had been happy before he walked in. “What the hell just happened?”

***

An hour later, Piper had decided again to leave the awkwardness behind her. Seeing Dean so happy made her heart lift, even as she clutched the seat to avoid the inevitable death that would come as a result of his driving.  “So, Sam, what other details do we have about the case?”

“A few mutilated cows, and a couple of beheaded bodies, and not much else. We’ll have to visit the morgue when we get there."

Dean grinned. “How far, Sammy?”

“Uh, about another three hundred miles.”

Dean smirked. “Good.”

***

Piper was still giggling when they got to the hospital, poking fun at the boys about the terrible attempted interview that they had conducted with the sheriff. Sam laughed and elbowed her side as they walked up to the desk, at which sat an intern with a name tag reading, “J. Manners.”

Dean took charge. “John.”

The intern glanced up. “Jeff.”

Dean chuckled. “Jeff. I know that. Dr. Dworkin needs to see you in his office right away.”

Jeff paused. “But Dr. Dworkin's on vacation.”

Dean raised his eyebrows. “Well, he's back.” Jeff’s face paled. “And he's pissed, and he's screaming for you, man, so if I were you I would-” Dean whistled.

Jeff ran out of the room. Dean looked at Sam as they made their way into the morgue. “Okay. Hey, those satanists in Florida, they marked their victims, didn't they?”

“Yeah, reversed pentacle on the forehead,” Sam replied.

Dean sighed. “Yeah. So much f'd up crap happens in Florida.”

Sam and Piper chuckled. She handed the boys latex gloves as Sam opened the drawer and pulled the body out. There was a box between it’s legs.

Dean looked at Sam. “All right, open it.” Piper grinned.

Sam scoffed. “You open it.”

Piper laughed. “Wusses.”

The boys glared at her as Dean carried the box over to another table. He flipped the lid off, grimacing. Sam and Piper moved closer, wincing.

Dean sighed. “Well, no pentagram.”

“Poor thing.” Piper said sadly.

“Maybe we should, uh, you know, look in her mouth, see if those wackos stuffed anything down her throat.” He grinned and elbowed Sam. “You know, kinda like the moth in Silence of the Lambs.”

Sam pushed the box toward Dean. “Yeah, here, go ahead.”

Dean shook his head and pushed the box back. “No, you go ahead.”

Sam looked at Dean. “What?”

Dean grinned. "Put the lotion in the basket."

Piper rolled her eyes and pushed them both out of the way, trying to keep contact with Dean short. At least I’m wearing gloves. “Like I said, you’re both wusses.”

Piper steeled herself and pushed her fingers into the head’s mouth. She paled. “Dean, would you please get me a bucket?”

Instead, he leaned forward. “You find something?”

Piper shook her head and winced. “No, I'm going to puke.”

Dean looked back into the bucket. “Wait, lift the lip up again?”

“Dean, do you want us to throw up? Is that it?” Sam snapped, looking a little green himself.

Dean glanced at him. “No, no, no, I think I saw something.” He lifted the lip with his own finger. “What is that, is that a hole?” He pressed down the gum and a narrow tooth descended.

Piper’s eyebrows went up. “It's a tooth.”

Dean looked at her. “Pipes, that’s a fang. Retractable set of vampire fangs. You gotta be kidding me.

Sam looked at both of them. “Well, this changes things.”

Piper was pulling her gloves off as Dean put the lid back on the bucket. “Ya think?”

***

A few hours later, and changed out of the white coats they had worn, the three of them walked into a bar. Dean led the way to the bar to talk to the bartender.

While the boys talked to the bartender, Piper stood between them with her backs to them. She scanned the room. A man in the corner caught her eye briefly, although she didn’t let her gaze rest on him. She heard Dean say, “Thanks,” as he turned back around to her. She brushed his hand with hers, ignoring the electricity that shot up her arm. When he looked down at her, she smiled flirtatiously and stood up to whisper in his ear. “There’s a guy near the door watching us, black guy, by himself.”

Dean nodded and smiled back at her. She tried to suppress the heat that spread in her belly at the sight. “Let’s go, babe,” he said as he slung his arm around her shoulders. “Let’s go, Sammy."

As soon as they left, Dean took his arm off of Piper’s shoulders and pushed her in front of him as they went down the alley right next to the bar. The moment the man was in sight, clearly having followed them, Sam and Dean shoved him up against a wall.

“Smile.” Dean snarled.

The man looked confused. “What?”

Dean shoved him harder against the wall. “Show us those pearly whites.”

The man rolled his eyes. “Oh, for the love of... You want to stick that thing someplace else? I'm not a vampire.” Sam glared at him. “Yeah, that's right. I heard you guys in there.”

“What do you know about vampires?” Sam asked suspiciously.

The man renewed his baleful stare. “How to kill them. Now seriously, bro. That knife's making me itch.”

Dean cocked his head. As the man started to pull away, Sam shoved him again into the wall.

“Woah, easy there, Chachi,” the man said soothingly. Piper felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. The man pulled his hand and pulled his lip back, revealing his very human gums. “See? Fangless. Happy?”

The boys stepped back, Sam stepping back to stand next to Piper as Dean snarled again. “Who the hell are you?”

Chapter Text

Piper and the boys walked back to the Impala after essentially being told to forget the case. Piper was less than pleased.

“The nerve of that guy! You’re the Winchesters! As if he gets to tell you what to hunt,” she huffed as she climbed into the backseat.

Dean chuckled. “Pipes, you’re more irritated than I am.”

“Can it, Winchester.” she grumbled.

Sam smiled, and then let it fade. “Seriously, though, Dean. I think that guy was overestimating himself.” Sam turned back to the windshield. “We should follow him.”

Piper nodded, and Dean caught it in the rear view mirror.

He shook his head. “No, Piper. If we’re going to follow him, then you’re staying at the motel.”

She sat up and glared at him through the mirror. “What? No way, Winchester! You’re not leaving me there while you guys go out and-”

Dean slammed on the brakes and whipped around. “Piper, you’re not going. We have no idea what we're walking into, we have no idea what he’s like, and we’re not risking it.”

Sam turned back and looked at her. “Piper, come on. We’re just trying to-"

“Would both of you please stop treating me like I’m made of glass?” She snapped at them, cutting Sam off. She glared at both of them, but primarily at Dean. “I am not sixteen anymore. I’m a hunter. I’ve been hunting on my own for years. Years. I have gotten myself into trouble and I have found my way out and back to you. So shut your damn mouths, I’m going with you.”

Sam looked chastened and nodded to agree, but Dean was still glaring at her. “Piper, I-”

“Winchester, there is not an argument to be had here.” She said, crossing her arms. She met his eyes. “I’m coming.”

Dean huffed, turned around, and hit the gas.

***

“Oh, come one, man, it's not like it was human. You've gotta have a little more fun with your job.”

“See? That's what I've been trying to tell him. You could learn a thing or two from this guy.” Dean chuckled and raised his beer.

Piper stayed silent. She was uncomfortable. After they had saved Gordon from a rapidly deteriorating situation, he had invited them back to the bar. Her eyes never left Dean as he and Gordon bonded over the job.

She didn’t hate the job, but she didn’t like it, either. She did it because she felt a duty to help people. If you knew what was out there, you protected others. It was pretty black and white for Piper.

But Gordon seemed to thrive on the dark, brutal parts of the job. Piper had met a few hunters like him, and they had always unsettled her. They were here to save people, not kill things. Hunters who lost sight of that tended down dark paths. She was worried to hear Dean agreeing with him, and she knew Sam was, too.

Sam stared at Gordon with an unreadable expression on his face. “Yeah I bet I could. Look, I'm not gonna bring you guys down. I'm just gonna go back to the motel. Piper?” he looked at her. She nodded, not wanting to be around this part of Dean.

“You sure?” Dean asked, looking between the both of them with narrowed eyes. Piper stood without meeting his eyes and gathered her coat and her bag. “Let’s go, Sam,” she said quietly.

He nodded and put his hand at the small of her back to lead her out, catching the keys that Dean threw at him. When they got to the car, she met his eyes. “Sam, I’m worried.”

He nodded again. “I know, me, too. Let’s go back to the motel.”

***

Dean and Gordon were sitting in the motel, looking over the research he, Piper, and Sam had done.

“This is the best pattern I can establish. It's sketchy at best.” Gordon pointed to the map they were looking at.

“Looks like it's all coming from this side of town. Which means the nest would be around here someplace, right?”

Gordon nodded. “Yep, that's what I'm thinking. Problem is, there's thirty-five, forty farms out there. I've searched about half of them already, but nothing yet. They're covering their tracks real good.”

Dean sat back. “Well, I guess we'll just have to search the other half.” He looked down at his watch. “What time is it? Where are Sam and Piper?”

Gordon shrugged. “Car's parked outside. Probably went for a walk. Seem like the take-a-walk types.”

“Yeah, they are, but…”

At that moment, Sam walked in with Piper under his arm. She had her arm wrapped around his waist, and looked pale. Dean frowned.

“Where you been?” he asked, standing up to look them over.

They just looked at him. “Can we talk to you alone?” Sam asked.

Dean turned to Gordon. “You mind chillin' out for a couple minutes?”

Gordon nodded, and the three of them walked out to the Impala. Piper leaned against the hood of the car, arms still wrapped around herself. Sam rubbed his hand up and down her arm and murmured something Dean couldn’t hear.

Dean frowned again. “What happened? Where were you guys?"

Sam sighed. “Dean, maybe we've got to rethink this hunt.”

Dean’s eyebrows rose. “What are you talking about? Where were you?”

“In the nest.”

He felt his eyebrows go higher in surprise. “You found it?”

Piper replied. “They found us.”

Dean looked over both of them closely. Neither of them looked hurt, although Piper did seem pale. “How'd you get out? How many'd you kill?”

Sam glared. “None.”

Dean scoffed. “Well Sam, they didn't just let you go.”

“That’s exactly what they did, Dean.” Piper spoke quietly.

Dean paused and tried to meet her gaze, but she wouldn’t look up from her shoes. “All right, well, where is it?”

“We were blindfolded, I don't know.” Sam said shortly.

Dean glared and threw his hands to his side. “Well, you've got to know something.”

Sam shook his head. “We went over that bridge outside of town, but Dean, listen. Maybe we shouldn't go after them.”

Dean stared. “Why not?”

Sam and Piper looked at each other, and then he looked back at Dean and she returned her gaze to the ground. “I don't think they're like other vampires. I don't think they're killing people.”

Dean started to laugh, then let it fade when they didn’t join him. “You're joking. Then how do they stay alive? Or undead, or whatever the hell they are.”

Piper spoke. “The cattle mutilations. They said they live off of animal blood.”

Dean scoffed. “And you believed them?”

Sam pushed off of the hood of the Impala and stood closer to Piper. Dean’s eyes narrowed. “Look at me, Dean. They let me go without a scratch. They let Piper go, too. She’s fine.”

Dean felt a sarcastic smile spread across his face. “Wait, so you're saying... No, man, no way. I don't know why they let you go. I don't really care. We find 'em, we waste 'em. They kidnapped you and Piper!”

“Why?”

“What part of 'vampires' don't you understand, Sam? If it's supernatural, we kill it, end of story. That's our job. “

Piper frowned and met his gaze for the first time since they got back. “No, Winchester, that is not our job.” She pushed off of the hood and approached him. “Our job is hunting evil. And if these things aren't killing people, they're not evil.”

Dean glared down at her. “Of course they're killing people, that's what they do. They're all the same, Pipes. They're not human, okay? We have to exterminate every last one of them.”

She shook her head.  “No, I don't think so, all right? Not this time.”

Dean turned to to Sam. Surely he would see the way it was. “Gordon's been on those vamps for a year, man, he knows.”

Sam’s face darkened. “Gordon?”

Dean felt his hackles raise. He stepped forward toward Sam. “Yes.”

Sam scoffed. “You're taking his word for it?”

Dean glared. “That's right.”

Piper tried to step between them. She put a hand on Sam’s chest as he spoke. “Look, Ellen says he's bad news.”

“You called Ellen?”

Sam nodded and tried to subtly put his arm in front of Piper. She ignored it, much to Dean’s approval. What did Sam think was going to happen? “And I'm supposed to listen to her? We barely know her, Sam, no thanks, I'll go with Gordon.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Right, 'cause Gordon's such an old friend. You don't think I can see what this is?”

Piper did step back as Dean stepped up to Sam. “What are you talking about?”

“He's a substitute for Dad, isn't he? A poor one.”

Piper sucked in a breath. "Sam, stop it.”

Dean smirked. “Yeah, shut up, Sam.”

Sam ignored them both. “He's not even close, Dean. Not on his best day.” Piper stepped between them again and turned her back to Dean. "Sam!"

“You know what? I'm not even going to talk about this.”

Sam tried to push Piper out of the way as he advanced on Dean. “You know, you slap on this big fake smile but I can see right through it. Because I know how you feel, Dean. Dad's dead. And he left a hole, and it hurts so bad you can't take it, but you can't just fill up that hole with whoever you want to. It's an insult to his memory.”

Dean put his hands up and backed away. “Okay.”  He went to turn away, then turned quickly and pushed Piper out of the way as he punched Sam in the face, hard.

“Oh, my God!” Piper gasped, pushing Dean out of the way and moving toward Sam.

Sam put his hands up, wiping the blood away from his nose. “I’m fine, Pipe.” To Dean, “You hit me all you want. It won't change anything.“

Dean looked at them both for a long moment. “I'm going to that nest. You don't want to tell me where it is, fine. I'll find it myself.”

***

A couple of hours later, the three of them pulled up to a remote farmhouse. Dean was irritated because Gordon had stolen the keys to Baby, and he had to hotwire her after he had gotten her back together. They traced Gordon back to this farmhouse. Piper was nervous. Gordon was an unknown, and she was worried that he was a loose cannon.

She got out of the Impala and headed toward the farmhouse before the boys could protest. To her surprise, neither of them said anything. They simply came to stand on either side of her. Dean took lead and opened the door.

They walked into what Piper thought was a dining room to see Lenore, the vampire who had taken them to the farmhouse and claimed she didn’t hurt people, tied to a chair. She was covered in cuts and look very weak.

Gordon was dipping a knife into a jar of blood. When they entered, he looked around and smiled at them as he sliced a cut across Lenore’s chest.

He smiled. “Sam, Dean, Piper. Come on in.”

They walked further into the room. Dean put on a smile. “Hey, Gordon. What's going on?”

Gordon motioned to Lenore with the knife. “Just poisoning Lenore here with some dead man's blood. She's going to tell us where all her little friends are, aren't you? Wanna help?”

Dean started forward. “Look, man-”

“Grab a knife. I was just about to start in on the fingers.” Gordon moved the knife across Lenore’s arm. Piper watched, her stomach turning, as veins traced away from the cut. Lenore moaned.

Dean held up his hands and moved closer. “Woah, woah, woah, hey, let's all just chill out, huh?”

Gordon stopped and looked back at them. “I'm completely chill.”

Sam came to stand next to Dean, putting Piper behind them. “Gordon, put the knife down.”

Sam moved to step forward again, but Dean put an arm out to stop him.

Gordon looked coldly at them. “Sounds like it's Sam here needs to chill.”

“Just step away from her, all right?” Sam said, warily eyeing the knife in Gordon’s hand.

Gordon smiled. “You're right. I'm wasting my time here. This bitch will never talk. Might as well put her out of her misery.” He pulled out a larger knife. “I just sharpened it, so it's completely humane.”

He turned toward Lenore. Sam pushed past Dean and stepped toward the two of them. “Gordon, I’m letting her go.”

Gordon put the knife to Sam’s chest. Piper used the distraction to move behind Sam, closer to the vampire. She was hoping that while Gordon was focused elsewhere, she would be able to figure out a way to get Lenore out.

Gordon was gazing at Sam calmly. “You're not doing a damn thing.”

Dean walked toward the trio with his hands up. “Hey, hey, hey, Gordon, let's talk about this.”

Gordon didn’t take his eyes off of Sam. “What's there to talk about? It's like I said, Dean. No shades of gray.”

Dean nodded placatingly. “Yeah. I hear you. And I know how you feel.”

“Do you?”

“That vampire that killed your sister deserved to die, but this one…”

Gordon laughed and his eyes flicked his eyes toward Dean. “Killed my sister? That filthy fang didn't kill my sister. It turned her. It made her one of them. So I hunted her down, and I killed her myself.”

Piper was shocked. “You did what?” she asked.

Gordon looked at her. “It wasn't my sister anymore, it wasn't human. I didn't blink. And neither would you.” Piper’s eyes widened.

“So you knew all along, then? You knew about the vampires, you knew they weren't killing anyone. You knew about the cattle. And you just didn't care.” Sam asked, disgusted.

Gordon looked at Sam. “Care about what? A nest of vampires suddenly acting nice? Taking a little time out from sucking innocent people? And we're supposed to buy that? Trust me. Doesn't change what they are. And I can prove it.”

Gordon lunged forward and grabbed Piper’s arm. She cried out as he dragged his knife across her arm. He put the knife against her throat and dragged her toward Lenore. Sam moved forward and Dean drew his gun.

“Gordon! Let her go now!” Dean shouted. Sam hovered, unsure of what to do.

Gordon raised an eyebrow at them both, flicking his gaze between the brothers. “Relax. If I wanted to kill her she'd already be on the floor. Just making a little point.”

He held Piper’s arm over Lenore so the blood was dripping on her face. Piper hissed as he squeezed her arm to quicken the blood flow.

Dean started forward again. “Hey, hey!”

Sam snarled and put his hand on Piper’s other arm. Beneath, Lenore started to hiss, her fangs extending.

Gordon looked at them triumphantly. “You think she's so different? Still want to save her? Look at her. They're all the same. Evil, bloodthirsty.”

Lenore seemed to regain control of herself, retracing her fangs. She turned her face away. “No. No.”

Piper glared at him, yanking her arm away. “You hear her, Gordon?”

Lenore started to struggle more. “No! No!”

Piper pushed Gordon’s knife away from her throat and took a step back. She ran into Sam’s firm chest, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “We’re done here,” he growled.

“Sammy, get them out of here.” Dean said to him. Sam nodded and went forward to take Lenore into his arms. Piper turned to walk out, stopping when she was next to Dean. “Be careful,” she whispered, looking back at Gordon as Sam passed with Lenore. She walked out with him.

They walked out together. Piper held onto her arm with her other hand, looking at Sam. “Sam, we have to get them out. All of them.”

Sam nodded, watching Lenore slowly come back to consciousness. “Let’s do it.”

***

A while later, Dean walked down the farmhouse steps to find Sam wrapping Piper’s arm in gauze. Dean watched as she smiled up at Sam, and his brother smiled back. He sighed and came down the steps.

Piper must have heard him, because she turned and smiled at him. He hid his surprise as much as he could and smirked back at her. “How’s the arm, Pipes?”

She shrugged. “I’m going to make it.” She smiled as Sam finished bandaging her arm.

Sam chuckled. “Yeah, you are.”

Dean sighed, then stepped up to Sam and braced himself. “All righty, Sammy. Clock me one.”

Piper laughed and Sam’s eyebrows rose.  “What?”

Dean beckoned Sam forward with his fingers. “Come on. I won't even hit you back. Let's go.”

Sam joined Piper in laughter. “No.”

Dean closed his eyes and beckoned again. “Let's go, you get a freebie. Hit me, come on.”

Piper was leaning against the Impala trying to catch her breathe. Sam was laughing, too. “You look like you just went twelve rounds with a block of cement, Dean. I'll take a raincheck.”

Dean sighed and stood back up, glaring at Piper. “Shut it, Finley,” which sent her into another gale of laughter. It was nice to see her laughing like this. She hadn’t done it in front of him for a while, and it surprised him how much he didn’t like that.

He speared his fingers through his hair. “I wish we never took this job. It's jacked everything up.”

Piper stopped laughing, wiping tears from her eyes. “What do you mean?”

Dean looked at both of them. “Think about all the hunts we went on. What if we killed things that didn't deserve killing? You know? I mean, the way Dad raised us... “

Sam shook his head. “Dean, after what happened to Mom, Dad did the best he could.”

Dean nodded. “I know he did. But the man wasn't perfect. And the way he raised us, to hate those things... And man, I hate 'em. I do. When I killed that vampire at the mill I didn't even think about it. Hell, I even enjoyed it.”

Piper spoke quietly. “You didn’t kill Lenore.”

“No, but every instinct told me to. I was gonna kill her. I was gonna kill 'em all.”

Piper shook her head. “Yeah, but you didn't. And that's what matters.”

Dean eyed both of them. “Yeah. Well, 'cause you're both a pain in my ass.”

Sam chuckled. “Guess we might have to stick around to be a pain in the ass, then.”

Piper smiled at Dean before sliding into the backseat. He slid into the driver’s seat, feeling warmer than he had in days.

***

A day later, Piper was getting out of the Impala at Bobby’s. Sam wanted to go see his mother’s grave, and she felt like it should be a trip for just the two of them, so they were dropping her off.

“Hey, I’m gonna go say hi to Bobby and grab a few things, then we’ll head out, okay?” Sam jumped out of the car and went into the house.

Piper heard Dean sigh and get out on his side. She put her bag on Baby’s trunk and looked over at him. “Okay there, Winchester?”

He looked surprised, but then responded, “Yeah, yeah. I don’t get this thing that Sammy’s got going on with looking at Mom’s grave, but whatever.”

She walked over to lean next to him on the car. “Well, it’s good of you to take him anyway.” She smiled, trying to concentrate through the heat she felt radiating off of him at this close proximity.

She was trying to put her money where her mouth was. It didn’t matter that Dean had a face made for looking at, or a mouth made for kissing. It didn’t matter that his eyes made her dizzy and his shoulders could make her forget her name. Dean was her friend. She was going to be there for him.

He was more physical than Sam, words didn’t mean as much to Dean. So she scooted closer and laid her head on his shoulder.

She felt him look down in surprise, but didn’t look up. One step at a time, she thought to herself. Instead, she said, “Listen, I’m sorry about the argument we had. You’re right, we’ve drifted apart, and I miss you.” She kept her eyes closed and her heart thundered in her ears.

Dean shifted and moved her head away from his shoulder so he could put his arm across her shoulders and pull her into him. She breathed in his scent of gunpowder and leather, and let herself be pulled.

“Hey, no chick-flick moments.” He said quietly. He thought, then spoke again. “Pipes, it’s not just your fault. I felt guilty about our last hunt, and I didn’t want you to get hurt again.”

She pulled away to look at him with a smile on her face. “Winchester, is that your version of an apology?” she asked, laughing.

He grinned and ruffled her hair. “Close as you’re gonna get, kitten.”

Sam came back out of the door. “Dean, are you almost ready to go?”

They both stood up, separating. “Yeah, let’s go, Sammy.”  Dean smiled at her and wrapped his hand around the back of her head. Her eyes widened and her heart stopped as he pulled her close to press his lips against her forehead. “Be careful, Pipes.”

Piper watched them leave, feeling his kiss burning on her face. “Oh, Jesus, I am in trouble.”

Chapter Text

Rockin' Nebraska. Your source for the classics, all night long.

“I don't know, man, why don't we just chill out, think about this.” Dean asked, his eyes flicking back to Sam.

Sam leaned forward to shut off the radio. “What's there to think about?”

Piper looked out the window, letting the boys’ words fade into the background. She was nervous. They had told her about Sam’s visions, but this had been the first time she had witnessed one, and it had scared her. She’d never seen them both look so spooked.

Now they were on their way to the Roadhouse to talk to Ellen and her friend, Ash, about where Sam’s latest vision would take place. Dean was expressing concern that other hunters would overhear any conversation they had. Piper listened back in while she pulled her violet hair into a French braid to give her hands something to do.

“Plus it could have some connection with the demon. My visions always do.”

“That's my point. There's gonna be hunters there. I don't know if, if, if going in and announcing that you're some supernatural freak with a, a demonic connection is the best thing, okay?”

Piper winced at Dean’s choice of words as she tied the end of her braid off.

Sam frowned and turned to Dean. “So I'm a freak now?”

Dean smiled weakly and slapped Sam on the thigh. “You've always been a freak.”

***

When they pulled up to Harvelle Roadhouse, Piper was delighted. It looked like a dive, but was pretty obviously clean and well taken care if. Dean walked ahead of she and Sam, so she touched Sam’s hand and asked quietly, “How are you holding up, Sam?”

He gave her a tight smile. “I’m fine, just ready to get this over with.” he said quietly.

She nodded and smiled gently at him. “Whatever it is, we’ll handle it, Sam.” She assured him as they walked in.

The first thing she saw was Dean talking to a pretty blonde woman. Piper tried to keep the scowl off of her face. Not like you’ve been a nun, Piper, she reminded herself as she and Sam approached.

“Jo, where’s Ash?”

The blonde stopped and looked at Sam and Piper, her eyes lingering on Piper. “In his room.” Piper gave her a brief smile. “Sorry, we’re on a timetable. I’m Piper!” she said as she hurried to keep up with Sam.

When they walked into the back, Piper grinned at the sign on the door that claimed “Dr. Badass” was in. Sam knocked.

“Ash? Hey, Ash?” he called through the door. Dean, having followed them back, knocked, too. “Hey, Dr. Badass?”

The door opened a crack. A skinny, pale man who was sporting a mullet looked out through them, naked as the day he was born. Sam and Dean looked away, and Piper kept her eyes on his face.

“Sam? Dean? Sam and Dean. And who is this?" He asked cheerfully as he spotted Piper, changing his stance. Piper grinned again. “Hi. I’m Piper.”

He smiled at her. “Yes, yes you are.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Hey Ash. Um. We need your help.”

Ash winked at Piper. “Well, hell then. Guess I need my pants.”

As he shut the door, Dean looked at Piper with raised eyebrows. She was chuckling. “Be nice, Winchester. It takes a confident man to show interest in a woman standing between you two. I like him.” She said cheerfully as she turned to walk back into the bar.

She slid into a chair set at a table with a laptop set up on it. A few minutes later, Ash joined her. “Hey, pretty lady.”

She smiled at him as Sam sat across the table from them and Dean wandered over to the bar. “Ash, this is the logo I... Found." He finished lamely. “Can you find what bus company uses it?”

Ash was too busy looking at Piper. Without looking back, he pulled the drawing toward himself. “I can do that in my sleep, Sam.”

Piper felt laughter bubbling up in her chest. “That’s pretty impressive talk, Ash.”

He grinned. “I can walk the walk just as easy, pretty lady.” He hunched over his computer, and did a personality 180. His back straightened and his keys flew over the keyboard.

Piper was reflecting how ridiculous her life had become in the past three weeks, when Ash made a sound of triumph. “Well, I got a match. It's the logo from the Blue Ridge bus lines in Guthrie, Oklahoma.”

Sam leaned forward. “Okay. Do me a favor. Check Guthrie for any demonic signs, or omens, or anything like that.”

Ash’s eyebrows rose. “You think the demon's there?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, maybe.”

Ash examined Sam’s face, then turned to look at Piper. “Why would you think that?”

Dean, who had walked up to stand behind Piper, snapped, “Just check it, all right?”

Ash shot Dean a look, and Piper looked up to frown at him. “Be nice,” she mouthed up at him.

Ash looked back toward his computer. “No, sir, nothing. No demon.”

“All right, try something else for me,” Sam said. “Search Guthrie for a house fire. It would be 1983, fire's origin would be a baby's nursery, night of the kid's six month birthday.”

Dean looked around to see if someone was listening in, while Ash looked shocked. “Okay, now that is just weird, man. Why the hell would I be looking for that?”

Sam pulled out a beer bottle and set it next to the laptop. “'Cause there's a PBR in it for you.”

Ash shrugged and wiggled his eyebrows at Piper. “Give me fifteen minutes.”

***

Piper was still sitting next to Ash, watching him work, letting her mind wander and worry.

She was shaken out of her musings when REO Speedwagon started playing through the bar. She smiled. “Oh, REO, how long has it been?” she muttered softly.

Ash looked up at her. “Any time away from REO is too long, pretty lady.” She grinned at him, which he returned as he shouted, “Winchesters!  Got something!”

***

An hour later, the three of them were back in the Impala. Sam was looking over the paperwork Ash had given him. Dean was humming. He couldn't get that damn song out of his head. He flicked his eyes to the rear view mirror, watching Piper look out the window. Her hair had started falling down from whatever she had put it in, and it lay against her face. He didn’t know what he thought of her new hair color, but the way it shone in the periodic light of the streetlamps they passed was distracting as hell.

Distracting enough that he didn’t see Sam staring at him. “You're kidding, right? ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling?’”

“Hey, it’s a classic. REO.” Piper objected, leaning forward to rest her arms against the back of the front seat, and to rest her head on her hands.

Dean glanced at Sam. “I heard the song somewhere, I can't get it out of my head, I don't know, man. Whaddya got?”

Dean saw Sam and Piper share a glance, then Sam started rifling through the papers in his lap again. “Andrew Gallagher. Born in eighty three, like me. Lost his mother in a nursery fire exactly six months later, also like me.”

Piper tilted her head to look at Sam. “You think the demon killed his mom?”

“Sure looks like it.”

It was quiet for a moment, then, “How did you even know to look for this guy?” Dean asked.

Sam glanced at Piper. “Every premonition I've had, if they're not about the demon they're about the other kids the demon visited. Like Max Miller, remember him?”

Dean saw Piper tilt her head to look at him. “Yeah, but Max Miller was a pasty little psycho.”

“The point is he was killing people. And I was having the same type of visions about him. And now it could be happening all over again with this Gallagher guy.”

Piper tilted back to Sam. “Well, how do we find him?”

Sam looked through his papers again. “Don't know. No current address, no current employment. He still owes money on all his bills. Phone, credit, utilities…”

“Any collection agency flags?” Piper asked.

Sam shook his head. “None in the system.”

“They just let him take a walk?” Dean asked incredulously.

Sam shrugged. “Seems like it. There's a work address from his last W-2, about a year ago. Let's start there.”

***

“I’m sorry, I’m starting to like this guy.” Dean chuckled as they looked across the street.

They were sitting in the Impala looking across the street at an obnoxiously painted van. A barbarian queen was riding a polar bear on it. Rock music poured out onto the street from the open window.  

A woman in a coffee shop had told them where to find Andy, and had also told them that they were going to have some trouble getting anything out of him.  

Piper crossed her arms and looked around the street, looking for someone who might be Andy. She was on edge and jumpy. She hated this situation.

She looked back at the boys to see Sam looking at Dean quizzically.

“What's wrong?” Dean asked.

Sam looked away. “Nothing.”

Dean and Piper shared a look. “Sam, you look like you're sucking on a lemon, what's going on?” Dean asked again.

Sam sighed. “This Andrew Gallagher, he's the second guy like this we've found, Dean. Demon came to them when they were kids, now they're killing people.”

“We don't know what Andrew Gallagher is, all right? He could be innocent.”

Sam leveled Dean with a look. “My visions haven't been wrong yet.”

“What's your point?”

Sam sighed again. “My point is, I'm one of them.”

Piper frowned. “No, you're not.”

Sam looked at both of them. “Guys, the demon said he had plans for me and children like me.”

Dean flung his arms out wide. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, maybe this is his plan, maybe we're all a bunch of psychic freaks, maybe we're all supposed to be-”

Piper scoffed. “What, killers?”

Sam swallowed hard. “Yeah.”

“So the demon wants you out there killing with your minds, is that it?” Dean threw his hands up. “Come on, give me a break. You're not a murderer, Sam! You don't have it in your bones.”

“No? Last I checked, I kill all kinds of things.”

“Those things were asking for it. There's a difference.”

“Guys,” Piper interrupted.  “Got him.”

The man they were looking for was wearing pajamas and a robe.  He waved up to an extremely busty woman who was blowing kisses at him from a third story window.  He began to walk down the street toward them.  He spoke with someone he passed on the street, who smiled and handed Andy his coffee. 

Sam pointed to a different man walking on the opposite sidewalk. “Look. There’s the shooter.”

Piper nodded. “Sam, stay with him, Dean and I will follow Andy.”

Sam nodded and walked away, following the shooter at a reasonable distance. Dean and Piper got back into the Impala and followed Andy, who had driven off.

A few minutes later, Andy pulled his van over. Dean pulled the Impala over a few spaces behind it. “Winchester?” Piper asked nervously.

Andy walked up to the driver’s side window. “Hey.”

“Hey hey.” Dean responded cheerfully.

Andy examined Baby. “This is a cherry ride.”

Dean grinned, and Piper bit back a groan. “Yeah, thanks.”

“Man, the '67? Impala's best year if you ask me. This is a serious classic.”

Dean was practically preening. Piper could have strangled him. “Yeah. You know, I just rebuilt her, too.”

Andy smiled. “Yeah? And who is this lovely lady?” He turned his smile onto Piper.

She felt herself smile back cheerfully. What the hell? “Hi! I’m Piper!”

Andy smiled. “Hi Piper.” He leaned back to look at Baby again. “You know, this is a pretty great car. Hey, can you give it to me?” He made eye contact with Dean, and then with Piper

“Sure, man.” Dean smiled and got out of the car. Piper smiled and did the same on the other side, walking around to stand next to Dean.

Andy climbed in. “Sweet. Take it easy. And give your girl a kiss for me,” He winked at Piper. She giggled.

“All right.”  Dean wrapped an arm around Piper’s waist, and she smiled into his eyes as he leaned closer. Something was happening to her, her heart stopped and her breath quickened, but in her head a voice was screaming. No, no, no! Her mind screamed at her, even as she lifted herself onto her toes to meet him halfway.

When Dean’s lips touched hers, however, all thought stopped. Piper felt like the universe was holding it's breath, and it wasn’t just the part of her being controlled that wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed close to him. He put his hands on her hips and pressed into her and let his tongue run gently along her bottom lip. Piper had gone from a normal, functioning woman to a being that was controlled completely by sensory input.

It ended abruptly when Dean lifted his head away from hers and looked to where Andy was driving away. He stepped away from her and she stumbled, looking in the same direction, her fingers coming to gently touch her lips. She felt the start of a blush coming on. “What the hell?” she asked softly.

***

They were walking back to the last place they’d seen Sam when he called Dean. “Dean! Andy's got the Impala!”

Dean groaned. “I know! He just sorta asked me for it and I, I let him take it.”

“You what?”

“He full-on Obi-Wanned me. It's mind control, man!”

“Well, is Piper with you?  Is she okay?”

Dean snuck a look at Piper. He’d been trying not to make eye contact with her since they’d kissed. “Yeah, she’s here.” And it looked like she was avoiding him, too.

Sam abruptly ended the call. “Sam?” Dean looked at his phone. “Piper, something’s wrong. Come on.” He reached to her and placed his hand on the small of her back.

A few minutes later, they came upon Sam, looking shocked, and paramedics running around. Piper jogged over to where Sam was sitting on the curb, sitting next to him with a hand on his back. “Sam?  What happened?"

Dean followed and crouched behind them, looking around. It looked like the good doctor had stepped in front of a bus. “I kept him out of the gun store,” Sam said. Dean watched Piper’s face pinch in sympathy. “I thought he was okay. I thought he was past it, at least... I should have stayed with him.”

Dean met Piper’s eyes, hating the helplessness he felt and that he saw in her eyes. He stood. “Let’s go find Andy.”

***

A few minutes later, they found Baby parked. Dean rushed to her. "Thank god! Oh. I'm sorry, baby. I'll never leave you again.” Piper rolled her eyes. “Well, at least he left the keys in it.”

“Yeah. Real Samaritan, this guy.” Sam scoffed.

Piper thought for a moment. “Well, it looks like he can't use his powers just by twitching his nose, he has to use verbal commands. “

Sam looked at her. “The doctor had just gotten off his cell phone when he stepped in front of that bus. Andy must have called him or something.”

Dean was still cooing over the Impala. “I don't know, maybe.”

Sam’s eyebrows went up. “Beg your pardon?”

Dean shrugged. “I just don't know if he's our guy, Sam.”

Sam was flabbergasted. “Dean, you had O.J. convicted before he got out of his white Bronco and you have doubts about this?”

“He just doesn't seem like the stone-cold killer type, that's all. You know.”

“And O.J. was guilty.” Piper added.

Sam shook his head. “Either way, how are we going to track this guy down?”

Dean chuckled. “Not a problem.”

***

Later, they were sitting in the Impala, watching Andy’s van. Dean was eating, Sam was staring into space, and Piper was using the moment of quiet to try to sort through her emotions.

No such luck. “Ugh.” Dean groaned. “You know, I miss sitting down and eating something I didn't have to microwave at a minimart.”

“Preach.” Piper said fervently.

Sam ignored them both. “What I don't get is the motive. I mean, the doctor was squeaky clean, why would Andy waste him?”

Dean shifted uncomfortably. “If it is Andy.” Piper, sensing an oncoming fight, opened her mouth to try to diffuse.

Sam got there first. “Dude, enough.”

“What?”

Sam glared at Dean. “The doctor was mind-controlled in front of a bus. Andy just happens to have the power of mind control. You do the math.“

Dean shook his head. “I just don't think the guy's got it in him, that's all.”

“Sam, I kind of agree…” Piper said quietly.

“Well, how the hell would you know?” Sam snapped. “I mean, why are you guys bending over backwards defending him?”

“'Cause you're not right about this.”

Suddenly, Andy slammed his hands down on Sam’s side of the car, looking in through the open window. Piper jumped and squeaked.

“Hey! You think I haven't seen you three? Why are you following me?” The last sentence reverberated in Piper’s head. She looked at Dean, who also looked dazed.

Sam responded calmly. “Well, we're lawyers. See, a relative of yours has passed aw-”

“Tell the truth!” Andy shouted. Piper winced and put a hand to her head. That had hurt.

Sam tried again. “That's what I'm-”

Dean spoke up. “We hunt demons.”

Andy stared. “What?”

Sam turned to his brother. “Dean!”

Dean ignored Sam to look at Andy. “Demons and spirits. Things your worst nightmares wouldn't even touch. Sam here, he's my brother. And this is Piper in the backseat. She’s our best friend, probably our only friend, but I think she and I might be-”

Sam hit him. “Dean, shut up!”

Dean looked panicked. “I'm trying. He's psychic. Kind of like you. Well, not really like you, but see, he thinks you're a murderer, and he's afraid that he's going to become one himself, 'cause you're all part of something that's terrible. And, I hope to hell that he's wrong, but I'm starting to get a little scared that he might be right.” He had a tight, worried smile on his face. Piper reached out and put a hand on his shoulder.

Andy shook his head. “Okay, you know what? Just leave me alone.” The last sentence echoed again, and Piper shut her eyes.

Dean nodded, relieved. “Okay.”

“All right?” Andy walked away.

Dean winced and held his head in his hands. Piper squeezed his shoulder in sympathy, watching as Sam got out of the car and started to follow Andy.

Andy saw him, too. “What are you doing? Look, I, I said leave me alone. All right? Get out of here, just start driving and never stop.”

Sam held his arms out wide as he circled Andy. “Doesn't seem to work on me, Andy.”

Andy blanched. “What?”

“You can make people do things, can't you? You can tell them what to think.”

Dean and Piper got out of the car and started forward. Sam held his hand up to keep them away. Dean put his hand out and moved Piper behind him. It normally would have pissed her off, but she was afraid of Andy, so she stayed, staring over Dean’s shoulder.

Andy was defending himself. “Look, tha-” he chuckled. “That’s crazy.”

Sam kept on it. “It all started about a year ago, didn't it? After you turned twenty-two. Little stuff at first, and then you got better at controlling it.”

Andy started to sound scared. “How do you know all this?”

“Because the same thing happened to me, Andy. My mom died in a fire, too. I have abilities too. You see, we're connected, you and me.”

“You know what? Just, just, just, just get out of here, all right?!”

“Why did you tell the doctor to walk in front of a bus?” Sam shouted.

Andy stared again. “What?”

Sam looked like he was having trouble concentrating. Piper squeezed Dean’s arm. “Look…”

Sam squinted at Andy. “Why did you kill him?”

“I didn't!”

Sam was silent, cringing. He cried out and put his hands to his head. Dean and Piper ran to him, Dean catching him and lowering him to the ground before he could fall.

Piper fretted, moving his hands so she could look at his face. “Sam? What is it?”

Andy was nervous, standing behind them. “Look, I didn't do anything to him.”

Sam muttered, “A woman. A woman burning alive.”

Dean nodded. “What else'd you get?”

“A gas station, a woman is gonna kill herself.”

Andy was starting to panic. “What does he mean, going to? What is he, what is-”

Piper glared at him. “You’re going to want to shut the hell up, Andy,” she snapped, turning back to Sam.

Sam was looking at Dean. “She gets triggered by a call on her cell.”

“When?”

Sam shook his head and tried to stand. Piper helped him. “I don't know. But as long as we keep our eyes on this son of a bitch, he can't hurt her.”

Andy cried out, “I didn't hurt anybody!”

Sam gave him an even look. “Yeah, not yet.”

The four of them turned to watch a fire engine roared past, siren blaring.

Sam looked at Dean. “Go.”

Dean ran to the Impala, and Andy tried to step past Sam. Sam put a hand on his chest. “No, not you. You're staying here with me.” He swung his arm around to keep Piper behind him, which she let happen again. Seriously, Andy was freaking her the hell out.

***

Later, Piper and Sam were sitting across from Andy at a picnic table. Dean had called, letting them know that the woman was dead before he got there. The men were talking about their powers.

Andy was trying to grasp the concept. “So you get these premonitions of people about to die?”

Sam nodded. “But that’s impossible.” Piper laughed. “A lot of people would say the same thing about what you do.”

“But... death visions.” Andy looked back at Sam.

“Yeah.”

Andy shook his head. “Dude, that sucks. I mean, like, when I got my mind thing? It was like a gift, you know, it was, it was like I won the Lotto.”

Piper tilted her head to look at him. “But you still live in a van. I don't get it, I mean, you could have anything you ever wanted.”

Andy shrugged. “I mean, I, I got everything I need.” Piper smiled at him, which he returned.

Sam looked at him. “So you're really not a killer, huh?”

Andy laughed. “That's what I've been trying to tell you!”

“That's good. Means there's hope for both of us,” Sam said. Piper put her hand on his and squeezed, hoping to convey comfort.

They stood as Dean pulled up in the Impala. He got out and walked toward them. “Victim's name was Holly Beckett, forty-one, single. “

Sam looked at Andy. “Who is she?”

Andy shrugged. “Never heard of her.”

“Called Ash on the way over here,” Dean continued as he met them. “He came up with a little something. Apparently Holly Beckett gave birth when she was eighteen years old, back in 1983. Same day you were born, Andy.”

Piper turned to the man in pajamas. “Andy, were you adopted?”

Andy nodded. “Well, yeah.”

Dean glared. “You were? And you neglected to mention that?”

“Never really came up. I mean, I, I never knew my birth parents, and, and like you said my adopted mom died when I was a baby. Do you, do you think this Holly woman could actually be my m-”

Dean sighed. “I don't know. I tried to get a copy of the birth records, but they're hard copy only, sealed in the county office.”

“Well, screw that.”

***

They were going through files while Andy spoke to the security guard. Piper had tuned them out, but she did look up to see Andy waving a hand at the guard’s retreating back. “These are not the 'droids you’re looking for.”

Dean was grinning. “Awesome.” Piper smiled and elbowed him in the side.

“I got it,” Sam said from the other side of the room.

Dean and Piper stopped and looked up at him. “Yeah?” Dean said.

Sam nodded. “Yeah. Andy, it's true. Holly Beckett was your birth mother.”

Andy sat down. “Huh. Does anyone have a Vicodin?”

“Dr. Jennings was her doctor, too, I mean, he oversaw the adoption. You have a solid connection to both of them.”

Andy swung his head to look at them. “Yeah, but I, I didn't kill them.”

Piper came to stand next to him. She put her hand on his shoulder. “We believe you.”

The Winchesters nodded.

Dean cleared his throat. “But uh, who did?”

Sam held the file up. “I think I got a pretty good guess. Holly Beckett gave birth to twins.”

Chapter Text

Later, Andy was sitting with his head in his hands, in shock. Sam was pacing with a folder in his hands. Dean stood near a printer, and Piper stood next to him, watching Sam pace, worried.

“I have an evil twin.”

“Holly put you and your brother up for adoption. And you went to the Gallagher family, obviously, and your brother went to the Weems family from upstate.” Sam said.

Piper went to stand next to Andy’s chair. “Andy, how are you doing? Still with us?”

Andy nodded. “Um. What was my brother's name?”

“Here.” Sam looked at the folder in is hand. “Um, Ansen Weems. And he's got a local address."

Andy looked up at him. “He... He lives here?”

“Let's get a look at him. Got his picture coming off from the DMV right now.” Dean pulled papers out of the printer, then looked at them, surprised. “Hate to kick you while you’re freaked. Take a look at that.”

Andy looked up after looking at the picture for a long moment, horrified.

***

Andy was in the backseat of the Impala, telling what he knew about Weber, the man who worked at the coffee shop and was Andy’s twin, when Sam cried out.

“Sam? Sam! Sam!” Dean shouted as Sam struggled with the door. Dean pulled the car over.

Sam shoved the door open and leaned out. Piper was out of her side and touching Sam’s face when Dean got around to grab his shoulders. “Sam? Sam?”

Dean shook him a little. “Hey. Hey!”

***

They were standing in front of the Impala’s trunk, getting ready, when Sam said, “Piper, Dean, you should stay back.”

“No argument here,” Dean said. “Had my head screwed with enough for one day.” Piper nodded in agreement.

Sam was pulling out two guns when Andy got out of the car. “I'm coming with you.”

Sam shook his head. “Andy, no.”

Andy didn’t budge. “If it's Tracy out there ... then I'm coming.”

***

They crept up on Weber’s car, Sam with a gun at the ready. Piper was far away, crouching behind a bush, closer to Dean, who was up on a hill with a sniper rifle.

Sam ran up and shattered the driver’s side window and pointed a gun at Weber’s face. “Get out of the car! Now!”

Weber looked at him. “You really don’t want to do this.” His voice echoed in Piper’s head, and she felt herself wanting to stand and reveal herself. She fought for several moments to stay crouched. What the hell? He’s stronger than Andy, she realized, horrified. She watched as Sam backhanded Weber and Andy pulled Tracy out of the car.

Sam pulled Weber out of the car. He had him pinned, and Andy came over and put a strip of duct tape over Weber’s mouth. Then Andy reared back and kicked him, twice.

Before she knew what was happening, Piper stood and walked calmly to the commotion. She started walking toward the ledge. She knew that she could fly, why hadn’t she done it before? There was a voice screaming in her head, No, no no! God dammit, no! But the voice seemed unimportant, so she continued and climbed up on the ledge.

Sam was shouting. “Andy! Listen to me! Listen to me!”

Piper heard a thump, and didn’t hear Sam anymore. She was still fighting hard with herself, trying to get herself to get off of the ledge. Okay, what will bring me back to myself? My parents. Bobby. Cooking in Bobby’s kitchen. For Sam and Dean. Dean… Nothing was working. She couldn’t even let out a frustrated noise.

She had tuned out what was going on around her. The next thing she heard was Weber saying, “Back off, Andy. Or Tracy's gonna do a little flying.”

Piper sensed another presence on the ledge with her. She smiled. Maybe she could fly, too!

No, she can’t! And neither can you! You’re going to die if you don’t get off of this damn ledge!

She heard Weber say, “I'm stronger than you. I can do it.”

Then, Andy. “Okay, okay. Okay. All right, just... Just please don't hurt her.”

Weber’s voice, then, pleading. “Don't be mad at me, okay? I know, it's, it's all wrong. I didn't mean for this to happen, it's just... Tracy? She's trying to come between us.”

“You're insane.”

Weber started to get mad. “She's garbage! Man, they all are! We can, we can push them, we can make them do whatever we want!”

“Are you really... Are you really this stupid? Is it-”

“Wha-”

“I mean, you, you learn you've got a twin…” Piper heard Sam start to come to. Part of her didn’t care, and part of her rejoiced fiercely. “You call him up, you go out for a drink, you don't start killing people!”

“I've wanted to tell you for so long, bro. But he didn't let me. He said I had to wait until the time was…”

Andy was confused. “Who?”

“The man with the yellow eyes." Piper felt part of her still, wanting to absorb every word.

“What are you talking about?”

“He came to me. In my dream. He said I was special. He told me he's got big plans for me. Wait 'till you see what's in store, Andy, for both of us! See, he's the one who told me that... I had a brother. A twin.”

Piper tuned them out again to start fighting with herself again. She was starting to panic. She couldn’t move.

Then she heard, “I see you. Bye bye.” The voice echoed in her head. He knew where Dean was. No! She cried in her head, panic and fear gripping her. She let out a whimper.

Piper heard a gunshot, and screamed, tumbling backward off the ledge. She turned to see Andy pointing a gun at the fallen Weber, and let out a sigh of relief before sliding to her knees and leaning back against the ledge and let the tears start to come.

***

Rescue and police vehicles were scattered across the road. One was tending to Sam’s injured shoulder. Dean stood next to him, and Piper stood next to him. She looked dead on her feet, and Dean was worried.

They watched Andy speak with an officer, convincing him that he had seen Weber shoot himself. “Look at him. He's getting better at it.”

Andy approached Sam and Dean, and stood looking at Tracy, who was avoiding his gaze.

He sounded pained. “She won't even look at me.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, she's pretty shaken up. “

“No, it's, this is different. It's, uh, I never, I never used my mind thing on her before. Before last night. She's scared of me now.”

“Andy.” They looked at Piper, who was starting to sway. “Andy, it’s a pretty scary sensation. It’s terrifying, honestly. Give her some time, she might come around.”

Dean was watching Piper and managed to slip an arm around her waist before she started to fall. She made what sounded like a grateful noise and buried her head in his shoulder, her arm coming around to his waist. Dean turned back to the conversation Sam and Andy were having, letting her lean into him.

Andy was asking, “What am I supposed to do now?”

“Be good, Andy.” Dean said quietly.  “Or we’ll be back.”

He turned with Piper, her feet shuffling next to his. She was in shock, he realized. Just because nothing had happened, didn’t mean she wasn’t freaking out.

Dean couldn’t describe the emotions that had gone through him when that woman had knocked Sam out, and then he looked up to realize Piper was on the ledge, waiting to jump. Fear wasn’t the right word, it didn’t have enough. Terror was closer. When he hadn’t know what Sam’s condition was, and saw Piper about to jump, something close to terror had torn it's way through his heart.

Dean stopped, bent down, and scooped his arms under her knees, cradling her to his chest. She made a noise of protest but leaned her head against his shoulder and sighed. “Sorry,” she mumbled into his chest.

Dean smiled. “Don’t be, kitten."

He walked with Sam to the Impala, taking her and putting her in the backseat. She lay still, already mostly asleep. Dean sighed and shrugged off his coat, laying it over her gently.

Sam was watching him. “What?” Dean asked defensively, getting into the driver’s seat.

“You know, I heard you before, Dean, when Andy made you tell the truth. What you said about Piper… And what you said about me. You're just as scared of this as I am.”

Dean shook his head. “That was mind control! I mean, it's like, like, that's like being roofied, man, that doesn't count. No, I’m calling a do-over.”

Sam scoffed. “What are you, seven?”

“Doesn't matter. Look, we've just gotta keep doing what we're doing, find that evil son of a bitch and kill it.”

Dean’s phone rang. He looked at the caller ID, gave Sam a look, and answered. “Hello? Ellen. What's going on? Yeah, we'll be right there.” 

***

Sam and Dean were sitting at the bar. Ellen was behind it, Jo was walking around the outside. Piper sat next to Dean, trying to stay focused. She pulled Dean’s coat around her tighter.

“Jo?” Ellen called.

“Hmm?”

“Go pull up another case of beer."

Jo protested. “Mom…”

“Now, please.”  They watched her walk away, then Ellen turned back to them.

“So. You, uh, you want to tell me about this last hunt of yours?”

Dean shook his head. “No. Not really. No offense, it's just kind of a family thing.”

Ellen dropped a stack of papers on the bar. “Not anymore. I got this stuff from Ash. Andrew Gallagher's house burnt down on his six month birthday, just like your house. You think it was the demon both times, don't you? You think it went after Gallagher's family?”

Sam thought, then nodded. “Yeah, we think so.”

“Sam…” Dean warned.

Piper put her hand on Dean’s arm, and he turned to her. She met his eyes and tried to keep with it. “Look, Ellen has a right to know. Maybe she can find a way to warn others about what’s coming, whenever we find out what it is.” He opened his mouth to protest. “We’re not the only hunters around, Winchester.”

Dean stared at her for another moment, then nodded to Sam. Piper breathed a sigh of relief and lay her head on Dean’s shoulder. He shifted to give her better access.

Sam turned back to Ellen. “There are people out there, like Andy Gallagher, like me. And um... We all have some kind of ability.”

“Ability?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah. Psychic ability. Me, I have, um, I have visions. Premonitions. I don't know, it's, it's different for everybody. The demon said he had plans for people like us.”

“What kind of plans?”

Sam shrugged “We don’t really know for sure.”

“These people out there, these psychics... They dangerous?”

Dean shook his head. “No, not all of them.”

“But some are. Some are very dangerous.” Sam replied.

Ellen seemed to gather herself. “Okay, how many of them are we looking at?”

“We've been able to track a clear pattern so far. They've all had house fires on the night of the kid's six month birthday.” Piper replied, her eyes closed, her head not leaving Dean’s shoulder.

“That’s not true.” Sam objected. “Weber, or whatever his name was, I looked at his file. There was no house fire.  Nothing out of the ordinary."

Ellen sighed. “Which breaks pattern. So if there's any others like him, there'd be nothing in the system. No way to track 'em all down.”

“And so who knows how many of 'em are really out there?” Dean said slowly.

“Jo, honey?” Ellen called.

“Yeah?”

“You’d better break out the whiskey instead.”

***

They bunked at Ellen’s that night. There were three cots set up in the same room. Ellen had pursed her lips, but Dean insisted that he wanted to make sure Piper didn’t go further into shock, so she relented.

Now, they lay in the dark side-by-side. Dean was on his back, watching Piper doze on and off, and listening to Sam’s steady breathing next to him. His eyes were starting to get heavy when Piper startled awake.

She lay breathing heavily for a few minutes before starting to calm down. She sighed and put a hand to her chest, then put it back down to her side. Dean slowly moved his hand to grasp hers, his fingers intertwining hers.

She seemed very still, but didn’t pull away. Then she squeezed his hand and closed her eyes, her breathing becoming unsteady again.

“You scared me, kitten.” Dean said softly, looking up at the ceiling.

“I scared me, too.” She said softly.

“Well, it’s okay now.”

“Is it?” He turned to look at her in surprise to find her already gazing at him. “I… Look, I want to be here with you guys. I want to be in this fight. But I don’t want to put you guys in danger. If he had had to, he would have used me to control Sam.” Her tears started to fall. “I don’t want to be the reason you guys fail.” She paused, and then continued. "And I'm so scared for Sam. And for you. What's going to happen? What are we up against? Can we beat it?"

Dean wasn’t sure what to say to comfort her. They could all be used against each other, but it didn’t mean they weren’t going to be there. He and Sam both needed her here, she had already become essential. And Dean had confidence that the three of them, along with Bobby, could face whatever came at them.

He didn’t say any of those things. What he did instead was let go of her hand and pull her cot closer to his. When it was close enough, he sat up and pulled her over to him, then scooted and lay with her back pressed against his chest. He wrapped his blanket around her, even though she was already wrapped in hers, and put his arm around her. “It’s going to be okay, Pipes, you’ll see. We’ll get through this, together.” he whispered to her.

***

Piper almost believed him.

Chapter Text

Dean woke up early, like he always did. Before he opened his eyes, he took stock of what he could feel, and let the memories of where he was sink in. They were at The Roadhouse, and he was lying on his back on a cot. What he couldn’t remember was the warm, soft form that was pressed against him, her head on his shoulder and her arm casually laying low on his abdomen.

Piper.

He had pulled Piper onto his cot to comfort her, and they had fallen asleep. She was close against him, warm. As he thought it, she sighed and nestled her head into his chest, still asleep.

Dean couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept, just slept, in a bed with a woman. Unwillingly, he found himself thinking of the kiss Andy had coerced them into sharing. Her soft lips, the breathy sigh she’d let go when they finally made contact, all of her curves pressed into him…

Dean realized that he was about to have a problem. As slowly and gently as possible, he extracted himself from her and stood. A frown appeared on her face, but she curled into a ball and stayed asleep. He sighed, relieved. That would have been awkward.

He stood, looking at her for a moment. The way her messy purple hair framed her face, which was swollen from sleep. The way her hand was stretched to the end of the cot, as if searching for him. The blanket that rode low on her waist, making him realize that she was just in a T-shirt and panties.

“Shit,” he muttered to himself, and walked out of the room to find a cold shower, a beer, and Sammy.

***

Piper came awake slowly, wondering why she felt like something was missing. When she remembered the events of the day before, her eyes flew open and she shot up. “Oh, my God…” she whispered, eyes widening in shock.

Yesterday, I kissed Dean Winchester... And last night, I slept with him.

She wasn’t sure how to process what she was feeling, so she broke it down.

The kiss. Okay, that happened because Andy told us to do it. But it had still been good. Doesn’t matter. Andy told us to do it, that’s why we did it. Besides, any kiss with Dean Winchester was going to be good, the man was a walking poster child for dirty thoughts. Okay, the kiss didn’t matter.

Sleeping with him. Just sleeping, she corrected. That had been amazing. For someone who was so closed off, Dean was a hell of a cuddler. He did it to comfort you, because you were being a baby. Right. Strictly for comfort.

So… Neither of those things meant anything. They were unlikely to run into someone who could control minds any time soon, and she was going to work on keeping her emotions beneath the surface. She had cried more times in the past three weeks than she had in the last three years, and she didn’t know what was wrong with herself. Piper took a deep breath through her nose, and huffed it out through her mouth. She tried on a smile, and found that it came pretty naturally. She felt better, she assured herself.

And she ignored the little part of her that was sad beyond belief as she stood up to find pants and a toothbrush.

***

After the breakfast Ellen and Piper had made, Piper went for a walk.

She really just walked around the parking lot a few times, but it helped her think. The case with Andy and his evil twin had brought home the fact that hunting with the Winchesters wasn’t like hunting on her own. Sure, she was in danger regularly, but she had never been in “a psychic guy is trying to kill you” trouble.

Was she willing to die for the Winchesters? Yes, she was. That wasn’t what she was fighting with herself about. She would die for them, but was that insane? Did it matter?

She had paused, looking toward the horizon, still pondering the question, when she heard gravel crunch behind her.

He was hesitant. “Everything okay, Pipes?”

She nodded, not turning around. “Yeah, Winchester. Just letting it all sink in.”

Dean came and stood next to her. “Letting what sink in?”

She shrugged. “The whole crazy situation. I’ve only been here for three weeks, and I haven’t had a chance to process. Hell, I haven’t even dealt with your dad dying, much less anything else that happened.”

Dean snorted. “Join the club, kitten.”

Piper laughed. “I don’t know, it’s just so crazy right now.” She glanced at him. “I might go back home for a few days, try to get my head on straight.”

He was quiet. “We probably shouldn’t have dragged you into this mess.”

She rolled her eyes. “Can it, Winchester.”

He shook his head. “I’m serious, Piper. You’d be safer if you stayed at Bobby’s.”

Piper rounded on Dean, and started poking him in the chest. “God dammit, Dean! How many times do we have to go through this? I am not ‘staying’ at Bobby’s. I am not going to sit on the sidelines while you and Sam figure this out alone. I am with you guys, always. I am on your side.” She huffed and crossed her arms. “So you need to get used to me being around, got it?”

Dean had backed up a little from the vehemence in her words. He blinked, then smiled slowly and raised his hands in surrender. “All right, Finley, all right. Just trying to watch out for you.”

She glared. “Stop it.”

He laughed and held out his arm. “Well, if you’re done ‘taking a walk,’ let’s go back in.”

She was still irritated, but that smile did things to her thought processes. She took his arm and they started back in.

***

Dean was watching Piper laugh as they walked through the door. Her head was tilted back and her sparkling eyes met is. Damn, she’s pretty.

They were interrupted by Ellen shouting, “I am your mother, I don't have to be reasonable!”

“You can't keep me here!” Jo shouted back.

Ellen scoffed. “Oh, don't you bet on that, sweetie.”

Jo shrieked in frustration. “What are you going to do, are you going to chain me up in the basement?”

Ellen smiled coldly. “You know what, you've had worse ideas than that recently.” She started shouting again. “Hey, you don't wanna stay, don't stay. Go back to school.”

“I didn't belong there! I was a freak with a knife collection.”

“Yeah, and getting yourself killed on some dusty back road, that's where you belong?!” She spotted Piper and Dean at the door. “Guys, bad time.”

Dean nodded eagerly and started to turn around. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Wait.” Jo started toward them. “I wanna know what they think about this.”

“I don't care what they think!”

The phone started to ring. Jo glared at it, then at her mother, as Ellen went to answer it. “Harvelle's. Yeah, Preacher.”

Jo walked over to Dean and Piper with a file folder in her hand. “Three weeks ago a young girl disappears from a Philadelphia apartment.” She shoved the folder at Dean. “Take it, it won't bite.”

Dean looked nervously at Ellen. “No, but your mom might.”

Piper rolled her eyes and elbowed Dean in the side. “Ow, damn it, Piper,” he glared at her as she took the folder.

Jo started warming up to her subject. “And this girl wasn't the first. Over the past eighty years six women have vanished. All from the same building, all young blondes. Only happens every decade or two so cops never eyeball the pattern. So we're either dealing with one very old serial killer, or-”

“Who put this together, Jo?” Piper was flipping through the folder. Dean looked over her shoulder at an extremely well organized case file.

“I did it myself.” Jo said proudly.

“This is very well-done, Jo.” Piper said with a warm smile.

Sam had come up behind them, and was looking over Piper’s other shoulder. He glanced at Dean. “I gotta admit. We’ve hit the road for a lot less.”

Ellen had finished her call and came to join them. “Good. You like the case so much, you take it.”

Jo whipped to face her. “Mom!”

Ellen looked at Jo dispassionately. “Joanna Beth, this family has lost enough. And I won't lose you too. I just won't.” She turned to Sam, Dean and Piper. Dean fought with the urge to hide behind Piper. “Take the case and go ahead, kids.”

Piper nodded and smacked Dean in the chest with the folder. “The boys will head there as soon as they take me home, Ellen.”

***

Bobby came out on the front porch to greet them. Dean heard Piper make an inarticulate noise, and she opened the door to Baby before it had stopped. “God dammit, Piper-” he started.

“Shut up, Dean.” Sam said quietly.

Dean looked over to see Bobby holding Piper quietly, her shoulders shaking. Dean felt his stomach drop, and the familiar feeling of guilt settled on his shoulders.

“Sam, maybe we should-”

“Dean, stop.” Sam interrupted quietly, eyes glued to Bobby leading Piper into the house. “She’s going to be fine. She’s pretty tough, she's just got to work some things out.”

Dean watched as Sam got out and grabbed Piper’s bag and put it by the front door. He came back and got in the car. “Let’s go, Dean.”

Dean stayed and looked at the front door for another moment, then put Baby in gear.

***

Piper was sitting at the kitchen table at Bobby’s house, her hands wrapped around a cup of lukewarm coffee. “I’m sorry, Bobby.” She sniffed and wiped her eyes again. “You shouldn’t have to listen to this.”

Bobby handed her a box of tissues. “Shut it, idjit,” he said affectionately. “I heard about your crush on Tom whatever his name was when you were eighteen and I’ll hear about this now.”

Piper shook her head. “This isn’t about a crush, Bobby,” she gestured to her tear-stained face. “I can handle it.”

Bobby pointed at her. “You listen to me, Piper Jane. I have lived a long time. Long enough to know that you can’t keep this stuff inside. So you tell me what is happening inside that pretty head of yours right now.”

Piper was silent for a moment, and opened her mouth to speak. “Bobby, I think I would die for him without thinking twice. It scares me. It goes so far beyond a crush. What am I supposed to do?” she asked, tears gathering in her eyes, looking down at her mug.

Bobby sighed. “Piper, I didn’t want this for you.” She glanced up. “Loving a hunter isn’t easy. Especially if you don’t intend to tell him.”

More tears. She nodded.

“Do you want him to know?” he asked gently.

Piper panicked. “No, no, absolutely not. Bobby, you can’t tell him, oh, God-”

“Hush, idjit.” Bobby said roughly. “I’m not telling anyone anything. I'm asking because now you have a choice to make.” She looked up at him. “You can get okay with telling him, get okay with not telling him, or leave.”

Piper was shocked. “I can’t just leave them, Bobby. They need all the help they can get.”

Bobby nodded. “All right. Then if you don’t want him to know, then you need to get okay with… Feeling that… And him not knowing.”

Piper thought for a second. “That… Is a lot simpler than I thought it would be, Bobby.”

He huffed. “Of course it is. I’m too old to have lovestruck kids running around.” He stood and circled to her, planting a kiss on top of her head. “Now let’s get something to eat and hit the books.”

***

The next few days were peaceful for Piper. She trained in Bobby’s yard until her fingers bled and sweat dripped into her eyes in the mornings. When she was so tired she could barely move, she showered, bandaged her hands, and slept. When she woke up in the afternoons, she made Bobby dinner and researched until they both dropped, usually right at the table.

She came to a realization during those days. She was probably in love with Dean. And it didn’t matter. She felt a storm coming on, a war. In war, feelings couldn’t come into play. She would be in love with Dean, be the there for he and Sam, and fight alongside her Winchesters.

A week later, Dean called while they were researching. “What’s up, elder Winchester?”

Dean’s voice was low and strained. “Hey, Pipes. How are things?"

She sat up. “What’s wrong, Dean?"

“Nothing’s wro-”

“Cut the crap, Winchester. I know you better than that. Tell me what’s wrong or I will come kick your ass.”

Dean sighed. “Dad was the reason Jo’s dad died. He used him as bait, then left him for dead.”

Piper closed her eyes. “Oh, God…”

“I just. You think you know a guy, huh?” Dean chuckled.

“Can it, Winchester. Listen to me very carefully. Are you listening?” Silence greeted her question. “I swear to God, Winchester, I am getting my keys-”

“Shaddup, I’m listening.” Dean grumbled.

Piper let a sigh of relief go away from the phone. “Listen here. You are not your father. You would never intentionally leave someone behind. Listen, Dean,” she sighed. “Listen, I loved John. God knows I loved John. But he was not a great person. He was a phenomenal hunter, but to be that way, sometimes you have to be willing to risk other people’s lives. You have never been like that.”

A long silence ensued. Piper almost asked if he was there, when he finally responded. “I guess you’re right.”

She smiled. “Damn right. Hey, when are you guys coming home?”

“We’re headed back now.” He sounded like he was choosing his words carefully. “You think you’re ready to get back out there?”

“Yes, I think I am.”

***

Dean opened the door to the Impala after parking it at Bobby’s house. He sighed and leaned his head back as Sam got out of the car. The ride back had been quiet, with Piper’s words and faith in him rolling around in his head.

He didn’t get the chance to consider them more as a screech sounded through the yard and made him jump.

“Sammy!” Dean watched as Piper came running through the yard to throw herself at his brother. Sam laughed and swing her around.

He opened the door and got out of the car. “What’s with the enthusiasm, Pipes?”

She smiled as Sam put her down. “I missed you guys. I got used to hearing you two bicker all the time.”

Dean rolled his eyes and turned around to close the door. Only the soft sounds of her sneakers warned him, and he whipped around to catch Piper as she flew at him. He caught her and held her close. He laughed and buried his face in her hair. “I think I actually missed you, kitten.”

He felt her smile. “Missed you, too, Winchester.”

***

“Dammit, Sammy, be careful!”

Piper glared at Dean. “I am not a child, he can hit me as hard as he wants.”

Piper turned back to Sam and put her fists up. “Again, Winchester.”

Sam nodded and swung.

Dean groaned and went back into the house. Piper was training hard, insisting that one of them spar with her every morning. Her hands would break open, and she had a bruise over her left eye, but she wouldn’t quit.

“If you’re going to get in her way, don’t watch.” Bobby said calmly, coming to watch at the door.

“Why is she doing this, Bobby? She’s good enough, I don’t get it.”

Bobby looked at him evenly. “She knows there’s a battle coming. She wants to be ready.”

Dean’s heart clenched. “Bobby-”

Bobby held a hand up to stop him. “Stop right there, boy. If you try to keep her away from the battle, she will tear apart everything that stands in her way, and then she’ll tear you apart, too.”

Dean sighed, put his mug down, and muttered, “Well, I don’t have to like it.” He walked outside. “Tap out, Sammy, I’m coming in.”

***

Piper winced as Sam bandaged her hands gently. “Sorry,” he muttered, glancing up at her.

She put a strained smile on her face. “It’s okay, I did it to myself,” she chuckled.

He finished fastening the bandage and sat back. “There, done. Why are you doing this, Pipe?” He looked at her curiously.

She shrugged. “I need to pull my weight.”

He frowned. “You do, Piper. You’re just as good as Dean and I.”

She shook her head. “Sam, it’s not just that. Although you both being over six feet tall and huge does mean that I need to work harder to be just as good.” She sighed and met his eyes. “Look, Sam, whatever is going on, it’s not going to end peacefully. It’s going to end in battle. I want to be an asset in that battle.” She grinned. “And, you know, stress relief.”

He smiled and pulled her forward with a hand on the back of her head to kiss her on the forehead. “You are an asset, Piper, and not just in battle.”

He stood and left the bathroom. She sighed and followed him downstairs.

The smell of warm butter met her nose, quickly followed by cursing from the kitchen.

“Goddamn thing is defective!” she heard Bobby shout as she jogged to the kitchen.

She moved past Sam, who was laughing in the doorway. She found Bobby and Dean glaring at a pan which had what she could only assume was the attempt at a grilled cheese sandwich. Laughter bubbled up in her and before she knew it, she and Sam were leaning on each other, laughing hysterically.

***

Dean glared at both of them as Piper wiped tears from her eyes.  “Shaddup, you two.”

She walked over and stood between Bobby and Dean, beaming at them between chuckles. “Here, let me show you.”

Bobby excused himself, claiming that he was certain the stovetop was haunted. Dean, however, tried to pay close attention. He did what she asked, since her hands were bandaged, and listened to her as she explained that a lower heat was more effective.

“You know, so you don’t burn the hell out of it,” she said, still chuckling.

“Shut it, kitten, I’m working here,” he said confidently. “Master Chef here, make way, woman.”

She laughed out loud again, and Dean found himself thinking about being able to pull her close and claim her mouth with his, to try to capture that laughter somehow. He must have been staring, because she self-consciously, and a little breathlessly, asked, “What, Winchester? Do I have something on my face?”

Dean shook his head. “No, no, just thinking.”

She tilted her head. “About what?”

He smiled, mentally shrugging his thoughts away. “How are your hands?”

“Oh.” She looked down at them, and then presented her bandages for inspection. “Great! Sam bandaged them, and they hardly hurt. I should be good to go in a few days, and then we can hit the road.”

His first instinct was to protest. She should rest, she should stay here, and be safe. Then his conversation with Bobby came to mind. She was going to fight if she wanted to, and if she was going to fight, then he wanted her with him. So instead, he just smiled. “Good.”

Chapter Text

Dean was irritated. He hated it when law enforcement interfered with a case. And he hated being arrested even more than that.

He knew that Sam had gotten his message and was already gone, and hopefully had met up with Piper, but he still hated the waiting game. He was a man of action, dammit!

He watched as Detective Ballard came in. She seemed nervous, but he was just ticked off enough to not care. “Can we make this quick? I'm a little tired, it's been a long day, you know, with your partner assaulting me and all.” He pointed to his face.

Ballard seemed to gather her nerve. “I want to know more about that stuff you were talking about earlier,” she blurted.

Dean rolled his eyes. “Time Life. Mysteries of the Unknown. Look it up."

She glared at him “Let's pretend for the moment you're not entirely insane.”

“Mmm.”

Ballard maintained eye contact. “What would one of these things be doing here?”

Dean’s eyebrows rose. “A vengeful spirit? Well, they're created by violent deaths. And then they come back for a reason, usually a nasty one. Like revenge on the people that hurt 'em.”

She nodded slowly. “And uh, these, they're capable of killing people?” She rubbed her neck as she tried to absorb the information, and Dean saw the livid bruising on her wrist.

He pointed to it. “Where did you get that?”

She looked at him for a long moment, then pulled her sleeves up to present both wrists to him. “I don't know. It, it wasn't there before.”

Dean studied her. “You've seen it, haven't you? The spirit?”

“How did you know?”

“Because Karen had the same bruises on her wrists. And I'm willing to bet that if you look at Giles' autopsy photos he's got 'em, too, it's got something to do with this spirit, I... I don't know what.” He watched as she turned to the mirror to study her own reflection. “I know. You think you're going crazy. But let's skip that part, shall we? Because the last two people who saw this thing? Died, pretty soon after. You hear me?”

She didn’t turn. “You think I'm going to die.”

Dean shook his head. “You need to go to Sam. He'll help.”

She did turn now, surprised. “You're giving your brother up.”

Dean nodded. “Go to the first motel listed in the yellow pages. Look for Jim Rockford. It's how we find each other when we're separated. Now you can arrest him if you want. Or you can let him save your life.”

***

Piper was pacing in the motel room, registered under Jim Rockford, and waited for Sam to show up. She had no idea what was happening, and she was irritated. The first case she was back, the two idiots got themselves arrested, first thing. Sam had called from a gas station phone to let her know he was on his way.

There was a hesitant knock at the door. Piper whipped around, grabbed a gun, and held it down next to her thigh as she slowly opened the door, leaving the chain latched. A pretty, older blonde stood at the door, frowning.

“How can I help you?” Piper asked politely.

The woman searched her face. “I’m here for Sam.”

Piper blinked, then looked closer at the woman. “Are you a cop?”

The woman nodded. “Detective Ballard.”

“How did you find me?”

“I don’t even know who you are.”

“I know,” Piper said dryly. “Humor me. How?”

“Dean said to look for the first motel in the phone book, and look for the name ‘Jim Rockford.'”

Piper nodded, closed the door, and unlatched the chain. She then opened it wide and waved the woman in. “How are the guys?”

Ballard scoffed and looked around the room. “Too used to be interrogated, quite frankly.”

Piper grinned, but did not relax the hold she had on her gun. “Yeah. It kind of comes with the territory.”

The doorknob rattled. Piper pointed her weapon at it. “Detective, get behind me,” she said quietly.

She opened the door without opening the chain. She saw Sam peeking through and sighed in relief. “About time, Winchester,” she said cheerfully as she opened the door.

Sam saw the detective. “Piper?” he asked.

“Dean sent her. She’s seen the spirit.”

Ballard showed Sam her wrists. “These showed up after you saw it?” He asked.

Ballard nodded. “Yeah, I guess.”

“All right. You're going to have to tell me exactly what you saw.”

Ballard shook her head. “You know, I must be losing my mind. You're a fugitive. I should be arresting you.”

Piper tensed, but Sam just shrugged. “All right. Well, you know what? You can arrest me later, all right? After you live through this. But right now you've gotta talk to me. Okay?” Ballard nodded. “Okay, great. Now, this spirit. What did it look like?”

Ballard swallowed. “She was, um, really pale, and her throat was cut, and her eyes, they were like, this deep dark red? It appeared like she was trying to talk to me. But she couldn't. It was just... A lot of blood.”

Piper lead them over to a table that was covered in crime scene photos. “You know what? Here. I've been researching every girl that's ever died or gone missing from Ashland Street.”

The detective frowned. “How'd you get those? Those are from crime scenes, and booking photos.”

Piper smiled. “You have your job, I have mine. Here. I need you to look through these, tell me if you recognize anyone.”

She flipped through a couple of photos, settling on the third. “This is her. I'm sure of it.”

Sam examined the information. “Claire Becker? Twenty eight years old, disappeared about eight or nine months ago.”

“But I don't even know her. I mean, why would she come after me?”

Sam looked at the paper again. “Well, before her death, she was arrested twice. For dealing heroin. You ever work narcotics?”

Ballard nodded. “Yeah, Pete and I did. Before Homicide.”

“You ever bust her?”

“Not that I remember."

Piper was grabbing her coat and duffel. “It says that she was last seen entering 2911 Ashland Street. Police searched the place, didn't find anything. Guess we gotta check it out ourselves. See if we can find her body.”

The detective eyes widened. “What?"

Sam smiled. “Well, we gotta salt and burn her bones. It's the only way to put her spirit to rest.”

Ballard sighed. “Of course it is.”

***

They entered the building quietly, Ballard pursing her lips as Sam unlocked the door.

“So what exactly are we looking for?” she asked.

“I'll let you know when we find it.” Sam replied.

Piper took an iron pipe out of her bag, then another and handed it to Sam. She looked at the detective, giving her a third. “Spirits are weak to iron. If you see her, start swinging.”

The detective swallowed nervously, but accepted the pipe.

They split up. Sam went up a flight of stairs, while Piper and Ballard went down to the lower level. They were in a basement. Piper was looking around, turning to examine a shelf stacked with dry goods.

Ballard gasped. “Piper?”

Piper turned to see a young woman with red eyes in a white dress moving toward Ballard. She moved in between them and swung, the spirit disappearing as soon as the iron touched her. “Sam!”

Sam ran down the stairs. “Hey! Hey, I'm here, what is it? What happened?”

Ballard eyes were wide as saucers. “Claire…”

Sam looked around. “Where?”

She pointed. “She, she was here.”

Piper had gone back to looking around, still on high alert. “Sam, she didn't attack her. She was just, like, reaching out.” She looked back at him. “I don’t think she’s vengeful spirit. Here, help me move this.”

Sam moved to help her move a shelving unit that was placed in front of the window. Once it had been moved, it revealed the lettering on the outside: ASHLAND SUPPLIES.

Ballard looked spooked. “Our little mystery word.”

They turned to see a shadow on the opposite wall, casting the words into clear shadow.

Sam nodded. “Now the extra letters make sense.”

Sam pulled out his EMF reader and moved it along the wall opposite of the window.

“What is that?”

Piper answered. “Spirits and certain remains give off electromagnetic frequencies. So if Claire's body was here, that should indicate that.”

Sam nodded without looking at them. “Yeah. Well, that's the theory.”

The reader started whining as Sam moved it over the brick wall. He put it in his back pocket. He then went to his bag and pulled out a sledgehammer and started breaking through the crumbling wall.

Piper stood next to him, and once he had a decent hole, she shone her flashlight inside.

He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, there's definitely something in there.” He started pulling bricks and plaster away with hands and elbows.

Piper took his cue and helped. “You know? This is bothering me."

“Well, you are digging up a corpse.” Ballard pointed out helpfully.

Piper shook her head. “No, not that.”

Sam chuckled as he started to break a sweat. “That's, uh, that's pretty par for the course, actually.”

Ballard sighed. “Then what?”

Sam and Piper were almost done. “No vengeful spirit I've ever dealt with wanted to be wasted, so why the hell would Claire lead us to her remains?”

Together, Sam and Piper pulled out a shroud-wrapped body and placed it on the ground. Sam pulled a knife out of his pocket and started cutting the ropes holding the shroud.

Ballard held out her wrists.

Sam nodded. “Her wrists. Yeah, they'd be bruised just like yours.”

Sam pulled the shroud open to reveal the desiccated corpse of a woman whose wrists were bound.

The detective’s breath caught, and she leaned forward to touch a necklace the corpse was wearing.

Piper looked at her. “That necklace mean something to you?”

She nodded, and reached into her shirt. “I've seen it before. It's rare. It was custom made over on Carson street.” She pulled out a necklace identical to the one on the dead woman’s neck. “I have one just like it. Pete gave it to me.”

Piper frowned. “Who is Pete?” she asked gently.

“My partner.”

Piper snapped her fingers. “Death omen.”

Ballard looked at her. “Excuse me?”

Sam looked impressed, and nodded. “Claire's not killing anyone. She's trying to warn them. You see, sometimes spirits, they don't want vengeance, they want justice. Which is why she led us here in the first place. She wants us to know who her killer is.”

The hair on the back of Piper’s neck stood up. “Detective, how much do you know about your partner?”

***

Piper was tense, trying not to give in to panic, as she listened to Detective Ballard finish her phone call.

“All right. Thanks.”

Sam was also tense. “What is it?”

“Pete just left the precinct. With Dean.”

Piper’s stomach dropped. “What?”

Ballard met their eyes. “He said the prisoner had to be transferred, and he just took him. Dispatch has been calling but he won't answer the radio.”

“Radio? He took a county vehicle?”

Ballard nodded.

Piper sat up, a plan forming in her mind. “Well, then they should have a lo-jack, you've just gotta get it turned on.”

***

Dean was in the back of an armored vehicle, trying figure out how he was going to get out of the situation he was in, when he felt the car slow.

“Pee break? So soon? You might want to get your prostate checked.” The detective who had taken him got out and walked around to the back. “Son of a bitch," he muttered, then the door opened. “Hey, I'm cool in the van, you go do what you gotta do.”

Sheridan hauled Dean out of the van and threw him to the ground. “You're a cocky son of a bitch. You think those people in St. Louis are gonna buy that crap you're peddling? Here's the thing. You're not gonna make it to St. Louis. You're gonna die trying to escape.”

He drew his service pistol and pointed it at Dean.

Dean felt the blood drain from his face. “Wait! Wait. Let's, let's talk about this. I mean, you don't want to do something that you're gonna regret later.” Sheridan's cocked the gun. “Or maybe you do.” Dean closed his eyes and waited for the shot.

A voice rang out. “Pete! Put the gun down.”

Dean opened his eyes to find Ballard, Sam, and Piper coming out of the woods.

“Diana? How'd you find me?” Sheridan asked, not lowering his gun.

She ignored the question. “I know about Claire.”

Sheridan shook his head. “I don't know what you're talking about.”

“Put the gun down!” she shouted, pointing her own gun at him.

Sheridan shook his head and kept his weapon where it was. “Oh, I don't think so. You're fast. I'm pretty sure I'm faster.” He smirked.

“Not as fast as I am.” Piper’s voice rang through the clearing, followed by a gunshot.

Dean scooted back as Sheridan fell, clutching his shoulder and shouting, “You bitch!”

Ballard came forward and kicked his gun away.

“Why would you do this?” she asked softly, gun still trained on him.

He put on a pleading face. “I didn't do anything, Diana.”

“It's a little late for that.”

“It wasn't my fault. Claire was trying to turn me in, I had no choice.”

Tears welled up in Ballard’s eyes. “And Tony? Karen?”

Piper came around to Dean, gun still pointing at the man on the ground. She helped him to his feet, although he was still handcuffed.

Sheridan was shouting. “Same thing! Tony scrubbed the money, he got skittish, and then he wanted to come clean. I'm sure he told Karen everything.”

Sam came over to Piper and Dean, and Dean felt his brother start to pick the handcuffs open.

“It was a mess. I had to clean it up. I just panicked.”

Ballard asked softly, “How many more people are gonna die over this, Pete?”

Sheridan got up in his knees and held his good hand out to her. Dean felt fierce pride at Piper’s shot. “There's a way out. These kids are a friggin' gift. We could pin the whole thing on them. Right? No trial, nothing. Just, just a few more dead scumbags.”

“Rude,” Piper scoffed.

Sheridan glared at her, then turned back to his partner. Ballard had stepped close, too close. “Please, no one will question it. Diana, please. I still love you.” She lowered the gun. “Thank you. Thank you.”

Diana lowered her gun and punched him across the face. “Then why don't you buy me another necklace, you ass?

Sheridan lunged and tackled her, knocking her gun out of her hand. Piper raised her gun, but there was no clean shot.

Sam dove for the gun on the ground, but Sheridan got there first. As he raised it toward Ballard, his eyes flicked up to look behind her. His face paled. “No, don’t! Don’t do it!”

Claire stood behind Ballard. She smiled, and then another gunshot sounded. Blood started to spread over the spot Sheridan’s heart. He fell quietly and undramatically.

***

Piper watched sympathetically as Ballard knelt next to Sheridan’s body. “You okay?” she asked the older woman softly.

The detective shook her head. “Not really. The death omen Claire. What happens to her now?”

“Should be over. She should be at rest.” Sam said.

Dean coughed. “So, uh. What now, officer?”

She stood. “Pete did confess to me. He screwed up both your cases royally. I'd say that there's a good chance that we could get your cases dismissed.”

Piper was surprised. “You'd take care of that for us?”

“I hope so. But the St. Louis murder charges? That's another story. I can't help you. Unless... I just happened to turn my back, and you walked away. I could just tell them that the suspects escaped.”

Sam frowned. “Wait, are you sure? I mean, you could lose your job over something like that.”

Ballard let out a deep breath. “Look, I just want you guys out there doing what you do best. Trust me, I'll sleep better at night.” She turned her back. “Listen, you need to watch your back. They're gonna be looking for all of you right now. Get out of here. I gotta radio this in.”

Dean paused. “Hey, uh, you wouldn't happen to know where my car is, by chance?”

Ballard turned back to look at them. “It's at the impound yard down on Robertson. Don't," she pointed at Dean. "Even think about it.”

Piper elbowed him. “It’s okay, it's alright, don't worry. We'll, uh, we'll just improvise. I mean, we're pretty good at that.”

“Yeah. I’ve noticed.” Detective Ballard said dryly, then turned away and pulled out her phone.

***

They walked side by side down the road, on the way back to the impound lot to get Baby.

“Dean, I meant to ask, what happened to your face?” Piper inquired.

“That dick bag cop assaulted me, that’s what.”

Piper raised an eyebrow. “Did you deserve it?”

"Deserve it? Piper, he was a murderer! He was a psycho! He tried to shoot me!” Dean sputtered.

Sam was laughing as Piper replied, “Well, yes, but before we knew all of that. What did you do?”

“Nothing!”

Piper and Sam shared a look. “You definitely deserved it.”

Their laughter rang out into the woods as Dean huffed.

Chapter Text

Piper was sitting in her bed in their motel room, lost in her thoughts about Dean. She was worried. He had been reckless on their last hunt. They had essentially confirmed that John had sold his soul to save Dean, and he wasn’t dealing with the revelation.  He was driving too fast, drinking too much, and he hadn’t come back to the motel two nights in a row. She wasn’t mad that he was probably with women (well, be honest, not that mad… ), she was concerned. He was sinking himself into his vices.

Sam gave a startled shout and fell between the two queen beds.

“Sam? Sam!” she shouted, jumping down and shaking his shoulders. “Sam!”

The door opened to admit Dean, chewing on beef jerky. He took a look at her face and froze. “Piper, what-”

Sam jerked awake, and looked at Piper like he had no idea who she was. She felt ice at the base of her spine.

Then he looked at Dean, and horror crossed his face. “No…”

***

Piper was in the backseat of the Impala, feeling more scared than she could remember feeling. Sam’s vision had terrified him, and her along with it. She silently listened to the boys, being navigated by a GPS system.

“Continue on O-R Two-Two-Four West.”

“There are only two towns in the US named Rivergrove.”

Dean flicked his eyes to Sam. “How come you're so sure it's the one in Oregon?”

Sam was silent for a moment. “There was a picture. Crater Lake.”

“Okay, what else?”

“I saw a dark room, some people, and a guy tied to a chair.“

“And I ventilated him?” Piper shuddered at his use of the word.

“Yeah. You thought there was something inside him.”

Dean made a face. “What, a demon? Was he possessed?”

A beat of silence. “I don’t know.” Sam replied quietly.

“Well, all your weirdo visions are always tied to the Yellow-Eyed Demon somehow, so was there any black smoke? Did we try to exorcise it?”

“No. Nothing, you just plugged him, that's it.”

“Well, I'm sure I had a good reason.”

“I sure hope so.”

Dean glared at Sam. “What does that mean?” Another beat of silence. “I mean, I'm not gonna waste an innocent man.” Sam just looked at him. “I wouldn't!” Piper winced as he yelled.

“I never said you would!”

“Fine!”

“Fine! Look, we don't know what it is. But whatever it is, that guy in the chair's a part of it. So let's find him, and see what's what. “

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

***

Piper ran inside ahead of Sam, who was carrying the woman they’d found in the home with two possessed men. “Hello? Hello? We need a doctor here!” The woman had been injured.

A young blonde woman dressed in scrubs came running into the lobby as Sam entered with the woman in his arms. The nurse's eyes widened at the sight of the injured woman.  Sam’s eyes widened when he saw the girl, and Piper knew she was the girl in his vision.

“Mrs. Tanner, what happened?”

“She's been attacked.”

“Doctor Lee?”

Another woman in a doctor’s lab coat ran in, immediately taking in the situation. “Bring her in.”

Sam nodded. “Okay.”

The nurse led them into a back room, where Sam placed Mrs. Tanner onto an exam table gently. Dean entered, carrying the body of Mr. Tanner covered in canvas over his shoulder.

The doctor stared. “Is that-”

“Mr. Tanner?” Dean asked tightly.

“Was he attacked too?”

Dean shook his head. “Uh... No, actually, he did the attacking. And then he got himself shot.”

The doctor paled. “Shot?” She looked at him. “And who are you?”

“U.S. Marshal. I'd show you my badge, but uh…” he gestured toward the body.

“Oh. Sorry. Bring him back here."

Piper had moved back into the exam room with the doctor, who began to assess the damage on Beverly.

Dr. Lee looked up at her patient. “Wait, you said Jake helped him? Your son Jake?”

Beverly nodded, more tears slipping down her face. “They beat me. Tied me up.”

The nurse, whose name Piper had discovered was Pam, was shaking her head. “I don't believe it.”

Dr. Lee glared. “Pam. Beverly... Do you have any idea why they would act this way? Any history of chemical dependency?”

Beverly started crying harder. “No, of course not. I don't know why. One minute they were my husband and my son. And the next, they had the devil in them.”

Piper paled, looking back at the Winchesters to find them already sharing a look. Dean looked at her and tilted his head toward the door. She nodded and followed them.

“Those guys were whacked out of their gourds.” Dean said.

Sam looked puzzled. “What do you think? Multiple demons, mass possession?”

Piper spoke up. “If it is a possession there could be more. I mean, God knows how many, it could be like a Shriner convention.”

Sam scoffed. “Great.”

“Of course, that's one way to wipe out a town, you take it from the inside.”

Sam wasn’t convinced. “I don't know, man. We didn't see any of the demon smoke with Mr. Tanner, or any of the other usual signs.”

“Well, whatever. Something turned him into a monster. And you know if you woulda taken out the other one there'd be one less to worry about.”

“I'm sorry, all right? I hesitated, Dean, it was a kid!”

Dean shook his head. “No, it was an ‘it’. Not the best time for a bleeding heart, Sam.”

Piper frowned. “Winchester…”

Dr. Lee chose that moment to leave her lab and glare at the three of them.

Sam asked, “How's the patient?”

Dr. Lee’s eyes were flashing. “Terrible! What the hell happened out there?”

Piper sighed. “We don't know.”

The doctor rounded on Dean. “Yeah? Well, you just killed my next door neighbor.”

“Hey, we didn't have a choice.” Dean was holding his hands up defensively.

“Maybe so, but we need the county Sheriff. I need the coroner…”

“Phones are down,” Sam interjected.

“I know, I tried. Tell me you have a police radio in the car?”

Piper nodded. “Yeah we do. But it's not working, either.”

Dr. Lee put a hand to her head. “I don't understand what is happening.”

Dean sighed. “How far is it to the next town?”

The doctor’s eyebrows raised. “It's about forty miles down to Sidewinder.”

Dean nodded. “All right, I'm gonna go down there, see if I can find some help. My partners will stick around, keep you guys safe.“

Piper opened her mouth to object, but Dean had already started away.

***

“What if we all have it? What if we all go crazy?” Pam asked, horrified.

Piper gritted her teeth. The nurse was starting to piss her off. They had found out that the dead husband had a virus, some sort of demon virus. Piper was pacing, nervously trying to resist reaching for the gun tucked into her waistband. Shooting the nurse will solve nothing, shooting the nurse will solve nothing...

Dr. Lee was more comforting. “You've got to stay calm. All we can do is wait. The Marshal's bringing help.”

But Pam was shaking her head. “I can't, I… I've got to go.”

Piper frowned. “We can’t leave.”

“No, you don't understand. My boyfriend's out there, I gotta make sure he's okay.“

Piper resisted another urge to reach for her gun, and followed Pam out into the hallway, catching her by the elbow. “All right, wait, wait. Please. Look, I know you're upset, all right? But it's safer if you stay here for now. Help is coming.” Piper turned her head and watched the Impala roll up in front.

Sam, who had been watching the scene in the lobby, sighed in relief. “There they are.” He went to the door to unlock it and let Dean and another man, who were both armed, in, and then locked the door again behind them.

Sam looked at them anxiously. “Did you guys, uh, get to a phone?”

Dean shook his head. “They have the roads blocked.” He looked at Mark. “I need to talk to them. Doc’s inside.” Mark walked into the back of the clinic as Dean turned back to Sam and Piper.

Piper spoke first. “What's going on out there, Winchester?”

Dean shook his head again. “I don't know, I feel like Chuck Heston in the Omega Man, I mean, Sarge is the only sane person I could find. What are we dealing with, do you know?”

“Yeah. Doc thinks it's a virus.“ Sam said cautiously.

“Okay, great. What do you think?”

“I think she's right.”

Dean’s eyebrows rose. “Really?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah. And I think the infected are trying to infect others with blood-to-blood contact. Oh, but it gets better. The uh, the virus? Leaves traces of sulfur in the blood.”

“A demonic virus?”

Piper scoffed. “Yeah, more like demonic germ warfare. At least it explains why Sam’s been having visions."

“It's like a Biblical plague,” said Dean.

Sam nodded again. “Yeah. You don't know how right you are, Dean. We've been poring through Dad's journal, found something about the Roanoke colony.”

Dean waited, then nodded impatiently. “And?”

“Your dad always had a theory about Croatoan. He thought it was a demon's name. Sometimes known as Deva or sometimes Resheph. A demon of plague and pestilence.” Piper supplied.

“Well, that, that's terrific. Why here, why now?”

“I have no idea.”

Piper felt the blood drain from her face. “Who knows how far this thing can spread?” She looked between the two of them. “We gotta get out of here, we gotta warn people.”

Mark started yelling from the other room. “They've got one! In here!”

The three of them shared a look and ran into the next room. “What do you mean?” Dean shouted.

Sam took one look at Beverly. “The wife. She's infected.”

Mark looked at them. “We've gotta take care of this. We can't just leave her in there. My neighbors, they were strong. The longer we wait, the stronger she'll get.”

***

Pam was pale. “You're gonna kill Beverly Tanner?”

Piper looked at Dr. Lee. “Doctor, could there be any treatment? Some kind of cure for this?”

Dean whipped around. “Can you cure it?”

The doctor’s eyes were wide as she looked between them. She was panicking. “For God's sake, I don't even know what ‘it’ is!”

Mark looked at Dean. “I told you, it's just a matter of time before she breaks through.”

Pam was horrified, looking between the two of them. “Just leave her in there, you can't shoot her like an animal!”

“Sam.” Dean summoned and walked to the door that Beverly was locked in. Piper pulled Pam away, putting her arm around her and leading her over to where the doctor sat, shocked.

The boys went to the door, Dean and Mark with their guns at the ready. Sam carefully opened the door.  

“Mark, what are you doing?” Piper heard Mrs. Tanner’s voice, though she couldn’t see her. “Mark, it's, it's them! They locked me in here, they, they tried to kill me! They're infected, not me! Please, Mark! You've known me all your life! Please!”

Dean glanced at Sam. “You sure she's one of 'em?”

Sam swallowed hard and nodded, his face twisted. Mark looked away, tears in his eyes, as Dean stepped forward and fired two shots.

***

“You might kill an innocent man, and you don't even care! You don't act like yourself anymore, Dean. Hell, you know what? You're acting like one of those things out there.”

Piper’s stomach was churning, her eyes flicking between the Winchesters as she watched them argue. She thought she was scared before, and it was nothing compared to this. How far could Dean go before he didn’t come back? On the other hand, how could they risk letting the man live?

“Mm-hmm,” Dean was muttering as he shoved past Sam. He looked back at Piper, and she felt compelled to follow him. Before Sam could, he turned and locked the door behind them.

"Hey! Open the damn door, Dean! Piper, get back here! Don't do it, Dean! Don't!”

Dean looked at Piper flatly, and she turned toward the room she knew Dean wanted to go into. “Well, let’s go then,” she said quietly. She was with Dean, no matter what, and she was worried that he was right. What if the kid was putting them in danger?

Dean nodded and they slowly started down the hallway. He dropped the clip out of his gun and replaced it. Piper pulled her gun from her waistband and held it at the ready. Dean opened the door to the lab and walked in slowly, closing it behind Piper.

Duane started struggling against the ropes that held him to the chair. “No, you're not gonna... No, no, I swear it's not in me!”

Pam moaned. “Oh God. We're all gonna die.”

Mark glanced at her, then looked at Dean. “Maybe he's telling the truth.”

Dean shook his head, determined. “No, he's not him, not anymore.”

Duane was still struggling. “Stop it! Ask her, ask the doctor! It's not in me!”

Dr. Lee looked pale and drawn. She looked down at the floor. “I...I can't tell.”

The restrained man started to sob. “Please, don't. Don't, please. I swear, it's not in me, it's not in me, I swear, I, I swear it's not in me. No, don't.”

“I got no choice.”  Dean pointed the gun at Duane. Piper felt a chill at the base of her spine. She stepped forward and placed her hand low on Dean’s back, but didn’t say anything. He hesitated, trembling. He finally lowered the gun. “Damn it!”  He walked out. Piper blinked in shock, then scurried after him.

***

An hour later, Sam was sitting on a stool in front of Dr. Lee, who was bandaging his wound. He was quiet, his face somber and worried.

Dean was pacing aggressively. “Doc, check his wound again, would you?”

Mark glared. “What's she need to examine him for? You saw what happened.”

Dr. Lee looked at Sam. “Did her blood actually enter your wound?”

Mark scoffed. “Come on, of course it did!”

Piper stood up and glared. “We don't know that for sure.”

Duane, from the corner. “We can't take a chance.”

Mark didn’t take his eyes off of Dean. “You know what we have to do.”

Dean’s face was tight. “Nobody's shooting my brother.”

“He isn't gonna be your brother much longer. You said it yourself.”

Piper snapped. “Nobody is shooting anyone!” she glared at Duane.

He sat up and walked closer. “He was gonna shoot me!”

She stood face to face with him. “You don't shut up, I might shoot you!”

“Dean, Piper, they're right. I'm infected. Just give me the gun and I'll do it myself.”

Piper’s eyes widened and her heart stopped. What?

Dean shook his head. “Forget it.”

Sam looked at both of them pleadingly. “Dean, I'm not gonna become one of those things.”

“Sam, we've still got some time-” Piper started to beg.

“Time for what?” Mark interrupted. “Look, I understand he's your brother, and I'm sorry, I am. But we gotta take care of this,” he said, pulling out his handgun.

Piper drew her gun and pointed it at Mark. Dean looked at him coldly. “I'm gonna say this one time. You make a move on him, you'll be dead before you hit the ground. You understand me? I mean, do I make myself clear?!”

Mark dropped his weapon in exasperation. “Then what are we supposed to do?!”

Dean thought for a moment, looked at Sam, and looked at Piper for a long moment. Then he dug into his pocket and tossed his keys to Mark. “Get the hell out of here, that's what. Take my car. You've got the explosives, there's an arsenal in there. You two go with him. You've got enough firepower to handle anything now.”

Piper’s eyes widened, but she nodded. This is what it had come down to, and she had already made her decision. She would see her Winchesters through this, or she would die alongside them.

Mark looked shocked. “What about you?

Sam realized what was going on. “Dean, no. No. Go with them. This is your only chance!”

Dean looked back at his brother and smiled. “You're not gonna get rid of me that easy.”

Mark shook his head. “No, he's right. Come with us.” Dean just looked at him. “Okay, it's your funeral.”

“Piper, lock the door behind them,” Dean said quietly. She stood to follow them to the door.

Dr. Lee turned. “I'm sorry. Thanks for everything, Marshals.”

Dean grinned. “Oh, actually we're not really Marshals. Hey, Mark?”

Mark looked back and made eye contact with Dean. Piper only had a moment to realize that Dean was right behind her and to wonder at the look in their eyes before she felt him shove her forward into Mark’s arms.

“Sorry, Pipes.” Dean said as he shut and locked the door behind her.

"No!" Piper shrieked, fighting with everything she had to get back at the door. “Winchester! Dean! Open this door right now! ” She elbowed Mark in the side and ran to the door, fighting to get it open. Tears stood in her eyes as she shouted at Dean. “God dammit, Dean!  Open this door!”

When he made no move to turn, she took out her gun and pointed it at the door. She felt strong arms go around her and started fighting as Mark hauled her away before she could shoot the damn thing open.

***

The next night, after leaving the supposedly abandoned town, Dean pulled into a gas station parking lot. They all climbed out to stretch, and Dean tossed the credit card at Sam. “Go inside and pay, Sammy.”

Sam frowned. “Screw you, Dean you-”

Dean flicked his eyes to Piper, whose back was turned. She had refused to look at or engage with either of them since they’d left the clinic in Rivergrove.  “Just go, Sam.”

Sam nodded and walked inside.

Dean put the gas pump into Baby and thought about how to approach Piper. She was mad, he understood. She had every right to be. How could he convince her that he couldn’t let her die for them? She didn’t deserve this… She had been mostly untouched by this curse so far, and he didn’t want her to have any part of it. She could fight beside him every day, but if it came right down to it, Dean didn’t want her dying beside him.

He sighed and approached her, standing next to her. “Piper…”

“Stop it, Winchester.” She didn’t look at him.  “I don’t want to hear it.”

He winced. “Pipes, come on…”

“No.”

She turned to walk back to the Impala, and Dean quickly stepped in her way. “You’re not getting back into that car until you talk to me, Piper.”

She didn’t make eye contact, just looked at his chest. “Is that so?’

Dean could have sagged in relief. “Piper, I ju-” he had started to say when she punched him in the face. He was fairly sure he felt a crack. “God dammit, Piper, what the hell?”

She was making eye contact, and he kind of wanted her to look away. She sure wasn’t cold anymore, fire was crackling in her eyes and her face was contorted with fury. “What the hell, Dean?” Her quiet question scared him a little. “What the hell? You want to know what the hell? Well, let me tell you. Screw you. Screw you and all of this crap you won’t tell me.” She was advancing on him, and Dean found himself taking a step back. Irritated at himself, he stopped and let her come to him until she was inches away. “Screw you for not trusting me to make my own damn decisions. Screw you for locking me out of that room while you intended to die.” There were tears in her eyes, and she glared up at him for a long moment.

He couldn’t take it. “Piper…”

Before he finished, she hit him hard in the face again. “No, Dean, I am done with this.” His heart stilled, and he couldn’t find the breath to move his hand to his face again. “I’m done with your suicidal, kamikaze, ‘I’m not good enough,’ bullshit.”  She was smacking him the chest to punctuate her words. “I am in this fight whether you like it or not, whether you want me here or not. And I am not, I repeat, I am not going to let you off yourself.” She stopped hitting him and looked up coldly. “Got that, Winchester?”

He opened his mouth again, then caught her hand when she tried to hit him a third time. “God dammit, Piper, quit hitting me.”

She yanked out of his grasp. “You don’t get to tell me what to do.” She looked away from him, and he rubbed his cheek as her lip trembled. “I can’t believe that crap you pulled, Winchester,” she said softly. “I don’t kn-”

Dean never learned what she was about to say, because she was yanked forward into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and held her, refusing to give in to her struggles to get away. They only lasted a moment, anyway, and then she put her arms around his waist and lay her head against his chest. She didn’t cry, but there were some sniffles.

He lay his non-bruised cheek against her head. “I’m sorry, Piper.”

She didn’t move. “I know.”

“I didn’t… I just didn’t think you deserved to die in there with us.” Silence greeted this observation. “Pipes, come on. I’m just…” He swallowed, trying to stem his own tears now. “I’m just tired, Piper. I’m tired of carrying all of this around.”

She looked up at him, meeting his eyes with her lovely hazel ones. Her hair was pulled back, a few free wisps brushing against her face. “Why would you think you have to carry it around by yourself? Why do you think I’m here, because of your pretty face?”

“Well, I am a god,” he chuckled.

She squeezed him for a moment, searching his eyes. Then she closed hers, let out a deep breath, and put her head back down on his chest. “Dean, I’m here for you. For anything. You want to just hunt down this bastard and kill him? That’s fine. But if you want to talk about it, I’m good at that, too.”

Dean held her close and put his head down on hers again. When she had come back, he had been determined to not let her get involved. She had done nothing to deserve that, he wanted her to go away and be happy. Preferably without hunting. He wanted her to go have a normal, happy life, like a woman her age was supposed to be having.

But for some God-forsaken reason, she seemed determined to stay with him. “I don’t think I did anything to deserve it, but I’m glad you’re sticking around, kitten.” he said softly.

She raised her head and smiled at him. He looked into her eyes, and tried to identify the emotion in their depths. Her eyes widened a fraction, and seemingly against her will, her gaze dropped to his mouth. Dean felt it like a punch to the gut, and found his own gaze dragged down to her mouth. His thoughts went to kissing her, to moving down her neck and leaving his mark on that spot that for some reason he was sure would drive her crazy.

His eyes started to drift close when a shout rang out. “Dean! Piper! Everything okay?”

Piper paused, then laughed out loud. No matter how irritated he was at the interruption, her laughter made him grin. She stepped away, and he felt the loss of her warmth and softness. He watched her turn to Sam. “Fine, Sam, I just had to kick your brother’s ass for a second.”

Dean laughed, remembering that his face hurt like hell. “You’re really more of a hellcat than a kitten, kitten,” he said cheerfully as he slung an arm around her shoulders and they started walking back to the car. He craved her closeness.

She grinned up at him. “Don’t you forget it.”

Chapter Text

“What? Dean, what did he tell you?”

Piper was standing between Dean and Sam, looking between them. She was scared again. It was becoming a familiar sensation.

Dean closed his eyes and leaned his head back. “He said that he wanted me to watch out for you, to take care of you.” He looked so pained that Piper walked and stood next to him, her shoulder against his.

Sam was scoffing. “He told you that a million times.”

Dean leaned a little harder into Piper. “No, this time was different. He said that I had to save you.”

“Save me from what?”

Dean finally met Sam’s eyes. “He just said that I had to save you, that nothing else mattered. And that if I couldn't, I'd…” Piper’s heart stalled, and she had trouble breathing. Please, John, no...

“You'd what, Dean?”

Dean didn’t break eye contact with Sam. “That I'd have to kill you. He said that I might have to kill you, Sammy.”

Piper closed her eyes against the words, laying her head on Dean’s shoulder. For one awful moment, she was glad John Winchester was dead. She had loved the boys’ father, and had been more than grateful that he had saved her life. She had never resented his hardness, or his rough training methods.

But she resented him now. She resented the hell out of him. How could he do this to them? Keep some sort of insane secret from Sam? Lay this responsibility on Dean? If John had been alive and in front of her, Piper could have shot him.

Sam was floored. “Kill me? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Dean closed his eyes. “I don't know.”

Sam was starting to get mad. “I mean, he must have had some kind of reason for saying it, right? Did he know the demon's plans for me? Am I supposed to go darkside or something? What else did he say, Dean?”

Dean opened his eyes again. “Nothing, that's it, I swear.”

Sam ran a hand through his hair. “How could you not have told me this?”

“Because it was Dad, and he begged me not to.” Piper wanted to wrap them both in her arms so bad it hurt.

Sam threw his arms wide. “Who cares?! Take some responsibility for yourself, Dean! You had no right to keep this from me!”

Piper felt Dean tense against her. “You think I wanted this? Huh? I wish to God he'd never opened his mouth. Then I wouldn't have to walk around with this screaming in my head all day.”

Sam turned away from them, running a hand over his mouth. “We've just got to figure out what's going on, then, what the hell all this means.”

Dean stared at his brother’s back. “We do?” He shifted, but didn’t move away from Piper. “I've been thinking about this, I think we should just lay low. You know? At least for a while. It'd be safer. And that way I can make sure-”

Sam whipped around. “What? That I don't turn evil? That I don't turn into some kind of killer?”

Dean’s face hardened dangerously. “I never said that.”

Sam laughed darkly. “Jeez, if you're not careful you will have to waste me one day, Dean.”

Piper moved her head away quickly as Dean stood up. “I never said that! Dammit, Sam, this whole thing is spinning out of control. All right? You're immune to some weirdo demon virus, and I don't even know what the hell anymore. And you're pissed at me, I get it. That's fine, I deserve it. But we lay low until we figure out our next move, okay?”

Sam shook his head. “Forget it.”

Dean started to plead. It hurt Piper’s heart. “Sam, please, man. Hey, please. Just give me some time. Give me some time to think, okay? I'm begging you here, please. Please.”

Sam nodded shortly.

***

“Winchester, it’s-”

“Stop it, Piper. We’re going to find him, I know that. Just stop it.”

She huffed. “I know you know we’re going to find him, jackass. I was going to say it’s not your fault. I was going to say it will be fine, but if you don’t want to hear it, then I’ll shut up.” She looked out the window and tried not to pout.

She heard him sigh. “I’m sorry, kitten. I just don’t know where the hell he would have gone.” A moment of silence. “Or why.”

She scoffed, trying not to soften towards him. “Yes, you do. You know exactly why.” She turned to meet his gaze with a cocked eyebrow. “Playing dumb will not win you sympathy here, Winchester.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, I guess it won’t.” Another sigh. “I’m just mad. He knows it wasn’t my fault. And, and how the hell would I have told him that, Pipes? I don’t even know what the hell to do with it, and I’m the one Dad said it to.”

Damn it. “Look. I don’t know what the hell John was thinking, talking to you like that.” Anger started to fizz under the surface. “Who does that? Who says that to his kid?”

Dean shifted uncomfortably. “Pipes, I’m not really a kid anymore.”

“Shut it, Winchester,” she snapped. “It doesn't matter. He was your father. And I know you’ll hear no wrong about him, and you know damn well I loved that man. But sometimes, I think that if he was here and alive, I would… I would kick his ass,” she finished. Probably best not to share that particular thought.

“He would let you.” Dean was smiling. “He did have a soft spot for you, Pipes.” He started laughing. “Do you remember that Christmas, we were probably eighteen, when we were on a hunt, what were we doing…”

Piper laughed with him. “A witch. You were hunting a witch.”

He snapped his fingers. “Yes! And you called him in the middle, and it was December twenty-third, and you said,” he made his high-pitched, “‘John Winchester, if you and those boys don’t get your asses home for Christmas-’”

“‘I will hunt you down and kill all three of you myself,’” Piper finished, laughing. “And he got your asses back for Christmas, didn’t he?”

***

Piper had decorated the house as much as Bobby would let her, and had fought tooth and nail for the tiny tree on the kitchen table. She was cooking dinner, humming in the kitchen when she heard the door open.

She pulled the gun from her waistband and peeked around the corner, to see Dean, covered in snow, walking through the door.

She laughed, stuck in her gun in her waistband, and ran to him. “Dean!” She threw herself into his arms.

He caught her, barely. “Jesus, Pipes, careful,” he said, hugging her close.

“Welcome home, Dean,” she said pulling back and grinning at him. Then she looked over his shoulder. “Sammy!”

“Piper!” Sam, already taller than Piper at fourteen, caught her and swung her in a circle as John brought the rest of the bags in.

When he put her down, John pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. “Hi, Piper, you damn pain in the ass.”

She smiled sunnily at him. “Welcome home, John.”

“Get your asses in the house, it’s cold outside!” Bobby grouched, helping Dean move the Winchester’s things into the house.

Hours later, after dinner and drinks, Bobby and John went to the bed. Piper and Sam were in the living room, playing chess, Dean was mixing himself another drink in the kitchen.

“Oh! I got you guys something!” She bounded up the stairs to her room.

Sam grinned. “She was losing.”

Dean chuckled and ambled in to sit on the couch as Piper ran back down the stairs, packages in her arms.

“Here, Sammy, open yours first!”

Sam grinned and pulled his open. Inside was a picture of four-year-old Dean, holding an infant. “I found it with Bobby’s things, and got a copy made. I made the frame, so you can get another one if you don’t like it,” she babbled happily.

“No, no, I like it, Pipe.” Sam swallowed thickly, then looked down. “What is this?” He pulled out a leather bound notebook, with the his name embossed on the front.

“It’s a fancy notebook, for when you go to college.” They looked at her in surprise. She leaned forward and whispered in Sam’s ear, “You’re going to make it out of this life, Sammy. Just don’t forget us.” When she tried to sit back, Sam pushed the gifts aside and hugged her. He kissed her on the cheek. “Merry Christmas, Piper.”

She sat back with tears in her eyes. Trying for nonchalance, she tossed a package at Dean. He caught it with his free hand, put his drink down, and opened it. He grinned. “Busty Asian Beauties. My ladies.”

She smiled. “Merry Christmas, Winchesters.”

Even later that night, Piper came downstairs for water, finding Dean sitting on the couch, nursing a drink. He met Piper’s surprised eyes. “Everything okay, Pipes?”

She nodded, then ran back to her room. When she came back down, she had a package in her hands. She came and sat next to him. “I made this for you, it’s stupid, but I wanted you to have it.” She blushed, wanting to snatch it out of his hands. She got up and hurried into the kitchen.

Dean watched her go, confused. He set his drink again, and opened the package carefully. A circle of leather lay inside, with knots on either side. He felt something shift in his chest looking at it, and tried to remember when the last time he’d gotten a gift that wasn’t the amulet Sam gave him.

He slipped it onto his right wrist and admired it for a minute. Then he stood to go to the kitchen.

He almost ran into Piper in the doorway. She gasped and grabbed his shoulders to keep from falling, his hands settled on her waist. She looked into his eyes, and Dean marveled at how pretty hers were.

“Thank you,” he said roughly, still staring at her.

She smiled. “Merry Christmas, Dean.” Her eyes flicked up above him, blushed, and tried to push past him. “‘Night!”

He held her fast and looked up, eyebrows raising at the sprig of mistletoe hung there. He felt his body come alive, then slowly looked back down at her, smiling. “Come on, now. Christmas tradition, Piper,” he chided, then lowered his lips to hers, keeping her gaze until he watched her eyes drift shut.

Fireworks went off on Dean’s head. After what seemed like a small eternity had passed,she gasped and wrapped her arms around his neck, coming up on tiptoe. He pulled her firmly against him, then gently walked her back against the doorway and leaned into her. Ragged breathing was the only sound he could hear. His fingers dug into her hips and she whimpered. There would be bruises there that she would cherish tomorrow.

A cough sounded from the Winchesters’ room, startling them apart. Piper’s eyes widened to saucers, and she slipped away from him. He felt cold.

“‘Night, Dean!” She squeaked, not turning around until she got up the stairs.

“‘Night.” Dean said to an empty room.

***

Piper blushed at the memory, looking straight ahead, but smiling. It was a little embarrassing still, but she had fancied herself in love with Dean at eighteen. Who wouldn’t have at eighteen?

Dean was smiling, too, and she risked a glance at him to see it fading off of his face. He met her eyes for a second, then looked back at the road. “Best Christmas of my life, kitten,” he said softly.

Piper smiled and scooted until she could rest her head on his shoulder. He moved and put his arm around her and pulled her close. She smiled at the sight of his right wrist, where that leather bracelet still was. A bit more worn, and there was an extra knot where it has broken at some point, but still there.

They were quiet for a moment. “Hey,” she said, looking up at him. “I know you already know this. But we’re going to find him, okay? He’s going to be fine. You two are going to be fine.”

Dean squeezed her tighter for a moment, but said nothing.

***

Several hours later, they pulled up to a motel. Piper went inside and booked a room while Dean parked. He was exhausted, running on empty, but his mind was still moving fast. He was scared. If he was honest, he was kind of terrified. What if they didn’t find Sam before something happened? What if he had to…

Piper interrupted his thoughts by walking out with the key in hand. He watched her walk to their room as he got out of Baby and opened the trunk. Piper was tired, too, but she hadn’t said a word about stopping until he’d almost fallen asleep at the wheel. “Just a few hours, then we’ll find him,” she had said confidently. He didn’t understand her faith, but it was strong enough for both of them.

They got ready for bed in comfortable silence. Once the lights were out, Dean couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t get his mind to stop running. He looked over at Piper, who was still. He got up as quietly as he could and reached for Piper’s laptop, thinking he would try to trace Sammy’s cell again.

“I swear to Christ, Winchester, if you don’t quit fidgeting and go to sleep, I will murder you myself.”

He paused. “I thought you were asleep.”

She turned around and propped herself on her elbow. “We’re not going to find him if we’re too tired to think. And tracing his phone didn’t work the last 80 times we tried it, he’s probably using a burner.” She met his eyes. “Come on, Winchester, go to bed.”

He shook his head. “Pipes, I can’t.  I’ll just try the trace again.”

She seemed to consider something, searching his face. Then she closed her eyes and sighed. She scooted to the far end of the bed and flipped the blankets up. “Come here.”

He blinked, then looked away, scratching the back of his neck. “Piper, I don’t need-”

“Dean,” she said quietly. He looked at her again. “Needing comfort is not a bad thing, Winchester.” She smiled. “Get your ass over here so I can sleep.”

He hesitated, then walked over to her bed, under the pull of hearing his name on her tongue. She had turned back around, and he took the opportunity to stare down at her. She was wearing a tank top with thin straps, and he was grateful to see the waistband of sweatpants beneath the blankets. Not crawling into bed with Piper not wearing pants, he thought wryly as he slid in beside her. He lay on his back next to her, too nervous to move, only sort of understanding why.

“For God’s sake, Winchester. Give me your arm.”

Confused, he held up his right arm, the one closest to her, and stayed on his back, not looking at her.

She turned onto her back and glared at him. “Are you doing this on purpose? Your left arm, dummy."

He put his arm down and sighed. “Piper-”

“Shut it, Winchester. If I don’t fall asleep soon, I’m going to start getting aggressive.” She turned back onto her right side. “Get your ass over here. Don’t make me tell you again,” she warned.

Slowly, giving her a chance to change her mind, Dean turned onto his right side behind her. He wrapped his left arm around her, and without thinking about it, pulled her close. He buried his face in her hair, breathing in her scent. He felt her shiver and lean back into him.

“‘Night,” she whispered softly.

Dean couldn't believe it. He was already half asleep. “‘Night,” he mumbled softly into her hair.

***

Piper woke a few hours later and found that she had turned in her sleep and was facing Dean. His right arm was under her head, and his left hand rested at her waist. She took the opportunity to study him. He looks so much younger, she thought. She had read about that in romance novels, and had never really understood how true it could be.

Her hands itched to run themselves along his face, to wake him up with her mouth on his. Instead, she cuddled closer and rested her head underneath his chin. Dean shifted a little in his sleep, pulling her tighter to him and placing a sleepy kiss on her forehead before falling back into deep sleep.

Piper ignored the pain in her heart, closed her eyes, and slept.

***

“Come on, man. I know Sam, okay, better than anyone. He's got more of a conscience than I do, I mean, the guy feels guilty surfing the Internet for porn.”

Piper and Dean were tied into chairs, sitting what must have been the living room of an abandoned farm. Gordon Walker, who had been hunting Sam without their knowledge, was straddling a chair in front of Dean, talking to him about the rumor that Sam was going to become a monster.

Piper was silent, struggling with the ropes that bound her wrists painfully tight to the arms of the chair. She was also tied around the chest, waist, and ankles. She was losing feeling in her hands and feet.

Gordon was shrugging. “Maybe you're right. But one day he's going to be a monster. Piper, girl, quit trying to get out of those ropes. I’m good at this, and I know you’re a good hunter.”

Piper glared at him. “Screw you, Walker.”

Dean ignored them. “How? Huh? How's a guy like Sam become a monster?”

Another shrug. “Beats me. But he will.”

“No, you don't know that!”

Gordon raised his eyebrows and stood up. “I'm surprised at you, Dean. Getting all emotional. I'd heard you were more of a professional than this. Look, let's say you were cruising around in that car of yours and, uh, you had little Hitler riding shotgun, right? Back when he was just some goofy, crappy artist. But you knew what he was going to turn into someday. You'd take him out, no questions, am I right?”

Piper stopped struggling to glare. “That is absolutely nothing like this situation.”

Dean shook his head. “That's not Sam.”

Gordon had walked over to his bag and pulled out two scarves. Piper glared at him. “You try to put that in my mouth, Walker, you’re going to lose a finger.”

He nonchalantly backhanded her. Piper didn’t make a sound, but her eyes were watering, her head was ringing, and she tasted blood. “Sorry, Piper,” Gordon said calmly. “I can’t have that pretty mouth causing any trouble for me.” He gagged her, tying the scarf behind her head.

He then turned to Dean, ignoring the cold fury radiating from him. “Yes it is Sam. You just can't see it yet. Dean, it's his destiny. Look, I'm sympathetic. He's your brother, you love the guy. This has got to hurt like hell for you.” He looked at Piper. “And you. But here's the thing.” He got the scarf into Dean’s mouth and started tying it. “It would wreck him. But your dad? If it really came right down to it, he would have had the stones to do the right thing here. But you're telling me you're not the man he is?”

Dean was furious, glaring at Gordon. Piper gasped behind her gag, and redoubled her efforts to get free so she could kill Gordon with her bare hands. He had taken them by surprise, announcing his plans to kill Sam without blinking. Piper didn’t think he really understood who the hell he was dealing with. Did he think they were just going to let him go free?

And then she could hear the sound of a lock pick being used on the back door. She started trying to scream through the gag, but the sound was too muffled. Dean was looking at her helplessly, both of them struggling to free themselves.

The door creaked open.

“Here he comes,” Gordon whispered.

The first explosion sounded through the air. Piper couldn’t breathe as tears began falling down her cheeks, her fear was suffocating her. She stopped struggling, trying to understand the terrible feeling in her heart. She felt separate from herself, watching as she sagged in her bonds, unable to meet Dean’s eyes.  

Dean was screaming at Gordon through his gag, when Gordon held up a finger. “Hold on. Not yet. Just wait and see.”

Another grenade went off, and something seemed to turn back on in Piper’s head. She started struggling harder against her bonds, her chair shifting across the floor, a low moan coming from her throat. She had to get to Dean, she could hear him sobbing, she needed to go to him.  Right after she eviscerated Gordon.

The man had stopped and put his hand on Dean’s shoulder. “Sorry, Dean.”

As he walked away, Piper met Dean’s eyes. They were filled with tears, too. Her tears spilled over again, looking at the pain on his face. She realized that she hadn’t stopped moaning, and tried to quiet herself. She was still straining to hear Gordon.  

And then, low, warning, was Sam’s voice. “Drop the gun.”

Piper watched Dean close his eyes in relief. She was crying again, trying to pull free so she could wrap her arms around Sam, assure herself that he was alive. Right after she eviscerated Gordon, of course.

She heard Gordon’s voice, also low. “Shouldn't take your shoes off around here. You might get tetanus.”

“Put it down now!” Sam shouted.

“You wouldn't shoot me, would you, Sammy? Because your brother and his little girlfriend in there, they think you're some kind of saint.”

“Yeah? Well, I wouldn't be so sure.”

“See, that's what I said.”

There was a scuffle from the other room. Piper and Dean renewed their struggles.

“You're no better than the filthy things you hunt,” Gordon snarled.

Another scuffle, then, “Do it. Do it! Show your brother the killer you really are, Sammy.”

There was a smacking sound. “It's Sam.”

Sam stumbled into the room where they were tied up. He went to Dean first, untying him slowly. As soon as his hands were free, Dean yanked the gag away, stood, and pulled Sam up with him. He put his hands on Sam’s face, examining his injuries. Sam nodded and smiled, and moved to untie Piper.

As soon as her hands were free, she flung her arms around Sam’s neck. “Oh, Sam…”

He finished untying her and stood up with her still holding him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face in her hair. “It’s okay, Pipes, I’m okay.”

They looked up as Dean started back into the room where Gordon was. “That son of a…”

Sam took a step toward him. “Dean. No.”

Dean turned around. “I let him live once. I'm not making the same mistake twice.” Piper was nodding in agreement, stepping away from Sam toward that room. “Damn right,” she muttered, following him, intending to make good on her internal promise.

“Guys, trust me. Gordon's taken care of. Come on.”

Sam grabbed them and dragged them to the door. The three of them got out the door, down the steps, and were walking away from the farm when Gordon came out the front door. He had two guns in his hands, and started firing towards them.  

The three of them started running toward the road. “God dammit, Sam, is this taken care of?” Piper shouted as she ran.

They dove into the ditch on the other side of the road. “What the hell are we doing, Sammy?” Dean asked, glaring.

Sam grinned. “Just trust me, all right?”

As he said that, three police cars swung into the clearing, sirens blaring. They surrounded Gordon, several officers leaping out and drawing their service weapons.

“Drop your weapons! Get down on your knees!”

“Anonymous tip,” Sam whispered, grinning, as they crouched and walked away.

“You’re a fine, upstanding citizen, Sammy.” Dean chuckled as they ran.

Chapter Text

“Come on, it will be fun!” Piper insisted, moving around Bobby’s kitchen, putting the finishing touches on dinner. Dean was at the table next to Sam, ignoring the argument around him to concentrate on his beer and not staring at Piper’s ass.

“Piper, we really don’t have time to-” Sam started.

Piper whipped around, wielding a mixing spoon at the youngest Winchester. “Time for what, Sam? We’re at a dead-end!” She turned back around to finish icing the last cupcake she’d made. She had been cooking like a mad person. Dean thought it had something to do with the few moments they had thought Sam was dead, but he wasn’t going to complain.

“We need to take a break,” she continued, while Dean didn’t watch her ass. “We can take one day, then come back at it the next. We’re going to go crazy if we don’t go do something.

A carnival had come in two towns over, and Piper wanted to go. Dean gathered she thought it would be relaxing. He couldn’t think of anything less relaxing than being in a crowd of people, lights swirling around and noises popping off. But if Piper wanted to do it, Dean was fairly certain that he would go, too. Woman is messing with my thought processes, he thought half-bitterly to himself.

“Pipe, it would be insane-”

"Fine, Sam,” she said crossly, putting plates in front of both of them. “I’ll go by myself.”

Dean frowned, unable to concentrate on the spaghetti in front of him. “Piper, no.”

She turned to glare at him. “Finally getting into the argument, Winchester? Interesting. I’m going, neither of you have to go with me.”

Dean shot her with a glare of his own as she sat down opposite to him, next to Sam. “Piper, no.”

“Piper, yes!” she said happily. She sobered. “Look, neither of you have to come. It’s dumb, I know it is. But I’m going to go,” she said as she stabbed at her plate with a fork. “I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself.”

***

“I can’t believe you weaseled me into coming here,” Dean brooded as he surveyed the brightly colored stalls and swirling rides.

Piper laughed, and the sound made his heartbeat quicken. “I told you guys you didn’t have to come.”

Her hair was down around her face, wavy, now a much lighter purple, more of a lavender color. She was in a pair of jeans and a tank top, with a leather jacket over everything because it was getting colder. Dean was having trouble keeping his eyes off of her.

Sam, on the other side of her, scoffed. “Yeah, okay, like we weren’t going to come.”

She grinned. “Shut up, Sam, let’s go win me something.”

The afternoon passed in a blur, and Dean found himself actually having a good time. There was more food than he would have expected, the highlight of his night being Piper showing him whatever the hell a funnel cake was. They played the stupid rigged games, and Piper made out like a bandit.

Dean found himself standing closer and closer to her as the night went on. Her joy was infectious, and he couldn’t believe he was actually having fun at something as stupid as a carnival in a podunk town in South Dakota.  

She had gone to talk to someone who ran one of the booths. Dean was watching her toss her head back and laugh out loud, her her hair swaying, when Sam said, “Oh, for God’s sake, Dean, this is ridiculous.”

Dean started and turned to his brother. “What?”

Sam was smirking. “You have been staring at Piper all night. It’s getting kind of creepy, honestly.”

Dean felt his face get hot. “Shut up, Sam. I’m just making sure she’s okay.”

Sam rolled his eyes.  “Whatever helps you sleep at night, dude.”

“What’s helping who sleep?” Piper asked as she joined them again.

“Nothing. What next, kitten?” Dean said quickly, eyeing Sam.

She grinned. “Let’s go ride the ferris wheel!”

Sam’s face creased into a smile. “Absolutely not, Pipe. I have this thing about heights. Dean, why don’t you take her?”

Dean felt his eyes widen as Piper glared at them. “I don’t need to be ‘taken.’ I’ll go by myself.” She turned to walk away. “Once it’s done, we can go home!”

Dean glared at Sam. “You have never in your life been afraid of heights,” he snarled as he turned to follow Piper. “Pipes, wait up!” he shouted, trying to drown out his brother’s laughter.

***

Dean, as it turned out, kind of had a thing about heights. “How often do you think these things get maintenance?” he asked nervously as their car slowly made it’s way to the top.

Piper was sitting next to him, laughing. “I have seen you look a werewolf in the face and not bat an eye. How are you afraid of a ferris wheel?”

He glared at her. “I’m not afraid, Piper, I’m cautious. No self-respecting person would put themselves on a ride that didn’t have some geek making sure it was safe.”

She rolled her eyes and leaned into him. Her warmth was a little distracting. “Shut up and enjoy the moment, Winchester.” She lay her head on his shoulder. Something in him stilled, while something else celebrated. Slowly, he moved around so he could put his arm around her. She made a soft noise of surprise, then moved closer until they were touching shoulder to knee.

Dean wasn’t sure what to do. He had a great deal of affection for Piper, she was by far his best friend. She had fought to stay by their side, and known when to lead and when to follow theirs. He didn’t want to be in a relationship, but he wanted Piper, and Piper was not going to be a one night stand.

The car rose higher and Dean’s thoughts were becoming scattered. He could feel her against him, soft but tense. She placed her small hand on his chest and looked up at him. Her eyes were warm, questioning, her mouth was held open the tiniest bit.  

Dean’s heart was beating hard, his blood thundering in his ears. His hand came up to push her hair behind her ear. Her eyes widened as his thumb traced down her jaw and over her bottom lip. He tilted his head until his forehead was pressed against hers, his eyes closed. “Piper…”

The car jerked to a stop, pulling them apart. She jumped and his arm tightened around her, both of them looking around. Dean realized that the ride had stopped. Unidentifiable emotions went through him, disappointment taking the lead as Piper stood up and got off the car.  

He sighed and followed her, refusing to meet her or Sammy’s eyes.

“So,” she said too brightly. “Everyone ready to go?”

***

A noise startled Dean awake. He sat straight up, breathing hard, trying to make sense of his surroundings. It looked like he was in a bedroom, and not in a motel. The bed was too nice, there was only one of them, and he wasn’t wearing a stitch.

A soft sound next to him made him turn, and his heart stopped completely. Piper was next to him, purple hair clouding around her face, yawning. She didn’t appear to be wearing anything. “Dean? Honey, what’s wrong?”

Dean was in shock. He just looked at her, watching her stretch under the blanket. She sighed again, not opening her eyes, and patted the space in front of her. “Come back here, baby, come back to sleep.”

Oh, no, what the hell? Dean got up slowly, not disturbing Piper, and found a pair of sweats. He walked through the apartment, what was apparently Piper’s apartment, and tried to absorb the details. There were lots of posters on the walls, of movies and bands. They were crammed between pictures of Sam and Piper, Piper and John, Dean and Sam, Dean and John. He paused at a picture of Piper and he. It looked like they were on a beach somewhere, kissing while he took the picture.

“What the hell?” he asked softly

He found his cell phone, flipped it open, and called Sam.

“Dean?” he answered.

“Sam?”

“What is going on?” Sam sounded wary.

“I don't know. I don't know where I am.”

“What? What happened?”

“Well, the uh, the djinn. It attacked me.”

“The gin? You're… Drinking gin?”

“No, asshat. The djinn. The… Scary creature. Remember? It put it’s hand on me and then I woke up... Next to...”

“Who?” Sam chuckled. “Piper, hopefully?”

Dean frowned. “What?”

“Dean, you're drunk. You're drunk-dialing me.”

“I am not drunk. Quit screwing around!” Dean growled.

“Look, it's late. All right, just get some sleep and, um, I'll... see you tomorrow. Okay?”

“Wait, Sam! Sam!”

Sam hung up on him. Dean sighed, considered calling him back, and put the phone back in his pocket instead. He looked around, trying to figure what the hell was going on.

There was a little table next to the front door. It had a bowl with some keys in it (he was bemused to see that some of them were his) and a few envelopes tossed carelessly on top. He picked up the top one to read the address.

Piper Finley

53 Barker Ave.

Apt. 38

Lawrence, KS 66044

“Lawrence?” he whispered to himself. He looked at the next envelope.

Dean Winchester

53 Barker Ave.

Apt. 38

Lawrence, KS 66044

“What the hell?”

“Honey? What are you doing?” Piper asked from the doorway. Dean turned to see her wrapping a long, silky robe around herself, her hair still wild.

“Hey, uh, Pipes, uh…”

She tilted her head. “Aw, couldn’t sleep?”

“Yeah, uh, heh.” Dean tried a smile, it felt awkward on his face.

Her eyes heated up and something low in him tightened in response. “Well,” she said softly, “Why don't you come back to bed, and we’ll see if I can do anything to help.”

Dean swallowed hard and nodded. “Sure. Yeah. In a minute. You… You, you go ahead.”

Her slow smile was making him dizzy. “Okay. Don't stay up too long.” She walked to where he was and raised on her toes to kiss him softly. Dean’s head spun as she kept her lips pressed against his, her hand on his bare chest. She lightly scraped her fingernails all the way down to his waist, and smiled at his growl against her lips. She pulled back and grinned at him. “Seriously, come to bed soon.” She turned and walked back to the bedroom.

“Jesus,” Dean muttered as he tried to catch his breath. He turned, hoping to distract himself. There were more pictures of Piper with an older couple he had never met, presumably her parents. What? Another of he and Piper, himself in a dress shirt and slacks and her in a smoking hot black dress. They were looking in the same direction, smiling at something, and the casual way he had his hand on her hip made something in Dean’s chest hurt.

He looked at another picture, and all thought and emotion having to do with Piper stopped. He went into the bedroom and found a shirt, ignoring Piper’s startled, “Dean? Dean, honey-”

He grabbed his keys and ran out the door.

***

Dean sped the whole way. He knew he was being reckless, but he had to see her. When he got to their old home, he parked across the street. His stomach was doing flips.

He ran to the front door and started banging on it. He rang the doorbell twice. The light above the door turned on, then the door opened.

Mary Winchester squinted at her son. “Dean?”

He felt tears start to well up in his eyes. She was here, she was beautiful. “Mom?”

She looked concern. It killed him. “What are you doing here? Are you all right?”

He was honest. “I don’t know.”

She sighed, smiling up at him. “Well... Come inside.”

***

The next day, after mowing his mom’s lawn, Dean was sitting on the front step with a beer. He was thinking of calling Piper. There were pictures of them in the house, as smiling teenagers, and a bad one of them at what was presumably prom, with her in a horrible green dress and him in a horrible suit.

A dark sedan pulled up. Sam and Jessica stepped out.

Dean grinned and walked down to meet them. “I don't believe it.”

As Jess got out of the car, he scooped her up into a hug. “Hmm…” she hummed.

“Jessica.” Dean was reeling. Was everything actually fixed? Was everything okay?

“Agh! You're, uh... Good to see you, too, Dean. Okay, can't breathe, okay.” He laughed and let her go, then turned to Sam.

“Sammy.”

Sam gave him a tight smile. “Hey.”

Dean couldn’t stop grinning. “Look at you. You're with Jessica, it's... I don't believe it.”

Another tight smile, and a quizzical look. “Yeah.”

“Where'd you guys come from?”

Sam was outright staring at him now. “We just flew in from... Califor-”

Dean snapped his fingers. “California! Stanford, huh? Law school, I bet.”

Sam sighed and motioned to the beer in Dean’s hand. “I see you started off Mom's birthday with a bang, as usual.”

Dean blinked. “Wait. Mom's birthday, that's, that's today?”

Sam rolled his eyes and shared a look with Jess.”Yeah. Yeah, Dean. That's today. That's why we're here. Don't tell me you forgot.”

***

Dean parked in front of the apartment and hopped out of Baby. Curious, he went and unlocked her trunk, opening it to find a tire iron, some trash, and a shopping back that he had apparently forgotten was there. He didn’t think he could have smiled anymore today. “Would you look at that, Baby. We’re civilians.”

When he looked up, there was a girl standing across the street. She was wearing a white shirt and a skirt. She didn’t say anything or move, just looked at him. He started to walk toward her, wanting to know if she was okay. Suddenly, a car horn blared out, and he jumped back as an SUV almost hit him. When he looked for the girl again, she was gone.

Shaking his head, he walked up to the the apartment he shared with Piper. He fumbled for the keys for a moment, then unlocked the door. “Pipes?” he called, looking around.

She came padding into the living room in bare feet. She was holding her hair up with her hand, and had a lacy dress on that was loose at her shoulders. She smiled warmly. "Hey, handsome,” she said as she raised up on her toes to kiss him again. When she dropped back down, concern filled her eyes. “Are you okay? Your mom called. Is she all right?”

Dean was still trying to deal with what she was wearing. “Um, yeah, yeah, just… Needed to go home, I guess.”

She smiled in relief. “I get that. Hey!” she turned around. “Since you’re here now, can you zip me up?”

Dean was floored again. Her pale, sleek back, blocked only by the shape of the dress she was in. Realizing that he could, he stepped forward and ran a hand down her back, leaning down to leave burning kisses on her neck. She moaned and leaned back, tilting her head to give him better access. He put his hands on her hips and pulled her tight to him.

She pulled away gently and laughed. “Dean! We don’t have time, we might be late as is!” She looked over her shoulder flirtatiously. “Now zip me up and go get dressed, and maybe there’s something in it for you later.”

He groaned and caught her mouth again, running his tongue along her bottom lip, then lifted his head and grinned at her. “Whatever you say, kitten.”

***

They were all sitting at a round table in a lovely restaurant. Dean was staring at his plate, confused by how little of the fancy food was on the plate. “Wow, that… Looks awesome.”  Piper squeezed his thigh under the table.

“All right.” Sam lifted his glass. “To Mom! Happy birthday!”

Everyone raised their glasses in a toast. Mary blushed and smiled. “Thank you.”

Sam leaned over and kissed Jessica. Dean smiled.

Piper squeezed his thigh again and leaned close. “What do you say, after this we go home and I cook you some real food?”

“Oh, God, yes.” She chuckled. “Piper, how did I end up with someone as cool as you?”

She grinned. “You got me young, before I had higher standards.”

He laughed and kissed her.

Sam interrupted. “All right. Jess and I actually have another surprise for Mom's birthday. Ah... You wanna tell them?”

Jess blushed. “They're your family.”

Sam smiled. “All right.”

Mary looked between the two of them. “What? Tell me what?”

Sam held up Jessica’s left hand to show the engagement ring on her finger.  Mary laughed, and Piper squealed.

“Oh my God! That's so wonderful!” Mary beamed, getting up to hug Sam.  

Piper stood, too, to hug Jessica. “Congratulations, Jess!”  

“Thank you,” Jessica said demurely, but her eyes were sparkling.

Dean watched his mother and his girlfriend switch places, Piper beaming up at Sam.  “Congratulations, Sammy,” she said softly.  

He smiled tightly. “Thanks, Piper.”  They hugged stiffly.

Mary was still beaming. “I just wish your dad was here.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah. Me, too.”

Mary turned. “Jessica, let me see that ring.”

Dean stood and shook Sam’s hand. “Congratulations, Sammy.”

Sam let go of Dean’s hand, “Thanks.”

Dean kept his gaze. “I’m really glad you’re happy.”

Sam gave Dean a puzzled look, then turned back to the women oohing over Jess’s ring.

Dean looked over Sam’s shoulder, his smile fading as he saw the girl from earlier, in the white shirt. She was dirty now. Dean pushed past Sam and walked toward her. By the time he got there, a waiter moved past him, and when the waiter was gone, so was the girl.

Dean turned to see his family looking at him, concerned.

***

Later that night, Dean was sitting on the sofa in his living room (he had a living room!), thinking about what Sam had said when they had dropped their Mom off. Piper walked in, wearing one of his shirts and a pair of panties, and handed him a beer.

“My favorite.” He watched as she settled next to him, her back against the arm of the sofa and her legs stretching across his lap. “I guess you know me pretty well.”

Piper smiled and nodded. “I’m afraid so.” She searched his face. “Are you all right?”

He frowned. “Sammy and I... We don't get along.”

She shrugged. “I just think he hasn’t let go of the stuff you pulled in high school. It got rough there for a while.”

“You two don’t get along, either.”

Another shrug. “I don’t think he’s really forgiven me for forgiving you. He doesn’t understand.”

“Hmm.”

She leaned forward and ran her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. “For the record, he doesn’t know what he’s missing, keeping you out of his life.”

“I can fix things with Sam. I can make it up to him. To everyone.” He looked at her. “To you.”

She leaned back and fixed him with a piercing stare. “All right, spill, Winchester. What has gotten into you lately?”

He leaned toward her. “This isn't gonna make a lick of sense to you. But I kind of feel like I've been given a second chance. And I don't wanna waste it.”

She laughed, and Dean was entranced. “You’re right, that doesn’t make any sense-” He cut her off by pressing his lips to hers. They kissed for a heated moment, then he pulled away and pressed his forehead into hers. “You know, I get it now.”

“Get what?”

“Why you’re the one.”

She gave him a slow smile that sent his blood on fire.  “Whatever’s gotten into you, I like it.”

Their lips met again, and Dean put down his beer to put his hands on her, desperate to feel any part of her. Desperate to feel Piper, who he had been wanting to feel for so long.

She groaned and pulled away, dropping her head back. He took the opportunity to press his lips to her neck. “Oh, don't do this to me now. I've gotta get ready for work.”

She pushed him away gently and stood, walking back to their bedroom. “You’ve got to work now?” he asked, following her.

She looked back at him before she entered the bedroom.  “I told you, I’ve got the night shift on Thursday.”

He followed her into the bedroom. “You work nights at the, uh…” He saw her pull out a set of scrubs from the closet. “Hospital. You’re a nurse. I’m dating a nurse. That is so… Respectable.”

She chuckled and got dressed. Dean watched her, feeling possessiveness take hold in his heart. Mine, he thought taking a sip of beer.

Life was finally good.

Chapter Text

After kissing Piper thoroughly before watching her walk out the door, Dean sat on the couch and put his feet on the table. He picked up the TV remote and turned it on. It was a cooking show.

“The olive oil must have a purpose here.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah?”

“I'll take the olive oil and we'll just put a, just a touch of olive oil, okay? That's all.”

“Oh.”

“Can't make any mistakes with this machine. Now, for liquid, I could use water but I'm gonna use a little spinach-”

Dean flipped through channels. Stock market, cartoons, some sort of video. Then the news, with a pretty reporter speaking. “And today marks the anniversary of the crash of United Britannia Flight 424.”

Dean sat up, feeling his stomach drop. “Indianapolis residents held a candlelight vigil in memory of the hundred and eight people who lost their lives…”

“No, no,” he snapped, eyes not leaving the screen. “I stopped that crash.”

Dean stood up and walked to the desk that held a laptop in the corner. He flipped it open and started looking up headlines.

INDIANAPOLIS SUN, DECEMBER 5TH, 2005 - FLIGHT 424 CRASHES, 108 DEAD

NINE CHILDREN COMATOSE

PARENTS MUTILATED IN BED

GIRL DROWNS IN HOTEL POOL

Dean felt nauseous. He had saved all those people. Sometimes just him and Sammy, more recently with Piper, too. He didn’t understand. He went to lean his head back in frustration, and caught a glimpse of a passing figure walking down the hallway. Wishing he had his gun, he stood up to follow.

He walked into the bedroom and saw nothing. He opened the closet door, and jumped back when he saw several women, dead, hanging in the closet.  

A sound behind him had him whipping around to see yet another woman, with a head wound, flicking in and out in front of him.

His chest heaving, Dean turned back around to the closet… The empty closet.

***

Dean stood in front of his father’s grave.  He had come for… Closure? He wasn’t sure what.  He contemplated his father’s gravestone.

JOHN E. WINCHESTER
1954-2006
LOVING HUSBAND & FATHER
REMEMBERED FOREVER

“All of them,” he started, voice ragged, “Everyone that you saved, everyone Sammy and I saved. They're all dead. And there's this woman, that's haunting me. I don't know why. I don't know what the connection is, not yet anyway. It's like my old life is, is coming after me or something. Like it, like it doesn't want me to be happy. ‘Course I know what you'd say. Well, not the you that played softball, but... ‘So go hunt the djinn. It put you here, it can put you back. Your happiness for all those people's lives, no contest. Right?’” Dean paused, trying to collect himself. “But why? Why is it my job to save these people? Why do I have to be some kind of hero?” He felt a tear slide down his cheek. So much for collecting himself. “What about us, huh? What, Mom's not supposed to live her life, Sammy's not supposed to get married?  I’m not…” He wasn’t sure he could say it. “I’m not supposed to be with Piper? Why do we have to sacrifice everything, Dad?” He stopped again, not sure what good this was doing. “It's…”  There was silence, then thunder rumbled in the distance. “Yeah…”

He turned and made his way back to Baby, sure of what he had to do.

Even if he hated it.

***

Dean was rifling through his mother’s china cabinet, feeling guilty. He had only a second’s warning to turn around and disarm Sam. Sam’s lack of training for the situation caught Dean off guard.

Dean chuckled. “That was so easy, I'm embarrassed for you.”

Sam wasn’t deterred. “Dean? What the hell are you doing here?”

Dean got up, and watched warily as Sam got up, too. “I was looking for a beer.”

Sam looked at him incredulously “In the china cabinet?”

Sam turned on the light, and Dean shut his eyes and leaned his head back, knowing that Sam was seeing the cabinet open, and the box on the floor with the lid off.

“That's Mom's silver.”

Dean sighed. “Sam.”

“What, you... You broke into the house... To steal Mom's silver?”

Dean opened his eyes and looked at his younger brother. “It's not what it looks like, okay? I didn't have a choice.”

Sam, starting to get angry, scoffed. “Oh, really? Why? What's so damn important you gotta steal from your own mother?”

Dean cocked an eyebrow, thinking quickly. “You want the truth?”

“Yeah, yeah I do.”

Dean shrugged. “I owe somebody money.”

Sam was shocked. “Who?”

“A bookie. I lost big on a game, I gotta bring him the cash tonight.”

“I can't believe we're even related.” Sam ran a hand through his hair. “How could you do this to Mom? Hell, how could you do this to Piper? If you knew the things she said to me when we talked about you-”

Dean couldn’t take it. “Sam, I'm sorry.”

Sam huffed. “Yeah.”

Dean leaned down and pulled a knife from the box. “I'm sorry that we don't get along. I’m sorry that it somehow came between you and Pipes. And I wish to hell I could stay and fix it. But I gotta do this. People’s lives depend on it.”

Sam’s eyes widened. “What are you talking about, Dean?”

“Nothing. Forget it. Just uh... Hey, tell Mom I love her. And…” He swallowed. “And Piper, tell Piper I love her, too.”

Sam wasn’t an idiot. Dean could tell he knew something was wrong. “Dean.”

Dean turned around. “I’ll see you, Sammy.” He walked out the door and shut it behind him.

He walked across the street to the Impala, got in, and shut the door. He leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling, thinking.

He turned the key and listed to Baby’s engine start. Suddenly, the passenger door opened and Sam got in.

Dean frowned. “Get out of the car.”

“I'm going with you.” Sam looked resolute.

Dean shook his head. “You're just gonna slow me down.”

“Tough.”

“This is dangerous and you could get hurt.”

“Yeah, and so could you, Dean.”

Dean sighed. “Sam-”

Sam glared at him. “Look, whatever stupid thing you're about to do, you're not doing it alone. And that's that.”

“I don't understand. Why you doing this?”

“Because you're still my brother.”

Dean grinned. “Bitch.”

Sam looked shocked. “What are you calling me a bitch for?”

“You're supposed to say jerk.”

“What?”

Dean shook his head. “Never mind.” He put the Impala in gear, and they drove away.

***

They drove toward the abandoned building. Dean was tense, almost sick to his stomach. He didn’t want to do this. He wanted to drop Sam off, go home, and wait for Piper to get back. He wanted to surprise her with breakfast, and champagne, and then taste and touch every part of her to show her what she meant to him. He wanted to make up for all the shitty things he’d done to her, once he found out what they were.

He wanted to work at a garage. He wanted to help people by getting their cars running. He wanted to come home to Piper at night, and on one or two nights a week, go over to his mom’s house. His living, breathing mom, who loved him and loved Piper. And Sam and Jess could visit, and they’d all go out to dinner. And he would propose to Piper, make her Mrs. Piper Winchester. Soon, God, so soon.  And...

Dean closed his eyes to keep the thoughts from piling on further. He shined the flashlight at Sam, who had been asleep. Sam startled awake. “Where are we?”

Dean gave a forced chuckle. “Well, we're not in Kansas anymore.” Sam didn’t smile, and Dean rolled his eyes. “Illinois.”

Sam looked warily at the warehouse. “And you think something's in there?”

Dean looked at the building, too. “I know it is.”

They crept into the building, Dean holding the flashlight, Sam walking nervously behind him. “See?  There’s nothing here, Dean.”

Dean ignored him and turned down the hallway where he had been attacked the first time, Sam sticking close. “Look, Piper has got to be worried sick about you. Come on, let’s… Let’s just go.”

A noise echoed through the room. Dean elbowed Sam in the gut. “Sh!”

Sam had heard the sound, too. “What the hell is that?” he whispered furiously.

“Stay behind me and keep your mouth shut.”

Dean looked into the room they were walking into, to see bodies hanging. The ones from the closet. “Shit.”

There was a drained blood bag hanging next to one of the bodies. Sam was horrified. “What the hell?”

Dean looked around and saw the woman he had been seeing. There was a blood bag hanging next to her, too. This one was full. He was in shock. “It’s her.”

Sam examined the woman. She began to whimper, her eyes flicking open.

“Dean, what’s going on?”

Dean grabbed him and dragged him behind a shelving unit. “Come on!”

The brothers watched as the djinn came into the room. It walked up and stood in front of the woman. She started to cry weakly. “Where’s my dad? I won’t tell… No, don’t.”

The djinn touched her face. “Sleep.” Blue light glowed where it had touched the woman’s face. “Sleep… Sleep.”

Her head fell forward and she relaxed. The djinn leaned against her, touching her right arm breathing heavily. He reached for the blood bag, pulled out one of the tubes, and started drinking deeply.

Sam gagged. Dean could have killed him as he pushed him silently away. The djinn had heard, and when he came to look where the men had been, they were gone.

The djinn turned around warily. He began walking up the steps that Dean and Sam were hiding under. Neither took so much as a breath until they heard a door shut further away. Sam was gasping. “This is real? You’re not crazy?”

Dean was ignoring him. “She didn’t know where she was. She thought she was with her father.” He approached the woman, hearing Sam come up behind him. “What if that's what the djinn does? It doesn't grant you a wish, it just makes you think it has.”

“Look, man. That thing could come back, all right?” Sam said nervously.

Dean suddenly saw himself, pale, hung up by his wrists like the woman was, a blood bag hanging next to him. He started to hyperventilate.

“Dean, please.”

“What if I'm like her?” Dean gasped. “What if I'm tied up in here some place? What if all this is in my head? I mean it could, you know, maybe it gives us some kind of supernatural acid, and then just feeds on us slow.”

Sam was shaking his head. “No. Dean, that doesn't make sense. OK?”

Dean was staring at the woman, horrified. “What if that's why she keeps appearing to me? She's not a spirit. It's, it's like more and more like I'm catching flashes of reality. You know, like I'm in here somewhere, and I'm, I'm catatonic, and I'm taking all this stuff in but I, but I can't snap out of it.”

Sam was trying to placate him. “Yeah, OK, look. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're right. I was wrong. You're not crazy but we, we, we need to get out of here. Fast.”

He grabbed Dean’s arm and began to pull him toward the exit. Dean yanked his arm away and backed away from Sam. Sam turned around and held his arms out to the side. “What?”

Dean was starting to get mad. “I don’t think you’re real.”

Sam grabbed Dean by the arm again. “Dude, you feel that? You feel this? I'm real. This is not an acid trip. I'm real, and that thing is gonna come down here and kill us for real. Now, please-”

Dean pulled out the silver knife. He knew what he had to do, and he ignored the screaming pain in his chest. “There’s one way to be sure.”

Sam let go of him and backed up. “Woah, woah, woah.  What are you doing?”

Dean was trying to gather his courage. “It's an old wives' tale. If you're about to die in a dream, you wake up.”

Sam paled. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's crazy. All right?”

“Maybe.”

Sam started approaching Dean slowly. “You're gonna kill yourself-”

“Or I'm gonna wake up. One or the other.”

Sam held his hands up. “Okay, this isn't a dream, all right. I'm here, with you, now. And you're about to kill yourself, Dean.”

Dean shook his head. “No, I'm pretty sure. Like, 90% sure. But I'm sure enough.” He turned the knife in his hands, ready to thrust it into his belly.

“Wait!”  Sam bellowed.

Dean turned and saw his mother walking toward him, in the nightgown she’d been wearing when he first saw her. Piper was behind her.

Sam looked sad. “Why'd you have to keep digging? Why couldn’t you have left well enough alone?” Dean looked to see that Jessica had joined them. “You were happy.”

His mother stood in front of him. “Put the knife down, honey.”

Dean felt tears start to gather in his eyes. “You're not real. None of it is.”

“It doesn't matter. It's still better than anything you had.”

“What?”

“It's everything you want. We're a family again. Let’s go home.”

Dean shook his head. “I'll die.” His voice broke. “The djinn'll... Drain the life out of me in a couple of days.”

Mary was shaking her head in return. “But in here, with us, it'll feel like years. Like a lifetime.”

Dean looked at Sam, who nodded. “I promise,” Mary said as she took his chin in her hand, forcing him to look down at her. “No more pain. Or fear. Just love and comfort. And safety. Dean, stay with us.” She was stroking his cheek, and he leaned into her hand. “Get some rest.”

“You don't have to worry about Sam anymore.” Dean looked over to Jess. “You get to watch him live a full life.”

Mary stepped away, and Piper walked to him. She took his face into her hands, pressing her lips against his. He couldn’t help himself, he kissed her back until she pulled away. “We can have a future together.” Her beautiful hazel eyes were begging him. “Have our own family. I love you, Dean. Please.”

Sam walked up behind her. “Why is it our job to save everyone? Haven’t we done enough? I’m begging you. Give me the knife.”

Dean looked at his mother, Sam, and Jess, saving Piper for last. He memorized her face, and released the knife with one hand. He placed it behind her head and pulled her in for another deep, long kiss. He then looked up at his family with tears in his eyes. He released Piper and backed away, making eye contact with Sam. He whispered, “I’m sorry,” and drove the knife into himself.

Piper and Sam rushed to him, calling his name. “Dean!  Dean!”

Piper was stroking his face, panic on hers. He realized that he was hanging from his wrists, the blood bag hanging next to him.

“Oh, God.” Piper was motioning to Sam to pull the tube out of Dean’s throat. “Come on, Dean, wake up, come on, wake up, God dammit!”

Dean managed to make his gaze focus on Piper. She smiled, tearing up. “Hey, hey, oh, thank God.”

“Ah, Auntie Em. There’s no place like home.”

Sam chuckled. “Thank God. I thought we lost you for a second.” He pulled the tube out of Dean’s neck.

Speaking was taking up a lot of energy. “You almost did.”

“Oh, God.” Piper’s chest was heaving as she moved to support the majority of Dean’s weight. “Let’s get him down, Sam.”

Sam reached up to start cutting through the rope. Dean turned to see two bright blue eyes next to him. “Sam!”

Piper whipped her head around as the djinn knocked the knife out of Sam’s hands. Dean started to pull at the ropes Sam had started to cut through, but paused as Piper grabbed the knife and slammed it through the djinn’s back. Her breathing was ragged and the tears spilled down her cheeks as she hurried back to lift Dean as Sam finished cutting through his ropes.

When he was done, Sam took Dean’s weight so Piper could check the girl’s pulse.

“She’s alive!” She pulled the tube out of her neck and held her hand out for the knife from Sam. When he handed it to her, she wrapped her arm around the other girl’s waist and cut the ropes with a few short jerks. The girl fell onto Piper, her arms wrapped around the standing woman’s neck. “I gotcha,” Piper murmured soothingly as she tucked the knife into her back pocket. “I gotcha, we’re gonna get you out of here, okay?”

***

Piper was sitting on a cot in the motel room they had gotten for the night. She insisted the brothers have the beds, and had ordered a cot without brooking any argument. Dean was sitting on the edge of one of the beds, looking away from her. He hadn’t looked at her since he had woken up in the djinn’s hideout.

He had told them about the perfect life he had seen. She hadn’t been in it, which had hurt. When Sam asked about her, Dean had shrugged and without looking at her said, “Probably because in a perfect life, you wouldn’t be around, Pipes. You’d be off somewhere, living normal. Just like us.”

Sam was on the phone with the hospital. “OK, uh, thank you so much for the update. OK, bye.” He hung up and looked at both of them. “That was the hospital. Girl's been stabilized. Good chance she's gonna pull through.”

Dean nodded. “That’s good.”

“Yeah.” Sam paused and looked at Piper, who looked at the floor. “How 'bout you? You all right?”

Dean cleared his throat. “Yeah, I'm all right. You should have seen it, Sam. Our lives. You were such a wussy.”

Sam laughed. “So we didn't get along then, huh?”

Dean shook his head. “Nah.”

“I thought it was supposed to be a perfect fantasy,” Piper said quietly.

Dean shook his head, still not looking at her. “It wasn't. It was just a wish. I wished... For Mom to live. That Mom never died, we never went hunting and you and me, Sammy, we just never uh... You know.”

Sam gave up. “Yeah. Well, I'm glad we do. And I'm glad you dug yourself out, Dean. Most people wouldn't've had the strength, would have just stayed.”

Dean scoffed. “Yeah... Lucky me. I gotta tell you though, man. You know, you had Jess. Mom was gonna have grandkids, I had… Uh, you know, you guys.”

Piper felt the words stab into her. You’re being selfish, just be glad he’s alive, she thought to herself bitterly. She stood up, grabbed her bag, and walked into the bathroom. It had been a long day, she wanted a shower and her cot.

She heard Sam say quietly, “Yeah, but... Dean... It wasn't real.”

“I know. But I wanted to stay.  I wanted to stay so bad. I mean, ever since Dad... all I, all I can think about is how much this job's cost us.” There was a pause. “We've lost so much. We've... sacrificed so much.”

“But people are alive because of you.” Dean scoffed. “It’s worth it, Dean.  It is.  It’s not fair, and… You know, it hurts like hell, but… It’s worth it.”

Piper shut the door and leaned against it, closing her eyes.

Chapter Text

“Come take a walk with me, Pipe.” Sam insisted, standing in the doorway of her bedroom.

Piper sighed. She was laying on her back in her bed, and she had been expecting this. They had come back to Bobby’s after Dean had been captured by the djinn, all of them unsure of what to do. Dean still wouldn’t look at Piper, but he had started speaking to her again in short sentences. Piper had started not looking at him, either, and pretending that he wasn’t there most of the time. It made her life easier.

But she did feel bad for Sam. Poor Sam, who didn’t know what to do about all the tension. Piper didn’t know what to do with it, either. I mean, I don’t even know what happened. Her fear was that in his vision of a perfect life, because she hadn’t been in it, Dean didn’t want her around anymore. Which didn’t matter a lick to her, she was sticking with them whether he wanted her there or not.

It was hard because she thought they had had a moment on the ferris wheel. She had felt his heart racing, and her breath had quickened at the look in his eyes, a look that she had thought was desire. She had been sure. And apparently, she had been wrong.

But, no matter how unfair it was to Sam, she was doing just fine ignoring the problem. She didn’t want to talk about it. “I’m good, Sam.”

He stepped into her room and started looking for her boots. “Come on, Finley, we’re going.” He found one.

Piper didn’t move except to glare at him. “Sam, I’m-”

He threw both boots at her. “Piper. You’re not the only one who can drag people kicking and screaming to places they don’t want to go. And I’m at least a foot and a half taller than you, so it wouldn't even be a big deal. Let’s go.”

Piper groaned, but with an inner smile. She and Sam hadn’t been just the two of them for quite a while. And she could admit to herself that when it was all three of them, she tended to be more focused on Dean. It would be nice to connect with her best friend again.

***

Piper was laughing more than she had in weeks. “Oh, my God, Dean Winchester, scared of flying.” She sank down onto the fallen tree next to her and wiped her eyes. “Oh, God, Sam, how did you even keep it together?”

He was grinning at her. He missed laughing with Piper, and talking about nonsense. He was filled with urgency to find the yellow-eyed demon, but this was important, too. Piper was his best friend, and now could probably be called his only friend, and he wanted her to be okay. He hadn’t shared his suspicion with her, but he thought Dean was lying about the vision the djinn had showed him. Sam suspected that Piper had played a big role in that vision.

But he wasn’t going to bring that up. She was laughing and smiling, and he hadn’t seen it in weeks. “It wasn’t easy, but the demon did help.”

She was still chuckling. “Oh, jeeze, that would be the only thing that would do it.” She stood again, smiling up at him. “Let’s go, Gigantor.”

“Rude,” he scoffed, walking beside her as they started down the path again.

Sam had found this path years ago with Piper, on the very back of what was technically Bobby’s property. Piper had said then that she wasn’t sure anyone could own anything this beautiful, and Sam had privately agreed.

She stopped at the top of a little hill, looking around quietly. She looked small, and lost. Sam stood next to her and slipped his hand into hers, their fingers intertwining.

She sighed and squeezed his hand. “Sam, this is all so messed up.”

He nodded. “I mean,” she continued, “Everything. You having visions, John making a deal, us trying to find this damn demon and just gank the bastard.” She shook her head and looked up at him. “Do you know what most people our age are doing?”

Sam smiled. “College,” he said wistfully.

She nodded. “College, jobs, getting married.  Sam, this is…”

“It’s crazy, I know.” Sam chuckled. “Trust me, I know.”

She leaned her head against his arm, and he let go of her hand to wrap an arm around her shoulders. Now was as good a time as any.  “Piper, about Dean.”

She shook her head, but didn’t move away. “No, Sam. Just… No. I’m not talking about him.”

He squeezed her. “Okay, then, just shut it and listen.” He paused, gathering his thoughts. He couldn’t help but think that this conversation was very important. “Look, Pipe, Dean has lost a lot because of this job. It’s made it so he won’t let anyone… In. He won’t let anyone in, because losing more people might be too much.” Sam leaned down to kiss the top of her hair. “Try not to take it personally, Pipe. I’m sure he’ll come around one of these days.”

Piper was silent for a long time. Sam let her think. She was usually a very careful person, considering every angle of a problem before she acted. This was the same thing, so he just felt the sun soaking into him and kept his arm around her.

“You know, Sammy, I don’t give you enough credit for what you see,” she said quietly.

He grinned. “No one does. I think it’s the height. No one thinks I can hear them.”

She chuckled, and Sam heard the emotion she was holding back in it. “Oh, Sam. I’ll... I’ll try.”

***

When they got back, Dean was in the kitchen, drinking. Sam saw him look up at them, but ignored his big brother to usher Piper into the living room.  

“I can’t believe you got me to agree to this,” she groaned as he pushed her down onto the couch and went to the entertainment center.

“Shut up, Finley, this movie is perfection.”

“It’s like three hours long, Sam!” she cried out from the couch, but she didn’t move, and she was smiling again. Sam wanted to watch the first Lord of the Rings movie, and she had begrudgingly agreed. He thought it would be another good distraction for her, and she might get some peaceful sleep.

An hour later, Sam was watching the movie by himself. He was laying on his left side on the couch, and Piper was curled up in front of him, his arm slung around her middle. He had pulled the blanket down from the back of the couch and wrapped her in it as soon as she had gotten sleepy.

She sighed in her sleep and cuddled closer to him. Sam smiled. It made him think of when they were younger. Piper had had nightmares the first few weeks she was with them. He had heard her one night, and not knowing what else to do, crawled into bed next to her. He had comforted her through the night, and after that, John had found them sleeping in the one another’s bed more often than not.

It was as platonic as could be, but when Dean came in from the kitchen, Sam caught his jealous glare. Sam felt the anger he had been squashing rise to the surface and glared back. “What?” he whispered.

Dean shrugged. He was a little drunk. “Just didn’t know this was so cozy.”

Sam tightened his arm and pulled Piper closer. “Dean, lower your voice. And you know that Piper and I are friends. She’s had a rough couple of days,” he gave Dean a pointed look, “and she hasn’t been sleeping well.”

“And Sammy was there to save the day, huh?” Dean snapped, not whispering. “All because big bad Dean hurt her feelings.” He was sneering.

Sam let it roll off his back, and pulled Piper’s face closer so he could press his palm against her ear. “Dean,” his voice held a low warning, enough to make Dean look him in the eye and straighten up a little. “Either shut up and go to bed, or shut up and sit down and watch the damn movie.” He paused, and unable to help himself, muttered through clenched teeth, “Haven’t you messed this up enough?”

***

Dean brooded as the credits rolled. He looked over at Sam and Piper, both asleep, his face buried in her lavender hair, snoring lightly. He still felt jealousy burning in his heart, but it was now accompanied by shame.

Sam had been right. He had messed up, but he didn’t think he could look at her. Not after hearing his name on her lips, not after being able to hold her, touch her whenever he wanted.

Well, not when she’s awake, he thought, surveying her as she slept. He knew he was being an ass, and kind of creepy, but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t know if he could stand seeing her without the love she’d had in her eyes in his vision. He knew that had been a dream, he knew that it had all come from his mind, but he couldn’t seem to help it. He didn’t want her to see how much it hurt him to see her and not touch her.

At that moment, Sam turned, and Piper ungracefully thumped to the floor. Dean stifled a chuckle as Sam rolled over, seemingly unaware he had pushed her off of the couch. He stood up to look at her and had to stop himself from laughing out loud when he saw she had curled up in the blanket she was wrapped in and was still sleeping soundly. “You two were always the heavy sleepers,” he whispered softly.

He considered for a moment, then decided it couldn’t be helped. He knelt and carefully pulled Piper into his arms, with her legs dangling off of his left arm and her head resting on his chest. “Time for bed, kitten.”

He walked her up the stairs and finagled his way into her room. He looked around as he walked her to her bed. It was small and tidy, with posters and pictures covering the walls. As he lay her on her bed, his eye was caught by a frame on her bedside table. He sat on her bed next to her to examine them.

It held four photos. The first one was of Piper and her parents, they appeared to be sitting at a dining room table. Her father was quite a bit older, with gray hair that was thinning at the temples. Her mother was an older version of Piper, with dark brown hair that spilled over her shoulder in a way her daughter’s hair would imitate years later.  Piper was in the middle, a skinny teenager with wide, happy eyes and a big smile.  

The second photo was of Piper and Bobby, standing outside the house. She was leaning against her Jeep, which he had given to her as an eighteenth birthday gift. He was ruffling her hair, and she was laughing, and she had been caught in the act of throwing herself into his arms.

The third photo was a picture of Dean and Sam, he was surprised to see. They were sitting at Bobby’s kitchen table, and Dean was turned to look at something behind them. They were laughing. That wasn’t too long ago, he thought, looking at the length of Sammy’s hair.

The fourth made his breath catch a little. It was a picture of he and Piper. They were looking at one another, their mouths tilted up at the ends in the beginnings of smiles. They were leaned against Baby, standing close. The wind was blowing her hair, which was still auburn in the picture, into her face. Her arms were crossed, his were in his pockets.

He was still examining those pictures when Piper shifted in her sleep, muttering softly. He looked at her for a second, then raised a shaking hand to smooth her hair away from her face. “You fell off the couch, Pipes,” he whispered to her. “I just brought you to bed.”

She nodded sleepily, keeping her eyes closed. “‘Kay, Dean.”

He should leave. He knew he should leave. “I’m so sorry, kitten, I’ve been an ass,” he whispered instead.

She rolled toward him, cracking an eye open and looking at him. “Mhm.”

He smiled, his hand still on the side of her face. “I’ll do better.”

Her eye drifted close and the ghost of a smile touched her face. “No, you won’t, but that’s okay. It doesn’t matter, I’ll stay with you.” She fell back into slumber.

Dean stayed where he was, fighting with his emotions. No more drinking before talking to Piper. Once he felt like he had a handle on himself, he leaned over and pressed a kiss into Piper’s forehead. “‘Night, kitten.”

Chapter Text

Piper was dozing in the backseat of Baby when they came to a halt in front of a diner. She blinked and looked around, listening to Dean and Sam.

“Hey, don’t forget the extra onions this time, huh?” Dean said as he handed Sam some money.

Sam scoffed and glanced back at Piper. “Dude, we’re the ones who are gonna have to ride in the car with your extra onions.” Piper laughed and Dean grinned.

Sam got out of the car, and before he could shut the door, Dean leaned toward him. “Hey, see if they’ve got any pie.” Sam shut the door. Frowning, Dean shouted, “Bring me some pie!”

They watched Sam walk into the diner, comfortably silent. Things had gotten easier between them since Dean had taken Piper to bed after the movie. She was glad, he was one of her closest friends, she couldn’t stand the distance between them.

The radio, which had been wailing Boston, became staticky. Dean reached down and fiddled with it. “What the hell?” The radio turned completely off.

Piper looked up at the diner, which was empty. She couldn’t see Sam. “Hey.”

He looked up as Piper was getting out of the Impala. She pulled her gun out of her jacket pocket and ran toward the diner, hearing Dean following her quickly behind.

Inside the diner, a customer was at a booth, face-down in a puddle of blood. The base of Piper’s spine felt like a brick of ice. “Sam?”

Dean joined her in shouting as he walked around the bar to find the waiter, also dead, with his throat slit. “Sam?!”

Piper noticed a smear on the doorway. She sniffed it. “Hey, sulfur.”

Dean started to panic. “Sam! Sammy!”

***

Piper was tense, fraying at the edges. She was trying to keep it together for Dean, whose panic was showing through.

They were standing on the side of the highway where Bobby had met them. They were poring over a map. Bobby was moving his hand across the map. “This is it. All demonic signs and omens over the past month.”

Dean glared at him. “Are you joking?  There’s nothing here.”

Bobby shrugged. “Exactly.”

Dean ran his hands through his hair, breathing hard. “Well, come on, there’s gotta be something. What about the, the, the normal, low-level stuff? You know, exorcisms, that kind of thing.”

Piper put her hand on the small of Dean’s back. “Come on, Dean, he’s trying to help.”

Bobby nodded. “That’s what I’m telling you. There’s nothing. It’s completely quiet,”

Dean glared again, but didn’t move away from Piper. “Well, how are we supposed to look for Sam? What, do we just close our eyes and point?”

Piper jumped as Dean’s phone rang. The caller ID said it was Ash. He flipped it open. “Ash, what do you got? Hang on, let me put you on speaker.” He did so, then held the phone between the three of them.

“Okay, listen, it’s a big negatory on Sam-”

“Oh, come on, man!” Dean’s panic was clear. Piper started rubbing small circles into his back. “You’ve gotta give us something. We’re looking at a three thousand-mile haystack here.”

Ash was more serious than Piper had ever heard him be. “Listen, Dean. I did find something.”

“Well, what?”

“I can’t talk over this line, Dean.”

Dean threw his hands up in frustration, almost hitting Piper in the face. “Come on, I don’t have time for this!”

“Make time, okay?” Ash snapped. “Because this-”

“What’s up? What’s going on?” Piper asked. Dean was starting to get to her.

“Not only does this almost definitely help you find your brother, this is… Ah, it’s huge. So get here. Now.” Ash hung up the phone.

Dean groaned in frustration as he flipped his phone shut. “I guess we’re going to the Roadhouse.” He looked at Piper and Bobby. “Come on,” he snapped as he moved to the Impala. Piper followed silently. Normally it upset her when Dean barked orders, but she understood that he needed that control. She would give it to him, if she could.

***

They pulled up to the smoking remains of the roadhouse. Piper launched herself out of the backseat before the car stopped, coming to a halt right before she would have been stepping in ashes. Dean followed her, watching her sink to her knees in grief, a low moan emitting from her throat.

They came to stand next to her. Dean placed a hand on the back of her head, and she leaned against his leg.  “Oh, no…” she whispered through the hands that were covering her mouth.

“What the hell?” Dean muttered.

“Oh, my God.” Bobby was surveying the damage.

Dean didn’t have time to grieve. He was upset, he was devastated, but he needed to find Sam. “You see Ellen?”

Bobby shook his head, also switching to business mode. “No, no Ash, either.”

“Oh, God, Dean…” Piper stood up and moved toward a pile of rubble. She pointed to what was clearly Ash’s watch. Piper ran a few steps away from the burnt building and vomited.

Dean watched, upset and upset for her. “Oh, Ash, damn it!”

Piper joined them again, leaning against Bobby.  “This is…”

Dean was starting to get mad, and he gave into the feeling. Anger was easier  Anger he knew. “What the hell did Ash know? We’ve got no way of knowing where Ellen is. Or if she’s even alive. We’ve got no clue what Ash was gonna tell us. Now, how the hell are we gonna find Sam?”

Piper stood up and went to slip her hand into his, giving it a comforting squeeze. “We’ll find him.”

Pain shot through Dean’s head. “Oh, God, Dean?” he heard Piper call as he doubled over in pain. His vision faded and came back on an old fashioned iron bell, then that faded too and he was looking at Piper’s panicked face. “Dean?”

Bobby was standing next to them. “What was that?”

“I don’t know. A headache?”

Bobby cocked an eyebrow. “You get headaches like that a lot?”

Dean shook his head, taking Piper’s hand again. “No. Must be the stress. I could have sworn I saw something.”

Piper’s brow creased. “What do you mean? Like a vision? Like what Sam gets?”

Dean glared at her. What was she thinking? “What? No!” Her eyes stayed on him. He started to get mad at her again. “Come on, I’m not some psychic.”

He heard himself cry out as the pain shot through his head again. He also heard Piper and Bobby calling out to him as he fell to his knees. His vision faded again, and he saw Sam in a dark, muddy town, then his vision came back.

Piper was touching his face. “Dean? Dean! Are you with me?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I think so. I saw Sam.” He looked at them. “I saw him.”

Bobby was kneeling next to them. “It was a vision.”

He nodded. He was getting scared, which made him angrier. “Yeah. I don’t know how, but yeah. Whew. That was about as fun as getting kicked in the jewels.”

Piper was silent, watching his face and wringing her hands as Bobby questioned him. “What else did you see?”

“Uh… There was a bell.”

“What kind of bell?”

Dean tried to concentrate. “Like a big bell with some kind of engraving on it, I don’t know.”

“Engraving?”

Dean nodded as he started to get up. “Yeah.”

“Was it a tree? Like an oak tree?”

Dean nodded and leaned on Piper a little, his arm around her shoulders, her arm snaked around his waist. “Yeah, exactly.”

Bobby paled. “I know where Sam is.”

***

They were pulling up to the woods that Bobby had directed them to. “Look like the rest of the way is on foot,” Bobby said nervously.

Dean got out and opened the trunk, pulling out guns to hand to Bobby and Piper. “Let’s go.”

Piper was starting to all-out panic. Her whole back felt like ice. “Guys, we need to hurry. Run,” she said as she started running in the direction of the town.

***

Dean was shouting, time was moving in a blur as Piper ran. “Sam!”

They turned the corner to see Sam, and relief flooded through Piper. He was clutching his arm and stumbling, but he was alive and walking toward them. “Dean!”

Piper saw movement behind Sam and screamed. “Sam! Look out!”

The man behind Sam ran the knife through him. Sam started gasping, falling to his knees.  

“No!” Dean’s scream tore through Piper’s heart as she ran, changing course to follow the man who had stabbed her best friend.

Dean slid to the ground in front of Sam, grabbing him as he started to fall forward. “Sam, come on, hey,” Piper heard as she sprinted past them, shooting toward the fleeing man. She knew she wasn’t going to get a good shot, she was moving too much, but she couldn’t seem to stop pulling the trigger.

When he disappeared into the woods, she turned and almost ran into Bobby, who had followed. They both hurried back to the brothers sitting in the rain. Piper’s heart stopped when she saw Dean’s hand covered in blood. “Hey, look at me. It’s not even that bad. It’s not even that bad, all right? Sammy? Sam!”

Sam’s gaze was losing focus, and he was slumping. “Hey, listen to me,” Dean said desperately. Piper felt her tears start to fall silently. “We’re gonna patch you up, okay? You’ll be good as new. Huh? I’m gonna take care of you. I’m gonna take you care of you. I’ve got you. That’s my job, right? Watch out for my pain-in-the-ass little brother?” Dean’s voice was cracking, and Piper let out a sob. “Sam? Sam! Sam! Sammy!”

Sam’s eyes shut, and he fell forward limply. “No. No, no, no, no, no, no,” Dean was chanting over and over, shaking Sam.

“Oh, God. Oh, God,” Piper whispered as Dean shouted again into his brother’s face.

“Sam!”

***

Dean was sitting in a chair next to the bed where Sam’s body was. Piper sat against his shins, her arms wrapped around her knees. Dean’s big hand was running along the back of her head, in what she assumed was an attempt to give comfort. It wasn’t working.

It had been two days. Dean had hardly moved, and Piper refused to leave him alone here with Sam. They hadn’t eaten very much, only what Piper had forced him to eat. He had been steadily drinking, offering it to Piper every so often. She accepted each time. It wasn’t a time to be sober.

The door opened, but neither of them moved. Bobby came in. “Dean? Piper? Brought you guys some food.”

“No, thanks. We’re fine.” Dean spoke for both of them. Piper hadn’t found it in her to speak yet. Her eyes hadn’t left Sam since Dean had laid his body there. She was willing to let Dean take the lead as they grieved.

He couldn’t be dead, he just couldn’t. Piper was struggling to grasp that Sam would never smile again, never call her, “Pipe,” never wrap his arm around her shoulders. How could that be true? How could this be happening?  She couldn’t even imagine what Dean was going through. She sighed and settled more firmly against his shins.

“You should eat something.” Bobby said gruffly.

“I said we’re fine.” Piper felt Dean’s hand tighten at the back of her head. She heard the whiskey splash in the bottle, then he leaned down and offered it to her. She accepted and took a swig of her own.

There was a silence. Bobby was nervous. “Dean… Piper... I hate to bring this up, I really do. But don't you think maybe it's time... We bury Sam?”

Piper tensed, tears pricking her eyes. “No.” Dean said with finality.

Bobby sighed. “We could… Maybe…”

Dean was deadly calm. “What? Torch his corpse? Not yet.”

“I want you guys to come with me.”

“We’re not going anywhere.”

Bobby seemed to realize that Piper wasn’t going to speak. “Dean, please.”

She felt Dean tense. She sat forward until she wasn’t touching his shins anymore. She felt cold at the loss.

“Would you cut me some slack?” Dean snapped.

“I just… I don’t think you guys should be alone, that’s all. I gotta admit, I could use your help.

Dean snorted.

“Something big is going on.  End of the world big.”

Dean stood. “Well then let it end!” he bellowed. Piper flinched, but didn’t make a sound.  

She understood. If Sam wasn’t in the world, what was the point? He was the best thing about the world. His laughter, his willingness to smile with her, his ability to make her feel important. There was nothing good in the world without Sam. So go ahead and let it end.

Bobby, however, was shocked. “You don't mean that.”

Dean walked away. Piper turned and stood as she watched Dean get into Bobby’s face. “You don't think so? Huh? You don't think I've given enough? You don't think I've paid enough? I'm done with it. All of it. And if you know what's good for you, you'd turn around, and get the hell out of here.”

Bobby stood there, shaking his head. Sensing the dangerous air about Dean, Piper came and stood next to him, putting her hand on his chest. “Dean, stop it,” she said quietly. It was the first thing she had said in two days, and her voice rasped.

Dean looked down at her, breathing hard. Then, to Bobby, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please, just go.”

Bobby turned around and sighed. “You know where I’ll be, kids.”

Dean returned to his seat. Piper moved to sit in front of him, but stopped as he placed his hand on her hip. He slowly pulled her into his lap, her legs resting across his. She settled without saying a word, putting her arm around his shoulders and resting her head against his. She leaned forward and grabbed the bottle of whiskey.

***

It seemed incredible to her, but Piper was dozing. She had moved back down to her original seat so she could rest her head back on his knees. His hands were still running through her hair as he started to speak.

“You know, when we were little, and you couldn't been more than five,” Piper realized he was speaking to Sam. “You just started asking questions. How come we didn't have a mom? Why do we always have to move around? Where'd Dad go when he'd take off for days at a time? I remember I begged you, ‘Quit asking, Sammy. Man, you don't want to know.’” He paused, trying to control his emotions. Piper shifted and turned around, resting a hand on his knee.

He didn’t look at her. “I just wanted you to be a kid... Just for a little while longer. I always tried to protect you... Keep you safe... Dad didn't even have to tell me. It was just always my responsibility, you know? It's like I had one job... I had one job… And I screwed it up.” He paused. “I blew it. And for that, I'm sorry.” Piper watched as he slowly wiped a tear from his face.

“I guess that's what I do. I let down the people I love. I let Dad down. And now I guess I'm just supposed to let you down, too. How can I... How am I supposed to live with that?” He started to cry again.  If Piper’s heart hadn’t already been broken, it would have done so then.

“What am I supposed to do? Sammy. God. What am I supposed to do?” He inhaled sharply and stood, the chair sliding across the room. “What am I supposed to do?!” he shouted at the silent room. Piper flinched.

He stood and walked to the other room. Piper stood and followed him slowly. “Dean?” she rasped.  

He was putting his coat on. She stood in front of him, not touching him, searching his eyes. He didn’t look at her. “Get out of my way, Piper.”

“Where are you going?”

He met her eyes. “Get out of my way, Piper, I don’t want to make you move.”

His threat didn’t scare her a bit. Dean would never lay a hand on her in violence. “Dean,” she tilted her head, searching his face. He was giving nothing away. “Are you about to go do something stupid?”

He didn’t respond, but kept her gaze.

“Is it something Sam would have wanted you to do?”

He glared at her. “Sam wants me to bring him back.”

He tried to move around her, and she stepped into his path again. “Are you going to do something stupid to bring Sam back?”

“Piper, get the hell out of my way.”

“Dean, please.” She started to cry. “Are you going to tell me where you’re going?” She inhaled and put her hand on his arm. “Are you going to make me lose both of you?”

He sighed. He put a hand behind her head and pulled her forward to press a kiss to her forehead. “Stay here with Sam, kitten. Don’t let Bobby or anyone bury or burn him. I’ll be back.” He met her eyes, steely determination shining in their green depths. “I’m going to fix this, Piper.”

He walked around her. Piper held it together until the Impala’s engine roared. She buried her face in her hands and sank to her knees, sobbing for the first time in two days.

Chapter Text

Piper had moved the chair back to the bed and watched Sam. It had been a few hours since Dean had left. She had the bottle of whiskey in her hand, but hadn’t taken a drink. It was more for comfort than anything.

She knew Sam was going to wake up. She had put her grief on hold. She knew Dean was going to bring Sam back, she had utter faith in him. But what was he going to do? How was he going to bring his brother, and her best friend, back, and what was it going to cost him?

Piper was considering these things when Sam gasped and sat up. He was looking around wildly, his hand to his chest. He saw Piper sitting in the chair. She had placed the whiskey bottle down beside her. She stood calmly and crossed the room to sit next to him on the bed.

“Piper? Piper, what the hell is going on? Where are Dean and Bobby?”

She didn’t respond, just studied him. He looked good, he looked alive. She placed a hand on his face, then remembered that he had asked her a question. “They, um, Bobby went home. Dean went to run an errand.”

“What happened?” He looked around at the room he was in. “Where are we?”

Piper tried to think quickly, and tried to suppress the tears. “You were injured, it was bad. We’re in one of the houses in the town you were in.”

“Injured?” Sam felt his chest. “Where?”

Piper smiled. “On your back, Sam. Turn around and lift that shirt up, let me check on it.”

Sam stared at her, then slowly stood in front of her. He lifted his shirt. Piper sucked in a breath at the ugly scar on his back.

“Does it look bad?” He looked over his shoulder at her.

She shook her head slowly. “Nope, looks good!” She stood next to him as he pulled his shirt down. “I’m glad you’re okay, Sammy,” she said softly.

He met her eyes. “Piper, what the hell is going on?”

She couldn’t take it. She stepped forward and went up onto the tips of her toes to kiss him on the cheek and wrap her arms around his neck. She buried her face in his neck, inhaling his scent. “I don’t know, Sam.”

He put his arms around her waist, hesitantly. “Where is Dean?”

She shook her head, refusing to let him go. “I don’t know.”

“Piper, I’m confused.” Sam said honestly.

“I know, Sam. Just hug me for a second, Gigantor.”

***

They were sitting at the table when the Impala roared in the driveway. Dean came crashing into the house. “Sam?”

He saw them at the table, his eyes resting on Sam. “Sammy? Thank God.” He pulled Sam to his feet and pulled him into a tight embrace.

Sam was chuckling. “Ow, uh, Dean…”

Dean released him and stood back. “I’m sorry, I'm sorry, man. I'm just... I'm just happy to see you up and around, that's all.” Sam nodded, and looked confused.

“Guys, come sit down,” Piper said quietly.

Sam sat, and Dean sat opposite him. “Okay. Dean... What happened to me?”

Dean looked nervously at Piper. “Well, what do you remember?”

Sam looked down and relayed the story he told Piper. “I saw you, Pipe, and Bobby, and... I felt this pain. This sharp pain, like... White-hot, you know, and then you started running at me, and... That's about it.”

Dean nodded. “Yeah, that… That kid, stabbed you in the back. You lost a lot of blood, you know.... It was pretty touch and go for awhile.”

Sam was looking between the two of them. Piper stared back impassively. “But Dean, you can't… You can't patch up a wound that bad.”

Dean grinned and put his hand on Piper’s shoulder. “No, but she could. Who was that kid, anyway?”

“His name's Jake. Did you get him?”

Dean shook his head. “No, he disappeared into the woods.”

Sam was getting angry. “We’ve got to find him, Dean. And I swear I'm gonna tear that son of a bitch apart.” He stood, and Dean stood with him. Piper stayed seated, watching them.

Dean put his hands on Sam’s shoulders. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Easy, Van Damme. You just woke up, all right? Let's get you something to eat. Huh? You want something to eat?” Sam nodded.

Piper stood. “Bobby left some food for us.”

***

They were sitting at the table, eating. Piper was really just pushing her food around. She was too terrified of what Dean had done. The thought of food nauseated her.

Sam was telling them about the people who had been in the town with him. “And that's when you guys showed up.”

“That’s awful,” Piper murmured. “Poor Andy.”

“The demon said he only wanted one of us to walk out alive.”

Dean’s eyebrows rose. “He told you that?”

Sam scoffed. “Yeah. He appeared in a dream.”

“He tell you anything else?”

“No. No. That was it. Nothing else. You know, what I don't get, Dean, is if the demon only wanted one of us, then how did Jake and I both get away?”

Piper looked at Dean, eyebrows raised. He met her gaze briefly, then looked away. “Well, I mean, they left you for dead. I'm sure they thought it was over.” He paused. “So now that Yellow Eyes has Jake, what's he gonna do with him?”

Sam didn’t look convinced. “I don't know. But whatever it is, we got to stop him.”

Dean frowned. “Well, hold on. You need to get your rest. We got time.”

Sam looked at him and Piper incredulously. “No, we don't.” He stood.

Dean stood, too. Piper, again, stayed seated. “Sam, oceans aren't boiling, okay? Frogs aren't raining from the sky. Let's get you your strength back first.”

Sam sighed. “Well did you call the Roadhouse? They know anything?”

He heard Piper’s soft whimper, and looked down at her. She was trying to keep it together. “Pipe, what is it?” He sat down and took her hand. She looked away, and he looked up at Dean.

Dean sighed and sat. “The roadhouse burned to the ground. Ash is dead. Probably Ellen... A lot of other hunters, too.”

Piper watched Sam’s eyes fill and squeezed his hand. He looked at her. “Demons?”

She nodded. “Yeah, we think so. We think because Ash found something.”

“What did he find.”

“Bobby’s working on that right now,” Dean said nervously.

Sam stood again. “Well, come on then. Bobby’s only a few hours away.”

***

Piper was sitting next to Ellen, itching to reach out and hug her. After a tense reunion with Bobby, he and Dean had gone outside to retrieve something. They were gone for a long time, Piper thought, and when they had come back, Ellen had been with them. Piper was in shock, and getting kind of tired of people not being dead when she thought they were.

Bobby set a shot glass full of water on the table in front of Ellen. Piper frowned. “Bobby, is this really necessary?”

Bobby shot her a glare. “Just a belt of holy water. Shouldn’t hurt."

Ellen took the shot and set the glass down on the table. “Whiskey, now, if you don’t mind.”

Dean leaned forward. “Ellen, what happened? How’d you get out?”

She shook her head as Piper stood to get her a shot of whiskey. “I wasn’t supposed to. I was supposed to be in there with everybody else.” She scoffed. “But we ran out of pretzels, of all things. It was just dumb luck.” She took the shot of whiskey Piper had poured and let out a long breath. “Anyway, that's when Ash called. Panic in his voice. He told me to look in the safe. Then the call cut out. By the time I got back, the flames were sky-high. And everybody was dead. I couldn't have been gone more than fifteen minutes.”

Piper’s eyes were filled with tears as she hugged the older woman. “I’m so sorry, Ellen.”

Ellen took a shaky breath. “A lot of good people died in there, and I got to live.” She scoffed again. “Lucky me.”

“Ellen, you mentioned a safe,” Bobby said cautiously.

She nodded. “A hidden safe we keep in the basement.”

Piper tilted her head to the side. “Did the demons get what was in it?”

“No.” She took out a map and lay it flat on the table. There were lines drawn across it.

Dean looked over Piper’s shoulder. She stiffened when he spoke. “Wyoming. What does that mean?”

***

“Howdy, Jake.”

Dean felt his face harden when they saw the man who had stabbed Sam. The five of them walked out of the woods and into the cemetery, guns raised. 

Jake’s eyes widened when he saw Sam. “Wait... You were dead. I killed you.”

“Yeah? Well next time, finish the job.”

“I did!” Jake insisted. “I cut clean through your spinal cord, man. You can't be alive. You can't be.” Dean didn’t meet Sam’s brief glance, just kept his gun trained on Jake.

“Okay, just take it real easy there, son.” Bobby was speaking to Jake slowly.

Jake turned to the older man. “And if I don't?”

“Wait and see.” Sam snarled.

Jake chuckled. “What, you a tough guy all of a sudden? What are you gonna do? Kill me?”

Sam shrugged, keeping his gun steady. “It's a thought.”

“You had your chance. You couldn't.”

“I won't make that mistake twice.”

Jake started laughing, and Dean saw red. The bastard who had killed Sammy was laughing in their faces. “What are you smiling at, you little bitch?”

Jake grinned, still chuckling, and looked at Piper. “Hey girlie, do me a favor. Put that gun to your head.”

Dean’s heart stuttered as Piper put her gun to her temple with a shaking hand. She looked terrified.

“See that Ava girl was right. Once you give in to it, there's all sorts of new Jedi mind tricks you can learn.”

Sam was furious. “Let her go.”

Piper’s voice was trembling with effort. “Shoot him.”

Jake glared at her. “You'll be mopping up skull before you get a shot off.” Dean’s heart started up again, helpless rage threatening to overwhelm him.

Jake made eye contact with each of them, but didn’t bother compelling them. He knew he had them. “Everybody, put your guns down. Except you, sweetheart.” He winked at Piper. Dean felt his lips lift in a snarl as he really dropped his gun, hearing Bobby, Sam, and Ellen do the same.

Jake smiled. “Okay. Thank you.” He turned and pulled the Colt out of his pocket. He inserted it into the crypt door.

As he pushed the gun into what appeared to be a keyhole, Dean stepped behind Piper, wrapped about arm around her waist and hauled her back to him, taking the gun away from her with his free hand. He was putting her down when four shots rang out.

Dean turned, still holding Piper, to see Sam standing over Jake, who was bleeding profusely and gasping. “Please... Don't. Please.”

Sam shot him three more times, not flinching when blood splattered up onto his face. Dean and Piper walked to stand next to Sam as he wiped it off silently. Bobby and Ellen walked to them, Bobby staring at Sam.

A whirring sound broke the silence, and Dean stared at the crypt. Two engravings were whirring around the barrel of the Colt fast. He flinched as they stopped.

The four look over to the crypt as two separate engravings on the crypt spin in different directions, then stop.

“Oh, no,” Bobby said, horrified.

“Bobby, what is it?"

“It's hell.”

Dean walked forward and pulled the Colt out of the crypt. The doors started to rumble.

Bobby started to run, pulling Ellen with him. “Run!”

Dean sprinted away, grabbing Piper and throwing her to the ground behind a tombstone, covering her body with his. He heard a snap beneath him, but she didn’t make a sound, and he didn’t have time to check on her. Black smoke was still roaring over them, streaming from the doors of the crypt.

He looked over to the tombstone where Ellen was crouched. “What the hell just happened?!”

“That's a devil's gate! A damn door to hell!”  She looked at them. “Come on!  We gotta shut that gate!”

Dean checked the Colt for bullets, thinking that maybe the yellow-eyed demon had given it to Jake for a reason.

He heard Piper gasp beneath him, and as he turned the Colt flew out of his hand and into the hand of the yellow-eyed demon, who was standing behind him.

“Boys shouldn’t play with Daddy’s guns,” the demon said with a smile. With a flick of his wrist, he flung Dean through the air. His head hit a tombstone, pain shooting through it. He heard Piper scream and a heavy thud.

Bobby, Ellen, and Sam were struggling to close the crypt door. Dean heard his brother call out, “Dean!”

Dean looked up, hand to his head, to see Sam letting go of the door and running toward him. Then he flew into the air, the yellow-eyed demon smiling at him. “I’ll get to you in a minute, champ. But I’m proud of you. Knew you had it in you.”

Dean was struggling to sit up, and felt himself being forced back down. “Sit a spell.” The demon crouched in front of Dean. “So, Dean... I gotta thank you. You see, demons can't resurrect people, unless a deal is made. I know, red tape, it'll make you nuts. But thanks to you, Sammy's back in rotation.” The demon laughed. Dean felt anger coursing through him. The demon continued, “Now, I wasn't counting on that, but I'm glad. I liked him better than Jake, anyhow. Tell me, have you ever heard the expression, ‘If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is?’" He peered at Dean curiously.

Dean scoffed. “You call that deal good?”

The yellow-eyed demon shrugged. “Well, it's a better shake than your dad ever got. And you never wondered why? I'm surprised at you. I mean... You saw what your brother just did to Jake, right? That was pretty cold, wasn't it?” He chuckled. “How certain are you that what you brought back is one hundred percent, pure, Sam?” He laughed out loud again. Dean was struggling against the force that held him there, determined to kill the son of a bitch. “You of all people should know, that's what's dead, should stay dead, Dean-o. Anyway... thanks a bunch. I knew I kept you alive for some reason. Until now, anyway. I couldn't have done it without your pathetic, self-loathing, self-destructive desire to sacrifice yourself for your family.”

Dean’s blood ran cold as the demon stood and aimed the Colt at him. Before he could close his eyes, John Winchester grabbed the demon from behind. Dean went numb with shock, watching his father struggle with the demon. As they fought, the Colt fell. Dean was still too numb to notice until he heard Piper’s stage whisper. “Dean!”

He looked at her, then looked back down. He lunged for the gun, just in time. As the demon stood and turned back to Dean, he took aim and shot the demon in the heart. It fell to the ground.

The sound finally lessened, and Dean turned around to see that Bobby and Ellen had gotten the doors shut. Dean looked back at his father. John smiled and put a hand on Dean’s shoulder. Sam had approached from where he had been thrown. He and John nodded to one another. Piper was behind them, and John turned around to give her a wink. Then, with another look at Dean, he stepped back and closed his eyes. A blinding light shone where he stood, and then he was gone.

Dean looked at his brother, shocked. He started to chuckle. “Well, check that off the to-do list.”

Sam was also amazed. “You did it.”

“I didn’t do it alone.”

Sam paused. “Do you think Dad really... Do you think he really climbed outta hell?”

“The door was open. If anyone's stubborn enough to do it... It would be him.”

“Where do you think he is now?”

Dean shrugged. “I don't know.”

Sam started smiling. “I kind of can't believe it, Dean. I mean... Our whole lives, everything... Has been prepping for this, and now I... I kind of don't know what to say.”

Dean grinned. “I do.” He leaned closer to the body. “That was for our mom, you son of a bitch.”

“Guys.” Bobby said gently. They turned to him. He had an arm around Piper, who was looking rather pale, and was holding her left arm weird. Dean frowned, concerned. “Piper needs a hospital.  Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

“Well, Steven, what you heard is not what happened,” Piper snapped into the phone. Dean lifted his head and grinned at her tone. “And if I hear you spreading rumors about it, I will take it upon myself to personally, physically, let you know how offended I will be. Am I making myself clear, Steven? I don’t want any more misunderstandings like this.”

She flipped her phone shut, irritated. “The nerve of that guy! Telling me what happened like I wasn’t in that damn cemetery.”

Sam was chuckling. “Pipe, no one knows you were there.”

She turned to him. “Shut it, Winchester.”

Dean grinned and looked back down at the book he was looking at. It was a few weeks after they had killed the yellow-eyed demon, and untold number of demons had been released into the world. He and Sam had been hunting almost constantly since then, but had come back the night before. Bobby was trying to get the Colt to work again, and had called them back to help.

Piper’s wrist had been severely sprained in the cemetery, so she had opted to stay back. She had become a mini-Bobby, fielding calls from hunters in need. She had also become sort of a dispatcher, calling hunters to go where they were needed, assembling teams, building strategies.  

Dean was a little worried, she was working at least twenty hours a day, and barely ate a thing. He hadn’t realized how bad it was until he had seen her when they had gotten in yesterday. There were dark smudges under her eyes, and her clothes were starting to hang off of her already slender frame.

He was brought out of his musings by Sam raising his hands in defeat. “Yes, ma’am.”

Piper laughed and flopped next to him on the couch, laying her head on Sam’s shoulder. “If these people don’t stop blaming you guys, I’m going to lose my temper.”

Piper had spent the time when she wasn’t researching or directing hunters fiercely defending the Winchesters. Anyone who even suggested that they might be to blame for the door to hell opening got an earful. Anyone who didn’t let up on their suspicions was hung up on, and Piper blatantly refused to help them.

Dean smiled at her. “Pipes, people are going to blame us. It’s not fair, but it’s what it is.”

Her eyes were closed, and she didn’t open them. “That’s stupid,” she muttered.

Dean frowned. She hadn’t looked at him all day, and barely spoke to him. It was subtle, but if she was addressing him, it was because she was addressing both brothers. He was sure it had something to do with the deal he’d made, but she wasn’t talking about it, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to bring it up.

He glanced at the window, mildly surprised that it was dark. He checked his phone. “Pipes, it’s after midnight. Go to bed.”

She shook her head and got up without meeting his eyes. “No such luck. Gotta research.” She picked up a book and sat down opposite of Dean, flipping it open and digging out the notebook she kept her notes in, sinking into her work.

Dean met Sam’s eyes, then waited her out. Fifteen minutes later, she was mostly asleep, her head propped in her hand. Dean stood and came around to stand behind her.  He reached a hand out to her shoulder, but something prevented him from touching her. Instead, he put it on the back of her chair. “Piper, you’re about to drop. Go to bed.”

She started awake, blinking owlishly.  “Um… You might be right,” she mumbled as she stood. As she stretched her arms above her head, Dean averted his eyes and stepped back. Stop it, pervert, he thought angrily at himself.  

Piper made her way to the stairs, then turned and smiled at Sam. “‘Night, Winchesters.  Back at it bright and early.”

Dean watched her go, then turned back to Sam, who was smirking. “What?” he asked, irritated.

Sam raised his eyebrows. “Nothing, man. Just watching you leer at our childhood friend.”

Dean scowled and closed his book. “Shut up, Sam.”

***

A noise startled Dean awake. He sat up in his bed, trying to get his bearings. He looked over at Sam, who didn’t seem to be bothered, if his snores were anything to go by.

He heard it again. It sounded like a soft moan. Dean got out of bed and found a pair of sweats, pulling them on as he opened the door and stuck his head out. The noise was coming from the right, the direction of Piper’s room.

He walked slowly down the hall, cursing himself for not grabbing his gun. He stopped at Piper’s door, listening intently. He felt his heart stutter when he realized she was crying.

He knew that it was his fault. He knew she was crying over him. His chest felt like it was on fire as he closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against her door. He didn’t know what to do. He shouldn’t go in there, he didn’t have the words to comfort her. He wasn’t a words guy, he was a man of action. The soft whimpers were tearing at him, but if he went in to comfort her, it wouldn’t be with words.

Piper was his best goddamn friend, and if he touched her he wouldn’t stop. And suddenly, he was tired of running from her. He was tired of her not meeting his eyes, he was tired of not touching her, platonically or otherwise. He was tired of the tense silences, and of her only speaking to Sam.

Dean was tired of not having Piper.

Before he could reconsider, he lifted a hand and rapped on her door. “Pipes?”

***

Piper was laying on her bed, crying like her world was ending. She knew it was part exhaustion, but she couldn’t tell herself that was all it was. Only a year, she thought sadly, a fresh wave of sobs tearing through her.

During the day, she was able to distract herself with work. Helping hunters, researching a way to save Dean, researching omens in general. But at night, at night she couldn’t stop crying. At night, it was harder to keep the fact that Dean would be torn from her in a year at bay.

She was winding down, starting to doze, when she heard a knock on the door. “Pipes?”

Her eyes widened and she sat straight up in bed. No. “I’m fine!” she chirped, wincing at her weirdly cheery tone.

“Piper, come on…” Dean said softly on the other side of the door.

He wasn’t going to go away, Dean was too stubborn. She hurried to flip her wet pillow over, wipe her face, and check her hair in the mirror. She ran her fingers through it and wiped her face again. She sighed softly. Her face was still swollen, and her eyes were red, but there was no helping that. She stood in front of the door and cursed herself for being nervous. It’s just Dean, she thought to herself as she pulled the door open.

Her eyes widened and her breath caught. Dean was leaning in her doorway, shirtless, a pair of sweats slung low on his hips. His green eyes (seriously, who has eyes that freaking green?) were intent on hers.

She pasted a smile on her face. “What’s up, Winchester?”

There was a predatory look in his eye that sent a shiver down her spine, even though he wasn’t moving. “I heard a noise.”

She felt herself shrug. “I didn’t hear anything.” Is this an out of body experience? This is an out of body experience.

He raised an eyebrow, and warmth spread through her belly. “Is that so?”

“What do you want, Winchester?”

He stood up slowly, stepping toward her. Piper had to concentrate on not moving back. She felt like prey. His eyes were hypnotic. “Piper,” he rasped.

She swallowed, her breathing becoming shallow. “Yes?”

He stepped forward, as close as he could get without touching her. Piper felt dizzy. “Why don’t you say my name anymore?”

She blinked. That wasn’t what she was expecting. “I say your name all the time.”

He didn’t break eye contact, and the heat radiating from him was getting distracting. Piper felt heat pool between her thighs. “My first name, Piper.”

“I do say your first name,” she breathed. The tension in her belly was becoming unbearable. If he didn’t touch her soon, she was fairly sure she would die.

“Piper.” His voice held a low, sensual warning that made her head spin.

She kept her eyes on him and said nothing. The words she needed weren’t coming to her.  Only one word was beating its way through her.

He tilted his head toward hers until their lips were a whisper apart. “Say my name,” he growled softly, his eyes on her mouth.

The next second felt like an eternity. Was she really going to do this? She should shut her door, pretend this hadn’t happened in the morning. Dean was one of her best friends, and if they crossed this bridge, they were never coming back. Could she do that? How could she not?

Before she could reconsider, Piper let her eyes drift close. “Dean.”

Before she knew what was happening, his mouth came crashing down onto hers. With a soft cry, she wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned into him, kissing him back with all the emotion she had left in her. His hands settled at her waist, pushing her gently into the bedroom so he could kick the door closed behind him.  

He pushed her gently to the bed, then broke away from her mouth to give her a gentle nudge so she fell backwards, landing on the pile of blankets.  

“Clothes,” he whispered softly, the sensual threat still making her heart beat faster.

She pulled her tank top off with shaking hands, grateful that her room was dark enough that she couldn’t see his expression. She didn’t think she was that bad, but when she thought of some of the women Dean had slept with, she didn’t have a lot of faith.

His quick intake of breath swept her insecurities away. She took her time slipping her bottoms off, not breaking eye contact as she swept them and her panties off at once. Once she had kicked them to the floor, she smiled at him in what she hoped was a seductive manner. The look in his eye was making it hard to think. “Dean,” she sighed softly.

He hooked his hands into his sweats and swept them to the floor. Piper took her own sharp inhale when he stood before her. He was glorious. She hoped God was patting himself on the back, because Dean was absolutely perfect.

He leaned forward and crawled up her body, licking and nipping his way from her hips to her breasts. He gently lapped at her nipple, making her moan. She arched her back and had to swallow a cry as he sucked it into his mouth, gently scraping the sensitive bud with his teeth. “Oh, God, Dean!” she whimpered as he gave the other nipple the same gentle attention.

She felt him smile against her breast, and he moved up to her collar bone.  He let his weight rest on his elbow, and his other hand trailed down from her hip to between her legs. She was gasping as his finger move slowly through her folds. “Dean, please…”

He chuckled and bent down to lick her neck, his voice rasping in her ear. “Do you want this, kitten?”

Her hips bucked of their own accord as his finger slowly sank into her. “Oh, God, yes.”

He slipped another finger into her, causing her back to arch. His own breath was becoming unsteady in her ear. “Jesus, Piper, you’re so wet,” he growled softly into her ear, sending heat into her abdomen.

She turned her head and took his face into her hands, kissing him soundly. “For you, yes, I am,” she said softly, watching his eyes darken with desire.

He started to kiss down her body. She put her hands on his shoulders, causing him to look up at her. “No,” she said softly. “Not right now. I need you.” She tugged him back up to her and pushed him onto his back, enticing a growl from deep in his chest. She smiled as she straddled him, the tip of his cock almost touching her.

His low moan made her head spin. “Protection?” he bit out.

She leaned down to lay burning kisses along his jaw. “I’m on the pill.” She sat up a little and smirked down at him, her hair creating a curtain around them. “Got any diseases I should know about, Winchester?”

An unreadable expression settled on his face, his eyes burning holes into her. “No.”

Before she knew what happened, he hooked an arm around her waist and rolled her underneath him, another growl rumbling in his chest. She gasped as he pulled his arm from underneath her and buried his hand in her hair beneath her head, tugging it gently to pull her head back. “Kitten, when I have you naked,” he settled himself between her legs, his cock pressed against her entrance. “In bed,” he scraped his teeth against the skin of her vulnerable throat.  A low moan pulled itself from her. He kissed his way up to her ear. “You will call me by my name.” He tugged her hair again. “Understood?”

“Yes, oh God, yes,” she choked out, desire making her thought processes cloudy. She was trying to move her hips up to his, trying desperately to fill the emptiness she felt.

“Yes, what, Piper?" he snarled in her ear, his hand tightening in her hair and his hips moving back to deny her.

She groaned and scraped her nails down his back, enticing a shiver out of him. “Yes, Dean.”

He buried himself in her in one hard, fast motion. At just the right moment, he put the hand not in her hair over her mouth to cover her cry. He stayed still for a moment, giving her time to adjust to his size. When she started to whimper and squirm, he started thrusting slowly. He released her hair and rested his weight on both of his elbows, biting her neck gently and sucking hard, leaving his mark on her.

It wasn’t enough. “Dean, please,” she met his eyes. He stilled, and she groaned and dug her fingers into his shoulders. She placed a hand on the back of his head and pulled him down for a deep kiss. When they came  up for air, he pressed his forehead to hers. “Dean,” she said softly, meeting those insanely green eyes. “Not gently, not tonight, please, Dean,” she pleaded softly.

He kept her gaze for a moment, then a slow smirk that sent electricity through her spread across his face. “Fine,” he purred, slamming into her again.

He set a punishing pace, hand covering her mouth to keep her cries quiet. He bit into her shoulder, leaving another mark, his hips ramming into her. Piper shifted her hips, and suddenly he was hitting that delicious spot that sent electricity shooting through her. She pulled herself away from his hand and came up to bite his shoulder, still giving mewling cries as he drove her closer and closer to the edge.

He grunted as her teeth bit into his flesh. He was starting to lose the rhythm, she could feel him him start to tense. He shifted his weight, moving his hand down to move his fingers roughly over her clit, moving in tight little circles. It was enough to send Piper screaming over the edge, Dean covering her mouth again in the nick of time with his to swallow her cries. She felt him tense over her, sinking himself completely into her as he came. “Jesus, Piper,” he moaned as he rested his head on her shoulder.

She moved her arms to wrap them around his neck, holding him as he gradually stopped shuddering. He moaned and rolled over, pulling her with him so she was tucked into the crook of his arm, pressing his lips to her forehead.

***

There were several long moments while their breathing slowed. Dean’s blood was singing, and a fierce possessiveness gripped him. Mine, he thought, satisfied. “Jesus, Pipes, that was-” a soft noise interrupted him. He looked down to see her fast asleep, nestled into his shoulder.

He smiled and pulled the blankets over them without disturbing her. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, causing her to murmur softly. “‘Night, kitten.”

Her lips tilted upwards. “‘Night, Dean.”

Chapter Text

She was warm, much warmer than she usually was upon waking. Someone pleasantly firm was pressed against her back, his breath stirring the hair at the nape of her neck. She didn’t open her eyes, she didn’t want to disturb the lovely dream. Instead, she cuddled back into him further, savoring his strong arm pulling her tightly against him.

Piper’s eyes popped open in shock. Oh. My. God. She was waking up next to Dean Winchester. Dean. Freaking. Winchester. Unrequited love of her younger years, and if she was being honest, more recent years. And they had done much more than sleep this time.

Piper turned around as slowly as she could, trying not to wake him up. He shifted a little, but didn’t wake. She studied his sleeping face. His perfection was surreal. She felt yearning stirring in her belly the longer she studied him. Get it together, Finley, she told herself grimly as she slowly worked her way out of his embrace. He frowned a little, but still didn’t wake up.

She got dressed and finger combed her hair a little. Peeking her head out her bedroom door and listening, she realized she still had the morning to herself. She crept down stairs and made a pot of coffee, sitting at the table while she waited, thinking.

What the hell are you doing, was the foremost thought in her mind. Even if Dean wasn’t a hound, which he was, even if he wasn’t already a recipe for a broken heart, which he was, even if he wasn’t wildly in love with her, which he was not, he was still going to hell in a year. She was going to lose him, and it was going to break her heart. It was a little crazy, but she wasn’t sure she would recover.

But it was Dean. She’d fantasized about him so many times she’d thought she was losing her mind. She loved him. So… Why not? Why shouldn’t she have him like this, even just for a while? She didn’t want to overthink it, she didn’t want to talk herself out of it.

So when the coffee was done, instead of sitting down to research, as had become her custom, she made two cups and carried them silently back to her room. She normally made breakfast, too, but the boys could feed themselves for a day.

She kicked the door shut behind her and moved to the bed. Dean had turned in his sleep, lying on his stomach with his arms tucked under the pillow. The wide expanse of his extraordinary back had Piper forgetting what she was doing for a second. “Christ,” she muttered as she put the mugs down on nightstand and sat down next to him in the bed. She hesitated to touch him until she realized that she could now. Emboldened, she lay next to him, running her fingers through the soft hair at the nape of his neck. “Dean?” she said softly.

He muttered and turned to her, cracking one eye open to examine her. “I had a pretty athletic night, kitten,” The reminder of the previous night, coupled with his husky voice, had her biting back a gasp. “So there had better be a good reason for you waking me up.”

She grinned. “Coffee?”

He snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her close as he turned to lay on his right side. He nuzzled her neck. “Not good enough,” he murmured softly, slipping his right arm under her head, using it to pull her into a kiss.

His left hand settled at her waist, his thumb running slowly back and forth against the skin at the hem of her shirt. “Dean,” she sighed. She put a hand on his chest to push him away, but somehow found herself running it down to wrap around the rapidly hardening erection pressed into her hip.

He moaned into her mouth, and she smiled against his lips. She pulled away a little to look him in the eye. “Dean, we shouldn’t… They’ll hear us…”

He smiled wickedly, slipping his fingers into the waistband of her pajamas. “One, kitten, they’ll hear you, not us.” He maneuvered her pants down enough so she could kick them off, already submitting to him. He smiled and pushed her thighs apart to make room for his hand. His finger started making lazy circles around her clit, not touching where she needed him to be. “And two,” he said softly, using his tongue to swirl along the shell of her ear. “Let them hear.”

***

Later, they dozed, her back pressed against Dean’s chest. He heard noises start down the hall. Sammy’s awake.

“Sam’s getting up. Bobby, too, probably,” she said softly. She turned to look at him, a sleepy smile on her face. “Also, the coffee is cold.”

He was struck by how soft she looked, how pretty. His Piper was tough, he had only seen glimpses of her softness. And then, last night, she had been splayed out before him. Her soft voice begging him not to be gentle had nearly undone him...

Much like the laughter in her eyes now. “Three times in one morning, Winchester? I’m going to need to start doing cardio…” His eyes narrowed as hers widened. “Dean, Dean, I meant Dean!” she was laughing as he pulled her around and shifted until he was pinning her to the blankets, nuzzling her neck underneath her jaw.

He moved up to her ear, damn near purring with satisfaction. “You’re going to pay for that, kitten.”

***

Sam lifted his head, his toothbrush pausing in his mouth. Piper’s laughter floated down the hall, followed by a suspicious silence. Dean hadn’t been in their room, Piper was laughing and still in bed, and Sam was not an idiot.

He rolled his eyes. “Finally.”

***

Bobby was in the kitchen, pouring himself a cup of coffee when Piper’s laughter reached his ears. He was conflicted, but her laughter was pulling his face into a smile.

“About damn time,” he muttered as he sipped his coffee.

***

Dean went downstairs first, Piper was in the shower. He said nothing in response to Sam’s smirk or Bobby’s intense stare, just walked into the kitchen and put one of the cups he’d carried downstairs into the microwave.

Dammit, should have talked to Piper about this. Dean had never been ashamed of sex with beautiful women, but Piper was more important than that. He needed to know what she wanted so he could respect her wishes. He wasn’t sure what to do, and he wasn’t used to that. So he went to his default setting, which was anger.

“Something I should know?” He snapped, not turning around.

Bobby hmphed, and he heard Sam chuckled. “No, man, just, you know. You, uh, slept late.”

The microwave dinged, and he pulled Piper’s coffee out, placed it on the counter, and put his in. “What of it?”

“What of what?” Piper asked as she walked into the kitchen. “Is that mine?” She asked, pointing to the mug on the counter.

Dean was struck dumb. She wasn’t wearing anything different, just a tank top and tight jeans, but he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Maybe it was knowing what was under her clothes. Maybe it was the obvious hickey on her neck, the teeth marks on her shoulder, or the bruises in the shape of his hands he suspected were on her hips. Whatever it was, Dean suddenly wondered how he’d managed to keep his hands off her for so long. He nodded in response to her question.

“Thank you,” she said with a smile, taking a sip before turning around. She paused when she realized that Bobby and Sam were staring at her.

Ha, so it’s not just me, Dean thought smugly.

Piper frowned. “What’s going on?” She touched her damp hair self-consciously. “Do I look that bad?”

“Definitely not,” Dean said fervently.

She shot him a shy smile before turning back to the other two men in the kitchen. “What’s wrong?”

Sam seemed to realize that he’d been staring. “Uh, no, Pipe, everything’s fine. We were just, uh, talking about you guys, uh, that is, Dean. We were talking about Dean sleeping in,” he finished lamely.

Her frown deepened. “It’s not that late. It’s still before nine.”

Bobby hadn’t taken his eyes off of Piper. “He meant to say that we were about to talk about sleeping arrangements.”

Dean was getting irritated again. “Why the hell would we talk about that?” He snapped, stepping forward to sling an arm around Piper's shoulders.

Bobby chuckled and raised his cup to his lips. “Just making sure you two have pulled your heads out of your asses before we get to work.”

Piper relaxed and laughed, turning to include Dean. He was overwhelmed again, and used his arm to pull her close to press his lips against hers. She tasted like coffee.

“Ew.”

“Hey, not in my kitchen, I gotta eat in here.”

She was smiling against his lips, and Dean felt something wake up in his chest. Uh-oh. She pulled away, eyes sparkling. I am in trouble. “Speaking of eating, who wants breakfast?”

***

That night, Dean stood outside of Piper’s room, debating whether or not to knock. She had gone to bed a few hours before, and he didn’t want to seem clingy, but sleeping in her bed with her sounded a hell of a lot better than sleeping in his own.

He turned the knob slowly, trying to push the door open quietly, when she made a startled noise, and he heard papers rustling.

“Um, Dean? Knocking?”

He pushed the door open, narrowing his eyes at the sight of her sitting cross-legged on her bed, pen wound up into the knot at the top of her head, trying to scoop the papers around her into her arms.

She gave him a tight smile as some of the papers floated down onto the floor. “Um, hi, if you could give me just a second-”

He walked in and knelt to pick up one of the sheets of paper. It was a photocopy of a page out of an old book, what looked like a spell on it in Latin. Scribbled next to the words, in her loopy handwriting, was: demon dispelling ritual? talk to Sam.

“Can I have that back, please?”

He glared at her, anger stirring in him. “What are you doing?”

She sighed, defeated. “We’re trying to find a way to get you out of your deal.”

He frowned. “Piper-”

“Stop, Dean. I’m not talking to you about this tonight.” She started putting her work away, not looking at him.

Which made him more angry. “Piper, look at me.”

She did. “Why? So you can yell at me for trying to save you? Can it, Winchester,” she snapped.

“Why are you going behind my back with him?”

She sighed and leaned back, having put her research away. “Because I wanted one day of us before we started arguing again. I wanted a twenty four hour period to adjust to whatever this is before we got into hard stuff.” Another sigh, and she met his eyes. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have made that decision for you. If you want to hash it out, we can.”

Dean looked at her for a long moment, then shook his head. “Piper, I don’t want you to look into this.”

She gave him a wry smile. “Well, then we have a problem. Because I’m going to look into it.”

“Piper, no.”

“Piper, yes. I’m not going to sit by and let you go to hell, Dean.” She sighed. “I couldn’t stop you from making the deal, and I will find a way to live with that. But I will be damned if I’m going to sit back and watch you get dragged into hell.”

“God dammit, Piper, leave it alone. If I try to get out of the deal, Sam’s going to die!” he shouted.

“I’m not going to let Sam die, either, Dean.” She looked down.

He knelt in front of her, hands on her knees. “Come on, Pipes, let this go.”

She met his eyes, steel glinting in the hazel. “No.”

He stood and backed away. “Well then we do have a problem!” he yelled again.

She didn’t flinch. “Then go sleep in your own bed, Winchester, because I am not going to apologize to you for trying to save your sorry ass.”

He slammed the door behind him.

***

Two hours later, Dean was staring at the ceiling, trying to hold onto his anger. Thoughts about the day kept creeping through, bleeding into thoughts about the night before.

The day had been… Kind of nice. It had been a blur of stolen glances, kissing her, touching her. Pulling her into the hallway to make out like horny teenagers, her squeezing his thigh under the table, moving her hot little hand higher and higher until he had to excuse himself.

He had watched her all day. She bit her lip when she was concentrating, or nervous. How had he not noticed that? She barked orders like a drill sergeant when hunters called, and was able to sweet talk law enforcement like no one he had ever seen. All with that hickey on her neck, marking her.

Mine.

With a groan, he got out of bed, pulled his sweats on, and walked out to the hallway. He was not going to apologize, he told himself firmly as he walked to her door.

He was not going to give in, he vowed as he quietly opened her unlocked door, slipped on, and closed and locked it behind him.

He had come here to make her cut it out, he thought as he pulled the covers off of her and slid into bed behind her, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her close.

“Dean…” she sighed softly,interlacing her fingers with his.

“I’m sorry I yelled, kitten. Can I stay?” He asked, thoughts of his pride flying away as he buried his face into her hair.

“You can always stay, Dean.”

Chapter Text

He used the hand over her mouth to tilt her head so he could whisper into her ear. “Come for me, kitten.”

Piper’s world flew apart as she came, dimly grateful he had his hand over her screaming mouth. His low moaning in her ear as he lost his rhythm egged her on, and she writhed beneath him, her nails sinking into his back. He bit her shoulder as he came.

With a grunt, he rolled off of her. They lay side-by-side, catching their breath.

“Well, good morning to you, too,” she said wryly between gasps.

He chuckled and pulled her on top of him, wrapping his arms around her as she rested her head on his chest. “Morning, kitten.” They lay there for a while in silence, enjoying each other’s presence.

A knock at the door startled her, and she lifted her head, hitting Dean’s chin.

“Ow,” he said mildly. She giggled.

“Hey, could you guys stop being disgusting for two minutes? We have a case.”

***

Dean’s phone rang through the empty warehouse he and Sam were in. A newly made vampire Gordon Walker was chasing them, specifically Sam.

Dean took another moment to be grateful that Piper hadn’t come with them.

Sam’s eyebrows rose. “You've had that phone two hours, Dean. Who'd you give the number to?”

“Nobody.” He answered. “Hello?”

Gordon sounded smug. Dean felt ice touch his spine. “Dean.”

“How'd you get this number?” He snarled, letting his fear transform into anger.

“Your scent's all over the cellphone store. Of course, I can't smell you now. Where are you?”

“Well, I guess you'll just have to find us, won't you?”

Gordon chuckled. “I'd rather you come to me.”

Dean was murderous. “What's the matter, Gordo? You're not afraid of us, are you? We're just sitting here. Bring it on!”

“I don't think so.”

There was a beat of silence. “Say something to your boyfriends.” More silence, then the smack of flesh on flesh. “Woman…”

Dean’s felt like his face was made of stone. Sam’s questioning face hovered close. “Not convincing, Gordon. What else you got?”

“Fine, bitch. You don’t have to say a damn word.”

There was another moment of silence, the clanking of metal on metal. Another beat, a whimper, then Piper’s scream came through the phone.

Dean saw red. He watched Sam's face fill with rage as Gordon’s voice came back on the line. “Factory on riverside off the turnpike. Be here in 20 minutes or your girl dies.”

“Gordon, let her go.”

“Bye, Dean.”

Dean tried to squash the panic in his gut. “Gordon! Don't do this. You don't kill innocent people. You're still a hunter.”

“No. I'm a monster.”

Dean looked at his phone for a second in horror. He looked up at Sam, who was already getting ready to go. “Sam, he has Piper,” he said unnecessarily.

“Let’s go get her.”

***

They approached the warehouse cautiously, guns drawn. There was a huge door standing open, and a woman on the ground in front of it.

Caution thrown to the wind, Dean hurried to her, kneeling to gently turn her over. “Pipes?”

It wasn’t Piper. Her hair wasn’t even the right color, he had just been so hopeful that they could grab her and go. He slung her arm over his shoulder and picked her up in his arms. “Sam, stay close.”

Sam nodded and moved to follow them, but the huge door slammed shut between them.

“Sam? Sam!?”

***

Piper heard the door shut from where she lay on the floor. Her left eye was swollen shut, and her leg hurt where Gordon had driven the poker through. She had tried, tried so hard not to make a sound. She whimpered again, trying to move her weight off of her leg, but she was bound tightly and couldn’t.

She heard movement, but she was fading in and out of consciousness. Gordon hadn’t been gentle when he’d thrown her to the ground, and she was scared that she had a concussion. She heard Sam’s voice, and struggled to keep herself awake. Maybe she could help… Distract Gordon… Where the hell was Dean?

Only bits and pieces of their taunts made it through to her wavering alertness.

“You have no idea what I faced to get here. I lost everything. My life. But it's worth it, 'cause I'm finally gonna kill the most dangerous thing I ever hunted. You're not human, Sam.”

“Look who’s talking.”

She heard scuffling, and Sam grunting. She heard liquid hitting the floor, then a thud.

“Piper?” Sam asked quietly into the room.

She was fading fast, and let out a whimper.

“Piper? Oh, Jesus, Piper.” He found her and dropped to his knees next to her, hands hovering over her. “Oh, God, Piper,” he whispered. “What did he do to you?”

“Samuel Winchester, if you do not check my gums, I will find a way to kill you,” she growled at him.  

A sad chuckle. He gently touched her lips and pulled them up. “Still human, Pipe. Try to hold still, I’m going to cut the ropes.”

He released her, and she didn’t move. She didn’t have the energy. “Come on, Pipe. Oh, Jesus, your leg… Okay, this is going to hurt, okay, I’m really sorry, Piper.”

He didn’t touch her, and Piper opened her right eye. “Sam, it’s going to hurt no matter what.”  She felt tears coming to her eyes, and hated herself for it. “Just get me the hell out of here, okay?”

***

Later, Dean swore that seeing Sam come out of the warehouse with Piper, bloody and still in his arms, shaved a year off of his life. Sam’s arms were covered in blood, and more importantly, Piper wasn’t moving.

He left the dead vampire that Gordon had baited him with to approach them. Without needing to say it out loud, Sam seemed to know what Dean wanted. “Be careful, she’s lost a lot of blood.”

Dean tenderly took her into his arms, wincing at the sight of her leg. “Oh, God, kitten, what did he do to you?”

She moaned a little, and opened her good eye at him. “Hi, baby,” she said softly. “I might have a concussion,” she said as she fainted in his arms.

“Piper! Piper!” he shouted, shaking her a little, hating to do it.

She jerked awake. “What, Dean, God?”

He chuckled and they made their way back to the Impala. “Sorry, kitten, I think you need to stay awake until we get you to a hospital. Sam, come get the keys out of my pocket, you’re driving”

He slid her into the backseat tenderly after Sam unlocked the door, and moved in to sit behind her. He settled himself with his back against the door, his left leg stretched out along the seat. He pulled Piper to him, her back to his chest, and wrapped his arms around her. “Come on, Pipes, gotta stay awake.”

She groaned. “Dean, I’m so tired. It will be fine, just let me go to sleep.”

He kissed the side of her head wincing at the blood that was matting her purple hair. “Come, on, kitten. Talk to me. How did this happen? You were supposed to be at Bobby’s.” He met Sam’s eyes in the rear view mirror.

She whimpered. “A woman called and said you might need help. I came to help, and ended up getting my stupid self kidnapped.”

Sam looked at Dean again. “Bela,” his younger brother snarled.

Dean, focusing on the one who hurt Piper, felt a growl rumble through his chest. “That bastard.”

She nuzzled into his chest, wincing when it hurt. “It’s okay, baby, Sammy killed him.”

Dean was silent for a moment, trying to work through the rage he felt beating through his blood. The alpha male in him was mad at Sam for killing Gordon. The alpha male in him wanted to kill the creature who had hurt his woman. He tamped it down. Not now, be an ass later.

He realized Piper had been silent too long. He leaned in and whispered into her ear. “Pipes, baby, I’m sorry, I need you to stay awake for me. Talk to me.”

She didn’t open her eyes, or the one eye that she could open, but she spoke.  “What should I say?”

Dean thought for a moment, searching for something, anything. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

“You’re an ass for keeping me awake,” she mumbled darkly.

He chuckled. “Something I don’t know about you, smart-ass.”

She was silent for such a long moment Dean almost spoke again. “I played guitar for all of high school. And piano.”

Sam chuckled from the front seat. “I didn’t know that, either, Piper.”

She tried to smile, but her lip was split open, and she winched as fresh blood pooled there. Dean smothered another wave of anger. “I know, I was so embarrassed.”

“Were you not any good?”

She was apparently feeling better, because she raised her hand to flip Sam off. Dean chuckled and kissed her head again, ignoring the tackiness. “No, jackass, I was really good. It just felt like a useless thing to be good at. I couldn’t have hit the broadside of a barn, but I had the guitar on lockdown.”

Dean chuckled. She sighed and settled back into him. He nudged her as gently as possible. “What else?”

“Ugh.”

“Come on, Pipe.  We’re almost there,” Sam urged from the front seat. He was speeding like a mad person.

“Um, okay…” Her breathing was heavy and labored. “Um, okay, um, when I was eighteen, I tried to knit a scarf for Bobby. It was so awful, I tried to throw it away, but Bobby walked in on me. It’s that awful red scarf he wears every winter.”

Dean laughed out loud. “Wow, that’s… That’s something.”

Sam pulled the Impala into the ER parking lot. “Dean, take her in, I’ll park and be right behind you.”

***

Seeing her in a hospital bed made Dean realize how small Piper was. There was a tube under her nose, a bandage on her head and around her leg.

Her eye fluttered open and took a long time to focus on him. Her lips tilted up into a gentle smile. “Hi.”

He put a smile on his face. “Hey, kitten.”

She frowned. “My head hurts.”

He kissed the hand he had been holding. “You got hit pretty hard.” He frowned. “Pipes, why did you come?”

She blinked, and Dean realized she was probably high. “Because she said you needed me.”

“You had no idea who it was, Piper.”

She shrugged. “Bobby said he knew her, and that you had had run-ins with her before. I didn’t want to risk it.”

“You shouldn’t have risked yourself,” he snapped, helpless to stop the anger in his voice. But God dammit, why had she come? She had almost gotten herself killed. The anger had nowhere else to go.

Instead of getting upset, she sighed. “I’m not going to ‘pologize, Dean. I’m too tired to do this with you tonight. Go fight with Sam.”

Before he could open his mouth to apologize, Sam and Bobby walked through the door. “Piper, honey, you idjit.” Bobby said gruffly, worry coming through his tone.

She smiled. “Hi, Bobby, I’m glad you’re here.”

He came and sat in the chair on the other side of her bed, taking her other hand. He looked down, realizing that her knuckles were bloody. “Piper,” Bobby said quietly, “Did you punch a frickin’ vampire?”

She started to giggle. “Right in the face.”

Sam laughed. “So that’s where that came from.  Good job, Pipe.”

Bobby frowned, but before he could open his mouth she met his eyes with hers. “Bobby, if you yell at me, too, I will kick both of you out and hang out with Sam.”

Sam looked at Dean. “Too?”

“Shut up, Sam.” Dean said gruffly, feeling guilty.

Sam smiled and put a hand on Piper’s leg. “Glad you’re okay, Pipe. We should let you get some sleep.”

“I’ll stay with her,” Bobby said quietly, eyes not leaving Piper.

Sam pushed past Dean to place a kiss on Piper’s forehead. “Hey, I’m really glad you’re okay. I’m sorry we didn’t get there in time.”

She smiled sleepily up at him. “You did, Sam.”

He smiled and walked out of the room. Dean leaned forward and kissed her tenderly on the lips. “I’m sorry, kitten.”

She smiled at him, too. “I know, Dean. ‘Sokay. Go with Sam.”

He went to leave and heard her mutter, “Love you.”

He stiffened, turning around quickly to find her asleep. He met Bobby’s even gaze. “Go on, Dean.” He said, turning back to Piper.

Dean was reeling as they walked out to the parking lot, tamping down panic. She’s high, she didn’t mean it. They had been sleeping together for three days, she wasn’t in love with him. If anything, it was a platonic, best friend kind of love.

Women didn’t fall in love with him, they fell in lust with him. Then, when they realized he was a closed off jackass whose default setting was pissed, they left. It was an arrangement Dean was very comfortable with. Getting attached in this life, in his life, meant becoming a liability.

She was tripping balls, she didn't know what she was saying, Dean thought as took the keys from Sam and they silently got into Baby. And while a great, vast majority of him was very relieved, he ignored the little disappointed pang in his chest as they drove away.

Chapter Text

Piper was leaning against of the beds in the crappy motel they were staying at. Someone who was appearing as Santa Claus was killing people, seemingly at random.

It was a couple of weeks after she’d been kidnapped. She was healing at a remarkable rate, but putting her weight on her leg still hurt, so she had been regulated to research. It was irritating, but it was honestly as much as she could handle.

“So, was I right? Is it the serial-killing chimney sweep?” Dean was asking cheerfully.

Sam laughed. “Yep. It's, uh, it’s actually Dick Van Dyke.”

“Who?”

Piper raised an eyebrow. “Mary Poppins?”

Dean looked at her. “Who’s that?”

Piper giggled, while Sam was clearly appalled. “Oh come on… Never mind.”

Dean shrugged. “Well, it turns out that Walsh is the second guy in town grabbed out of his house this month.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Piper watched the two of them. Watching them solve a case was one of her favorite things.

“The other guy get dragged up the chimney, too?”

“Don’t know. Witnesses said they heard a thump on the roof.” They shrugged at each other. “So, what the hell do you think we're dealing with?”

Piper cleared her throat. Here goes nothing. “Actually, I have an idea.”

They turned to her. “Yeah?”

She bit her lip, ignoring the way Dean’s eyes darkened. “Uh, it's gonna sound crazy.”

Sam grinned. “What could you possibly say that sounds crazy to us?”

She closed her eyes. “Um… Evil Santa.”

Dean paused, and then nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, that’s crazy.”

She glared at him. “I’m just saying that there’s some version of the anti-Claus in every culture.” She started counting on her fingers. “You got Belsnickel, Krampus, Black Peter. Whatever you want to call it, there’s all sorts of lore.”

Sam smiled. “Saying what?”

“Saying back in the day, Santa’s brother went rogue and now he shows up around Christmas time, but instead of bringing presents, he punishes the wicked.”

Dean raised his eyebrows. “By hauling their ass up chimneys?”

Piper nodded. “For starters, yeah.”

“So, this is your theory, huh? Santa’s shady brother?” Sam asked skeptically.

Piper shrugged. “Yeah, I could be wrong.”

Dean was looking at her. “Maybe, maybe not.”

Sam swung around to Dean. “What?”

“I did a little digging. Turns out both victims visited the same place before they got snatched.”

***

Piper was leaning against the headboard the next evening, research spread out around her, lost in thought.

Dean wanted to do Christmas. It was a first, she had always had to convince him to celebrate. Under normal circumstances, she would have been all for it, but it would be hard to put on a happy face this year.

Dean was going to be dead next year. It was completely unreal to Piper that he wouldn’t be there to threaten and cajole into enjoying the holiday with her. If he really wanted to, she would drag up the spirit. She just didn’t feel like celebrating when the man she was in love with was going to die in a year.

Piper looked up as the door unlocked and the brothers walked in, already talking.

“How much do you think a meadowsweet wreath would cost?” Dean was asking, dropping his bag and coming to sit next to Piper on the bed.

Sam shrugged. “A couple hundred dollars, at least.”

Dean’s eyebrows rose as he put an arm around Piper. “This lady’s giving them away for free? What do you think about that?”

Piper nodded. “Sounds pretty suspicious.”

They sat in silence for a while, each lost in their thoughts. Piper was enjoying the feel of Dean pressed against her when he spoke. “Remember that wreath Dad brought home that one year?”

Sam scoffed. “You mean the one he stole from, like, a liquor store?”

Dean grinned. “Yeah, it was a bunch of empty beer cans. That thing was great. I bet if I looked around hard enough, I could probably find one just like it.” He turned to Piper. “Eh? What do you think, kitten?”

Before she could respond, Sam already was. “All right. Dude… What’s going on with you?”

Dean turned back to his brother. “What?”

“I mean, since when are you Bing Crosby all of a sudden? Why do you want Christmas so bad?”

Dean was starting to get agitated. “Why are you so against it? I mean, were your childhood memories that traumatic?” Piper put her hand on his thigh and squeezed gently.

Sam sighed. “No, that has nothing to do with it.”

“Then what?”

Sam ran a hand through his hair. “I, I mean, I, I just… I don’t get it. You haven’t talked about Christmas in years, not if Piper wasn’t bugging us about it.”

Dean shrugged. “Well, yeah. This is my last year.”

Pain gripped Piper’s heart. She swallowed the sound that wanted to escape. She couldn’t let it.

Sam met her eyes, and she saw the same pain there. “I know. That’s why I can’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I can’t just sit around, drinking eggnog, pretending everything’s okay, when I know next Christmas you’ll be dead. I just can’t.”

***

Dean was watching Piper sleep that night, trying not to think. Sam’s words had struck him, and Piper’s silence afterwards had confirmed that she felt the same way.

He didn’t know what to say to them. There was nothing. The deal had been made, there was no way to get out of it. He just wanted some good stuff to go out on.

He let go of a deep breath, pulled Piper closer, and tried to sleep.

***

Piper was bandaging Sam’s finger, fuming. “I’m glad you killed them with a Christmas tree.”

He smiled at her. “Join the club.”

She finished and stood to clean up, keeping her weight on her left leg. “Where did Dean go?”

“Beer.”

She smiled and had turned away when he put a hand on her arm. “Piper… Do you feel like celebrating?”

She turned back around and studied him for a minute, then decided on honesty. “No.” She fought to keep tears out of her eyes, and won. “No, I don’t. But if we were going to, I would suck it up. I think he wants happy memories to take with him. I think he’s scared, and he’s trying to cover.” She took a deep breath. “But I have never felt less like celebrating Christmas.”

Sam seemed to think for a long time while she cleaned up. When she was done, she sat on her and Dean’s bed with a sigh of relief.

It ended when he looked up at her. “I need your help, Pipe.”

***

Dean’s face when he walked in to see the decorations she and Sam had put up was worth the dull ache in her leg.

“What’s all this?” He was looking around, amazed, at the lights and the tiny tree they had found.

Piper smiled. “It’s Christmas.”

Dean looked at the two of them, shocked. “What made you change your mind?”

Sam ignored him. “Here, uh... Try the eggnog. Let me know if it needs some more kick.” He handed Dean a plastic cup.

Piper stifled a laugh when Dean almost choked on the eggnog. “No, we’re good,” he coughed.

Sam was grinning. “Yeah?"

Dean held his cup up in a toast. “Yeah.” As soon as Sam looked away, Dean gave Piper a what the hell face. She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing.

Sam moved some chairs so they were sitting in a circle. “Good. Well, uh, have a seat. Let’s do… Christmas stuff, or whatever.”

As the men exchanged gifts, Piper stayed quiet. This was a moment for them. She sipped her not spiked eggnog and just enjoyed being there, smiling at their gas station gifts to one another.

They seemed to realize that she was there a few minutes later, both of them shooting her guilty glances.

She smiled. “I didn’t get you guys anything either, so no worries, guys.”

Sam frowned. “That’s not fair.”

A light bulb went off in Piper’s head. “Tell you what, you can make it up to me. Bring me my phone.”

Sam got up and dug through Piper’s bag to bring her her cell phone.  She handed it to Dean. “Take a picture of us, Winchester.”

Dean raised an eyebrow.  “What?”

Sam helped Piper stand up. “I don’t have any recent pictures of us!”

She stood next to Sam, who wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. Her leg twinged, but she kept her smile on. It was Christmas, after all.

Dean directed them around a bit and finally took the picture. She was more tired than she had realized, because her leg was on fire, and she was getting a headache.

“All right, now one with Dean. Get over here, Winchester,” she said, smiling at him as they switched places. When Dean stood next to her, she leaned heavily into him, taking weight off of her leg, still trying to keep her face still.

Despite efforts, Dean must have noticed that she was in pain. Before she could protest, he bent and picked her up, with her knees dangling over one arm and his other arm supporting her shoulders. She squeaked and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “Dean!”

He made a show of nuzzling her ear, whispering so Sam couldn’t hear, “You have a good poker face, kitten, but you can’t fool me.”

“Stop being gross and look at the damn camera,” Sam barked cheerfully.

Piper turned and smiled, staying still as Sam snapped the photo. Then she turned and looked back at Dean, losing herself in those ridiculous green eyes. He grinned and leaned down to press a kiss to her lips, murmuring “Merry Christmas kitten,” into her lips.

Dean carried Piper to her chair again, moving his own closer to hers so he could wrap an arm around her shoulders.

There was an awkward silence. “Do you feel like watching the game?” Sam asked, finally.

Dean smiled in relief. “Absolutely.”

Piper rested her head on Dean’s shoulder and watched the game with her Winchesters.

***

Dean lay on his back with Piper’s head resting on his bare chest, hand idly playing with her long hair. Sam was asleep, so he kept his voice low. “Piper, I’m sorry.”

She lifted her head to look at him. “For what?”

He looked up at the ceiling, he couldn’t look at her right now. “You know for what. Playing dumb will not win you sympathy here, Finley.”

He felt her smile as she laid her head back down on his chest. He resumed playing with her hair. “I just… I’m sorry.”

She kissed his chest. “I know, Dean. I know.”

For some reason, he didn’t want to let it lie. “Piper, I’m serious. I didn’t have a choice, and I’m not sorry I did what I did. But I’m…”

“Sorry,” she finished softly. She didn’t lift her head, but Dean’s hand stilled. “I know, Dean. I know you are, and I know why you did what you did. I just…” A soft sigh. “I just wish things were different.”

He held her for a while, trying to think of something to say to cheer her up. Dammit, the only way he was good at comforting her was with his hands, but taking her didn’t seem like an option right now, she was still in pain.

They fell asleep before he could think of anything.

Chapter Text

“Thank God you’re home, honey. Can you grab this for me?”

Piper was standing in a clean kitchen, definitely not Bobby’s, in a bright yellow sundress. Her feet were bare, her violet hair braided over her shoulder, longer than it had been since he’d last seen it. Her pink lips were curved into a loving smile, her eyes sparkling.

Those weren’t the things Dean noticed. What he noticed was the bump on her stomach. It wasn’t big yet, but he had kissed, nipped, and licked his way down her stomach enough times to know that it wasn’t there before.

Piper was pregnant. With his child. And, he noticed calmly, there was a ring on her left ring finger.

He felt his lips stretch into a smile. “Sure, kitten.” He walked to her and picked up the pot of pasta she was gesturing to, moving to the strainer in the sink.

She came to stand behind him, her hand on his back. “We only have a couple of hours until the kids come home,” she said, glowing up at him.

“They at Jen’s?”

She nodded. “Another playdate.”

Dean started to smile when the world started to shake. Piper was blipping in and out of existence, her smile never changing. “They’ll be home… So we only have… Are you okay, baby?”

***

Dean shook himself awake, sweating, trying not to disturb Piper, who had rolled away from him in her sleep. “Shit,” he muttered softly, swinging himself around to place his feet on the floor. He leaned over and put his head in his hands, his elbows resting on his thighs. “Shit.”

It had been two weeks since they had saved Bobby from that crazy kid with the dream powers. Piper had insisted they stay home for a few days to make sure Bobby was okay. The older man grouched and grumbled, but Dean suspected he was enjoying the way Piper was waiting on him hand and foot.

The dream he had just had was the one Sam had seen. They hadn’t talked about it, because Dean refused to think about what it meant. He liked Piper a lot, they were good together in bed, and that was it. It had to be it. He was going to hell.

She had completely healed, only a violent pink scar left as a reminder. The rapid healing concerned everyone a little, but there were bigger problems. They were still fighting to cure Dean. Sam was getting frustrated, but Piper was serene, certain they would find something. He didn’t know if he was grateful or irritated for that.

He was starting to get terrified. He was going to hell. What he had told Piper was true, he didn’t regret the decision he had made, but it didn’t mean he wasn’t scared.

He heard Piper shifting in bed, turning to support herself on her elbow. “Dean? What’s wrong?”

He didn’t move. “Nothing, Piper, go back to sleep.”

He closed his eyes when she ignored him, moving until her legs were resting outside of his. She wrapped her arms around his stomach, leaning her head against his shoulder blade. “No good, Winchester, try again.”

He sighed. “It’s nothing, Pipes. I’m fine.”

“Mhm,” she murmured, unbelieving.

“I…” He swallowed hard. “I can’t, kitten, I can’t talk about it.”

She nodded. “Okay, then come to bed and show me.”

***

Piper woke up sore. Dean was sleeping on his side, turned away from her. The scores in his back from her nails made her blush. She looked down, observing the peppering of bite marks, hickeys, and light, finger-shaped bruises up and down her body. Their sex had become desperate and fierce, they clung to one another. It was amazing, but it made her sad. He was scared, and he wouldn’t tell her.

A gentle knock on the door. She wrapped herself in the blankets up to her neck, made sure Dean was covered, then called softly, “Come on in, Sam.”

He came in and pulled a face. “Ew, Pipe, what the hell?”

She rolled her eyes. “What do you want, Sam?”

He was blushing, much to her amusement, and looking at the ceiling. “We have a case.”

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

Piper cracked an eye open and glared at Dean. “Seriously?”

Sam was sitting up, also glaring at Dean. “Dude. Asia?”

Dean was sitting on the bed he and Piper had shared, tying his shoes. He looked annoyingly awake. “Come on, you love this song and you know it.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and if I ever hear it again, I’m gonna kill myself.”

Dean reached over and turned it up, starting to bop his head along with the music. “What? Sorry, couldn’t hear you.”

Piper turned and pushed him off of the bed. “I swear to God, Winchester, justifiable homicide.”

Sam laughed.

***

They walked into a cute little diner. Piper smiled at the cashier, who was smiling and giving an older gentleman change.

“Drive safely now, Mr. Pickett.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

They found a booth and slid in, Piper and Dean sitting across the table from Sam. Piper watched the people around them curiously.  

The waitress was talking to a man who was dressed in rather tattered clothes. “Can't stay unless you order something, Cal. You know the rules.”

The man passed her some change from his pocket. “Some coffee.”

Piper was considering paying for his breakfast (with Dean’s money, he needed good karma) when Dean nudged and pointed at the poster up on the wall. “Hey, Tuesday. Pig in a poke.”

Sam scoffed. “You even know what that is?”

The waitress came up to the table, smiling. “Everyone ready?

Dean grinned. “Yes. I'll have the special, side of bacon and a coffee.”

“Make it two coffees and a short stack.” Sam said, smiling.

“Copy his for me, too, please.” Piper asked, pointing at Sam.

The waitress smiled. “You got it.”

As she walked away, Dean leaned forward. “I'm telling you, Sam, this job is small fry. We should be spending our time hunting down Bela.”

Piper rolled her eyes. “Okay, sure, let's get right on that. Where is she again?”

Dean nudged her. “Shut up, Pipes.” She nudged him back.

Sam watched this with a smile. “Look. Believe me, I want to find her as bad as you do. In the meantime, we have this.” He pulled out a newspaper. The front clipping read in capital letters, MISSING - DEXTER HASSELBACK LAST SEEN IN BROWARD, FLORIDA.

“Dexter Hasselback was passing through town last week when he vanished.” Sam said.

Piper took the newspaper from him. “Do we know his last known location?”

“His daughter says he was on his way to visit the Broward County Mystery Spot.” He handed Piper the flyer.

The front had a huge question mark, and the back had several equations. She frowned. “These make no sense.”

Dean had put his arm around her shoulders and was reading over her shoulder. “Where the laws of physics have no meaning.”

Doris had arrived with their coffee and a bottle of hot sauce on her tray. She smiled at Dean and Piper. “You two are adorable.” Dean grinned and kissed the side of Piper’s head.

Doris smiled and started handing out coffee. “Three coffees, black, and some hot sauce for the-” The bottle fell off of the tray and shattered on the floor.

“Whoops! Crap, I’m sorry.” She turned back. “Cleanup!”

***

They were walking away from the diner. Piper cooed at a dog as they passed it while Dean and Sam discussed the case.

“Sam, joints like this are only tourist traps, right? I mean, you know, balls rolling uphill, furniture nailed to the ceiling, they're only dangerous to your wallet.”

“Okay, look, I'm just saying, there are spots in the world where holes open up and swallow people. The Bermuda Triangle, uh, the Oregon Vortex-”

Piper scoffed. “Broward County Mystery Spot?”

Sam shrugged down at her. “Well sometimes these places are legit.”

It was Dean’s turn to scoff. “All right, so if it is legit, and that's a big-ass if, what's the lore?”

“Well-” Sam was interrupted when Dean collided with a blonde woman walked down the street. He turned to check her out. Piper smacked him on the back of the head, irritated. “Tongue in head, Winchester.”

He looked back and grinned at her. “Aw, come on, Pipes-”

“The lore's pretty frigging nuts, actually,” Sam interrupted loudly. “They say these places the magnetic fields are so strong that they can bend spacetime, sending victims no one knows where.”

Piper shot him a grateful look. “Sounds a little X-Files to me.”

They were passing two movers, who were trying to get a piano through the door.

“Told you it wouldn’t fit.”

“What do you want, a Pulitzer?”

Sam ignored them. “All right, look, I'm not saying this is really happening, but if it is, we gotta check it out, see if we can do something.”

Dean waved his hand. “All right, all right, we'll go tonight after they close, get ourselves a nice long look.”

***

That night, they were in the Mystery Spot, and Piper was irritated. “This place is a hoax.”

Dean shined his light at a table, lamp, and ashtray glued upside down to the ceiling. “Uncanny.” He turned to Sam. “Find anything?”

The EMF meter in Sam’s hand was silent. “Nope.”

“Do we even know what we’re looking for?” Piper asked as she examined the ridiculous room.

“Uh, sure.” She cocked an eyebrow at Sam. “No.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” a voice cried out.

They swung around, Dean and Piper drawing their guns. Piper’s blood ran cold when she saw the owner of the Mystery Spot had a shotgun aimed at Dean. She put her gun down.

Dean had done the same. “Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah. We can explain.”

“You robbing me?”

Sam held his hands up. “Look, nobody's robbing you, calm down.”

“Don’t move!” The gun wavered in the man’s hands.

Dean paused. “Just putting my gun down, man.”

A shot rang out. Piper saw red as Dean fell.

Sam started calling out. “Dean! Dean!”

No. No. No! It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, they had a few months left, he wasn’t supposed to be dead yet. Piper couldn't draw in air. No. He was not dead, he was hers, and God dammit, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this!

Piper raised her gun and shot the owner in the chest twice without blinking.

She turned and dropped to her knees next to Sam, who was looking at her wildly. She already had her phone out, dialing 911.

Sam turned back and held Dean’s face in his hands. “Hey, hey, oh, no, no, no, not like this.”

Dean looked at Sam, then he flicked his eyes to Piper. She felt something in her die as he went still.

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

A car slammed into Dean, the old man from before behind the wheel. Piper ran to him, pulling him into her lap in the middle of the road. “Dean, come on, baby, look at me.”

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

The piano fell on him, flattening him. Piper felt the love of her life’s blood splatter onto her face.

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

“See, if you guys and me decide I’m not going to die, I’m not going to die.” Dean said cheerfully, taking a bite of the sausage the waitress had dropped off.

Piper was barely surprised when he started to choke.

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

Slipped in the shower. Blood everywhere.

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

“Hey, do these tacos taste funny to you?”

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

Electric razor.

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

Sam had the owner tied to a chair, and Piper had her gun trained on him, considering shooting him on principle. Death didn’t seem to stick in whatever weirdo universe they were stuck in, anyway, so it’s not like he would actually die.

Sam was chopping down the walls of the Mystery Spot. Dean tried to calm him down, and they fought over the ax. Blood splattered onto her face again as the ax hit Dean in the face.

Piper considered shooting Sam on principle.

***

Heat of the moment

Telling you what your heart is

They walked into the diner again, Piper glaring around the room. She was beyond angry, and she knew Sam was, too.  What the hell was happening to them?

There was a knot in her stomach. Watching Dean die over and over and over had had a profound effect on her. Namely, she was livid. Whatever was happening, she was going to hunt down whoever was responsible and kill it. Violently.

“Drive safely now, Mr. Pickett.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Sam bumped the old man as they passed him.

“Can't stay unless you order something, Cal. You know the rules.”

“Coffee.”

Dean pointed cheerfully at the poster on the wall. Piper could have strangled him. “Hey. Tuesday. Pig in a poke.”

Sam put a set of keys on the table, then leaned forward and put his head in his hands.

Dean stared at the keys. “What are those?”

“The old man's,” Piper answered, leaning over to take Sam’s hands in hers. “Trust me, you don't want him behind the wheel.”

Dean looked at the two of them. “What is this?”

Doris walked up to the table. “You three ready?”

Dean was still eyeing Sam and Piper. “Uh, yes, we are. I'll have the special, side of bacon and a coffee.”

Piper looked at the waitress coldly. “Hey, Doris? What I'd like is for you to log in some more hours at the archery range. You're a terrible shot,” she snapped.

Doris looked shocked. “How’d you know that?”

Sam raised his head. “Lucky guess.”

Dean looked at them. “Okay, so you think you're caught in some kind of what, again?”

“Time loop,” Sam muttered.

“Like Groundhog Day,” Piper added.

Sam put his head in his hand again, the other hand still holding Piper’s. “Doesn’t matter. There’s no way to stop it.”

She frowned. “Yes there is, Sam. We just have to find it.”

“Jeeze, you two are grumpy.”

Sam glared at his older brother. “Yeah, I am. You wanna know why? Because this is the hundredth Tuesday in a row I've been through, and it never stops. Ever. So yeah, I'm a little grumpy.”

“Hot sauce,” Piper sighed, leaning back against the back of the booth.

Dean looked at her. “What?”

Doris arrived to serve coffee. When the hot sauce fell, Sam caught it and slid it across the table. Doris was spooked. “Thanks.”

Dean grinned at Sam. “Nice reflexes.”

Sam rolled his eyes and shared a look with Piper. “I knew it was going to happen, Dean. I know everything that’s gonna happen.’

Piper rolled her eyes. She had, quite literally, heard this speech fifty times.

“You don’t know everything.”

“Yeah, I do.”

They leaned forward and started speaking in unison. “Yeah, right. Nice guess.”

Sam leaned back. “Yeah. I do.”

In unison again, “Right, you're a mind reader. Cut it out, Sam. Sam.”

They leaned towards each other. “You think you're being funny but you're being really really childish! Sam Winchester wears makeup. Sam Winchester cries his way through sex. Sam Winchester keeps a ruler by the bed and every morning when he wakes up he-”

Dean threw up his hands and sat back. “Okay, enough!”

Piper closed her eyes and leaned her head back. “That's not all. Randy the cashier? He's skimming from the register. Judge Myers? At night he puts on a furry bunny outfit. Over there, that's Cal. He's gonna rob Tony the mechanic on the way home.”

“What’s your point?”

Sam glared. “Our point is we’ve lived through every possible Tuesday. We've watched you die every possible way. We have ripped apart the Mystery Spot, burnt it down, tried everything either of us know to save your life, and we can't. No matter what we do, you die.”

“And then we wake up,” Piper lifted her head to meet Dean’s eyes. “And it’s Tuesday again.”

Dean was mauled by the dog on the way out. Piper shot it.

***

Piper woke up in a bedroom done in white. She looked around, and realizing she wasn’t in the clothes she had been wearing, got angry. Someone had put her in a silk nightgown.

“Hello?” she called out, swinging her legs to get out of the bed.

“Hi, princess.” A man entered whom she had never seen before. He had laughing brown eyes that seemed vaguely familiar.

“Do I know you?”

He shook his head. “No, but I know you. Dean Winchester’s lover.”

She glared. “My name is Piper, jackass.”

He chuckled and tossed himself on the bed next to her. “I know, Piper.” He sobered. “Listen, this won’t make sense to you, but I wouldn’t have put you through all of this if I had known you were with them.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Put me through all of what?”

He shrugged. “Dean dying.”

“That was you.” If she moved quickly, she could wrap her hands around his neck.

He held his hands up in surrender. “Yes, but there was a point.” He sighed and looked away. “Dean is going to die, princess, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Excuse me?” She asked softly.

“Dean is-”

“You think I don’t know that?  You think I haven’t been over and over and over the same stupid spells because there’s nothing else? You think I don’t know that I can’t save him?”  she shouted, furious.  “And who the hell do you think you are, trying to-”

He stood. “Look, Princess, I’m sorry. I’m going to spare you the bad one. Believe it or not, I like you, and I want you to be all right.” There was a sadness dampening the joy in his eyes. “But you won’t be.”

***

Promise me I'll be back in time

Gotta get back in time

Piper opened her eyes to see Sam sitting up in bed.

Dean leaned out of the bathroom, toothbrush in his mouth. “What, you two gonna sleep all day?”

Sam looked over at her. “Piper!” he shouted, launching himself at her. “Jesus, what happened to you?”

Piper clung to him for a second. “I don’t know, the guy had me somewhere else.” She leaned back to look at him. “Was that the trickster? What did he do to you?”

The look in Sam’s eyes would haunt Piper for a long time. “Six months… Six months without him.” She leaned in and hugged him harder.

She looked over his shoulder at the clock.  “It’s Wednesday.”

Dean walked out of the bathroom. “Yeah, usually comes after Tuesday. Turn that thing off.” He eyed the two of them as Piper turned turn the radio off.

Sam stood and pulled Dean into a hug. Dean hugged him back, chuckling. “Dude, how many Tuesdays did you have?”

“Enough. What, uh, what do you remember?”

Dean shrugged. “I remember you were pretty whacked out of it yesterday. I remember getting up with the Trickster. That's about it.”

Sam nodded. “Let's go.”

Dean looked crestfallen. “No breakfast?”

Piper and Sam turned around and in unison, “No breakfast."

Chapter Text

“We’re not the ones you should be scared of, Nancy.”

Piper rolled her eyes and strolled into the tiny sheriff’s office the FBI agent had taken Sam and Dean into. When she entered, they were walking down a hallway, which lead to the cells in the back.

She approached a scared looking girl at the front desk and smiled. “Hi, Nancy?” The girl turned back, still gripping her rosary, and smiled timidly at Piper. “Yes?”

Piper gave her a winning smile. “Hi, my name is Sarah Fry, I’m the attorney for those two idiots. Do I need to fill out a visitor’s badge application?”

Nancy’s eyes widened and she hurried to give Piper the information she needed. As Piper filled out the stupid form, she fumed. Idiots. She had told them not to underestimate Bela, and look where they were. In a freaking jail cell.

When she was done, Nancy handed her a badge to clip to the lapel of the blazer she was wearing. She picked up her briefcase, took a breath, and walked down the hallway, letting her heels click loudly on the concrete floor.

Agent Henriksen was talking to her “clients,” apparently taunting them. Dean, true to form, was rising to the bait. “You know, I wouldn’t bust out the melted butter just yet. Couldn’t catch us at the bank, couldn’t keep us in that jail.”

Henriksen was nodding. “You’re right. Screwed up. I underestimated you. I didn’t count on you being that smart, but now I’m ready.”

Piper walked in, head held high. “Mr. Winchester, I’m advising you to shut the hell up right now.”

Henriksen glared at her. “Who the hell are you?”

She stopped, looking straight into his eyes. “I’m the Winchesters’ attorney, Sarah Fry. And I’d like to know why you were speaking with my client without my presence?”

He glared at her, and then looked back at Dean. “Take a good look at Sam. You two will never see each other again.”

People threatening the Winchesters had never sat well with Piper. Her eyes narrowed to slits, and her voice was low and dangerous. “That is quite enough, Agent Henriksen. You may leave.”

Henriksen left without a word. Piper glared at Dean. “Do you have to antagonize every law enforcement official you come into contact with, Winchester?” she hissed through the bars.

Dean shrugged and looked at Sam. “How are we going to Houdini our way out of this one?”

Sam was shrugging as another man walked into the holding cell area. Piper felt ice at the base of her spine, and instinctively moved forward to stand in front of the cell.

The man ignored her. “Sam and Dean Winchester. I’m Deputy Director Steven Groves. This is a pleasure.”

Piper frowned as Dean replied. “Well, glad one of us feels that way.”

Groves’ expression didn’t change. “I’ve been waiting a long time for you two to come out of the woodwork.”

He pulled a gun out and pointed it at Dean, shooting him in the shoulder. As Dean fell back Piper swung the briefcase in her hand, knocking the demon’s hand up so the next shot went wide. She flung herself at him, fighting for the gun. “Sam! Exorcism!” she shouted angrily.

Sam started chanting the Latin required to exorcise the demon. Groves’ eyes turned black and he grinned at Piper. “Sorry, I've gotta cut this short. It’s gonna be a long night, bitch.”

He flung his head back and black smoke poured into the air vent. Piper let Groves’ body fall, took the gun, and turned back to the cell. “Dean?”

She didn’t turn around as Henriksen and the sheriff came running in, guns drawn and pointed at Piper, who rolled her eyes.

“All right, put the gun down!” the sheriff shouted at Piper.

“Wait! Okay, wait!” Sam was saying from the cell.

Sheriff Melvin turned to look at Henriksen. “She shot him?”

“Oh for God’s sake, I didn’t shoot anybody.”

“He shot me!” Dean shouted.

Henriksen pointed his gun at Piper, too. “Get on your knees, now.”

She rolled her eyes again and dropped to her knees while Sam tried to placate them. “Okay, okay, okay. Don’t shoot. Please. Look. We didn’t shoot him. Check the body. There’s no blood. We did not kill him. Go ahead, check him.”

Another agent had come in, and knelt to look over Groves’ body. “Vic, there’s no bullet wound.”

“He’s probably been dead for months,” Piper snapped, irritated that she had to kneel in her stockings.

Henriksen glared at her. “What did you do to him?”

Dean stood, hand still clutching his shoulder. “She didn’t do anything. We didn’t do anything.”

The agent pointed at his gun at Piper. Honestly, if she rolled her eyes anymore she was going to give herself a migraine. “Talk, or I shoot.”

“You won’t believe us,” Dean said, anxiety lacing his words.

Sam wasn’t as worried, though. “He was possessed.”

Henriksen snorted, then realized they were serious. He holstered his gun. “Possessed? Right. Fire up the chopper! We’re taking them out of here now.”

Piper got to her feet and went to stand in front of Dean, moving his hand so she could look at his shoulder. “Yeah! Do that!” Dean said to Henriksen’s back, wincing as she pulled at his jacket.

“Bill?” There was static on the other end of the agent’s walkie-talkie. “Bill, are you there?” He nodded to the other agent to go check outside. Piper ignored all of them and started to work Dean’s jacket completely off, as much as she could while he was cuffed.

The walkie snapped to life. “They’re dead. I think they’re all dead.” Piper turned around, eyes wide. There was a shout, then silence.

Henriksen spoke into the walkie. “What the hell was that? Reidy? Reidy?!”

***

Piper was trying to look at Dean’s wound when he grunted in pain. “Don’t be a wuss,” she said crossly, not stopping.

“Listen, woman-” he started when the lights went out.

“That can’t be good,” Sam said ominously.

Henriksen walked into the holding area. “What’s the plan? Kill everyone in the station, bust you two out?”

Dean frowned, batting Piper’s hand away. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about your psycho friends. I’m talking about a blood bath.”

Piper snorted. “Please, I’m their only psycho friend, and I’m in here.”

Dean nodded. “I promise you. Whoever’s out there? Is not here to help us.”

“Look, you got to believe us,” Sam begged. “Everyone here is in terrible danger.”

Henriksen raised an eyebrow. “You think?”

“Not from us, jackass,” Piper snapped.

Dean tried to appeal to the agent. “Why don’t you let us out of here so we can save you?”

Agent Henriksen snorted. “From what? You gonna say ‘demons?’ Don’t you dare say ‘demons.’ Let me tell you something. You should be a lot more scared of me.” He turned and walked away.

“Oh, please,” Piper said, turning back to Dean. “How’s your shoulder?”

Dean pulled away Piper’s jacket, which they had been using to stem blood flow. “It’s awesome. I’ll live. You know, if we get out of here alive. So you got a plan?”

Piper turned around. “Yes, I’ll be back.” Dean sputtered as she walked away.

She went to the front and came to Nancy’s desk. “Nancy?”

The younger woman squeaked and jumped. “Oh, um, yes?”

Piper tried for a reassuring smile. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. May I sit?” she gestured to the chair in front of the younger woman’s desk. Nancy nodded warily.

Piper sat and then leaned forward, making eye contact. “Look, Nancy, I know you think those guys in there are the bad guys, and I know you think I’m a bad guy for helping them. I’m really sorry that I don’t have time to explain everything that’s going on, but it’s a very long story. You seem like a lovely person, and I wish I had time to make you understand, but I don’t. I need a favor, Nancy.”

Nancy’s eyes widened. “What?”

“This is going to sound weird, but stick with me, okay? I need a couple of clean towels and your rosary.”

“My what?”

Piper sighed. “Nancy, I know, I know. But I need you to look me in the eye and decide if I’m crazy. Either way, that’s gonna make this whole thing a lot easier.”  Piper didn’t want to take the things she needed by force, but she would. They were in pretty bad trouble, and the brothers were still handcuffed, so she was on her own. It would be easiest of Nancy just gave the damn thing to her, but Piper wasn’t willing to walk back into the holding cell without it.

Nancy was quiet for a long time, studying Piper’s face. She seemed to come to a decision and nodded. “Okay.”

***

“Is he… is he dead?”

Piper shook her head. “Probably not.”

Henriksen, dripping wet, started coughing as he regained consciousness.

Sam knelt next to him. “Henriksen! Hey, is that you in there?”

They had just exorcised the demon who had possessed the federal agent, making him shoot the sheriff he’d been with earlier.

Henriksen looked dazed. “I… I shot the sheriff.”

Dean grinned. “But you didn’t shoot the deputy.”  Piper punched him on the arm.

Henriksen, however, ignored him. “Five minutes ago, I was fine, and then…”

Piper was kneeling to check him over. “Let me guess, some nasty black smoke jammed itself down your throat?”

Sam looked sympathetic. “You were possessed.”

“Possessed, like… Possessed?”

Piper nodded. “That’s what it feels like. Now you know.”

Dean handed him back his gun. “I owe the biggest ‘I told you so’ ever. God dammit, Piper, quit hitting me!” he yelped as she punched him in the arm again.

Henriksen raised an eyebrow. “Piper?”

She smiled. “Are we going to start getting picky about names now, Agent?”

***

Dean was in the office with Agent Henriksen, loading shotgun shells with salt. He was wondering how the hell they were going to get out of this sheriff’s office.

“Shotgun shells full of salt.” Henriksen was looking at him, bemused.

Dean shrugged. “Whatever works.”

The other man rolled up his sleeves and starting filling his rifle with the salt shells. “Fighting off monsters with condiments.” There was a pause. “So, it turns out demons are real.”

“FYI, ghosts are real too. So are werewolves, vampires, changelings, evil clowns that eat people.” Piper would have hit him, he was sure.

Henriksen thought, then nodded. “Okay then.”

Dean grinned. “If it makes you feel better, Bigfoot’s a hoax.”

“It doesn’t. How many demons?”

Dean thought for a moment. “Total? No clue. A lot.”

“You know what my job is?”

Dean looked over at him. “You mean besides locking up the good guys? I have no idea.”

“My job is boring, it’s frustrating. You work three years for one break, and then maybe you can save... A few people. Maybe. That’s the payoff. I’ve been busting my ass for fifteen years to nail a handful of guys. And all this while, there’s something off in the corner so big. So yeah… Sign me up for that big, frosty mug of wasting my damn life.”

Dean shrugged. “You didn't know.”

Henriksen sighed. “Now I do.” He looked at Dean. “What’s out there? Can you guys beat it? Can you win?”

Dean pulled a face. “Honestly? I think the world’s gonna end bloody. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight. We do have choices. I choose to go down swingin’.”

“Plus you got nothing to go home to but your brother.”

Dean looked away. Henriksen smiled. “Ah, the lovely Piper. She’s something else, man.”

Dean grinned. “Yeah, you're not kidding. What about you? You rockin’ the white picket fence?”

“Mhm. Empty apartment, string of angry ex-wives.”

There was a crash from the main office. Dean sprinted in, heart racing. Sam came in after him, Piper was already in the room, gun drawn.

Dean felt his blood run cold, eyes widening. He met Sam’s eyes, and saw similar panic in them.

Henriksen ignored them and came to stand next to Piper, pointing his rifle. “What the hell is this?”

“A demon,” Piper replied. “We have to kill it.” Dean winced. She’s going to kill me.

Sam stepped forward and lowered their guns. “We don’t.”

Piper’s turned to look at Sam. Dean saw his life flash before his eyes. “What do you mean we don’t, Sam?” she asked quietly.

Sam sighed, looking anywhere but Piper’s face. “She’s here to help us.”

***

Dean couldn’t recall a time when he’d been quite as turned on as he was in that moment, or if he’d ever been this scared and turned on at the same time.

Piper was in the blouse and skirt that she had worn to disguise herself as their lawyer. She was pacing in front of them, refusing to make eye contact.

She was also holding a rifle, tapping it into her left hand as she paced.

“So… Let me get this straight,” she said, still refusing to look at either of them. Rage came off of her in waves. Dean couldn’t take his eyes off of her, even as he worried that she would send him downstairs ahead of schedule.

“Ruby, is a demon. That you met… Months ago. She lied about being a demon. She lied about being able to help Dean out of his crossroads deal. And we have spontaneously decided to trust her, because surely she’s telling the truth this time.”

Sam opened his mouth, starting to get mad. “Pipe, it-”

“Shut up, Sam.” She whirled around and glared at them. “And for some reason, I wasn’t in on this? For some reason, even though I can’t think of one damn thing I’ve done to deserve it, you two decided, at some point, to completely exclude me from this situation. Even though,” she glared at Sam, who had opened his mouth to interrupt again. “Even though, it means that I have been working alongside a demon, and no one saw fit to tell me that.”  She look at them for a long moment. “Did I miss anything?”

Sam sighed, “Piper, look, I’m sorry we lied to you-”

“Okay.” She nodded decisively. “So I didn’t miss anything, excellent.” She calmly walked between them and out the door, rifle slung over her shoulder.

Dean shuddered as the door shut. “That was the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Sam glared at him. “Dude, she-”

Dean ignored him to follow Piper out.

***

When Piper left the room with the brothers in it, still seething. What the hell did she have to do to prove to the Winchesters that they could tell her the truth? She was screwing one of them, for Christ’s sake!

She pushed her thoughts away when she heard Henriksen start yelling. “No. Hell, no.”

Piper ran in to see Henriksen, Ruby, and Nancy standing in the front room of the sheriff’s office. “What the hell is going on?”

Henriksen looked at Piper. “She wants to sacrifice Nancy!”

Ruby sighed. “Look, it’s a spell. It can kill every demon in a thirty mile radius, including me, and it will work. But it requires the heart of a virgin.”

Dean looked at Nancy, shocked. “You’re a virgin?”

Piper’s eyebrow creased. “I don’t know if ripping people’s hearts out should be our first move.”

Nancy looked at Piper. “All my friends are out there. I want to do this.”

Piper understood what the younger woman was saying, even was inclined to agree. But sacrificing a young woman was a hard pill to swallow. And Piper already hated Ruby, so disagreeing with her was basically a must.

“You don’t need to do this,” Dean was saying.

“We don’t sacrifice people. We do that, we’re no better than them,” Henriksen snapped.

Ruby was shaking her head. “We don’t have a choice.”

“Yeah, well, your choice ain’t a choice!” Dean’s voice was starting to raise.

Ruby turned to Sam. “You know I’m right.”

Piper looked at Sam expectantly, but he was silent. She felt her jaw drop open a little. “Sam?”

Dean glared at his brother. “Sam, tell her.”

Nancy stood up straighter. “It’s my decision.”

Ruby nodded. “Damn right, cherry pie.”

Dean pointed at Piper. “Don’t let them kill any virgins!” He grabbed Sam and dragged him into the hallway.

Ruby sidled up to Piper. “So you’re the woman riding Dean Winchester’s-”

Piper pointed the rifle at Ruby, almost lazily. “Say it and die, bitch.”

Ruby shrugged. “Whatever, you don’t want my help, I can leave.”

“Go, then.”

But they were interrupted by Sam and Dean walking back in. “We have a plan.”

***

“I better call in. Hell of a story I won’t be telling,” Henriksen said, with the hint of a smile on his face.

The plan had worked, the demons had been exorcised, everyone had lived. Piper felt fierce joy, and some petty pride that their plan had turned out better than Ruby’s.

Sam shook Henriksen’s outstretched hand. “So what are you gonna tell them?”

“The least ridiculous lie I can come up with in the next five minutes.”

Piper smiled. “Good luck with that.”

Dean shook the man’s hand next. “Not to pressure you or anything, but what are you planning to do about us?”

Henriksen shrugged. “I’m gonna kill you. Sam and Dean Winchester were in the chopper when it caught on fire. Nothing left. Can’t even identify them with dental records. Rest in peace, guys.”

He turned to Piper, who stretched herself up for a hug before he could offer her his hand. “Thank you,” she whispered into his ear.

He laughed and hugged her back. “Take care of these boys, Piper. Now get out of here.”

***

They were sitting in the motel, Piper stretched out on her and Dean’s bed, when there was a knock at the door.

Sam stood, walking over to open the door. Ruby walked in. “Turn on the news.”

Startled, Piper obeyed without thinking. A pretty reporter looked solemn. “The community is still reeling from the tragedy that happened just a few hours ago. Authorities believe a gas main ruptured…”

Piper covered her mouth with her hand. Dean came to stand next to her, wrapping his arm around her waist.

“..Causing the massive explosion that ripped apart the police station and claimed the lives of everyone inside. Among the deceased, at least six police officers and staff, including sheriff Melvin Dodd, deputy Phil Amici, and secretary Nancy Fitzgerald as well as three FBI agents, identified as Steven Groves, Calvin Reidy, and Victor Henriksen.”

Tears stood in Piper’s eyes as she watched the pictures of the people they’d fought beside flash on the screen.

“Two fugitives in custody were also killed. We’ll continue to follow the story here at the scene, but for now, back to you, Jim.”

Ruby came in front of Piper to turn the television off. Piper smothered the urge to exorcise the bitch.

Sam was in shock. “Must have happened right after we left.”

“Considering the size of the blast,” Ruby muttered as she tossed hex bags to the three of them. “Smart money’s on Lilith.”

Dean was looking at the bag in his hand. “What’s in these?”

“Something that’ll protect you. Throw Lilith off your trail… For the time being, at least.”

Sam looked up at her. “Thanks.”

Ruby rounded on him. “Don’t thank me. Lilith killed everyone. She slaughtered your precious little virgin, plus a half a dozen other people. So after your big speech about humanity and war, turns out your plan? Was the one with the body count. Do you know how to run a battle? You strike fast and you don’t leave any survivors. So no one can go running to tell the boss. So next time… We go with my plan.”

Piper waited until Ruby left to run to the bathroom, losing everything she’d eaten.

Chapter Text

Dean was watching Piper sleep on his chest. Her hair was a mess, her top had twisted all around, and she was the most beautiful thing Dean had ever seen.

A week. He had one week left alive. He was terrified beyond belief, and they had been researching ways to get out of his deal nonstop for days. Sam had finally kicked them out of the library to sleep.

Idiot. How could he have dragged her into bed a year before he was going to hell? How could he have put his hands on her, knowing it would hurt her when he was gone? Selfish bastard, he thought to himself. He had wanted good things to take with him, and Piper was the best thing, but he hadn’t taken her into account.

He hadn’t realized he was tensing, but he must have been, because Piper stirred. “Dean?” she asked sleepily, raising her head to look at him.

He put a smile on his face, for her. “Hey, kitten, everything’s okay.”

She squinted at him. “Liar. Tell me.”

Instead, he pulled her up to press his lips to hers slowly, then maneuvered them so she was on her back and he hovered over her. He kissed her gently and thoroughly, absorbing the soft little gasps she was giving him.

He lay a burning trail of kisses down to her collarbone, determined to not show how desperate he was for her. He scraped his teeth lightly against the place where her neck met her shoulder, savoring the soft sigh. He used his tongue to soothe the multiple red and purple marks along her shoulders, tempering his need to leave more. It wasn’t fair to leave his mark on her now.

His hand slipped under the hem of her shirt, trying to memorize her soft skin and her incredible warmth. He leaned back and tugged at her shirt. She arched her back and raised her arms so he could slip it off. They were so in sync, they rarely needed to speak when they were in bed.

How could you do this to her?

Ignoring the guilt pounding at him, he bent to gently run his tongue over her hardening nipple. She whimpered and wove her hands through his hair, gently pulling him closer. He resisted for a moment, then pulled her nipple into his mouth, sucking hard enough to elicit a soft cry from her. He then shifted and paid the same attention to her other breast.

He was running the hand not supporting his weight up and down her body, exploring every part of her. He kissed his way down her stomach, worshipping her with his hands and mouth. He investigated the planes of her stomach, the hollow of her navel, the devastating curve of her hips. He kissed every little scar and mark in his path, the scars from hunting, the marks from him.

He moved lower, stopping to lift her lovely legs and drape them over his shoulders. He started at on knee and slowly made his way to her center with his mouth. He had left marks here, too, and he soothed them, too. When he was as high on her thigh as he could get without touching her core, and she was squirming, he made his way to her other knee and started over.

He gently licked into her folds, chuckling into her when she moved a pillow over her face to cover the sounds she was making. He slowly ran his tongue up and down her opening, never entering, moving back when her hips bucked into him. He brought his hand to her, slowly slipping a finger into her, savoring the moan she gave him. He looked up at her through heavily lidded eyes, the way she moved enchanting him.

He dipped his head again to slowly run his tongue over her clit, reaching up with the arm that wasn’t busy to hold her hips in place. He pulled her into his mouth and slipped one, then two more fingers inside of her.

“Oh, God, Dean!” she cried into the pillow.

He didn’t stop, setting a gentle but persistent pace, knowing where to go to drive her crazy. He changed the angle of his fingers, curling them until he hit the spot that devastated her, sucking hard, briefly, on her clit.

Her orgasm tore through her, and he felt this moment sear itself on to his heart.

He moved back up to her, licking his way back up her body until he was nuzzling her neck and moved himself to press against her entrance.

He leaned back to meet her eyes. “Look at me, kitten.” She opened her eyes, still breathing hard. He cupped her face with his hand, fighting the emotions trying to come to the surface. Her eyes widened, and he pushed himself slowly into her, watching her face as she whimpered.

He set a loving, slow pace, nuzzling her and kissing her while he moved in her. Sooner than he wanted, he felt his rhythm start to become erratic. He reached down to touch her again, sealing his mouth over hers to swallow the cry she gave as she came. She bit his bottom lip gently, sending him over the edge. He pressed his forehead into her shoulder, still fighting with emotions.

He rolled onto his back, taking her with him, settling her onto his chest. He kissed her forehead and held her close, unable to say anything. She seemed to sense that he couldn’t, because she nestled her head under his chin and stayed silent.

He had made love to her. Not had sex with her, but actually made love to her. Shit. He was in love with her. Right before he had to go to hell. Dean had never felt worse, had never felt closer to actually regretting his deal than he was right now. He pulled her down to kiss her soundly.

You’re a genius, Winchester.

***

It was a Hail Mary. She knew it was a Hail Mary. But it had to work, she couldn’t watch him die. She just couldn’t.

She ran next to Dean, coming to a fence. Ruby appeared behind them, shoving Piper to the side and pushing Dean up against the fence. “I'd like my knife back, please. Or your neck snaps like a chicken bone.”

Piper snarled, but before she could move, Sam was behind Ruby, holding her demon-killing knife up to her throat. “He doesn't have it. Take it easy.”

Ruby backed away, Dean glaring at her. “How the hell did you get out?” They had left her in a devil’s trap when she’d shown up at Bobby’s.

Ruby made a face. “What you don't know about me could fill a book.”

Dean’s eyes widened and he took a step back. Piper got up and went to stand next to him. “Woah,” he said softly.

Ruby glared at him. “What?”

Dean turned to his head to look at Piper instead. “Nothing. I just… I couldn't see you before, but you're one ugly broad.” Piper laughed quietly.

Ruby growled and turned back to Sam. “Sam, give me the knife before you hurt yourself.”

“You'll get it when this is over.”

“It's already over. I gave you a way to save Dean, you shot me down. Now it's too late. He's dead. And I'm not gonna let you die too.”

“Try and stop me, and I'll kill you. Bitch.”

“Hit me with your best shot, baby.”

Piper was looking at the house. “Guys, guys! Hey. Have your little cat fight later.”

She felt her eyes widen and her skin started to prickle as they looked around. There were people up and down the street, possessed people, staring straight at them.

“So much for the element of surprise,” Dean muttered darkly.

Sam was pushing them. “Go. Go. Run. Run!”

They ran, the footsteps of their pursuers echoing in Piper’s ears.

They reached the house after Sam, who was kneeling to pick the lock. Piper stood behind him and turned around, joined by Dean and Ruby. “What the hell is taking Bobby?” Dean asked to no one, angry.

One of the demons had reached the lawn. Piper braced herself for a fight, but the sprinkles turned on and the demon began to scream. Piper felt a fierce grin spread across her face. “Goddamn Bobby Singer. Turned the sprinklers into holy water.”

As soon as Sam got the door open, Piper felt Dean grab her arm and drag her into the house. She turned and looked around, eyes pausing at the body on the floor.

Dean was frowning. “You think Lilith knows we’re here?”

Ruby nodded. “Probably.”

They moved into the living room, silent, ready for a fight. Piper’s nerves were like livewires, her adrenaline pumping.

Dean suddenly spun and grabbed a man who had come out of a closet, putting his hand over the man’s mouth. “We're here to help. Okay? I'm gonna move my hand, and we're gonna talk nice and quiet, okay?” he whispered.

The man nodded, and Dean slowly removed his hand. Piper approached them. “Sir, where is your daughter?” she whispered as gently as possible.

He was shaking his head. “It's not... It's not her anymore.”

“Where is she?” Sam asked, getting impatient.

“Upstairs, in her bedroom.”

Dean nodded. “Okay, okay, okay. Listen to me. I want you to go downstairs to the basement. Put a line of salt at the door behind you. Do you understand me?”

“Not without my wife.”

Piper frowned. “Yes, without your wife.”

“No.”

They didn’t have time for this. Piper reared back and cold-cocked him, watching dispassionately as Dean caught the man before he fell. Dean didn’t say a word, just tossed the unconscious man over his shoulder and walked away.

***

They were shutting the basement door behind the family when Sam and Ruby walked past them. Piper turned at Ruby’s nasty tone of voice.

“Well, I hate to be a ‘told you so’.”

Sam glared at her. “All right, Ruby, where is she?”

The demon shrugged. “I don’t know.”

The four of them walked into the living room while they were arguing. Piper snuck a look at Dean. He was tense, vibrating with energy. She felt her heart start to break.

“Could she get past the sprinklers?” Sam was asking.

“Her pay grade, she ain't sweating the holy water.”

Sam turned to face Ruby. “Okay, you win. What do I have to do?”

She tilted her head at him. God, Piper hated her. “What do you mean?”

“To save Dean. What do you need me to do?”

Piper understood, and while she was scared, part of her cheered. She wanted them both to be okay, but if Sam could save Dean, she wanted him to do it. They could deal with the fallout later, but if they were all together...

Dean grabbed Sam’s shoulder to pull him around, but Sam resisted. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Dean snapped.

Sam pulled away from him and turned back to Ruby. “Just shut up for a second. Ruby!”

But the demon was shaking her head. Piper resisted the urge to kill her. “You had your chance. You can't just flip a switch. We needed time.”

“Well, there's gotta be something. There's gotta be some way, whatever it is, I'll do it.”

Dean grabbed him again and turned his brother to face him. Piper came to stand next to them, hands hovering to interfere if things got violent.

Sam was struggling. “Don't, Dean! I'm not gonna let you go to hell, Dean!”

“Yes, you are!”

Piper’s world came to a grinding halt. She felt dizzy, she couldn’t pull a breath in. It was too much.

Dean was calmer. “Yes, you are. I'm sorry. I mean this is all my fault, I know that. But what you're doing, it's not gonna save me. It's only gonna kill you.”

Sam looked away, to Piper. She met his eyes without flinching, her tears already starting to fall. “Then what am I supposed to do?” he asked softly.

Dean sighed. “Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Take care of Piper. Sam, remember what Dad taught you... Okay?”

Sam nodded. Dean continued. “And remember what I taught you.”

Dean turned to Piper and opened his mouth, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t hear him say goodbye. So instead she placed a hand at the nape of his neck and pulled him down to kiss him, hard.

The grandfather clock in the hall struck midnight. She pulled away from Dean, and they all looked around. Dean’s eyes widened as he stared behind her. “Hellhound.”

Piper tensed. “Where?”

He pointed. “There.”

The growl sent shivers down her spine. Dean bolted, Piper and the rest following. She wished fervently that shooting the thing would help as they ran into a nearby room and slammed the door behind them.

She grabbed the bag with the goofer dust and spread it along the doorway, Sam and Ruby holding it shut. The door shook with the effort that the hellhound was using to get it open. As soon as it was covered, the door stopped shaking. Piper ran to cover the window, too.

Ruby turned to Sam. “Give me the knife, maybe I can fight it off.”

Sam was confused. “What?”

“Come on! That dust won’t last forever.”

Dean turned to look at them. “Wait!”

Ruby glared. “You wanna die?”

“Sam, that’s not Ruby!”

Piper watched as Sam and Dean went flying, then felt herself be flung hard against the wall. Something was pinning her there. She watched helplessly as Dean tilted his head to look at the demon. “How long you been in her?”

Piper’s stomach rolled as the demon’s expression became childlike. “Not long.” Lilith. She looked down. “But I like it. It's all grown up and pretty.”

“And where's Ruby?”

“She was a very bad girl, so I sent her far, far away.”

Dean shrugged, trying for nonchalance. Piper’s heart felt like it was going to burst from her chest. “You know, I should have seen it before... But you all look alike to me.”

Lilith glared at him for a beat, then turned to Sam. “Hello, Sam. I've wanted to meet you for a very long time.” She grabbed Sam’s face and kissed him. Piper redoubled her efforts to break away from whatever force was holding her. Lilith pulled away. “Your lips are soft,” she said as Sam tried to pull his face away.

“Right, so you have me. Let my brother go.”

The demon giggled. “Silly goose. You wanna bargain, you have to have something that I want. You don't.”

Dean scoffed. “So, is this your big plan, huh? Drag me to hell. Kill them. And then what? Become queen bitch?”

Lilith glared at him. “I don't have to answer to puppy chow.”

She walked slowly over to the door. “No!” Piper screamed, trying to get away from the floor. “No!”

Lilith opened the door, disturbing the goofer dust. She looked at Dean and smiled. “Sic ‘em, boy.”

Dean tried to move, but couldn’t get away. Piper’s world stopped again. She could see that Sam was screaming, but could hear nothing but the tearing of Dean’s flesh as the hellhound tore into him. His screams as it attacked his chest, the chest she’d laid her head on so many times.

Suddenly, sound came back to her. “Dean! Dean, no!” she was screaming, tears running down her face.

“Stop it!” Sam bellowed, somehow able to move now.

Dean wasn’t screaming anymore. “Dean, Dean!” Piper sobbed, trying to go to him. “Dean!”

Sam was moving toward Dean. “No!”

“Yes.” A smug voice said.

Lilith held out her hand, a bright white light starting to glow there. Sam knelt quickly and covered Piper, who was still struggling to get to Dean. The white light exploded around them, and Sam held his hand over her eyes and covered her body with his. When the light faded, they looked around.

Nothing had happened, and Lilith looked a little scared. Good, Piper thought venomously.

Sam stood and approached the demon. She held her hand up. “Back.”

Sam didn’t stop. “I said, back!” Lilith demanded shrilly.

Sam bent to pick up the demon knife. “I don’t think so.”

Lilith tilted her head back and vacated the body she was in.

Piper was free to move again. She moved to Dean, afraid to touch him, afraid not to. She touched his face, wincing as she realized his body was already cooling. “Oh, God, Dean, baby, no,” she started to moan, leaving her hand on his face.

Sam was kneeling on the other side of Dean, pulling his brother into his arms. “Dean, come on, no…”

Piper didn’t have any words in her. No…

Piper watched her best friend rock her dead lover back and forth, feeling a part of her shatter.

Chapter Text

One Week After Dean Winchester’s Death

Bobby didn’t know what to do. He stood at Piper’s door, unsure. She hadn’t spoken since they had gotten back. She had just gone straight up to her room and shut the door behind her. He hadn’t seen her since.

He knew she was leaving the room every night to take long showers. Hours long showers. The water must have been freezing by the time she got out. But she never woke him during those times, just walked back to her room and locked herself in again. She didn’t eat, he didn’t know if she even slept. She just stayed in there.

Sam was just as bad. He had disappeared right after they had gotten back, and now he wasn’t answering Bobby’s calls.

He lost one of his kids, and now the other two were falling apart.

***

Piper lay on her bed on her back, blankets piled around her. She stared up at the ceiling, tears leaking slowly from her eyes. She felt emptied, a husk of a human being.

She had cried heavily for the first day, but she was probably dehydrated, so it had slowed to a trickle. Her whole body ached, but she had barely moved. She was so tired, but she couldn’t sleep.

Dean was dead. She winced as she thought of it. If she thought about it for too long, she would give herself a panic attack. Dean was dead, and in hell, enduring God knew what, and Piper didn’t understand how she was supposed to just live with that forever.

***

A long time later (or a short time, she really wasn’t keeping track), Piper’s phone buzzed. She left it.

It buzzed again, and she left it.

When it buzzed a third time, Piper was annoyed. It was the first emotion that she let herself feel since Dean had died.

She flipped it open and placed it against her ear, silent.

“Piper. Leave your room so Bobby will stop calling me.”

She frowned at the anger in Sam’s voice. “Where are you?” she rasped.

“Just leave your room, Piper.” He disconnected.

She threw her phone back onto the ground and stared up at the ceiling some more, letting her feelings and her thoughts drain away.

***

She must have fallen asleep, because when she woke up, she was in a familiar white room, in a familiar white nightgown, with a familiar man dozing in the chair next to her bed.

“What the hell am I doing back here?” she rasped angrily, trying to clear her throat.

The man jumped, then looked at her. “Oh, you’re awake, good, good.” He yawned. “I was starting to get worried.”

She surveyed his resting form. “Clearly.”

He sat up and seemed to be unsure. “Piper, how are you?”

“What a spectacularly stupid question.”

He winced at the bite in her voice. “Yeah, fair. Look, I’m just trying to… Help.”

“By kidnapping me?”

He rolled his eyes. “Don’t flatter yourself, precious. You haven’t been kidnapped, this is just the safest place for us to talk.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Safe?”

A rakish smile crossed his face. “Being a trickster means that not everyone I meet is enthralled with my fabulous personality.”

“Ugh. What do you want?” she snapped, laying back down onto the pillows. Even if she couldn’t stare at her ceiling, she could stare at a ceiling.

She heard him shift uncomfortably. “Piper, you need to get out of the house.”

“Why would you care about what I do with my grief?” she asked, tears starting to pool in her eyes.

“I don’t, usually. I don’t particularly like humans. But like I said before, I like you, and I want to help.”

Piper sighed. “Look, if I don’t listen to Bobby, or to Sam, why would I listen to you?”

He frowned and stood up, irritated. “Fine.” Before she could react, he put two fingers to her forehead, and darkness engulfed her.

***

She woke up gradually, in her own bed. Her heart still ached, but her body didn’t hurt anymore. She sat up slowly, and realized that she was hungry. For the first time in over a week, she was hungry.

She slowly made her way to the kitchen, realizing that it was early morning. She started to gather what she needed for waffles, moving silently.

She sensed when Bobby entered the kitchen. Without turning around, she asked, “Do you want coffee, Bobby?”

She wasn’t surprised in the least when she felt her arm pulled so she faced him, and when he pulled her into a hug. She felt her tears start flowing again, and clung to him. “Bobby, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he said gruffly, and Piper heard the undercurrent of emotions in the words. “Don’t be.”

***

Two Weeks After Dean Winchester's Death

“Jesus, Sam, you smell like a brewery.”

Sam had finally given in and told Piper where he was. She had been actually living at Bobby’s for the last few days, getting up and cooking and tentatively beginning to find cases. She called other hunters to work them, but hey, work was work.

She had been periodically been trying to get Sam to talk to her, and he had finally told her where he was.

“Shut up, Pipe, and come inside.”

She stepped inside and surveyed the motel room while he shut the door behind her. “Gross, Sam,” she said mildly. The place was pretty messy, but luckily the only thing that smelled bad was him.

“Drink?” he asked slowly, moving to stand next to her.

She wrinkled her nose. “Shouldn’t you take a cold shower, Sam?”

He hmphed. “Shut up, Piper. You’re not my mother.”

She put a hand on her hip and pointed. “Go. Now, Winchester.”

He glared at her for a minute, but seemed to realize that she wasn’t backing down. He got some stuff from his bag and walked into the bathroom.

A short time later, he came back out to find her sitting at the table with the bottle of tequila he had with him on the table. She had cleaned quickly while he was in the shower, moving the dirty laundry to a pile near the door, straightening the bed.

She smiled. “Shot?”

***

Piper was definitely tipsy. They drank in silence that was alternately very comfortable and totally deafening until he spoke.

“I tried to make a deal.”

Piper’s eyes widened. “You what?”

“I tried to make a deal to save Dean.”

“Before or after he…”

He chuckled. “Both, honestly.”

She shook her head and leaned across the table at him. “Sam, I get it, I do, but they’re not going to deal with us. They’re all too afraid of Lilith.”

He nodded. “Yeah, that’s what the demon told me.”

She took his hand between hers. “Sam…” She didn’t have the words. It had been happening a lot since Dean had died. She seemed to have run out of them. “I miss him, too,” she whispered, tears filling her eyes.

They lapsed back into silence until Piper dropped her head onto her folded arms and shut her eyes. She had been sleeping much more often this last week, and while she was slowly dialing it back, these few hours had been the longest time she had been awake in a while.

“Pipe, go ahead and take the bed. I’ll sleep on the floor.”

She raised her head and frowned. “No, Sam, it’s okay, I’ll just wait the alcohol out and head home.”

He shook his head, stood, and guided her to her feet with his hands on her shoulders. “No, Pipe, come on, you’re too tired to drive all the way home.”

He guided her to the bed, where she gave in. She slipped out of her shoes and her jacket and curled up on top of the covers. “Just a couple of hours, then I’m out,” she mumbled into the pillow.

***

Piper woke up groggy with a headache. She groaned and sat up, head to her hand, trying to keep her brain in her skull. She looked over and paused. At some point, Sam had crawled into bed next to her. It reminded her of when they were kids, so she smiled as she gingerly got out of bed to go to the bathroom.

Once her face was washed and her hair finger-combed, she came out of the bathroom to find Sam sitting up and looking at her strangely. “Hey, Sam, I’m gonna head home, okay?” she said gently, approaching him slowly.

He stood and came toward her, and Piper suppressed the urge to take a step back. He needed comfort, and she did, too. “Sam?”

He moved quickly then, wrapping a hand around the back of her head and pressing his lips to hers. For one awful moment, Piper thought about kissing him back. It was Sam, and she was lonely, and this was comfort… But Dean was barely two weeks in the ground, and this was a betrayal.

Instead, she went cold with anger and ripped her face away from his. “Sam, what the hell?”

He looked at her in that way again, and when he raised his hand to touch her again, she punched him in the face. She had to go up on tiptoe to get the most force out of it, but she was satisfied.

He clutched his jaw and looked at her, horrified. “Pipe, Jesus, I’m so sorry.”

She made sure her keys were in her jacket as she walked to the door. “Yeah.”

She slammed the door behind her.

***

When she got home, she sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, thinking, until Bobby found her there.

“How’s Sam?”

“Drunk.”

“Uh-huh.” Bobby was looking at her with anger starting to form in his eyes. “Did he-”

She shook her head. “He tried to kiss me, but I punched him in the face and he backed off.”

Bobby nodded. “All right, then, good.” He looked at her nervously. “What’s next?”

She met his eyes. “I need a case.”

Chapter Text

Six Weeks After Dean Winchester’s Death

Leave a message. Beep. Piper, good job on that shifter in Tennessee. Stupid to go on your own, though. Call me back.

Leave a message. Beep. Piper, five vampires? You could have gotten yourself killed. Get your ass home, girl, so I can beat it.

Leave a message. Beep. Piper, would you call Bobby so he’ll leave me alone?

***

“Never forgive!” the spirit snarled before Piper shot it with buckshot, moving backwards the whole time.

“Shut up, already, I get it, you’re mad,” she muttered as she ran to the room where the woman had hung herself years before. The house had been abandoned, and somehow nobody had noticed the freaking body in the attic.

After the salt and burn was done, Piper drove back to her motel. Once inside, she microwaved the cup of noodles she had gotten and sat down to listen to her voicemails.

Call me back. Get your ass home. Call Bobby.

She couldn’t go home. If she rested for too long, she started to think again, and thinking hurt. Thinking led to crying jags and late night drinking. So, instead, she hunted.

She flipped open her laptop and perused news sites. Hm, some mysterious deaths in Florida (So much f’ed up crap happens in Florida). Yeah, okay, not that one.

Bloodless bodies found in Denver, though. She smiled as she finished her noodles. This one.

***

Leave a message. Beep. Piper, I’m sending someone to help you. He… Takes a little getting used to. If you won’t let me help, at least let him.

She rode up in the elevator of the hotel, machete hidden under her jacket. Her blood was singing, her mind crystal clear, her emotions taking a backseat.

Three vampires. Shouldn’t be hard.

She approached the door and unlocked it with the key card she had stolen off of the maid. She opened the door and walked in, head held high, machete in her hand, openly carrying it now.

“What the f-” Three vampires, two women and one man, turned to look at her. “Who the hell are you?”

Piper slowly turned, shut the door, and locked it.

When she turned back, one of the woman's eyes had gone wide. “You’re… You’re Piper Finley.”

Piper felt a feral smile stretch across her face. “Bingo.” Then she was moving.

The man first. He tried to grab her, underestimating her. He was easy, one quick swing and he was down.

The woman who hadn’t recognized her used the opportunity to tackle her to the ground. Piper fought with her, rolling her over and over until she was on top. Piper tried to find the third vampire, but she couldn’t. She took the machete in both hands and pressed it against the vamp’s neck, beheading her.

Piper jumped up and looked around, spotting the third vampire backed into a corner, whimpering. “Please, please, I’ll be good, no more killing humans.”

Piper killed her anyway.

***

As she was walking back to her car, a voice called out to her. “Piper?”

She turned and laid eyes on the skinniest man she’d ever seen in her life. “Who’s asking?”

He grinned. “Garth Fitzgerald the fourth,” he introduced cheerfully, extending his hand. Piper shook it cautiously. “Bobby sent me to help out.”

“With the vampires?”

He shrugged. “With whatever you’re hunting. Buddy system!” he spouted cheerfully.

“Oh, Christ.”

“Neat hair.”

***

Ten Weeks Since Dean Winchester’s Death

A month later, Garth had grown on Piper. He was a perfect gentleman, had started to make her laugh again, and was a good hunter. She could have done a lot worse.

“So, I’m thinking Indiana next, there’s some bodies there,” she said over breakfast.

Garth gave her a look, then put his fork down. “Look, Smalls, I know you’re trying to run yourself ragged.” She glared at him, and he ignored her. “And you’re doing a good job. But I need some sleep, yo.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “I can go by myself, yo.”

“Or you could go home,” he suggested calmly.

“Screw you, Garth,” she snapped.

He waited her out, and it irritated her. Garth had never taken the bait, never let her start a fight with him, never responded when she cried or called him names. Garth was just… Garth.

“I can’t, Fitz,” she whispered.

He reached across the table and took her hand. “Look, Smalls, I get it. I do. I know you’re hurting, and I know you miss Dean.” He was the only hunter she knew who was so comfortable talking about feelings. It wigged her out frequently, but it was also kind of nice. He was also probably the only person who could say Dean’s name without her wanting to punch him in the face. “But you should go home. Get some rest. Cook Bobby a decent meal. You guys are family, you need each other.”

She gripped his hand tightly, unable to look at him. “Garth, I… I don’t know.”

He smiled gently at her. “I know you don’t, dummy, that’s why I’m telling you.”

She smiled.

***

Bobby went to the door when he heard the Jeep’s engine. When he saw Piper, he tried to hide his shock. She had lost weight, but had more wiry muscle at the same time. There were a few new scars, the most jarring was the line just below her right eye.

“Piper, you’re back.”

She nodded sheepishly, stopping at the stairs. “I’m sorry, Bobby. Garth convinced me to come back.”

He shook his head. “Don’t apologize, just come here.”

He caught her gratefully as she threw herself into his arms.

***

Twelve Weeks After Dean Winchester’s Death

“Garth! Go get the beer from the fridge in the basement!” Piper shouted out of Bobby’s kitchen.

He saluted her as he walked through. “Yes, ma’am!”

She was in the kitchen with Ellen, cooking for Bobby, Garth, and Jo. It was impromptu, but Piper felt something besides being dead inside start to fill her heart. It was… Kind of nice.

“How you holding up, baby?” Ellen asked softly.

Piper surveyed the kitchen and realized that there was nothing to do for a few minutes, so she got the last two beers in the fridge and handed one to the older woman. “I don’t know. It comes in waves. I think I’m all right right now.” Garth had gotten her to talk about what was going on in her head, and as much as she had wanted to strangle him during that particular conversation, she did feel better.

Ellen met her eyes with sympathy. “I know what it’s like to lose a man you love. If you need me, let me know.”

And there it was. Right out in the open. She was in love with Dean Winchester, and now everyone knew it, three months after he was dead. Tears filled her eyes as she hugged Ellen. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Garth came back through with the beer. “Let’s eat, ladies,” he said cheerfully.

***

That night was hard. Three months to the day. Now that she thought about it, Bobby had probably called everyone there to keep her busy all day. She would be grateful later, for now she was devastated.

She was crying, clutching her pillow, when her phone rang. She saw the caller ID, debated for a moment, then flipped it open. “Sam.”

“Piper. Come outside.” He hung up.

She debated again for another long moment. She didn’t appreciate being barked orders through a phone, especially since he had tried to kiss her the last time she saw him, and because he’d pretty much ignored her since then. She sighed as she wiped her face and swung herself around to stand, pulling on a sundress and flip flops. It was Sam, of course she would go.

When she went outside, he was leaning against a silver sedan. She frowned. “Where’s Baby?”

“I didn’t want Bobby to hear and come out.”

She sighed. “Sam, I’m not sneaking around with you behind Bobby’s back. You have to talk to him sometime.”

Sam shook his head. She was standing close to him now, almost close enough to touch.

“Three months.”

She felt like she had been punched in the chest, but she was used to it, so she nodded. “Three months.”

Sam looked at her, pain etched on his face. “Pipe, I’m sorry, I know I’ve been a jerk.”

She nodded, but was stepping forward into his arms, resting her head on his chest. “Yeah, but it’s okay, Sam. I get it.”

His arms came around her and he held her close. “Still, I shouldn’t have-”

She smiled and looked up at him. “Let’s never talk about it again, okay? Kissing my brother is not something I want to relive.”

He laughed. “Yeah, kissing you wasn’t so hot, either.”

She rested her head against him again. “Oh, Sam. I miss him so much.”

“Me, too, Pipe.”

Chapter Text

Fourteen Weeks After Dean Winchester’s Death

“Smalls! Move!” Piper ducked as Garth swung the iron fire poker through the vengeful spirit behind her.

“Shit! Run! Run!” she shouted as they ran down the hallway. Her heart thundered in her chest, and something inside her celebrated as they fled into her Jeep.

She had thought she was getting better. She had felt okay after the cookout, but last week it had hit hard again. Instead of becoming catatonic again, she had called Garth. And bless him, he had come without question.

They were hunting nonstop again, four cases in a week. Garth didn’t say a word, but she knew he was worried.  But bless him, he just came with her and had her back.

“Do we know where she’s buried?” she asked, driving away quickly.

“Cedar Oaks Cemetery. About four miles from here. Shovel in the back?” he asked cheerfully, still breathing hard.

She nodded.

Later, they were digging the grave in shifts, when Garth spoke up. “You should try yoga, Smalls.”

She snorted, watching him work. “Yeah, no.”

He shrugged as he dug deeper. “Centers the mind.” The shovel struck wood. “Paydirt.”

***

Later that night, Piper was sitting on her bed with a bottle of whiskey in her hand. Whiskey made her think of Dean, which hurt, but drinking it made her feel closer to him, which hurt in a better way.

“Smalls, come on,” Garth said when he spotted the bottle. “That’s not going to help.”

“You can’t possibly know that for sure.”

He sat on the bed next to her, hand on her knee. “Piper, come on. This isn’t working. You’re going to get yourself killed.”

She met his gaze evenly, saying nothing.

His eyes widened. “Smalls, that’s crazy! You can’t be going on kamikaze missions in some crazy attempt at, what? Dying? Dying so you can get back to Dean?”

“Shut up, Garth.”

He ignored the warning in her voice. “Piper, first of all, no way you’re going to hell, so get that idea right out of your mind.” He saw her fist clench. “Go ahead and hit me if it will make you feel better, but it won’t.”

She relaxed. “Garth…”

“Second,” he ignored her, “What would it do to Bobby if you were gone? If he knew you had killed yourself because of Dean?”

The silence between them drew out to several minutes. Piper held back as long as she could, but god dammit, she just couldn’t ignore Garth. “I’m not trying to kill myself. I just…” she thought for a moment, and he let her. “When I'm hunting, when I'm fighting, it doesn't hurt. I just need it to stop hurting, Garth.” Her eyes filled with tears, and she dashed them away angrily. “I just need it to stop.”

“Well, it’s not going to.” he said bluntly. Her eyebrows rose, and he shrugged. “It’s just not. I never met Dean, but you loved him, and that’s enough for me. And if he was good enough for you to love, he was good enough to want more for you. More than this. Come on, Smalls. We can do this together, or you can do it alone, but it’s gotta be done.” He smiled his crooked smile at her. “What do you say?”

She looked at him for a long time before leaning forward and kissing him on the cheek. “Okay.”

***

Fifteen Weeks After Dean Winchester’s Death

“That looks… Disgusting.” Bobby said, wincing as he looked at the smoothie Piper had in her hand.

She wrinkled her nose. “It is, but it’s supposed to align my chakras, or some stupid shit, so here we are.”

Since she had flat-out refused to go to a grief counselor (“Bobby, I would have to lie about everything that happened, what good would that do?”), she was trying more nontraditional methods of handling grief. They weren’t working, but it gave her something to do.

Bobby had put his foot down and asked her to stop hunting, at least for a while. Since her conversation with Garth, she agreed. So she had a lot of free time on her hands.

She did end up liking yoga. She used it as an endurance test, and spent a few hours a day in the backyard, headphones in, meditating, moving slowly but with strength. It wasn’t helping her emotions, and she would never tell Garth, but it was helping her clear her mind.

She knew that she needed to get out of the rut she was in. Dean wasn’t coming back, they had tried everything, so she needed to do something. Something had to give.

She cleared her throat. “Hey, Bobby, I’m going to go out tonight. Just,” she interrupted his almost interruption, holding her hands up, “Just to the bar in town. Nothing crazy. Just cabin fever.”

He nodded, eyeing her carefully. “Okay, just… Just be careful, Piper.”

She pretended to be shocked. “Bobby, careful is my middle name.”

His derisive snort was answer enough.

***

Okay, so I hate this.

Piper was sitting at the bar, listening to the band, and begrudgingly tapping her fingers to the beat. Her enjoyment stopped there. The place was crawling with people, which she had for some reason not foreseen. But she didn’t want to go home, because Bobby would look at her with that stupid pitying look, and she was tired as hell of that.

She was interrupted by a voice calling her name incredulously. “Piper?”

She turned and met shockingly blue eyes. Stricken, she wracked her brain for his name, the man she’d been with the night before she had been swept back up into Winchester land.

He knew what she was doing and laughed out loud. “It’s Ken, Piper.”

She laughed. “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry, Ken, hi!”

They hugged and he pointed. “I have a booth saved over there, and I’m alone tonight. Join me?”

She looked into his eyes and only fought with herself for a moment. “Yeah, yeah, I will.”

***

“Jesus, Piper, I’m so sorry.” He looked like he meant it.

She had just told him a very abridged version of what had happened in the last two years. She nodded. “Yeah, it’s been really shitty. But one day at a time.”

He smiled. “Well, I’m glad you were here tonight.” He reached across the table and took her hand, and she let him.

She was fighting an internal battle. Dean wasn’t coming back, and she had become kind of addicted to someone sleeping in bed with her. Ken was pretty great, a rockstar in bed, and he was gorgeous to boot. And he looked nervous, which was kind of endearing after dealing with Dean’s cocksure way of going through life.

“Piper, I hope I’m not being too forward, but, um…” He took a deep breath and laughed at himself. “Jesus, I feel like a high schooler again. Would you do me the honor of coming home with me?”

She looked into his blue eyes for a long time, and came to a decision.

***

She got home okay, stumbling through the door to sit at the kitchen table and rest her head on it. She turned to rest on her cheek as the light came on and Bobby came in. “Piper? Is everything okay?”

She smiled and nodded. “Yeah, it is.”

He frowned. “What happened?”

She shook her head. “Nothing. A really nice guy that I knew from a while ago asked me out, I turned him down, then I came home.”

He sat down across from her, looking uncomfortable. Piper was just drunk enough to enjoy his discomfort. Bobby didn’t like these kinds of conversations.

“Why, uh… Dammit. Why didn’t you go out with him?” He asked in a rush.

She shrugged. “I can’t yet, Bobby.” She thought for a moment. “Not yet, but I think maybe someday I will be able to. And that’s pretty freaking big progress, so I don’t want to hear it, okay?”

He nodded. “Okay, then. Go to bed, Piper, it’s late.”

***

She was in her bedroom with her laptop, looking through news websites, looking for a case. She thought she might go on her own, and just get back to it for a while. This healing at home crap was kind of for the birds.

She must have fallen asleep, because she woke up again in that damn white bedroom. “You have got to be kidding me.”

The trickster grinned, standing at the end of the bed. “Miss me?”

She glared at him. “Can’t you just come to me? Or call me, if you feel an overwhelming urge to talk to me? This is getting old.”

He shook his head. “Nope. Now, listen, I know you’re looking for a case. Don’t.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Oh, I love it when men tell me what to do. I’ll jump right on that.”

He groaned. “Piper, just… Hear me out. Give it a week. One week, starting tomorrow, and just stay with the old man at home. Please.”

He had never asked nicely for something. She frowned, searching his face. “I know you from somewhere, don’t I?” she asked softly.

“Doesn’t matter, precious. Please, give it one week.” He looked earnestly at her.

She groaned and flopped her head back. “Fine.”

He was silent, so she lifted her head to see what he was doing. She had enough time to start to frown before his two fingers touched her forehead and she fell into darkness again.

***

She sat up in bed, infuriated. “God dammit,” she muttered, wiping her eyes. It was already morning, and she felt no ill effects from drinking last night. Which was unusual, but she wasn’t looking any gift horses in the mouth.

“One week,” she said wonderingly to herself. “He wants me to stay here for one week.”

And even though it irritated her the whole next six days, she did. For the next six days, she cooked, sent cases to other hunters, helped Garth on research, and meditated.

And on the seventh, she couldn’t have left even if she wanted to.

Chapter Text

The reunion was not going the way Dean had anticipated.

On his way to Bobby’s place, he had envisioned meeting the people he loved again. Laughing with Bobby, hugging Sam, and kissing Piper until he forgot his name.

The first problem was that Sammy wasn’t there. And apparently hadn’t been for a while. Bobby told him that Sam wasn’t answering Bobby’s or Piper’s calls. Where the hell was his younger brother?

The second problem was that Bobby attacked him three times before believing that he was who he was. Which was irritating, but understandable and not that big a deal in the long run.

The third problem was that Piper wasn’t in the kitchen with him.

“Where is Piper?” he asked, trying to be casual.

“Uh, out back,” Bobby said hesitantly. He sat down across from Dean. “Listen, Dean, let me talk to her before you do. She’s been through a lot.”

Dean frowned. “So have I, Bobby. She’ll be happy to see me.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I think she’s going to be pissed off something fierce.”

“Why would she be mad that I’m back?” Dean pushed his chair back and stood, already walking out of the kitchen. “I’ll go find her.”

“Dammit, Dean, sit down and-”

That was all Dean heard before he walked to the back door, opening it slowly and looking out.

She was pretty far out into the backyard, on a blanket. She was balancing on her left leg, her right leg up in the air, her left hand clasped around her left ankle, and her right arm pointing straight up. She was facing away from him, and he could see the dangle of headphone cords.

He frowned. She had lost a pretty significant amount of weight, and her hair was long and hadn’t been dyed back to vibrant purple… It was in a very pale, lavender braid. What was going on?

He approached slowly, a smile spreading across his face as he heard AC/DC coming through the headphones that she had turned her head to drop. He had opened his mouth to speak when she beat him to it.

***

Piper sensed someone coming out into the yard, someone who wasn’t Bobby. She didn’t turn, just held her pose. Whoever it was approached slowly.

She turned her head enough that the buds nestled in her ears fell away from her. She slowly lowered her right leg, coming to a standing position on an inhale.

“Can I help you?”

“Piper, I’m back.”

Her entire body stiffened. She turned around slowly to look at Dean. To look at something wearing Dean.

She felt rage start to pulse through her.

***

She was mad. She was really mad.

“Piper, baby, it’s me, I got out.”

Her silence was starting to make him nervous. Maybe should have let Bobby talk to her…

“I don’t know what you are,” her voice was soft, dangerous. She never broke eye contact, and she didn’t move. They were close enough that he could touch her, but he liked all of his limbs attached, so he stayed still. “And I don’t know why you’re here for me,” she continued, oblivious to his fear. “Maybe I exorcised the wrong demon, killed the wrong shifter.” She shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter.”

She took a step closer, looking up into his face. “What does matter, though, is that coming to me wearing the face of Dean Winchester was a pretty big mistake.”

He saw her tense, and before he could defend himself, she knocked him out cold.

***

Dean woke up in the kitchen, tied to a chair, watching Bobby and Piper argue.

“God dammit, Piper, I already did all the tests, and you know I’m not a demon.”

“I know no such thing,” she snarled. “Dean is in hell, Bobby, you don’t get to just walk out of there. That’s not Dean.” She pointed at him.

“Yeah, I am, Pipes, and-” Dean was cut off when she backhanded him, tears shimmering in her eyes.

“You keep that name out of your mouth when you talk to me,” she said softly. She turned back to Bobby. “I want both of you to take the tests. And if you won’t, I’m shooting both of you and moving to Canada to take up bird-watching. I’m not kidding, Bobby, do it.”

When they had both been sliced with a silver knife and had holy water splashed into their faces (Dean was getting pretty damn tired of people hitting him with holy water), Piper sat down. She was pale and drawn, silent, just watching as Bobby slowly untied Dean.

Bobby stood back up and made his way to the front door. “I’m going to leave you two alone to, uh, talk. Piper, don’t kill him again.”

When the door slammed shut, Dean turned to look at her. She wasn’t looking at him, so he took the opportunity to study her. He wasn’t pleased. She had more scars than he remembered, and she had definitely lost weight. She was still the most beautiful thing he’d ever laid eyes on, but she looked… Harder.

“Piper?”

She turned to look at him, and her eyes looked lost. Dean wanted to pick her up and carry her away, but thought that touching her might be a mistake. “Yes, Dean?”

“Are you okay?”

A ghost of a smile touched her lips. “Not remotely.” She took a deep breath. “How did you get out?”

He decided on honesty. “I have no idea, I’m just grateful.”

She shook her head. “You don’t understand. You were in ribbons. I was too scared to touch you, I thought you would break apart.” Her voice broke in the last word, and tears started to fall down her cheeks. The urge to take her in his arms was almost overpowering. He wrestled with it for a moment, and won.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I should look like a Thriller reject.”

She turned away again, then sighed and stood. “Okay, then.” She seemed to gather her thoughts. “I guess I’ll go make up your and Sam’s room.”

He stood and blocked her way to the rest of the house. “Kitten, look at me.”

She did, her chest heaving. “What?”

He reached out to touch her arm and she jerked herself back. “Don’t,” she asked softly.

He frowned. “Piper, what is it? What’s wrong?”

She laughed harshly, and he winced. What had happened to his girl? “What’s wrong? What isn’t wrong, Dean? You went to hell. I saw them drag you there myself. I stood at your funeral. I have been grieving for four months, I’ve been going crazy, and now you’re just here, in front of me, real.” She took a deep breath. “I just need a second to adjust, Dean. I was…” she looked down. “I was trying to move on, to deal with you being dead, and now I don’t need to, so I just need a second.”

This wasn’t what he envisioned when he saw her again. He had expected her throwing herself into his arms, he expected her to hit him, he expected her to cry. He hadn’t expected her to not want to touch him. “Is there someone else?” he asked softly, angry.

She stilled, then looked up at him, furious again. “You… You think you died, and I jumped into bed with the first person who asked?” Her voice was low and dangerous again.

He saw the hit coming this time and caught her arm as she swung at him. “I swear to God, Piper, if you hit me again-”

She yanked her arm away from him. “Screw you, Winchester, you don’t get to tell me what to do.” She shoved past him and walked up the stairs. “Make up your own damn bed.”

***

Piper was laying on her bed again, staring up at the ceiling. She hadn’t moved since she had slammed the door on Dean.

Dean. How was he back? How was she supposed to react? Did she kiss him for being back, did she hit him for leaving?

Bobby had knocked about an hour earlier, asking if she wanted to come down to eat. She had stayed silent, not trusting herself to speak. She might burst into tears.

She was laying in the quiet, willing herself to calm down, when Dean started pounding on the door.

“God dammit, Piper, enough. Let me in.”

She frowned at the door. “Go away, Dean.”

More pounding. “No, Piper, let me in, we’re going to talk about this.” She was silent. “Piper,” his voice was rough with warning, and she tried to ignore the shiver it sent through her. “Open this door, or so help me I will break it down.”

She fought with herself. She shouldn’t give in to his demands, it was a terrible precedent to set now that he was back.

She stopped. Dean was back. He was back, he was everything to her, and she hadn’t lost him. She could be angry later, but for now she wanted to see him, to touch him, to show him how much she had missed him.

She stood, unlocked the door, and opened it slowly. Her breath caught as she looked at him, angrily staring down at her. He was beautiful.

She stepped back to let him into the room, not taking her eyes off of him as she closed the door. The tension skyrocketed, she could feel every frustrated move he was making down to her bones. She wanted him.

“What do you want to say?” she said softly, meeting his eyes. She watched their green depths darken, and his body shifted. She trembled in anticipation.

***

“What do you want to say?”

Dean looked at her, the frustration thrumming through his veins quickly turning into a different kind of tension. She was still too thin, she had a scar under her right eye that they were going to have a serious talk about, but he way she was looking at him set him on edge.

“Piper,” he growled, taking two long strides to her. He grabbed her at the waist and pushed her up against the wall, her arms going around his neck with a soft cry as he kissed her hard.

He picked her up and she wrapped her legs around his waist as he set her up against the wall, hands kneading her ass. He was desperate for her, he was drowning and she was the only way to breathe.

She was running her fingers through his hair, whimpering into his mouth and grinding herself down onto his cock. “Dean,” she moaned into his mouth, tugging at his hair to tilt his head back so she could run her teeth against his neck.

“Christ, Piper,” he gasped. He picked her up and turned around, tumbling onto the bed with her in a tangle of limbs.

He pulled her shirt off even as she was tugging at his. “Pants,” he said roughly as he reached behind him to pull his shirt off. He stood briefly to unbuckle his jeans and rid himself of them, eyes glued to the sight of her naked and waiting for him to come to her.

He fell back onto her, nuzzling her neck and pushing his hand down to caress her core. She was already warm and wet, and he slid a finger into her easily. Her back arched and her nails scraped down his back, making him dizzy for a second.

“Dean, God, please, now,” she gasped, biting his shoulder hard.

He moved between her legs and entered her roughly, then stilled. “Christ, you’re tight,” he murmured into her ear, relishing in the gasp that earned him. “This is going to be rough, kitten,” he growled as he started moving in and out of her.

She cried out, writhing beneath him. He sat back and put his hands under her knees, adjusting her angle, and started pounding into her. She pulled the pillow out from underneath her head and covered her mouth with it, but he could still hear her muffled cries, and they were driving him to the edge.

He moved his hand down and moved his thumb in tight circles on her clit, watching her clench and cry out in response. Her orgasm seemed to last forever, pulling him down with her. Ecstasy tore through him, and he collapsed on top of her, nuzzling her neck as they both came down.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and clung to him. “Welcome home, baby.”

***

They spent two days in bed while Bobby tracked Sam down. Piper suspected that he was giving more time together, he probably already knew where Sam was, and she was grateful.

She had just snuck down to grab leftovers out of the fridge, warmed them in the microwave, grabbed two forks and ran back upstairs. Dean was sitting on the bed, his back against the wall, blankets around his waist. She was distracted for a moment by his bare chest, then kicked the door shut behind her and joined him.

He pulled her close and she went willingly, curling into him and handing him a fork. “Spaghetti,” she told him, laying her head on his shoulder and enjoying her position for a moment.

They ate in silence, his thumb rubbing circles into her lower back. Once it was gone, she added it to the pile of dishes and silverware they had acquired. Dean ate like he was starving, and she found herself starving more often than not, too.

When she came back to him, he lay on his back and settled her on top of him. She went to lay her head on his chest, but he tilted her head up with a finger under her chin and examined her face.

She smiled at the scrutiny. “Like what you see?” she teased.

His thumb ran across her cheek, touching the scar under her right eye. “Where did this come from?”

She closed her eyes and leaned into his hand. “Shifter in New Orleans. He almost got me, thank God for Garth.”

He stilled and she opened her eyes to see him glaring at her. She laughed as he asked, “Who is Garth?”

She leaned forward and kissed him, purring with satisfaction when he responded. “Not a threat to you, caveman,” she murmured against his lips. “He’s a friend, a really good friend. He helped me a lot while you were… Gone.”

He sighed and pulled her down for another kiss. “Piper, what happened while I was gone?”

She nestled her head under his chin, unable to look at him while she said this. “I got a little reckless. I hunted pretty much nonstop until Bobby sent Garth to help. Garth convinced me to slow down a little.” She thought for a second. “Which was a good thing, because I’m lucky I didn’t get seriously hurt. That vampire nest in Odessa wasn’t my brightest move.”

“You… You hunted an entire nest… Of vampires… By yourself?” he rumbled underneath her, clearly irritated.

“Yes, and I’m fine.” She lifted her head to look at him, her hair spilling onto his chest. “It was stupid, but I did it, and I’m fine.”

He groaned and tilted his head back. “That is both the dumbest and hottest thing I’ve ever heard.”

She grinned as he looped an arm around her waist and rolled her until she was under him. “Hottest thing, huh?” She started nibbling on his collarbone as he let his hand drift down, his fingers starting a familiar rhythm on her clit.

“My Piper, in black leather, walking into a room full of vamps with a machete?” He smiled and bent down to lick the side of her neck, his fingers causing her to arch her back. “Very sexy.”

She was laughing. “Dean, I wasn’t in black leather,” she protested, feeling the words ‘My Piper’ down in her soul.

“Don’t ruin this for me woman, hush,” he admonished as he kissed his way down her stomach.

She hushed.

***

Piper was deeply asleep when Dean had his first nightmare.

He was on his back and she was laying on his chest when he started moaning. She woke up groggy, trying to figure out what was wrong. He had broken into a sweat and was starting to thrash.

He tensed, and she moved just in time to avoid his attack. He lunged at the spot she had been in just after she flung herself away, landing on her ass on the floor. He seemed to shake himself awake, breathing hard and trying to take in his surroundings.

She stood and slowly approached him, hands held up. “Dean?”

His head swiveled to look at her, a haunted look in his eyes.

She slowly lay a hand on his shoulder, giving him plenty of time to move away. “Dean, baby, are you okay?”

He turned quickly and crushed her to him, burying his face in her neck, his chest still heaving. She wrapped her arms around his neck and scraped her nails lightly against the hair at his nape, cooing nonsense into his ear.

He pulled her back with him soundlessly, still wrapped around her desperately. She held him, still whispering soothingly, until he fell into a fitful sleep.

He lied. He remembers hell.

Chapter Text

The next morning there was a knock at the door. “Kids?”

Piper was already awake. “What’s up, Bobby?” she asked gently, hoping to let Dean sleep if it was something she could handle herself.

He hadn’t slept well, and had another nightmare in the night. He had grabbed her, but she had been able to wake him up almost immediately. He had said nothing, just held her to him until they had another round of rough, desperate sex. Piper was going to be sore for days, and she could feel bruises on her hips where he had held her.

“I found Sam,” Bobby said tentatively on the other side of the door.

“We’ll be down in a minute.”

She waited until she heard Bobby on the stairs before she started to shake Dean, leaning away from him. “Dean, baby, we gotta get up now.”

He woke with a start, but tried to cover it by smiling at her. “Morning, kitten.”

She leaned into his long, slow kiss for a moment before pulling away, smiling at his dissatisfied grumble. “Dean, we have to leave this bedroom eventually.”

He grinned and ran his hand through her hair, tilting her head back to lay kisses on her neck. “Why?”

“Because, not only do I need to recover a little, I think Bobby found Sam.” She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. Dammit, Finley.

He was frowning, ignoring the second part of her statement. “Recover?”

She stopped his hand when it tried to pull the blanket off of her. “Dean,” she said softly, meeting his eyes. “It doesn’t matter, please don’t.”

He looked at her for a long moment, then ignored her and pulled the blankets up to gaze down her body. He stopped at the ring of bruises around her hips, much darker than they usually were. Even though it was a serious matter, those green eyes on her sent shivers up her spine.

He sat up, hands under her knees pulling her legs around his waist as he pulled her into the light. “Dammit, Piper, why didn’t you say something?” He glared at her.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Because I didn’t notice, Dean. I needed you last night.”

He was still frowning, but his eyes had softened. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

She smiled and leaned away from him to stand. “You didn’t.”

***

Sam was in a motel in Pontiac, Illinois, not very far from where Dean had come back. They were walking down an unkempt hallway, stopping at room 207.

Dean knocked, and the door was opened by a pretty woman wearing only a tank top and panties. She looked like she had expected them. “So? Where is it?”

Piper frowned. “Where is what?”

“The pizza…” She examined them warily. “That takes three people to deliver?”

Dean shook his head. “I think we got the wrong room.”

Suddenly Sam stepped into the light. Piper sucked in a breath. He had pretty much ignored her since the three month anniversary of Dean’s passing, and they had gone back to radio silence. He looked grim. He looked like he had a secret.

Piper’s eyes narrowed as Sam laid eyes on them.

She placed a hand on Dean’s back in comfort as he tried to control his emotions. “Heya, Sammy.”

Dean stepped into the room, past the young woman in her underwear. Piper followed, with Bobby behind her. Sam suddenly lunged at Dean, pulling a knife from his pocket. The young woman screamed, and Piper pushed her away and ran to stand between the brothers. Bobby pulled Sam back, with some difficulty.

“Who are you?” Sam shouted, angry.

Dean scoffed, trying to push past Piper, who didn’t let him. “Like you didn’t do this?!”

“Do what?”

Bobby was trying to convince Sam. “It’s him, we’ve been through this already, it’s really him.”

Sam slowly stopped struggling, unable to keep his eyes off of Dean. “What…”

Dean came forward slowly, staring at Sam. “I know, I look fantastic, huh?”

Bobby had let go of Sam. Sam stepped forward and pulled Dean into a long, tight hug. Piper felt tears come to her eyes, watching them. This was what all of this had been about. She met Bobby’s eyes, smiling at the tears there.

“So are you two like... Together?”

They had all forgotten about the woman who had answered the door. Piper turned and narrowed her eyes at the young woman. Ice brushed the base of her spine. She didn’t like her.

Sam was taken aback by her presence, too. “What? No. No! He’s my brother.”

She nodded, unbelieving. “Uh… Got it. I, I guess. Look, I should probably go.”

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. Sorry.”

Piper watched silently as the young women gathered her things. When she got the door, she turned to Sam. “So, call me.”

He gave her a tight smile. “Yeah, yeah, sure thing, Kathy.”

“Kristy.”

“Right.”

Piper was glad when the woman was gone. She turned back and stood next to Dean, who had his arms crossed and was staring at Sam suspiciously as the younger brother sat down. “So tell me, what’d it cost?”

Sam looked up at him, confused. “The girl? I don't pay, Dean.” Piper rolled her eyes.

Dean was not amused. “That's not funny, Sam. To bring me back. What'd it cost? Was it just your soul, or was it something worse?” Piper put her hand on Dean’s back again, trying to convey comfort.

Sam was shocked. “You think I made a deal.”

Bobby nodded. “That’s exactly what we think.”

Piper chuckled darkly. “Kind of the Winchester way.”

Sam stared at her for a moment, and she met his eyes. He had totally dropped her when Dean had been gone. They should have leaned on each other, and he had left her hanging. Screw you, Sam, she thought venomously.

“Well, I didn't.”

“Don’t lie to me,” Dean snapped.

“I’m not lying.”

“So what now, I'm off the hook and you're on, is that it? You're some demon's bitch-boy? I didn't want to be saved like this!” Dean shouted, advancing on Sam.

Sam stood, glaring at his brother. “Look, Dean, I wish I had done it, all right?”

Dean grabbed Sam by the front of his shirt. “There's no other way that this could have gone down! Now tell the truth!” Piper stepped forward to put a hand on Dean’s shoulder, and tried not to take it personally when he shrugged her off. This was a moment between them. She stood back next to Bobby.

Sam broke Dean’s grip angrily. “I tried everything. That's the truth. I tried opening the Devil's Gate. Hell, I tried to bargain, Dean, but no demon would deal, all right? You were rotting in Hell for months. For months, and I couldn't stop it. So I'm sorry it wasn't me, all right? Dean, I'm sorry.”

Dean stepped back, his face relaxing a little. “It's okay, Sammy. You don't have to apologize, I believe you.”

Sam looked at Piper. “Was it you?” he asked softly. Dean swiveled to glare at her, too.

She shook her head. “No.”

Dean nodded, believing her. Sam was incredulous. “So, what, you just believe Piper, but not me? Why?”

Dean shrugged. “She’s smarter than both of us.”

“Don't get me wrong,” Bobby interrupted, “I'm gladdened that Sam's soul remains intact, but it does raise a sticky question.”

Piper nodded and made eye contact with Dean. “If we didn’t pull you out, then what did?”

They made their way to the couch. Piper was going to let Dean and Bobby sit, but Dean pulled her down onto his lap. He had been affectionate before, but he was very hands-on now, like he wanted to remind himself that she was still there. Piper let it happen without a word. If he needed this to be okay, then she would let him have it. “So what were you doing around here if you weren’t digging me out of my grave?” Dean asked, accepting the beer Sam offered.

“Well, once I figured out I couldn't save you, I started hunting down Lilith, trying to get some payback.”

Bobby scoffed. “All by yourself. Who do you think you are, your old man?”

Sam had the decency to look ashamed of himself. “Uh, yeah, I’m sorry, Bobby. I should have called. You, too, Pipe. I was pretty messed up.” Piper smiled back at him when he offered her a tentative smile. She never could stay mad at Sam for very long.

Dean pointed to a pink bra that was sticking out between the sheets of the bed. ”Oh yeah. I really feel your pain.”

Sam chuckled. “Anyways, uh, I was checking these demons out of Tennessee, and out of nowhere they took a hard left, booked up here.”

“When?”

“Two days ago.”

Dean tensed. Piper wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “When I busted out.”

Bobby looked at him. “You think these demons are here ‘cause of you?”

Sam was confused. “But why?”

Dean shrugged. “Well, I don't know. Some badass demon drags me out and now this? It's gotta be connected somehow.”

Bobby considered him for a moment. “How you feelin’, anyway?”

Dean smiled. “I’m a little hungry.”

Piper laughed. “You’re always a little hungry.” He squeezed her tighter.

Bobby shook his head. “No, I mean, do you feel like yourself? Anything strange, or different?”

Dean huffed. “Or demonic? Bobby, how many times do I have to prove I'm me?”

“Yeah. Well, listen. No demon's letting you loose out of the goodness of their hearts. They've gotta have something nasty planned.”

“Well, I feel fine.”

Sam frowned. “Okay, look, we don't know what they're planning. We got a pile of questions and no shovel. We need help.”

Bobby snapped his fingers. “I know a psychic. A few hours from here. Something this big, maybe she's heard the other side talking.”

Piper nodded. “It’s worth a shot.”

Bobby left the room to make his call. Dean tapped Piper on the thigh and she stood. He stood, too, placing a hand at the small of her back to guide her out.

“Hey, wait.” Sam stood. “You probably want these back.” He reached into his collar and pulled out the amulet that he had given Dean so long ago. He then pulled the silver ring Dean always wore and the leather bracelet from Piper out of his pocket and handed them all to Dean.

Dean took them, silent for a moment. Piper could tell he was fighting with his emotions again. “Thanks.”

“Yeah, don't mention it.”

Dean slipped the ring onto his finger, the bracelet onto his wrist, and pulled the amulet over his head.

“Hey Dean, what was it like?”

Piper tensed. What the hell? She couldn’t understand how Sam could ask. Obviously, hell was unpleasant, especially if his nightmares were anything to go by.

Instead of getting mad or quiet, Dean shrugged. “What, Hell? I don't know, I, I must have blacked it out. I don't remember a damn thing.”

Piper let her face go blank, trying not to reveal anything. Why was he lying about remembering hell? What awful thing could have happened there? The thought upset her so much she stepped forward and slipped her hand into Dean’s, interlacing her fingers with his big ones.

Sam was nodding. “Well, thank God for that.”

Dean nodded, too, squeezing her hand almost imperceptibly. “Yeah.”

***

They were in the Impala, and Piper was almost on cloud nine. She had missed being in the backseat with the brothers up front, talking about a case. Of course, this case was different, but the feeling was the same.

“There's still one thing that's bothering me.”

Sam looked at Dean. “Yeah?”

Dean nodded. “Yeah, the night that I bit it. Or... Got bit.” Piper reached forward and smacked him lightly on the back of his head as he chuckled at his own joke. “How'd you guys make it out? I thought Lilith was going to kill you.”

Sam met Piper’s eyes in the rear view. “Well, she tried. She couldn't.”

“What do you mean, she couldn't?”

Sam shrugged. “She fired this, like, burning light at us, and... Didn't leave a scratch. Like I was immune or something. I covered Piper, and we were both fine.”

Dean frowned. “Immune?”

“Yeah. I don't know who was more surprised, her or me. She left pretty fast after that.”

Dean thought for a moment. “Huh. What about Ruby, where is she?”

“Dead. For now.”

Dean was silent for a moment, biting his lip. Piper kept her eye roll on the inside. Why couldn’t he just ask what he wanted to ask?

In a moment, he did. “So you've been using your, uh, freaky ESP stuff?”

Sam was surprised. “No.”

“You sure about that? Well, I mean, now that you've got... Immunity, whatever the hell that is... Just wondering what other kind of weirdo crap you've got going on.”

“Nothing, Dean. Look, you didn't want me to go down that road, so I didn't go down that road. It was practically your dying wish.”

***

“So, you hear anything?”

They were at the psychic’s house. Piper liked her, she seemed capable, and strong.

Pamela was shaking her head. “Well, I Ouija'd my way through a dozen spirits. No one seems to know who broke your boy out, or why.”

“So what's next?” Piper asked, curious.

The psychic grinned at her. “A séance, I think. See if we can see who did the deed.”

Bobby got a little pale. “You're not gonna... Summon the damn thing here?”

“No. I just want to get a sneak peek at it. Like a crystal ball without the crystal.” She said as she led them into a small, dimly lit room.

Dean nodded and followed Piper, who was following Pamela. “I'm game.”

When they walked in, Pamela was spreading a black tablecloth covered in symbols over a table in the middle of the room. She squatted in front of a cabinet, and Piper could have strangled Dean for ogling the “Jesse Forever” tattoo sprawled across Pamela's back.

“Who’s Jesse?” Dean asked. Yep, he’s going to have to die.

Pamela smirked over her shoulder. “Well, it wasn't forever.”

Dean grinned. “His loss.” Piper glared at him evenly. Terrible, really, I just got him back.

Pamela stood and grinned at him. “Might be your gain.”

She walked away with candles in her hand, and Dean turned to Sam. “Dude.”

Sam was staring wide-eyed at Piper, who was thinking how convenient it was that one could put a body in Baby’s trunk. “Piper’s going to kill you, Dean.”

Before Dean could respond, Pamela passed through again, smiling at Sam this time. “You're invited too, grumpy.”

Dean turned to Sam. “You are not invited.”

Piper rolled her eyes and smacked Dean on the back of the head as she walked through the doorway. “Neither are you, jackass.”

They gathered around the table, Piper squeezed between a laughing Sam and a grumbling Dean. Piper pointedly ignored him to watch Pamela light the candles.

Once she was done,the psychic joined them at the table. “Right. Take each other's hands.” Piper took Sam and Dean’s hands, trying not to soften when Dean gave hers a squeeze and pulled it to his lips to kiss it. Remember that he’s a jackass, Finley, she tried to tell herself.

“And I need to touch something our mystery monster touched,” Pamela continued, winking at Piper after witnessing their exchange.

Dean looked nervously at them, then pulled off his outer shirt. He pulled up his left t-shirt sleeve to reveal a hand shaped brand there. Piper glared at it, then him. “How did I not notice that during the two days we spent without clothes on?”

Dean grinned. “I kept you busy, kitten.” His grin widened at her growl.

Sam stared at both of them. “That’s why it took you two days to come find me? You two were screwing?”

Piper gave Sam an even stare. “You were AWOL, we had to find you first.” Without waiting for him to respond, she turned back to Dean. She lifted her hand to gingerly touch the spot, noticing how his eyes darkened. “Does it hurt?” she whispered. For some reason her breath caught when he shook his head slowly at her.

Bobby cleared his throat. Piper blushed and Dean huffed when they looked up and everyone was looking at them with varying degrees of amusement. “As much fun as this was,” Bobby drawled dryly, “Can we please get back to it?”

Dean nodded and turned so Pamela could to touch the brand. When the other put her hand on Dean’s arm, Piper smothered the wave of possessiveness that washed over her. Which one of you is the jackass now? she thought to herself as she closed her eyes.

Pamela started chanting.”I invoke, conjure, and command you, appear unto me before this circle. I invoke, conjure, and command you, appear unto me before this circle. I invoke, conjure, and command you, appear unto me before this circle.”

Piper jumped as a television the other room flicked on to static, but Pamela continued fearlessly. “I invoke, conjure, and command... Castiel? No. Sorry, Castiel, I don't scare easy.”

Dean’s hand tightened on Piper’s. “Castiel?”

Pamela nodded. “Its name. It's whispering to me, warning me to turn back.” The table had started to shake. “I conjure and command you, show me your face. I conjure and command you, show me your face. I conjure and command you, show me your face. I conjure and command you, show me your face.”

Piper’s stomach was doing flips,and the hairs on the back of her neck were standing straight up. “Maybe we should stop,” she said nervously.

“I almost got it. I command you, show me your face! Show me your face now!”

Suddenly the glass of the candles shot upward, and Pamela started screaming. When she opened her eyes, flames were shooting out of them, too. Piper screamed and let go of the brothers’ hands to run and kneel next to her, opposite of Bobby.

“Call 911!” Bobby was barking at Sam.

Sam ran into the best room and Dean knelt next to Piper, looking miserably at Pamela.

The prone woman’s eyes flew open to reveal bloody, raw sockets. Piper put her hand over her mouth as Pamela started sobbing, “I can't see! I can't see! Oh, God!”

Chapter Text

“Be up in a jiff.”

Piper was in the booth next to Dean, silently leaning into his warmth. They were in a booth in a dimly lit diner, near the hospital where Pamela had been taken. The events of the séance had shaken Piper, and she couldn’t get warm.

Dean seemed to notice her shivering and wrapped his arm around her. “How you holdin’ up, kitten?”

She tried on a smile for him, but it felt awkward. “I’m not.”

He looked like he was trying to think of something to say when Sam walked back through the diner door, on the phone with Bobby. “You bet.” He flipped his phone shut and sat across from them.

Dean flicked his eyes to Piper, but turned to Sam. “What'd Bobby say?”

“Pam's stable. And out of I.C.U.”

“And blind, because of us,” Piper muttered, misery coursing through her.

Sam met her eyes, but didn’t object. “And we still have no clue who we're dealing with.”

Dean tightened his hold on Piper and shook his head. “That's not entirely true.”

Piper looked up at him. “No?”

“We got a name. Castiel, or whatever. With the right mumbo jumbo we could summon him, bring him right to us.”

Sam’s eyebrows rose. “You're crazy. Absolutely not.”

Dean was nodding, though. “We'll work him over. I mean, after what he did?”

Sam leaned forward. “Pam took a peek at him and her eyes burned out of her skull, and you want to have a face to face?”

Dean glared at him. “You got a better idea?”

Piper sighed. She had always hated it when they fought… Which was always.

“Yeah,” Sam was saying, “As a matter of fact I do. I followed some demons to town, right?”

“Okay.”

“So, we go find them. Someone's gotta know something about something.”

The waitress came back with the brothers’ orders. She set two plates of pie on the table.

“Thanks,” Sam said, turning back to Dean.

Instead of leaving, the waitress pulled a chair over and sat at the end of the table. Piper frowned, her body tensing.

Dean was frowning, too. “You angling for a tip?”

The woman pretended to be surprised. ”I'm sorry. Thought you were looking for us.”

She blinked and her eyes were black. Piper’s blood ran cold as she watched another customer and the cook blink, too, turning their eyes the same soulless color. The customer stood and locked the door.

The waitress blinked and her eyes went back to normal. She surveyed Dean. “Dean. To hell and back. Aren't you a lucky duck.”

Dean smiled, exuding cockiness. “That's me.”

The waitress was practically snarling. “So you get to just stroll out of the pit, huh? Tell me. What makes you so special?”

Dean grinned. “I like to think it's because of my perky nipples. I don't know. Wasn't my doing, I don't know who pulled me out.”

“Right. You don't.” The waitress didn’t believe him. Piper’s mind started racing.

“No. I don't.”

“Lying's a sin, you know.” They’re scared shitless, Piper realized.

Dean was shaking his head. “I'm not lying. But I'd like to find out, so if you wouldn't mind enlightening me, Flo…”

“Mind your tone with me, boy. I'll drag you back to hell myself.” She was snarling now.

Sam sat up to attack, but Piper’s hand stayed him. “No, you won’t,” she said evenly, looking into the demon’s eyes.

The woman cocked an eyebrow. “No?” But Piper saw fear there. The part of her that was a hunter, a predator, celebrated.

“No. Because if you were, you would have done it already. The fact is you have no idea who let him go. And you're just as spooked as we are. And you're looking for answers. Maybe it was some powerful spirit. Or some big bad boss demon. I'm guessing at your pay grade that they don't tell you much. Because whoever it was, they want him out. And they're a lot stronger than you. So go ahead. Send him back. But don't come crawling to us when they show up on your front doorstep with some Vaseline and a fire hose.”

The waitress leaned forward. “I'm going to reach down your throat and rip out your lungs. No one cares if you’re in hell, bitch.”

Dean leaned forward and threw a punch at the demon, who took it almost passively. He did it again, and she did nothing again. “That’s what I thought,” he snapped. “Let’s go, Pipes, Sam.”

They stood, pausing when Dean stopped to pull out a wad of cash. He peeled off a ten dollar bill and dropped it on the table dismissively. “For the pie.”

They walked out with their heads held high, until they saw Baby. They all tensed and hurried to the car. “Holy crap, that was close,” Dean said as he fished the keys out of his pocket. He looked at Piper appreciatively. “And hot.”

She smiled wanly. She was too tired to banter with him tonight.

Sam, however, was not. “We're not just going to leave them in there, are we, Dean?”

“Well yeah, there's three of them, probably more, and we've only got one knife between us.”

“I've been killing a lot more demons than that lately.” Sam scoffed. Piper frowned. What?

Dean didn’t miss a beat. “Not anymore. The smarter brother's back in town.”

Sam didn’t move as Dean opened the door for Piper, who slid into the backseat gratefully. “Dean, we've got to take 'em. They’re dangerous.”

Dean shook his head as he got into the car. “They're scared. Okay? Scared of whatever had the juice to yank me out. We're dealing with a bad mofo here. One job at a time.”

***

Piper was curled against Dean on their bed when the TV turned on.

He had brought a book under the pretense of research, but he had ended up just holding her silently. She had been mostly silent the way home, knowing that it was making him worried, but unable to think of the words. She knew their job was dangerous, and had consequences, but she had liked Pamela a lot, and now she was blind forever because of them.

The sound of static startled her awake, though Dean slept through it. She shoved him. “Dean,” she whispered, starting to get nervous, as the radio turned on and started to whine. He woke up with a start. “What the hell?”

Piper had already stood and grabbed the shotgun next to the bed when the loud, high-pitched noise started. She didn’t know where to point it, but it quickly became moot when the noise started. She gasped, trying to cover her ear with her free hand while still holding onto the gun.  

It was too much. She dropped the gun and dropped to her knees, starting to scream. Dean made his way to her pushed her roughly to the ground, covering her body with his. She didn’t understand until glass started shattering. She was screaming, and could hear him yelling above her.

The light changed, which was Piper’s only indicator that Bobby had opened the door.

***

Piper was really, really tired of abandoned warehouses.

They were setting up to summon Castiel, whatever the hell that was. Dean had refused to let Sam come. Piper knew he had his suspicions about what Sam had been doing in the four months he’d been gone, and she kicked herself again for not following Sam around like a lost puppy until he told her what was going on.

She turned back to her work, drawing another symbol with white spray paint on the floor. The entire building was covered in symbols in multi-colored spray paint. White if the color didn’t matter, the required hue when it did.

Dean was at a table, setting up equipment. He looked over his shoulder at her. “That's a hell of an art project you've got going there.”

She didn’t stop her work when Bobby answered for her. “Traps and talismans from every faith on the globe. How you doing?”

Dean shrugged. “Stakes, iron, silver, salt, knife. I mean, we're pretty much set to catch and kill anything I've ever heard of.”

“This is still a bad idea,” Piper muttered as she finished her symbol and stood up.

“Yeah, Pipes, I heard you the first ten times.” He looked at Bobby. “What do you say we ring the dinner bell?”

Piper put her things away and went to stand next to Dean, unsure of what weapon to grab. Her stomach was in knots as Bobby took a pinch of powder, sprinkled it into the bowl, and started chanting in Latin.

***

Fifteen minutes later, nothing had happened.

Piper was standing next to Dean, who was sitting on the table, swinging his legs. His hand was on the back of her head, running his fingers through her hair nervously. He looked at Bobby. “Are you sure you did the ritual right?” Piper elbowed him in the ribs as Bobby gave him a look. “Sorry. Touchy, touchy, huh?”

A loud rattling shook the roof. They all grabbed shotguns and swivelled.

“Wishful thinking, but maybe it’s just the wind,” Dean said quietly.

Piper swallowed her scream as the doors burst open. A man walked in wearing a trench coat over what looked like a business suit. As he stalked towards them, light bulbs above them started to shatter

Dean and Bobby started to open fire, but Piper held back. Did something about him seem familiar?

As the man got close, Dean took out the magic knife. “Who are you?”

The man looked at him curiously, tilting his head a little. In a deep, gravelly voice, he answered. “I'm the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition.”

“Yeah. Thanks for that.” Dean plunged the knife into the man’s chest. He looked down, unconcerned, and pulled it out before dropping it onto the floor.

Bobby flung himself at the man. Without looking back, he grabbed the weapon Bobby had and swung him around. He touched Bobby on the forehead with two fingers, and Bobby crumpled.

“Bobby!” Piper cried, starting to move forward until she realized that she had drawn the man’s attention.

He started forward with the same two fingers raised, and Piper felt her heart stop. Dean stood in front of her, his arm sweeping her behind him as he glared at the man in the trench coat. “You don’t touch her,” he growled.

The man frowned. “We need to talk, Dean. Alone.”

“No dice, dick. The girl stays alive.”

The man frowned harder. “Your friend’s alive.”

Dean stepped forward to check Bobby’s pulse, and Piper stepped back when the man’s piercing blue eyes looked at her. “Piper Finley,” he stated.

She nodded, even though it wasn’t a question. “Yes. Have we met?”

He ignored her question. “Why are you here?”

She frowned. “I’m here with Dean.”

“You’re not supposed to be here. You’re not in the plan.”

“Enough with small talk,” Dean snapped, taking up post again in front of Piper, blocking her from view. “Who are you?”

“Castiel.”

Piper rolled her eyes as Dean responded. “Yeah, I figured that much, I mean what are you?”

“I'm an Angel of the Lord.”

“Oh, jeeze…” Piper gasped.

Dean wasn’t impressed. “Get the hell out of here. There's no such thing.”

“This is your problem, Dean. You have no faith.” He peered around Dean’s shoulder. “But you do, Piper Finley.” She blinked, unsure of what to say.

Lightning flashed again, and huge shadowy wings appeared, sprouting out of Castiel’s back. They flexed slowly, powerfully. Piper couldn’t hold back her sharp inhale.

Dean, again, wasn’t impressed. “Some angel you are. You burned out that poor woman's eyes.”

Castiel had the good grace to look ashamed. “I warned her not to spy on my true form. It can be... Overwhelming to humans, and so can my real voice. But you already knew that.”

“You mean at the motel? That was you talking?” Piper asked. Castiel nodded. Dean glared. “Buddy, next time, lower the volume,” he snarled.

"That was my mistake. Certain people, special people, can perceive my true visage. I thought you would be one of them. I was wrong.”

"And what visage are you in now, huh? What, holy tax accountant?” Piper groaned internally. Must he antagonize everyone he met?

Castiel looked down. “This? This is... A vessel.”

Piper frowned. “You’re possessing someone? Angels possess people? That’s messed up.”

Castiel peered around Dean’s shoulder again to address her. “He's a devout man, he actually prayed for this.”

Dean scoffed and moved again, blocking her. “Well, I'm not buying what you're selling, so who are you really?”

"I told you.”

“Right. And why would an angel rescue me from Hell?”

“Good things do happen, Dean.”

"Exactly one good thing has ever just happened to me, and she’s standing behind me. So no, they don’t, not in my experience.” Something in Piper’s chest fluttered, but she squelched it. Later, Finley.

Castiel tilted his head. “What's the matter? You don't think you deserve to be saved?”

Dean was starting to get upset. “Why'd you do it?”

Castiel’s next words made Piper a little dizzy. “Because God commanded it. Because we have work for you.”

Chapter Text

“We have work for you.”

Piper felt good, clean anger course through her, and she grasped at it. Angry was better than terrified.

She shoved herself past Dean, ignoring his protests and planted her feet in front of him. Meeting the insanely blue eyes with her own, she put the shotgun up against her shoulder and aimed. “Over my dead body, jackass.”

He frowned. “I am not a donkey.”

She didn’t let that faze her. “Look, wings, I don’t care what you are. Dean and I are leaving, and I swear to God I will shoot you in the face without hesitation. It won’t kill you, but I'm willing to bet it will slow you down.”

“Threats of violence are not necessary, Piper Finley.”

Piper ignored Dean’s restraining hand on her shoulder. “Not from where I’m standing, wings.”

Castiel frowned again. “Why are you saying ‘wings?’”

She started moving slowly, gun still pointed at the alleged angel. “We’re leaving.”

They slowly circled Castiel, Piper never taking her eyes off of him. Dean knelt and grunted as he picked up Bobby under the arms, taking him with them. Piper was certain the angel was letting them go, he could take all three of them without breaking a sweat (do angels sweat?), but for some reason, he just watched them leave.

Right before they were at the door, something in his gaze changed. He met Piper’s eyes again. “I would like to know what your role in this is, Piper Finley.”

She pushed Dean backward, ignoring his possessive growl, and they ran for Baby.

What?

***

Dean was sitting across the kitchen table from Sam, glaring at him over Piper’s shoulder, arguing with him about whatever the hell Castiel was. Piper was in his lap, back pressed to his chest, with his arms wrapped around her.

He didn’t understand the constant need to be touching her, but he didn’t fight it, either. He craved her closeness, her skin against his. He was using her as a touchstone, he knew it, but he couldn’t seem to stop. His soul was ragged, he could feel himself unravelling at the edges, the knowledge of what he’d done in hell screaming in his head constantly. Holding her, touching her, made the screaming go quiet, and her gentle affection and steady presence was soothing the torn edges of himself.

The fear that had shot through him when she had aimed the shotgun at Castiel had shaken him to the core. And it just confirmed… How he felt about her. The thought of the “angel” touching her had sent white-hot rage through him. She was Piper, and she was his.

He realized he had turned to stare at her. With an effort, he looked back at Sam. “Look, all I know is I was not groped by an angel.”

Piper chuckled as Sam huffed. “Okay, look, Dean. Why do you think this Castiel would lie to you about it?”

“Maybe he's some kind of demon. Demons lie.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “A demon who's immune to salt rounds and devil's traps... And Ruby's knife? Dean, Lilith is scared of that thing!”

Dean was getting agitated, they didn’t understand. “Don't you think that if angels were real, that some hunter somewhere would have seen one... At some point... Ever?”

Piper moved so she was sitting sideways in his lap, putting her arm around him and running her fingers through the hair at his nape. “I think you just did, Dean.”

He glared at her, but moved his arms so she was securely locked in place. “I'm trying to come up with a theory here. Okay? Work with me, kitten.”

“Dean, we have a theory,” Sam snapped, making Dean swivel back to him.

“Yeah, one with a little less fairy dust on it, please.” They didn’t, they couldn’t understand. He wasn’t worthy of saving, especially by God.

Sam sighed. “Okay, look. I'm not saying we know for sure. I'm just saying that I think we-”

Dean snapped his fingers into irritation and triumph. “That's the point. We don't know for sure, so I'm not gonna believe that this thing is a freaking Angel of the Lord because it says so!”

“You two chuckleheads want to keep arguing religion, or do you want to come take a look at this?” Bobby asked from the living room.

Dean frowned. “Pipes is in here, too,” he said as the three of them stood and made their way to Bobby’s desk.

“I’m aware,” Bobby said calmly as they joined him.

Piper shot Dean a sassy smirk and stopped next to Bobby’s desk. Dean retaliated by slapping her on the ass, grinning at the squeak she made.

Bobby glared at them. “You done?”

Piper nodded, a lovely blush rising on her face. “Whatcha got, Bobby?”

He gestured to the books piled on the desk. “I got stacks of lore. Biblical, pre-Biblical. Some of it's in damn cuneiform. It all says an angel can snatch a soul from the pit.”

Dean felt himself tense. “What else?”

“What else, what?”

“What else could do it?”

Bobby raised his eyebrows. “Airlift your ass out of the hot box? As far as I can tell, nothing.”

Dean felt Piper’s soft hand slipped into his and squeeze reassuringly. She knew it wasn’t what he had wanted to hear. How did she always know?

“Dean, this is good news,” Sam said softly.

“How?”

“Because for once, this isn't just another round of demon crap. I mean, maybe you were saved by one of the good guys, you know?”

Dean, frustrated, ran his free hand through his hair and blew out a breath. “Okay. Say it's true. Say there are angels. Then what? There's a God?”

Bobby shrugged. “At this point, Vegas money's on yeah.”

Dean felt his anger start to bubble up. Before he could yell, he felt Piper use his hand to put his arm around her shoulders, while slipping her arm around his waist. He looked down at her concerned eyes and felt the anger drain out of him. “I don’t know,” he said softly to her.

"Okay, look. I know you're not all choirboy about this stuff, but this is becoming less and less about faith and more and more about proof.” Sam insisted.

Dean looked at his younger brother, confused and getting irritated again. “Proof?”

“Yes.”

If he hadn’t been holding Piper, he would have started to pace. “Proof that there's a God out there that actually gives a crap about me personally? I'm sorry, but I'm not buying it.”

Piper frowned up at him. “Why not?:

How could he explain to her? “Because why me? If there is a God out there, why would he give a crap about me?”

“Dean-” She started.

He interrupted. “I mean, I've saved some people, okay? I figured that made up for the stealing and the ditching chicks.” That earned him an elbow in the ribs, which he ignored. “But why do I deserve to get saved? I'm just a regular guy.”

Sam shook his head. “Apparently, you're a regular guy that's important to the man upstairs.”

Dean shuddered, pulling Piper closer to him. “Well, that creeps me out. I mean, I don't like getting singled out at birthday parties, much less by... God.”

Sam let out a mirthless laugh. “Okay, well, too bad, Dean, because I think he wants you to strap on your party hat.”

Dean sighed in defeat. “Fine. What do we know about angels?”

***

Sam was watching Piper sit at the kitchen table, looking dejected. He was worried. The Rising of the Witnesses had affected them all, but Piper had always kind of worn her heart on her sleeve. They were all upset, and shocked about the news of the apocalypse, but she was the only one showing it.

She wouldn’t tell him who she saw, just that it was no one from the sheriff’s office. Sometimes Sam forgot that Piper had hunted on her own for years before she came back to help them. Every hunter had a few people haunting them.

He wanted to help her. He still felt guilty for not being there for her when Dean had gone to hell. He didn’t regret it, per se, but he did feel bad.

An idea struck him, and he walked over to Bobby’s radio and flicked it on. The first sounds of “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers floated through the kitchen.

He approached Piper slowly, then held his hand out and smiled at her.

“Dance with me, Pipe.”

She groaned, but gave him her hands and let him pull her out of the seat. She just stood still, eyes narrowed, as he started dancing without her, moving her hands in his.

She just looked at him for a long time, and he almost gave up, but the smile creeping slowly across her face was worth it. Sam was a little shocked at how glad he was. He didn't like seeing Piper like this, too thin, always upset.

Her hips started to sway, and before he knew it, she was crooning the words to him as they danced across the kitchen.

***

Piper’s breathless laughter was like a drug. Dean sat up from his place on her bed (which he was starting to think of as their bed) and started towards the stairs.

“Black Water” was playing as he came down the stairs to see Bobby standing in the kitchen doorway with a half smile on his face.

“Bobby, what-” Dean stopped when he saw what Bobby was looking at.

Sam and Piper were dancing around the kitchen. Sam was leading, grinning down at her, and she had her head dropped back, laughing. Sam spun her and she moved gracefully, stretching her arm out, then spun back into him. They were off beat. They were ridiculous. And she looked so happy it made his chest tight.

He fought with the alpha male, jealous, macho bullshit that was trying to rear it’s ugly head. They looked good together, they looked right. Sam grinning down at her, her laughing up at him as they shimmied. They’re friends, they’re just friends, he told himself firmly.

He watched her hips sway, her head bop back and forth, her lips curved into a smile. His jealousy was smothered by satisfied possessiveness, which was still a macho move, but it was progress. He was the one she was kissing with those lips, and those hips were held by his hands at night.

Piper was her own woman, strong and independent, she always had been. But Dean was the one holding her at night, so it suddenly didn’t bother him that she was dancing with Sam.

Much.

The song changed to a slower melody, but Dean wasn’t listening to it, he was too focused on Piper. He walked toward them, letting the possessiveness thrumming in his veins show in his face.

Sam saw him and grinned, slowly releasing Piper and stepping back. She turned around with a confused, almost put out look on her face until she saw Dean. Her hazel eyes widened, then darkened. He moved closer to her, not touching her, knowing how it drove her crazy.

“Mind of I cut in, kitten?” He let his voice stay low, sensual.

She shook her head mutely, moving forward to lay her hand in his, her other resting on his shoulder. He pulled her close, wrapping his arm around her waist.

They started to slowly sway, her hips driving him slowly mad as they moved with his. He was losing himself in her eyes, the slight part of her lips, the hard beating of her heart against his chest.

“The only good thing, huh?” She asked breathlessly, her gaze never leaving his.

He nodded slowly, bending down to kiss her softly, thoroughly.

I have never been in more trouble than I am now.

***

Bobby watched Dean and Piper dance in the kitchen, tears fighting to get to his eyes. He turned to go to bed, leaving them in their own world, comprised only of the two of them, his heart very full.

His kids were falling in love, it they hadn’t already.

The idjits.

Chapter Text

Sam had come in earlier, looking tense and refusing to answer Piper’s questions. He had finally bitten her head off, so she was fuming on the bed in their motel room when Dean slammed his way in.

She jumped. “Dean? Dean, what hap-”

“Are you packed?” Cold, violent anger was swirling in his green eyes, and even though she knew it wasn’t directed at her, a whisper of fear worked it’s way down her spine.

She nodded. “Dean, what-”

“We’re leaving, Piper.” He grabbed her bag and held his hand out to her. She scrambled to her feet and took it, letting him pull her to his other side…

Putting himself between her and Sam.

Sam had stood up. “Dean, where are you going?”

His shoulders were tense, his hand tight on Piper’s. “Oh, you don’t need us. You and Ruby go hunt demons.”

She frowned. “Ruby?”

Sam stepped forward, hand held out to them. “Hold on. Dean, come on, man.”

Dean turned, dropping her hand and her bag at the same time, and punched Sam in the face. “Dean!” Piper cried as Sam whirled with the force of Dean’s fist, hand going to his face. Good grief, he’s fast.

Sam turned back around and dropped his hand. “You satisfied?”

Dean hit him again, hard.

“I guess not,” Sam said dryly.

Dean stalked forward angrily. “Do you even know how far off the reservation you've gone? How far from normal? From human?”

“What the hell is going on?” Piper asked mildly, knowing she wouldn’t get an answer. When the boys got into a fight, it was best to stay out of their way. Bobby had told her it was like when big dogs got into a fight. If you got in the middle, you’d probably get hurt.

Sam was earnest. “I'm just exorcising demons.”

“With your mind!” Dean shouted angrily. “What else can you do?”

“I can send them back to hell. It only works with demons, and that's it.”

Piper’s eyebrows rose, and she crossed her arms over her stomach, hugging herself. What?

Dean grabbed his younger brother and pushed him backwards a little. “What else can you do?!” he shouted again.

Piper stepped forward and put a hand on Dean’s arm, tugging gently. “Dean, stop.” He let go of Sam and stepped back.

“I told you!” Sam said, getting angry now, too.

“And I have every reason in the world to believe that.” Dean scoffed, turning to take Piper’s hand again and walking towards the door.

“Look,” Sam said, running a hand through his hair. “I should have said something.” Dean only paused to pick up Piper’s bag. “I’m sorry, Dean. I am. But try to see the other side here.”

Dean turned slowly to stare at Sam. “The other side?”

Encouraged, Sam continued. “I'm pulling demons out of innocent people.”

“Use the knife!”

“The knife kills the victim! What I do, most of them survive! Look, I've saved more people in the last five months than we save in a year.”

Dean was stepping forward again. “That what Ruby want you to think? Huh? Kind of like the way she tricked you into using your powers?” He shook his head. “Slippery slope, brother. Just wait and see. Because it's gonna get darker and darker, and God knows where it ends.”

“I'm not gonna let it go too far.”

Dean’s entire body was taut. Piper stepped closer and squeezed his hand. He sighed and relaxed a fraction, but he was still furious. “It’s already gone too far, Sam. If I didn’t know you… I would want to hunt you.”

“That’s enough.” Piper said quietly, meeting Dean’s eyes, then Sam’s. “You guys are upset, I understand, but this isn’t helping. Dean, let’s go.” She looked at Sam, trying to apologize with her eyes. “Sam, I wish you hadn’t lied to me, and I get it. But we’re bunking in separate rooms tonight, gentlemen.” She turned and pulled Dean toward the door again. To her relief, and great surprise, he followed her without a word.

***

They were curled around one another in bed, face to face. Dean studied her concerned eyes, her high cheekbones, the wisps of vibrant purple hair that fell along her face. He moved it gently away from her, tucking it behind her ear. She was staring at him with an unidentifiable emotion on her face, and sighed softly.

“You don’t think you’re being a little hard on him?”

His hand paused. “Piper, do we have to talk about Sam when we’re in bed?”

She smiled and kissed him gently. He leaned into it, his hand moving down to her hip to pull her closer, letting out a frustrated grunt when she pulled away. “Tonight, yes. From now on? No.”

He let out a huff. “He’s going dark, Piper. This is what Dad-” He was interrupted by her finger on his lips. He felt arousal stirring deep in him, despite the circumstances.

“Dean,” she said, smiling a little, “We both know you’re not going to hunt Sam. So drop the act, tough guy.” She paused for a moment. “I know you’re not comfortable with talking, Dean, but I need you to talk to me so I can understand.”

Emotion welled up in his chest, and he closed his eyes to fight with it. He couldn’t talk to her. He couldn’t tell her all of the things he was afraid of, Sam rapidly rising to the top of the list. He couldn’t tell her why he was so afraid.

What if darkness ran through their blood? What if it was inevitable? What if it ended up hurting Piper, or Bobby?

So, instead, he tried a lie. “The kid is getting darker and darker, Pipes. We depend on him on hunts, I need him sharp, and if he's too distracted by his Jedi mind tricks, we could be in danger.”

She shook her head, and his heart felt both lighter and heavier. “No dice, bud. Try again.” How does she always know?

He paused for a second, collecting his thoughts. “I’m supposed to watch out for him, kitten,” he said softly, struggling with the emotions making his throat close around his words. She silently leaned into him, nestling her head under his chin, giving him as much privacy as she could without leaving him. “I’m supposed to watch out for him,” he was nearly whispering as he pulled her closer. “And now he’s using those damn demon powers, and I don’t know how to make him quit.”

She was silent for a long while, so long Dean thought she’d fallen asleep when she finally spoke. “You can’t, Dean. I know you feel like you have to, like it’s your responsibility, but Sam isn’t a kid.” She leaned back to look up at him, her face earnest. “He has to come to the conclusion on his own, Dean, you can’t make up his mind for him.” She touched his face gently. “You have enough going on, Dean. You have to let him deal with this.”

He looked at her breathlessly for a moment. Goddamn psychic woman. “What do you mean, enough going on?”

There was a shadow of sadness in her eyes when she leaned forward to brush her lips against his. “You know exactly what I mean, Dean. And someday, hopefully, you’ll tell me about it. But not tonight,” she smiled, moving her hips against his. “Tonight, I need you.”

Dean rolled them so she was on top of him. He didn’t know how the hell she knew, or how much she knew. What was important tonight was erasing the sadness in her face, and even if he didn’t know how to do it by talking, he sure as hell knew how to do it with his hands.

***

The next morning, Piper was sitting on the bed when Sam knocked gently. Before she went to the door, she turned to make sure Dean hadn’t woken up. He seemed to sleep better in the mornings, and God knew he needed sleep.

She went silently to the door, opened it, and slipped outside, closing the door behind her. “What’s up, Sam?”

He looked like he wanted to say something, so she stayed silent, letting him lead up to it.

“I’m sorry, Pipe, I shouldn’t have lied to you.”

She wanted to hug him, but she couldn’t give in that easy. “No, you shouldn't have.”

His shoulders sagged. “I’m sorry, I just…” He was struggling for words again, which was surprising. Sam was much more comfortable with saying how he felt than Dean. “I just felt alone with Dean gone. I wanted to do some good.”

That hurt. “Alone? Seriously? You’re the only one who lost someone?”

To be fair, you weren’t real chatty. She had been on her own more often than not in the four months that Dean had been in hell. Probably not the best state of mind to hear Sam out.

He opened his mouth, but stopped when she held her hand up. “Look, I… I get it, Sam, I do. But Dean won’t. He’s not going to let this go.”

He nodded miserably. “I know. One apology at a time, I guess.” He held his arms out to her. “At least partially forgiven?” She smiled and stepped forward, raising her arms. When he wrapped his big arms around her and squeezed, she hissed between her teeth in pain, and hoped that somehow he hadn’t noticed.

No such luck. He backed away and looked at her, confused. “What’s wrong? Did that angel hurt you?”

“I’m fine, Sam,” she said as she stepped away, tugging her tank top down.

He stepped forward and swatted her hands away from the hem of her shirt. “Let me see, Pipe.”

She didn’t relent, but Sam was strong. “Sam, it’s fine-”

He lifted her shirt up, and his sharp intake of breath interrupted her. She sighed and hung her head, squeezing her eyes shut. He was seeing the big purple bruise on her ribs.

“Did… Did Dean-”

Her head snapped up. “Not on purpose! Never on purpose.” He didn’t look like he believed her. “He’s been having, uh, nightmares, and he kind of starts swinging. I can usually get out of the way on time, but he was fast last night.” She gave him a smile. “Cracked a rib.”

Sam’s brow furrowed. “Piper, you should sleep in a different bed if he’s hitting you.”

“No. I’m fine, Sam.” She pulled her shirt back down. “He needs me, Sam. I don’t know why, but he does. So keep your trap shut about this, okay?”

He was looking at her intensely. “You don’t know why he needs you?”

She was saved by answering by Dean opening the door. He looked steadily at Sam, and Piper gave into the urge to go to Dean and tuck herself under his arm.

“What’s going on?” Dean asked slowly.

Sam’s eyes didn’t leave Piper’s. “I got a case.”

***

The hunt had been rough. It had been terrible. Piper lay in the backseat of the Impala, unable to sleep but too tired to sit up. The rougarou had almost killed Dean, and she had been helpless to stop it, tied up in the man’s home. Her heart was still racing.

So she listened to their voices as they spoke, grateful they were both still with her.

“You did the right thing, you know.” Dean was saying. “That guy was a monster, there was no going back.”

 Sam was silent.

Dean sighed. “Sam, I wanna tell you I'm sorry. I've been kind of hard on you lately.” Piper smiled, listening to her words echo from Dean’s mouth.

“Don't worry about it, Dean.”

She heard Dean shift uncomfortably. “It's just that your, uh, your psychic thing, it scares the crap out of me.”

“Look, if it's all the same... I'd really rather not talk about it.”

“Wait a minute. What? You don't want to talk? You?”

“There's nothing more to say. I can't keep explaining myself to you. I can't make you understand.” Piper frowned, but didn’t sit up.

“Why don't you try?” Dean retorted, albeit gently.

Sam shook his head. “I can't. Because this thing, this blood, it's not in you the way it's in me. It's just something I got to deal with.”

“Not alone.”

Sam was silent for a while, and they let him be.

“Anyway, it doesn't matter. These powers... It’s playing with fire. I'm done with them. I'm done with everything.”

Chapter Text

Piper was sitting next to Sam on their motel bed, flipping through a very old book, trying to find information on the hex bag they had found in the dead man’s apartment. Sam was on his computer, doing the same.

They sat shoulder to shoulder, and Piper suppressed a smile. She liked research, and she liked it even more with Sam next to her. Since he had found her injury, he had become more protective and careful. It usually made her roll eyes, but it was hard to say no when both Winchesters insisted you stay behind to stay safe, concern and affection in both sets of eyes.

She was trying to sink bank into her work when Dean entered. He was unwrapping a piece of candy as he came and sat near Piper, putting a hand on her leg as he popped it into his mouth.

She wrinkled her nose. “Ew, Dean.”

Sam looked grossed out, too. “Really? After that guy choked down all those razor blades?”

Dean grinned and leaned in to kiss Piper, who leaned away with a face. That guy dying on his floor, covered in his own blood, was still too fresh in her mind.

“It’s Halloween, kitten,” he whined. Piper laughed and leaned forward to peck him on the cheek. “Every day is Halloween for us.”

Sam pulled a face and moved to the other bed. “Could you guys not be gross on what used to be my bed?”

Piper scooted to make room for Dean as he sat next to her, leaning against the headboard and putting a big hand on her thigh. Piper tried to suppress a shiver, but the devious look in his eye told her she had failed. “Don’t be a downer, Sammy.” He said, gaze flicking his brother. He looked back at Piper, squeezing her thigh lightly. “Anything interesting?”

She shook her head, trying not to be ensnared in those eyes and failing. “We’re on a witch hunt, but this hex bag is different.” She pointed to where Sam had put them, near the end of the bed next to ber. There was a silver coin, what looked like dried herbs, and a small charred object.

Sam leaned over and picked up the dried herbs. “Goldthread, an herb that’s been extinct for two hundred years.” He put it down and pointed to the silver coin. “That’s Celtic, and I don’t mean some new age knock-off. It looks like the real deal, like, six hundred years old real.”

Dean picked up the charred piece and raised it to his face to sniff it. Piper made a face and leaned away from him again. “And, um… That is the charred metacarpal bone of a newborn baby.”

Dean looked horrified. “Ugh. Gross.” He put it back in the pile and turned to Piper, who was still leaning away.

Sam smiled. “Relax man, it’s like, at least a hundred years old.”

“Oh, right, like that makes it better? Witches, man, they’re so friggin’ skeevy.” Dean griped. He was still leaning toward Piper, his eyes intent on hers. Even though Sam was three feet away, she felt heat start to coil in her.

She put a hand on his chest, smiling. “Nope, no touching for you, Mr. I Sniff Baby Bones.”

She didn’t have time to dodge him as he pounced on her. Her mood went from playful to determined when his hand landed on her cracked ribs. Poker face, Finley, she told herself quietly, sticking a smile on her face for him. The pain made her dizzy for a moment.

He still wasn’t fooled. “Pipes?” He tugged her back to him gently. She settled in next to him, this smile a little more genuine.

Sam interrupted, for which Piper was grateful. “Dean, it takes a pretty powerful witch to put a bag like this together. More juice than we’ve ever dealt with, that’s for sure. What about you? Find anything on the victim?”

Dean shook his head, taking his concerned eyes off of Piper to look at Sam. “This Luke Wallace? He was so vanilla that he made vanilla seem spicy. I can’t find any reason why somebody would want this guy dead.”

***

The three of them were walking back to the motel in the quiet. Piper was chewing over the weird moment Dean had had at the high school in her head. She didn’t realize something was wrong until Sam drew his gun.

She pulled hers and followed him in as he shouted, “Who are you?!”

Piper came in behind him and relaxed, but didn’t put her gun down. “Sam, it’s Castiel.”

Sam looked shocked and lowered his gun. Castiel was ignoring Sam to frown at Piper.

“You have been injured, Piper Finley.”

She felt Dean come close behind her as her eyes widened. “I’m fine,” she said too quickly. Shut up, Angel Boy.

Dean put a hand on her hip and came to stand next to her, looking at the other man in the room. “Him, we don’t know.”

Sam was still looking at Castiel with wonder. The angel’s eyes lingered on Piper for a moment, then he turned to Sam and smiled. “Hello, Sam.”

“Oh my God, er, uh, I didn’t mean to, sorry. It’s an honor, really, I, I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Sam stepped forward and offered his hand to Castiel, who looked confused. Abruptly realizing what he wanted, the angel shook Sam’s hand and smiled. “And I, you. Sam Winchester. The boy with the demon blood.”

“Hey, rude.” Piper snapped, finally lowering her gun.

Castiel looked at her. “It is a fact.” Sam looked pained.

Piper glared at Castiel. “It’s rude to point out People’s major flaws, wings.”

“I am not here to be polite. Why do you keep saying ‘wings?’”

“It’s a form of disrespect, wings.”

He frowned. “Why are you hostile to me, Piper Finley? I could heal your ribs.”

Dean looked down at her. “What is he talking about?”

The man looking out the window interrupted before she had to answer. “Enough, Castiel, this is ridiculous.”

Dean glared at him. “Yeah, okay, chuckles.” He turned to Castiel. “Who’s your friend?”

Castiel ignored the question. “The raising of Samhain, have you stopped it?”

Dean looked confused. “Why?

“Dean, have you located the witch?”

Dean huffed. “Yes, we’ve located the witch.”

“And is the witch dead?”

Sam shook his head. “No, but-”

“We know who it is.” Piper finished, drawing both angels’ gazes to her. She didn’t want them focusing on Sam.

Castiel looked at her, then walked to the table between the two beds. “Apparently the witch knows who you are too.” He pulled out a hex bag and showed it to them. “This was inside the wall of your room. If we hadn’t found it, surely one or all of you would be dead. Do you know where the witch is now?”

Piper saw Dean and Sam exchange a look. “We’re working on it.”

Castiel sighed. “That's unfortunate.”

Piper’s eyes narrowed. “What do you care?”

“The raising of Samhain is one of the sixty-six seals.”

“So this is about your buddy Lucifer.” Dean was almost snarling.

“Lucifer is no friend of ours.” The other angel was also snarling.

Piper rolled her eyes. “It's just an expression.”

Castiel ignored her. “Lucifer cannot rise. The breaking of the seal must be prevented at all costs.”

“Okay, great, well now that you’re here, why don’t you tell us where the witch is, we’ll gank her and everybody goes home.” Dean snarled, throwing an arm around Piper’s shoulders.

The blue-eyed angel glared. “We are not omniscient. This witch is very powerful, she’s cloaked even our methods.”

Sam was trying to make peace. “Okay, well we already know who she is, so if we work together-”

"Enough of this,” the other angel snapped.

Dean turned. “Okay, who are you and why should I care?”

Castiel waved a hand. “This is Uriel, he’s what you might call a… Specialist.”

Piper examined the other man. “What kind of specialist? What are you going to do?”

Castiel suddenly looked nervous. “You, uh, all of you, you need to leave this town immediately.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re about to destroy it.”

***

Dean walked behind Sam, who was walking behind Piper, sneaking up on the damn high school teacher. He had the girl tied up, and was running a knife along her neck. Piper raised her gun and fired three times, shooting the teacher in the back. Dean came forward and wrapped an arm around the girl’s waist, cutting her down with his other hand.

The girl ripped her gag off and looked up at him. “Thank you, he was gonna kill me! Ugh, that sick son of a bitch. I mean, did you see what he was doing? Did you hear him? How sloppy his incantation was?”

What? Dean drew his gun and pointed at the woman, seeing Piper and Sam do the same.

The witch muttered an incantation and Dean felt pain spread through his stomach. He saw Sam and Piper cry out as he fell to the floor.

Piper had caught the witch’s notice apparently, because the standing woman’s eyes widened. “Purple hair, surrounded by beautiful men… You’re Piper Finley.”

Dean was in too much pain to react, but he tried to listen carefully. How does she know Piper?

“You almost caught me in Omaha a few years ago, girlie.” The witch purred, approaching Piper. “Had to leave my little… Project.”

“Screw… You…” Piper hissed through clenched teeth, still obviously in pain. Dean would have been impressed that she could talk if he had been able to think through the pain in his own stomach. As it was, he could only manage to watch.

“Hmm.” The witch leaned forward and examined Piper, eyes lighting up when Piper’s shirt rode up a little as she writhed. “What’s this?” she pulled the shirt up more, revealing livid bruising across Piper’s torso. “Ooh, a present from your hell rockstar boyfriend, I assume?” Her eyes flicked to Dean, then back to Piper.

She placed a hand on the bruise and leaned in. Piper’s scream and the thick snapping sound from her chest seared themselves onto Dean’s heart.

“Let’s see if we can’t upgrade from cracked to broken, shall we?”

The witch stood up, seemingly done with tormenting Piper. She turned back to the center of the room. “Now, my brother always was a little dim. He was gonna make me the final sacrifice, his idea, but now, that honor goes to him. Our master’s return? The spellwork’s a two man job you understand, so for six hundred years I had to deal with that pompous son of a bitch. Planning, preparing, unbearable.”

She knelt down by the teacher with a knife and a chalice and started digging into the bullet wounds on his back, catching the blood in the cup. “The whole time I wanted to rip his face off.”

She grinned and looked down at Piper, who has gone still. Dean’s heart clenched, and he started moving closer to her. He saw Sam do the same.

“And Piper Finley gets him with a gun, ugh, love that.”

The witch went back to the altar, still talking. “You know, back in the day, this was the one day you kept your children inside. Well tonight you’ll all see what Halloween really is.”

She started chanting again. Dean looked back to Piper, whose eyes were closed, but was still breathing. He also watched in confusion as Sam leaned over to the dead man’s body, put his hand in the blood, and smeared it onto his own face. He quickly did the same to Piper.

“What the hell?” he whispered.

“Just follow my lead.” Sam muttered as he smeared blood on Dean’s face, too, then moved away from the body.

The witch finished the incantation, and Dean watched in horror as the ground cracked and black smoke started pouring from it and into the dead man’s body. Dean maneuvered himself to be between Piper and the scene before them.

The teacher stood up and looked at the witch. He put a hand on her shoulder, turned her around, and kissed her. She sighed. “My love.”

“You’ve aged.”

“This face… I can’t fool you.”

The demon touched his hand to her face. “Your beauty is beyond time.” He pressed his forehead to hers briefly, then violently snapped her neck. “Whore.”

He turned from her and sniffed the air. Dean closed his eyes and waited until the door closed before opening them again. The pain in his midsection had disappeared, but Piper was still unconscious. He glared at Sam as he knelt to pick her up. “What the hell was that?”

Sam shrugged. “Halloween lore. People used to wear masks to hide from him, so I gave it a shot.”

“You gave it a shot?!”

Chapter Text

The seal had been broken. Samhain had risen. Sam had used his demon powers. And Piper was lying to him.

Dean glared down at her from his place next to her on the bed. She wasn’t meeting his eyes. “You’re honestly going to try to pass this off as a fall?”

She kept looking at the door. “I did fall, Dean, I don’t know what-”

“If you're going to lie to me, Pipes, don’t insult me.”

She finally looked at him, tears starting to form in her eyes. Don’t give in to her, she’s lying to you. “Dean, please let it go. It’s not a big deal.”

He leaned forward to press his forehead against hers, fighting with himself. “Piper, you can’t keep stuff from me, please.”

“You don’t want to know.” She whispered softly.

“Tell me anyway.”

She seemed to be fighting with herself. “The nightmares you’ve been having,” she said finally, “Sometimes you… Lash out.”

He sucked in a breath, realization and guilt washing through him. “I did this?”

She shook her head and put a hand on his arm. “No, you didn’t mean to, Dean, so don’t go blaming yourself. I can usually wake you up before it gets dangerous, but I wasn’t fast enough. Dean, I’m fine.”

He had hurt her. She was the most important thing, she was his one good thing, and he was beating her up in his sleep. “Jesus,” he muttered, sick to his stomach, the guilt too much. He stood and ran a hand through his hair.

“Dean, please, it wasn’t your fault.” She was crying, which was also his fault, no matter what she claimed.

“I just need a minute, Pipes.” He walked out the door, ignoring her protests.

Sam was leaning against the Impala, upset. Dean frowned. He wasn’t happy with his brother, either, but his guilt was too heavy to be mad right now. So he just sighed and leaned against the car next to him. “Did you know about her ribs?” he asked quietly.

Sam, at least, didn’t lie. “Yeah, she, uh, told me yesterday morning.”

“Any reason you didn’t clue me in?”

Sam chuckled humorlessly. “Because you're going to try to get her to stay behind, or you’re going to try leave her, or some other bullshit to put her out of what you think is danger. And as much fun as you being dead was, I don’t love the idea of Piper murdering you.”

Dean frowned and looked at Sam. “Sam, if I’m hitting her in my sleep, she should go home.”

“Try telling her that.”

Dean groaned and leaned his head back. “Why the hell is she sticking with us? She’s gotten hurt more times since she’s been with us-”

“Because she’s in love with you, idiot.”

Something in Dean stilled. He wanted that to be true. God knew he… Felt that way about her. But even if it was true, it wouldn’t be for long. Not if she found out.

So he snorted. “No, she’s not.”

Sam studied him for a long time. “You’re an idiot, Dean.”

***

Piper was watching Dean sit on a park bench, watching kids play on a playground. Her heart ached, almost as much as her damn ribs. He looked so forlorn, so lost.

She moved towards him slowly, trying to keep the pain in her ribs to a minimum. It didn’t work, and he turned around at her soft grunt.

He was next to her in a flash, one arm around her waist, the other holding her hand as he guided her to the bench. “Jesus, Piper, did you walk here?”

She sat on the end of the bench with a sigh of relief. “It’s only like a mile, and you took Baby.”

He only growled in response, and she smiled. “Relax, Dean, I’m fine. I just didn’t think you should be alone.”

He sighed and sat next to her, arm wrapped gingerly around her shoulders. “Piper, I-”

“I can heal your ribs, Piper Finley.” Castiel had appeared next to Dean out of thin air. He was leaning forward to look at her, frowning. “Your injury has become much more severe.”

Piper had jumped when the angel appeared, and was now gasping in pain. She considered his offer for a moment. “Okay, wings.” Dean frowned down at her, but said nothing.

Castiel leaned forward and pressed two fingers against her forehead. She felt a comforting warmth envelop her ribs, then nothing. She blinked and sat up. There was no pain at all.

She gave the angel a half smile. “Thank you, Castiel.”

He smiled. “You’re welcome, Piper.”

There was a beat of silence, then Dean turned to Castiel. “Let me guess you’re here for the, ‘I told you so’.”

Castiel looked forward again. “No.”

“Well, good, cause I’m really not that interested.”

Castiel sighed. “I am not here to judge you, Dean.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Our orders-”

“Yeah, you know, I’ve had about enough of these orders of yours-”

Piper put a hand on Dean’s chest to interrupt him. “Dean, hear him out.”

Castiel continued. “Our orders were not to stop the summoning of Samhain, they were to do whatever you told us to do.”

Dean raised his eyebrows. “Your orders were to follow my orders?”

“It was a test, to see how you would perform under... Battlefield conditions, you might say.”

Piper felt her brow furrow. “It was a witch, not the Tet Offensive.”

Dean ignored her. “So I, uh, failed your test, huh? I get it. But you know what? If you would have waved that magic time-traveling wand of yours and we had to do it all over again, I’d make the same call. 'Cause see, I don’t know what’s gonna happen when these seals are broken, hell I don’t even know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. But what I do know is, that this, here? These kids, the swings, the trees, all of it is still here because of Piper, my brother and me.” Piper nodded and slipped her hand into his.

“You misunderstand me, Dean, I’m not like you think. I was praying that you would choose to save the town.”

“You were?”

Castiel looked toward the playground and gestured. “These people, they’re all my father’s creations. They’re works of art, and yet, even though you stopped Samhain, the seal was broken and we are one step closer to hell on earth, for all creation. Now that’s not an expression, Dean, it's literal. You of all people should appreciate what that means.” Dean’s hand tightened on Piper’s. “Can I tell you something if you promise not to tell another soul?”

Dean nodded slowly. “Okay.”

“I’m not a… Hammer as you say. I have questions, I have doubts. I don’t know what is right and what is wrong anymore, whether you passed or failed here. But in the coming months you will have more decisions to make. I don’t envy the weight that’s on your shoulders, Dean. I truly don’t.”

***

CRASH!

“God dammit, Piper, quit throwing things!”

“Screw you, Winchester!” CRASH!

“This ain’t gonna change my mind, Piper. You’re staying here.” CRASH! “God dammit, Piper, that almost hit me!”

“Yeah, I missed! You can’t stop me, Dean, I’m a grown-ass woman and I’ll go wherever I damn well please!”

Sam winced as another crash rang through the house. “How long have they been at it?”

“An hour at least,” Bobby said miserably. “Wish they’d cut it out.”

***

“God dammit, this is for your own good!”

Dean watched as she swung to point at him, fury radiating off of her. “You don’t get to decide that! You aren’t in charge of what I do!”

He closed his eyes and tried count to ten. “Pipes, baby, come on-”

“Don’t you dare ‘Pipes, baby, come on’ me, Dean Winchester!” He watched her take a deep breath. She really was lovely when she was mad, but he wasn’t about to tell her that.

“Look, Dean,” she started, the first words she hadn’t shouted at him for an hour. “How many times do we have to do this? What do I have to do to convince you I’m in this for the long haul? I have stayed with you, I have fought with you, I don’t know what you want from me.”

He blew a breath out and ran a hand through his hair. An idea had taken hold, but he hated it. “Piper, I just want you to be safe.”

She stepped closer to him. “I can take care of myself, Dean.”

God dammit. If he could make her see reason and stay here, maybe he wouldn’t have to lie to her. “I know you can, Pipes, I just… I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I could get hurt anywhere. I’m staying with you.”

He had to put his foot down. She couldn’t even sleep next to him safely, much less hunt. She’d been kidnapped, tortured, had bones broken, and she still insisted she was fine. “Piper, I don’t want you with us.”

She snorted. “Well, tough.”

He had to. He had to. “Piper, I don’t want you with me.”

He watched the color drain from her face, trying to conceal the misery in his heart. If she thought he was leaving her, maybe she’d go be safe somewhere.

She stepped close enough to look up at him. “Are you trying… To break up with me?”

He couldn’t say the word, so he just nodded.

He didn’t expect the slap, but he took it passively, closing his eyes, hoping she couldn’t see the pain on his face.

He expected heartbreak, so her anger caught him by surprise. “How dare you,” she said softly. He opened his eyes and watched her eyes fill with outrage. “How dare you use our relationship in some half-assed attempt to get me to stay safe. How dare you hold us hostage!”

He frowned. “Piper-” He caught her hand as she swung again. “Piper, it’s for the best, we weren’t going to make it anyway.”

“Bullshit.” She ripped her hand out if his grasp. “We're fine. We’re great. Screw you, Dean.”

She walked to the door of her bedroom and turned back to him. “When you get your head out of your ass and realize that I’m in love with you, you come find me. And be prepared to grovel.” She slammed the door behind her.

What? Dean was floored, hearing her words echo over and over in his head. She couldn’t be in love with him. She didn’t know what he’d done.

I could tell her. No, she would turn away from him. Maybe she wouldn’t. He couldn’t take that chance. What are you doing now, jackass? She just walked out.

Dean ran to the door and down the stairs. He stopped in the kitchen to look at Bobby and Sam, but no Piper. He met Sam’s eyes. “Where?”

“Out back. She was running.”

Dean ran out the door without another word. His heart was racing, panicking in his chest. What if she really left?

He found her a minute later, walking through the salvage yard away from the house. Her arms were wrapped around her middle, and her shoulders were hunched. “Piper!”

She didn’t stop, but he saw her tense. “Piper!”

She stopped and turned to him, still mad. “I don’t want to-”

He grabbed her arms and pulled her into him, his lips crashing down onto hers. She cried out and pulled her arms out of his grasp to wrap them around his neck, her fingers spearing through the hair at the nape of his neck. The urgent little sounds she was making were driving him crazy.

“I’m sorry, kitten, I’m so sorry,” he murmured against her lips, lifting her onto the hood of a nearby car.

“I know, it’s okay, I love you,” she whimpered back, hands fishing in his shirt to pull him close.

Her hands went to his belt buckle and he pulled away. “Are we going to this right here?”

“God, yes,” she gasped, fumbling with his belt.

He grinned. “I have a better idea.”

He pulled her off of the car and put his hands on her ass, moaning when she bit his neck and wrapped her legs around his waist. He felt her suck hard, briefly, and grinned. Being a marked man didn’t seem so bad.

When they got to the Impala, he bent his knees so she could reach behind her and open the door. He basically tossed her into the backseat. The heat in her eyes was intoxicating. The heat of her hand wrapping around his length before they could get all of their clothes off was intoxicating. The sight of her underneath him, coming apart in his arms, was intoxicating.

But mostly, her sweet, low voice, whispering “I love you,” over and over again was intoxicating.

***

Dean lay on his back, arm around Piper, who was curled around him, snoring softly. He had thrown the blanket he kept in the backseat over them, and he was staring at Baby’s ceiling, considering.

She loved him. She was in love with him. He was in awe, put there by the woman sleeping next to him. She had seen almost the worst of the bad, and she was still in love with him. She was amazing.

He had tried to say it back, but there was a soul deep fear that stopped him. If he said it, even to himself, it meant if he lost her, it would kill him. And he would lose her, they were hunters. It was part of the job. When he had been dying, he hadn’t had her to lose. He was the one being lost, so he could admit to himself that he… Felt that way.

Crap, he thought to himself as he shifted to pull her closer. He closed his eyes to try to sleep, mind racing.

Chapter Text

“We need to talk, Piper Finley.”

Piper screamed and whipped around, still wrapped in a towel. “What the hell, wings? You can’t just creep up on people like that!”

“Dean is going back to hell if we don’t get Anna to heaven.”

She went cold. “Excuse me?” She stepped forward, her fear forgotten. “Did you just threaten to send Dean back to hell?”

He looked uncomfortable. “Piper, this is serious.”

She was incensed. “You’re damn right it is! How dare you sneak up on me in the bathroom, and threaten to send my boyfriend to hell? What is wrong with you, Castiel?!”

“Lower your voice, Piper Finley. You have to get him to give us Anna.”

“Screw you. Dean is going to do whatever the hell he wants. And I hope he never gives you Anna.” She knew she was snarling, borderline being unreasonable, but she didn’t appreciate being threatened.

“Piper, if you love Dean, you will convince him that this is the right thing to do.”

***

The plan was in motion. Piper stood next to Dean, Anna on his other side, and Sam on the end. Piper was sick to her stomach. Even if it was a good plan, it was risky as hell.

The doors to the barn they were in blew open to show Castiel and Uriel coming in. Castiel met Piper’s eyes, then looked at Anna. “Hello, Anna. It's good to see you.”

Piper tuned out the rest, trying to brace herself for battle. She didn’t bat an eye when Anna kissed Dean. The hickey on his neck was from Piper, so her possessiveness wasn’t disturbed.

She heard Anna say, “You did the best you could. I forgive you. Okay. No more tricks. No more running. I'm ready.”

“I'm sorry,” Castiel said to her.

“No. You're not. Not really. You don't know the feeling.”

Castiel looked upset. “Still, we have a history. It's just-”

“Orders are orders,” Anna interrupted.”I know. Just make it quick.”

The door behind them burst in, and Piper whirled around. Alastair, two demons she didn’t recognize, and Ruby entered.

“Don't you touch a hair on that poor girl's head.” Alastair drawled smugly. Piper’s spine felt like ice, and she hated him. She didn’t miss the way Dean tensed.

“How dare you come in this room... You pussing sore?” Uriel growled, stepping forward with the angel blade in his hand.

Alastair clucked his tongue. “Name calling. That hurt my feelings... You sanctimonious, fanatical prick.”

“Turn around and walk away now.” Castiel also looked ready for a fight. Piper tightened her grip on the gun in her hand and wished she was anywhere else.

Alastair smirked. “Sure. Just give us the girl. We'll make sure she gets punished good and proper.”

“You know who we are and what we will do. I won't say it again. Leave now... Or we lay you to waste.”

“Think I'll take my chances.”

Fighting exploded around Piper. She and one of the new demons zeroed in on one another. Piper’s mind became clear, watching the demon’s body for signs of what it was about to do. Her uncertainty and worries were washed away in the heat of battle. She was on solid footing. She was good at this.

“Piper Finley. I’m honored.” The demon sneered as it swung down at her.

She smiled. “You are indeed. Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus-” She muttered the exorcism as they fought. The demon tried to hit her face, but she was quick. This was not her first rodeo.

Soon, black smoke flew from the meatsuit, allowing Piper to turn around. She ran to Dean, who was standing over Alastair and Castiel. The demon was taunting Dean. “Dean, Dean, Dean... I am so disappointed. You had such promise.”

Piper didn’t miss the tightness in Dean’s shoulders, or the misery etched onto his face. Before she could respond, Anna was yelling, “Shut your eyes. Shut your eyes! Shut your eyes!”

Dean wasn’t moving. Dammit. Piper tackled him to the ground, covering his eyes with her hand as she squeezed hers shut tightly.

When there was silence, Piper stood up slowly, getting off of Dean and helping him up. Dean was already looking at the angels, eyebrows raised. “Well, what are you guys waiting for? Go get Anna. Unless, of course, you're scared.”

Uriel glowered at Dean. “This isn't over.”

“Oh, it looks over to me, junkless.”

The angels disappeared.

Sam turned to Ruby. “You okay?”

“Not so much.”

Piper knelt to pull the demon’s arm around her shoulders and help her up.

“What took you so long to get here?” Dean asked, bending to pick up the demon knife.

Ruby glared at him. “Sorry I'm late with the demon delivery. I was only being tortured.”

Piper ignored the rest of the conversation to help Ruby to the car.

***

After they dropped Ruby off, they had stopped for beer and pulled over on the side of the road for a celebratory drink. Piper was next to Dean, his arm around her shoulders, leaning into his warmth. She still had icy fear at the base of her spine, and she couldn’t understand why.

The men were talking about the fight. “I can't believe we made it out of there,” Dean said, his voice tight. Something was wrong, but Piper kept silent about it. He would tell her when he was ready.

Sam smiled. “Again.” The three of them clicked their bottles together.

There was a moment of silence before Dean spoke. His words chilled her even more. “I know you guys heard him.”

She let Sam speak. “Who?”

“Alastair. What he said... About how I had promise.”

Piper looked up at him. “We heard him.”

Dean wouldn’t meet her eyes. “You're not curious?”

“Dean, I'm damn curious," Sam said from behind him. "But you're not talking about hell, and we’re not pushing.” Piper nodded, leaning harder into him and wrapping an arm around his waist.

Dean was quiet for a moment. “It wasn't four months, you know.”

“What?” Piper whispered, horrified.

“It was four months up here, but down there... I don't know. Time's different. It was more like 40 years.”

“My God,” Sam muttered. Piper put a hand over her mouth.

Dean didn’t respond to either of them. “They, uh... They sliced and carved and tore at me in ways that you... Until there was nothing left. And then, suddenly... I would be whole again, like magic… Just so they could start in all over. And Alastair... At the end of every day, every one... He would come over.”

Piper was sick to her stomach. She moved so she was wrapping both arms around his waist and resting her head into his chest. He didn’t move to hold her, but shifted to give her better access. “And he would make me an offer. To take me off the rack... If I put souls on... If I started the torturing. And every day, I told him to stick it where the sun shines. For thirty years, I told him. But then I couldn't do it anymore, Sammy. I couldn't. And I got off that rack. God help me, I got right off it, and I started ripping them apart. I lost count of how many souls.” Piper heard the sob he didn’t let out, and hugged him tighter. “The, the things that I did to them...”

Piper’s head was spinning. Oh, God, poor Dean… She hoped vehemently that Alastair had died in Anna’s blast. No wonder he has nightmares.

“Dean,” Sam started, then swallowed hard and continued. “Dean, look, you held out for thirty years. That's longer than anyone would have.” Piper nodded against his chest.

Dean was close to openly crying now. “How I feel... This... Inside me... I wish I couldn't feel anything, Sammy. I wish I couldn't feel a damn thing.”

***

Dean knew that Piper was taking him on some kind of farewell tour. He wished she would just get on with it.

When they had gotten back to Bobby’s, she had insisted he get back into the Impala, leaving Sam there with Bobby. They had driven for a while, her head in his lap with her bare feet hanging out the open window. She talked almost the whole time, for which he was grateful.

He couldn’t find words. He didn’t know what had possessed him to tell her and Sam about hell. Maybe he couldn’t keep it in anymore. Maybe he was letting them leave while they had a chance. God knew he didn’t deserve any loyalty.

Piper had made him pull over in the parking lot of a nice hotel. She had hopped out and paid, helping him bring in their stuff to settle in their room.

He was sitting on the bed, back against the headboard, listening to her rattle out every thought that passed through her head. She must be nervous. He hoped she didn’t think he would hurt her.

She was standing in front of the minibar, in a black sundress and bare feet. Her hair lay in waves over her shoulder. She was looking at the airplane bottles of liquor. “Are these good brands? They’d better be, this damn thing is expensive. I mean, I’m all for you only live once, but if it’s not quality booze, is it even worth it?”

He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the headboard. “Pipes, why are you doing this?”

“Well, we don’t have to drink them, but you’re kind of a drinker, and this should be a nice change of pace from-”

“I’m not talking about the damn alcohol, Piper,” he interrupted, opening his eyes and raising his head to look at her. “Why are you drawing this out?”

Her brow furrowed. “Drawing what out?”

He gestured to everything around them. “The nice room, the mini bar.” He smiled wryly at her. “Kind of an expensive way to leave me, Pipes.”

She tilted her head, examining him with those hazel eyes. “Why would you think I’m leaving you?”

“Are you going to make me say it, kitten?” He asked miserably as she walked toward him. “You know why, because I… Did what I did.”

She climbed onto the bed next to him, then moved to straddle his legs, facing him. The compassion in her eyes was almost unbearable. “Dean, of course I’m not leaving you.”

He looked up at her, memorizing her face, not believing her.

“Dean, I’m in love with you.” She put a finger to his mouth, interrupting his protest. “I don’t say that so you'll say it back, you know. I say it because it’s true. It was true when you were a cocky eighteen-year-old, and it’s true now. Dean Winchester, I have loved you all of the time between then and now, but especially right now." She smiled as he stared at her, at the tears shimmering in her pretty eyes. “I did not bring you here to break up with you. I brought you here so you could feel safe for once.”

Dean was in awe of her again. The steady love in her eyes, her hand that had moved to cup his face. Holy shit.

He reached up slowly to put a hand on her face. She sighed and leaned into it. He used it to pull her closer until their lips were a whisper apart. He was holding himself back, wanting to be gentle for her, to show her how much she meant to him. But the raging storm of emotions in him was screaming at him to take her hard and fast, to lose himself in her so the other screaming in his head would stop.

“Dean,” she said softly, not opening her eyes. “Just get the hell over here and kiss me.”

He moved fast, giving in completely. He ran both hands through her hair, holding her to him tightly, invading her mouth with his tongue. She whimpered into his mouth as he ran one hand from her hip to her shoulder, gently pulling the strap of her dress down to lick and nip his way down her neck.

He pushed her dress down further, freeing her breasts. He pulled one nipple into his mouth, sucking gently and running his teeth over it, using his free hand to pinch and pull the other one. She leaned her head back and gave a heavy moan, grinding herself down onto his cock.

“Dean, now, please,” she lifted her head back up to look at him, and the heat there drove him insane. He used his hands on her hips to raise her up to her knees, then ran his hands up her legs. He almost came when he realized she wasn’t wearing underwear. How does she always know?

Her hot little hands were at his belt buckle, zipping down his jeans, freeing his cock, then wrapping it in their soft warmth. She stroked him slowly, leaning forward to whisper filthy things in his ear, smiling when his hands tightened on her legs. “Christ, Piper.”

She laughed softly into his ear, the desire in her voice making him dizzy. He moved hand to her center, moving a finger through her hot, slick folds. He felt a growl rumble in his chest at how wet she was for him. “Piper,” he gasped, losing focus a little when she nibbled at his earlobe lightly.

“Now, Dean,” she demanded, shifting so she was hovering over him. He realized she was waiting for his permission, waiting for him to tell her what to do. He scooted down to get a better angle and put his hands on her hips, meeting her eyes and losing himself in them for a moment. His voice was huskier than he’d intended when he ordered, “Now, Piper.”

She came down fast, and they both gasped once he was fully sheathed in her. Dean closed his eyes, unable to look at her and last as long as she’d need him to. She set a fast pace, crying out and digging her fingernails into his shoulders. He would find marks there in the morning and smile for the first time since he’d told them about hell.

Dean reached down between her legs, circling her clit with his thumb, teasing her. “Oh, Dean, please,” she begged softly, moaning when he moved harder against her clit. He moved his hips up to meet her thrusts, breaking into a light sweat from the effort he was exerting to hold himself together.

Just a little more pressure. He tilted his head back against the pillow and closed his eyes. “Come for me, Piper,” he said roughly.

His words had the desired effect. Dean held her against him hard, listening to her cry out in pleasure as he lost himself in feeling her.

A few moments later she stepped off of him gingerly, going into the bathroom to clean up. When he heard the shower turn on, he stood and stripped (I didn’t even take my jacket off, what an ass), and followed her in.

***

Several hours later, Dean was laying on his side with Piper’s back pressed to his chest, his face buried in her hair. He breathed in her scent deeply, trying to go to sleep, unable to for fear he would have another damn nightmare and attack her.

She stirred in her sleep, nestling closer. “What’s wrong, baby?”

He smiled at the sleep still thick in her voice. “Nothing, kitten, go back to sleep.”

She sighed and interlaced her fingers with his. “Dean, stop worrying, you’re not going to hurt me. Go to sleep.”

How the hell does she always know?

Chapter Text

Two weeks after Dean and Piper had returned from their night in the hotel, they were hunting nonstop. Piper didn’t say anything about Dean’s need to hunt, she understood what it was like to have so much pain that you had to work constantly to keep your mind off of it.

They were sitting in a diner, examining the case Sam had found, Dean and Piper sitting across from him.

Sam turned his laptop to Dean. “Looks like a werewolf to me.”

Dean’s mouth was full of food, and Piper wrinkled her nose as he spoke. “Hearts missing?”

Sam nodded. “Three bodies last month, mutilated and hearts gone. Lunar cycles match.”

Piper picked up her coffee and inhaled the scent with her eyes closed. “Do they think it was an animal attack?”

There was a chuckle from her left. “Don’t they always?”

Piper turned and grinned, launching herself out of the booth into Garth’s waiting arms. “Garth!”

He laughed. “Smalls! Weird world, huh? You guys chasing this werewolf?”

She leaned back and examined him. “You look good, Garth.”

“I always look good, Smalls.”

She laughed. “Yes, you do. Yeah, we’re hunting the werewolf. Do you have a lead?”

“Hell, I know who it is. Was gonna gank him tonight. Care to join?”

Dean cleared his throat. “Uh, Pipes? Who the hell is this?”

She turned and slipped her arm through Garth’s. “This is Garth, guys! Garth, this is Sam and Dean Winchester.”

Garth’s eyes widened. “Uh, Dean who went to hell Dean?”

She nodded. “Long story, but yes, this is him.”

Sam smiled, but Dean was still looking at Garth through narrowed eyes. “Is this the Garth who helped you while I was… Gone?”

Garth grinned. “Well, I tagged along, anyway, Smalls doesn’t really need help.”

Piper grinned affectionately at Garth. She had missed him. “Come on, Fitz, you’re gonna make me blush.”

***

The hunt went well, almost without a hitch. Piper had invited Garth to dinner with them at their motel, which he had accepted. Dean wasn’t sure how he felt about the skinny man who seemed so close to Piper. He was kind of a weirdo, and even if Piper had assured him there was nothing but friendship between them, Dean’s jealousy was rearing it’s rather ugly head.

Piper had gone out to pick up dinner, so the three men sat at the table in the motel room, drinking.

“So, what did Bobby have to do to convince you to help Piper?” Sam asked, taking a swig.

Garth smiled. “Well, hell, nothing. As soon as he said that Piper Finley needed help, I dropped everything.”

Dean frowned. “Thought Pipes said you’d never met?”

Garth looked at them both strangely. “We hadn’t. But, obviously, I knew who Smalls was.”

Sam’s eyebrows went up. “How?”

“Come on. You’re joshing,” Garth said amicably, waving a hand at them.

“What?” Dean tried to keep the anger out of his voice.

Garth made a face. “Seriously? You guys don’t know that Piper is… Uh, well known?”

Sam shook his head, tensing. “No. Why is she well known?” Being famous in the hunter world wasn’t always a good thing.

“Uh, okay, weird.” Garth shook his head. “Piper is a good hunter, guys. A great hunter. She’s always willing to lend a hand, she impersonates law enforcement, she does research. She’s even put together a few hunts.”

Dean shrugged. “So? We knew that.”

Garth shook his head again. “Do you honestly know any hunters who would just take a call from some random woman, telling them to go on a hunt, and they would just go?”

Dean met Sam’s eyes. They both shook their heads.

“Of course not! That’s crazy!” Garth smiled affectionately. “But Piper is something else, man. She’s smart as a whip, she knows her stuff, and she’s a hell of a hunter.” He leaned back in his chair. “And, of course, she’s Bobby Singer’s surrogate daughter, she’s John Winchester’s surrogate daughter, and it has gotten through the grapevine that she’s dating Dean Winchester.” The door opened behind them to admit Piper. “Trust me, people know who Smalls is.”

“Who knows who I am?” Piper asked cheerfully, carrying a bag of Chinese food and locking the door behind her.

Dean grinned when she came over to kiss him. “You’re famous, kitten.”

She frowned. “What?”

Sam was digging through the food already. “Garth was filling us in on your reputation.”

She whipped around to glare at Garth. “I do not have a reputation, Fitz. Stop spreading rumors.”

Garth shrugged. “Come on, Smalls, you know who you are. People know who you are.”

“Who knows who I am?” She moved to sit next to Dean, but he placed a hand on her hip to guide her into his lap. His need to be touching her was still overwhelming. “No one knows who I am,” she continued, submitting to him. He settled her in his lap, wrapping an arm around her waist and reaching for food. The screaming in his head was going quiet as Garth retorted.

“Keep telling yourself that, Smalls.”

***

Over the next two weeks, Dean kept a closer eye on Piper. He realized how often she was texting, how often she stepped outside to take a phone call. If she wasn’t researching their case, she was often researching someone else’s.

His woman was famous. Dean grinned, wondering if that made him a kept man.

“What are you smiling at, Winchester?” The object of his musings asked cheerfully, looking over the edge of her laptop.

He made his way over to her, moving to stand behind her chair and place a hand behind her head. “Nothing, kitten.” He thought for a moment, tangling his fingers in her hair. “I just didn’t realize how often you work.”

She tilted her head up to look at him. “There’s always work to do, Dean. And not everyone is as good as you, handsome,” she said affectionately, smiling up at him.

He leaned down to nuzzle her neck, the hand in her hair tilting her head back gently. “How about a break?”

She sighed and tilted her head to the side, her breath catching as his other hand wandered to the buttons on her shirt, unbuttoning them slowly. “I don’t know, you'll have to convince me…”

He slowly spun the chair she was sitting in until she was facing him. Her eyes were wide and dark, her breathing shallow. He stepped forward, his knees touching hers, relishing the soft gasp she emitted at the contact. He leaned down slowly, trapping her between his arms as he placed his hands on the arms of the chair she was sitting in. “Is that so?”

She nodded mutely.

He moved quickly, picking her up and throwing her over his shoulder. “Dean! Dammit, Dean!” she squealed, laughing when he slapped her ass.

“Hush, kitten. Break time.”

***

She wasn’t going to sugarcoat it. Piper was freaking exhausted.

She was laying with her head in Dean’s lap in the front seat of Baby, her feet dangling out the window. Sam was in the backseat sleeping. Dean was looking for a new case. Piper was still keeping her mouth shut, but she was getting worried. She wasn’t sure when the last time Dean had slept was, but she had gone to bed and woken up by herself the last few nights.

Sam woke with a start, sitting up and blinking at Dean. “What are you doing?”

The older hunter didn’t stop. “What’s it look like I’m doing?”

“Like you’re looking for a job.”

Dean snapped his fingers. “Yahtzee.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “We just finished a job like two hours ago.”

Dean shrugged. “Adrenaline's still pumping, I guess. So, what do you think... Cedar Rapids, Tulsa, or Chi-Town?”

Piper groaned. “Ugh, none.”

Sam ignored her. “I am all for working. I really am. But you got us chasing cases nonstop for like a month now. We need sleep.”

“Yeah, we can sleep when we're dead.”

Piper frowned and sat up a little to look at him. “You’re exhausted, Dean.”

He flicked his eyes down to her. “I’m good.”

Sam was shaking his head. “No, you’re not. You’re running on fumes, and you can’t run forever.”

Dean made a show of sighing and putting the laptop on the dash. Piper rolled her eyes. Drama queen. “And what am I running from?”

“From what you told us. Or are we pretending that never happened?

Dean ignored him to look down at Piper. “Stratton, Nebraska. Farm town. A man gets hacked to death in a locked room inside a locked house. No signs of forced entry.”

She examined him for a moment. He did look tired, he looked as bad as Dean Winchester could look. But she wasn’t going to stop him from running on all cylinders until he collapsed, at least not right now. She wasn’t a hypocrite, she understood. So instead, she replied. “Sounds like a ghost.”

He grinned. “Yes, it does.”

Piper laid her head back down onto his thigh as he started the car.

***

“Well, that was horrific.” Piper said weakly, sliding into the backseat of the Impala. “I hate it when it’s humans.” She thought the feral children hidden in the walls would haunt her for a long time.

Sam turned to Dean. “You okay?”

Dean was looking out the window. “You know, I felt for those sons of bitches back there. Lifelong torture turns you into something like that.”

Sam frowned. “You were in hell, Dean. Look, maybe you did what you did there, but you're not them. They were barely human.”

“Yeah, you're right. I wasn't like them. I was worse. They were animals, Sam, defending territory. Me? I did it for the sheer pleasure.”

Piper’s heart froze.

Dean didn’t look at either of them. “I enjoyed it. They took me off the rack, and I tortured souls, and I liked it. All those years, all that pain. Finally getting to deal some out yourself. I didn't care who they put in front of me. Because that pain I felt, it just slipped away. No matter how many people I save, I can't change that. I can't fill this hole. Not ever.”

***

Dean didn’t fight her when she booked them two rooms that night, giving Sam a key and leading Dean to the other room. She was grateful, because she didn’t have the words to fight with him about it, but she knew he needed it. He needed to be alone with her.

She set their bags down on the beds, listening to him lock the door behind them. She turned and took his hands in hers, leading him slowly to the bathroom. He wasn’t meeting her eyes, and she wasn’t pushing the issue. He just let her lead him.

She shut the door behind them, then turned and started pulling his clothes off. He helped minimally, then watched as she undressed herself. She pulled him into the shower and turned the water on.

She washed him slowly, gently. She admired his hard body, his broad shoulders, his huge hands, his strong legs. He was beautiful. The only real reaction he had to her was closing his eyes when she ran her hands through his hair.

When she was done, she stepped closer and wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head on his chest. She held him this way, listening to the strong beat of his heart, feeling his chest rise and fall with his breath beneath her cheek. After a long time, his arms slowly encircled her, and his cheek came to rest on her head. “Pipes, I…” he rasped, seemingly searching for the words.

She hushed him, not moving. “I love you, Dean. I know you don’t think you deserve it, but I love you. You do deserve it, and you have it. And for tonight, let’s let that be enough. We’ll deal with everything else tomorrow. Okay?”

There was a long pause. “Okay, kitten.”

***

No! No! No!

Dean had the presence of mind to roll himself away from Piper, knowing he was having a nightmare. He was gasping, covered in sweat, as he hit the floor with a soft thump. He stayed where he was for a moment, hoping that he hadn’t woken her up. When it became apparent that she was still sleeping, he sat up and put his head in his hands.

He didn’t understand why she was still here. This was it. The worst that any human being could get. He had tortured those souls, and he had relished in it. The power to deal out pain instead of take it, the underlying satisfaction of being really, really good at something. As much as he loathed himself for it, Alastair had been right: Dean had had promise.

And all she did was hold him. Piper had stood next to him as he faced the worst part of himself, and she had weathered the storm with him. She really did love him, and even if he didn’t understand, he could feel it start to put him back together.

Once he was sure he had calmed down enough to know he wasn’t going to hurt her, he crawled back into bed with her, pulling her into his chest and burying his face in her hair.

Chapter Text

Piper was curled under Dean’s shoulder in a diner booth, laughing as he whispered dirty talk to her and pulled her legs to lay across his. Since he had finally revealed everything from hell, he was rarely not touching her. She had finally gotten to shower by herself this morning, and when she had gotten out, he had promptly gotten her sweaty and breathless again.

She didn’t mind, she enjoyed the attention he was showering on her. The big hand playing with the end of her braid, the knee touching hers, his lips brushing against her shoulder as she was researching on her laptop. Piper soaked it all up happily.

As if to drive home the point, Dean put a hand on her knee and moved it up very slowly, licking around the shell of her ear and murmuring all the things he’d like to do to her. “I’m going to bend you over-”

Sam coughed as he slid into the seat across from them. “Guys, come on, this is getting embarrassing. We’re in a diner, for Christ’s sake.”

Piper smiled and put her hand on Dean’s face, pushing him away. “Sorry, Sam.”

She felt Dean grin against her palm. “Not sorry, Sammy,” he said cheerfully against her hand.

Piper turned back to the younger hunter, and was surprised to see his expression softening as he looked at them. “Whatcha got?” She asked cheerfully, mulling that expression over in her mind.

“So get this. Guy gets stabbed on the street ten times.”

Dean shrugged. “So?”

“So, there were no holes in his shirt.”

***

Piper walked beside Dean into a dimly lit theater, looking around curiously. There were two tables set up, one with two older men, and the other with one older man sitting across from a younger man.

They approached the older men, and Piper had to swat Dean’s hand as it slid down her back to rest on her ass. When one of the men turned, she gave them what she hoped was a sunny smile. “Hello! Are you Vernon Haskell?”

The man who had turned narrowed his eyes  at her. “Who's asking?”

Dean flashed his FBI badge. “I’m agent Ulrich, this is my partner, Agent Hammett. We’re looking into the death of Patrick Vance.”

Piper was distracted by the two men at the other table. The younger one was talking into a camera. “I'm Jeb Dexter. This is Devil Twist. We're chilling at the International Magicians' Convention, which is a dope chance to tip my hat to the wicked cats who came before me. Smoking hot effect last night, Jim.”

The other man looked uncomfortable. “Jay.”

Jeb’s brow wrinkled. “Huh?”

“My name is Jay.”

“Yeah, whatever. We can loop it later.”

“Oh, God, what a douche bag.” She wrinkled her nose. Vernon gave her an approving look.

Dean nodded. “Couldn't agree more. Is, uh-” He pulled out the tarot card they had found with the dead man’s things. “This familiar to you?” He showed the card to Vernon, who shrugged

“Should it be?”

Pipe smiled. “Well, we heard that you used tarot cards in your act.”

Vernon’s eyebrows went up. “My act? That was a long time ago. I haven't touched a deck in years, you know.” He held up his hand, which was trembling. Piper felt a wave of sympathy wash over her.

Dean seemed less affected. “Do you know someone that might use them now?”

“Well, there was a guy down on Bleeker Street.”

The other man at the table nodded. “Oh, yeah. He, he peddles that kind of specialty stuff.”

Piper turned to him. “Did he have a problem with Vance?”

Vernon nodded. “Matter of fact, Vance crossed him about a year ago. Probably cost him fifty grand in royalties.”

“Do you know the exact address?”

“Four twenty-six Bleeker.” Vernon supplied.

“Ask for Chief.”

Dean nodded. “Chief. Thank you.”

***

Piper was still chuckling at Dean’s encounter with Chief as they sat in the motel room. She was sitting cross-legged on her and Dean’s bed, laptop balanced on her knee. Dean was laying next to her propped up on his elbow, his hand resting on her other knee. They were discussing the case.

Sam was on his laptop, too. “Looks like this guy Jay was a pretty big deal in the seventies.”

“Which in magician land means what, exactly?” Dean asked, his eyes not leaving Piper’s computer screen.

Sam shrugged. “Big enough to play radio city music hall.”

Piper met his eyes. “What changed?

Another shrug. “He got old.”

Dean’s eyebrows went up. “Okay, so maybe incredible Jay is using real magic to stage a comeback.”

Piper looked down at him. “It’s possible. There are spells that create a death transference.”

He looked up at her and squeezed her knee gently. “How does the tarot card mix into it?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

Dean leaned back. “Man… Hope I die before I get old. Whole thing seems brutal, don’t it?”

Piper smacked him lightly on the back of the head. “Excuse me?”

“You think we will? Die before we get old?” Sam interrupted.

Dean shrugged. “Haven’t we both already?”

Sam rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean, Dean. I mean, do you think we'll still be chasing demons when we're sixty?”

Dean shook his head. “No, I think we'll be dead, for good.” Piper glared at him, and he held his hand up defensively. “What? You want to end up like… Like Travis? Huh? Or Gordon, maybe?”

“Bobby didn’t turn out too bad,” Piper objected, still glaring at him.

Dean snorted. “Oh, yeah, there's a poster child for growing old gracefully.”

“Maybe we'll be different, Dean,” Sam insisted.

Dean looked at his brother incredulously. “What kind of Kool-Aid you drinking, man? Sammy, it ends bloody or sad. That's just the life.”

There was a beat of silence. Piper was mad, and she couldn’t understand why. Hunters very rarely lived to old age, even Bobby was an anomaly, and he wasn't that old. She knew that. But the thought of Dean dying before living a long life upset her.

"What if we could win?” Sam asked quietly.

Piper turned to him. “Win?”

“If there was a way we could just… Put an end to all of it.”

Dean’s eyes narrowed. “Is there something you’re not telling us?”

Sam shook his head. “No. Look, I'm just saying… I just wish there was a way we could… Go after the source. That's all. Cut the head off the snake.”

Dean snorted again. “Well, the problem with the snake is that it has a thousand heads. Evil bitches just keep piling out of the Volkswagen.”

“Yeah. Guess you're right."

***

Piper’s throat ached from the noose that the magician had dropped around her neck in the theater, but she kept silent as they walked into the bar to join Jay the next morning.

She felt bad for the man. He had to lose one of his best friends, and even though it had been the right thing to do, Piper wasn’t sure she would have been able to do it. She thought there was a distinct possibility that she would have just gone with Sam or Dean, become immortal, and kept a low profile. She felt bad for Jay, but she also had a lot of respect for him.

She laid a gentle hand on his shoulder and rasped, “Hey, Jay. We wanted to thank you for what you did yesterday.”

He didn’t turn around. “I killed my best friend yesterday, and you want to thank me?” Piper let her hand drop.

Sam looked around. “Where’s Vernon?”

"Oh, he's gone. He said he didn't want to speak to me again after what I did to Charlie.”

There was a beat, then Dean spoke. “Listen, Jay… You know Charlie was never going to give up what he was doing. Ever. You did the right thing.”

Jay did turn around now, pain blazing in his eyes. “Are you sure about that? You know, Charlie was like my brother. And now he's dead... Because I did ‘the right thing.’ He offered me a gift, and I just threw it back in his face. So now I have to spend the rest of my life old and alone. What's so right about that?”

The bartender held up a pack of playing cards. “Jay, your cards.”

“Throw them away,” Jay muttered as he pushed past them and walked out the door. Piper watched him go and felt guilt settle onto her shoulders.

Dean slung an arm around her waist, trying for lighthearted. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I could go for a beer.”

Sam shook his head and started away. “I’m going for a walk.”

Dean shrugged and led Piper to a booth where they slid in together. She lay her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, listening to his deep voice rumble in his chest as he ordered for the both of them.

When the waitress had left, she lifted her head and looked at him. “Hey, what was all that crap at the motel?” she whispered, trying to save her throat. “About not making it to old age.”

He frowned at her. “Pipes, you probably shouldn’t be talking.”

She glared. “You wish, Winchester. What were you talking about?”

He shifted uncomfortably and looked away from her. “It’s the reality, kitten. Hunters don’t live long, and they usually go out bloody. I plan on going down swingin’, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not going to… To delude myself into thinking this has a happy ending.”

Piper frowned, but didn’t say anything. She shifted closer and put her head back on his broad shoulder. Dean was her happy ending, and even if she had given up the thought of old age a long time ago… Maybe now she wanted it.

“Look, Pipes,” Dean started slowly, still not meeting her eyes. “If… If things could be different… If we could be normal, yeah. I, uh, I would want that. A long life.” He swallowed hard and kept his gaze up and away from her. “With you.”

Piper’s heart stuttered to a stop. Did Dean Winchester just tell me he wants to spend his life with me?

He continued through her silence. “If we could have that apple pie life that Sammy always wanted, then I would want that. But we can’t, and I can’t… I can’t think about stuff like that. I can’t think about what my life, what our life, would be like without all this crap.” He pulled her close and planted a kiss on the top of her head. “I just can’t, kitten, okay?”

She nodded and nestled into him, feeling glowing warmth in her middle, despite the pain in her throat. “Okay, Dean,” she said softly.

***

Sam walked down the street, looking for Ruby’s car. He was glad Dean and Piper hadn’t questioned him.

When he thought of them, his heart ached. They were good together, they were right. But what Dean said rang through Sam’s head. They weren’t going to get to grow old together, or have kids, or buy a house.

And Sam wasn’t going to grow old, either.

He opened the door to Ruby's car. “Okay, I’m in.”

“What changed your mind?”

Sam thought of Dean and Piper. “I don't want to be doing this when I'm an old man.”

Chapter Text

“So get this, we have a wealthy couple, the Garners, slaughtered in their bedroom two nights ago.”

Piper towelled her damp hair and came to stand behind Sam, looking over his shoulder at the laptop. They had just gotten back from a run. “Signs of forced entry?”

Sam shook his head and looked up at her. “No, and there’s an overnight staff who heard the screams, but they say the door wouldn’t open.”

Dean grumbled and rolled out of bed. The sight of him, still sleepy and running a hand down his face, made her breath catch. Good grief, he’s gorgeous. “Sounds like a vengeful spirit to me,” she said, turning back to Sam. He was grinning smugly at her, so she smacked him on the back of the head. “Any recent deaths in the family?”

Sam shrugged, rubbing the back of his head. “Dunno. I think we should talk to the staff.”

Dean came out of the bathroom and pulled Piper close, burying his face in her hair and breathing deeply. “Who are we talking to? Can we eat first? Why are you two up so early?”

Piper leaned back into him. “Witnesses, yes, and we went for a run while you slept in, lazy.”

“You didn’t think I was lazy last night,” he murmured, nuzzling her ear. She shivered at the reminder.

“Let’s go eat before I lose my appetite,” Sam muttered darkly.

***

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Mrs. Barone.” Piper said sympathetically. The woman gave her a sad smile.

It never failed to amaze Dean when victims responded to Piper. She just hit them with those big hazel eyes, and they told her everything. Sam was the same way. It made things go a lot quicker, but it did make him rather useless.

He spent his time watching Piper’s ass as they walked through the house with the victim’s live-in maid. That skirt was giving him thoughts he would have to kick Sammy out of the room for.

“It was terrible,” the maid was saying, “They were screaming, and the door wouldn’t open.”

“I’m so sorry, it sounds awful.”

The maid pointed to one of the rooms. “That’s where it… Happened.”

Piper placed a hand on the woman’s arm. “It’s okay, Mrs. Barone, my partner and I will look around on our own. You can go back downstairs.” The woman shot Piper a grateful look and went down the steps.

Dean had already stepped into the room the couple had died in, and was holding the crime scene tape up for Piper to come through. “Jesus,” he muttered, dropping the tape and placing a hand at the small of her back.

There was blood spatter everywhere, with heaviest concentration centering on the bed. Dean wrapped an arm around Piper’s waist when she stepped closer to him.

“It’s an actual bloodbath,” she whispered, horrified.

“Come on, kitten, let’s look around.”

He kept an eye on Piper as they examined the room. Things had been awkward after what he’d said in the diner for a while, but they had smoothed out. She had to have known, he thought for the millionth time since then.

Piper picked up a photo that showed the victim, smiling at the camera, arms wrapped around a woman of similar age and features. “Sisters?” she asked, looking up at him when he joined her.

He nodded. “Maybe.” He pointed at the other woman in the picture. “Necklace looks expensive.”

She nodded. “Let’s go, this place is giving me the heebies.”

They made their way downstairs to find the maid. “Mrs. Barone?”

The woman’s eyes widened and she looked at Dean. “Yes, sir?”

“Was there anyone who wanted to hurt Mr. and Mrs. Garner?”

Mrs. Barone shook her head. “No, no, they were lovely people. Very generous, and very involved in the community.”

“Did they face any recent tragedy?”

Mrs. Barone’s eyes swung to Piper, her eyebrows wrinkling. “What does that have to do with what happened to them?”

Piper smiled reassuringly. “We’re just trying to look at every angle.”

The maid didn’t look convinced, but she nodded. “Okay, um, yes. Mrs. Garner’s sister died a few months ago. It devastated Mrs. Garner, she was depressed for weeks.”

Piper nodded. “Were they close?”

“Very. They were very important to each other. Victoria, Mrs. Garner’s sister, was a little bit… Unstable, sometimes. Mrs. Garner was extremely protective of her younger sister. She insisted that Victoria move in here at the end of her life. She deteriorated quickly after that.”

Following his intuition, Dean asked, “How did Mr. Garner feel about his sister-in-law?”

Mrs. Barone’s lips pursed. “I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, but… Mr. Garner appreciated his wife’s unstable sister a little too much, if you catch my drift.”

Piper frowned. “Did he take advantage of her?” At the woman’s panicked look, Piper smiled reassuringly again. “Mrs. Barone, no one needs to know how we go this information. We’re trying to find justice for your former employers.”

Mrs. Barone searched Piper’s face. Whatever she saw there apparently satisfied her, because she spoke. “I think so,” she said in a horrified whisper. “I heard them a few times, when the Mrs. was out doing charity work. They were… Um, shouting.”

Dean flicked his eyes to Piper’s. She met them for a moment, then turned back to smile at the other woman. “I think we have everything we need, Mrs. Barone, thank you so much for your cooperation.”

“Let me see you out.”

***

They drove in silence for a while. Dean reached across and grasped Piper’s hand, pulling it up to press it against his lips before interlacing his fingers with hers and resting their hands between them. The screaming in his head quieted. “So, that’s pretty messed up.”

Piper nodded. “Rat bastard, I hope it was the sister who killed him.”

He nodded. “Let’s go see if Sammy found anything.”

***

“Nothing,” Sam said as they walked in the door, still holding hands. His eyes flicked down to that, then back to his computer screen. “The couple was at a charity auction the night they died, so there’s some pictures, but nothing else.”

“Let me see the picture,” Piper said. Dean let himself be pulled along to look over her shoulder. When he saw the portrait of the dead couple, he frowned. “Isn’t that Victoria’s necklace that her sister’s wearing?”

He watched the back of her head bob up and down. “Yeah, it is. Think that’s it?”

Sam was looking at the two of them. “Who’s Victoria?”

“Dead woman’s sister. She was a loon.” Piper elbowed Dean in the ribs and he winced. “Uh, she was ‘unstable.’ The charitable Mr. Garner took advantage of it to screw the sister.”

Sam’s eyes widened. “Jesus.”

Piper nodded. “I’m kind of glad he’s dead.”

“What’s with the necklace?”

“It was Victoria’s,” Piper answered as Dean stepped away to take his coat off. “She probably left it to her sister. Can you find out where it is now?”

The clack of keys sounded through the motel room. Dean signed and fell back onto the bed, folding his hands behind his head. “Good to know that rich people have problems, too.”

Piper sat next to him and leaned back on her hands, smiling down at him. “’Rich people?’ We steal money for a living, Dean. What is it that you want that rich people have?”

Dean grinned. “Maids.”

Piper’s outraged gasp was the only warning he had before getting smacked in the face with a pillow. He launched himself at her, rolling so she was underneath him, struggling to free the pillow trapped between them. “Slut,” she muttered, mock glaring at him, fighting the smile tilting her lips upwards.

He grinned and caught her mouth with his, reveling in her. “You like it.”

“For Christ’s sake. I looked away for thirty seconds. Pull it together, people.”

Piper blushed and pushed Dean off of her. He went willingly, catching her around the waist and pulling her on top of him. She laughed. “Dean!”

She scrambled away from him and hit Sam with a winning smile. “Sorry, Sam.”

He pointed a finger at Dean. “I expected this from him,” his finger moved to point at Piper. “But I expected better out of you, Finley.”

She rolled her eyes. “Shaddup. Whatcha got?” Dean grinned and stood next to her, tuning most of what Sam was saying out. Pipes would listen.

He couldn’t remember being this content. Of course, they were facing insane odds. They still didn’t know why God had commanded that Dean be dragged out of hell, and something was going on with Sam. But Piper made it all fade away, made it all seem unimportant.

The only dark spot was his inability to tell her that. He’d had dozens of chances, and it still caught in his throat. Why couldn’t he tell her?

Her fingers snapped in front of his face. “Earth to Winchester. Have you been listening at all?”

He blinked. “Nope. What’s the plan?”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Mrs. Garner bequeathed the necklace to her daughter, Olivia. We need to get it from her.”

***

Piper knocked on the door to the lovely home of Olivia Garner, hoping this would be easy.

No such luck.

A pretty young woman answered the door in a maid’s uniform. “Can I help you?”

Piper flashed a badge, sensing the guys doing the same behind her. “Hi, we’re with the FBI. I’m Agent Roth, these are Agents Stone and Malloy. We have a few questions for Olivia.”

The maid frowned. “I’m sorry, Miss Garner isn’t here. She’s preparing for the gala tonight.”

“Gala?”

“It’s a farewell gala to her parents. It’s very exclusive.” The maid sniffed at Piper condescendingly.

“When will she be back?” Piper asked tightly, fists clenching at her sides.

“Tomorrow morning,” she said calmly, already closing the door on them. “I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you then.” The door shut firmly in Piper’s face.

Piper growled, and turned to glare at Dean when he chuckled. He raised his hands in submission. “Hey, don’t come at me, I didn’t shut the door on you.”

“What are we going to do now?” Sam asked as they turned. “Maybe the ghost is at rest?”

Piper nodded. “I mean, she killed the guy she wanted to kill, so she should be, right?” She sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know, though. I don’t want to risk it.”

“Well, what are we supposed to do?”

Sam grinned. “How hard do you guys think it is to get into a fancy party?”

***

“This is stupid. We look stupid. Where is Piper? This is stupid.” Dean was muttering under his breath as they moved between people at the gala. He hated tuxedos that Piper had insisted they wear, they were worse than the money suits they used for FBI work. He hated that Piper wasn’t with them. She had insisted they go ahead and she would catch up. And he hated the stupid look on Sam’s face.

“What?” he bit out.

“Dude, chill. It’s just a suit, and this is just a party.”

Dean glanced around. All of the men were in suits, the women in fancy dresses. There was no beer, or cheeseburgers, just tiny food on tiny plates and all he could see was champagne. “Some party.”

“Let’s look for Olivia, she’ll probably be wearing the necklace.”

They mingled for a while. Dean tried to put on his charming face, but he was still irritated. Tuxedos were not made to hide guns, and the one he had hidden in his waistband was uncomfortable. Piper wasn’t here, and she had been weird when they’d left. This whole thing was bullshit.

He went to the bar, hoping for a whiskey, eyeing people on his way there. His eye caught on a slender woman in a black dress with long sleeves, but no back. Raven hair was piled on top of her head, her shapely legs in black heels. Hello. Just because he was with Piper didn’t mean he couldn’t flirt, right?

He sauntered up next to her, feeling better about the evening. He didn’t look at her, just up at the menu. He flicked his eyes to her, and the line he’d had prepared died on his tongue as amused hazel eyes crashed with his green ones. “Piper?”

***

Worth it, Piper thought smugly, examining the gobsmacked expression on Dean’s face. She had stayed behind to dye her hair and change, a small part of her hoping for this exact situation. “Hi, handsome,” she said softly.

“Holy shit, Piper. You look… Amazing.”

She beamed. “Thank you.” She ran a hand up the lapel of his jacket, smiling wider when she felt his breath catch. “You don’t clean up too bad yourself, Winchester.”

He fingered one of the black curls framing her face. “Is this why you stayed behind?”

She nodded, eyes wide. He grinned. “I like it.”

She raised up and pressed her lips against his jaw, unable to help herself. His hands settled at her waist. “Don’t get used to it, it’s gone as soon as I can.”

There was an irritated noise behind her. “Dean, come on, Piper is going to-“ Sam’s eyes widened as Piper turned around, smiling again. “Piper?”

“You know, I’m going to start getting offended,” Piper said mildly as Sam stuttered.

“No, no! You look great, you always do, just…” Sam looked down and rubbed the back of his neck. “You look great, Pipe.”

She grinned. “Come on, Winchesters. Let’s go hunt a ghost.”

***

Dean watched as Piper tried to calm Olivia Garner down, and failed.

“My parents are dead, and there are crazy people in my home. And now you… Want my mother's necklace?”

“Miss Garner, I know this sounds nuts,” Piper said soothingly. “But you have to believe me. I… I think your aunt had reason to be angry at your father.”

Olivia put her hands to her mouth. “Oh, God. He really was raping her.” She looked down. “I suspected, but… How could he do that?”

“He was a Dick, Olivia.” Dean said, not seeing the point in beating around the bush. “But your aunt isn’t thinking anymore. And she’s not your aunt. She wants revenge on everyone for the pain she suffered in life.”

“We can help,” Piper said softly. “Your aunt was cremated, but we think she’s attached to the necklace.”

***

Dean watched the necklace burn, squeezing Piper’s hand. “It’s kind of sad,” she said quietly, laying her head on his shoulder. “I hate cases like this.”

He moved to wrap an arm around her. “Me, too, Pipes.”

She stood. “I’m going to head to the car.“ She wrapped her arms around her middle and walked away.

Dean met Sam’s eyes. “She okay?”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine.” The fire burned out, ashes blowing in the gentle breeze. “Come on, Sammy.”

They walked back to the Impala. Dean frowned and looked into the empty backseat. “Piper?” He looked around the car. “Piper?!”

Sam drew his gun and looked around. “Piper?”

She was gone.

"Piper!?”

***

“Well, find her, Bobby!” Dean shouted. The trace on Piper’s phone hadn’t worked. They had gone back to the motel after she had disappeared, and immediately called Bobby.

“Don’t you take that tone with me, boy. You’re not the only one who loves Piper.” Bobby snarled.

Dean flipped the phone shut, trying to control his emotions. Trying to think around the shrieking in his head, now joined by shrieking in his heart.

Luckily, Sam chose that moment to walk through the door. But his strained face and tight shoulders told a bad story. “No EMF, but I found traces of sulfur. It could be a coincidence, but-”

“Demons,” Dean said darkly, the hunter in him focusing on the threat. “Demons took her.”

“But why?” Sam held his hands up defensively when turned to glare. “Dean, you know I want Piper back as much as you do. But let’s be smart.”

It was too much. Dean grabbed the closest thing to him and flung it across the room. He watched the lamp shatter dispassionately. The storm in his chest was raging. They took her because of him. He knew it. They were going to hurt her because of him.

He would tear them apart limb from limb.

“We have to find her, Sammy.”

***

Sam stepped outside and flipped his phone open, dialing her number from memory.

“Sam?”

“Ruby. Piper’s missing.”

“Bummer.” Ruby hadn’t forgiven Piper for the sheriff’s office incident.

Sam sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Find her, Ruby."

“With what? I’m a demon, not a psychic, Sam.”

Sam flipped his phone shut, angry and desperate. Where the hell was Piper?

Chapter Text

Piper woke slowly, her head pounding. Her mouth tasted like pennies. She was laying on her side. When she tried to get up, she realized her hands were handcuffed behind her. “Great,” she muttered darkly.

She looked around, trying to get her bearings. It was a small room, probably a bedroom, without furniture.

The door opened. A tall blonde man walked through, eyes lighting up when he saw her. “Ah, Miss Finley. So kind of you to join me.”

“Where the hell am I? Where are Sam and Dean?”

He snarled when she said Dean’s name. He stepped forward and kicked her in the stomach, hard. She grunted as the air left her body. “You keep that upstart’s name to yourself, whore.” He took a deep breath, and when his eyes opened, they were black. “Winchester is nothing, do you understand? Alastair didn’t see it, but I did…”

“What?”

“As soon as that bastard got off the rack, suddenly he’s some sort of golden child. He ‘shows promise.’ He was there for barely ten years!” The demon was pacing, running frustrated hands through his hair. “I was there for centuries, and I didn’t get nearly the recognition-” He stopped, seeming to realize that he was ranting at the enemy. “But none of that matters now. I can show them what I can do. And I can show them on that worthless bastard’s woman.”

“You’re a demon… And you took me to get to Dean?”

She was rewarded with another kick. He crouched and met her eyes. “I couldn’t overpower Sam, but I knew I could take the girlfriend. Stupid bitch. And he’ll come running to save you.” The demon's eyes closed. “Then we’ll see who showed promise.”

Fury flooded her veins. She struggled to sit up, cursing herself for not changing out of the damn dress. “Let’s get a couple of things straight, you filthy piece of shit.” He snarled, but she ignored him. “First of all, he will not come for me. He’s not stupid. Second of all, you didn’t take me, you chloroformed me, you spineless weasel.” She met his eyes, letting anger wrap her in its comforting warmth. “And third, and this is the most important thing, so pay attention.” She leaned forward, rejoicing in the uncertainty in his eyes. “I do not need to be rescued.”

Before he could back away, she snapped forward and used the only weapon handy: her teeth. Clenching her teeth down hard on whatever part of his face she’d gotten, she ripped away hard, her stomach rolling at the sound it made. She spat his flesh out, wincing. “You taste like ass.”

He was screaming, clutching his cheek. He came forward and hit her hard in the face twice. “If I didn’t need you alive, I would peel your goddamn face off, you little skank.” He stood and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

“Ugh. I hate demons,” she muttered. She sat up again, groaning. “Dumbass, jealous demons at that.”

She leaned her head back and shook it hard, feeling vicious triumph when she heard a bobby pin fall to the floor. She was skilled at many things, but putting bobby pins in right wasn’t one of them. She picked it up and closed her eyes to pick the lock on the handcuffs. She was rewarded several slow minutes later when they popped open.

She rubbed her wrists and stood, wiping blood off of her face. She looked around the room, but it was completely empty. There was nothing to use as a weapon. “Shit.”

She kicked her heels off, taking a moment to mourn their loss. Then she gritted her teeth and started ripping her long skirt so it ended at her upper thigh. “The better to kick you in the teeth with, my dear,” she said softly, mourning the dress, too. It had been an expensive outfit.

She moved to touch the doorknob, and darkness engulfed her.

She woke up in the white room, the trickster standing next to the bed. “Piper, did they hurt you?” he asked anxiously.

“Okay, ignoring the fact that you are the second person in a day who has abducted me, how did you know I’m in trouble?”

“No time, precious. Listen, there are too many demons there, and they all have a beef with your boys. I can’t help you. You need to get outside and pray. Pray to Castiel.”

She leaned back. “Pray to Castiel? What?”

“There are no times for questions, Piper! The place is warded against angels, but if you get outside, he can hear you. Go now.”

He placed two fingers against her forehead, and she blacked out before she could ask so what the hell was going on.

She woke up on the floor. “Okay, as soon as I get out of here, we are having words about that bastard.”

She stood and considered for a moment, then opened the door. She peeked out and found herself alone. She slipped down the hall slowly, her back pressed against the wall, desperately wishing for a gun.

A demon came down the hall in front of her. He snarled as he spotted her. Piper launched herself at him, punching him in the throat hard on impact to prevent him from crying out. He choked and hit the floor with a soft thud. “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii…” she muttered the exorcism, keeping a hand on his throat and straddling his hips to counteract the bucking he was doing a get her off of him.

She winced as black smoke flew out of his mouth. God, I hope no one heard that.

She felt the body for a pulse, and was relieved when she found one. She frisked him quickly, coming up with a knife from his waistband. She took it and went down the hallway, running silently in her bare feet.

Her luck didn’t hold. She ran down a hallway, taking a turn and stopping when she was confronted with three demons. “Shit,” she cursed softly, turning and sprinting the other way.

They followed her a beat later, thundering down the hallway. Dammit, dammit, dammit, she thought as she ran, looking desperately for a door out. But the windows she was passing made it look like she was on the second story. She didn’t have time for stairs, and the demons were gaining on her.

She hated going through windows.

She waited until she got to a big window, and when she found one, she took a sharp right and flew through it, closing her eyes and curling into herself, dimly grateful for the protection the long sleeves of her dress gave her. Still, a hundred shards of glass cut into her, and she couldn’t help the scream that came from her. She hit the ground and heard a pop, screaming again as agony exploded through her shoulder.

She scrunched her eyes closed and concentrated. Castiel, please, help me.

She heard the sound of wings behind her and exhaled sharply. “Piper Finley, what is happening?”

She turned onto her back, groaning when it jostled her shoulder, which she was sure was broken. She met the angel’s eyes. “Cas, please just get me the hell out of here.”

He blinked, then looked up as the demons started shouting. He knelt and gathered into his arms, surprisingly tender. He held her against his chest and the world swirled around them.

***

Dean wasn’t sure how many more times he could stand Piper showing up in another man’s arms covered in blood. A man could only take so much.

“What the hell?”

Castiel had appeared in their motel room, cradling Piper to his chest. Her shoulder looked wrong, and she was covered in tiny, bleeding cuts. She looked at him and smiled, not attempting to move from the angel’s arms. “Hey, you.”

He hurried forward, but stopped just short of taking her. That shoulder had to hurt. “Piper, what happened?”

“Demons.” She sucked in a breath when the angel approached the bed and put her down on it, helping her scoot so her back was resting against the headboard. “He chloroformed me, can you believe that shit?”

Castiel frowned down at her. “You’ve been injured again, Piper Finley.”

She ignored him to keep talking to Dean. He sat next to her legs on the bed, placing a hand on her shin, willing the voices in his head to quiet down. “I think he was jealous of you. About you, uh, becoming a favorite,” she said calmly.

Dean frowned. “What?”

She met his gaze. “He mentioned something about Alastair, and ‘showing promise.’”

Pain hit him in his heart. “So, it was because of me.”

She rolled her eyes. “Stop it, Winchester. It was because they’re demons, and that’s what demons do. It was not because of you. Now, my shoulder hurts and I had to leave my shoes behind, so quit wallowing in guilt and come comfort me.”

Her words had his lips tugging into a smile. “Yes, ma’am.” He gingerly crawled onto the bed next to her, taking her hand and pressing it to his lips.

Castiel was studying her closely. It made Dean’s hackles raise. “Anything else, Castiel?”

Piper hit him gently on the arm, not taking her eyes off of the angel. “Dean, Cas saved me. Be nice.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Cas?”

She ignored him. “Thank you, Castiel. I think you probably saved my life.”

“Yes, I did.” Dean hmphed as Piper laughed at the angel’s blunt response. Castiel leaned forward and pressed two fingers to her forehead. Dean watched with wide eyes as the cuts disappeared, her swollen lip returned to normal, and her shoulder looked like it was supposed to again.

She smiled. “Thank you, wings.”

He frowned. “I thought we were past disrespect, Piper Finley.”

She laughed again. Dean found himself being enchanted by her. “It’s not disrespect anymore, wings. It’s more like… Begrudging affection.”

Something in Castiel’s face changed, and if he hadn’t been a dickhead angel, Dean would have sympathized. Something about her wide hazel eyes watching you while she told you she liked you... It had certainly knocked Dean for a loop when it had happened to him.

“Very well, Piper,” Castiel stood. “You should not stay here tonight. They’re going to be angry that you escaped.”

She shook her head. “Doesn’t matter, I’m going back. We can’t leave a building full of demons here.”

There was something scary in the angel’s eyes. Dean found himself looking at a soldier. “Do not concern yourself, Piper. The demons will be taken care of.” With the sound of wings, Castiel disappeared.

Piper sighed and leaned into Dean. He put his arm around her shoulders and held her close. “How ya holdin’ up, kitten?”

“I’m okay, but I’m exhausted.” She lifted her head and looked up at him. “Where’s Sam?”

Dean started and felt a guilty flush spread across his skin. “Ah, out looking for you.” He pulled his phone out and hit the speed dial for Sam while ignoring her chuckles.

“Dean?”

“Sam. I’ve got her. Well, Castiel got her, and brought her back.”

There was a beat of silence, and Dean didn’t interrupt it. He was fighting some feelings back himself. “Is she all right?” Sam asked quietly.

Dean handed the phone to Piper. “Say hi, Pipes.”

She smiled and took it. “Hi, Sam,” she said softly. “Come back so we can get the hell out of here.”

***

Once they had repeated the same phone call with Bobby, they headed back to Sioux Falls. Sam took the backseat to sleep, so Piper was curled against Dean, dozing on and off against his shoulder.

His feeling of contentment had come back. Driving his Baby, Piper next to him, Sam in the backseat, on their way to Bobby’s. For someone who had just come back from hell, life couldn’t get a whole lot better.

“What are you smiling at?” She asked softly, looking up at him. He glanced down at her and felt the warmth in his chest spread. She was wrapped in his leather jacket. He had discovered that he very much liked her in his clothes.

“Just glad you’re safe, kitten.”

She smiled. “Me, too.” She sat up a little and pressed a kiss to his jaw. “I love you,” she whispered gently, starting to nibble her way down to his neck.

And there it was. He wanted to say it. At least, he thought he wanted to say it. But the point was moot if he couldn’t even think the words! Piper deserved more than he could give her, but if he couldn’t even tell her, he didn’t deserve her at all.

She must have sensed his distress, because she sighed and sat back. “Dean, baby, it’s okay.”

He looked at her briefly, noticing the shadow of sadness in her eyes before looking at the road again. “Pipes, I… I…” Dammit!

He was interrupted by her soft fingers on his lips. “Dean, it’s okay, really. I understand. Like I said, I don’t say it so you’ll say it back. I know how you feel about me, Dean.”

She tucked herself under his arm again and almost immediately resumed dozing. Dean wasn’t happy. The situation was what he should have wanted… Access to mind-blowing sex pretty much any time, no expectations, and they were on the road.

So why did he feel a little empty?

***

The angel Castiel surveyed the wreckage. There were bodies littering the grounds and inside the building. He found himself wishing that he could smite the demon who had hurt Piper Finley again. It was a strange feeling. He tried to analyze it.

“Castiel, are we done here?” Castiel turned to see Balthazar exiting the building, wiping his hands on a towel.

“Are all the demons dead?”

“Sure are.” Balthazar came to stand next to Castiel. “Why are we here, Cas? This wasn’t on the list of missions for the garrison, and it’s not a seal.”

Castiel thought for a moment. “These demons, they intended to hurt my friend. She was able to get out and pray to me, but it was close.”

Balthazar’s eyebrows rose. “A friend? This was for revenge?”

Castiel was uncomfortable. “Not exactly, I-”

He was cut off by Balthazar’s hand in the air. “Cas, you know I’ll fight beside you always. And if it’s for a friend, all the more reason.” Castiel found himself being examined by the other angel. “But I feel that I have to ask, who is this woman who was able to make Castiel, Angel of the Lord, Obedient Soldier, bend the rules?”

Now Castiel spoke freely, hoping to get insight from Balthazar. “Piper Finley. She is a hunter. She.. She said she has affection for me.”

Balthazar’s chuckling left Castiel feeling more confused than he had been before.

Chapter Text

Piper stood next to Dean, her hand wrapped in his. Sam and Bobby were on his other side. Guilt lay heavy in the air between the four of them as they watched Pamela’s funeral pyre burn.

Because of us, because of us, because of us. The words had set up a drum beat in Piper’s head, and she let it happen. It was good to remember this, this feeling. They had to be careful who they dragged into this mess that had become their lives, because people got hurt. Good people.

People like Pamela.

The first sticks started to fall. The pyre was mostly ash now. “Come on, kitten,” Dean said softly, squeezing her hand and pulling her along with him back to the Impala. Sam and Bobby stayed where they were.

“Tessa said something to me, before she disappeared.” Dean started as they reached the Impala.

“Tessa is the reaper? Who tried to take you at the hospital?” Piper asked, her mind sluggishly trying to keep up. She was tired.

He nodded. “She said to trust my instincts. She said this isn’t a second chance, that the angels don’t have something good planned.”

Piper thought about it slowly while Dean stayed silent. Finally, “She’s probably right. I mean, it’s not like the angels have been very forthcoming when it comes to the truth. Even Castiel, he just said that he lied to you about the seal.” She sighed. “I wanted to believe, I did, and I’m grateful that I have you back, but…” she smiled and leaned into him. “Only one good thing has ever just happened to me, so I don’t have a lot of faith.”

He pressed his lips to her forehead. “Yeah, me neither.”

***

Bobby went home, and the other three got into the Impala. Sam offered to drive, so Dean and Piper were in the backseat. She had curled herself into him, her back pressed against the door and her legs stretched across his lap. She rested her head on his shoulder and listened as Sam spoke.

“Ruby will meet us outside Cheyenne. She's been tracking some leads. I know she's not exactly on your Christmas list, but if she can help us get to Lilith-”

Dean shrugged. “Hey, man, work with Ruby, don't. I don't really give a rat's ass.”

Sam looked at the rear view. “What's your problem?”

“Pamela didn't want anything to do with this and we dragged her back into it, Sam.”

“She knew what was at stake.”

Piper frowned. “Did she? Because I sure as hell didn’t.”

Sam ran a hand through his hair. “Guys-”

“I'm tired of burying friends, Sam.” Dean interrupted, pulling Piper closer.

Sam sighed. “Look, we catch a fresh trail-”

"And we follow it, I know. Like I said, I'm just, I'm just getting tired.” Piper pressed a kiss into Dean’s jaw, hoping to provide comfort.

“Well, get angry.” Sam muttered as they pulled into the motel parking lot.

They got out of the car and went to the door in silence. Piper unlocked it and let them in.

“Ah, home crappy home,” Dean grumbled as he flicked the light switch on.

Uriel and Castiel stood in the middle of the room. Piper gasped.

“Winchester, Winchester, and Finley,” Uriel drawled. Piper tried to meet Castiel’s eyes, trying to read his face for a clue as to the reason of the visit. He avoided her gaze.

Dean groaned. “Oh, come on.”

Uriel looked at Dean. “You are needed.”

Piper frowned, never looking at the other angel. “Needed? We just got back from needed.”

Uriel glared at her. “You mind your tone with me.”

“You mind your tone with us.” She snarled back, finally turning her gaze to Uriel.

Sam put a restraining hand on her shoulder. “We just got back from Pamela’s funeral,” he said calmly.

Dean was glaring at the angels. “Pamela. You know, psychic Pamela? You remember her. Cas, you remember her. You burned her eyes out. Remember that? Good times. Yeah, then she died saving one of your precious seals. So maybe you can stop pushing us around like chess pieces for five freaking minutes!”

“We raised you out of hell for our purposes.” Uriel said softly, looking at Dean.

"Yeah, what were those again? What exactly did you want from me?”

“Start with gratitude,” the angel snarled.

Piper was furious. “Oh, screw you.” Dean stepped in front of her, blocking her from the other angel’s view. She went up on tiptoe and tried to look at Castiel again. Why won’t he look at me?

Castiel looked at Dean instead. “We know this is difficult to understand.”

Uriel glared at the taller angel. “And we don't care. Now, seven angels have been murdered, all of them from our garrison. The last one was killed tonight.”

Piper frowned. “Demons? How are they killing angels?”

“We don't know.”

Sam shook his head and came to stand next to Dean, effectively blocking Piper. “I'm sorry, but what do you want us to do about it? I mean, a demon with the juice to ice angels has to be out of our league, right?”

Uriel rolled his eyes. “We can handle the demons, thank you very much.”

“Once we find whoever it is,” Castiel finished. Piper felt ice start to form at the base of her spine.

Dean scoffed. “So you need our help hunting a demon?”

Castiel shook his head. “Not quite. We have Alastair. But he won't talk. Alastair's will is very strong. We've arrived at an impasse.”

Dean ran a hand through his hair. Piper put her hand on his lower back. “Yeah, well, he's like a black belt in torture. I mean, you guys are out of your league.”

There was cold glee in Uriel’s eyes when he looked at Dean again. “That's why we've come to his student. You happen to be the most qualified interrogator we've got.”

Piper gasped and pushed the brothers out of her way. “Excuse me? Absolutely not. Cas, what the hell?” The angel met her eyes, and she thought she saw misery there before his face became impassive again.

“Dean, you are our best hope,” Castiel said to Dean.

Dean was shaking his head. “No. No way. You can't ask me to do this, Cas. Not this.”

“Castiel,” Piper started, “Please, you can’t-”

She was interrupted by Sam grabbing her arm and pulling her behind him as Uriel stalked up to Dean.

“Who said anything about asking?”

Castiel, Uriel, and Dean disappeared.

***

Castiel, answer me damn you!

Piper had been praying to Castiel since they left, calling him names, begging him to bring Dean back, asking him how he could do this. He wasn’t answering, but she hadn’t expected him to. Bastard.

Sam had summoned Ruby. Piper didn’t like the bitch, but if it would get Dean back before they made him do this, she was on board.

“I can still smell them.” The demon was bitching. “Seriously, Sam, I'm not exactly dying to tangle with angels again.”

“Just shut up and do what you’re told,” Piper snapped.

“I need you to find out where they took Dean.” Sam shot Piper a look, which she shot back.

Ruby shrugged. “Not sure I see the problem. You know they have Alastair strung up six ways from Sunday. Dean cuts himself a slice, Al's reduced to a quivering heap, and the good guys get the goods. What's wrong with that?”

“How dare you-” Piper started before Sam put a hand up to interrupt her.

“He can't do it.” Sam stated simply.

“Look, I get it. You don't want him going all torture master again.”

“No. I mean, he can't do it. He can't get the job done. Something happened to him downstairs, Ruby. He's not what he used to be. He's not strong enough.”

Piper looked at Sam incredulously. “Sam…” She was shocked. How could he not see clearly what Dean was? How could he think Dean was less than he was before hell?

Ruby ignored her. “And you are?”

“I will be.”

***

Something had gone wrong when they got there. Alastair was free, standing over a prone Dean. He had Castiel against the wall, hand around the angel’s throat. “Like roaches, you celestials. Now, I really wish I knew how to kill you. But all I can do is send you back to heaven.”

He began to chant in Latin. Piper followed Sam into the room, waiting until he had raised his hand. Alastair choked and flew against the wall next to Castiel.

“Stupid pet tricks,” Alastair snarled. Piper felt the demon’s eyes on her as she ran to Dean, rolling him onto his back and putting her hands on his face.

“Dean,” she whispered, “Dean, baby, come on.”

Sam ignored them. “Who's murdering the angels? How are they doing it?”

Alastair chuckled. “You think I'm gonna tell you?”

“Yeah, I do.”

Piper ignored Alastair’s sudden choking, still trying to revive Dean. “Come on, baby, wake up for me. Oh, please, Dean, come on, baby-”

“How are the demons killing angels?” Sam shouted.

“I don't know.” Alastair gasped out.

Sam wasn’t convinced, apparently. “Right.”

“It's not us. We're not doing it.”

“I don't believe you.”

Alastair was smirking again. “Lilith is not behind this. She wouldn't kill seven angels. Oh, she'd kill a hundred, a thousand. Oh, go ahead, send me back, if you can.”

Piper looked up at Sam, and was stricken speechless again at the difference in her friend and the man standing there. “I'm stronger than that now. Now I can kill.”

Alastair started screaming. Light flashed from him, and his meatsuit fell.

“Sam,” Piper said quietly, terrified. “Dean needs a hospital.”

***

Piper was pacing outside of Dean’s room, praying constantly. I swear to Christ, wings, if you don’t get your ass down here, I will-

The sound of feathers interrupted her. She whirled to see Castiel standing in the hall behind her. “Piper, I-”

“Heal him, Castiel.” She said coldly. “Fix him now. This is your fault. Fix it.”

“I can’t.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Excuse me? Can’t, or won’t?”

Sam had come out of the room to see what had happened. “Castiel? Are you here to heal Dean?”

“I can’t.”

Sam stepped toward Castiel, growling. “You and Uriel put him in there because you can't keep a simple devil's trap together.” Piper nodded.

Castiel looked distressed. “I don't know what happened. That trap… It shouldn't have broken. I am sorry.”

“Sorry? You’re sorry?” Piper asked, incredulously, advancing toward the angel. “Are you kidding me, Castiel? You’re sorry? Sorry doesn’t even begin to cover what just happened.”

“This whole thing was pointless.” Sam was just as taken aback as she was. “You understand that? The demons aren't doing the hits. Something else is killing your soldiers.”

Castiel started to look desperate. “Perhaps Alastair was lying.”

Sam shook his head. “No, he wasn’t.” He turned and walked away.

Castiel looked at Piper, and she felt no sympathy for him. Instead, she closed the distance between them and looked up at him, their noses almost touching.

“You listen to me, Castiel, Angel of the Lord. I don’t know what you want with Dean Winchester, but I know it’s something. And let me tell you right now, listen closely, because I mean this.” He looked at her miserably, and she tried to let her rage show in her eyes. “Whatever you ask of him, whatever you want from him, you won’t get it. I will do everything in my power to get him to resist you, forever. And when you’re trying to get us to submit, when you’re desperate for his help, you remember that it is because of this, because of this moment, that he will be saying no.”

She turned and walked back into Dean’s room, shutting the door firmly behind her.

***

She was sitting next to Dean, her hand wrapped around his. He had asked her to leave when Castiel had appeared in his room, and she had acquiesced quietly. She had had enough of the angel, anyway, and had ignored the puppy dog look in his eyes when she’d left.

She had reentered the room as soon as she’d seen the angel disappear. Dean hadn’t said a word to her, just let her hold his hand. She kept her eyes on their hands, giving him the privacy he needed to cry.

He wiped his face with his other hand, and gave hers a gentle squeeze. “Sorry, Pipes.”

She looked up at his red eyes and tilted her head. “Hush, Dean. No apologies from you.”

He was quiet again, looking up at the ceiling. She kept her hand in his and let him think.

She felt her eyes starting to get heavy when he spoke again. “And it is written that the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in hell. As he breaks, so shall it break.”

She looked up at him, examining his beaten, upturned face. “What?”

“I broke the first seal, kitten. I broke the first seal of the apocalypse.” A tear slid down his cheek.

“What?” Piper asked, horrified. “Why didn’t the angels pull you out faster?”

“They tried, apparently. They, uh, ‘laid siege to hell’ But they didn’t get there in time.”

“I don’t understand, Dean,” she said softly. “How do you know this?”

“Alastair.” His voice rang with anger and despair.

“Could he have been lying?”

“No.”

She didn’t know what to say to help him. So, taking a page from his book, she stood and gingerly started moving the tubes and wires connected to him. When she made enough room, she moved his arm so she could lay next to him on the hospital bed, and wrapped his arm around to rest on her hip. He didn’t move, so it was a tight squeeze, but she didn’t give up. She lay her head on his chest and stayed there.

Slowly, he moved his arm to hold her tighter against him. “Alastair, he, uh… He had my dad. When he was in hell. He had him there for a year. A century in hell.” He let the silence draw out. She almost said something when he spoke again. “He never broke. He never tortured anyone.”

She thought for a moment. “So they took you instead.”

His chest heaved. “And they broke me in less than half that time.”

“Well, John wasn’t righteous, so they were barking up the wrong tree there.”

He shifted to look down at her, the first time he’d looked at her since the angel had left. “What?”

She smiled sadly, thinking of the man who changed her life. “He was… Revenge driven. He was mad with it. He hunted, sure, and he instilled a code in you boys, but he was so intent on killing Azazel for what he did to Mary. He wasn’t righteous, Dean. He was bent on vengeance.”

He looked at her for a long time, then put his other hand on her face, gently running his thumb against her cheek. “What makes me righteous?” He asked softly, his voice raw with emotion.

She thought for a long time, trying to put together the words. “Dean, everything I have ever known about you is good. I have watched you sacrifice everything to save other people. You have given everything you have, up to and including your life, to keep people safe. You are a righteous man, Dean, because the only thing you’ve ever gotten in return is a life lived in motel rooms, having to steal for a living, and crappy diner food. You hunt to save people, because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s easy. You loved your father, and you love your brother.” Tears were swimming in her eyes, and she felt them spill over. “Dean Winchester, I know that you are a righteous man because you love me, and I have never loved anything like I love you. And those are the things that tell me you’re a righteous man.” She sniffed and wiped her eyes, suddenly shy after her little speech.

He put a finger under her chin and made her look at him. “Not everything,” he said roughly.

Her forehead crinkled. “Not everything what?”

He examined her closely. She felt his gaze down to her soul. “I haven’t given up everything.” He ran his thumb along her lower lip. “I haven’t given you up.”

She breathed in shakily. “And you’ll never have to.”

Chapter Text

Dean Smith entered the elevator, mind already on what he had to do that day. He was looking to impress the boss, and wanted to get the day started early.

He felt his heartbeat speed up when he saw his secretary, the lovely Piper Tate, was already in the elevator. She had a short, pretty dress on, low-cut enough to be enticing, but not so much so that he didn’t have to use his imagination a little. She had a coffee in her hand, and she was looking down at a file with a frown on her face.

He took the opportunity to study her, the way her auburn hair spilled over her shoulder, or the way she bit her lip in concentration. The woman was driving him to distraction.

Good Lord.

He plastered a smile on his face. “Ms. Tate, already hard at it?”

She looked up and smiled. “Mr. Smith! Of course.”

He stood next to her and smiled again, more genuinely this time. “How many times do I need to ask you to call me Dean?”

She smirked at him over her coffee cup. “Until it’s not inappropriate, Mr. Smith.”

The elevator dinged and they stepped out together, walking toward the office they shared.

***

Dean pushed the button on his phone to hang up the call, satisfied that the other man had gotten the point. He didn’t have anything else to demand his immediate attention, so he let his eyes wander to Piper.

She was standing in front of her desk, looking at a file laid open there, and then looking back to the paper in her hand.

She was standing in front of the wide filing cabinet in the corner of their office, pulling files out at what looked to him like random. She was brilliant, and he had made the decision to stay out of her way fairly quickly. She had only been there as long as he had, hired on the same day, but already he wasn’t sure how he’d gotten along without her. She was efficient and kind of scary, and even though he was used to being in charge, he didn’t mind her running his schedule.

He took the headset off and stood quietly. He noticed her breath hitch and her back tense, but she didn’t move. He walked over to her slowly, letting the tension build.

When he got to her, he pressed his groin against her behind and moved his hands to her hips. He dipped his head to lay kisses on her neck. “Piper…”

Her head dropped back onto his shoulder. “Dean…”

He grinned against her neck, spinning her in his arms so he could push her up against the filing cabinet and push one of his knees between hers. He pressed his lips to hers, savoring the whimpers coming from her. “Jeeze, Piper,” he moaned into her mouth.

“Desk,” she said breathlessly. He drew in a sharp breath as she pulled his shirt out of his pants, running her nails up his chest. “Dean, God, please.”

He didn’t have to be told twice. He placed his hands on her ass, grinning into her mouth when she lifted her legs and wrapped them around his waist. He walked then over to his desk, laying her down slowly, not bothering to move the paperwork there out of the way.

She was working his belt off, her movements quick and efficient. He stepped closer and ran his hands up her thighs, his heart stuttering to a stop when he realized she wasn’t wearing underwear. “God, Piper-”

His breath caught again when she freed him, palming his cock. She looked up at him, her bottom lip caught between her teeth, her hazel eyes dark. He watched her closely, relishing the gasp she gave when he slowly pushed one thick finger into her.

“Tell me what you want, Piper,” he said roughly, fighting the urge to buck into her hands when she wrapped one around his cock and stroked gently.

“Dean…”

The hot need in her voice made his head spin. “Tell me, Piper,” he growled, warning her.

She gasped and let her eyes drift up to his. “You.”

He moved his hand away, lined himself up with her, and slammed into her. She gasped and he stopped, fighting himself to give her time to adjust to him. When she squeezed him gently with her inner muscles, he groaned and started moving. He put his hands on her hips, holding her in place hard as he thrust into her. She sat up enough to lay kisses along his neck and shoulder, whimpering and digging her nails into his back. “Oh, Dean, yes!”

She cried out as her orgasm tore through her, and he was right behind her, burying himself in her as he came.

Piper sat up and wrapped her arms around his waist, and he rested his head on her shoulder, listening to their combined breathing slow down.

She leaned back and grinned at him. “Hi, handsome.”

He smirked and kissed her forehead. “Hi, beautiful.”

She twisted to look behind her at the papers he hadn’t moved. “I think the Shrill account is going to need to be redone.”

***

That evening, long after they should have gone home, Dean led Piper to the elevator with a hand on the small of her back.

He appreciated that she never complained about the long hours. He’d never synced with someone so well. She brewed coffee before he realized he wanted it, she knew which accounts needed his attention before he did. Piper was amazing.

He knew he should be worried about how comfortable he was with her. He had been single for a reason. But the day he’d come in for his first day, he’d let slip that he hadn’t moved into his new apartment yet, so she had invited him back to hers for dinner.

They hadn’t been alone for two minutes before he’d had her pushed up against the wall, moving his hands to the back of her thighs as she lifted them to wrap around his waist. The following three weeks had progressed quickly. He still hadn’t unpacked any boxes, outside of his clothes. He had spent all of his time with her, at her place.

He was broken away from his thoughts when they were joined by a tall man with one of the yellow IT shirts on. Piper smiled warmly at the man and stepped away from Dean subtly. “Hi, Sam.”

“Hi. Isn’t it kind of late for you guys to be getting out?” Sam asked, his eyes flicking between them.

Dean watched her give Sam a sunny smile. “Burning the midnight oil, trying to impress the boss, you know.”

Sam looked at Dean, who felt uncomfortable under the taller man’s scrutiny. “Do I know you?” Sam asked.

Dean shook his head, grateful that the elevator was almost to the lobby. “I don’t think so.”

“I'm sorry, man, you just look really familiar.”

Dean put a hand on Piper’s back to guide her out when the doors opened. “Save it for the health club, buddy.”

As they walked to their cars, he asked, “How do you know him?”

She shrugged. “He seemed nice, so we talked a few days ago. He’s weird, but I like him.”

***

The next day, Dean entered the elevator, intending to get something to eat for he and Piper. He was wavering on his diet, he knew he needed it, but honestly, the woman was ruining his life.

He was internally smiling at the thought of all of the physical activity he’d been putting in with her when the door dinged and the tall guy Sam entered again. Dean ignored him, but he felt the man’s eyes boring holes in the side of his head. What’s his problem?

At the next floor, everyone but the two of them got out.

“Can I ask you a question?” Sam asked.

Dean winced. “Look, man, I told you, I’m not into the, uh-”

Sam held his hands up. “Oh dude, come on, I'm not either. I just wanna ask you one question.”

There was no escape, so Dean sighed. “Sure.”

"What do you think about ghosts?”

Dean blinked. That was not what he’d thought was about to happen. “Ghosts?”

“Do you believe in them?”

Dean chuckled and rubbed the back of his  neck. “Uh, tell you the truth, I’ve never given it much thought.”

“Vampires?”

Dean frowned. “What? Why?”

“Because I've been having some weird dreams lately. You know what I mean?”

“No. Not really.”

“So you've never had any… Weird dreams?”

Dean was done. “All right, look, man, I don't know you, okay? But I'm gonna do a public service and, uh, let you know that, that you overshare.”

He walked out of the elevator when it dinged, lunch forgotten.

***

Dean was watching Piper bend over her desk to get a highlighter from her pen cup, giving him an excellent view down her shirt. She caught him looking and cocked an eyebrow at him. “Eyes on the screen, Mr. Smith.”

He blinked and looked back at his computer. “So, I’ve been thinking about the guy who committed suicide in the breakroom.”

She shuddered as she sat back down. “That was awful. Why are you thinking about it?”

He shrugged, closing the browser window that showed the employee’s records. “He was two weeks away from retirement.”

She tilted her head. “Why would someone kill himself two weeks before retiring?”

Dean sat forward, putting his elbows on his desk. “That’s what I’ve been wondering, too.” He wanted to continue, but his computer beeped, alerting him to an email.

He clicked it open, scanning it quickly. “Can you get Ian from IT up here, Ms. Tate?”

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the open door. A nervous looking man stood there.

Piper smiled warmly. “Ian? Hi, come in.”

Dean nodded. “Yeah, come on in. Yesterday you filled out a 445-T and no problem, just a few errors when we did your switch over to Vista. So I'm sure you're used to filling out the dash-R's, am I right?” Dean chuckled.

Ian paled. “Oh, no.”

Dean held his hands up. “No, no, no. It's fine. It's fine. I just need you to redo one today so I can get the show on the road with the invoicing.” He took the new form and slid it across his desk, smiling at the man.

Ian was not comforted. “Oh my God.”

Dean frowned. “No, it's fine. Just refile it and we're square.”

“I can't believe I did this.”

Dean met Piper’s eyes, concerned. She stood and walked to Ian slowly, holding her hands out. “Hey, Ian, it’s okay. It was an easy mistake. Hell, I did it just today.”

Ian started to hyperventilate. “No, no. It affected profits. It… I screwed up. I, I can't, I can't, I am so sorry. I, how could I do that? I failed Sandover. I failed the company.”

Dean stood, too. “All right, why don't you sit down, Ian?”

Instead, Ian ran out of the room. Dean held his hand up to Piper. “Stay here.”

He ran out of the room after Ian. “Ian? Ian. Hey.”

The other man ran into the bathroom, and Dean followed. “Ian, hey. Just chill out, man. Okay?”

Ian was staring into the mirror. A chill ran up Dean’s bones, and he could see his breath. All of the faucets and soap dispensers turned on. Dean jumped, but Ian didn’t react at all.

“Ian, hey, maybe we should get out of here, huh? Come on. Ian. Look at me.”

Ian did, pulling a pencil out of his pocket. He stated at Dean for a beat, then drove the  pencil into his own neck. Dean looked in in horror for a moment before rushing toward the bleeding man. Dean looked up and caught a glimpse of an old man standing behind them. When he turned no one was there.

Dean turned back to Ian. “Somebody help me!”

***

Dean, Sam, and Piper had convened at her apartment’s parking lot after the men’s run-in with the ghost. Dean had demanded she stay behind while they investigated, and she had given in, which she regretted. The next time he tried to boss her around, she’d show him a thing or two.

“Come on, gentleman, let’s go research ghosts,” she said cheerfully, leading them into her building.

Dean placed a hand on the small of her back as she unlocked the door, and she reveled in the comfort it gave her. She knew she would normally be freaking out if she was essentially living with a man three weeks after meeting him, but it seemed perfectly normal with Dean. She hadn’t worried when he’d brought a toothbrush and clothes over, she hadn’t worried when she’d bought his favorite brand of coffee without thinking, and she wasn’t worried now.

They filed into her apartment, Sam making sure the door was shut and locked.  The men were still talking about the ghost they’d encountered.

“Holy crap, dude.” Dean said, plopping down next to Piper on her couch.

Sam nodded. “Yeah, I could use a beer.”

“In the fridge, Sam,” Piper said, resisting the urge to lean into Dean.

When Sam glanced at Dean, he shook his head. “No, man, I’m on the Cleanse.”

Piper and pulled her laptop from the coffee table to her lap, flipping it open and starting to search.

Sam came back and joined them in a chair next to the couch. “Hey, how the hell did you know that ghosts are scared of wrenches?”

Dean shrugged. “Crazy, right? And nice job kicking that door, too. Very Jet Li. What are you, like a black belt or something?”

Sam shook his head. “No. I have no clue how I did that. It’s like… We’ve done this before.”

“What do you mean, before? Like Shirley MacLaine before?”

“No. I, I just can’t shake this feeling like I, like I don’t belong here, you know? Like I should do something more than sit in a cubicle.”

“I think most people who work in a cubicle feel that way,” Piper muttered, not looking up from her screen.

San huffed. “No. Well, look, it’s more than that. Like, I don’t like my job. I don’t like this town. I don’t like my clothes. I don’t like my own last name. I don’t know how else to explain it, except that… It feels like I should be doing something else. There’s just something in my blood. Like I was destined for something different.” He looked between Dean and Piper. “What about you guys? You ever feel that way?”

Dean opened his mouth, but Piper put a hand on his arm. “Yes,” she said simply. “For the last few weeks, ever since I moved here, the only things that haven’t felt that way are you guys.”

Dean scoffed. “I don’t believe in destiny. I do believe in dealing with what’s right in front of us, though.”

Piper held up her laptop. “Well, I think I found a way to do that. These guys hunt ghosts for a living, and they have some, like, how-to videos.”

GHOSTFACERS flashed across the screen, and the three of them settled in to research.

***

“Well, we killed it.” Piper thought carefully. “Can you kill a ghost? Or do you just… Get rid of it?”

Dean ignored her to pull out the first aid kit from the bathroom. He pulled out three gauze pads and handed one to Sam. He approached Piper and put one against her cheek, where it had been split open.

“Man, I gotta tell you. I’ve never had so much fun in my life,” Dean said cheerfully. Piper took the clean gauze out of his hand and pressed it to his head, smiling up at him.

“We should keep doing this.” Sam said, examining the two of them. Piper noticed the way he was watching, but ignored it. After you kill a ghost, who cares who knows you’re sleeping with the boss?

Dean grinned. “I know.” He smiled when Piper stepped closer to him. Good grief, those eyes will be the death of me, she thought wryly.

“I mean it. There’s gotta be other ghosts out there. We could help a lot of people.”

Piper turned to look at Sam. “What? Quit our jobs and go?” She asked.

It didn’t seem like that bad an idea to Piper. She wasn’t close with anyone in town except Dean, and if they could help people…

But Dean was already scoffing. “You gotta be kidding me. How would we get by? Stolen credit cards? Huh? Eating diner food drenched in saturated fats? Sharing a crap motel room every night?”

Piper winced as, in his agitation, he pressed harder on his cheek. “Ow,” she said mildly.

He looked down and winced. “Sorry, Pipes.” The nickname warmed her insides.

“That’s all just details,” Sam was saying.

“Details are everything,” Dean snapped. “You don’t wanna go fighting ghosts without any health insurance.”

Sam looked sheepish. “All right, um, confession.”

“What?” Dean snapped again. Piper put her hand on his arm and squeezed.

“Remember those dreams I told you about, with the ghosts?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, I was… Fighting them. With you guys. Both of you. We were like, these hunters, and we were friends. Well,” he looked at Dean. “We were more like brothers. And you guys were together. I mean, what if that’s who we really are? I mean, you saw us back there, working together. The ghost was scrambling people’s brains. What if it scrambled ours?”

Dean was shaking his head. “That’s insane.”

Piper looked up at him. “Is it? I mean… If you think about it, does this all really feel like our lives?”

He gazed down at her. “You feel like my life.”

She smiled up at him, her heart fluttering. “Yeah, you, too.”

“Look,” Sam said, interrupting. “All I know is this isn’t who we’re supposed to be.”

Dean shook his head and wrapped an arm around Piper’s waist. “No. I’m Dean Smith, Director of Sales and Marketing. I went to Stanford. My father’s name is Bob, My mother’s name is Ellen, and my sister’s name is Jo. And this is Piper, my secretary and girlfriend.” Piper’s heart stuttered at the title on his lips. Not now, Tate, keep it together.

“And when was the last time you talked to them? Any of them? Besides Piper? Because I only moved here because I broke up with my fiancé, Madison. But when I called her number I got a damn animal hospital.”

“Okay, what are you saying? Are you trying to say that my family isn’t real? Huh? That we’ve been injected with fake memories? Come on,” he scoffed.

Sam stood, getting angry. “All I know is, I got this feeling in my gut. And I know, I know that deep down, you guys gotta be feeling it, too. We’re supposed to be something else. You’re not just some corporate douchebag, and you’re not just some hot secretary. This isn’t you. I know you.”

Dean’s face had been irritated before, but as soon as Sam mentioned Piper, she felt Dean’s arm tense and his body change stance. “Know me? You don’t know me, pal. You should go.”

***

Later, Dean and Piper were sprawled against each other on her couch, sweat slowly starting to dry. There was a butterfly bandage on her cheek, and it somehow made her look more vulnerable and tougher at the same time. Dean pulled her up so she was resting on his chest, his arms wrapped around her waist.

She smiled down at him. “Everything okay, Mr. Smith?”

He nodded. “Yes ma’am, Ms. Tate. Just thinking about that jackass.”

She laughed softly. “Dean, do we have to talk about Sam in bed?”

He grinned. “We’re not in bed, Pipes.”

She smacked him on the chest. “You know what I mean, Dean.” She smiled down at him before sobering. “Don’t you think you were a little hard on him?”

“No, Piper, he’s crazy. Look, I’m willing to accept ghosts, but I know who I am. I’m Dean Smith. You’re Piper Tate. He’s Sam whatever. This isn’t some sort of conspiracy theory, Pipes, it’s our lives.”

“Okay, okay, but you don’t think this is weird?” she gestured between the two of them. “Dean, I have never in my life basically let a man move into my apartment in three weeks. I’ve never felt this way this fast about someone.” She bit her lip, looking at him nervously. “That doesn’t scare you?”

He looked at her closely, her high cheekbones, her auburn air, her wide hazel eyes. He put a hand on her face and pulled her close, kissing her thoroughly. When the pulled back, he met her eyes again. “No, you don’t scare me, Piper. This feels right.”

She nodded. “I know, right? But, everything else is-“

He was suddenly overwhelmed by her. She was lovely, kind, smart, and everything he’d ever wanted. “I think I’m falling in love with you,” he said in a rush, watching her face for her reaction.

Her eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open a little. He took the opportunity to run a thumb across her lip, still trying to gauge how she was feeling. The silence stretched out, and he was almost ready to take it back when she spoke.

“I’m falling in love with you, too,” she said softly, eyes sparkling and lips curving up into a smile.

He pulled her down to him to capture that smile with his mouth, thoughts of Sam and ghosts and different lives taking a backseat to the heat of her pressed against him.

***

The next day, Dean was working with half of his mind, and watching Piper with the other half, when his boss, Adler, came in.

Adler knocked on the open door. “Got a minute?”

Dean blinked. “Sure, of course.”

Adler looked at Piper. “Can we have a minute, dear?”

Piper smiled politely, but Dean saw the tightness in her face. “Of course, Mr. Adler, Mr. Smith.” She left quietly, shutting the door behind her.

Adler turned to Dean. “How are you feeling, Dean?”

“Uh, great.”

Adler examined him. “You look a little tired. Been working hard, I gather, you and Mrs. Tate.”

“Ms.” Dean corrected without thinking.

“Excuse me?”

“She’s, uh, she’s not married. And yeah, I guess we’ve been working a lot.”

“Ah, don’t be modest. I hear everything. And I’m pleased with what I’m hearing.” He sat down in the chair in front of Dean’s desk. “That’s why it’s important to me that you’re happy.” He took out a pen, took a sticky note off of Dean’s desk, and wrote down a number. He handed it to Dean. “How’s that for a bonus?”

Dean looked at the sticky note and his mind went blank. “That’s, uh, that’s very generous.”

Adler waved his hand. “Purely selfish. Wanna make sure you’re not going anywhere.”

“Wow. Are you sure?”

“Positive. You are Sandover material, son. Real go-getter, carving your own way. I see big things in your future. Maybe even senior VP, Eastern Great Lakes Division. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll have to work for it. Seven days a week, lunch at your desk, bribing your secretary to stay with you. But in eight to ten short years, that could be you.”

Dean examined the man in front of him, considering his options. This is what he’d wanted when he got here. He’d wanted to prove himself, that he could do this, he could make something of himself. But Sam’s words were ringing in his heads, along with Piper’s. There were ghosts out there… Unnatural beings that were hurting people. Suddenly, everything else seemed a little unimportant.

“Uh, well, thank you. Thank you, sir. It’s, um… But…” He slid the paper back to Adler. “I’m giving my notice. And, uh, Ms. Tate will give hers, too, when she gets back.” Dean didn’t know how he knew that Piper would come with him, but there wasn’t a doubt in his mind.

“This is a joke. You’re kidding me, right?”

“No. I’ve, uh, we’ve, recently realized that there’s something else we have to do. It’s very important.”

“Other work? Another company?”

“No, I, it’s hard to explain. It’s just that this, this is…. It’s just… It’s not who I’m supposed to be. Who we’re supposed to be.”

Adler grinned. “Dean, Dean, Dean. Finally.”

He stood and pressed two fingers to Dean’s forehead.

Dean Winchester blinked and looked around. “What the hell?” He looked down. “Why am I wearing a tie? God, I’m starving. Where’s Piper?”

Adler laughed. “Welcome back.”

Dean glared, his mind working. “Did I, did I just get touched by… You’re an angel, aren’t you?”

The man bowed. “I’m Zachariah.”

“Oh, great. That’s all I need is another one of you guys.”

“I’m hardly another one, Dean, I’m Castiel’s superior. Believe me, I had no interest in popping down here, but after the unfortunate situation with Uriel, I felt it necessary to pay a visit. Get my ducks in a row.”

“We are not ducks.”

“Starting with your attitude,” Zachariah said, pointing at Dean.

Dean threw his hands in the air. “Oh, so, what? This was all some sort of a lesson? Is that what you’re telling me? Wow. Very creative. So am I just hallucinating all this?”

“Not at all. Real place, real haunting. Just plunked you in the middle without the benefit of your memories.”

Fury was starting to fizz under the surface. “Just to shake things up? Hm? So you guys can have fun watching us run around like ass clowns in monkey suits?”

“To prove to you that the path you’re on is truly in your blood. You’re a hunter. Not because your dad made you, not because God called you back from hell, but because it is what you are. And you love it. You’ll find your way to it in the dark every single time, and you’re miserable without it. Dean, let’s be real here. You’re good at this. You’ll be successful. You will stop it.”

Dean glared at the angel. “Stop what? The apocalypse? Lucifer? What? Be specific, man.”

“You’ll do everything you’re destined to do. All of it.” The angel held his hand sup. “But I know, I know. You’re not strong enough. You’re scared. You got daddy issues. You can’t do it, right?”

Dean clenched his fist. “Angel or not, I will stab you in the face.”

Zachariah held his hands up again. “All I’m saying is it’s how you look at it. Most folks live and die without moving anything more than the dirt it takes to bury them. You get to change things.”

Dean turned away, fighting to control himself. He didn’t want to change things. He wanted to be normal, with Piper, and Sam, and Bobby.

As if reading his mind, Zachariah continued. “Save people, maybe even the world. All the while, you drive a classic car and fornicate with that woman. This isn’t a curse, it’s a gift. So for God’s sake, Dean, quit whining about it. Look around, there are plenty of fates worse than yours. So are you with me? You wanna go steam yourself another latte? Or are you ready to stand up and be who you really are?”

Chapter Text

“Oh, God, Dean!” Piper cried out, twisting the sheets in her hands.

His big hands gripped her hips from behind her, pulling her back onto him. He gave a strained chuckle, trying to control himself. “Hush, kitten, you’re going to get us in trouble.” She groaned and buried her face into a pillow, unable to stop screaming.

He leaned over her, slowing his pace enough to make her whine. He laid sloppy, open-mouthed kisses across her back. “You sound like you want to get caught, kitten.” He bit her hard enough to make her squeal, immediately soothing it with his tongue.

“Oh, Dean, oh-”

He slowly ran a hand up her side, until he was gently wrapping a hand around her throat. He used gentle pressure to pull her upright in front of him, relishing the power she gave him in bed. She was so independent all the time, but relinquished control to him when they were naked.

He breathed heavily into her ear, keeping his cock moving in and out of her at a steady, slow pace. He moved a hand up her ribs until he was cupping her breast, thumbing her nipple. “Do you want to get caught, Piper?” She whimpered, but didn’t answer.

He pinched her nipple between thumb and forefinger hard enough to make her cry out again. “Piper,” he murmured into her ear, dropping the pitch of his voice, “Do you want to get caught?” He gradually sped up his pace, adjusting his angle until he was hitting the spot that usually made her scream.

She was gasping, trying to keep it quiet. “No , Dean, God-”

He interrupted her by subtly tightening the hand on her throat. “See, I don’t know, kitten,” he moved his other hand down slowly to her center, letting his fingers gently caress her clit. “You keep making these pretty little noises when I mention someone coming in here…”

As if in response, she whimpered loudly. “Does that turn you on, kitten?” He whispered roughly, mouth pressed to her ear. “The thought of someone walking in on us?” Another whimper. “Someone seeing me fucking you senseless, and seeing how much you love it?”

“Oh, God, Dean!”

He covered her mouth in time to smother her scream as she orgasmed, giving a rather loud moan himself as he came hard inside her.

He rested his head on her shoulder, moving so hers could fall back onto his. He listened to the sounds of their breath slowing, savoring it. It was one of his favorite things to listen to.

When they had calmed down, and he could feel the sweat cooling on his back, he slowly moved away from her, stood next to the bed, and then scooped her up against his chest. She laughed softly, the sound of it making his heart beat faster again.

“Grab that blanket, kitten.” He bent his knees so she could do as he said. She swung it around his shoulders, concealing the parts of them that needed to be concealed.

Her sleepy, sated eyes gaze up at him. “Where are we going?”

He lifted her enough to press a kiss to her forehead. “Cleanup, baby.”

***

They were back in bed, facing each other. He examined her face, which he had done a hundred times before. Her eyes, her nose, her high cheekbones. He felt his lips twitch upward as he observed the blush rising up her cheeks. He cocked an eyebrow at her. “So… Voyeurism, huh?”

He laughed when she smacked him on the chest. “Shut up, Winchester.”

He chuckled and pulled her close to kiss her. “Kind of kinky, kitten.”

He felt her smile against his mouth. “You don’t know the half of it, Winchester.”

He pulled her even closer, bringing her belly flush with his. “Is that so?”

She flung an arm around his waist and cuddled close. “Mhm,” she mumbled into his chest. “But you’re not finding out tonight, I'm tired.”

He rolled them so she rested on his chest, her head nestled underneath his chin. “Whatever you say, kitten.”

***

Dean ducked as Piper swung at him. That had been close, but he wasn’t about to let her know that. “Come on, baby, gotta be faster than that.”

She glared at him, clearly struggling to keep the smile off of her face. “Shut it, Winchester, hands up.”

They were sparring in the backyard, at Piper’s insistence that the activity would help blow off some steam. Dean didn’t know if it was having the desired effect, but he was having a lot of fun watching her move in her leggings and tight tank top.

He was lost in his thoughts, so he didn’t see her tense in time. Dean resigned himself to watching her sweep his legs out from under him, unable to help his grunt as he hit the ground and she crowed in triumph. “Ha! Take that!”

She was laughing with her head thrown back, and he used his natural speed to take advantage. He got up and tackled her midsection, quickly turning so she landed on him when they hit the ground. As soon as they were down, he rolled again, pinning her beneath him and nuzzling underneath her jaw. “You were saying?”

“No!” She was laughing and pushing at his chest. “No using sex to distract me, Dean!”

“One good reason,” he demanded, laying kisses down her neck. He smiled against her skin when she arched herself slightly, giving him more of her skin to caress.

“Because, Dean, we need to focus-”

“I am focused,” he murmured against her warmth.

She gave a low, throaty laugh that made something low in him tighten in response. Over a year later, she’s still got me acting like a damn teenager.

The thought struck him. Over a year. They’d been together for longer than he’d ever imagined being with anything, much less a woman who loved him.

Piper was still talking, having not noticed that he wasn’t paying attention. “Because, Dean, we need to stay focused. Just because we’re having some R&R-”

He interrupted her with his mouth on hers. Her resistance crumbled immediately, and she molded herself to him. He swallowed her soft whimpers, angling himself against her to kiss her deeper.

A cough behind them startled Piper, and she broke away from him. Undeterred, Dean went back to kissing her neck. “Oh, um, hi, Sam!” Dean ignored his little brother and his woman to continue his ministrations.

“Hey, guys. Gross. I think I found a case. I think it’s a vengeful spirit-”

“We’re not going, Sammy,” Dean said firmly, lifting his head to meet Piper’s surprised face. “Pipes and I have things to discuss here, and we all deserve a break.”

Dean heard the frown in Sam’s voice, but his eyes never left Piper. “Dean, you wanting to hump each other isn’t a good reason to ignore a case.”

“Hey,” Dean snapped, finally turning to glare at his brother. “Show some respect, Sam. I don’t care how mad you are at me, don’t take it out on her.”

“Dean.” He turned back down to look at Piper. “It’s okay, come on.”

“Guys,” Sam snapped, “we can’t just ignore the case.”

Dean was starting to get angry, “God dammit, Sammy-”

“Stop it,” Piper said evenly. “Both of you.” She put a hand on Dean’s face. “Let me up, handsome.”

He stood and helped her to her feet, but didn’t let her step away from him. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he pulled her back against him, his chest pressing against her back.

She looked up at Sam. “I won’t ignore a case, Sam, obviously. I’ll get someone on it. But Dean is right, we need a break. We’re need some time to… Absorb the last two weeks. We’re not gonna make it running on fumes like this. Something’s gotta give.”

Sam glared at her. “Are you kidding me, Piper? We can’t just stop looking-”

She tilted her head at him. “For what, Sam? We have no leads right now. Let’s rest for a few days.” She pulled out of Dean’s arms, and he let her go, watching her work her magic on Sammy. “Come on, Sam, just a little rest. Two days. Please?”

Dean stifled a smile, picturing Piper’s big hazel eyes looking up at Sam. Dean hadn’t met a man yet who could resist her, angels included, apparently.

His little brother rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. He glared at Piper, but there was no heat in his gaze. “Fine. Two days.”

Dean grinned. “Starting tomorrow.”

***

Later that night, Dean was leaning against the counter in the kitchen, watching Piper make tacos for dinner. Her hair was pulled back and twisted around a pen, and she was wearing an old apron as she flitted around the kitchen. Every time she passed him, she went up and kissed him briefly. He was enjoying being in the way very much.

“Dean, baby, I love you, but you are right in the way.”

He grinned. “I know.”

She rolled her eyes. “You know, in my mother’s kitchen, that behavior would get you hit with a spoon.”

Dean tilted his head, watching her as she started chopping a tomato. “You don’t talk about your parents much.”

She smiled up at him before looking back down at her work. “No, I guess I don’t. For a while, it hurt too much. And then, I guess I stopped thinking about them all the time.”

“What were they like?” He asked slowly, not wanting to hurt her. But since his revelation that morning, he craved knowledge about her, about the parts of her life he didn’t know about.

She smiled. “They were great. My dad did something in finances, I was never sure what he did for a living. He loved me very much in his own way, but he was the kind of man who believed the best way to show his love was by providing for us, so he was at work a lot. We weren’t very close.”

She had scooped the tomato pieces into a bowl, and had moved on to grating cheese. “My mother, though, we were inseparable. She was this beautiful free spirit. She always wore her hair long, and she used to wear long, flowery dresses. Mom was the kind of person who would let spiders out of the house instead of squish them.”

The little sniffle she gave was his only clue that she was upset. Dean put his beer down and came to stand behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. “My dad would pretend that it drove him crazy, but he was so in love with her,” she continued softly, leaning back into him. “He used to say that he kept her feet on the ground and she kept his head in the clouds.”

She sniffled again and looked at Dean. “She would have loved you.”

He pressed a kiss to the side of her head. “Yeah?”

She nodded and resumed grating cheese. “Oh, yeah. She used to tell me this story about a princess named Piper, and a tall, dark, handsome knight who would come to save her.” Dean squeezed her lightly for a second. “But, in the end, the princess would use her own resourcefulness to save herself. The knight would fall in love with her bravery, and beg her to come away with him and marry him.”

She stopped her work and turned to wrap her arms around his waist, looking up at his face. “She would have loved you, loved your courage. She would have loved to hear about us saving each other all the time.” She laughed quietly, leaning in to bury her face into his chest. “She told me a handsome man would come to take me to beautiful places, but that I shouldn’t go with him. Instead, I should show him the dark, dirty places, full of people in need, and that we would work together to save them.”

Dean smiled. “Too late, kitten, I knew about those places.”

She smiled up at him, her eyes sparkling with tears. “And you were already saving people when I found you.”

He was overwhelmed with emotions again. She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, and here she was, pressed against him, in his arms, his. He slid a hand up her back to thread his fingers through her hair, pulling her close and kissing her thoroughly. She sighed and leaned into him, opening to him when he ran his tongue along her bottom lip.

“Kids, for God’s sake, not in the kitchen.” Bobby grumbled from the doorway.

Dean took his time finishing kissing Piper, and he grinned when he looked down at her flushed face and swollen lips. “Let’s eat.”

***

The next morning, Piper was standing behind Bobby, who was sitting in a chair in front of her, cutting his hair. It was something she’d started doing for him when she was in high school. It was easy, and it had made her feel like less of a burden.

Even though she didn’t feel like a burden anymore, she still cut his hair regularly. “Bobby, sit still.”

“Well, hurry up, I can’t sit in here all day, gossiping with you.”

She scoffed, putting the finishing touches on the back of his neck. “Shut up, Singer, you’d love to sit in here and gossip with me.”

He hmphed. “All you’d talk about is Dean, and excuse me if I’m not up for that conversation.”

She chuckled. “I would not! There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Well, it’s been a year now.”

She paused, a little surprised. “Wow, yeah, I guess it has.” She smiled and stepped back. “It feels like longer.”

He sighed. “How ya doin’, kiddo? That idiot toeing the line?”

She grinned at Bobby getting protective. “If I could go back and tell eighteen year old me that it would be this perfect, I would have jumped his bones at Christmas.”

“I did not need to know that,” he said stiffly.

Piper laughed. “All right, you’re done.”

He stood and ran a hand down the back of his neck. “Thanks, kiddo. And I’m glad you’re good.”

She smiled and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. “Welcome, old man.”

Sam walked into the kitchen, eyebrows raising. “What’s going on?”

She turned and grinned at him. “You next, Sammy. Let’s trim that hair.”

His eyes widened and he held his hands up, starting to back away. “Come on, Pipe, no-”

She tilted her head back and laughed. “Sam, I just want to trim your split ends. In the chair, Gigantor.” She pointed the scissors she’d picked up threateningly.

Sam sat hesitantly. “Just don’t chop it all off.”

They both fell silent as she worked, and she started humming again. It took longer than Bobby’s, partially because she was taking her time, enjoying being with Sam.

“I missed this,” Sam said quietly.

Piper smiled and nodded, even though he couldn’t see it. “Me, too.”

She let a few more beats of silence pass, finishing up, then, “So, we gonna talk about Ruby? Alastair? ‘I’m stronger now?’”

He tensed, and she stopped to place a hand on his shoulder. “Just talk to me, Sam, come on.”

She could practically feel the bitchface he pulled. “No, Piper. I’m not talking about it. End of story.”

She sighed and put the scissors down. She bent at the waist and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face in his neck. “I love you, idiot,” she whispered in his ear. “I want you to be okay. Let me help.”

He put his hands on her arms, sighing. “You can’t help, Pipe. No one can.”

“Sam, come on, please.”

He leaned his head back against her shoulder. “No, Piper.”

She frowned. Sam was harder than he used to be. She sensed that she couldn’t talk him into talking to her right now. So she went for humor, hoping that she could work on him over time. “You’re going down a path I cannot follow.”

He laughed out loud. “Did you just Star Wars me?” She laughed with him.

“Sammy, quit macking on my girl.” Dean had chosen that moment to walk into the kitchen. “What’s going on here?”

Piper turned and smiled at him while Sam scoffed. “Your turn, Winchester, in the chair.”

Sam stood and kissed Piper in the forehead, giving her a smile before walking out past his brother.

“My turn for what?” Dean questioned suspiciously, even as he obeyed to sit down in front of her.

She leaned down to kiss his cheek. “Haircut. Getting shaggy, baby.”

He turned her head to kiss her. “You like it,” he murmured against her lips.

She smiled and stood up. “Nevertheless, haircut. Sit still.”

She went to work, humming softly. This was different than cutting Bobby or Sam’s hair. This was surprisingly intimate. She had rarely felt more like Dean’s girlfriend than she did right now.

It was over quickly, he didn’t have very long hair, and she was sorry when it was done. It had felt very domestic, and for a moment she could pretend they were just Dean and Piper, normal people with normal lives.

“All right, hot stuff, you’re done.” She smiled when he stood and turned. She stepped around the chair to look up and run her fingers through his hair, searching for missed spots.

He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her waist, letting her finish. “Well, you’re as good looking as ever, Winchester, just less unkempt.”

Her smile faded when he opened his eyes to look at her, and her heart started to race. This was the same way he’d looked at her in the yard this morning, like she was the only thing in the world. “Dean? Everything okay?”

His lips crashing down onto hers took her by surprise for a moment. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back with everything she had. Her entire scope of focus narrowed down to the parts of her that he was touching. His lips against hers, his hard chest pressed against her soft one, his strong arms around her waist.

“Piper, God-” He murmured against her lips. She went willingly when he started pushing her backward slowly. Apparently, they weren’t moving fast enough for him, because he stooped and swept her into his arms. She laughed as he strode quickly to the stairs, then to the bedroom.

She stopped laughing.

***

“Sam, we’ll leave tomorrow for the comic book case. Come on, movie night! It’s our last night of vacation!”

Dean grinned, watching Piper work on Sam again. The last two days had passed at a leisurely pace, filled with doing normal things. Watching Pipes cook, working on cars with Bobby, driving around in his Baby with his woman under his arm. Life had been good.

He knew the next day they would be back at it. There was still some heavy shit going on, and he felt responsible. The guilt weighed him down, made it hard for him to breathe.

Piper made it easier by curling herself under his arm, running a hand up and down his leg, as if she knew what he was thinking about. She turned and smiled gently at him. “Hey, no bad thoughts. Movie night.”

He pulled her tighter against him and kissed her forehead. “Yeah, okay, kitten.”

The first notes of Star Wars sounded through the living room as Sam and Bobby sat down.

Chapter Text

The bell dinged as the three of them entered the comic book store. Piper smiled, looking around at the colorful store, walking behind Dean and Sam. Her hair was loose around her face, dyed again to a brilliant violet. She was hoping that it and the makeup she’d applied would distract from the bruise on her cheek.

The man behind the counter looked up. “Uh… Can I help you?” He eyed Piper’s face, and she sighed. Dean shifted guiltily in front of her.

“Sure hope so.” He said easily. “Agents DeYoung and Shaw, and Trainee Gowan. Just need to ask you a few questions.”

The three of them flashed their badges as Sam asked. “Notice anything strange in the building, last couple of days?”

The employee eyed them warily. “Like what?”

“Well, some other tenants reported flickering lights.” Piper supplied, smiling reassuringly.

“Uh, I don't think so. Why?”

“What about noises?” Sam questioned. “Any skittering in the walls? Kind of like rats?”

The man behind the counter cocked an eyebrow. “And the FBI is investigating a rodent problem?”

Dean frowned. “What about cold spots? Feel any sudden drops in temperature?”

The guy grinned. “I knew it! You guys are LARPing, aren't you?”

It was Piper’s turn to frown. “Excuse me?”

“You're fans!”

“Fans of what?”

“What is ‘LARPing?’” Dean was outright glaring at the man now.

“Like you don't know. Live-Action Role-Play! And pretty hardcore, too. You even have the girl!”

Dean growled, “I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about.” Piper placed a hand on his arm to hold him back.

The man behind the counter watched this with a knowing smile. It made Piper want to hit him. “You're asking questions like the building's haunted. Like those guys from the books. What are they called? Uh... ‘Supernatural.’ Two guys and a chick, use fake IDs with rock aliases, hunt down ghosts, demons, vampires. What are their names? Uh... Steve and Dirk? Uh, Sal and Dane?”

“Sam and Dean?” Sam said, horrified.

The employee snapped his fingers. “That's it!”

Piper stepped in front of the Winchesters. “You're saying this is a book?”

He nodded and made his way over to a table labeled “Bargain Bin.” “Books, it was a series. Didn’t sell a lot of copies, though. Kind of had more of an underground cult following. Let’s see. Um… Ah. Yeah.” He picked up a book and handed it to Piper. “That’s the first one, I think.”

Piper looked down at the cover of the book. There was a drawing of two men, who looked nothing like Dean or Sam, and one of them had an arm around a rail thin woman with unbelievably billowing dark hair. If that’s supposed to be me, heads are going to roll. She flipped it over to read the back aloud. “Along a lonely California highway, a mysterious woman in white lures men to their deaths.”

She looked up at the employee. “We’re going to need all of the copies of ‘Supernatural’ that you have, please.”

***

Piper was reading a fan forum on her laptop, sitting across from Sam, who was presumably doing the same thing. Dean was laying on one of the beds in their motel room, flipping through one of the books.

“This is freakin' insane,” Dean griped. “How's this guy know all this stuff?”

Sam shrugged. “You got me.”

Dean stood. “Everything is in here. I mean everything. From the racist truck to, to me and Piper having sex. I'm full-frontal in here, dude.” Piper looked up and winked at Dean as he spoke. “How come we haven’t heard of them before?”

“They're pretty obscure. I mean, almost zero circulation. Uh, started in oh five. The publisher put out a couple dozen before going bankrupt. And, uh, the last one,’No Rest For The Wicked,’ ends with you going to hell.” Sam turned the laptop toward Dean to show the list of books.

“I reiterate. Freaking insane.” Dean studied the website. “Check it out. There’s actually fans. There’s not many of them, but still. Did you read this?”

Piper chuckled. “Yes.”

She watched Dean frown. “Although for fans, they sure do complain a lot. Listen to this. Simpatico says ‘the demon storyline is trite, clichéd, and overall craptastic.’ Yeah, well, screw you, Simpatico. We lived it.”

Piper pulled a face. “Well, keep reading, it gets better.”

Dean’s eyebrows went up. “There are ‘Sam girls’ and ‘Dean girls.’” He waggled his eyebrows at Piper, and she felt a smile stretch her lips. “Wait, what’s a ‘slash fan?’”

Piper started chuckling at how uncomfortable poor Sam looked. She took pity and answered for him. “As in, ‘Sam-slash-Dean,’ baby. Together.”

Dean raised his wide eyes to look at her incredulously. “Like, together together? Like, you and me together?” She nodded, and Dean looked at Sam. “They do know we’re brothers, right? And that I’m with Piper? Like, Biblically with Piper?”

Sam shrugged. “Doesn't seem to matter.”

Dean looked back down at the website and made a face. “Ugh, look at how many people want you two together.”

Piper winked at Sam. “Yeah, we’ve got a pretty big following, Sammy.”

He wrinkled his nose. “It was like kissing my sister.”

Dean snorted. “Sister-in- law, maybe.” Piper’s eyes widened and her breath caught. As in married? As in Dean and I married?

Before she or Sam could react to that, Dean looked down at Sam. “‘Was?’ ‘Was?’ When did the two of you kiss?”

“You were in hell, Dean,” Piper said softly, still reeling a little. “We were grieving, and it was a mistake, and it was gross.”

Dean grinned and walked over to her side of the table, bending down to kiss her gently. She sighed and leaned into it. “Definitely not gross,” she murmured against his mouth.

“Matter of opinion,” Sam said with a wince.

Dean pulled away and winked at Piper, who blushed, and then got angry at herself. For God’s sake, the man’s seen you naked, stop blushing. “Yeah, well,” Dean said, looking back at Sam. “We gotta find this Carver Edlund.”

“Yeah, that might not be so easy. No tax records, no known address.”

Piper frowned. “‘Carver Edlund’ might be a pen name.”

Sam nodded. “But someone’s got to know where he is.”

Piper stood. “Well, let’s go.” She leaned down, despite her words, and scrolled down further.

Dean leaned down next to her, hand resting on her hip. “Whatcha lookin’ at, Pipes?”

She turned to smile at him. “It’s a thread specifically for ‘Dean girls.’ If I ignore the death threats to me, it’s kind of nice.”

His brow wrinkled. “Death threats?”

Piper ignored him. “It’s nice to see that other people see what I see in you.” She looked up at Sam, who had just reentered. “Both of you, really.”

“What’s that?”

She smiled. “That you’re both heroes.”

Dean stared at her for a second, and she stared back. They had fought that morning when she had woken up to him hitting her across the face in his sleep. He had wanted her to go home. She had told him to find a new tune.

He brought up a hand to cup her face. She closed her eyes and leaned to it. “Some hero,” he scoffed quietly, for her ears only.

She didn’t open her eyes. “You’re my hero.”

***

“Wow, they really didn’t sell well, did they?” Piper asked as they approached Chuck Shurley’s house. “This place is… Um, not well taken care of.”

Dean snorted. “It’s a dump.”

They approached the house, Sam and Dean standing in front of Piper. Dean pushed the doorbell.

A few moments later, a small man in a robe answered the door. Piper wrinkled her nose as the stale air hit her. Dean’s shoulders were tense, so Piper placed a hand on the small of his back.

“You Chuck Shurley?”

“The Chuck Shurley who wrote the ‘Supernatural’ books?” Sam clarified.

The man swallowed hard. “Maybe. Why?”

“I'm Dean. This is Sam, and Piper standing behind me. The Dean, Sam, and Piper you've been writing about.”

The door slammed shut. Piper scowled as Dean rang the bell again.

Chuck opened the door again, clearly nervous. “Look, uh... I appreciate your enthusiasm. Really, I do. It's, uh, it's always nice to hear from the fans. But, uh, for your own good, I strongly suggest you get a life.”

He tried to shut the door again, but Dean slammed a hand against it to keep it open. “See, here's the thing. We have a life. You've been using it to write your books.”

“Dean,” Piper admonished as he pushed his way into the house. “Don’t terrify the man.”

Chuck’s eyes flicked to her gratefully for a moment. “Now, wait a minute. Now, this isn't funny.”

“Damn straight, it's not funny,” Dean snarled. Piper placed a hand on his arm and frowned at him when he glared down at her.

Sam was trying to be more reasonable. “Look, we just want to know how you're doing it.”

“I'm not doing anything,” Chuck exclaimed.

Dean wasn’t convinced. “Are you a hunter?”

Chuck’s eyebrows hit his hairline. “What? No. I'm a writer.”

Dean shook Piper’s hand off and advanced on Chuck. “Then how do you know so much about demons?” Chuck backed up until he hit the couch and collapsed into him. “And Tulpas, and changelings?”

“Dean, for God’s sake,” Piper snapped, coming to stand between him and the author. “Stop it, this isn’t helping.”

Chuck snapped his fingers. “Is this some kind of ‘Misery’ thing? Ah, it is, isn't it? It's a ‘Misery’ thing!”

Piper rolled her eyes and stood her ground when Dean tried to move her out of his way. “No, it's not a ‘Misery’ thing,” he snarled at the author, struggling with Piper. “Believe me, we are not fans!”

“Well, then, what do you want?!”

Sam approached slowly, holding his hands up to show he meant no harm. Thank God someone is keeping calm, Piper thought bitterly.

“I'm Sam. And that's Dean. And that’s Piper.”

“They’re fictional characters,” Chuck cried. “I made them up! They're not real!”

Dean put his hands firmly on Piper’s shoulders and picked her up, turning to move her. She was terribly tempted to kick him in the nuts, but restrained herself.

“I’ll show you real,” he snarled, placing Piper down and leaning to grab Chuck by the arm.  

“Dean, you’re not helping.” Piper scolded, following the two of them out of the house.

Dean kept his hold on the smaller man as he opened Baby’s trunk. Piper and Sam joined them next to the car as the arsenal was displayed to Chuck.

“Are those real guns?” Chuck sounded terrified.

Dean opened his mouth, but Piper slammed a hand over his mouth to shut him up. “Yes, Chuck,” she said gently. “This is all very real.”

“Well, I gotta hand it to you guys. You really are my number one fans.” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “That’s, that’s awesome. So, I, I think I've got some posters in the house.”

Piper’s own temper was wearing thin. “Chuck, stop.”

“How much do you know?” Sam asked. “Do you know about the angels? Or Lilith breaking the seals?”

Chuck stilled. “Wait a minute. How do you know about that?”

“How do you?” Piper asked, ignoring Dean’s attempt to dislodge her hand.

Chuck looked at her. “Because I wrote it?”

Sam’s brow wrinkled. “You kept writing?”

“Yeah, even after the publisher went bankrupt, but those books never came out. Okay, wait a minute. This is some kind of joke, right? Did that… Did Phil put you up to this?”

Dean finally got Piper’s hand away from his face. He wrapped an arm around her waist. “Well, nice to meet you. I'm Dean Winchester, and this is my brother, Sam, and this is Piper Finley.”

Chuck’s eyes widened and he paled. “The last names were never in the books. I never told anybody about that. I never even wrote that down.”

***

They had convened back into the house. Dean watched enviously as Chuck knocked back a huge shot of whiskey. He turned around and winced when he saw them. “Oh, you're still there.”

Dean nodded. “Yup.”

“You're not a hallucination.”

“Nope.”

Chuck sighed heavily. “Well, there's only one explanation. Obviously I'm a god.”

Piper laughed. “You are not a god.”

“How else do you explain it? I write things and then they come to life. Yeah, no, I'm definitely a god. A cruel, cruel, capricious god. The things I put you through… The physical beatings alone.” He flicked his eyed guiltily to Dean. “I made you hit Piper.”

Dean scoffed, guilty and unbelievably irritated. Only Piper’s restraining hand on his arm kept him from decking Chuck. “Yeah, we're still in one piece.”

“I killed your father. I burned your mother alive. And then you had to go through the whole horrific deal again with Jessica.”

Sam sighed. “Chuck…”

“All for what? All for the sake of literary symmetry.” He looked at Piper, distraught. Dean glared. “I made you watch your family be eaten by a werewolf. I toyed with your lives, your emotions, for... Entertainment.”

Dean was nearing the end of his rope. “You didn't toy with us, Chuck, okay? You didn't create us.”

Chuck looked at him mournfully. “Did you really have to live through the bugs?”

“Yeah.”

“What about the ghost ship?”

Dean nodded. “Yes, that, too.” Piper looked up at him and he looked down, automatically calmed a little by the sight of her wide hazel eyes looking up at him. “Ghost ship?” she mouthed. He shook his head and looked back at Chuck.

“I am so sorry. I mean, horror is one thing, but to be forced to live bad writing... If I would have known it was real, I would have done another pass.”

Dean stepped away from Piper. He didn’t want to be calm, he wanted to be angry, and she was interfering with that. “Chuck, you're not a god!” he snapped.

“We think you're probably just psychic.” Piper said reasonably. Dean glared at her. How could she be reasonable right now?

Chuck was shaking his head. “No. If I were psychic, you think I'd be writing? Writing is hard.”

Sam shrugged. “It seems that somehow, you're just... Focused on our lives.”

“Yeah, like laser-focused.” Dean snapped. He was going to start throwing punches soon. “Are you working on anything right now?”

Chuck paled. “Holy crap.”

“What?” Piper asked warily. Ha, who’s reasonable now? Dean thought cheerfully.

Chuck moved to pick up a stack of paper on the table. “The, uh, latest book? It's, uh, it's kind of weird.”

“‘Weird’ how?”

“It's very Vonnegut.”

Dean stared at Chuck, his mind whirling. “‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ Vonnegut or ‘Cat's Cradle’ Vonnegut?”

Sam looked at Dean, insultingly surprised. “What?”

Dean glared at him, and then at Piper when she chuckled. “What?”

Chuck interrupted. “It's, uh, ‘Kilgore Trout’ Vonnegut. I wrote myself into it. I wrote myself, at my house... Confronted by my characters.”

Chapter Text

They were in a laundromat, Piper sitting next to Dean on a table, watching Sam do laundry. Piper was leaning back on her hands, watching Dean read the manuscript Chuck had sent with them.

“I’m sitting in a laundromat, reading about myself sitting in a laundromat reading about myself. My head hurts.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “There’s gotta be something this guy’s not telling us.” He turned to put another load of jeans into the washer.

Dean looked down at the paper in his hand. “‘Sam tossed his gigantic darks into the machine. He was starting to have doubts about Chuck, about whether he was telling the whole truth.’”

Sam turned to glare at Dean. “Stop it.”

"'Stop it,' Sam said.’” Dean looked up and grinned. “Guess what you do next.”

Sam scowled and turned away. “‘Sam turned his back on Dean, his face brooding and pensive.’ I mean, I don't know how he's doing it, but this guy is doing it. I can't see your face, but those are definitely your ‘brooding and pensive’ shoulders.”

Piper laughed. It was nice to see them arguing while doing something as normal as doing laundry, instead of fighting for their lives.

Dean looked back down. “‘Piper laughed, so in love with Dean she could barely think about the situation they were in. She was too busy thinking about how nice it was to not be fighting for their lives.’” He turned and grinned at her.

She rolled her eyes. “Shut it, Winchester.” Dick.

“You just thought I was a dick. And now, you’re gonna think I’m smug, and you’re gonna kiss me.”

She glared at him. “This guy’s good.” He was grinning, his eyes sparkling, and she couldn’t help herself as she leaned in to press her lips against his smug smile.

***

They were driving away from the motel they’d left Sam at, and Piper was worrying. Chuck had told them about the younger brother meeting Lilith that night, and Dean seemed determined to do whatever it took to stop it. Piper agreed, but was terrified that there was nothing they could do.

“Dean, what if-”

“Stop it, Piper,” he snapped.

That stung more than she was willing to admit. So when he finally parked Baby, she got out without a word and started across the street.

Dean groaned. “Piper, baby, come on,” he whined, following her.

“No, it’s fine, Dean,” she snapped, not turning around. “Be a dick, I get it, it’s your main mode of communication.” She was almost completely across the road, starting to step on the sidewalk.

“God dammit, Piper turn around and-” The sound of male laughter had them both turning around. A group of boys was laughing, trying to break into the Impala.

“Hey!” Dean shouted, starting to run across the road.

He must not have seen the van. “Dean!” Piper cried, running after him. She watched helplessly as the van hit him.

She ran to him, hitting her knees and pulling him into her lap. The woman who had been driving the van screamed, and she and her young daughter jumped out and ran to them. The woman was on her knees next to Piper in a second. “Oh, my God, is he okay? Oh, God, I’m so sorry.”

Piper had her hand on Dean’s neck, checking for a pulse. “He’s out, but he’s alive. He’s been hit pretty hard before.”

The daughter looked up at Piper. “Your hair is pretty.”

Piper gave the little girl a strained smile. “Thank you, sweetheart.”

The girl looked back down at Dean. “I’m a doctor. I can help.”

Piper’s blood ran cold as the child pulled out a handful of pink, flowery Band-Aids. “Oh, God.”

***

Dean came to with something soft under his head. He opened his eyes slowly, letting himself take his time as he focused on Piper. He didn’t know what happened, so he blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “God, you’re pretty.” He frowned at the bruise on her face.

She smiled, blinking away the tears in her eyes. “You know, if you’re going to start ending fights by being hit by a car and then complimenting me, we’re going to have to have more fights.” She ran a hand through his hair, and he closed his eyes again and leaned into it. “Take it easy, baby, you’re going to be okay.”

“I’m sorry about, you know,” Dean opened his eyes again to look at a woman he’d never met before gesturing at his face. “My daughter’s going through a doctor phase.”

He looked back up at Piper, confused. “What’s she talking about?”

Piper shook her head. “Not now, Dean. We’ll talk about it later.”

***

They were waiting for Chuck when he got back. He didn’t look very surprised to see them.

“Dean. Piper.”

Dean glared. “I take it you knew we’d be here.”

Chuck examined Dean. “You look terrible.”

“That’s because he just got hit by a minivan, Chuck.” Piper snapped.

Chuck blinked and clutched the six pack he’d brought in to his chest. “Oh.”

Dean stood. “That it? Every damn thing you write about us comes true. That’s all you have to say is, ‘oh?!’” Piper said nothing at his angry outburst. She knew they were overreacting, but dammit, Dean had just gotten hit by a car, and she was mad.

Chuck winced. “Please don't yell at me.”

Piper’s eyes narrowed. “Why do I get feeling there's something that you're not telling us, Chuck?”

His wide eyes flicked to her. “What wouldn’t I be telling you?”

“How you know what you know, for starters,” she said calmly, fighting with her anger.

“I don’t know how I know, I just do!”

“That's not good enough,” Dean snarled, shoving Chuck against the wall. Piper stood, but said nothing. “How the hell are you doing this?!”

A fluttering of wings was Piper’s only warning, and she still yelped a little when Castiel appeared next to her. “Dean, let him go,” the angel ordered. “This man is to be protected.”

Piper glared at him. “What the hell are you doing here? How dare you?”

Dean released Chuck and turned toward Castiel. Dean’s eyes flicked to Piper’s, his warning to let him do the talking clear. “Why?” he snapped at the angel.

“He’s a prophet of the Lord.” Castiel said evenly. He looked at Piper, his eyes falling to her cheek. “Why are you consistently being hurt, Piper?” She continued to glare at him.

Chuck’s eyes were huge. “You... You're Castiel... Aren't you?”

Castiel nodded. “It's an honor to meet you, Chuck. I... Admire your work.”

Piper frowned. “A prophet? I mean, he’s not exactly Shakespeare.”

Dean turned to Chuck. “Did you know about this?”

Chuck stumbled to the recliner in the middle of the living room. He opened a bottle of whiskey. “I, uh, I might have dreamt about it.”

Piper turned her frown onto him instead of the angel. “And you didn’t tell us?”

“It was too preposterous. Not to mention arrogant. I mean, writing yourself into the story is one thing, but as a prophet? That's like M. Night level douchiness.” He took a swig of whiskey.

Dean turned to Castiel. “This is the guy who decides our fate?”

Castiel looked at Dean briefly, then looked at Piper. She met his gaze evenly. “He isn’t deciding anything. He’s a mouthpiece, a conduit for the inspired word.”

She frowned. “Like, the word of God?”

Castiel nodded. “One day, these books, they’ll be known as the Winchester gospel.”

Piper outright glared at him. “What am I, chopped liver?”

Castiel gave her an unreadable look. “You will play a significant role in the Winchester gospel, Piper… Finley.”

Before she could figure out what that meant, Chuck gasped. “You gotta be kidding me.”

Castiel frowned at the prophet. “I am not… Kidding you.”

“If you three would please excuse me one minute.” He disappeared up the stairs.

Dean rounded on the angel. “Him? Really?”

“You should’ve seen Luke.” Piper snorted, and Castiel gave her a warm glance that she ignored. She was still angry.

Dean gestured up the stairs. “Why'd he get tapped?”

“I don't know how prophets are chosen. The order comes from high up on the celestial chain of command.”

Piper tilted her head. “How high?”

Castiel looked at her. “Very.”

Dean shook his head a little. “Well, whatever. How do we get around this?”

Castiel frowned at him. “Around what?”

“The Sam-Lilith love connection. How do we stop it from happening?”

“What the prophet has written can't be unwritten. As he has seen it, so it shall come to pass.”

***

Piper followed Dean into the motel room, wincing as he barked at Sam, “Come on. We’re getting out of here.”

Sam stood. “What? Where?”

“Anywhere. I don’t care if we have to swim out of this town, we’re getting out.”

Piper looked around, bemused and scared. “Sam, where are the hex bags?”

Sam took a deep breath and faced them. “I burned them.”

Dean’s eyebrows rose. “You what?”

“Look, if Lilith is coming, which is a big ‘if-’”

“No, it’s not,” Piper said quietly. “Chuck is a prophet, not a psychic.”

Sam frowned at her. “What?”

“Cas showed up, and apparently Chuck is writing the gospel of us.” Dean answered.

Sam shrugged. “Okay, it doesn’t change anything.”

“Sam, Lilith is going to wipe the floor with you,” Piper said.

The taller Winchester shrugged again. “Maybe she will, maybe she won't.”

“So what?” Dean scoffed. “You think you can take her?”

“Only one way to find out, and I say bring her on.”

Piper sighed. “Sam…”

“You guys think I’ll do it, don’t you? You think I’ll go dark side.”

“Yes!” Dean exploded. “Okay? Yes. The way you've been acting lately? The things you've been doing?” Sam looked startled. “Oh, I know. How you ripped Alastair apart like it was nothing, like you were swatting a fly. Piper told me, okay?”

Sam glared at her, and she stared back, a little surprised. Did he expect her to keep quiet? “What else did she tell you?” He asked softly, dangerously. Piper blinked, unfamiliar fear trickling down her spine.

Fear of Sam.

Dean slowly and deliberately moved in front of Piper, blocking her from his brother’s view. “Nothing I don't already know. That you've been using your psychic crap, and you've been getting stronger. We just don't know why, and we don't know how.”

“It's not what you think.”

“Then what is it, Sam? 'Cause I'm at a total loss.” He got his bag, took Piper’s hand, and led her to the door. When he got there, he turned back to Sam. “Are you coming or not?”

“No.”

Dean turned to look at Piper. She held his gaze for a long moment, already knowing that they probably weren’t going anywhere. He let out a frustrated huff, dropped the bag, and pulled her out the door with him.

When they were out, he turned and looked at her, pulling her close and wrapping his arms around her. “I don’t know what to do, Pipes,” he said softly.

She hugged him tight. “It’s okay, Dean, I think I do.”

She closed her eyes. Castiel, we’re fresh out of options. We need your help.

“I am gladdened to see that you have not lost your faith, Piper.” Castiel said from behind her. “This is a good thing.”

Dean tensed. “So does that mean you’ll help?”

Piper turned in Dean’s arms to look at the angel, who looked unsure. “I’m not sure what I can do.”

She frowned. “Pull Sam out. Get us out of here before Lilith shows up.”

He shook his head. “It's a prophecy. I can't interfere.”

Dean was tense, almost shaking. Piper leaned back into his chest as he spoke. “You have tested me and thrown me every which way. And I have never asked for anything. Not a damn thing. But now I'm asking. I need your help. Please.”

Castiel looked upset. “What you're asking, it's... Not within my power to do.”

Piper scoffed. “Why? Because it’s ‘divine prophecy?’”

He nodded. “Yes.”

Dean exhaled sharply. “So, what? We're just supposed to sit around and, and wait for it to happen?”

“I'm sorry.”

“Screw you, wings,” Piper snapped. “Screw you, your mission, and your God.”

She felt Dean nod behind her. “If you don't help us now, then when the time comes and you need me... Don't bother knocking.” He started to walk past the angel, wrapping an arm around Piper’s shoulders.

The angel’s voice stopped them. “Dean. Piper.”

Dean whipped around. “What?!”

Castiel looked at Piper, and she saw something in his eyes that made her pay attention. ”You must understand why I can't intercede. Prophets are very special. They're protected.”

She nodded slowly. “Okay.”

His gaze intensified. “If anything threatens a prophet, anything at all, an archangel will appear to destroy that threat. Archangels are fierce. They're absolute. They're heaven's most terrifying weapon.”

Dean had listened, too. “And these archangels, they're tied to prophets?”

Castiel nodded slowly. “Yes.”

“So if a prophet was in the same room as a demon-”

“Then the most fearsome wrath of heaven would rain down on that demon. Just so you understand... Why I can't help.”

Dean nodded. “Thanks, Cas.”

“Good luck.”

They turned to leave, and Castiel’s voice stopped them again, but it was much closer this time. “Piper.”

She turned, and he placed two fingers on her forehead. Warmth enveloped her cheek, and she blinked at him. “Thank you, Cas.”

Dean had his keys in his hand, and he had watched the exchange closely.  “Come on, Pipes, let’s go kidnap ourselves a prophet.”

***

The plan had worked. Piper was worried that Castiel might get into trouble for tipping them off, but she didn’t say anything about it to the guys. They had enough on their plates already.

She was laying next to Dean, examining his face as he did the same to her. It had become habit to lay face-to-face every night. Sometimes they talked, sometimes they just fell asleep like that. It was Piper’s favorite part of the day.

“He didn’t take the deal,” she whispered, low enough that it wouldn’t travel over to Sam’s bed. She knew it was on Dean’s mind. Lilith had offered Sam a deal: His and Dean’s heads on a plate, and she’d stop breaking seals and leave Lucifer in his cage. Sam had declined.

Dean’s lips twitched up and he searched her eyes. “How do you always know?”

She smiled. “Once you know how, you’re not all that hard to read, Winchester.”

He smiled, then sobered quickly. “He didn’t even think about it, kitten. He’s… I don’t know, he’s different.”

“And you’re worried that whatever he’s doing to get stronger, it’s making him darker.”

He nodded. “And I’m right. The kid isn’t the same as he was.”

She put a hand on his face, running her thumb along his beautiful cheekbone. “Dean, he’s not a kid. And you can help him. Maybe you can even save him.”

He watched her speak, then let his eyes rest on her cheekbone where the bruise had been. “I don’t know if I’m up to saving anyone, kitten.”

She leaned forward and kissed him. “Then we’ll save him together.”

Chapter Text

“Dean, if you shoot him, I will shoot you.”

“Quiet, Piper. This is a trap.”

“What if it isn't?”

The waitress approached the table, her nametag read “Denise.” Piper smiled warmly at her, while trying to take the gun from Dean’s hand under the table.

“Hi. Welcome to Cousin Oliver's.”


“Thanks,” Sam said with a smile.

She responded the way women usually did. “Can I-”

“We’re actually waiting on somebody,” Dean snapped.

Denise, annoyed, slapped menus down in front of each of them.

Dean had arranged their chairs so that Adam could only choose one place to sit. He and Piper on one side, Sam on the other.

Piper picked up a menu, trying to ignore Dean as he picked up the glass of water in front of him and poured it into the potted plant next to him.

Sam glared. “What are you-”

Dean pulled out a flask and poured water from it into the glass instead.

Piper rolled her eyes. “Holy water.”

Dean nodded, eyes never leaving the door of the diner. “Yup. One sip of Jesus juice, this evil bitch is gonna be in a world of hurt.” He then took out a package and replaced the silverware that was set at the fourth place at the table with actual silver utensils.

Piper glared at him. “So, what? If he’s not possessed, he’s a shapeshifter?”

Dean glared back. “This is a trap, woman. Look, either way, this thing is gonna bleed. I mean, using Dad as bait? That's the last mistake of its short, pitiful life.”

Sam looked at Dean for a long moment. Dean turned his glare to his brother. “What?”

“Dean… Listen. There's an entry in Dad's journal.” He flipped the journal open. “From January of nineteen ninety, saying he’s headed to Minnesota to check out a case. That’s roughly, uh, about nine months before the kid was born.”

Dean shrugged. “Coincidence.”

Piper huffed and Sam’s eyebrows raised. “Coincidence. Next two pages of the journal? Torn out.”

“You're not actually buying this, are you?”

Sam shrugged. “Look, man, I don't want to believe it either, I'm just saying it's possible. I mean, Dad would be gone for weeks at a time, and he wasn't exactly a monk. I mean, a hunter rolls into town, kills a monster, saves the girl… Sometimes the girl's grateful.”

Piper chuckled when Dean made a face. “Well, now I’m thinking about Dad sex. Stop talking.”

Sam winked at Piper. “Maybe he slipped one past the goalie.” Piper laughed out loud.

The door chimed, and a tall, thin young man walked in. Piper examined him with interest. He looked very young, relaxed. He was looking for them, and she raised her hand. “Adam?”

He approached the table. “You’re, uh, Piper?”

She smiled. “Yep! This is Sam, and this is Dean.”

He set his backpack on the floor next to him and took the empty chair. “So, um, how did you know my dad?”

“We, uh, we worked together.” Sam said easily.

Sam examined the two men, then his eyes fell to Piper. “How did he die?”

“On the job,” Sam said slowly, examining the man next to him.

“He was a mechanic, right?”

“A car fell on him,” Dean said shortly. Piper kicked him under the table.

The waitress came back. “Hey, Adam, you doing?”

She set a water on the table. Piper could have strangled Dean when he took it. “I’ll take that,” he said cheerfully. “I am very thirsty.”

The waitress eyed Dean, then turned back to Adam. “So, the usual, Adam?”

He was also eyeing Dean. “Uh, yeah. Thanks, Denise.”

Adam took a sip of the holy water in front of him, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. So, terrible manners run in the family, Piper thought ruefully.

“So,” Sam said, trying to break the awkward silence. “When’s the last time you saw John?”

Adam shook his head. “I don’t even know. It’s… A couple years.”

“Why did you decide to call him now?” Sam asked.

“I didn’t know who else to call. He’s the only family I got. My mom’s missing.”

Piper inhaled sharply. “Oh, no. I’m so sorry, Adam. For how long?”

“Tragic, really,” Dean snapped, giving Piper the side eye. “But if you’re John’s kid, how come we’ve never heard of you?”

“Dean,” Piper hissed, horrified.

“'Cause John and me didn't really know each other. Not until a few years ago, anyway.” Adam answered warily.

Sam looked at the younger man. “What do you mean?”

Adam shrugged. “My mom never talked about him. I knew some stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?” Dean asked, practically snarling. Piper kicked him again.

“My mom's a nurse, and Dad came into the ER, pretty torn up. Hunting accident or something. And I knew his name. John Winchester. That's about it. We're not exactly a nuclear family.”

Sam smiled. “Yeah, well, who is these days?”

“So when did you, uh, finally meet him?” Dean asked.

“When I was twelve. My mom had one of his old numbers, and after I begged her, God, twenty-four-seven, she finally called him. God, when John heard he had a son, he raced to town. I mean, he dropped everything. He drove all night.”

“Well, that's heartwarming.” Dean sneered.

Denise came and dropped a plate of food in front of Adam. When she had gone, he gestured to the plate. “You mind?”

Dean shrugged. “Please, dig in.”

The three of them watched as he picked up the knife and fork, and nothing happened. Okay, no demon, no shapeshifter, just John’s long lost son, Piper thought to herself.

“He would swing by once a year or so,” Adam continued, cutting into his food. “You know, called when he could. But still… He taught me poker and pool and even bought me my first beer when I was fifteen. And, uh… He showed me how to drive. Dad, he had this beautiful ‘sixty-seven Impala-”

“Oh, this is crap,” Dean interrupted. “You know what, you’re lying.”

“Oh for God’s sake,” Piper muttered.

Adam stopped, taken aback. “No, I’m not.”

“Uh, yeah, you are.”

Adam put his utensils down. “I’m sorry, but who the hell are you to call me a liar?”

“We’re John Winchester’s sons, that’s who.” He indicated himself and Sam. “We are his sons.”

Adam frowned, then looked at Piper. “Are you his daughter?”

She chuckled. “No, I’m dating Dean.”

Adam went back to staring at Sam and Dean. “I’ve got brothers?”

“No, you don't have brothers,” Dean snarled. “Look, man, I don't know if you're a hunter or what kind of game you're playing here.”

Adam blinked. “I have never been hunting in my life.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Whatever, we’re out of here. Sam, Pipes.”

He stood up to leave. Piper gave Adam an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, Adam, he’s just-”

“I can prove it.”

***

“Okay, so… Basically, you're saying that every movie monster, every nightmare that I’ve ever had, that's all real?”

Dean shrugged. “Godzilla’s just a movie.”

“We hunt them,” Piper said, shooting Dean a look. “So did your father.”

Adam nodded. “Okay.”

Dean glared at him. “‘Okay?’ That’s it?”

Adam looked back at him, confused. “What am I supposed to say?”

Dean threw his hands in the air. “That we're liars, that we're crazy. Nobody just says ‘okay.’”

Adam shrugged. “Well, you’re my brothers. And my brother’s girlfriend. You’re telling me the truth, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Then I believe you. Now, what took my mom?”

Sam shook his head. “We’re not sure. Something’s in town stealing bodies, living and dead, but we don’t know what.”

“There’s a pretty long list of monsters that fit the bill,” Piper said gently. Poor kid, he just lost his mom, and now his whole world had been turned upside down. She took a moment to reflect that he was doing remarkably well with the knowledge.

“You think maybe she’s still alive?” Adam asked hopefully.

Piper winced, and Dean and Sam looked down, avoiding his gaze.

“Oh.” Adam straightened a little. “How can I help?”

Dean’s head snapped up. “You can't.”

Adam glared at him, and Piper saw some good old fashioned Winchester stubbornness in it. “This thing killed my mom. If you're hunting it, I want in.”

Dean shook his head. “No.”

Piper smacked him on the arm. “Dean, he lost his mother, and he wants to find the thing that took her. Maybe you guys understand that?” She looked between Sam and Dean.

“Why do you think Dad never told us about him, Piper?” Dean asked, glaring down at her. She refused to be intimidated, and stared right back at him. “Why do you think he ripped the pages out of his journal?

“Because he was protecting him,” she snapped back, stepping forward until they were almost nose to nose. “Fat lot of good it did him.”

“That doesn’t matter! He didn’t want Adam to have our lives, okay? And we are going to respect his wishes.”

“Screw that, Dean, no. If Adam wants to hunt, I’m going to teach him. I don’t need you or your permission.”

“Do I get a say in this?” Adam asked hesitantly.

“No!” Dean shouted.

“Of course,” Piper said, shooting a glare at Dean. When he opened his mouth, she shook her head. “Take a walk, Dean, there is not an argument to be had here.”

Dean huffed and grabbed his jacket, slamming his door on the way out. Piper ran a frustrated hand through her hair, resisting the urge to run after him.

Adam looked at Sam. “Are they always like this?”

Sam chuckled. “Pretty much. Welcome to the family.”

***

Piper was watching Adam disassemble a pistol, quietly giving direction when needed, when he asked. “Sam… How did Dad really die?”

Sam didn’t look up from the shotgun he was cleaning. “Demon.”

Adam stopped and looked between Piper and Sam. “You hunted it down? Got revenge?”

“Dean killed it,” Sam said shortly.

“So it’s over for you.”

Piper shook her head. “It’s never over, Adam.”

The lights suddenly went out, and there was a rattling noise from the other end of the room.

“What the-” Adam started. Piper shushed him, taking the handgun and quickly reassembling it.

“Stay here,” she said shortly. She went to the door, looking around. There was a sound behind her. She turned, gun pointed, but there was still nothing. She looked up and spotted the vent near the ceiling. “Sam, it’s in the vents! Go!”

They ran to the parking lot, Adam following behind.

“Where’s your car?” Sam asked.

Adam pointed. “Over here.”

“All right, keys.”

Adam tossed him the keys as they ran through the parking lot. Piper joined Adam at the passenger side, keeping her back to his and making sure they weren’t followed.

A soft grunt from the other side alerted her that Sam was in trouble.

“Sam!” Adam cried out.

Piper ran to the other side of Adam’s truck as the Impala pulled up. She saw Sam clinging to the truck, resisting whatever was trying to pull him under. “Dean!” she shouted, grabbing Sam’s arm and pulling as hard as she could.

Adam joined her. As they were pulling, Dean pulled a gun from his waistband and fired off a shot. There was a screech as whatever was holding Sam let go. Piper fell backwards, and Adam did the same.

“What the hell?” she asked softly, accepting Dean’s outstretched hand to help her up.

***

Piper was in Adam’s house with him, pouring salt lines along the doors and windows. She was mulling over the heated conversation she’d overheard between Sam and Dean. Sam had insisted that Adam would have to cut all ties to his life, and Dean had disagreed. Dean wanted Adam to have a normal, happy life. Sam had insisted that it was never going to happen now.

Piper assumed that there were plenty people who came in contact with things that go bump in the night, then went back to their normal lives. They should, they should be happy. Her normal life, her entire normal life, had been ripped away from her, so she had chosen to fight the darkness. It was a decision Adam would have to make for himself, but neither of the Winchester brothers seemed to be willing to let him do that.

“Idiots,” she muttered under her breath.

“What was that?” Adam asked curiously.

She smiled at him. “Nothing, Adam. We’ve closed off every other way into the house, so if it’s coming, it’s going to come through the vent in your mom’s bedroom floor.”

They went to make their way to the bedroom, but there was a creak behind them. Piper whirled around.

“You were saying?” Adam asked warily.

A woman came in, her eyes lighting up when she saw Adam. “Adam! Oh, God, Adam!”

“Mom?”

Piper picked up her shotgun and pointed at the woman. “No.”

“Mom!” Adam cried.

“Adam!” Piper snapped. “Adam, wait.”

Adam approached his mom. “Mom.”

“It took me, but I got away,” the woman said breathlessly. The two embraced.

PIper kept the shotgun aimed at her. “Adam, step away from her.”

He turned to see the gun. “Piper, what the hell?!”

“She’s not your mother, Adam! There was too much blood. Your mother's dead. There was too much blood in the vents!”

Piper reached forward and yanked Adam away from the woman. He grabbed the shotgun out of her hands. “Adam!” the woman cried.

“Adam, you have to shoot it,” Piper said softly. “It’s not human.”

Adam pointed the shotgun at Piper, who felt the blood drain from her face. “I know,” he said, smirking, then hit her hard with the shotgun, and darkness descended.

***

Piper came to slowly, her head pounding. She tried to move, but was tied down at the wrists and ankles. There was also duct tape across her waist. She groaned. “Should have known. You’re not shapeshifters, you’re ghouls.”

“You know,” said the thing impersonating Kate Mulligan. “I find that term racist.”

The woman leaned forward and nibbled on Piper’s ear. Piper growled, trying to restrain the nausea rolling her stomach.

“Mmm,” the thing said. “Fresh meat. So much better than what we’re used to.”

“It was the fresh kills that threw me,” Piper said conversationally. “You guys don’t usually go after the living. Filthy scavengers most of the time.”

The thing that called itself Adam came into the room, smirking. “Well, you are what you eat.”

“You’re monsters,” Piper spat.

‘Kate’ drew the knife across Piper’s arm. Piper hissed in pain, then in nausea as ‘Kate’ leaned down to lick at the wound.

“You know, you guys use that word a lot, Piper.” ‘Adam’ said thoughtfully. “But I don’t think you know what it means. Our father was a monster? Why? Because of what he ate? He never hurt anyone, Pipes. Living, anyway.”

‘Kate’ was going to town on Piper’s arm, and Piper was pretty sure she was about to vomit. Then the thing leaned up and grinned at Piper. “No. He was no monster. But the thing that killed him was. A monster named John Winchester.”

‘Adam,’ using the distraction of John’s name, stabbed Piper in the side. She screamed, pain exploding through her.

He set the knife to the side, the dug a finger into the wound. Piper screamed again, trying to writhe.

“Thanks to your daddy-in-law, my brother and I grew up on our own. At least we had each other.”

‘Adam’ had pulled his finger out of Piper’s side, and she was panting, trying not to pass out. She watched in disgust as he licked his finger. “Not quite like you and Dean, of course, but we were inseparable.”

“Actually, it was very hard to get one of you on your own.”

‘Adam’ grinned down at her. “You know, it’s like Sam said. The only thing you can count on is family.”

***

Dean came into the room slowly, intending to sneak up on them. The sight of Piper tied to the table, deep gashes in her arms, threw that plan out the window. “Hey!”

He shot the thing that called itself Adam in the chest, and it hit the wall.

“Dean, they’re ghouls!” Piper cried from the table.

Dean fired at ‘Kate,’ hitting her in the head. He then turned to ‘Adam,’ but was too late to prevent him from tackling Dean onto the ground. They grappled, and Dean finally gained the upper hand. He grabbed a metal bar from the ground and beat the damn thing’s head in.

“Dean,” Piper said weakly, and Dean’s heart stopped.

He grabbed some towels from the kitchen and ran in to her, cutting the ropes and duct tape. He pressed the towels onto her arms and helped her sit up. “Come on, kitten, you’re gonna be all right. Come on, let’s go,” he murmured, trying to make sure she could stand.

“Thanks, baby,” she said softly, pressing onto her arms and wincing.

“That’s what I’m here for, kitten. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

***

Dean had booked them a separate motel room after they had given Adam a hunter’s funeral. He was still mulling over the way Sam had handled this case, and he was worried about it. Sam was changing. He wasn’t the kid Dean had taken from Stanford, and now he was starting to regret doing that. He loved his brother, he loved hunting with his brother, but this… This was different. Something felt bad about this.

But for now, he put all of those things aside to take care of Piper. She was pale, weak, and upset. He carried her in and set their bags down before gently placing her on the bed. Once he had her situated, he sat down next to her, running a hand up and down her thigh. “How you feeling, kitten?”

She made a face. “Like a ghoul stuck her tongue in me.” She sighed, and smiled to take the bite out of her words. “I’m okay, baby, just tired.”

He brushed the hair off of her forehead. “Want me to call Cass? See if he’ll do you another favor?”

She shook her head. “No, I’ll be all right. Just come lay down next to me, okay?”

It was his turn to shake his head. He tensed for the fight he knew was about to happen. “No, Pipes, I’m sleeping in the other room with Sammy. You need to rest.”

She blinked. “Why would you sleep in the other room?”

Suddenly her eyes narrowed, and Dean swore the temperature dropped at least ten degrees. “Dean Winchester,” she said softly. “Why would you sleep in another room?”

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “You know why, Pipes.”

She sat up quickly, and he frowned. “Take it easy, Piper, come on-”

“No,” she said simply. “No, no to this whole conversation. This whole conversation again. You’re not sleeping in another room, you’re not ‘protecting’ me from yourself, you’re not treating me like a child anymore. Just no, Dean.”

“Piper, come on. Baby, you’ve got to get some rest, and how can you do that if-” He swallowed hard. “How can you do that if I might have another nightmare and hit you again?”

She leaned forward to press her forehead against his. “How many times do I have to say I love you before you believe it?” she asked quietly.

He frowned, but didn’t move away from her. “What?”

She leaned back and met his eyes. “Dean, I love you. All of you, dummy. I love the way you hunt, I love the way you make love to me, I love the way you always make sure Sammy is okay. I love the good things about you.”

“And the bad. I love you when you’re drinking too much, I love you when you’re reckless, I love you when you ogle other women. And I love you when you have nightmares, and I love you when you accidentally hit me in the night.” She smiled at him gently. “It doesn’t matter to me, Dean. If you really want to go, you can, but I wish you’d stay.”

He stared at her hard. She was too pale, her hair was limp in it’s braid. There were dark circles under her eyes. Even though she was the most beautiful sight on Earth, she kind of looked like shit.

What didn’t look like shit was the love shining through her eyes. She loves me, he thought with wonder, not for the first time. He didn’t understand it. He didn’t deserve it. He had tortured souls, been the best of the best at it. And she was right, he drank too much, drove too fast, and looked at other women when he thought she wasn’t looking. She was too good for him, by far.

“Are you sure?” he asked raggedly, unsure if he was talking about her loving him or him sleeping in her bed.

She smiled. “I always am, baby.”

Chapter Text

“Of course we keep our promises. Of course you have our gratitude. You served us well. Your work is done. It's time to go home now. Your real home. You'll rest forever in the fields of the Lord. Rest now, Jimmy.”

Piper watched Castiel, possessing Claire Novak, talk to Jimmy Novak. She was sick to her stomach, her head hurt where that bitch demon had hit her before Dean ganked it, and Sam still had blood on his face from when he had been drinking demon blood?

Worst. Day. Ever.

Jimmy was clutching his bloody stomach, looking horrified at Castiel. “No. Claire?”

The little girl shook her head. “She’s with me now. She’s chosen. It’s in her blood, as it was in yours.”

“Please, Castiel. Me, just take me. Take me, please.”

Dean wrapped an arm around Piper and they leaned on one another, both exhausted. She watched, tears spilling down her cheeks, as this brave man begged for his daughter.

“I want to make sure you understand,” the angel was saying. “You won’t die or age. If this last year was painful for you, picture a hundred, a thousand more like it.”

“It doesn’t matter. You take me. Just take me.”

The little girl seemed to consider for a moment, then spoke. “As you wish.”

She leaned forward and touched Jimmy’s face, and Piper winced as a bright light symbolized Castiel changing vessels. Claire fell to her hands and knees, and Amelia rushed forward and swept her daughter into her arms.

Castiel, now in the familiar face that Piper knew, stood and turned to leave.

“Cass, hold up. What were you gonna tell me?” Dean said, walking forward to the angel.

Castiel didn’t turn around, but he did stop. “I learned my lesson while I was away, Dean. I serve heaven, I don't serve man, and I certainly don't serve you.”

“Hey,” Piper snapped, ignoring Dean’s restraining hand on her arm. “Castiel, don’t you dare walk away from me.”

“Was there a part of ‘I don’t serve man’ that you didn’t understand, Piper Finley?”

She was incensed, but kept her walk slow as she circled Castiel until she was facing him. “Cass, please,” she said softly. She gently, slowly placed a hand on his face. “Please, tell us what’s going on. What did they do to you?” She whispered the last question. She didn’t quite understand her attachment to the angel, but the thought of heaven hurting him upset her greatly.

“No.” He said firmly. He kept her gaze for a moment, then looked away as he stepped around her and walked out of the warehouse.

***

The only displeasure Dean had shown so far was to tell Piper to get in the front seat, banishing Sam to the back. She had sat against the passenger side door, but as soon as Dean had gotten into the car he had placed a hand on her leg and tugged her toward him until she was curled under his arm.

Suddenly, from the backseat. “All right, let’s hear it.”

“What?” Piper asked, turning to look at him. She placed a hand on Dean’s chest to look back at Sam.

“Drop the bomb. You guys saw what I did. Stop the car, take a swing, yell at me. Something.”

Dean shook his head, not even looking at the rear view. “I’m not gonna take a swing.”

Piper turned back to the front and rested herself against Dean again as he spoke. “I’m not mad, Sam.”

Sam scoffed. “Come on. You're not mad?”

“Nope.”

“Right,” Sam said skeptically. “Look, at least let me explain myself.”

“Just stop, Sam. No one cares,” Piper said softly, tired of hearing them fight. It felt like the boys were always fighting now.

Sam sounded shocked. “You don't care?”

Dean exhaled sharply. “What do you want me to say, that I'm disappointed? Yeah, I am. But, mostly, I'm just tired, man. I'm done. I am just done.”

Suddenly, Sam’s phone rang. “Hey, Bobby. What’s going on?” Sam hung up the phone after a few moments.

Closing her eyes against the tears that were forming in her eyes, Piper tried to keep her voice light. “What did he say?”

***

Dean watched Piper out of the corner of his eye as he talked to Sam through the little window in the panic room door at Bobby’s. Her had was clasped over her mouth, and her shoulders were shaking. He wanted nothing more than to go to her, to comfort her, but this had to be dealt with.

Sam had to be dealt with.

“Okay. Let me out. This is not funny.” Sam was saying through the door. Begging through the door.

Dean was so tired of this. He was tired of everything. He just wanted to take Piper away from here, give her a good life, and maybe do something with his hands for money. He wanted to stop this.

But this still had to be dealt with. So instead, he snapped, “Damn straight.”

“Dean, come on. This is crazy.”

“No. Not until you dry out.”

Sam was starting to look scared. “Look, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lied to you. Just open the door.”

Dean shook his head, his gaze flicking to Piper, watching the tears drip down her face. “You don't have to apologize. It's not your fault. It's not your fault that you lied to me over and over again. I get it now. You couldn't help it.”

“I’m not some junkie,” Sam snapped.

Dean raised his eyebrows. “Really? I guess I’ve just imagined how strung out you’ve been lately.”

He watched Sam run a frustrated hand through his hair. “You're actually trying to twist this into some kind of ridiculous drug intervention?”

Dean shrugged. “If it smells like a duck.”

“Dean, I'm not drinking the demon blood for kicks. I'm getting strong enough to kill Lilith.”

“Strong? This is about as far away from strong as you can get. Try weak. Try desperate. Pathetic.”

Sam shook his head. “Killing Lilith is what matters. Or are you so busy being self-righteous you forgot about her?”

Dean nodded. “Oh, Lilith's gonna die. Bobby, Piper, and I will kill her. But not with you.”

Sam looked shocked. “You’re not serious.”

Dean smiled coldly. “Congrats, Sammy. You just bought yourself a benchwarmer seat to the apocalypse.”

Dean slammed the window cover shut.

He turned and walked to Piper, ignoring Sam’s cries through the door. She reached for him, and he swept her into his arms, holding her tightly. He rested his chin on her head, his own eyes falling shut. “It’s going to be all right, kitten.”

“I hate this,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around his neck and clinging to him.

Dean pressed a kiss to her head. “Me, too, kitten. Me, too.”

***

He was sitting at the kitchen table with Piper sitting across his lap, her head resting on his shoulder. Giving comfort and receiving it at the same time.

Bobby came in, carrying three glasses and a bottle of whiskey. He set the glasses down, poured everyone a healthy glass, and handed them out. Piper sat up and took hers silently, her arm wrapping around Dean’s shoulders.

Sam was crying out from the panic room. Dean winced. “How long is this gonna go on?”

Bobby shot Dean a bitch face. “Here, let me look it up in my demon detox manual. Oh, wait. No one ever wrote one.” He sighed sadly. “No telling how long it'll take. Hell, or if Sam will even live through it.”

Bobby’s phone rang. He looked at it, practically growled, and flipped it open. “Hello. Suck dirt and die, Rufus. You call me again, I’ll kill you.”

Piper looked up. “What's up with Rufus?”

“He knows,” Bobby snapped as the phone rang again. He looked at it, actually growled, and flipped it open again. “I'm busy, you son of a bitch. This better be important.”

Bobby walked out of the room to talk on the phone. Dean turned to Piper, who was staring down into her whiskey glass. “How you holding up, kitten?”

She shook her head. “I’m not.” She looked up and met his gaze, and the tears in her eyes were killing him. “Are you?”

He shook his head. “No.”

She sighed. “I think this is best, Dean. I think this is the best decision we could have made, for Sam. But…” She sniffed. “But I really fucking hate it.”

He pulled her close and kissed her gently. “Me, too, kitten.”

She pressed her forehead to his. “I love you. It’s going to be okay. You know that, right?”

He sighed. “Whatever you say, Pipes.” The words were on the tip of his tongue, he wanted to say them so bad, but something held him back.

Dean suspected he wasn’t going to make it out of this. He could taste it. The end was coming, and he was going down with the ship. He would do whatever he could to make sure Piper didn’t come with him. And burdening her now didn’t seem fair. Maybe if she didn’t know how crazy he was about her, if she didn’t know that there was nothing he wouldn’t do for her… Maybe if she didn’t know that to ensure she would be safe, he would walk back into hell without a second’s hesitation, maybe she would move on after he died.

Maybe she would be better off without knowing how much he adored everything about her.

He was saved from considering these things by Bobby reentering the kitchen. “The news ain't good.”

Dean looked up at him, disappointment and relief warring in his heart. “That’s what Rufus called about?”

Bobby nodded. “Alaska. Fifteen man fishing crew all stricken blind, cause unknown. New York, teacher goes postal, locks the door, kills exactly sixty-six kids. All this in a single day. I looked them up. There's no doubt about it. They're all seals. Breaking. Fast.”

Piper looked at him. “How many are left?”

Bobby shrugged. “Who knows? Can’t be many.” He examined the two of them. “Where the hell are your angel pals?”

Dean frowned, irritated. “You tell me.”

Bobby sighed. “I’m just wondering… The apocalypse being nigh and all… Is now really the right time to be having this little domestic drama of ours?”

Piper frowned at him. “What do you mean?”

Bobby sighed and ran a hand down his face. “Well, I don't like this any more than you two do, but Sam can kill demons. He's got a shot at stopping Armageddon.”

Only the fact that Piper was sitting on him, and she had suddenly tightened her arm around his neck, kept Dean from standing to confront his father-figure. “So what? Sacrifice Sam's life, his soul, for the greater good? Is that what you're saying? Times are bad, so let's use Sam as a nuclear warhead?”

Bobby sighed again. “Look, I know you hate me for suggesting it. I hate me for suggesting it. I love that boy like a son. All I'm saying is maybe he's here right now instead of on the battlefield because we love him too much.”

***

“Bobby! Dean! Help! Hey! Hey! Piper, please! Guys! Guys! Help! Dean!”

Piper closed her eyes, trying to block out the sound of Sam’s cries. Dean had gone outside a long time ago, and she had let him. He had a lot to think about, and he didn’t need her crying all over him while he was doing it. Bobby was in the living room, doing research. Which left Piper here, listening to Sam scream, trying to gauge if he actually needed her, or if it was the withdrawal talking.

When Dean walked back in, she stood and went to him gratefully. She wrapped her arms around his waist, burying her face in his chest as he wrapped his arms around her, crushing her to him. “Oh, God, Dean…”

“Correct me if I'm wrong, but you willingly signed up to be the angels' bitch?” Bobby asked from behind them. Piper jumped a little, then looked up at Dean’s face.

He didn’t meet her eyes, and she frowned. “Dean?”

He still didn’t look at her, just at Bobby miserably. “I'm sorry,” Bobby snapped. “You prefer 'sucker?’ After everything you said about them, now you trust them?”

Dean scoffed. “Come on, give me a little credit, Bobby. I've never trusted them less. I mean, they come on like shady politicians from planet Vulcan.”

Piper tried to pull away, but Dean’s arm kept her close against him. “Dean, what? What is he talking about?”

He finally looked down at her. “Pipes, I…” He swallowed hard. “What other option do I have? It’s either trust the angels, or let Sammy trust a demon?”

She fought the emotions building inside her. “Dean, I-”

He suddenly looked up, his arms tensed around her. “You hear that?”

“That’s a little too much nothing,” Bobby said from behind them.

Dean released Piper, and the three of them thundered down the stairs. Piper got there first and slammed open the little window in the door. Sam was on the floor, seizing. “Dean!” she cried out as she slammed open the bolt.

He came up behind her and slammed it shut again. She whipped around to glare at him, which he returned down to her. “What if he’s faking?”

A loud bang sounded from the panic room, and Piper turned to see Sam being slammed into the wall by an invisible force. “Does that look like he’s faking it?” she snarled, pulling the bolt open and running in.

Dean was right behind her and they managed to pin Sam to the floor with Bobby. After a what seemed like a lifetime to Piper, Sam finally passed out and relaxed.

Bobby, who was holding Sam’s legs, looked up at both of them, worry etched on his face. “We're gonna have to tie him down, for his own safety.”

Piper looked over at Dean, whose eyes weren’t focused. She reached over to place a hand on his arm. “Dean, baby? Dean, are you with me?”

He seemed to shake himself out of it and looked at her. “Yeah, yeah,” he said softly. “Let’s just get it over with.”

***

“What if he dies, Dean?” Piper asked quietly. They were arguing about Sam. Bobby thought they were killing him with this forced detox. Bobby wanted to give him demon blood. Piper was terrified to lose Sam, and she was leaning towards Bobby’s point of view.

“Then at least he dies human!” Dean shouted across the room at her. She flinched, and hated herself for it when he saw the devastation on his face.

His face hardened, and Piper felt cold. He closed himself off from her completely for the first time since they had gotten together. “I would die for him in a second, but I won't let him do this to himself. I can't. I guess I found my line. I won't let my brother turn into a monster.”

Piper scowled, glaring at him. “Screw you, Dean, nobody is suggesting that we do. How could you think that’s what I want?” She ran a hand through her hair, struggling to keep a lid on her temper. “I love Sam, too, Dean, you know that. You’re not the only one rooting for him.”

“Guys,” Bobby said softly. “Sam’s gone.”

***

Piper was pissed. Dean had relegated her to searching the yard, thinking that there was no way that Sam could have left the house without them knowing. He was being such a bastard. She knew he was scared, but he didn’t get to use her as a punching bag, or treat her like she was useless.

There was a sound in the salvage yard, and Piper paused. She moved silently toward the sound, shotgun pointed at it.

She came upon Sam trying to steal a car. She cocked the gun, causing him to swing around to look at her. “No dice, Sammy,” she said softly, willing her voice to be strong. “You’re coming with me, okay?”

He stood and shook his head. “No.”

“Sam, please,” she begged. “Come on, please, just come back with me, let us help you.”

He looked at her coldly, and for the second time that night, Piper felt cut off completely from one of the Winchester men. “You’re not going to shoot me, Piper.”

Tears gathered in her eyes. “I will if I have to, Sam. Please don’t make me.”

A cold smile spread across Sam’s face and he stepped forward. “You won’t do it, Piper. You can’t.”

Tears spilled down her cheeks. “Please, Sam, please, please let us help you.”

Sam reached out and grabbed the end of the shotgun and pointed it at his chest. “Then shoot me, Piper.”

She was crying in earnest now, devastated. Where was Sam? Where was the boy who had hugged her at Christmas for a notebook? Or the guy who emailed her jokes while he was in college, because he didn’t want to talk about hunting? Or the man who was going to tear the world apart when she had gone missing? Because he wasn’t here. This wasn’t him. This wasn’t her honorary brother, her best friend, her Sam.

He examined her for a minute, then took the gun from her. She just let the butt of the gun approach, welcoming the darkness that swallowed her.

***

She woke up in the white bedroom, with Loki looking at her. “Hey, precious.”

She sat up and held her head in her hands. “Hi,” she said softly. She had no fire left right now, no energy to fight him.

He came forward and sat next to her on the bed, placing a gentle hand on her leg. “I know this is hard, Piper. I’m sorry.”

She nodded and looked up at him. “Do you know about everything? The, uh, the demon blood?”

He said nothing, just looked at her.

She felt tears in her eyes. “I don’t know what to do,” she whispered softly.

He slowly placed a hand on her cheek. She felt warmth and comfort sweep through her, and she tilted her head to lean into his hand. “I know, precious,” he said softly. “Just… Just have faith, Piper.”

She opened her eyes. “Faith in what?”

He looked at her for a long time again. “God?”

She scoffed. “No. I won’t have faith in God if he lets shit like this happen to Sammy. Why isn’t he interfering? This is the apocalypse, and he’s doing nothing. No, I don’t want to have faith in a god like that.”

He looked uncomfortable for a second, but didn’t move his hand away from her face. “Then have faith in Dean.”

She thought for a second, then nodded with a soft smile. “I can have faith in Dean. I always have faith in Dean.”

He nodded and placed his palm on her head. She felt more warm comfort sweep through her, then darkness took her again.

***

Dean met Bobby in the living room after searching the second floor of the house. “Anything?”

Bobby shook his head. “No. You?”

Dean shook his head, too. “Nothing. Where’s Piper?”

Bobby shrugged. “Outside, still?”

Ice gripped the base of Dean’s spine. It wasn’t a sensation he was familiar with, but he followed his instinct and ran out the door. He didn’t see anything in the front yard, and following a blind instinct, he ran into the salvage yard. That same urging told him to turn left, and he did, almost tripping over Piper’s prone form.

“Piper!” he yelled, tossing his gun and dropping to his knees next to her, rolling her onto her back. “Oh, Jesus, Piper, baby? Are you okay, baby? Come on, Piper, wake up for me.” He was patting her cheek gently, having rolled her onto her back.

Relief swamped him when her eyes fluttered open. “Dean?” she slurred softly.

Knowing he shouldn’t, but not being able to help himself, he pulled her up into his arms, placing a hand on the back of her head. “God, Piper, are you okay? What happened?”

She slowly wrapped her arms around his waist. “Sam, Dean, he, um…”

He pulled back and looked at her, placing a hand on her cheek. “Did he do this to you? Did he hit you, Piper?”  He knew that was hypocritical, God knew he had had his own fair share of hitting the beautiful woman in front of him, but the thought of Sam laying hands on her made him furious.

She nodded slowly, pain all over her face. “Yeah. But, Dean, it’s not… It’s not Sam. Not our Sam. Something is wrong, Dean. Something is so much more wrong than we thought.”

He brushed her hair away from her face. “I know, Pipes, we’ll figure it out. Let’s get you inside, okay?”

***

When Dean came in, Piper was laying on her back on her bed. He gently shut the door behind him, then came and sat next to her, hand on her leg. “How you feelin’, kitten?”

She smiled. “I’m actually okay. I think the trickster healed me.”

He frowned. “He pulled you into a dream again?”

She nodded. “Yeah, he told me to have faith.”

Dean snorted, irritated. “Where does he get off telling you what to do?”

She laughed softly. “I told him pretty much the same time the last time I saw him.” She sobered. “He told me to have faith in you.”

Everything in Dean stilled. He had been a dick today, and he had taken it out on her. The look of fear on her face when he’d yelled at her had killed a little part of him. “What did you say?” he asked slowly, looking away.

Her soft hand on his jaw brought his face back around, making him look at her. She smiled. “I told him that I’ve always had faith in you.”

He looked at her, surprised that she was still surprising him. “Piper, I…”

Dammit.

Sadness crossed her face. “It’s okay, Dean.” She leaned up and kissed him gently. “I know, Dean. I know.”

Chapter Text

They were standing in the salvage yard, looking over a map that was laid out on Bobby’s trunk. Piper stood close to Dean to ward off the chill, smiling a little when he put his big hand on the small of her back.

Bobby came over, flipping his phone shut. “Police found my car. Abandoned in an alley in Jamestown, North Dakota.”

Dean looked up. “He’s switching up. Any other cars stolen in Jamestown?”

Bobby nodded. “A ninety-nine Honda Civic, blue. Nice and anonymous, like Sam likes.”

Dean shook his head. “What was the other one?”

“White oh-five Escalade with custom rims. It’s a neon sign.”

“You’re right, he’d never take that,” Piper mused.

Dean nodded. “Which is exactly why he did.”

Bobby cocked an eyebrow. “You think?”

“I know that kid. All right, Pipes and I will head in that direction. You stay here, ride the police databases. We gotta find him quick.”

***

Piper watched as Dean flipped his phone shut and glanced at her. “Bobby says we’re only a couple of hours away.”

She nodded. “Good.”

She let the silence draw out for a while. “Dean, honey, when we find Sam…” She swallowed hard. “When we find Sam, it has to be about bringing him back, not pushing him away, okay?”

Dean’s face hardened. “Yeah, yeah.”

Her temper flared. “Don’t you ‘yeah, yeah’ me, Dean Winchester. I know you’re mad, and you have every right to be. But this situation is delicate, if we handle it wrong, we may lose him forever.”

“I’m not going to get mad, Piper.”

She actually laughed out loud. “Please, you have three total moods, Dean, and two of them are anger. I’m just saying we need to be careful. You need to be careful. He won’t listen to me, but… But he’ll always listen to you.”

***

They had found the room that Sam was renting. Piper watched Sam walk out of the room. Before Dean could stop her, she slipped in.

Ruby was there. Her eyes widened as Piper approached, furious. Piper swung, and Ruby defended herself. They fought until strong hands gripped Piper’s shoulders and pulled her away.

“No,” Sam was saying as he lifted her. “Let her go, just take it easy.”

“God dammit, Sam, let me go!”

“Ruby, go.” He said instead, still holding Piper off the ground.

“Well, it must've been some party you two had going,” Dean said from behind them. “Considering how hard you tried to keep us from crashing it. Well, solid try, but here we are.”

Ruby was walking out the door, passing Piper with a smug look on her face. Piper twisted suddenly, breaking Sam’s hold on her. She stepped forward and slammed Ruby against the wall, an arm at the demon’s throat. “When Sammy realizes that you’re not on our side, you unbelievable bitch,” she snarled into the demon’s face, “I am going to be the one who kills you, understand me?” Piper stepped away and let the demon scurry out of the room, smug look forgotten.

Sam sighed. “Look, let’s just talk about this, guys.”

Piper whirled, trying to catch Dean’s eye before he spoke. He avoided her gaze. “Talk about what, Sam? She’s poison, look what she’s done to you! She leaves you hanging for weeks, while you’re strung out and acting crazy-”

“She was looking for Lilith.”

“That is French for manipulating your ass ten ways from Sunday!” Dean shouted, coming to stand next to her.

Sam shook his head. “You’re wrong, guys.”

Dean came around to stand in front of Piper, which she let happen. “Sam, you’re lying to yourself. I just want you to be okay. You would do the same for me, you know you would.”

“Just listen for a second. We got a lead on a demon close to Lilith. Come with us, Dean. We'll do this together.”

Dean nodded eagerly. “That sounds great. As long as it's you and us. Demon bitch is a dealbreaker. You kiss her goodbye, we can go right now.”

Sam shook his head. “I can’t.”

Dean turned away as Sam continued. “Dean, I need her to help me kill Lilith. I know you can't wrap your head around it, but maybe one day you'll understand. I'm the only one who can do this, Dean.”

Dean turned back and shook his head. “No, you're not the one who's gonna do this.”

Sam gave a derisive snort. “Right, that's right, I forgot. The angels think it's you.”

Dean stiffened. Piper came forward and placed a hand on his back, standing next to him, offering support. “You don’t think I can?” he asked softly.

Sam shook his head. “No, you can’t. You’re not strong enough.”

Piper frowned. “And you are?”

Sam sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m being practical here. I’m doing what needs to be done.”

“Yeah?” Dean asked. “You're not gonna do a single damn thing.”

“Stop bossing me around, Dean. Look. My whole life, you take the wheel, you call the shots, and I trust you because you are my brother. Now I'm asking you, for once, trust me.”

Dean shook his head. “No. You don't know what you're doing, Sam.”

“Yes, I do.”

Piper closed her eyes. “Guys, come on, let’s not-”

“Then that’s worse,” Dean interrupted, glaring at Sam. “Because it’s not something that you’re doing, it means…” Dean turned away, not meeting Piper’s or Sam’s eyes.

“No.” Sam said, furious. “Say it.”

“It means you’re a monster.” Dean finished. Piper fought the tears trying to come into her eyes, losing that battle when she saw both brothers had tears in theirs.

She gasped when Sam pushed her away and punched Dean in the face. Dean flew back and hit the floor. “Sam!” she cried, approaching Dean.

He stood and pushed her away, too, gentler than Sam had been. He hit Sam back.

The fought the way that only the Winchesters could fight with each other. They flew across the room, both bleeding and battered and neither one backing down. Finally, Sam had Dean pinned down, his hands wrapped around his brother’s neck.

“Sam! Stop it,” Piper snapped coming forward and pushing Sam off of Dean.

Dean lay his head back against the ground for a second as Sam stood. “You don’t know me,” Sam snarled. “You never did. And you never will.”

Piper stood and grabbed his arm. “Sam, don’t go, let’s-”

He turned and backhanded her. His hand was huge, it was like being hit with an oar. She gasped and stepped back, trying desperately to blink back tears and deal with the pain. Sam had never once hit her, but in the last two days he had done it twice. “Sam…”

He looked at her coldly, until Dean stood and gently pulled Piper behind him. She saw a flash of the hot fury in Dean’s eyes. “We can still make this right, Sam,” he said softly, dangerously. “But you walk out that door… Don’t you ever come back.”

Sam left.

***

They were in Bobby’s living room, and Piper was furious again. “Dean, are you listening to a word I’ve said?”

He held the package of ice to her face, avoiding her gaze. She glared into his beautiful green eyes. “I’m not calling him, Piper.”

She stood and pushed his hand away from her face. “God dammit, Dean! You’re so stubborn, both of you, and you can’t see that this is a mistake! You can’t see that you’re stronger together, you’ve always been stronger together!”

He stood and glared at her. “Piper, armageddon is here, you don’t think we have bigger fish to fry?”

“There will never be bigger fish to fry than the two of you!” She screeched, slamming her hands down on the table. “You two are never going to be able to stop this if you don’t patch things up, Dean.”

He shook his head. “I told him, Piper. He hit you, Piper. I told him that if he walked out, he shouldn’t come back, and he walked out anyway.”

“You sound like your father Dean,” she said softly, angry beyond belief. “You have always, always, been better than John was. And he was a coward.”

Dean stiffened. “A coward, Pipes? Dad was a lot of things-”

“Including a coward,” she snapped. “He let Sam walk away rather than reaching out. He let him walk away all the way to Stanford. You gonna do the same thing? You going to let him go down this path alone?”

He shook his head again. “Piper-”

“No, stop it, Dean,” she said softly. She came around the table and looked into his face. God, he really is beautiful. “I don’t want to fight with you. We’re a team, and this is crunch time. I love you, but you’re wrong about this, and you know that.” She put a hand on his cheek, smiling a little when he placed the ice pack against her bruised face again. “Dean, Sam is your brother. You can say whatever you want, but he’s the most important person in your life. You can say that he’s not your family anymore, but you know that he is. So just… Stop. Let’s not argue, let’s just go find our Sammy.”

She saw the smile in his eyes before he disappeared, the ice pack falling to the floor.

***

“Castiel! Get your feathery ass down here right this second!”

Piper was standing in the middle of the yard, screaming. She felt unhinged, unable to put herself back together. Dean had disappeared, and she had lost it.

Her hair was wild around her face, and she ran a hand through it to push it back. “Castiel, you motherfucker, I know you can hear me. If you don’t come down here and tell me where you took Dean, I will find a way to tear you apart. I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands without the boys distracting me, Castiel, I will find a way.”

“Why are you shouting at me, Piper Finley? There are more important things in the world than your boyfriend.”

She whirled around and punched him in the face. She felt her hand break, but her fury overrode her pain. “No, there really aren’t, you son of a bitch. Where is h e?”

Cass was frowning at her. “You and Dean are very well-matched. I cannot tell you where he is.”

“Can not, or will not?”

He met her eyes. “Piper, this is important. This is the end times.”

She examined him for a second, her mind becoming crystal clear as it whirled. “Oh, my God,” she whispered, taking a step back from him, her hand covering her mouth. “Oh, my God, you aren’t trying to stop it. You took Dean so he wouldn’t stop Sam. What is Sam about to do? What are you bastards making Sam do?”

Guilt and uncertainty flashed in his eyes before they hardened. “That is not something I can discuss with you, Piper Finley.” He stepped forward and pressed two fingers to her forehead as he spoke. “The three of you are under the impression that you’re more important than the world. You’re not.” His fingers were gentle despite his tone, and warm healing spread over her face and down to her hand.

She looked at him for a moment. “Cass,” she said softly, placing a hand on his arm. “It’s not about being more important than the world. I know Sam and Dean aren’t more important than the world. It’s just…” She swallowed the tears that were threatening to come up back. “It’s just that they are my world. They’re my everything, and now you’ve taken both of them away from me. Please, please, please, Castiel, I am downright begging you.” Quickly, she got to her knees in front of him, her hand still on his arm. “Tell me where the Winchesters are. If you won’t let us save the world, let me save my world.”

***

Dean was pacing, he didn’t know what to do. He looked around at the angelic green room he was in. He had tried everything he could think of to get out, and now he was just cooling his heels until those winged dickbags let him go.

Suddenly, small hands gripped his shoulders and spun him, and his mind went blank with shock as Piper slammed him against the wall and pressed her hand to his mouth. He nodded at her, and she let go to watch Castiel run a knife across his forearm and start smearing blood on the wall quickly.

Zachariah appeared just as quickly behind them. “Castiel! Would you mind explaining just what the hell you're doing?”

Castiel slammed his hand into the center of the sigil he’d drawn on the wall. A huge flash of white light blinded Dean for a moment, and when he looked around, Zachariah was gone.

Castiel looked at Piper. “He won’t be gone long. We have to find Sam now.”

“Where is he?” she asked quickly, grabbing Dean’s hand and pulling him towards the angel.

Cass shook his head. “I don’t know. But I know who does.” He looked at Dean. “We have to stop him, Dean, from killing Lilith.”

Dean frowned. “But Lilith’s gonna break the final seal.”

Cass shook his head and took Piper’s outstretched hand. “Lilith is the final seal. She dies, the end begins.”

The world spun away from Dean as Cass transported them away.

***

“St. Mary's? What is that, a convent?” Dean asked, looking at Chuck.

Chuck nodded. “Yeah, but you guys aren’t supposed to be there. You’re not in this story.

“Well, we’re making it up as we go,” Piper said shortly, meeting Cass’s eyes.

The ground started to rumble beneath them, and the lights began flickering. A huge white light started shining into the windows. Dean reached out and grasped Piper’s hand, pulling her to him.

Chuck groaned. “Oh, man! Not again! No!”

Cass looked at Piper and she saw panic and fierce determination in his blue eyes. “It’s the Archangel! Go! I’ll hold him off!”

He put his hand on Piper’s forehead, the other on Dean’s, and the world spun away from them again.

***

They landed in a huge stone building, Dean assumed it was the convent where Sam was. Piper squeezed his hand and pointed down a hallway. He nodded and they ran down.

They came around the corner to see Sam at the far end of the hallway, in a room with Ruby and Lilith. Sam was holding his hand out, and Lilith was being held by his powers against the altar. Ruby looked back and smirked at them, then closed the door slowly.

They ran and Dean pounded his hands against the closed doors. “Sam! Sam!” Piper did the same next to him.

There was no sound, but there was a rumbling. A terrible aura of power was bleeding out from the doors, making the hair on the back of Dean’s neck stand straight up. “Sam! Sam!”

“Sam!” Piper was screaming on the other side of the door. “Sam! Don’t kill her! Sam! Lilith is the last seal!”

He wasn’t listening. Dean turned and looked around wildly, his eyes resting on a huge iron candelabra in the room, he grabbed it, pulled Piper away from the door, and started hitting it.

The aura of bad power abruptly stopped. Dean paused, then continued trying to beat his way in. Soon after, a different kind of power started emanating from the doorway. A more sinister power, a more subtle power. Dean had a very bad feeling that it was an fallen archangel’s power.

Finally, finally he broke through. His blood ran cold when he saw Lilith, dead on the floor, her blood spreading in strange markings. He turned when he felt Piper pull the demon-killing knife from his belt and advance on Ruby, fire in her eyes.

Ruby smirked. “You’re too late.”

“Not for this, you lying skank,” Piper snarled. Sam grabbed Ruby’s arms from behind, holding her in place for Piper to run her through with the knife. Ruby crumpled to the floor, dead.

Sam looked at Piper, devastation on his face. “I’m sorry, Pipe,” he whispered brokenly.

She was looking at him, and Dean wanted them to have their moment, but the blood coming from Lilith had completed its symbol, and was starting to glow. The room around them started to tremble.

“Guys, let’s go.” He came forward and grabbed Piper’s hand to pull her away.

Sam grabbed her other hand, and Piper pulled Dean gently. “Oh, God… He’s coming.”

White light started spreading through the room, emanating from the center of the symbol in front of them. Dean grabbed Piper and turned, shielding her from the light. She looked up at him, fear etched on her face.

He couldn’t stand it. Dammit, they were going to die, and she was never going to know how much he loved her. He tried to put all the words he’d been too stupidly afraid to say into the kiss he pressed against her lips. He was prepared to die, but only if she was in his arms and her mouth was against his.

As white light spread around them, Dean was finally able to think the words.

I love you, Piper Finley.

Chapter Text

A huge red devil leans over an open book, flames licking the sides of the huge stone alter the book rests upon. “What the devil is your name?”

The small man in the comically huge cowboy hat stutters, “Sa-Sa-Sa-Sa-Yo-Yosemite Sam.”

“Yosemite Sam!” the devil exclaims, eyebrows going up.

Dean looked around, completely dumbfounded. They weren’t dead. They weren’t in the convent. Lucifer wasn’t here. It looked like… They were on a plane?

Piper was sitting next to him, looking a little dazed. He looked over her head at Sam, who looked just as confused as Dean felt. “What the fuck?”

Sam shook his head. “I don’t know.”

The intercom buzzed. “Folks, quick word from the flight deck. We’re just passing over Ilchester, then Ellicott City, on our initial descent into Baltimore-“

Dean frowned. “Ilchester? Weren’t we just there?”

The pilot continued. “So, if you’d like to stretch your legs, now would be a good time to-“

A massive column of white light shot into the air from the ground below them. Piper screamed a little as the plane was thrown off-kilter. Dean threw an arm over her middle to keep her in her seat as oxygen masks dropped down in front of them.

“Holy crap!” the pilot shouted.

A few moments later, though Dean would swear for the rest of his life that it was much longer than that, the plane evened out.

“Nothing to worry about, people,” the pilot said over the intercom. “We’ve got everything under control.”

Dean watched flight attendants rush up and down the aisles, helping people put the oxygen masks back, assuring people that panic wasn’t necessary. My ass, he thought distrustfully.

Suddenly, small, warm hands were pressed into his chest and running down his arms. He looked down to see Piper frantically touching him, checking for injuries. Her hands moved down his stomach, then down to his legs. She nodded, apparently convinced he was okay.

Dean was struck by her, and before she could turn to check on Sam, he placed a hand on her face to bring it to his. Her soft whimper spurred him on, and he kissed her hard, trying to put everything he felt for her into his lips pressed against hers.

But when he released her, he wasn’t satisfied. He had thought they were done for, and the last thing he had wished was that she had heard those words from him.

She was everything. She was his one good thing. She was the most beautiful creature who had ever walked the earth, as far as Dean was concerned. And she was looking up at him with those hypnotic eyes, worry and love shining through them.

And all of his fear dissipated. She needed to know.

“I… I love you,” he husked, gazing into her face, his heart pounding in his chest.

Her breath caught, and her eyes widened. Dean didn’t even have time to start to get nervous before her face broke into a grin. “I love you, too, Dean,” she said softly. “More than anything.”

***

Piper felt dread settle in her stomach when she looked at Chuck’s house. It was destroyed. “No,” she whispered, jumping out of the Impala and running toward the house.

“Piper! Dammit!” She ignored Dean’s shouts to sprint through the door.

She looked around warily, listening for any movement. The only warning she had that Chuck was behind her was a soft scuff. She whirled and grabbed the plunger in his hands away from him. “God dammit, Chuck,” she snapped. “What the hell are you doing?”

He looked shocked to see her. “Piper.” His eyes flicked behind her. “Sam. Dean.”

“Yes,” she gritted out. Dean put a calming hand on her hip and guided her back against him gently so he could wrap that arm around her waist.

Chuck was staring at Sam. “You’re okay.”

Dean chuckled darkly behind her. “Hey, Chuck.”

Sam looked at the writer. “I mean, the apocalypse and all-”

Chuck shook his head. “No, I mean, I mean, my… My last vision. You went, like, full-on Vader. Your body temperature was one-fifty. Your heart rate was two hundred. Your eyes were black.”

Piper had truly believed she was beyond surprise at this point. She was wrong.

Apparently, Dean wasn’t past being surprised, either. She felt rather than saw him turn to his brother. “Your eyes went black?”

Sam sounded unsure. “I didn’t know.”

Piper sighed. “Chuck, where’s Cass?”

Chuck looked at her sympathetically. “He’s dead. Or gone. The archangel smote the crap out of him. I’m sorry.”

Grief tore it’s way through Piper’s heart. She put a hand over her mouth and leaned back into Dean’s chest when he wrapped his other around her, hugging her tightly to him.

“You’re sure?” Dean asked softly. “I mean, maybe he just vanished into the light or something.”

Chuck’s eyes flicked to Piper, then went back to Dean. “Uh, no. He, like… Exploded. Like a water balloon of chunky soup.”

Her shoulders heaved and Dean pressed his lips to her hair. “Jesus,” he muttered softly.

Sam motioned to his own left ear, wincing. “You got a-”

Chuck’s hand flew to his right ear. “Right here?”

Sam motioned to the other side. Chuck reached up and felt his hair. “Oh. Oh, God.” He pulled something out. “Is that a molar? It is. Do I have a molar in my hair?” He looked up at Dean. “This has been a really stressful day.”

“Oh, God, Cass, you stupid, beautiful angel,” Piper whispered.

Sam turned to look at her. “Stupid? He was helping us.”

“Exactly,” Dean snapped.

Sam shifted guiltily. “So, what now?”

Dean shrugged behind her. “I don’t know.”

“Oh, crap,” Chuck groaned.

“What?”

“I can feel them.”

Zachariah appeared behind them. “I thought we’d find you here.”

Dean whirled, pushing Piper back behind him.

Zachariah smiled at Dean. “Playtime’s over, Dean. Time to come with us.”

Dean glared and pointed at the angel. “You just keep your distance, asshat.” Piper peered over Dean’s shoulder at the angel, wondering darkly if he had something to do with what had happened to Castiel.

Zachariah held his hands up. “You’re upset.”

“Yeah, a little,” Dean snapped. “You sons of bitches jump-started judgment day!”

Zachariah shook his head. “Maybe we let it happen, but we didn’t start anything. Right, Sammy?” Zachariah turned and winked at Sam. Piper growled in the back of her throat.

Zachariah turned back to Dean. “You had a chance to stop your brother, and you couldn't. So let's not quibble over who started what. Let's just say it was all our faults and move on. ‘Cause like it or not, it’s Apocalypse Now. And we’re on the same team again!”

“Is that so?” Dean asked murderously.

Zachariah pointed at Dean. “You want to kill the devil,” he pointed them at himself. “We want you to kill the devil. It’s… Synergy.”

Piper scoffed from behind Dean. “And we’re just supposed to trust you?”

Dean nodded. “Yeah, go ahead and cram it with walnuts, ugly.”

Zachariah’s face darkened. “This isn't a game, kids. Lucifer is powerful in ways that defy description. We need to strike now, hard and fast, before he finds his vessel.”

Sam frowned. “His vessel? Lucifer needs a meat suit?”

Ice touched the base of Piper’s spine. This wasn’t going to end peacefully. Thinking carefully, and moving very slowly, she pulled the knife out of Dean’s waist band and ran it along her arm, swallowing her hiss of pain. If he noticed, he didn’t make any indication. She slowly started smearing the blood on the wall next to her as the angel spoke.

Zachariah shrugged. “He is an angel. Them’s the rules. And when he touches down, we’re talking Four Horsemen, red oceans, fiery skies, the greatest hits. You can stop him, Dean, but you need our help.”

“Listen,” Dean snarled, “You two-faced douche. After what you did, I don’t want jack squat from you!”

Zachariah stepped forward. “You listen to me, boy! You think you can rebel against us? As Lucifer did?”

Piper stepped forward to stand next to Dean, making sure her dripping hand was clearly visible. Zachariah zeroed in on it. “You’re bleeding.”

She smiled. “Oh, yeah. Little insurance policy, in case you bastards showed up.” She slammed her hand on the sigil she’d drawn on the wall.

Everyone flinched as Zachariah vanished in a burst of white light. Piper’s smile became fierce. “Learned that from my good friend, Castiel, you son of a bitch.”

Chuck groaned and moved to sit on his couch. “This sucks ass.”

***

They pulled into the motel, none of them saying a word. Piper went inside and booked two rooms for them. She wasn’t going to make them talk to each other, not yet, not when she could barely speak herself.

She walked outside, keys in hand, to see Sam leaning against the hood, his bag next to him, and Dean leaning against the driver’s side door, looking down. She walked forward and handed one of the keys to Sam. “This one’s you, Sammy.”

The pain etched on his face tugged at her heart. “Separate room?” he asked softly.

She nodded. “I think it’s probably best.”

He seemed to gather himself. “Piper, I’m so-“

She put a finger against his lips and smiled. “Shh, Sammy, I know.” She sighed deeply, looking into those big brown eyes. “I know you were lied to, Sam,” she said softly. “I know that bitch manipulated you, and played on your pride to get you to do… What you did.” She stepped forward and went up on tiptoe to wrap her arms around his neck, smiling when he wrapped his around her waist and hugged her tight.

“We’re okay, Sammy,” she whispered into his ear. “I forgive you, and I love you, and we’re okay. But Dean is going to need some time.”

She came back down and patted his chest. “Go on, Sammy, go get some rest. Call if you need anything.”

Sam nodded, grabbed his duffle, and walked away.

Piper turned and walked over to Dean. She sensed that he was on edge, so she just leaned against Baby next to him. “Hey, you,” she said softly, looking over at him.

He didn’t look up. “Hey, kitten. Sammy set up?”

“Yep,” she said with a nod. “Let’s go, baby.”

***

Dean followed Piper toward their room, absentmindedly appreciating the curve of her ass as she pulled him toward the door.

Everything was just… Too much. Sammy lied to him. Lucifer had risen. Cass had died. And he had finally gotten up the balls to tell Piper.

Too much.

She opened the door and pulled him inside. As soon as the door was shut, his mind went blank, looking at her long hair, the elegant curve of her legs, the fullness of her lips.

Mine.

He stepped forward as soon as she turned around and placed his hands on her hips, pushing her back against the door. With a soft sigh, she submitted, satisfying his possessive need for control by wrapping her arms around his neck and running her fingers through the short hair at his nape.

He paused and pressed his forehead against hers, their ragged breathing the only sound he could hear. He didn’t want to take her like he usually did, he didn’t want to control her. Well, okay, yes, yes he did want to control her, but he wanted to show her how much she meant to him. And he couldn’t do that if he kept slamming the poor woman up against walls and kissing her breathless.

“Dean, it’s okay,” she said softly, and he opened his eyes to find her looking at him. The heat in her gaze made everything low in him clench hard, and he was having a hard time breathing again. “Dean, it’s okay, I don’t want to go slow tonight.” She leaned up and ran her teeth along his jaw, sending tension down through him. “Don’t worry about it, baby,” she whispered against his skin. “Let’s just forget today.”

He groaned, fighting with himself, fighting to give her everything she needed.

She grabbed his wrist and guided his hand up to cup her breast, where his thumb automatically ran over her hardening nipple. “Please, Dean,” she begged softly, “I want you.”

His control snapped, and he looked down at her slowly, his other hand pulling her hips tight against his. He smiled, watching her eyes darken with lust. “Whatever you say, kitten,” he husked, then sent his lips crashing down onto hers.

***

He took her there, against the door, making her scream.

***

He took her in the bed later, taking his time, worshipping her with his hands and mouth.

God, I love you.

***

He took her in the shower, her raspy, over-used voice calling out his name, echoing off of the tiles surrounding them.

***

Once Dean had reduced her to a quivering, speechless heap, he finally let them go to bed. Piper was in pajamas, exhausted, staring at him. He was looking back, both of them too tired for words.

The world was going to shit, and Piper knew it. Tomorrow was going to be hard, facing Sammy, facing the world. And the next day was going to be hard. And every day until they cleaned up the mess presented to them.

But for now, Dean was looking at her like she was the only important thing in the world.

She smiled and moved forward to nestle her head under his chin, flinging an arm around his waist. “I love you,” she whispered, already falling asleep.

“You, too, Pipes,” his voice rumbled in her ear as she drifted off to sleep.

And for now, that voice in her ear was enough for Piper.

Chapter Text

Piper woke up in the white bedroom. Before she could get her bearings, Loki had swept her into his arms, crushing her to his chest.

She laughed softly and wrapped her arms hesitantly around his waist. “Um, hi.”

He leaned back. “Precious, are you all right? What happened? How did you guys get out of that convent?”

She examined his frightened hazel eyes. “Hey, I’m okay. I have no idea how we got on the plane, but I’m all right.”

He crushed her to him again, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “Good.”

She chuckled against his chest, feeling inexplicably safe and warm in his embrace. “I thought you didn’t like humans.”

He put a hand on the back of her head, keeping her close. “Only you, Piper Finley. I don’t know why, but I only like you.”

***

Dean woke up slowly, fighting it a little. He was warm, he could sense sunlight pouring through a window, and he had a warm Piper curled against him, her head resting on his chest. He wanted to wallow in it for a while.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay asleep. So he opened his eyes and turned to gaze down at Piper’s head. Her hair, midway between the bright violet that symbolized freshly dyed and the silvery lavender hue that meant she hadn’t done in it for a while, was spilled messing over her shoulder. Her breathing was slow and steady, peaceful.

Finally said it. He felt lighter than he had, and he felt heavier at the same time. She knew, but now, of course, she knew. He was no longer just some guy she was sleeping with. He was the man who was in love with her.

A flutter of panic wormed its way into his heart. How could he protect her? How could he make sure she was safe? She was a hunter. She would never let him put her somewhere, let him set her up to be safe somewhere away from the shitstorm that was his life.

“Dean, whatever you’re freaking out about, stop it, because I’m still sleepy.”

Despite himself, he chuckled. “Sorry, baby, just thinking.”

She lifted her head to gaze at him. “Stop it. Five more minutes. Five more minutes of us, okay?”

He hauled her up to him so her face was level with his. “Whatever you say, kitten.” He studied her lovely, sleepy, hazel eyes. “It’s always whatever you say, kitten.”

She smiled. “Mmm, good boyfriend.” She kissed him softly.

He turned them so he was leaning over her, one hand trailing down her soft skin. He slipped his hand between her legs, finding her already warm and wet. He leaned back and cocked an eyebrow. “Already wet for me, Pipes?”

She smiled and ran a hand down his chest to wrap around his cock. “Already, handsome, always.”

He shifted again and settled himself between her legs, laying burning kisses down her neck. “Oh, Dean,” she sighed softly.

“Mmm, I like it when you say my name,” he murmured against her skin, moving his hand down to move through her slick folds.

“Dean,” she moaned, smiling a little, arching herself into his hand. “Dean, please, take me,” she begged breathlessly as he put pressure on her clit, moving in tight little circles.

He smiled against her neck, nipping gently at the mark he’d left there last night. “I like it when you beg, too, kitten,” he whispered in her ear. “Ask me again, baby.” He slipped a finger into her slowly, curving it to hit that electric spot in her.

She gasped, arching her back again. “Oh, God, Dean, please take me.”

He shook his head, running his tongue along the shell of her ear. “You’re going to need to get specific, Piper,” he purred.

She was writhing underneath him, it was enchanting. “Dean, please, baby, I want you inside me, please, fuck me.”

He pulled his fingers out, lined himself up with her entrance, and thrust into her hard. He paused, his head resting on her shoulder, letting them both adjust for a moment.

She started moving again underneath him, rolling her hips and biting his shoulder gently. “Dean, please, Christ.”

He chuckled. “Yes, ma’am.”

He moved slowly, lovingly, worshipping her again. He put everything he felt, all of his devotion and love, into making sure that part of her lovely form was left unappreciated. He hummed against her ear, lay burning kisses along her collarbone, sucked a nipple into his mouth and teased her.

“Oh, God, Dean!” She cried out, clenching around him. He moaned and picked up the pace, moving inside her through her orgasm and sending her spiralling toward the next one.

He was close. “Look at me, Piper.”

She gasped and opened her eyes to follow his order. The lust blown hazel sent him over the edge.

He moved a hand down, and as soon as he touched her, she came apart beneath him again. He came hard, biting down on her shoulder and growling as he did.

He stayed on top of her as they came down, loving the feeling of her soft body pressed against his. He lifted his head and grinned lazily at her. “Shower, kitten?”

***

Sam had just gotten out of the shower when Piper knocked at the door. “Sammy? Breakfast.”

He smiled and finished buttoning his shirt on his way to let her in. When he opened the door, she was smiling and holding up a bakery bag. “Dean’s bringing the coffee from the car,” she said, moving past him and into the room.

He watched her with a half smile. She was in her typical tank top and tight jeans, but she had what he could only assume was one of Dean’s flannel shirts on over everything. Her hair was pulled back into a braid, there was a hickey on her neck, and she looked… Happy.

“Mornin’,” Dean said gruffly, walking into the room a few beats after Piper. He walked to stand next to her, pressing a kiss to the top of her head as she arranged breakfast on the table for the three of them. “Should have gotten doughnuts,” he said to Piper.

She rolled her eyes up at him. “Dean, doughnuts are purely sugar. You’d just be hungry again in an hour.”

“I’m going to be hungry again in an hour anyway.” She laughed softly.

Sam closed the door and watched them for a moment, enthralled. They moved together and apart like a dance, like they’d done it a million times before. He didn’t even think they were aware of how they shifted and moved to accommodate one another. They moved like a team, and they were one.

A team that he was no longer a part of. Sam had rarely felt so lonely.

Piper must have sensed it, because she turned and hit him with a mega-watt smile. “Muffin, Sammy?”

He smiled a little at her. “Sure.”

She brought him one and went up on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek. “We’re gonna be all right, Sammy, try to keep the faith,” she whispered, then she went back down and turned to Dean. “Okay, where do we go from here?”

Dean held his arm out and she went to let him sling his arm around her shoulders. “I don’t know, Pipes. I mean, where do we even begin?”

Sam started, guilt washing through him. He went to his bag and pulled out the hex bags. “Here. Hex bags. No way the angels will find us with those. Demons, either, for that matter.”

Dean examined it, then him. Sam fought the urge to squirm. “Where’d you get it?”

“I made it.”

Piper tilted her head. “How?”

Sam didn’t really want to answer that question. He fought with himself for a moment. God, he felt so guilty, guilt didn’t even begin to cover the way he felt.

He had been silent enough that both of them were staring at him now. “I, uh… I learned it from Ruby.”

Piper’s face tightened, and Dean nodded. “Speaking of, how you doing? Are you jonesing for another hit of bitch blood, or what?”

Sam shook his head. “It, it’s weird. Tell you the truth, I’m fine. No shakes, no fever. It’s like whoever… Put us on that plane, cleaned me right up.”

“Supernatural methadone.:

Sam nodded. “Yeah, I guess.” He let a beat of silence pass. “Guys-”

Dean shook his head and turned away. “It’s okay, Sam. You don’t have to say anything.”

Sam scoffed. “Well, that’s good. Because what can I even say? ‘I’m sorry?’ ‘I screwed up?’ Deosn’t really do it justice, you know? Look, there’s nothing I can do or say that will ever make this right-”

“Then why do you keep bringing it up?” Dean snapped.

“Dean,” Piper said softly, a hand on his arm. “Dean, come on.”

He looked down at her. “Look, all I’m saying is, why do we have to put this under a microscope? We made a mess. We clean it up. That’s it.”

Piper nodded, then looked at Sam. He nodded, too.

She sighed. “All right, so, let’s treat this like any other hunt. What do we do first?”

They were interrupted from answering her by a knock on the door. Dean pulled a gun from his waistband, and Piper moved to the other side of the door, motioning for Sam to answer it.

When he opened the door, a woman who looked approximately sixteen years old stood there, hyperventilating. He frowned. “You okay, lady?”

“Sam… Is it really you?”

He looked back at Dean and Piper, brow furrowed. Dean was frowning, and Piper looked confused.

A small hand on his chest brought his attention back to the woman at the door. “And you’re so firm,” she said reverently.

“Uh, do I know you?”

She pulled her hand away. “No, but I know you. You’re Sam Winchester. And you’re-” she looked at Dean. “Not what I expected. I’m Becky.” She frowned. “Where’s Piper?”

Piper came around the corner with a smile. “Hi, I’m Piper. Can I guess that you’re a fan of the Supernatural novels?”

The woman’s eyes were wide as she took Piper in. “Your hair… Isn’t black.”

Piper laughed. “It is not, you’re right.”

“I read all about you guys. And I've even written a few-” She giggled and looked down, and Sam had a feeling what she was about to say was not something he wanted to hear. “Anyway,” she said cheerfully. “Mr. Edlund told me where you were.”

Dean stood and came up to stand next to Piper. “Chuck?”

Sam ushered Becky in and closed the door behind her. “He’s got a message,” she was saying. “But he’s being watched. Angels. Nice change-up to the mythology, by the way. The demon stuff was getting kind of old.”

Piper rolled her eyes. “Right, what’s the message?”

Becky was still staring at Sam. “He had a vision. ‘The Michael Sword is on earth. The angels lost it.’”

Dean’s eyebrows went up. “The Michael sword?”

Sam looked down at the woman in front of him. “Becky, does he know where it is?”

She nodded eagerly. “In a castle, on a hill made of forty-two dogs.”

Piper blinked. “Forty-two dogs?”

Sam looked at Becky. “Are… You sure you got that right?”

She nodded again. “It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what he said.” She stepped forward and put her hand on his chest again. “I memorized every word. For you.”

Sam was uncomfortable. “Um, Becky… Can, uh… Can you quit touching me?”

Piper laughed out loud when Becky refused.

***

When the knock at the door sounded, Piper bounded out of her chair and answered it. “Bobby!” she shouted happily, flinging her arms around him.

His arms came around and held her close. “Hey, Piper, glad you kids are okay.”

She let go and grinned at him, moving out of the way so Dean could come up and hug Bobby. “Hey, Bobby.” Sam came up next, slapping Bobby on the back.

Piper closed the door behind the men. “You weren’t followed, were you?”

“You mean by angels, demons, or Sam's new superfan?” Bobby asked with a chuckle.

Sam laughed. “You heard.”

“I heard, Romeo. So… Sword of Michael, huh?”

Dean nodded. “You think we’re talking about the actual sword from the actual archangel?”

Bobby was pulling a book out of his bag and putting it on the table. “You better friggin’ hope so. Michael looks like a winged woman and the other angels like naked babies with wings.”

Bobby pointed at a picture in the book. The three of them crowded around him, and Piper leaned a little into Dean, who wrapped an arm around her and put his hand on her waist. “That’s Michael,” Bobby was saying. “Toughest son of a bitch they got.”

Dean snorted. “You kidding me? Tough? That guy looks like Cate Blanchett.” Piper laughed.

Bobby shot them both a look. “Well, I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley, believe me. He commands the heavenly host. During the last big dust-up upstairs, he's the one who booted Lucifer's ass to the basement. Did it with that sword. So if we can find it…”

Sam was nodding. “We can kick the devil's ass all over again. All right. So, where do we start?”

Bobby handed books to each of them. “Divvy up and start reading. Try to make sense of Chuck’s nonsense.”

Sam stared at the book in Bobby’s hand, and sympathy rose in Piper. “Kid?” Bobby asked. “You all right?”

The look on Sam’s face had Piper walking away from Dean and approaching him to put a hand on Sam’s arm. “No, actually,” Sam said softly. “Bobby, this is all my fault. I’m sorry.”

“Sam,” Dean said warningly.

Sam ignored him. “Lilith didn’t break the final seal. Lilith was the final seal.”

“Sam, stop it,” Dean snapped, coming up to stand next to Piper. She gave him a quelling frown.

“I killed her,” Sam continued, “and I set Lucifer free.”

The look on Bobby’s face sent disquiet down Piper’s spine. She frowned. “You what?” Bobby asked.

The pain in Sam’s voice hand her coming forward to wrap an arm around his waist. “You guys warned me about Ruby, the demon blood, but I didn’t listen. I brought this on.”

Bobby glared at Sam. “You’re damn right you didn’t listen. You were reckless and selfish and arrogant.”

Sam winced, and Piper frowned, her unease growing. “I’m sorry, Bobby,” Sam said softly.

“Oh yeah? You're sorry you started Armageddon? This kind of thing don't get forgiven, boy. If, by some miracle, we pull this off… I want you to lose my number. You understand me?”

Piper was shocked, then incensed. Bobby would never. She shoved Sam back behind her quickly. “Christo!”

Bobby’s eyes flashed back, and Piper snarled. “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus-”

He punched her hard in the face, cutting off the exorcism. “Piper!” Dean shouted, rushing forward.

The door burst open and three other demons rushed in. One of them grabbed Sam and tossed him across the room, and one grabbed Dean and pulled his arms behind him.

Bobby swung again at Piper, hitting her on the other side of the face. She cried out, and put her arm up to defend herself from the next attack. She kept blocking his blows, but couldn’t bring herself to hit him back. It was Bobby. Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus,  omnis satanica potestas-”

He punched her in the stomach, catching her off-guard and cutting off her second attempt at an exorcism. The breath vacated her body, and she was struggling to breathe when he spoke.

“You know, surrogate Daddy is tired of your bullshit, little girl,” the demon taunted. “I can hear everything. He wishes he had beat you when he had the chance, maybe you’d be a little more obedient.” Her stomach rolled when it grabbed her and shoved her against the wall. “Maybe he would have gotten a little bit more than a ‘thanks’ for putting up with your whiny ass.”

Tears gathered in Piper’s eyes and she struggled against the thing’s hold around her throat. She still couldn’t bring herself to hit him.

“Hey!” a voice that Piper didn’t recognize shouted, and she turned to see a woman with long black hair toss the demon-killing knife to the thing possessing Bobby. “Would you get rid of her already? We’ve got bigger problems.”

He caught the knife and turned back to Piper. “Just having a little fun.” He raised the knife.

Piper’s tears spilled over. “Bobby, I’m sorry,” she whispered.

The thing paused, and the black faded from Bobby’s eyes. His shocked, sorrowed eyes met hers before he drove the knife into himself.

“No!” Piper cried, falling to her knees as the lights flashed through Bobby’s body and he fell. “Bobby, Bobby, come on, please!”

She heard Sam, Dean, and the woman speaking back and forth, but she tuned it out to put her hand against Bobby’s face. “Bobby, please, stay awake for me, we’ll get you to a hospital, we can do this, just stay awake for me.”

She didn’t jump when Dean’s hand came down on her shoulder. “Come on, Pipes, let’s get him to the hospital.”

***

“Piper, Dean thinks he knows what Chuck’s clue was about. We’re going to go check it out.”

Piper was sitting next to Bobby in his hospital bed, her elbows on the bed, and she wouldn’t take her eyes off of her father figure. She hadn’t taken them off of him the entire time they’d been here. “Okay. Be safe.”

There was silence. “Pipe, I’m-”

“If you say you’re sorry again, Winchester, I will shoot you,” she said softly. “This wasn’t your fault, Sam. Bobby’s a hunter. Hunters get hurt. That’s all.”

“Okay, Piper.” Sam came forward and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

She sensed Dean come in before he placed a hand on the back of her head, smoothing her hair down. He stood next to her, and she leaned against his leg, wrapping an arm around that leg. “Oh, Dean,” she said softly.

“Hey, we’ll be all right, Pipes, just keep the faith,” Dean said calmly, smoothing her hair softly. “We’ll be back as soon as we can, okay?”

She nodded. “Okay, baby.” She finally took her eyes away from Bobby to look up at Dean’s handsome face. Years later, through tragedy and apocalypses, he still makes my heartbeat faster. She leaned her face up, and he leaned down to kiss her softly. “Be careful, Dean.”

Chapter Text

Only the sound of wings alerted Piper that someone else was in Bobby’s hospital room.

She twirled, pulling the gun from her waistband and putting herself between Bobby’s sleeping form and the place she’d heard the noise. It took a few moments for her to register who was standing in front of her.

She put the gun on the bed and flung herself into the man’s arms. “Castiel!”

He caught her, his body unyielding as she squeezed her arms around his neck. “Oh, God, Cass, I thought you were dead!” She leaned back and put her hands on his face. “What happened? How are you alive? Are you okay?”

His hands had come to rest on her hips, more to catch her than to hold her. He was looking at her, surprised. “I’m fine, Piper.”

She examined him. “How the hell are you alive, wings? Chuck said you got vaporized!”

He seemed to hesitate, then ignored her question completely. “This is going to hurt.”

He placed a hand on her chest, over her heart, and a burning sensation wrapped through her torso. The pain took her breath away, and she just gasped.

He looked… Upset. “I am sorry, Piper. It was needed.”

She looked at him, pain fading from her body to leave a gentle ache. “What was that?”

“It will hide you from angels.” He stepped back. “We will see one another soon.”

“Wait!” She flung herself into his arms again, burying her face into his neck. “I’m glad you’re okay, wings,” she said softly.

His arms came around her slowly, and then she was being crushed against him. “I, too… I am glad you are well, Piper Finley,” he said gruffly.

She smiled into his neck, then pressed a kiss to his cold cheek and stepped back. “All right, Castiel, back to saving the world with you.” She thought for a moment, then, “Wait! Can you heal Bobby before you go?”

He looked grieved again. “I am cut off from the powers of heaven. I am unable to heal anyone.”

She frowned. “Well, dammit.” At his hurt expression, she stepped forward and put a hand on his arm again. “It’s okay, Cass. We’ll… Figure something else out.”

***

A few minutes later, her phone rang. “Hello?” She said softly, smoothing Bobby’s hair lovingly.

“Hey, kitten, how is he?”

Dean’s voice sent warmth down her spine, and she couldn’t help the smile on her face. “He’s the same. He hasn’t woken up yet. Hey, Cass visited, did he come to you guys?”

There was silence on the other end that made her narrow her eyes. “Dean?”

“Uh, yeah, he did,” he said slowly.

She let the silence draw out for a few moments, then, “So, what are you not telling me?”

He sighed, and it made her smile. “I’ll tell you when we get there, Pipes. We’re only a couple hours away.”

***

She met them at the door. As soon as he got out of the Impala in the parking lot, she resisted the urge to run to him. Play it cool, Finley, he’s only been gone for a few hours.

That was thrown out the window when Dean turned and saw her. He grinned when his eyes hit her and opened his arms. She sprinted to him, jumping a little when she was a few feet away, and hitting him felt more like coming home than anything she’d ever had.

He held her close, burying his face in her hair. “Hi, kitten.”

She smiled against his neck, pressing a kiss to the warm skin there. “Hi, handsome.”

“Gross,” Sam said mildly, walking over and grinning at them. Piper turned to say hi, smiling a little when Dean refused to let her go, just wrapped his arms around her waist like iron bands and kept her against him. “Hi, Sammy.”

He chuckled. “Hi, Pipe.”

They walked back inside, Dean and Piper walking hand-in-hand. “So, what happened? Did you find the Michael Sword?” she asked softly.

“Well, in a manner of speaking…” Dean evaded.

She rolled her eyes. “Dean, you know I’m going to find out. Just tell me.”

Sam raised his eyebrows. “I’m, uh, I’m gonna go check in on Bobby.” He walked away, and his willingness to give them some space made Piper extremely suspicious.

She turned to Dean. “Well? Where’s the Michael Sword?”

He sighed and ran his other hand through his hair. “We got to Dad’s storage unit. Zachariah and a couple of his dicks were with him. They, uh, threatened us.”

Piper stepped forward and placed a hand on his face to get him to look at her. “What happened?”

He winced. “They gave me stomach cancer, and broke Sammy’s legs and took his lungs.”

She winced, too. “Are you guys all right?”

He nodded. “Cass came and kicked some ass, then made Zachariah put us back. Then he, uh, branded us.”

She chuckled. “Yeah, he came and branded me, too.”

Dean frowned. “Well he was kind of a dick about it, honestly.”

It was her turn to frown. “Oh. Well, he was nice to me.”

“Everyone’s nice to you, Pipes.”

She laughed. “Yeah, yeah. What about the Michael Sword? Did you find it?”

He sighed and looked up at the ceiling again. “Uh, we had it. It’s me.”

She blinked. “What do you mean, it’s you?”

“I, uh, I am the Michael sword. I’m the one true vessel of Michael, apparently. Archangels have more go-juice than other angels, so they, uh, need a special meatsuit.”

Anxiety clawed at her. She grabbed his arm. “We have to hide you, we have to make sure you’re safe!” Anger replaced the panic. “He won’t get to you, he’ll have to come through me, I’ll find a way to-”

His smiling mouth pressed to hers stopped her. She sighed and leaned into him. When they came up for air, he was still smiling. “You’re scary, woman.”

She nodded. “Damn right.”

He pulled her closer to him, wrapping an arm around her. “He needs my permission, Pipes. Angels need consent.”

She put lay her ear on his chest, listening to the strong heartbeat. “Well, that’s handy.”

He pressed a kiss to her head. “Yeah, as long as they don’t get hold of you or Sammy, we’re good.”

She smiled. “If they get hold of me, Dean, they’re going to wish they hadn’t.”

***

Piper worried quietly about Dean as they made their way back to Bobby’s room. After their reunion, he had become taciturn and tense again. He hadn’t said anything, but his hand was tight around hers when they got into the room to hear Bobby yelling.

"’Unlikely to walk again?!’ Why, you snot-nosed son of a bitch! Wait till I get out of this bed!”

The doctor fled past them as Bobby continued to yell. “I'll use my game leg and kick your friggin' ass! Yeah, you better run!” Bobby looked between them and Sam. “You believe that yahoo?”

“Fuck him,” Dean said confidently, shedding his distressed demeanor and leading Piper in by the hand. “You'll be fine.”

Sam nodded. “So, let me ask the million-dollar question. What do we do now?”

Bobby shrugged. “Well... We save as many as we can for as long as we can, I guess. It's bad. Whoever wins, heaven or hell, we're boned.”

“What if we win?” Dean asked softly. Surprised, Piper looked up at him. He was looking between her, Sam, and Bobby. “I'm serious. I mean, screw the angels and the demons and their shit apocalypse. Hell, they want to fight a war, they can find their own planet. This one's ours, and I say they get the hell off it. We take 'em all on. We kill the devil. Hell, we even kill Michael if we have to. But we do it our own damn selves.”

Piper smiled at him as Bobby asked, “And how are we supposed to do all this, genius?”

Dean shrugged. “I got no idea. But what I do have is a GED and a give-'em-hell attitude, and I'll figure it out.”

Bobby smiled. “You are nine kinds of crazy, boy.”

Another shrug from Dean. “It's been said.” He strode forward, pulling Piper with him, to clap Bobby on the shoulder. “Listen, you stay on the mend. We'll see you in a bit.”

“Piper,” Bobby said. She turned to look at him, smiling lovingly. “Listen, what the demon said-”

She let go of Dean’s hand to come over and kissed Bobby’s cheek. “I know that wasn’t you, Bobby, don’t apologize for something that demon did.”

He smiled up at her. “Love you, Pi.”

She smiled and kissed his cheek again. “Love you, too, Dad.”

A rush of affection rose in her as Bobby flushed. She turned back to Dean, another smile stretching her lips when she saw his hand was held out to her. She took it and stood next to him.

They turned toward the door, but Bobby wasn't done with them. “Sam?”

They stopped again, and Dean’s hand tightened around Piper’s. She squeezed his reassuringly as Bobby spoke.

“I was awake. I know what I said back there. I just want you to know that… That was the demon talking. I ain't cutting you out, boy. Not ever.”

Sam exhaled sharply. “Thanks, Bobby.”

Bobby nodded, a sardonic look on his face. “You're welcome. I deserve a damn medal for this, but… You're welcome.”

Once the way down the hallway, Dean pulled her close to whisper in her ear, “Give me a minute with Sammy when we get outside.”

“No,” she said simply. When he frowned at her, she continued, “Dean, whatever you’re going to say, you’re saying it in front of me. If you’re not willing to say it in front of me, you shouldn’t say it at all.”

He frowned harder, but said nothing, just led her down the hallway.

As they walked out to Baby, Sam started speaking. “You know, I was thinking, guys, maybe we could go after the Colt.”

Dean scoffed cynically, and Piper felt cold. “Why? What difference would that make?”

Sam frowned. “Well, we could use it on Lucifer. I mean, you just said back there-”

“I just said a bunch of crap for Bobby's benefit.”

Piper winced and wrapped her arms around Dean’s waist, offering silent support. She didn’t know what he was about to say, but misery was as radiating off of him, and it was killing her.

Dean had stopped moving and was staring at Sam. “I mean, I'll fight. I'll fight till the last man, but let's at least be honest. I mean, we don't stand a snowball's chance, and you know that. I mean, hell, you of all people know that.” He slung an arm around Piper’s shoulder and pulled her close.

Sam looked upset. “Dean, is there something you want to say to me?”

There was a long pause. Piper opened her mouth to tell them they were getting separate rooms when Dean spoke.

“I tried, Sammy. I mean, I really tried. But I just can't keep pretending that everything's all right. Because it's not. And it's never going to be. You chose a demon over your own brother, and look what happened.”

Sam’s face was etched with pain. “I would give anything, anything, to take it all back.”

Dean nodded. “I know you would. And I know how sorry you are. I do. But, man… You were the one that I depended on the most. And you let me down in ways that I can't even… I'm just, I'm having a hard time forgiving and forgetting here. You know?”

“What can I do?”

Dean shook his head. “Honestly? Nothing.”

“Dean,” Piper said softly. “We’re done.”

He looked down at her with a frown. “Piper, I-”

“Nope, we’re done. We’re gonna go to a motel, get a room, and sleep it off. No fighting, no more. Not tonight. We’re done.”

She stared Dean down when he continued to glare at her. You don’t scare me, Winchester.

“Separate rooms,” he demanded evenly.

“No,” she said back. “We’ve had quite enough of being apart, thank you.”

“Piper-” Sam started.

She turned to point at him. “Nothing out of you, either, younger Winchester.” She looked between them. “Give up, gentlemen, there’s no argument to be had here.”

***

Dean was irritated all night. He stayed silent when Piper went to book the room, when they went into the room, while they got ready for bed.

He was still mad when they got into bed, listen to Sam and Piper speak easily. How does she just do that? He didn’t understand how she could just let it go. Sam had betrayed them. He had hit her! Twice! How was she so calm?

He was mad as they curled into bed together, and he tried to stay stiff when she cuddled up into him. It seemed to have no effect, she still buried her face into his chest and flung her arm around his waist.

He listened to her and Sam’s breathing for a long time, until Sam’s was slow and rhythmic.

“Okay, you can yell at me now,” she whispered, “But be quiet, Sammy’s sleeping.”

He frowned. “God dammit, Piper, you can’t tell me when to be mad at you.”

She smiled sadly, and it tugged at his heart. Don’t give into her, she’s being… difficult. “Dean, come on. Just talk to me.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to take it out on you, Pipes.”

Her brow furrowed. “Of course not, like I’d let you take it out on me. But you’re mad at me for stopping the argument earlier.”

He was silent for a while. “He betrayed us.”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“He lied to me.”

“Yes.”

“He… He hit you.”

She nodded again. “Yes.”

Frustrated, he exhaled sharply. “And you’re just gonna let all that go?”

She smiled. “Yes.”

“God dammit, Piper, stop saying ‘yes.’”

She shrugged. “Look, Dean, I’m just… I’m too worried about the mess we have to clean up to keep being mad at Sam. I understand why you are,” she said softly, placing one small hand on his face, “and you should be. But I don’t have the energy.” She smiled. “So, you be mad at him, but don’t expect me to let you be a jerk.”

He examined her. “Pipes, what if we can’t trust him anymore?”

Her sad smile tugged at his heart again, and this time he gave in to the temptation to wrap his arms around her and pull her tightly to him.

“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, Dean.”

Chapter Text

“You're telling me he lost his mojo just in time to get me stuck in this trap the rest of my life?”

Piper sighed. She was sitting next to Bobby in his hospital room, him in a wheelchair, her in a regular one. “I don’t know, Bobby. I’m going to look into other options.”

“There ain’t any,” he snapped. “Fucking useless angel.”

She frowned. “Come on, Bobby, it’s not Cass’s fault. He did a lot for us.”

He glared at her. She opened her mouth to try placate him again, but was interrupted by Dean and Sam walking into the room.

Dean walked over and put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. “What’s shakin’?”

Bobby grumbled about angels and uselessness, turning his wheelchair back around to look out the window silently. Piper ignored him to turn and smile sunnily at Sam. She had sensed that he was feeling left out,and she was determined to fix it. He gave her a hesitant smile back, and she zeroed in on the envelope in his hand. “What’s that?”

He held it up. “Dean and I went to radiology.”

As he opened the envelope, Dean squeezed her shoulder again. “Got some glamour shots,” he said amicably. “Let’s just say the doctors are baffled.”

Sam walked forward and handed Piper one of the x-rays. She held it up to the light to see writing inscribed on his ribs. She made a face. No wonder it hurt. “Wow.”

Sam’s phone rang, and when he answered, Piper felt Dean lean down to plant a kiss on her head. “How’s he doing?” He whispered in her ear.

“Grumpy.”

“And also not deaf,” Bobby snapped. Piper jumped guiltily.

She was saved by the sound of wings behind them. She squeaked and stood, turning around to see Castiel. She smiled. “Cass!”

Dean wasn’t as thrilled. “Cell phone, Cass? Really? Since when do angels need to reach out and touch someone?”

“You're hidden from angels now. All angels.” Castiel’s face hardened. “I don't have much time. We need to talk.”

Dean nodded. “Okay.”

“Your plan to kill Lucifer. It's foolish. It can't be done.”

Piper frowned. “Hey, thanks for the support, wings.”

The angel ignored her. “But I believe I have the solution. There is someone besides Michael strong enough to take on Lucifer. Strong enough to stop the apocalypse.”

“Who's that?”

“The one who resurrected me and put you on that airplane. The one who began everything. God. I'm going to find God.”

Piper’s eyebrows shot to her hairline. “God?” She met Sam’s equally confused gaze.

The angel nodded. “Yes.”

“God,” Dean elaborated.

Cass frowned. “Yes! He isn't in heaven. He has to be somewhere.”

Dean scoffed. “Try New Mexico. I hear he's on a tortilla.”

Castiel shook his head. “No, he's not on any flatbread.”

Dean was staring at the angel. “Listen, Chuckles, even if there is a God, he is either dead, and that's the generous theory-”

“He is out there, Dean,” Cass interrupted.

Dean ignored him. “Or he's up and kicking and doesn't give a rat's ass about any of us. I mean, look around you, man. The world is in the toilet. We are literally at the end of days here, and he's off somewhere drinking booze out of a coconut. All right?”

“Enough,” Castiel snarled, “this is not a theological issue. It's strategic. With God's help, we can win.”

“It's a pipe dream, Cas.” To Dean’s credit, his voice was gentle.

Castiel advanced on Dean, snarling. “I killed two angels this week. My brothers. I'm hunted. I rebelled. And I did it, all of it, for you, and you failed. You and your brother destroyed the world and I lost everything, for nothing. So keep your opinions to yourself.”

“Castiel,” Piper snapped, coming to stand between the angel and Dean. She grabbed the lapels of Castiel’s coat and tugged. It’s like pulling a building. “Hallway. Now.”

Dean frowned. “Piper, I-”

“Shut up, Dean,” she said, her voice low and dangerous. “Come on, wings.”

She was surprised and relieved when Cass followed her. That would have been awkward.

She twirled and jabbed a finger into his chest as soon as the door swung closed behind them. “Listen here, Cass. I do not have the guilt complex the Winchesters have, so I can see this for what it was: a setup.”

His eyes widened. “There was no-”

“Can the excuses,” she said sharply. “Who knew Dean was going to hell, and what it meant? Who let him go to hell without having a plan to get him out? Who stopped him from stopping Sam at that convent? It sure as hell wasn’t us.” She glared up at him. “So be pissy, be mad. You fell for us, and I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am. But you do not get to make Dean feel like shit just because your brothers failed you. You guys started the apocalypse, not the Winchesters.”

He looked at her for a long moment, then turned and walked back into the hospital room without another word.

She tilted her head back and groaned. “Men.”

She followed him into the room. Her heart warmed when she saw that Dean was already looking at her. The corners of his eyes crinkled and he held out an arm, which she made a beeline for and stepped under, savoring the feel of it wrapped around her shoulders.

Bobby was speaking, and she tried to focus. “What is it you want?”

Castiel nodded. “I did come for something. An amulet.”

Piper tilted her head. “An amulet? What kind?”

“Very rare. Very powerful. It burns hot in God's presence. It'll help me find him.”

Sam had come to stand next to Piper and Dea. “A God EMF?”

Castiel nodded.

Bobby shrugged. “Well, I don't know what you're talking about. I got nothing like that.”

Cass looked at Dean. “I know. You don't.” His blue eyes dropped to the amulet around Dean’s neck.

Piper bristled, and Dean looked down at his necklace. “What, this?”

Castiel nodded. “May I borrow it?”

There was a beat of silence, then, “No.”

“Dean. Give it to me.”

“Watch your tone, wings,” Piper snapped.

Dean squeezed her lightly, still staring at Castiel. He slowly moved his hand not wrapped around her and took the amulet off, handing it over. “Don’t lose it,” he snapped when Castiel took it. He looked at Piper with a wince. “Now I feel naked.” She squeezed him sympathetically around the waist.

Castiel was ignoring them. “I’ll be in touch.”

“When you find God, tell him to send legs,” Bobby said evenly.

Cass disappeared.

***

Piper elected to stay behind when Rufus called asking for help. She was currently in front of the hospital, wrapped up in Dean’s embrace.

“Be careful,” she said softly.

He looked down at her. “You, too. Bobby’s mean.”

She grinned. “No meaner than me.”

He chuckled and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “We’ll be back in a few days, Pipes.”

She smiled up at him. “You’d better be.” She sobered for a second, looking into his really stunning green eyes. “Dean, don’t do anything stupid.”

His brow wrinkled. “What the hell does that mean?”

She glared at him. “You know what it means. Try to be nice to Sam. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

He hmphed. “I’m not an idiot, Pipes.”

She rolled her eyes. “I know that, Dean. But you’re stubborn, and you’re angry, and the two of you make each other do stupid things. So please, restraint, Mr. Winchester,” she said with a smile, stepping up to brush her lips across his.

He gave in immediately, kissing her thoroughly. “I’ll do my best, Ms. Finley,” he said softly.

She smiled. “Good.”

***

“God dammit, Piper, get away from that.”

“No, Bobby. You need a wheelchair ramp, at least temporarily, and I’m putting one in. Butt out.”

“It’s my house!”

She rolled her eyes. “Please, it’s at least half mine by now.”

He was glaring at her from the porch, sitting in his wheelchair. She took pity on him for a second, putting the hammer down and walking up the almost-completely-installed ramp to sit next to him in the rocking chair there.

“Bobby,” she said softly, putting a hand on his arm. “This is temporary, okay?”

He looked away. “If an angel can’t heal it, then it’s pretty permanent, kid.”

“Bobby,” she said firmly. He turned to look at her, and she met his gaze fearlessly. “I will find a way to fix this, understand me? The ramp is just a temporary solution. I will find a way to get your legs back.”

He just looked at her. “You’re good, Pi, but I don’t think anyone’s that good.”

She grinned. “Bobby, when’s the last time I wanted something and didn’t get it?”

***

“The four horsemen of the apocalypse?” she asked, rocking back and forth nervously in the rocker on the front porch.

“Yeah. We met War today,” Dean said, his voice comforting Piper even if it was crackly. “Killed it. Or sent it back. He’s gone, anyway.”

She nodded. “Well, that’s scary. What’s the plan now?”

There was a suspicious silence that had her eyes narrowing before he spoke. “I have no idea,” he said frankly. “I guess see what Cass is up to? Maybe try to find the next horseman? I mean, where is the step-by-step process for stopping the end of the world?”

She sighed. “Well, come home and pick me up, then we’ll go figure it out, okay?”

She heard his smile over the phone. “Whatever you say, kitten.”

***

Dean tried to calm his nerves as he drove up to Bobby's house. She was going to be mad.

She was standing on the front porch, and he took a moment to appreciate the curves he suspected would be off-limits to him very soon. She was wearing a sundress, with one of his old flannels over it. Her feet were bare, and she was waving and smiling at him.

She was going to kill him.

He could actually see the moment she realized Sam wasn’t in the car with him. The temperature of everything dropped ten degrees, her waving slowed, and her smile gently fell off of her face.

He sighed and parked the car, wincing when she came to stand at the closest corner of the porch.

This is gonna suck.

He got out and shut the door, put his hands in his pockets, and turned to look at her. He couldn’t help the smile that tilted his lips upward when he saw her long hair billowing in the wind.

Her hands were on her hips, and she was staring at him emotionlessly. “Dean Winchester,” she said, her low, dangerous voice sending awareness up and down his spine. “Where the hell is Sam?”

He couldn’t look at her, so he looked down at the porch. “We split up, Pipes. I don’t know for how long.”

There was a beat of silence. “Excuse me?”

He sighed. “I can’t trust him, Pipes. And it was his idea, he said he can’t trust himself, either.” He finally looked up at her angry hazel eyes. “This is too big to screw up, kitten, I need to be sharp.”

She came down the steps and approached him until they were inches apart. He frowned, he didn’t want her to step on something without shoes on.

She examined him for a long moment, and he had to remind himself that he was Dean fucking Winchester, and he refused to be afraid of this slip of a woman.

“God dammit, Dean,” she said softly, closing her eyes and shaking her head.

“It’s for the best, Pipes. It wasn’t working.”

He could not have been more surprised, and a little scared, when she grabbed the lapels of his coat and pulled him down to kiss him hard. He groaned and grabbed her hips in his hands, turning and lifting to set her against Baby’s door, humming in approval when she wrapped her legs around his waist.

“Missed you,” he murmured against her mouth a few long moments later.

She pulled away and ran a hand along his face. “I missed you, too, Dean. Let me down.”

He made a dissatisfied noise and lowered her to the ground. She took his hand and walked him up to the porch. When they stood in front of the rocking chair, she turned and looked at him with heat in her eyes that made everything in him light up.

She stepped forward and pushed that hot little hand under his shirts to run it up to his chest. He pulled in an unsteady breath. “Piper, what are you doing?”

She pushed him gently down into the rocking chair, then straddled him slowly, maintaining eye contact the entire time. “First,” she said huskily, making Dean a little dizzy, “We’re going to have angry sex, because I’m mad at you, but I missed you.”

“Second,” she whispered, leaning forward and grinding herself down onto him at the same time. “We’re gonna talk about what the hell you were thinking.”

She bit his neck and sucked hard, making him grin as she marked him as hers. “Third,” she whispered against his skin, “If you’re lucky, we’ll have makeup sex.”

“Whatever you want, kitten,” He agreed, struggling to keep her voice steady as she rocked against him.

He felt her smirk against his skin. “Damn right.”

He moved to put his hands on her hips, but she wrapped her hands around his wrists and put them back on the arms of the rocker. “No touching, handsome,” she purred into his ear, “You are not in charge today, Mr. Winchester.”

He growled a little, but gripped the arms of the chair and tilted his head back. “Fuck, Piper.”

She smiled and leaned back, running her own hands up her sides to cup her breasts. “What’s wrong, Dean?” She asked huskily. “Is there something you want, baby?”

His hands flexed on the arms of the chair as he watched her thumb her nipple, groaning when she tilted her head back and rocked against him hard.  “Piper…”

She gracefully stepped off of him, biting her lip and killing him with those hot hazel eyes. She reached under her dress and hooked her fingers under the waistband of her panties. “Clothes off, Dean,” she ordered as she slid her underwear down her legs.

He quickly undid his belt and jeans, pulling them down just enough to free himself. He held his hands out. “Come here, baby.”

His heart stopped completely when she shook her head and sank to her knees in front of him. “Hands on the chair, Dean,” she said softly, breathing raggedly.

He slowly put his hands back on the arms of the rocker. His own breathing was fairly harsh as he watched her lean forward, bracing herself with her hands on his legs. She met his eyes again, licked her lips and hollowed her cheeks, and then she bent her head and took him into her mouth.

“Piper,” he gasped, tilting his head back and fighting to keep himself still. Her hot, perfect mouth moved up and down his length. The wet sounds of her sucking his cock were driving him crazy, and his hands started to ache from the effort it took to not fist his hands in her hair.

She pulled away from him with an audible pop sound, smiling and biting her lip as she stood to straddle him again. Dean closed his eyes and fought for control when she positioned herself over him.

She leaned forward to nibble along his jaw as she slowly sank herself onto him. They gasped in unison at the sensation of him bottoming out. “God, Dean!” she cried out softly.

She slowly rocked back and forth, using the motion of the chair and the strength in her legs to move herself up and down onto him. Dean felt sure he was going to die if he didn’t get to touch her soon, but what a way to go.

Soon, her walls were contracting around him and he screwed his eyes shut, desperate to give her what she wanted. But when she started to come, she cried out, “Dean!” And that was it.

Dean’s control snapped. He surged up to put a hand behind her head, dragging her close to crush his mouth against hers, invading her mouth with his tongue as she gasped. His other hand gripped her hip, and he started moving through her orgasm, using the rocking chair motion to thrust into her harder.

“Fuck, Dean!”

“Again, Piper,” he growled against her mouth. “I want you to come again, and I want you to scream for me, understood?”

She was gasping, meeting every thrust with one of her own, her nails digging into his shoulders. “Dean, I can’t, oh, God-”

“You can, Piper, come on, baby, give me one more.”

He moved his hand from her head to brush it down her stomach, pushing it under her skirts, and brushing his fingers over her clit. Encouraged by her desperate moan, he put more pressure on her and increased the tempo of his thrusts.

She clenched suddenly, her inner walls clamping down on his cock. She tilted her head back and screamed, “Dean!”

Her scream sent ecstasy washing through him, and he gave his own low moan as he came into her, shuddering at his release.

She collapsed forward, her head resting on his shoulder. “Jesus, Dean,” she gasped.

A thought sent a chill through him. “Piper. Where’s Bobby?”

She looked at him for a second, then tilted her head back and laughed. For a second, he was entranced. He ran his hand up her side and brought her smiling mouth back down to his, kissing her softly.

“Bobby’s asleep,” she said softly. “It’s just you and me, Mr. Winchester.”

He leaned back and grinned, ideas swirling in his mind. “Well, that is very interesting, Ms. Finley.”

***

Later, completely exhausted, Piper turned to look at Dean. He cracked an eye to look at her, then looped about arm around her waist to pull her close, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “Missed you,” she murmured, kissing his bare chest as she nestled closer

“Mmm, missed you, too, Pipes,” he said softly, eyes already closing again.

She pushed his shoulder lightly. “Dean, we need to talk about Sam.”

He sighed. “Come on, Pipes, just give me until morning, okay?”

When she looked at him closely, Piper realized how tired Dean looked. He had been through a lot, and she wasn’t making it easier by bitching at him.

She leaned up and pressed her lips against his. “Okay, lover, tomorrow.”

***

Dean woke in the middle of the night, in the beginning of a nightmare. He looked down at Piper nestled into his chest, and surmised that he hadn’t started to swing.

Relieved, he settled back down, pulling her close and burying his face in her hair, breathing in her scent. Her words rang through his head.

“Okay, lover.”

That was what he was. They were lovers. She was his… What? Girlfriend? No, he wasn’t a damn high schooler. He was a man, and they were lovers.

So why didn’t he like it?

Chapter Text

“Dean, it does not have to be like this. We can fight it.”

Dean sighed and took another swig of the beer in his hand. Sammy wanted back in, but Dean couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be a disaster. As he watched Piper sleep on top of the blankets on their motel room bed, he couldn’t help but think this was the best option.

They had fought again in the car on the way here.

“God dammit, Dean, why can you not see that you guys should stay together? You’re so much weaker when you’re apart!”

“I can’t trust him, Piper! He lied to us over and over and over!”

She threw her hands in the air. “Oh, yes, because you’ve always been so honest with him!”

Dean sighed and took another swig. “Yeah, you’re right. We can. But not together. We’re not stronger when we’re together, Sam. I think we’re weaker. Because whatever we have between us… Love, family, whatever it is… They are always gonna use it against us. And you know that. Yeah, we’re better off apart. We’ve got a better chance at dodging Lucifer and Michael and this whole damn thing, if we just go our own ways.”

“What about Piper?” Sam asked, without a trace of bitterness. “You gonna let her go her own way?”

Dean sighed. “Sam, Pipes is better than both of us put together. And she’s not a goddamn archangel’s vessel, so she’s not in danger.”

“Dean, don’t do this.”

Dean closed his eyes. “Bye, Sam.”

***

So, future me is kind of a dick.

Dean was staring at himself hard, irritated that he was still chained up, irritated that future him was an asshole, and irritated because he was in twenty-fourteen. Zachariah hadn’t told him where Piper was, just gave him a mysterious wink and disappeared.

Everyone in the future is a dick.

“What about Sam?”

Future him looked down. “Heavyweight showdown in Detroit. From what I understand, Sam didn’t make it.”

Dean frowned. “You weren’t with him?”

“No. No, me and Sam, we haven’t talked in… Hell, five years.”

“We never tried to find him?”

“We had other people to worry about.”

Dean was starting to get mad at his future counterpart. “Well, where is Piper? She must have been pissed.” A thought crossed his mind, and he grinned. “I bet she looks great. She looks great, doesn’t she?”

Future Dean just stared at him for a minute, then started out the door. Dean frowned. “Where are you going? Where is Piper?”

“I got an errand to run.”

Dean sat up. “Woah, you’re just gonna leave me here?”

“Yes. I got a camp full of twitchy trauma survivors out there with an apocalypse hanging over their head. The last thing they need to see is a version of The Parent Trap. So, yeah, you stay locked down.”

***

Dean wandered around the camp, trying to stay out of sight.

No such luck. “Hey, Dean!” Dean turned to see Chuck approaching him. “You got a second?”

Dean panicked. “No. Yes. Uh, I… I guess. Hi, Chuck.”

“Hi. So, uh, listen, we’re pretty good on canned goods for now, but we’re down to next to nothing on perishables and hygiene supplies. People are not gonna be happy about this. So, what do you think we should do?”

Dean shrugged. “I… I don’t know. Maybe, uh, share?”

Chuck squinted at him. “Wait a minute. Aren’t you supposed to be out on a mission right now?”

Dean nodded firmly. “Absolutely. And I will be.”

Chuck looked behind Dean, and his eyes widened. “Uh-oh.”

Dean turned and a fairly pretty woman swung at him. “Woah, jeeze! Easy, lady!” He ducked behind Chuck, dimly grateful Piper wasn’t here to laugh at him.

“Hi, Risa,” Chuck said timidly.

Dean frowned. “Risa?”

She was glaring at Dean. “You spent the night in Jane’s cabin last night, didn’t you?”

Dean blinked. “Did I?” He looked at Chuck, frowning. When Chuck nodded, Dean got even more confused. Why wasn’t he in Piper’s tent? Dread started swirling in his gut.

“I thought we had a ‘connection.’” Risa snapped.

“I’m sure we do,” Dean said, distracted. He turned to Chuck. “Is Cass still here?”

Chuck rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I don’t think Cass is going anywhere.”

***

After Chuck’s reaction, Dean had expected that something had happened to Castiel. He did not, however, expect him to be running a friggin’ orgy.

Cass spotted Dean in the middle of his little “let’s fuck each other” speech. He turned back to the women. “Oh, excuse me, ladies. I think I need to confer with our fearless leader for a minute. Why not go get washed up for the orgy?”

Cass stood and walked over to Dean. Dean frowned. “What are you, a hippie?”

Cass rolled his eyes. “I thought you’d gotten over trying to label me.”

“Cass, we gotta talk.”

Castiel examined him. “You’re not you. Not now you, anyway.”

Dean nodded. “Exactly.”

“What year are you from?”

“Two-thousand-nine.”

“Zachariah?”

Dean nodded.

“Interesting.”

Dean was about to bite the angel’s head off, but was interrupted by a voice ringing through the compound. “Uncle Cass!”

Cass gave Dean a sharp look, looking more like the angel Castiel than he had this whole time. “This is going to come as a shock, Winchester. Keep it together, she’s been through enough.”

Then he looked behind Dean and crouched, a happy smile creasing his face. “Abbie!”

A child flew into Cass’s arms, laughing. “Uncle Cass! Where have you been?” She asked, wrapping her chubby arms around his neck as he lifted her, his arm under her behind.

“Grown-up time, carrot,” he replied easily, pressing a kiss onto the top of her head.

The child turned to study Dean, and he took the opportunity to study her back, wondering what Cass had meant about it being a shock. People are still screwing, surely. It’s human nature, right?

Abbie had auburn hair that was in loose waves around her shoulders, framing her high cheekbones and pale skin beautifully. Dean’s blood started to run cold when he noticed her pretty emerald green eyes, examining him with an intensity that he’d really only seen matched in one other person.

She tilted her head to the side in a very familiar gesture. “Daddy?”

***

Dean followed Castiel to the bedroom, in complete and utter shock. Castiel seemed a little unsure himself.

The only person who didn’t seem to be too disturbed was Abbie. She was holding Cass’s hand and jabbering away. She was shooting shy glances back at Dean, blushing (like her mother) and looking away when they made eye contact.

That worried him. Why was she afraid of him? If he was… Her father, she shouldn’t be afraid of him in the slightest.

Cass hoisted Abbie up and onto the bed. “Nap time, carrot.”

“But I’m not tired,” she protested. She promptly yawned right after, and it shattered Dean's heart.

Cass met Dean’s eyes, and the angel’s face softened. “What if I tell you a story, carrot?”

She nodded, then sucked her bottom lip into her mouth and looked at Dean. “Can you tell me one, Daddy?”

In that moment, Dean Winchester fell absolutely and completely in love with Abigail Winchester. He was speechless. He dropped to his knees in front of her and reached a hand out to cup her face. She tilted her head into it, gazing at him with those eyes that he saw in the mirror every morning.

Cass watched with a soft smile. “How about I tell you a story, and Daddy lays down with you, carrot?”

Her eyes lit up, and part of Dean lit up, too. She grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the bed. He followed, rendered completely helpless by her. She smiled at him, and without thinking he picked her up and turned, sitting down and plopping her into his lap, then leaning until they were laying down. She cuddled back into him, laying her head on his outstretched arm and yawning again. “Okay, Uncle Cass, story time!”

Cass sat down in a chair opposite of the bed and smiled. “Which story would you like to hear, carrot?”

“The story about Princess Piper!”

Dean stiffened, and Cass’s face tightened briefly before smoothing out. “All right, carrot. Princess Piper.”

“There was once a beautiful princess with purple hair, named Piper. She was brave, and strong, and kind. She was everything a princess should be. She was the princess of a happy kingdom, where everyone loved her, and she loved everyone, too.

“One day, she met a handsome prince named Dean. He was strong, too, and gentle, and smart. He came to visit the kingdom and pay his respects to King Bobby. But as soon as he saw Princess Piper, they fell deeply, madly in love with one another. He decided to stay with her in the happy kingdom, and they ruled happily together.”

Dean’s heart was beating hard, his eyes glued to the former angel.

“The world was still a dark place, where the Dark Prince ruled, but he couldn’t touch Dean and Piper’s happy kingdom. Especially after they had a beautiful baby girl, Abigail Winchester.” Cass’s face softened further. “They loved Princess Abigail so much, she made their lives complete.

“But Pipes couldn’t stand the Dark Prince ruling the land outside the happy kingdom. He was harming many people, including Abigail’s Uncle Sammy, whom he had hurt before she was born. The Dark Prince was threatening to come to the happy kingdom next. So Piper decided to go and fight him before he could. Dean was mad, very mad, but he loved her so much that he didn’t go after her when she left on her own. He stayed behind, to protect their happy kingdom, and to protect Princess Abigail.

“Piper fought the Dark Prince, and she fought hard. She fought for a long time, but eventually the Dark Prince got her, and she fell in battle.” Cass’s face was etched in sadness, and Dean felt like he couldn’t breathe. “But her death sparked the rebellion, and Prince Dean led armies against the Dark Prince in Princess Piper’s name.

Abbie turned in Dean’s arms to face him, a too serious look on her young face. “Regular Daddy says that Mama left because she was stubborn, and she loved being right more than she loved us,” she said somberly, studying his face.

Dean frowned and put his hand on her face, marvelling at how small she was. “Regular Daddy?”

She smiled, and he fell in love again. “Regular Daddy never has time for stories. You’re not Regular Daddy.”

He put away his anger at future Dean (who he was going to have a serious talk with) to look at her intently. “Well, Regular Daddy is wrong. Abigail, your mother loved you. She left to protect you, because the Dark Prince was going to hurt you someday, and she left to prevent that. Hear me, kit?”

She nodded with wide, green eyes. “I hear you, Daddy.”

***

Dean was sitting at the table in Cass’s kitchen, his head in his hands. “Piper is… Dead?”

Cass, sitting across from him, nodded sadly. “When she got pregnant, she stayed here, running things, while he went and hunted. Then, once the carrot was born, she had… Renewed fervor for the war, you might say. She and he had a big fight, yelling, throwing things. Then she disappeared. She went to try to get Sam. But it was too late. Lucifer kept her until Future Dean got close, then killed her in a town square. It was… Bad.”

Dean closed his eyes against the tears that threatened. Dammit, kitten. “Why did he tell Abs what he did? About Piper?”

Cass shrugged, but Dean saw anger on the former angel’s face. “He got bitter. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of truth to say that he hates Piper.”

Dean looked up. “What about Abs?”

Cass’s face tightened. “He doesn’t seem to have time for her. I think he resents her.”

Dean frowned. “She’s what, four?”

“Doesn’t seem to matter to him.”

Dean thought for a moment. “And Sam just let him pull that shit?” The Sam he knew would adore a niece.

Castiel looked sad. “By the time Abigail was born, he was already gone.”

***

Dean spent his second day in twenty-fourteen following Abbie around like a lost puppy. Anytime one of the campers spotted them, he either ignored them, or told them to ask Future Dean.

Abbie was very much enjoying leading him around by the hand, showing him things that only four year olds could possibly interested in. Dean soaked it all up, always either holding her hand or carrying her.

She was just as smart as he suspected any of Piper’s children would be. The way she spoke told him she was smarter than the average child her age, and her easy acceptance of his presence told him that her life was far more fucked up than he wanted it to be.

She was chattering as they walked, and he tried to soak up every word. “Sometimes I stay the night with Janey, I love Janey, she always has secret candies for me, but I’m not s’posed to tell Regular Daddy, because he’ll get mad. Regular Daddy is always mad about something, Uncle Cass says Mama used to get him to chill out, but Mama’s not here anymore, so he’s always mad.” She looked up at him sunnily. “Did you know Mama, Daddy?”

Dean could barely function beneath the weight of the adoration he felt for Abbie. He just nodded. “Yeah, kit, I knew her.”

“What was she like, Daddy?”

Dean thought about that for a moment while Abigail led him away. He bent and scooped her into his arms, craving her closeness. “She was pretty, like you are, kitten. And she was smart like you. And you’re right, she did have a way of chilling me out.”

Abigail giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck, laying her soft cheek against his. “That’s funny, Daddy.” She was silent for a few minutes, and Dean wandered around the camp, savoring the feel of her in his arms.

“Daddy?” Her voice told him she was getting sleepy, so he changed direction toward Cass’s cabin, keeping an eye out for signs of an orgy going on in there.

“Yeah, kit?”

“Daddy, can you miss someone you didn’t meet?”

Dean closed his eyes against the emotions storming through him. “Yeah, kit,” he said roughly. “Yeah, you can.”

She nodded against his shoulder. “I miss Mama.”

He hugged her close. “Me, too, kit.”

***

Before Zachariah zapped him back, Dean felt a brief, violent flash of grief for a child who wasn’t going to be born.

***

Dean was suddenly standing in the motel room again after his conversation with Lucifer, who had been wearing Sam.

Zachariah was standing in front of him. “Oh, well, if it isn't the ghost of Christmas fuck you.”

“Dean?” Piper’s sleepy voice sent emotions cascading through him. Dean walked past the angel to sweep her against his chest. He knew he was crushing her, and he didn’t care. She cuddled into him without complaining.

“Enough,” Zachariah snapped. “Dean, enough. You saw it, right? You saw what happens. You're the only person who can prove the devil wrong. Just say yes.”

Dean turned with Piper in his arms, glaring at the angel. “How do I know that this whole thing isn't one of your tricks? Huh? Some angel hocus-pocus?”

Zachariah rolled his eyes. “The time for tricks is over. Give yourself to Michael. Say yes and we can strike. Before Lucifer gets to Sam. Before billions die.”

Dean looked down at Piper. Her faith in him was shining in her eyes, and his resolve hardened. “Nah,” he said casually, never looking away from her.

“'Nah?’” Zachariah snarled. “You telling me you haven't learned your lesson?”

Dean chuckled down at Piper, who was beaming at him. “Oh, I've learned a lesson, all right. Just not the one you wanted to teach.”

The angel stepped forward, and Dean pushed Piper behind him. “Well, I'll just have to teach it again! Because I got you now, boy, and I'm never letting you-”

The world swirled away from them.

Dean looked around, seeing that they were on the side of a road. He turned around see Piper stepping forward to hug Cass. “Good timing, wings,” she was saying as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

Dean was amused to see Cass hug her back nervously. “We had an appointment,” he said simply.

Dean grinned and came forward to slap a hand on Castiel’s shoulder. “Don’t ever change.”

He looked at Piper, who was holding out his cell phone. He smirked and took it.

“What are you doing?” Castiel asked.

“Something I should have done in the first place,” he said, putting his phone against his ear and pulling Piper close to press a kiss to her forehead.

***

That night, after arranging a halfway point at which to pick Sam up, Piper was laying on Dean’s bare chest, drifting away to sleep.

“So… In the future…”

She lifted her head and looked at him. “What happened?” she asked softly.

He didn’t look at her, just kept his gaze on the ceiling. “We… You…”

She let the silence settle over them. He would talk when he was ready.

“You were gone.”

She frowned. “Where did I go?”

“You went to try to save Sam. But you didn’t make it.”

She mulled that over, still studying his lovely jawline. Then she shrugged. “Well, we’re already changing that. If you and Sam are together, then we’ll be all right.”

He was silent for a long time, then he whispered, “We had a kid.”

Shock cascaded through her. She sat up and looked at him. “We what?”

He nodded. “A daughter. We named her Abigail.” He looked at her with tears in his eyes. “She looked just like you, Pipes.”

Piper’s throat was tight. They had had brief discussions about children, but nothing serious. She was on the pill, so it didn't matter yet. And she knew the life they led would be a terrible place for children.

But still… “How old was she?”

He ran a hand up her back to tangle his fingers in her hair. “Four.”

“What was she like?”

He pulled her back down to lay on top of him, settling her head against his chest again. “She was just like you, kitten. Smart and strong and beautiful.”

“Did…. Did she have your eyes?” Envy was burning in her, which she knew was ridiculous. But some part of her had been catapulted into grief at the mention of a child she’d never meet.

He nodded, and her breath hitched. “Oh, Dean,” she said softly, pressing a kiss to his chest. “I’m so sorry.”

He hugged her close and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Me, too, Pipes.”

“I love you.”

A beat of silence, then, “I love you, too, Pipes.”

They held each other and cried.

Chapter Text

“That one.”

A beat of silence. “That one? Are you sure, sir? This one is very-“

“Just box it up already.”

“Oh… O-Okay.”

There were a few moments of silence.

“How will you be paying today, sir?

“Cash.”

“Cash?”

“Is there an echo in here?”

***

“Swing, Winchester.”

Sam swung high, which Piper suspected was on purpose, so she ducked easily and swept his legs out from under him. She tossed her head back and laughed when he hit the ground with a grunt. “Those few days by yourself must have really taken it out of you, Sammy.”

He rolled his eyes and held a hand up for help. “Shut up, Pipe.”

She leaned down to take his hand, realizing too late that he was grinning.

“No!”

He yanked her down with him and they rolled in the dirt, trying to get the advantage on one another. He finally pinned her. He shot her a wink, and before she could catch her breath, he was tickling her.

“Come on, Pipe, say it.”

“Never!” she gasped, trying to breathe through her laughter. “God dammit, Sam, we’re not seventeen anymore!”

“Well, that’s unfortunate for you, because your ass is staying on the ground until you say it.”

“Fuck you!” she laughed, struggling to free her arms so she could punch him in his stupid face.

“You can stop this, Piper, you have the power,” Sam said easily, looking down at her with sparkling hazel eyes.

Starting to get dizzy, she gave in. “God dammit, fine! Sam Winchester is the best, and he’s better than me at everything.”

Sam laughed and stood, offering a hand to help her up. “There you go, see, wasn’t that easy?”

She narrowed her eyes and took his hand, squeaking when he pulled her to her feet quickly. “Shut up, Sam. You’re like three feet taller than me, this doesn’t count.”

He chuckled and slung his arm around her shoulders. “Ah, that’s not what you would say if you had won.”

Piper mock glared at him, but she was beaming on the inside. Sparring with Sam was the first breath of normal they’d had in quite a while. She wrapped her arm around his waist as they climbed the stairs. “Doing okay, Sam?”

He led her to the swing on the front porch, and they sat down together. “I don’t know. Being Lucifer’s vessel wasn’t exactly on my bucket list.”

She nodded. “But you’re all right?”

He considered for a moment. “I think it will be better now that everyone’s back together.”

She smiled up at him as the rumble of Baby’s engine signalled Dean’s return. “I think so, too.”

***

Dean pulled up to the house to see Piper and Sam on the porch, and he took a moment to be grateful that he’d already put his purchase and the receipt in his wallet.

He parked and got out of the car. “Quit mackin’ on my woman, Sammy,” he said cheerfully, climbing the steps.

Piper turned and smiled at him. And, like it always did, his heart felt ten pounds lighter. “Hey, you,” she said happily, “Did you get everything for dinner?”

He nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

She stood. “Good. I’ll go start cooking, you guys set the table.”

Dean grinned when she came up and pecked him on the lips as she brushed by him. “Yes, ma'am.”

***

Dean grunted as Piper ungracefully nestled herself into him on the couch, narrowly missing some very sensitive areas. She’d fallen asleep about twenty minutes into the John Wayne movie they were watching, and he’d stretched out on the couch and slung the blanket over them without waking her up.

He couldn’t get the vision of the future out of his head. A life without Piper seemed… Empty. Future Dean had been an asshole, an asshole who was willing to sacrifice his own people to try to get to Lucifer. An asshole who had left his daughter behind. An asshole who didn’t have Piper there, driving him crazy and keeping him in line.

“Dean,” Piper grumbled sleepily, “Stop thinking about it. We’re on a break. Just relax.”

“Sorry, kitten,” he said softly, “Can’t help it.”

“I bet you’re not even trying.”

“Would you idjits shut up?” Bobby asked crossly.

Piper giggled guilty and snuggled into Dean. He wrapped his arm around her and turned to watch the movie, infinitely grateful she was there with him.

***

Piper whimpered and tugged at her arms, which were tied to the headboard, as Dean sucked another mark onto her inner thigh. “Dean, please.”

She felt him smile against her. “I do like it when you beg, baby,” he said softly, pressing a kiss to the delicate skin he’s just attacked. “But I’m not done with you.”

She whimpered and tried to writhe, but she was secured to the bed. Dean had put all of his expertise to use tonight. He had had her there for at least half an hour, and he’d barely touched her.

He had started at her shoulders, and had paid attention to every piece of her until he’d gotten to her knees, and then started back up.

He moved back up now until his mouth hovered over her nipple, which had been severely neglected. He blew cool air on it, and she arched her back. “Dean!”

“Shh, kitten, shh,” he admonished. “Tell me what you want, baby.”

She tried again to writhe in frustration. She was so wet it would drip if she stood, and he wouldn’t touch her. “Just do something, Dean, please.”

He abruptly pulled her nipple into his mouth, biting just hard enough to hurt. She arched her back and cried out as heat twirled down through her to her core. “Dean!”

He hummed against her, chuckling. “Don’t make me gag you, kitten.”

“If you don’t fuck me soon, I will start wailing like a banshee, Dean,” she said petulantly, missing his mouth on her.

He grinned and ghosted his fingers over her folds. “Is that so?”

She shuddered and bucked her hips up to his hand. “Yes!”

He came up to lay kisses on her neck, and she automatically tilted her head to the side. “Good girl,” he murmured, sending more heat shooting through her.

“Please, baby,” she whimpered.

“You want it, kitten? Tell me you want it,” he growled in her ear, finally, slowly, sinking a finger into her.

“I want you, please, Dean, I want you, fuck me,” she moaned fervently.

He smiled against her skin and bit her neck lightly, sucking hard again. “Yes, ma’am,” he said softly into her ear.

He moved his finger in and out of her agonizingly slowly, making her cry out and writhe. “God dammit, Winchester, just fuck me already!”

She realized her mistake as he slowly moved his fingers out of her and sat back to look at her, his dark, lust-blown eyes surveying her. “What was that, Piper?” he purred softly.

“Dean, Dean, I’m sorry, I meant Dean, please,” she begged softly, all thoughts of pride or sass gone in her desperation.

His slow smirk damn near killed her. He crawled back over her, the tip of his cock hovering near her entrance. “What are you supposed to call me in bed, Piper?”

“Dean,” she gasped, struggling to move her hips closer to him.

“Mmm, what did you call me, Piper?” He watched her movements dispassionately, running his hand up and down his cock.

She whimpered and tried to pull her arms out of their binds again, every part of her begging to touch any part of him. “I called you Winchester,” she whined softly.

He grinned down at her, and ran the hand not touching himself down her abdomen until it was holding her down at her hips. “And what am I going to have to do now, Piper?” His voice was low and sensual, causing her to pause. She felt like prey for the sexiest predator on the planet.

Her breathing was hard, and she met his emerald gaze with no fear. “Punish me.”

He lined himself up and slammed into her so fast it made her lightheaded. He put his weight on his elbows and covered her mouth with his as she screamed. He didn’t move, letting her adjust to his big size.

He ran his tongue along the shell of her ear, breathing heavily. “This is not going to be about you, Piper,” he growled softly into her ear. “I’m going to fuck you until I come, and you’re going to let me. Understood?”

“Yes, please, God!”

He started slamming into her, his hand covering her mouth to muffle her screams. Pressure was building in her, and she was pulling against the restraints hard.

Suddenly, the ties around both ankles gave out. Piper didn’t question her good luck, just wrapped her legs around his waist and bucked her hips, rolling him onto his back, with her arms still tied to the headboard, ignoring his grunt of surprise.

She used her hands as leverage to start her own fast, hard pace. She filled herself to the hilt with him every time, her head tilted down to look at him, her hair silvery lavender hair creating a curtain around them.

He grinned up at her and slid his hands up to her hips, squeezing them hard, but not controlling the pace. “Good girl,” he growled up at her, sending her closer and closer to the edge. “Good girl, fuck me, kitten.”

She huffed out a laugh, her orgasm starting to spiral through her. “Damn right,” she muttered, “And I’m going to call you whatever the fuck I want.”

He groaned and tilted his head back into the pillow. “Fuck, Piper.”

Her name on his lips sent her spiralling, coming apart at the seams. She cried out and ground herself down onto him, feeling him jerk underneath her as his own orgasm tore through him. “Dean!”

She dropped down onto him, tiredly nuzzling his jaw as she came down. He wrapped one arm around her waist and reached the other up to free her wrists. Once she was loose, she let her arms fall, leaving them where they were. He laughed and rearranged her on top of him, wrapping his arms around her. “You’re gonna kill me someday, kitten.”

She nestled into him. “But what a way to go.”

***

Later, after a shower which made them sweatier before making them clean, Dean held Piper as she slept next to him. He was too filled with nervous energy to sleep yet.

Instead, he looked down at her, her head resting on his arm, her face turned to him. He examined her, soaking up every detail. Her high, lovely cheekbones. The scar underneath her right eye, which had faded considerably. Her long eyelashes, her soft mouth, her just, in general perfect face.

He had never been so in love with her than he was right then, drifting to sleep next to her.

***

Sam came downstairs the next morning to see Piper and Bobby chatting in the kitchen while she made breakfast.

He took a moment to study her move around the kitchen, wondering how they got lucky enough to have her around. She kept them all a little more human.

He watched her, cooking and taking care of Bobby and laughing with him, making sure the older man didn’t notice that she was taking care of him. There was another hickey on her neck (my brother is a caveman), clearly marking her as Dean’s. As if she needed to be marked.

He heard Dean come up from behind him. “How are you always in a good mood in the mornings, woman?” his brother asked gruffly, slapping Sam on the shoulder as he walked in.

Dean may not have had a mark on his neck, but the look on his face when he looked at her laid Piper’s claim just as effectively. Along with the way he shifted around her unconsciously, or the way he reached for the mug in her hand, chuckling when she grumbled about coffee thieves.

She turned and looked at Sam, her eyes sparkling. “Sam, get in here and defend my coffee. Your brother is a Neanderthal.”

Sam grinned, warmth spreading through him as he entered the kitchen. “Yes, ma’am.”

She smiled at him and took her coffee back from Dean. “There’s a full pot over there, Dean, go get your own.” She turned back to Sam. “Butter the toast, Sammy, so we can eat and start looking for the Colt again.”

He grinned. “Yes, ma’am.”

Chapter Text

The first time Dean Winchester laid eyes on Piper Finley, he pointed a gun at her.

“Woah, woah, woah! God dammit, don’t shoot!”

All he saw were a pair of small, feminine hands holding themselves up from under the table. The voice that had come from the same place was shaking, obviously terrified, but obviously also trying to be strong. Dean smiled. He liked it when people had some spunk.

“Hey, I’m not gonna hurt you, okay?” he said gently, putting the gun in one hand and holding his other in a similar gesture as hers, ignoring his father’s voice in his head telling him he was being stupid. “It’s all gonna be all right,” he said soothingly.

There was a sniffle. “It’s really not,” the voice said softly. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be again.”

He knelt, peeking under the table. Scared, wide hazel eyes were looking at him, attached to a lovely, albeit skinny teenager who looked to be about his age. “Hey, are you okay?”

She shook her head, but didn’t move from the weird crouched position she was in. “It’s… It’s, um, it’s my mom. I… I think she’s dead.”

Dean’s blood ran cold, but he kept his face impassive. He held his hand out to her. “Well come on out here, we’ll check together, all right?”

She eyed him warily. “I can get out by myself, thank you very much,” she said softly, crawling out from under the table and ignoring his offered hand.

Dean frowned. “All right, no one said you couldn’t, calm down.”

She got out and shot him a look that, in the future, he would be very familiar with.

But he didn’t know that now, so he just stared back at her. She stood and brushed herself off, the flash of sass she had shown already long gone. She wrapped her arms around her middle. “That… Thing… That monster got her. I… I don’t know how long we’ve been here,” she whispered the last, starting to shake.

Dean didn’t question the impulse to step forward and wrap his arms around her. She stiffened for a moment, then leaned into him, sniffling again. “I don’t know what to do,” she said softly.

He rested his chin on top of her head. “I can help you figure that out, all right?”

She nodded against him. “Okay.”

He leaned back and looked down at her. “My name is Dean Winchester. What’s yours?”

“Piper Finley.”

***

“Pipes, come on. You gotta come.”

She smiled. “Dean, I need to stay here. Bobby needs me.”

He tugged her toward him. “What if I need you?”

She cuddled close. “You always have me, Dean.” She tilted her head up to look at him. “But I think Bobby’s going through some stuff.” She ran her hands down his chest, straightening his coat. “Plus, you and Sam need some time. Go work this case, get your groove back, and then come get me.” She smiled up at him.

He pressed his lips to hers, and she savored the taste of coffee and whiskey and Dean. “But that could take, like, a week kitten,” he muttered against her mouth.

She pulled away with a laugh. “A week that you will make it through just fine.” She stepped out of his arms, ignoring his irritated noise. “Go. Play nice with Sam. Make it back to me, lover.”

There was a moment of silence, and an indefinable expression on his face. “Always do, kitten.”

***

“I don’t need you here, woman!”

“Screw you, Bobby, you do, too!”

“I am not some sort of damn cripple!”

“No one said you are! I’m just trying to help out!”

“I don’t want your help!”

Piper ran her hands through her hair, closing her eyes in frustration. “God dammit, Bobby, just let me do this. Let me help you.”

He slammed his hand down on the table. “I don’t need your coddling, woman!”

Her temper snapped. “I almost lost you, Bobby!” she shouted, tears gathering in her eyes. “They came to talk to be about insurance. And arrangements. Bobby, they thought you were going to die.” The tears were falling down her face. “And they wanted me to take care of everything! So I did.”

She wiped her face, angry at herself. “I filled out the insurance forms, I looked up funeral homes, and I prayed like no one has ever goddamn prayed before.” She leaned down and pointed at him. “So you just shut the fuck up and let me help you. Let me feed you and build you wheelchair ramps and take care of the living, breathing you, because I had to take care of dead you. Understood?”

***

After that, life was easier. Bobby still bitched and moaned, but he never tried to stop her incessant cooking, cleaning, and checking on him.

Dean called every day, which gave Piper the warm fuzzies, and made her feel a little like a teenager again.

“I’m just saying, Pipes, dollars to doughnuts, if that’s Little Bastard, that’s what killed the guy.”

She smiled and pushed her shopping cart forward, phone held between her ear and her shoulder. “James Dean’s car, huh? You must be freaking out.”

He sounded offended. “I am not. I don’t freak out.”

She laughed softly. “Sure, sure, whatever you say, Mr. Winchester.”

There was a weird beat of silence, then, “You’re damn right, whatever I say, Miss Finley.”

She was looking through the freezer section, trying to decide what to make for dinner, when she heard, “Here’s your beer,” in a woman’s voice through the phone.

Piper’s eyes narrowed. “Dean Winchester, are you in a bar?”

“No, I’m… I’m in a restaurant.”

She let her silence speak for her, knowing he would break.

“That… Happens to have a bar in it.”

She looked at her phone, then put it back to her ear, frozen food forgotten. “Dean, it’s three in the afternoon.”

“Five o’clock somewhere, kitten.”

“Yes, but not there.” Her eyes narrowed again. “And Dean, if you flirt with that bartender, I’ll kill you.”

She heard his grin in his voice, and it sent warmth down her spine. “Would I do that, kitten?”

***

That night, Piper was on the phone with Dean again. “Like… The president? Abraham Lincoln?”

“Yeah, Abraham Lincoln and James Dean, can you believe that?”

“Why are they killing people now? That makes no sense.”

“Maybe the apocalypse has got them all hot and bothered.”

Sensing where this was going, she closed her eyes. “Dean, stop it. It’s happening whether we like it or not, there’s no use being like that.”

“Well, we all know whose fault that is.”

“Dean, you’re being a dick.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but it’s true.” There was a sound in the background, then, “I’ll call you later. Bye.” And he hung up on her.

Piper rolled her eyes, then went down to the kitchen to start on dinner. Bobby was sitting at the table, reading. He looked up as she entered. “How goes the hunt?”

“Abraham Lincoln and James Dean are their best guesses right now.” She groaned and pulled her apron out of the cabinet. “And Dean is being an ass.”

Bobby scoffed. “Pi, Dean is an ass.”

She smiled. “True, but he’s worse than usual right now. He and Sam need to work together, not pick each other apart.”

Bobby hesitated. “Pi… Sam did start the apocalypse.”

She rolled her eyes and groaned. “Not you, too, Bobby.” She turned and looked at him. “Am I the only one who can see that heaven and hell have been arranging this for millennia? That it didn’t ever matter what we did, we would have ended up here?” She turned back to start chopping vegetables. “It’s no more Sam’s fault than it is Dean’s. And if they’re too thick to see it, I’ll just have to make them see it.”

***

“He’s treating me like I’m a little kid, Pipe. It’s driving me crazy.”

Piper nodded in sympathy, the phone held between her shoulder and her ear again as she wiped the barrel of the gun she was cleaning. “I know, Sam. I’m sorry, I’m trying to talk to him.”

He sighed. “I know you are. I just… I don’t think this is going to work.”

“Stop it, Sam,” she said softly. “The two of you are going to kill me with this. It is going to work. Splitting the two of you up has never done us any good. So just… Stop it. Try to keep with it, okay? I know he’s difficult.”

He snorted. “Difficult is one word for it.”

She laughed softly. “All right, he’s a huge ass. Is that better?”

“More accurate, anyway.”

Piper laughed when Sam hung up. Thinking, she put the cloth she was using down and sent Dean a text message.

“Dean Winchester, go apologize to your brother.”

“What did I do?”

“You know exactly what you did. Go. Now.”

“Piper, we’re busy.”

“Make time for this, Dean. It’s important.”

Irritated, she text Sam instead.

“Just be honest with him, Sam. Tell him.”

“He’s not going to listen, Piper. He never does.”

“Tell him until he does. That’s what I do.”

“You have an advantage that I do not.”

Piper leaned her head back and fought the urge to scream. The fucking Winchesters.

***

“Bobby! Dinner!”

There was silence from the living room. Frowning, Piper went to find him.

He was sitting in front of the window, just staring out into the dark. She came forward gently to place a hand on his, crouching next to his wheelchair. “Bobby?” she said softly.

“What good am I doing here?” he asked roughly. “I’m not doing any good at all.”

She frowned. “Yes, you are. You’re helping research, you’re keeping my head on straight, you’re helping the guys. Bobby, we need you.”

He shrugged. “Whatever, Pi.” He rolled into the kitchen silently.

She watched him go, a cold worry taking hold in her heart.

***

“I’m worried, Dean,” she said softly, watching Bobby do research from the kitchen. “He won’t talk to me.”

“Kitten, not everyone wants to talk about their problems.”

She frowned. “Yes, that has worked out so well for us in the past.”

There was a heavy sigh on the other end of the line that had her rolling her eyes. “I don’t know what to tell you, Pipes. Maybe the man’s just quiet.”

“Hmph. When are you coming home?’

There was a beat of silence on the other end. “I don’t know, kitten. I think Sam found us another case. Do you want us to come get you?”

The hope in his voice made her heart hurt. “No, I need to stay here. I’m worried about Bobby.”

***

Piper spent the next two days doing nonstop research on spinal injuries. She found experimental studies, shady doctors willing to do shady surgeries, and researched ways to fly to countries where those surgeries were legal under the radar.

She also turned to the supernatural. She looked through healing spells, potions, tonics, and rituals. She spoke vaguely to a witch, a few other hunters, and a “faith healer.” She called Garth, Ellen, Jo, anyone she could think of to find a way to get Bobby’s legs back.

She prayed to Castiel frequently during this time, but he mostly ignored her. Which pissed her off.

“Okay,” she said briskly, sitting at the desk in Bobby’s study. “I’ve got two spells that may work, and I’m going to call this witch back to see if she has some of the ingredients.” She wrinkled her nose. “I know how Dean feels about witches, but she seems nice, and God knows we need all the help we can get.”

Bobby sighed. “We’ve been looking for weeks, Piper. Nothing has worked.”

She glared at him. “And we’re not going to stop looking until we find something, understand me, Singer?”

She ignored his grumble as she pulled her phone out to contact the witch.

***

Dean sped the whole way home. The case with the half-demon kid had freaked him out, and he knew it had freaked Sam out, too. The way that Castiel had been willing to waste that kid…

He also knew that there would be another case soon, probably nowhere near Sioux Falls. If he was thinking right, they’d be looking for that case now, instead of driving what would probably end up being the opposite direction.

But Piper was in the opposite direction.

She was waiting for him on the porch when he pulled in. She was beautiful, in one of his old flannels and a pair of tight jeans. Her hair was braided over her shoulder, and her smile was wide.

He got out of the car and turned to catch her when she flung herself into his arms. She didn’t say a word, just crashed her lips against his. He bent a little and lifted her easily, groaning when her legs wrapped around his waist. His hands kneaded her ass, and when she gasped, he swept his tongue into her mouth, savoring the taste of her.

“Jesus, guys, we were only gone for two weeks,” Sam muttered, walking by to talk to Bobby on the porch.

“Hmm, missed you,” she gasped against him, grinding down on him.

“You, too, kitten,” he moaned, tilting his head as she kissed her way down to his shoulder. “Bed,” he grunted, stifling another loud moan when she bit his shoulder through his shirt.

She laughed softly and pulled away a little, linking her hands behind his neck and smiling at him warmly. “No,” she said softly. “Dinner first, then bed.”

He groaned and walked his way to the house, not letting her down. He grinned at Sam and Bobby’s identical irritated stares as he walked up the porch with her in his arms. “Let’s eat,” he said easily, bending so she could open the door for them. He wasn’t too proud to admit he was showing off for her by keeping her in his arms until they got into the kitchen.

“You’re an idiot, Dean,” Sam said crossly.

“Idjit.”

***

Later, sweaty and naked, Dean was basking in his afterglow, and in Piper’s warm body against his. Her head lay on his chest, and he was running his hand through her hair.

She looked up and smiled. “Missed you, Winchester.”

“Missed you, too, Finley.”

She curled back into him and dozed. He tucked his hand behind his head, one arm wrapped around her, and looked up at the ceiling. He was content. Hell, Lucifer was walking the earth, the angels wanted to use him and Sammy as condoms, and Bobby was in a wheelchair, but he was happy. All because of her.

He’d never been more sure of anything in his life.

Chapter Text

The first time Dean Winchester took Piper Finley to dinner, there was still a spill of blood on her shirt.

He realized it when he walked around and opened the car door for her. She was just sitting in the passenger seat, still in shock, he suspected. He knelt, examining her face. “How you holdin’ up, kitten?”

She turned to look at him slowly, and her hollow eyes hurt his heart. “I’m okay, Dean,” she said softly, unconvincingly.

Instead of calling her out, he just nodded. “All right, come on, Pipes.” He took her hand and gently helped her out of the car. Once she was standing, he shrugged off his coat and draped it over her shoulders. “Hold this closed, there’s some blood on your shirt.”

She obeyed, but looked down. “Oh. Maybe I should go home to change.”

He shook his head and put a hand on the small of her back. “Nope. Pancakes first.”

A small smile touched her lips, and it made him feel better. “Okay, Dean. Pancakes first.”

He led her into the diner and to a booth, signaling the waitress. Piper stayed quiet while he ordered for both of them, which worried him even more. Normally, if he tried to order for Piper, she’d gut him. Now, she sat docile, eyes glazed over, staring at nothing.

Once the waitress left, he wrestled with himself. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything? When Sam or Dad was upset about a hunt, he never said anything. But she’s a girl. More importantly, she’s Piper. So? What, just because she’s Piper, suddenly he wanted to make sure she was all right?

“Stop it, Dean,” she said softly. “You don’t have to comfort me. I’m fine.”

He blinked. “What?”

She looked at him evenly. “I’m fine, Dean.” She took a deep breath. “I… I wish we’d been able to save that little girl, but we got the spirit. So I’m fine.”

He winced. “Look, Pipes… We can’t save everyone.”

Tears filled her hazel eyes. “I know. I just… I just wish we could.”

Dean didn’t fight with himself about leaning over to take her cold, slender hand into his. “Hey, come on, Pipes, it’ll be all right.”

She gave him a watery smile. “Okay, Dean.”

***

“It sounds crazy, right?” Dean asked.

Piper shook her head. “Not really, there’s some lore on it that goes back centuries. A travelling card player comes into town, you beat him, you get years of life back. Of course, most people lose.”

She was sitting on the table, talking to Dean on speakerphone with Bobby.

“Well, that would explain the crunchy corpse.”

She smiled. She missed him, which was ridiculous. He and Sam had only been gone for a couple of days, and she was already pining for him. Get it together, Finley.

Bobby was nodding. “Supposedly, this player's a hell of a card shark. Got a lot of years in the bank. You find the bar he's working in yet?”

“There's a lot of dives in this town. We're gonna have to split up.”

Bobby frowned. “Well, why you still talking to us?”

He hung up and looked at Piper. “Idjits.”

She smiled fondly and hopped off of the table. She leaned over to press a kiss to Bobby’s cheek. “They are, but they’re ours.”

He rolled his eyes, then looked away. “Hey, Pi, why don’t you take a break from cooking tonight?” He dug into his pocket for his wallet and pulled out several bills. “Go grab us something from town.”

Her eyebrows went up, and she smiled. It was the first interest Bobby had shown in anything since that weird night she’d found him staring out the window. “Okay, I can do that. Do you care what we get?”

He shook his head and handed her the money. “Whatever you want.”

She smiled and grabbed her keys. “Okay, well, then, I guess I’ll be back soon.”

***

Bobby didn’t feel too bad for lying to Piper. He just hoped that when he walked back into the house instead of rolled in, she’d be too happy about that to care.

She kind of scared him.

***

Piper was frantic as she sped toward the city Dean and Sam were in. Dean wouldn’t answer his phone, but Sam did.

“He’s going to do something stupid, Sammy, I don’t know what to do.”

“Maybe he just… Went for a walk, or roll, or whatever.”

“His car is gone.” She was fighting the angry tears threatening to come to the surface. “He lied to me, I’m going to kill him.”

“We’ll find him, Pipe,” Sam said soothingly. “Hang on, I think that’s Dean at the door. I’ll call you as soon as we have anything, okay?”

She nodded, then realized he couldn’t see that. “Okay, thank you, Sam.”

She pressed the accelerator harder, praying.

***

Piper couldn’t quite remember the last time she’d been so mad. She was frozen in the doorway, staring at Bobby, who looked normal, Sam, who looked normal, and what was pretty obviously Dean fucking Winchester as he would be in his late seventies.

“Hi, Pipes-” Dean started cautiously.

She held up a finger. “Nope, I’m not speaking to you yet.” She pointed a finger at Bobby. “You either.”

Instead, she smiled at Sam and walked toward him. He grinned, holding his arms out, and she slipped hers around his waist to hug him tight. “Hi, Sammy,” she said softly. “You’re the only person in this room I have no urge to murder.”

She smiled when he squeezed her tight. “Good,” he said cheerfully, “because you’re scary.”

She grinned up at him. “Yes, I am.” She sighed and stepped away, turning to Bobby. “All right, what happened?”

“Pipes, I-” Dean started again, only to be interrupted by her hand in the air.

“Oh, don’t you worry, Dean, I’ll get to you in a minute,” she said softly, “but right now, I’m speaking to Bobby, so shut up.”

Bobby looked uncomfortable. “I came and found the witch and played.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “And, what, broke even?”

He shook his head, flicking his eyes to Dean. “No, I, uh… I lost. Dean found out and played for my years back, but lost fifty of his own in the process, the idjit.”

“Hey,” she snapped. “He probably saved your life, so don’t you attack him, Bobby Singer.” She put her hands on her hips. “All right, wanna explain why the fuck you’d do something like this?”

He sighed. “You can’t understand, Pi.”

She shook her head. “You’re right. I can’t. But I can take a guess. You wanted to play so you could get out of the wheelchair. You don’t trust me to find something that will help, so you took matters into your own hands. You lied to me, and sent me away so you could sneak off to pull this stupid stunt. Did I miss anything?”

A stubborn look crossed Bobby’s face. “Piper, I-”

“Didn’t think so,” she interrupted. “I’ll come back to you.”

She turned slowly to Dean, whose eyes widened. “Hallway, Winchester, now.” She walked and opened the door without checking to see if he was following her. She knew he would.

As soon as he shut the door behind him, she whirled to confront him. Her hands were shaking, and she curled them into fists to control the urge to deck him. “What the fuck, Dean?”

He threw his hands up. “What was I supposed to do? Just let him die?” His voice had deepened, and it tugged at her heart.

She ran a frustrated hand through her hair. “Of course not, Dean, but you don’t at all see how this is ridiculous?”

“Piper, I couldn’t just let him die.”

She sighed and tried desperately to keep a handle on her emotions. “Dean, are you really this miserable? Do you value yourself so little?”

He stared at her. “What?”

She looked back at him frankly, tears gathering in her eyes again. “What is it that’s so bad about your life that you’re okay sacking yourself at any given moment? Why are you so willing to play the martyr? I know things are rough, and I know that it’s one of the things that makes you a hero, but… But Jesus, Dean, it makes being your girlfriend kind of stressful.”

His eyes widened and he took a step toward her, hesitantly placing a hand on her arm. “Piper, I-”

“I’m not going anywhere, idiot, ever,” she said softly, looking into those gorgeous, unchanged green eyes. Good to know those are sticking around. “I just… I just want to understand why you would thinking sacrificing yourself is the only way out of this situation.”

He sighed and tugged her towards him. She wrapped her arms around his waist and closed her eyes when he pressed his lips to her forehead. If she wasn’t looking at him, she could almost believe everything was normal. “I’m sorry, Pipes, it was just the first thing I could think of to do.”

She sighed and kept her eyes closed, reveling in his warmth. Also good to know that that’s not going anywhere. “Well, the next time you think about giving away fifty years of life, please call me first.”

He chuckled, and it sent familiar, comforting warmth through her. “Deal, kitten.”

***

Dean was watching Piper walk back to her Jeep as they left the graveyard. The witch’s woman had given them a reversal spell, and they had had to do a little grave-robbing to complete it.

He never got tired of watching her. The way her hips swayed still made his heart beat faster. And now, of course, that may actually kill him.

Getting old sucked. He was creaky, he couldn’t eat burgers, his whole body had a low-level ache the whole time. He also had a sneaking suspicion that he couldn’t act on these urges he felt for Piper. This was not something he was looking forward to.

“Come on, geezers,” Piper said cheerfully, pushing Bobby’s wheelchair. “Let’s go get Sammy.”

As Dean helped her get Bobby into the Jeep, he took another moment to be grateful for her. Despite his bone-head move, and his general jackassery, she stayed. She always stayed.

***

The spell hadn’t worked. Piper dragged Dean with her into the witch’s apartment to find DNA, any DNA. Something was telling her that they needed to hurry.

“Come on, handsome, let’s find something and get the hell out of here,” she said, quickly headed toward the bathroom. There was nothing, no toothbrush, no cups, nothing. “Shit!”

“Pipes, I think I-” He started. She heard him groan, then a thud.

“Dean?” She came out of the bathroom to find him on the floor. “Dean!” She ran to him, falling to her knees and hauling him into her lap. “Dean, baby, talk to me.”

He was clutching his chest, and his eyes were focused on her. “No, no, no, no, no,” she chanted softly, one hand placed on his cheek, “Not like this, okay? You stay with me, Dean, you’re not going anywhere, understood?”

***

The pain in Dean’s chest worsened, and as he watched Piper’s crying, scared face, he wished he had the breath to tell her he loved her.

***

“Dean, baby, come on, please, please stay with me,” Piper chanted, starting to rock back and forth.

Dean went still.

“Oh, God, Dean,” she whimpered, leaning forward to press her forehead against his. “Please, baby, don’t do this, don’t you dare leave me like this!”

The last thing I did was yell at him. Oh, God, I didn’t even tell him I love him! I just bitched at him.

She barely heard the low, miserable moan coming from her throat. She just kept her forehead pressed against his, trying to somehow comprehend the pain and self-blame ricocheting through her.

She honestly thought she hallucinated the changing texture of his skin against hers, and the soft inhale she heard. Wishful thinking.

What she didn’t hallucinate was his hand coming up to cup her face, or his warm lips pressing against hers. She jerked back, eyes wide as he sat up slowly, his eyes studying her face, his lips twitching up into a smile. He was thirty again. God, he’s gorgeous.

“Pipes, kitten, I’m all right, I’m-”

She cut him off by launching herself at him, crashing her mouth onto his. He grunted in surprise, then wrapped his arms around her and crushed her against him, kissing her fiercely.

“Oh, Dean, thank God, I love you, that was awful-”

“Hey, I’m all right, I love you, too, I’m alive-”

They murmured against each other, the soft whine in the back of her throat slowly fading as the reality of him against her set in again. Oh, thank God.

***

That night, Dean was lying in bed facing Piper, their legs tangled together, and his arm under her head. God, she’s gorgeous. He brought his other hand up to her cheek and watched her eyes fill with tears.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered as her tears started to fall.

He frowned. “For what?”

She shook her head. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you, I shouldn’t have even been mad.”

He ran a thumb along her cheek and leaned forward to kiss her gently. “Don’t cry, kitten, it’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” she sniffled and put her hand over his on her face. “No, it’s not, because when I thought you were dead, I would have done anything, anything, to get you back.” She looked at him sadly. “I’m a hypocrite, Dean. I would have sold my soul in a second for ten more years with you.”

He looked at her closely, then kissed her again instead of responding. Because he was a hypocrite, too. If she’d done something stupid to bring him back, he would have been livid.

When they came up for air, she cuddled close, nestling her head under his chin. He placed a hand on the back of her head, pressing her to him. “What are we gonna do about Bobby?” she whispered.

He sighed. “I don’t know, kitten.”

She leaned back and looked at him. “I think you should talk to him.”

He frowned. “Why?”

She thought for a moment. “Because you’re a warrior, like he is. Sam and I, we’re more researchers than anything. I think it will mean more coming from you, because it sure as hell didn’t work when I said it.”

He examined her face. “What should I say?”

She smiled. “You’ll know what to say, when the time comes.”

***

The next day, she was standing outside with Sam, who she had dragged outside to give Dean and Bobby time to talk.

She pulled in a deep breath, then let it out in an explosive exhale. “Well, that sucked.”

He nodded. “Yeah, it did.” He looked at her with a hint of a smile. “Going back to Bobby’s after this?”

She thought carefully for a moment, then shook her head and grinned at him. “No, something tells me you guys are gonna need me soon.”

Chapter Text

The first time Dean Winchester kissed Piper Finley, she ran away.

He watched her retreat up the stairs and into her room. His whole body felt like it was on fire, and were his lips actually tingling? He thought yes.

He slowly made his way to the couch, where he sat back down. His mind wouldn’t stop replaying her softness pressed against him, her little gasps, the way she tasted…

He wasn't even surprised when his father came down the stairs and sat down next to him. John seemed to have a knack for knowing when Dean was feeling all right, and coming around to ruin it.

Feeling bad for the traitorous thought, Dean looked at his father. John considered Dean closely. “Son, you know what a hunter's life is like.”

Dean nodded, his heart sinking because he knew what was coming. “Yes, sir.”

“And you know Bobby doesn’t want Piper involved in it.”

“Yes, sir.”

John sighed. “I’m not trying to be a dick, son. I’m just trying to make sure no one gets hurt.”

Dean swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”

John clapped Dean on the shoulder. “She’s a good girl, Dean, I get it. But it’s a bad idea.”

Dean nodded. “Yes, sir.”

John nodded and went back up to bed.

Instead of replaying his time with Piper, Dean’s mind spent the night whirling around what his father had said. And what his father had meant.

Piper was a good girl.

Too good for Dean.

***

Piper felt strangely calm as they approached the warehouse they thought the trickster was in. She suspected that the serenity in and of itself was cause for alarm, because she should have been very scared.

The stake in her jacket felt heavier than it should have been. That’s the weight of guilt, Finley, she told herself grimly. She didn’t want to kill the trickster. Arguably, she liked the trickster. But if he was going to keep killing people, he was making the issue black and white. No matter how much he liked her, or she liked him, if he was killing people, he had to die.

All she could do was hope he’d hear them out and help them stop the apocalypse.

Dean was frowning as they readied themselves. He looked at Sam. “There was a murder here, and there's no police cars. There's nobody. How's that look to you?”

Sam winced. “Crappy.”

Dean nodded and they approached the building. As the door opened, Piper walked into the white bedroom that was so familiar.

She frowned. “This is where the trickster takes me.” She looked over to see Dean’s reaction, and realized as the door swung shut behind her that she was alone.

There was the fear.

***

Dean was battling conflicting emotions, and it was giving him a migraine.

Awe was first. They were on the set of Dr. Sexy, MD. He was low-key freaking the hell out, because Dr. Piccolo slapped Sam across the face, and it was about to be placed in the top five moments of Dean’s life. He was wearing scrubs and a doctor’s coat, as was Sam, and it was all very awe-inducing.

However, anger and fear were quickly overtaking it. Where the fuck was Piper? He was fighting the panic that was trying to come up, but the longer he didn’t know where she was, the more irritated he became. He had to keep reminding himself that the trickster had repeatedly said that Piper was the only human he really liked.

She’s safe, she’s safe, she’s safe.

He was still trying to assure himself when Dr. Sexy himself walked down the hall. “Oh boy.”

Sam turned to him and frowned. “What?

Awe overtook him again. “It's him.”

“Who?”

“It's him, it's Dr. Sexy.”

Dr. Palmer approached them, stopping to stand in front of them. He nodded at Dean, who was trying very hard to play it cool. “Doctor.”

Dean looked down to hide his grin. “Doctor.”

Dr. Palmer looked at Sam. “Doctor.”

Sam just stared until Dean whacked him on the arm, then he scowled. “Doctor.”

Then Dr. Palmer looked at Dean. “You want to give me one good reason why you defied my direct order to do the experimental face transplant on Mrs. Biehl?”

Dean blinked. He looked at Sam, who was no help, then back to the doctor. “One reason?”

Palmer nodded.

Dean nodded, too. “Sure.” He looked down to try to figure out what the hell he was going to say when he saw the doctor’s shoes. His white tennis shoes.

Anger coursed through Dean. He slammed the other man against the wall. “You're not Dr. Sexy,” he snapped.

The doctor was staring at him. “You're crazy.”

Dean sneered. “Really? Because I swore part of what makes Dr. Sexy sexy is the fact that he wears cowboy boots. Not tennis shoes.”

Dean saw his younger brother roll his eyes. “Yeah. You're not a fan.”

Dean ignored him. “Where the fuck is Piper?”

The doctor blinked. “Who?”

Dean slammed him against the wall again. “No dice, asshole, I know who you are. Where did you take her?”

All of the people in the hallway froze besides Dean, Sam, and the man against the wall. Dean ignored the them, they weren’t important.

The doctor morphed into the trickster, who was grinning. “You guys are getting better!”

Dean resisted the urge to beat the bastard to a pulp. “Where is Piper?” He ground out.

The trickster grinned and shook his head. “Not so fast, buddy. Your little girlfriend is fine. You should worry about you.”

***

Piper waited impatiently for the trickster to show himself. She was beyond furious. Where the hell were the Winchesters?

The door behind her opened, and she didn’t think twice about rearing back and punching the trickster hard in the face. He did not seem affected, and she felt a bone in her hand break, but she felt a little better. Cradling her injured hand, she glared at him. “Where are Sam and Dean?”

He rubbed his jaw. “Anyone ever tell you that you hit like a man, precious? And that you and Dean are well matched?”

She continued her glare, but faint alarm bells were dinging in the back of her mind at his words. “Where are they?” she demanded again.

He smiled jovially. “Learning a lesson, precious. They’re fine.”

She nodded. “Good. Take me to them.”

He shook his head. “No.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”

He sighed. “Precious, I like you. I don’t want to put you through what they have to go through. You’re better than that.”

She rolled her eyes. “Please, don’t feed me that crap. You’re worried I’ll figure it out before they do.”

He laughed. “Maybe, you are too smart for your own good.” He held his hands up. “Just chill here for a while, okay? Your boys will be safe.”

She put her hands on her hips. “And who, exactly, are you to be teaching us lessons?”

He just stared at her, then leaned forward to press two fingers against her forehead. As warm healing wrapped around her hand, she gasped in sudden realization.

"Oh. My. God.”

He frowned. “What?”

She backed away slowly, holding her hands up. “You’re an angel.”

His eyebrows raised, and he smiled. “Someone slip a mickey in your power shake, precious? I’m a trickster.”

She shook her head, eyes wide. “No, you’re an angel. That’s why you can heal me. And that’s why you can get into my dreams so easily.”

He shook his head. “All part of the trickster package.”

“No,” she said, firm in her belief. “You’re an angel. Which one?”

He stared at her. “Piper, I’m not an angel.”

She rolled her eyes. “Convincing.”

He sighed and turned back toward the door. “Look, precious, I don’t know what you think you know, but trust me, I’m not angelic in the least.”

***

She was examining the room for ways to get the hell out of it (she’d never done it before, he’d always knocked her out rather quickly when she was here) when the door opened.

She whirled, her eyes widening when she saw Cass. He looks like shit.

He looked relieved when he laid eyes on her. “Piper.”

She rushed over to him, throwing her arms around his neck to hug him tight. “Cass, what did that bastard do to you?”

He hesitated, then crushed her to him. It was strangely comforting. “We need to go.”

She leaned back and looked at him. “Cass, who is he?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know, but he’s an extremely powerful angel. We need to go now.”

She nodded. “Do you know where Dean is?”

“No. But once you are safe, I will find him.”

She nodded and reached down to thread her fingers through his cold ones. “All right, let’s go then.”

When he turned to open the door, it was gone. Dread flooded through her. “Shit.”

***