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Part One


Part Two – Killed Five Times in Five Different Places

The back of Ellen’s neck itched, and her hand jittered nervously whenever she wasn’t wiping down the counter or pouring a drink. Something was pricking at her instincts, keeping her on alert for whatever was about to come screaming down the pipe.
It was driving her fucking nuts.

She glanced around the sparse crowd that was her bar’s usual Tuesday evening attendance: a couple farmers at a table in the corner who had been there since the early afternoon, drinking hard while their crops withered in their fields; a few truckers with their mugs of coffee and their tall tales; and a couple burned-out office drones too worn down to go home and deal with the rest of their lives. Cigarette smoke blurred the edges of her very own snapshot of Modern America.

Course, that feeling of impending crisis might stem from the sophisticated-seeming woman sitting at a table in a private corner. It didn’t matter what Bela Talbot’s intentions were, her presence in Ellen’s bar only ever meant trouble of one kind or another. The last time she’d blown into town on a wave of her own hoity-toityness had almost lost Ellen her liquor license, and the time before that had seen the explosion of the Roadhouse’s only toilet by a herd of ticked-off imps.

Nothing that girl could do would ever bring Ellen Harvelle anything but consternation, of that she was certain.

The prickling didn’t ease as Ellen poured out Ray Higgins’ order (double shot of whiskey with a PBR chaser). Bela didn’t move or talk—hadn’t done either the entire time Ellen had been behind the bar—just flipped through a ledger book, casually jotting notes as she saw fit. Ellen didn’t quite have reason to throw her out on her ass, but the night was still young. Something’d change that soon enough.

The throaty growl of the Impala’s engine announced Dean’s arrival before the car even pulled into the dusty lot. Ellen let her shoulders relax, just a titch. She hadn’t known what to think when that boy’d shown up more than a year ago, all beat to hell after a hunt gone sideways. She’d known that he was a Winchester the second she’d pulled her gun on him what with the mulish expression that’d appeared on his face—that and the beat-up leather coat that’d hung on his shoulders. She’d heard his daddy’s drawl when he’d opened his mouth and had contemplated shooting him for more than a second. But then he’d staggered and toppled sideways into a chair, and she’d decided to shelve the shooting for a time when he was patched up and would appreciate it better.

It was just her luck that by the time he was well enough to get up off the cot in the back she’d already accepted him into the Roadhouse family, whether he wanted to be a member or not. Since then he’d become a near permanent fixture around the bar and he was always willing to pull his own weight.

She’d come to trust him in a way she’d never trusted his daddy. Hell, she’d even trust him with her Jo, though she’d be lying if she said that she wasn’t grateful that the possibility had been a non-starter. Apparently cleaning a man’s vomit out of her hair was not the way to her daughter’s heart.

“God damn,” Dean said as he clattered through the screened front door. He faux-staggered under the weight of the grocery bags clutched in his arms. “Next time just tell me to buy out the whole store, why don’t ya?” He deposited the bags on the bar with a labored sigh.

Ellen whapped him on the arm with her towel. “If I wanted lip I’d’ve sent Jo to the store instead.”

Dean snorted. “Yeah, but she wouldn’t have gotten back until after you’d sent out the search party to find her. And she would’ve forgotten the extra pretzels.” He pulled out the plastic bag and shook it with a grin.

Over Dean’s shoulder Ellen caught a glimpse of the screen door slamming open to admit a new set of patrons. She reached around the paper bags and easily picked them up. “You’re the biggest baby I ever met,” she teased Dean. She jerked her head towards the newly-occupied table. “Why don’t you watch the front while I get things sorted in back. Looks like your best FBI boyfriend just showed up with some company.”

“Excellent. You can make me some pie while you’re back there.” Dean winked as he smoothly maneuvered himself around to her side of the bar.

“Boy, the back of your head is begging to be slapped. You’re just lucky that my hands are full.” Ellen pushed through the swinging door into the kitchen on a peal of Dean’s laughter. She was still grinning as she started to unload the grocery bags.

She was pulling out the butcher’s specially prepared mix of ground hamburger meat when she heard the back door give a low squeak, the sound of someone trying to sneak in without being noticed.

“Joanna Beth Harvelle,” Ellen said over her shoulder. “You’d better have a damn good reason for why you took your sweet time getting back here.” She turned, the meat on a Styrofoam tray in her hand, and gave her daughter a hard stare. The girl didn’t even have the sense to fake penitence. “I never would’ve given you money for that damn truck if I’d known I wouldn’t be able to count on you doing your job.”

Jo froze in the doorway and a large shadow appeared in the screen behind her.

“And who the hell—” The words died in Ellen’s throat when she got a look at who her daughter had brought home. The tray of meat dropped out of her suddenly nerveless hands, the foam cracking and ground beef exploding out of its package onto the floor. She knew that man, had seen his face, younger and smiling, in Dean’s wallet, and on the illicit print-outs Jo hadn’t tried too hard to hide.

Her hand found the butt of the gun she kept under the counter. She whipped it out and pointed it at him, ignoring Jo’s pissy, whining, “Mom.” They young man held up his hands in a calming gesture, his eyes wide and sincere.

“Wait, please,” Sam Winchester said. “I can explain.”

“Talk,” Ellen said. Her gun didn’t waver.

~~~

Victor watched Dean reach beneath the bar as the door to the kitchen swung lazily shut behind Ellen Harvelle. Anger tangled itself up with self-recrimination, Victor never should’ve assumed that Dean was a Harvelle just because Ellen treated him like family, it was sloppy investigative work and Victor knew better. All of it made Victor’s fingers itch, he wanted to pull the gun at his hip and wipe that smile off of Winchester’s face, he wanted to make him really understand what it meant to fuck with Victor Henricksen.

Instead he watched as the bastard snagged four glasses, a bottle, and headed straight over to the table where the FBI entourage had set up camp. He had always believed in order and justice, the sometimes stumbling but always true mechanism that held society together. He wasn’t going to throw all of that away now for some inbred redneck. Winchester would get what was coming to him, soon enough.

Victor didn’t let himself think about all of the things hiding underneath his cold rage. He didn’t want to look at what it meant to have a friend who betrayed him.

Dean’s jaunty stroll slowed as he got closer to the table. He peered at Victor, and his forehead bunched up. He sent Cal an inquisitive look as he set the liquor and glasses down on the table, and only got Cal’s blankest look for his troubles.

And that was why Cal was family; he would always have Victor’s back, no matter what.

“Tough day at the office?” Dean mechanically poured a generous shot into each glass, his shoulders tense under the unexpected awkwardness. He handed one off to Cal without looking, his eyes fixed on Victor’s face.

“You could say that,” her replied, voice even and calm. He leaned back in his seat and sipped at the drink Dean passed him. Victor felt so special: Dean had broken out the good stuff.

He set the glass back down on the table, easily letting Dean’s “The fuck is going on?” look roll right off him. It was fun when suspects squirmed.

Dean rolled his eyes and turned his attention to Masters, his face smoothly shifting from bewilderment to lechery. Victor didn’t know how he hadn’t seen it before, the easy way that Dean could move from one personality to another, one lying face to the next. Victor should have seen all of this coming.

“And who are you?” Dean asked as he passed Masters a drink. “You’re way too good looking to be a Fed like these jokers.”

“Or something like that,” Masters said with a smile that would’ve done a shark proud. She threw her drink back in one easy move and carefully put the glass back down on the table. Her grin sharpened around Dean’s appreciation. “I’m what you’d call a specialist, I’m assisting the agents in a manhunt.”

“Then, lady, you’ve come to the right place,” Dean smarmed and filled his own glass before reaching over to top off hers.

“Oh, I know I have.” Masters crossed her arms over her chest and sent an arch look Victor’s way. Good, the ball was back in his court.

“Tell me, Dean, you seen your dad or your brother lately? Maybe when you were out of town last weekend?” Victor tried to keep the glee out of his face at the way Dean’s head whipped around, the shock that widened his eyes and thinned his mouth.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Dean’s voice dropped two decibels, his face hardened into a blank wall Victor had never seen before.

Victor grinned and leaned forward. “It seems that you’ve been keeping secrets from me, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal. Like about how you’ve been helping daddy and baby brother and their whole little nutjob organization plan and instigate attacks on the federal government.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” Confusion laced Dean’s voice. Damn, he was good. If Victor didn’t know any better he’d actually be tempted to buy what the jackass was selling.

“So, you had nothing to do with all of those bombers, all of those people who walked into federal buildings and blew them sky high, killing thousands of innocent people? The subject never happened to come up at Thanksgiving or whatever holiday it is that you paranoid, quasi-military extremist types celebrate?”

Dean’s only response was to slouch in his chair and kick his feet out in front of him. Victor would’ve bought the nonchalant act, too, if not for the way the liquor in Dean’s glass vibrated under his tight grip.

Victor looked at Cal. “Where was it John and Sam were spotted, again?”

Cal pulled out a folder and started laying surveillance photos on the table. “Tulsa, Saginaw, Charlotte, Lafayette, Seattle, McAllen,” he chronicled, his voice as dispassionate and steady as if he were reading names out of the phone book. “All of John or Sam Winchester, either together or separately, all taken hours before a terrorist attack.”

Dean didn’t sit up, didn’t look at the photos, his eyes never left Victor’s face. “Your point being?”

“Do you honestly expect us to believe that you didn’t have anything to do with these?” Victor pushed the photos forward, spreading them across the table. “I’ve seen your record, Dean. You never settled down, didn’t have a normal childhood, what with your Dad constantly moving you back and forth across the country. The only home you’ve ever had is your family. Do you honestly expect me to believe that you don’t know anything about the attacks?”

“You can believe whatever the hell you want to believe. I haven’t seen them in years.” Dean swallowed and his eyes shifted for a second before coming back to Victor’s face. There it was; Dean had said something he didn’t want to. Give Victor a couple more hours and he’d get out secrets that Dean himself didn’t even know he knew.

“Really,” Masters drawled from Victor’s right. “So I guess that’s not your brother who just came out of the kitchen.”

Victor’s head whipped around as Dean’s chair screeched against the floor. There he was, Sam Winchester in the flesh. Victor watched as he walked across the bar and sat down across from an impeccably dressed woman who was not numbered among the Roadhouse’s usual clientele. It was too good to be true.

A moment passed as Victor’s mind flipped from one tactic to another. He nodded off of Cal’s look, they needed to play this just right, and they couldn’t afford to spook the target. A break like that couldn’t be wasted. They waited for conversation at the far table to deepen enough to cover their approach and only then did they rise in unison. Masters was right there with them, she may not have been FBI but she certainly seemed to have a hunter’s instincts.

Through it all Dean sat frozen at the table, emotions coursing out of him: shock, anger, longing, betrayal, and too many others to name. He didn’t look like a threat

Victor’s gaze zeroed in on his quarry while a cold lump formed in the pit of his stomach, a seed of doubt that he had to ignore. There might be more truth to Dean's story then he’d thought.

~~~

“Finish your business and then get the hell out of my bar,” Mom ordered and lowered her pistol, her eyes hard.

Sam nodded brusquely, the kicked puppy, ‘you can trust me’ look slipping off his face. “Yes ma’am,” he agreed.

Jo’s eyes tracked Sam as he walked out of the kitchen. She meant to follow him but her mother’s gaze weighed heavily on the side of her face and she couldn’t quite take that first step. She sighed, shoulders slumping, and looked at the floor, ready for the tongue-lashing she was sure to receive.

“Joanna Beth,” her mom’s voice carried hard and precise through the heavy air, “you’re going to get your fool self killed if you keep playing around in things you don’t understand.”

“That’s bull.” Jo’s head snapped up, anger stiffening her spine. “I understand all of this a damn sight better than you do. We can’t just sit around and pretend that things aren’t messed up. We have to do something.”

Her mom’s eyes widened and her hand gripped the sink behind her. “Don’t you take that tone with me.” She took a breath and her mouth thinned around the fight she wasn’t going to start. “Get out of here before you get the whupping you deserve. I have work to do.”

Jo turned on her heel, hair flipping over her shoulder, and stormed into the bar. Her mother just refused to see what was right in front of her. She was the most annoying woman on the planet.

The door flipped closed, raising a breeze that ruffled through Jo’s hair. Her eyes darted around the bar, frustration and anger slowly draining away. She skipped right over all of the usual alcoholics and only paused for a second at the table where the Feds—including a blonde woman Jo didn’t recognize, had Dean surrounded, Henricksen and Reid wore scowls instead of their usual boys’ club smiles—and a grin flickered across Jo’s face. It looked like Dean’s best buddy Victor wasn’t as awesome as Dean thought.

She finally turned to the table in the far corner that was almost hidden by the pool table. Sam sat across from that bitch, Bela. A wave of disgust shot through Jo, thinning her mouth. It went against her personal moral code to deal with people like Bela Talbot, people who were only out for number one, and the rest of the world could go to Hell, literally. How could you know about all of the evil in the world and not do something to stop it?

But Jo’s moral qualms with the woman didn’t matter, Bela had something their resistance needed and that was that. Anyway, it was better dealing with her than heading down to the nearest crossroads; Bela was still nominally human, at least.

Chairs scraped against the floor and Jo looked in time to see the feds stand up and start moving towards the exact spot where Sam and Bela were deep in conversation. Dean, the jackass, stayed seated. He wouldn’t even look at his brother.

Jo maneuvered her way across the bar, careful to not tread over the squeaky floorboards. She leaned against the back wall, close enough to overhear the discussion but far enough away to avoid suspicion. They made quite the tableau, the seated couple surrounded by people who wore their authority as familiarly as their suits. But Jo couldn’t look away from the set of Sam’s shoulders, the tilt of his head, his posture screaming that there wasn’t anything that those agents could do that would touch him in the slightest.

“Well, well, well, this might just be my luckiest night ever,” Henricksen crowed, rubbing his hands together. “Corner one brother and the other goes pop out of the woodwork. Maybe daddy’ll show up and make it a perfect hat trick.” Henricksen pulled a chair around and sat down, Reid doing the same across the table from him.

Sam’s eyes remained fixed on the blonde Fed who stood behind Bela’s chair. “You really pulled out all the stops this time, Meg.”

“I live to impress you, Sammy.” A smirk cut across the blond woman’s sharp face. “You’re not going to be able to avoid us anymore.”

Sam’s shoulders stiffened momentarily and then he relaxed, slouching a little in his chair. “I’ve already heard everything you have to offer, and I’m still not interested.”

“We’ll see.” Meg’s hand fell on Bela’s shoulder. An expression of disgust flashed over Bela’s face, a fleeting break in her usual smug superiority. Jo’s stomach clenched. Only a real shitstorm would be enough to break through that one’s façade.

Jo’s head whipped around at the sound of the TV across the bar switching on. Dean stood under it, manually flipping the channels away from the ball game that was the usual evening fare. He finally rested on CNN where some reporter stood in front of the Pentagon. Jo’s eyes narrowed. Dean’s brother was across the room, about to be dragged away for good, and now was the time when Dean decided to work on his social studies skills. That was some bullshit of the highest order.

“Aaaww, what a sweet reunion. You kids are breaking my heart.” The undertone of repressed frustration in Henricksen’s voice dragged Jo’s attention away from Dean and the television. “No pretty words are gonna cut you a deal on this one. You’re stuck in it now, Sammy.”

“That’s not my name.” Sam’s voice was so low and controlled that Jo almost couldn’t hear it. Something was about to happen, and Jo had a bad feeling that Sam would be the one to start it. Her mom was going to be pissed.

The commentary on the television cut through the tense bubble in the corner and dragged Jo’s attention away again. Jo was surprised to notice that everyone else in the bar was focused on the TV screen with the kind of intensity that was usually reserved for the World Series. A woman in a sharp suit had joined the reporter on the screen. “Here with me is Ruth Curtis, a prosecuting attorney with the Michigan Attorney General’s office. She is also Captain James Curtis’s sister, the officer executed yesterday for treason.”

The tension in Jo’s stomach spiked. What the fuck did Dean think he was doing? He knew how volatile the Roadhouse could be and he wasn’t so frigging clueless that he hadn’t heard about the Trial of the Century. He had to know that playing a broadcast about how the U.S. Army had just killed a man who’d had the misfortune to stumble over the demonic conspiracy churning at the center of the government and too much honor to not keep his mouth shut was the dumbest of dumb ideas. Jo’s eyes flicked back to Sam’s table, nerves strumming, but no one there seemed to have noticed what was brewing on the other side of the room.

“Turn that crap off!” an angry voice slurred loud enough to carry. “I don’t wanna hear about that fucking traitor.”

“You shut your mouth.” Rob Emens stood up, hands already balled into fists. His middle boy had been killed in a suicide bombing earlier that year. “That boy’s a hero.”

“Some kinda hero,” a new voice chimed in. “I guess turning against your government in a time of war is the new kind heroism.”

“I said, shut your goddamn mouth,” Rob growled and, in the most graceful move Jo had ever seen a guy drunk off his ass employ, he turned and slugged the guy at the table next to him.

Cue the Roadhouse erupting into chaos. Jo had seen bar brawls before, but this one was something else. She hadn’t realized that there were other people who had that much anger simmering in their chests, just waiting to get out.

Ted Stoppa punched Jack Donovan, the guy with whom he’d spent all winter refurbishing a house. The force sent Jack sprawling into Henricksen’s chair, both of them tumbling onto the floor. Jo took the opening to jump forward and club Reid over the head just when Bela jabbed her elbow backwards, catching Meg in the throat.

“Get out of here!” Jo yelled at Sam while she hit Reid over the head again to make sure he stayed down. Sam was already standing, his fists clenching and unclenching, eyes darting from one side to the other. Jo grabbed his wrist and pulled him towards the hallway door. She pushed him through it. “None of this is worth it if you get caught.”

Sam glared at her and then his mouth thinned and he nodded. He turned and dashed down the hallway, the door slamming shut behind him.

Someone big slammed into Jo’s back. She let the hit spin her around and used the momentum to add some extra force to the punch that knocked some guy with greasy hair onto his ass. Across the room she saw that Henricksen had taken a protective stance over his partner, who was just coming around. The unlucky bastard who got a little too close to them got slammed into the nearest table, courtesy of the FBI. Meg had Bela pinned against the far wall, Bela’s arm yanked up behind her back at an uncomfortable angle.

Those were the last coherent images Jo had before another guy swung into her, and she was thrown into the fray. The next few minutes were full of the sting of knuckles across cheeks and the crack of broken furniture. The next thing she knew she was cracking Tommy Smith across the face with a chair leg—the same guy whose ass she’d kicked after he’d tried to cop a feel at the Harvest Hoe Down in eighth grade.

A shotgun blast ricocheted across the room and everyone immediately stilled. Jo’s mom was standing on the bar, the barrel of her favorite gun pointed out at the crowd. “You all have ten seconds to get the fuck out of my bar or I’m gonna start aiming before I shoot. Get!” She yelled and pumped the shotgun ominously.

The room cleared in a flash. Henricksen, Reid, and Meg were the last to leave, a blank-faced and hand-cuffed Bela sandwiched between them. Jo was glad to see Reid on his feet, she’d always liked him, and it would suck if she’d done him any serious harm.

Soon the only people left in the bar were Jo, her mom, and a boxer-clad Ash who looked like someone had run over his dog. “Man, I miss all the good brawls,” Ash grumped and turned back to his room.

Mom lowered the gun and flipped the safety back on. She shot Jo a glare that would boil metal. “Kitchen. Now.”

Jo’s shoulders slumped. Shit, she was in for it now.

~~~

Sam crept through the Roadhouse’s back door, carefully stowing his lockpicks as he went. The hallway was as dark as the dead-of-night sky outside, but a glimmer of light shone from underneath the door that led into the bar. He didn’t want to be back here. Of all of the stupid things he’d done in his life, returning to the place where he’d narrowly escaped being nabbed by the feds had to rank in the top tier of dumbass shit. But the Dad in his head, the one he’d almost stopped hearing at Stanford, was growling at him to get the job done.

Getting the Colt was all that mattered.

Except that Sam wasn’t entirely sure how to do that. He and Bela hadn’t gotten past the initial angry banter and repressed sexual tension stage of their negotiation before they were permanently interrupted. All he had were Bela’s assurances that she had the capacity to sell him the Colt and spotty knowledge of the locale where the transaction was supposed to have taken place. He’d already torn apart her car on the slim hope that the gun was hidden somewhere in it. And now he’d have to do the same to the Roadhouse, regardless of the specter of Ellen Harvelle’s pistol pointed at his face.

After all, he wasn’t here for Dad, or even for himself. Not really. There were people who counted on him, a job that needed doing that had become so much bigger than the solitary quest that had consumed his childhood. He was a leader now, and it was his responsibility to take on the hard things that other people couldn’t do. Dad might not entirely approve of Sam’s organizing but even he recognized the scope of what their family’s fight had become, and Dad would be the first to tell him that the mission always comes first.

So if the Colt wasn’t here, well, he’d do what he had to do. Taking on the agents who had dragged Bela away in handcuffs wasn’t the most promising prospect in the world, but he’d done worse. A long line of criminal activity stretched behind him since Jessica was murdered before his eyes; one more instance hardly mattered, one way or another.

Maybe, if he saved the world, he could start to make up for letting his fiancée die.

Sam crept down the hallway, careful to walk lightly in his heavy boots. He paused for a moment beside the open doorway that led to the upper floor. He listened but only heard the sound of his ragged breaths. With a nod he moved further down the passage, not giving the door to Doctor Badass’s office more than a passing glance. He’d go for a subtle search first, only resorting to a normal Winchester slash and burn if things didn’t go his way.

He eased the door open and slid into the bar, softly shutting out the hallway behind him. Someone had made a cursory attempt at cleaning up but the room was still a disaster. The floor was littered in broken chairs, overturned tables and shattered glass. Sam had seen the aftermath of demon attacks that looked better than that. When North Platte, Nebraska decided to have a brawl, it went all out.

His amusement left him in a rush when he saw the figure bent over a table at the other side of the room, screwing a leg onto a chair. Dean had filled out a little since Sam last saw him—blank-faced and stiff as Sam had stormed out of some shitty motel room, duffle on his shoulder and Stanford his goal—but Sam would know his brother anywhere.

“Go back to bed, Jo,” Dean said as he started to turn, his voice gruffer than Sam remembered, “or your mom’s gonn—” He completed his turn and froze, hand clenching tight around the screwdriver. He stared at Sam, eyes wide.

Sam couldn’t move. He wanted to stride across the room and hug Dean like he hadn’t in way too long. He wanted to apologize, grovel on the floor for taking Dad and leaving Dean behind. He wanted to pretend that they were kids again, that Dean could tuck Sam in and keep the monsters away.

“Dean,” he finally said, voice cracking over the one long syllable.

Dean jerked at the sound of his own name and then sighed and ran a hand over his face. “Thought you might show up again tonight.” He turned and went to the bar, where he pulled out a bottle and took a long swallow before looking back at Sam.

Sam’s muscles unlocked and he walked forward. His mind fumbled for words—all of the years of practice, of making conversation with random strangers, turning out pretty lies for petty reasons, and he couldn’t find anything to say to the stranger who looked at him with Dean’s eyes.

“What are you doing here?” Sam said as he came up to the bar, voice more harsh than he’d intended.

Dean snorted without humor. “That’s not how it goes, kiddo. I’m supposed to ask you how Stanford’s going and you’re supposed to ask me how work’s going. Don’t they teach you basic social interaction at that fancy-pants school of yours?” Dean took another belt from the bottle. “Oh, that’s right. You’re not going to Stanford. You threw it all away so you could run around with Dad and blow up buildings. Sounds awesome.”

“Jesus Christ,” Sam responded, temper flaring. “We’re trying to stop that damn demon that started all of this in the first place. It’s that bastard who’s been sending those screwed-up kids on suicide missions, who killed our mother and wants to take over the whole goddamn world.”

“Megalomaniacal demons. Sure thing. Hope you guys are having fun with that.” Dean stared at the screwdriver that he’d sent spinning on the bar.

Sam growled and slapped his hand down on top of the whirling tool. “What have I been doing? What have you been doing? When I left for school I couldn’t even get you to take a couple weeks off, to just take a frigging vacation from hunting, and now you’re playing house with the Harvelles? What the fuck, dude?”

Dean glared. “Just because I don’t waste my life going from one shitty motel to an even shittier one. But I still do the damn job.”

“Sure you do, when you’re not burying your head in the sand and ignoring everything else around you.” Sam snorted. “You’re a real hero.”

“Is there some reason you’re here? I mean, besides trying to tear me a new one?” Dean demanded.

Sam took a deep breath. Being around Dean again was making him revert to old habits, patterns of behavior he thought he’d left behind a long time ago. “Yeah, I’m here for the Colt.”

“The Colt?! Dean sputtered. “Yeah, and I’m the motherfucking Tooth Fairy.”

“Yes, the Colt. I was trying to negotiate a sale with Bela before things got out of control.”

“And you really believe that Bela Talbot not only achieved the impossible and somehow obtained a mythological piece of American folklore but that she was actually going to sell it to you—no harm, no foul.” Dean rolled his eyes. “I didn’t raise you to be a sucker, Sam.”

“I’m full of surprises.” Sam’s grin felt more like a grimace, shaped by all of the revelations about who he was and what he could do running through his mind. “There’s no way Bela could have lied to me, even if she’d intended to. She had the gun and I had the money, it was a straight-up business transaction until the Men in Black butted in.”

“Sure it was.” Dean started screwing the top back on the liquor bottle. “Doesn’t matter either way. If Henricksen doesn’t have it by now, he will soon enough. And he’ll have your ass, too, if you don’t hightail it out of here.”

“She may not have had it on her.” Sam leaned forward, pulling up the sympathetic eyes that always used to get Dean to give him the last cookie. “If there’s even a chance that it’s somewhere around here I have to take it. We need that gun.”

Dean shook his head as he put the bottle back under the bar. “No can do. You’re not tearing up the bar to look for a fairy tale without Ellen’s say-so. Come back in the morning and you can look while you help Jo with the clean-up.”

“This is a little too important to worry about upsetting one woman.” Sam couldn’t believe that Dean was making such a big deal out of this. “You can’t seriously expect me to twiddle my thumbs and wait.”

“That’s exactly what I expect you to do.” Dean’s hand smashed onto the bar. “You and Dad can do whatever you like on your own time but this is my place and my time and you will goddamn well do things my way.”

Sam’s jaw clenched. Dean always made a big deal out of the stupidest things. “Fine. But if that gun’s gone by morning it’s on your head.”

“Fine,” Dean agreed. “Now get the hell out of here.”

Sam raised his hands and backed away, frustration churning in his gut. He didn’t have time to put up with this bullshit.

After a few steps he turned around and strode to the front door. He paused, his hand striped by the bright white light shining in through the screen, and looked back.

Dean’s face was turned away, his head bent as if it were too heavy for him to lift. Sorrow fell onto Sam, quelling his rage. He missed his brother so much—more than he’d ever thought he would. But he didn’t know if he could come back here again, could deal with being treated like a stranger by the person who used to know him best.

He pushed through the screen door and out into the cool night. What he wanted didn’t matter, it never really had. He had a job to do and he’d do it, regardless the cost. His life was full of regrets and there was nothing he could do about it. He’d finally learned what Dad had tried to teach him for all of those years: nothing came before the mission. Not himself, not the people he loved—no one.

It was better that way.

~~~

Part Three

Master Post

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