Kripke's and the WB/CW's. I'm not any of them. Written for the From Ashes..." ficathon. Inspired by The Shins' "Caring is Creepy".

by Katie

Sam couldn't explain why he didn't just tell Dean when it first happened. Granted, it didn't seem nearly as dire as his usual visions. He'd actually questioned whether it was a true vision because his visions usually involved someone dying, and this . . . didn't. This was him, living, happy, and most importantly, with Jess.

It happened so randomly. Most of the time, he was lost in thought as he stared out the car window or reading a long article on their latest monster. Sometimes it was when his mind drifted toward sleep or wakefulness. He never had the usual pain that came with a normal vision; if Dean even noticed, he just thought Sam was daydreaming. Sam thought so too, in the beginning. By the time he realized that his daydreams were blurring into reality--at least, the probable reality of a vision--he was afraid to say anything for fear they'd stop.

(Fear, really, that Dean would find a way to stop them. Jess was dead; Sam knew that quite intimately. There was no way he could have a future with her, and certainly not the utopian one he was seeing. Dean would assume that evil forces were behind the visions. Sam couldn't argue with that assumption, but he also couldn't stand the idea of losing the visions. They were the first moments of pure happiness he'd had since looking up at his ceiling and seeing hell painted there in brilliant red.)

It wasn't that hard to find quiet times away from Dean. He'd stay in to "research" when Dean wanted to go to a bar, or he'd gather up their laundry without any fear that Dean would offer to come along. He never knew for sure if he'd have a vision; they didn't come when called. But when he was lucky, he'd be given an afternoon of walking with Jess along the beach, fingers entwined and shoulders lightly bumping, or he'd get to spend a night in their bed, kissing slowly down the gentle curves of her body. Sometimes they were just doing the grocery shopping together. Sometimes he'd be reading on the couch in their living room and he'd look up to see her curled at the other end, just within reach of his feet, as she took notes with intense concentration. He saw her in white at the end of a long aisle, dragging him through the rooms of an empty house that he knew was perfect for them, hands resting on the roundness of their child in her belly. He lived those moments as sure as if they were true. They were never long enough.

He lived in a world where magic and fairy tales came true every day. If demons and vampires and shtriga could exist, was it too much to ask that maybe he could find a way to bring Jess back? To give her the life she deserved and make up for the horror she had suffered through?

(Because of him, his mind always supplied. Because she'd fallen in love with a man who had been marked as a demon's when he was only six months old. Because he hadn't protected her.)

On this particular night, a dusting of snow lay on the ground and Sam's breath was nearly as white when he exhaled. He told Dean that he wanted to stay in where it was warm. Dean simply shrugged and called him a wuss, and then Sam was left alone with his thoughts.

When the knock came on the door, he wasn't surprised. He hadn't been expecting it exactly, but when it came, it only seemed natural. He opened the door, unable to hold back the dopey grin that he knew was shining across his face.

"Hello, Sam," Jess said.

Dean let the suddenly cold air as he left the bar shock the last of the alcohol haze from his mind. It had been a fun night. He'd flirted a little and played a few rounds of pool as much for fun as for the twenty dollars now folded in his back pocket. Too bad Sam hadn't wanted to come. The kid was all about the research these days, so determined to prove he was on the Light Side of the Force by catching and killing as many monsters as he could. Dean thought he should give himself a break once in a while. He'd given up trying to pound that idea into Sam's thick skull weeks ago, though, because he knew a lost cause when he saw it. Anyway, Einstein's constant research was an improvement over "Promise to kill me, Dean" any day.

The walk back to the motel was short enough that Dean didn't really have time to get cold. What light was showing through the window was a dim, bathroom-door-cracked-open light, so he unlocked the room door as quietly as he could. Sam must have given up on his research early.

Or, Dean thought as he caught a whiff of an odor that hadn't been there when he left, maybe Sam hadn't been totally Research-boy after all. Or maybe he'd been conducting experiments into whether his girly shampoo worked as lube, because there was a weirdly sweet undertone to the undeniable smell of sex.

Dean shook his head at the giant figure sprawled across one of the beds. "Dude. Would it kill you to spray some Lysol after? There are just some things a guy doesn't need to know."

Dead to the world, Sam didn't reply beyond the faint snuffle of his breath against the pillow. Thankfully, the motel was old and cheap enough to have windows Dean could crack open. As he went to brush the beer funk off his teeth, he made a mental note to say something suitably embarrassing to Sammy. He was pretty sure he could remember the relevant points of their dad's bird-bees-and-boys-in-tight-quarters-all-need-to-respect-each-other's-privacy speech, given that it had scarred him for life when his dad first gave it.

Dean was grinning in anticipation as he headed to his own bed. The image of Sammy's horror-stricken face was almost enough to make him forget the quickly souring smell of the room.


The boddach was remarkably fast for something that looked like a short, naked old man. Sam couldn't keep up, the vines and roots that carpeted the forest floor snatching at his sneakers while tree branches clutched at his shirt. He felt like he was running under water, breathing so heavily it almost sounded like another person were running along side him. But the boddach was several yards ahead and gaining, damn it, and Dean had circled around to try to cut the sneaky bastard off. Sam had only himself to blame for the 80-year-old-asthmatic sounds coming from his mouth; too much sitting around daydreaming.

Ahead, the boddach had disappeared from view. Sam stumbled, his too-heavy legs giving out on him. Cold, damp leaf debris coated his palms as he tried to catch his balance.

Somewhere in the distance, Dean shouted. Not a scream of terror or pain, but definitely enough urgency that Sam scrambled harder for purchase against the rough ground. It seemed forever before he broke into the tiny clearing where Dean was fighting the boddach. The creature darted around Dean with the speed of an angry wasp, poking at him with long, venom-tipped fingers. Dean swung his bat fiercely, only to have it slide through an incorporeal mist as the boddach just *wasn't* for a moment.

"Damn it, Sam, get your ass over here with that bag."

Sam went, fumbling with the bag that was tied to his belt. Coated with a resin mixed with holy water and salt, the burlap was stiff and heavy. It was also impermeable to the boddach, a vital element when dealing with something that could disincorporate at will. Dean took a wild swing at the creature. He missed, Sam could tell, on purpose. The boddach giggled, dancing away, and didn't notice Sam sneaking up behind him, bag open.

Hiking back to the car with the squirming, cursing boddach tossed over his shoulder wasn't fun. Hiking back with Dean stalking in front of him, blatantly ignoring his very existence, was bordering on pissing Sam off. Yeah, he'd screwed up. He'd let the boddach get away in the first place, and then he'd been slow to catch the damn thing, leaving Dean to deal with it on his own. Dean had made it clear that every quarter-sized, itchy welt on Dean's body was Sam's fault. So, yeah, Sam felt bad. Just, he also felt so tired that the boddach might as well have weighed as much as Dean, and it wasn't like he'd *tried* to screw up. He simply couldn't do any more, run any faster or move any quicker, than he'd done. His body had refused. Couldn't a guy get a break when he felt like crap?

He could almost hear his dad's answer to that, said in a voice for once more somber than sharp: *Not if it costs your brother's life, son.* The thought gave him such a chill that he shivered the boddach silent. No. Dean hadn't been in danger. If he had been, Sam would have found that extra push, would have gotten there in time no matter how hard.

Wouldn't he?

Dean drove. Shoulders tight with aggravation, he dropped Sam off at the motel before aiming the Impala toward the middle of nowhere to go lose the boddach. The roar of the engine drowned out the boddach's curses. Dean was left to his thoughts and the sounds of The Black Album.

Once he'd left the boddach out where it couldn't pester anything bigger than a jack rabbit (still in the bag because he felt like he had a spiderweb of itch from his mid-back to his knees, but with just enough of an opening that it wouldn't suffocate before it got loose), he started to relax. He was the Master of Chill by the time he got back to the motel. Maybe Sam hadn't treated catching the boddach like it was a serious hunt--and maybe Dean had expected that kind of stupid thinking to have been drummed out of Sam's head back when they were kids. But people made mistakes, had their off days, and Dean wasn't one to hold a grudge.

Well, not against family.

Dean eased to a stop at the intersection by their motel, glancing automatically toward their room. As late as it was, he expected at most only a dim light to show in their window. Instead, he saw the lights shining brightly. What was, even from a distance, clearly the figure of a woman could be seen behind the sheer curtains. Dean frowned, counting the windows again. He must have picked the wrong one in the darkness.

Then the door opened, and Sam's unmistakably huge, mop-headed form was (stupidly, did the moron not remember anything Dad had taught them about not being a target?) silhouetted in the light from the room. So was the woman as she leaned in and up to kiss Sam so deeply that it looked like she was trying to lick his tonsils.

Dean considered himself a fair guy, and frankly, he tended to be in favor of Sam not acting like a monk. He was convinced that Sam would be a hell of a lot easier to live with if he were getting his sexy back on a regular basis. But right now? Right when he'd just made Dean's life difficult on the hunt--not to mention how he'd been sitting around at the motel while Dean was out in the middle of Bumfuck, Colorado dumping the boddach? Dean poked savagely at a spot on his upper thigh where the boddach's venom was making his leg itch like crazy. He and Sam were going to be having a little talk, no doubt about it.

But when he reached the turn-in for the motel, he kept going. Anything he said to Sam right now was going to lead to massive furniture destruction. He needed a drive around town and a stop at a gas station to fill up on fuel and junk food before he was ready to face his brother.

This time, Sam was asleep, sprawled across his bed like a gigantic rag doll. The same sex-and-sweetness smell was so heavy on the air that Dean could have gagged. Irritated all over again, he strode across the room and gave Sam's shoulder a hard shove.

"Get up, Sleeping Beauty," he snapped. Sam groaned, but his eyelashes didn't even flutter. "Sam, damn it, I mean it. Wake up."

It seemed to take forever for Sam's eyes to finally drag open. He stared at Dean with a blurry expression that would have totally made Dean want to fuck with his head if Dean hadn't been so pissed.


"You tell me, Romeo. I drop you off here so you can get some sleep 'cause you say you're so tired. If I knew I was helping you make a booty call, I would have told you to hire another one and let me in on the action."

"Huh?" Sam sat up, scrubbing his hands over his face. "Dude, are you drunk?"

Dean's hands tightened to fists on his hips.

"No, Sam, I am *not* drunk. I've been driving for the past four hours. How about we talk about what you've been doing?"


Sam did a great job of looking confused and innocent. Dean would have to try again to talk him into a trip to Vegas once he was done being angry.

"I was sleeping," Sam said, his eyebrows drawing together in irritation. "Which I still would be, if you hadn't woken me up. What's this all about, man?"

"It's about me doing all the work today while you play around on the hunt and then screw around with that chick."

"What chick?"

Oh, Sam was good. If Dean hadn't seen the girl with his own eyes, he wouldn't have doubted that Sam was honestly confused.

"Don't play games with me, Sam. It's been too long a day and I itch like hell."

"And I'm tired, and I was *asleep*, Dean. Since right after I got back to the motel. So either tell me what the hell you're talking about or shut up and let me go back to bed."

Whatever hopes Dean had harbored about keeping his temper where rapidly fading. "Come on, Sam. You're trying to tell me I didn't see you with that blonde chick kissing at the door? Who are you trying to fool, here?"

Sam stood abruptly, hands on his hips to mirror Dean.

"What are you saying? I don't cheat on Jess."

The comment was bizarre enough that Dean paused, frowning up at Sam to see if he was maybe trying to distract Dean from the argument.

"So, what, Sarah never happened? Sam, Jess has been gone a long time--"

The punch was unexpected, landing him back against the wall literally before he knew what hit him. Before he could recover, Sam grabbed him by the shirt and slammed him against the wall again, so furious that Dean almost couldn't recognize him.

"Don't *ever* say that again," Sam growled. "Don't even talk about her. Understand me?"

He shoved Dean backward again, letting go so abruptly that Dean wasn't able to stop himself from sliding downward. As Dean tried to catch his breath enough to say something, Sam stalked out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

"What the *hell*?" Dean staggered to his feet, keeping one hand on the wall for a moment as his brain and lungs reacquainted themselves. He crossed over to open the door, but Sam wasn't in sight.

Just as well, probably. Sam didn't lose his temper often, but when he did, he usually needed some time to cool off before he could see reason. Dean wasn't entirely sure why *Sam* was the one needing to cool off; when the conversation had started, he'd been pretty comfortable in his position as the injured party. But then, even more than a year later, Sam held on to his grief over Jess as if it were a treasure to be hoarded. Whatever he'd thought Dean was saying, it had obviously struck a nerve that was still raw with loss.

Sighing, Dean closed the door and headed toward the bathroom. Best let things be for the night. Tempers would be cooler in the morning; Dean would sit Sam down and sort things out then.

Jess found Sam like she always did. Somehow she had always been able to sense when he was upset; she also seemed to have perfect intuition for when he needed some space and when he needed *her*. He wasn't surprised when she appeared beside him as he was walking--stalking--down the street and slid under his arm, fitting perfectly as she always had.

"He's such an ass," Sam complained, knowing she'd understand.

"It's okay, Sam. Let him be an ass if he wants to. We don't need his approval."

Sam sighed. "I know. Just--he's my brother, you know? The only family I've got left. I want him to be happy for me."

She tugged him to a stop and turned him toward her, reaching up to cup his cheek with one small hand. Her perfume was sweet in the back of his throat.

"Baby, it won't be long until I'm your family. I want him to be happy for us, too, but if he can't . . . well, we don't need him. We've got each other."

"I know." Sam leaned down and brushed a kiss across her lips. She was all he really needed. He knew that. But a wistfulness tugged at the back of his mind even as they set off again.

He lost track of the number of times they made love through the night and into the morning. Everything began to blur together into an ocean of sensation, all rising pleasure and crashing ecstasy. He lost track of time, of his body, of himself. Nothing remained but her. His entire world, and he did nothing but float.

Loss came in a blast of sound and light. Her body literally flew from his, drops of brilliant red painting his face and chest. His roar of grief and fury was thin, his movements clumsy and weak as he tried to scramble toward her. Hands grabbed at him. He struggled to throw them off. Refused to acknowledge the voice calling his name because he would hate Jessica's murderer with every inch of his soul, and he couldn't bear that feeling directed at his brother.

Dean swallowed bile as he set down his shotgun and reached for Sam. It had been less than twelve hours. How could his strong, healthy brother have wasted away so badly in such a short time? He looked like an overgrown Save the Children poster child and moved, God, like he was dying. Effort in every breath, arms shaking as he reached for the succubus.

Dean pulled him back and held him in a loose embrace. Sam's struggles to get free were pathetic, and Dean tightened his hold as much because they broke his heart as because he thought they had any chance of being successful.

"Sammy," he said gently. "Sammy? It's okay now. You're okay."

Sam made a sound somewhere between a sob and a moan. "No. Jess . . . "

It was like a punch in the gut. That the bitch had taken Jess's form figured, especially given Sam's luck; it would also explain the weird-ass conversation from the night before. But Sam had been through enough--suffered enough--and he didn't deserve this.

"It's not Jess, Sammy. I promise."

Sam didn't seem to hear him. Even though his struggles were lessening, Dean could tell it was more because he was losing strength than because he was seeing reason. Yet seeing was exactly what he needed to do.

Without loosening his hold, Dean shifted so that Sam had a clear view of the body.

"I'm sorry about this, man, but I need you to look at it. It's not Jess, Sammy. It's a succubus. See? Nothing but a two-bit demonic slut shot full of rock salt. It's not Jess."

It didn't look anything like Jess--not now, at least, and not just because of the smoking holes the rock salt had left. Its feet were heavy, donkey-like hooves. Its face was just a little too long and pointed to be human, the empty eyes slitted like a snake's. Straggles of blonde hair hung limp around its face, the texture coarse and stiff like a horse's mane. But the glamour it had cast on Sam was strong, or else Sam was just too drained to understand what he was seeing. He shook his head against Dean's shoulder, still pushing ineffectually at Dean's arms.

"I didn't--"

"What, Sammy?"

"I didn't save her."

It was unfair how many ways a heart could break.

Sam woke up three or four times before he was really awake. Dean was close by; even when he was too tired to open his eyes, he could hear the familiar sounds of guns being cleaned or the drum solo from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida being beaten out on a bedspread while Dean hummed the melody. The sounds of his childhood, and Sam felt safe when he heard them.

Eventually, the call of his bladder became louder than the siren lure of sleep. He rolled out of bed, staggering as oddly weak muscles tried to remember how to balance. He wasn't surprised when Dean's hand slid under his arm to steady him.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty, it's about time--"

Sam cracked his eyes open as Dean trailed off, awkward in the memory of the last time he'd used that nickname.

"Sorry," Sam offered, gesturing at his own cheek with his free hand. There was still the faint outline of a bruise on Dean's, the yellow shadow testament to how long Sam had been sleeping.

"Hey, I still owed you one from that time with the vampires." Dean grinned like it was nothing, but his eyes were serious. "How you feeling?"

"Like I could piss a lake." Like his heart had been the recipient of the shotgun blast, but Sam wouldn't say it and Dean wouldn't let on that he knew already. "And like an idiot. I should've known--"

Dean shrugged. "Everyone has a bad day once in a while, right?"

Sam ducked his head, the grin tugging at his lips feeling strange and stiff. "Dude, I really gotta pee. And eat something before my stomach gnaws a hole through my back."

"Got coffee and donuts." Dean nodded at the table on the far side of the room. "Go take care of business. I might even save you a few."

There was no telling how long the coffee had been kept warm in the pot or how long the donuts had sat waiting. Sam wasn't worried. He bopped Dean's arm with his fist and headed for the bathroom, marginally steadier than a few minutes ago.

"Hey, Sam?" Dean called just as Sam was shutting the door.

Rolling his eyes and grimacing just a bit--he really did need to pee--Sam stuck his head back out. "Yeah?"

"Make sure you don't fall in."

The bathroom door gave a satisfying bang as it slammed shut.