Summary: Jess visits Dean for a month.
Pairing: Sam Winchester/Dean Winchester. Dean Winchester/Charles Gunn. Jessica Moore.
Warnings: AU, violence, sex, incest.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Books of the Living, Books of the Dead by poisontaster
The woman was standing on the street corner, but she wasn’t that sort of woman. Tall, even taller with her sharp kitten heels, she rested on an enviable pair of legs, beautifully turned ankles and slender calves. Blonde hair of the sort that gleamed in the eyes of California starlets draped itself in a sleek sweep over one elegantly tailored shoulder, dark material that set off her pale coloring. The oval face was tired, dark smudges beneath her eyes, and lush mouth drawn into a frown. A fitful dusting of rain lent a hazy quality to the air around her, softly masking the true time of day, everything drifting in and out of view. Cool, gray mist curled tentatively around her ankles, snaking up those stems to take a look at her waist, her arms, her lovely throat, but the water didn’t seem to touch her at all.
Her name was Jessica Moore, and she was dead.
The room was barely Spartan. It belonged to someone who wasn’t planning to stay or who simply didn’t care. There was a single shot glass resting on the table, clean circle of wood beside it that might have held a bottle at one point. Outside, a full moon glowed fitfully, its muted brilliance dimmed even more so by the tracks of clouds sprawled across the dark sky. The weak light streaming in still threw shadows on the walls. They partially obscured the rack of gleaming shotguns and the nests of paper scattered everywhere in place of furniture. There were half scrawled addresses crawling on the uneven white surfaces, coffee stains and fingerprints, the aborted beginnings of a thousand communications.
Dean Winchester sat with his head between his knees, elbows resting on his thighs. The skin below his eyes was tender and dark, echoing the hollows beneath thin cheeks. The smooth shadow of curving bone was broken only by a graze of sloppy stubble, roughly framing a woman’s mouth, hiding it. He had the sort of square, even features valued in Hollywood, though they didn't seem to be doing him any good at the moment. They rode the edge of too pretty, leavened only by his severe expression and the shadow of a beard.
A cigarette dangled from his fingers, still fitfully leaking smoke into the already hazy room.
He had broad shoulders that strained the fabric of his shirt. They were hunched over in weariness, his dark lashes dipped in defeat. There was a messy circle on the wood floor where a growing pile of ashes shifted slightly in the air, soft and ready.
The click of heels didn’t seem to rouse him at all. He only looked up, unshaven cheeks and mussed hair, when he was nearly breathing in his visitor. He should have been thrown into complete shadow, but the light was clear.
He said, “I didn’t expect to see you.” He was staring past one shoulder to the wall behind her. “I usually don’t see the ones I know.”
She raised a gloved hand to his chin, smiling slightly.
“I kept tabs on you both, while he was at school.” It sounded like an amendment, or an apology. “I thought you were beautiful, good for him.” That part was naked.
She didn’t drop the hand or the smile.
“Baby, I know.”
“I’m sorry you died,” he said finally, a soft quality to the deliberately rough scratch of his voice, borne of more than whiskey and cigarettes.
“Dean,” she said gently, “I know.”
“There are a lot of us,” she told him, lighting a long cigarette. The gloves were gone, and her hands wore nicotine stains that seemed like an afterthought.
She sucked for a long time. Inhale. Exhale. Plumes of smoke, then little circles that she stared through wryly before she flicked the whole thing away in disgust. Her crossed legs were long and bare, lean calf muscle gleaming in the light a little whenever she shifted. Today, her lipstick was a loud red that sucked every other color away. She made it elegant.
“Can’t taste them when you’re dead, baby.”
Dean stared at her, not speaking. He was in his office this time, looking even more rumpled, the beginnings of a beard on his face and only shirtsleeves to his name. The place looked more lived in than his home. There were more papers scattered, but some of them were finished, scrawled with messages in his spiky hand. A few had even been placed into neat envelopes on his desk. The address lines were uniformly blank. They looked lost.
There were the faint strains of something new on the radio. It was turned down low, muted like everything else.
He had another cigarette, deeper circles beneath his eyes.
“I don’t understand. Do you want me to tell him something?”
Her eyes, light and wicked, a starlet’s eyes, snapped at him.
“Baby,” she began slyly. “A girl can’t just have fun?”
“I don’t think that’s how it works." He looked up now, jaw sharp.
“Do you know that for sure?”
She leaned in close, so the slope of her breasts, barely contained by the otherwise conservative gray suit jacket she wore, flirted with his face. Milky white and full, they looked good for a dead girl.
The radio improbably started scratching as if it were a record, jumping over itself and gurgling to a halt only to start again. He listened as baby, baby, baby was stutter crooned into the air endlessly, listened and scratched his head with his free hand, eyes on what she was presenting.
"Well, no," he admitted, voice sharp.
She had already moved on to a different topic, eyes going outside his tiny window, her body straight in the moonlight.
"I was a good girl, you know."
He raised an eyebrow at that, at her long bare legs and the pleasant display of flesh beneath her chin. She laughed, sharp and a little wicked. Understanding and maybe a touch of pride crawled warily across his face.
"My father's family came through the market just fine. I went to good schools, did the right things." She paused. "Well maybe a party or two. It's California – you can't hold a girl to the same standards, huh?"
The grin that slid across his features was helpless.
She turned to face him.
"Even Sam. My father liked him. Self-starter, he said. Motivated."
She came close now, too quickly. She was at the window, and then she was in his lap, one hand on his jaw, her face very naked and very clear in the light.
"He didn't know though, did he? My father? Didn't know anything at all."
Dean swallowed, throat moving nervously.
She breathed into his neck, her cold mouth dry against his skin and pounding pulse.
"You smell like him, a little, baby."
She looped her long arms around his shoulders. He bore her weight easily as if there were nothing to her at all, just a collection of shadows. Now she looked fully the girl, all skinny, awkward limbs packed into her mother's clothes and makeup.
"He used to sleep with a knife under his pillow. Damn near stabbed myself a couple times reaching."
Cheek to cheek, she held them. She was still cold.
"I never knew why."
He was walking the next time, thick coat and straight shoulders.
She appeared casually beside him, out of the shadows. Today she wore tailored slacks that cinched around a fashionably slim waist. They narrowed her already long legs and spoke to an Old World sensibility. Her torso inhabited curious shirtsleeves that made seem a little rakish, offset only by the elegant knot in which her hair was swept. It could have been down to her waist, which it was, or cut much shorter.
It was already very dark, only the moon bright, barely on the wane. It was also cold, but she didn’t seem to feel it at all.
“I’ve walked a very long time, Dean Winchester. I’m tired.”
She looked a little insubstantial tonight, but that didn’t seem to stop her mouth. He was learning that very little did.
He had had a few other visitors that morning, wandering lost around his office, pale like she was. He remembered them clearly now, and the weight of their letters in his pocket. It made his face crease in an austere sort of expression. None of them wore red on their mouth like a title. None of them stuck around.
He said, “I have to get somewhere. I have to go."
"He talked about you a lot."
When he looked over, she was silent beside him. She didn't disturb the shadows on the curb as they passed.
"He'd never really tell me anything, but you were in there."
She stopped, and his legs seemed to cease moving on their own, not willing to let her go, not yet.
"Baby, it used to drive me nuts."
In there, said her still mouth, a cooler, paler color tonight, in there so deep. His shoulders were tight. He looked at her as if she were the end of the world.
He had a new case the next day, and another pocketful of letters.
"Nine men, same stretch of highway, just gone. Don't know what to call it."
Hendrickson was tall, all straight edges and proper finish, perfectly pressed suit and an expression that was more than stone. He didn't look particularly happy. He rarely did. His voice curled reluctantly out of his mouth, which he held in a position of extreme distaste. Dean's failure to shave most likely did not elevate him much in those severe sights.
"So you came to me."
"So I came to you, dick."
Dean grinned. It belonged to a wolf. Hendrickson didn't blink.
"I'll need records."
Hendrickson stood up, coat falling into place around him in his anger.
"Find them yourself, Winchester."
The door slammed fiercely on his way out, dislodging clouds of dust that swirled into the haze of nicotine and sweeter smoke. Dean fished out another cigarette, tapped it lightly against the box before the match lit shadows on his face. He closed his eyes.
"Those things'll kill you, baby."
She was a knockout today, evening gown and heels that brought her easily over his height. Her hair was loose, wheat gold waves against his pale walls.
"You should know."
"Baby, don't be cruel."
She sidled up behind him, peering at the papers scattered like garbage across his desk.
"I'm never cruel."
He blew the smoke right into her face, blue frame, and she closed her eyes in something like bliss, whole face trying to taste it.
"Do I need a reason?"
He raised an eyebrow. It conveyed only half his wariness. The rest was in his moving hands, twitching fingers. The cigarette might as well have been a gun for the threat in his face.
"It helps you, doesn't it?"
She had a shrewd expression her lovely face. The waning moon framed it nicely.
"It does," he allowed. "I need to think. Or you all just scatter everywhere. Can't see." He tapped it, ash falling. "Can't do anything else either."
"He got sick once, you know," she looked at him intently, "just his second year. He was in the hospital."
His breath hitched.
"I was so scared. I thought he might die."
He did not clench his hands.
"And I thought, baby, I thought, where's his family, why aren't they here?"
The words dripped with enough ice to chill even her cold, cold skin. His own was thin like paper, ready to rip if she just stepped forward. She touched his cheek, very gently, and he didn't flinch.
"He wrote you letters. So many letters. Pages of them. He'd stop himself every time. I always wondered what was in them."
He looked up at her, the desperation deeply hidden, but his grasp on her arm, living grasp on dead flesh, it had the power of a drowning man.
"Your eyes are green."
She sounded soft, a little surprised.
He reached for her as if he wanted to touch her, but his arm just hung in the air, awkward.
"Every day," she whispered, an unsteady tune, "you were there every day."
John Winchester's job took him close to the city's criminal element. He had pissed off a lot of people while alive. He continued to do so while dead. Rackets, gambling, moving arms – he had a finger in a lot of things, not for the profit, but most people didn't know that. They remembered his height, his beard, his penetrating eyes. They remembered that he had been in the war, had barely gotten by on his GI Bill. They didn't remember his pretty wife, but they knew his boys. The one who had gone up north, and the one who had stayed. They also remembered his debts.
Dean only wished John had a message to impart, something to remember, so he could at least be there and explain all the things he had done wrong.
He held up his hands gingerly.
"Hey now, fellas. Guns are a little much, don't you think?"
"Your papa's not here to pay."
They called him Yellow, because his eyes were the thing that people remembered, and they never knew much else anyway. Dean looked into his face, and found he couldn't remember a thing a moment later. Yellow played around in many things, and there was always sulfur in the air. But the city didn't allow for squeamishness.
"What does he owe?"
He didn't have much. He never had.
Yellow stepped close, his hat still shading his features. He was taller at this distance. His hand on Dean's shoulder was curiously intimate.
"More than you can pay, boy."
"Assuming a lot, huh?"
He struggled not to flinch back.
"Am I wrong?"
Yellow had a way of talking that was gravel deep and blade sharp. It'd broken men before, nothing more than his voice. Dean was no such weakling, but he wasn't stupid either.
"What do I need to do?"
"Your brother. Bring him back."
Dean looked up sharply. "What?"
"Just bring back your brother, Dean, and we'll be even."
Yellow smiled. It was nasty. He'd also just landed on the one thing Dean would refuse.
The first punch hurt the most, knocking the breath out of him, but he couldn't suck them back in properly, not with goons on either side of him, his arms trapped. He bit his tongue taking the rest of them, bright taste in his mouth, no noise on the street other than his own panicked breaths and the rhythmic grunts of the goons, their meaty fists. Yellow watched, impassive.
At the end, he stepped up again, knuckles brushing over Dean's cheek, then down.
"Rethink that, Dean, and get back to me."
The tenth man's girlfriend was pale, sickly dark hair framing her face. She wore a tight dress and thick heels. Her jewelry looked uncomfortable. She looked broken, Grecian nose and wide, unfocused eyes.
"He said he would call. He said he would write."
Gone. Dean remembered the reports.
"He was unfaithful."
Jess' eyes were narrowed. For a moment, she might have been talking about Sam.
"Figures," he said.
The girlfriend looked up through a haze of tears. Her makeup was on her cheeks. She made everyone who looked feel like a voyeur.
He turned away.
"Thank you. No more questions, Miss."
Jess followed him out the door. Her passing stirred nothing.
"You look like shit, baby."
She could touch him, nothing else. It soothed the hot bruising on his face.
"It's what happens. My father's business."
She frowned at that.
"He dreams too."
His voice was sharp, and she barely stopped herself in time to avoid the cut.
"He doesn't see us. He can't see us. He dreams of the living."
"That's – that's impossible."
Jess looked at him coolly. She was in low heels today, loose hair and a girlish sundress that clung to her pleasantly. It looked distinctly inappropriate against gray skies, but they stood eye to eye. His brother was tall.
"Only after. They don't come to him, not like we do. Only when he sleeps."
He had to stop, had to lean against a wall, forehead to forearm.
"Is he ok?"
"He dreams of terrible things, Dean, terrible things that haven't happened. That's what he does."
She drew him away from the wall.
"He used to dream of you."
He looked at her like a child.
"Tulsa. Boston. Sacramento. Austin. Toledo."
Each word was a pulse, a memory, of fear and pain and bringing himself back from the brink. He stilled.
"He almost came. Every time."
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. His face looked like it held too much for him to contain. She soothed him, hand on his shoulder.
"He's coming now."
Constance Welch had been a beautiful woman, small delicately made features and a sweep of dark hair. She'd had wide set eyes that asked for trust, a mouth just lush enough to be tempting. He looked at her in the frame, with her sweet smile and innocent white dress. There was nothing of the killer in her eyes, nothing of the madwoman.
Her children were neatly dressed and smiling happily beside her, a thread of intimacy between them all. He wondered at how one could hold a child down in the water, a child, your child, until the struggles stopped, and then the breathing. How to do that when you knew the way they cried as an infant, what foods they liked, the exact angle and source of their smiles.
"Damn shame," he muttered.
"Yes," Jess agreed. She was in white today as well. There was a bloodstain across her middle. Her eyes dared him to ask.
"Is he here?"
He couldn't stop himself, not about this.
"He shouldn't come, not here. Should stay up north, where it's safe."
His voice was fierce, but not enough to match her.
"He's coming," she said, "because this one is dangerous for you. You should leave it to that police friend of yours, baby."
"Not a friend," he said automatically.
"He can handle it."
"He doesn't know."
"Neither do you."
He was breathing hard, and she not at all.
"Dean," she said, "baby, he's never been wrong."
Her fingers were cold on his cheek. When her mouth opened, Sam spilled out. She talked about his studies, his impetuous nature. The contests he won, and the ones he lost. She talked about how his hair curled into his face, long, how he made her feel small even though she towered over other men. She talked about his hands, beautiful, broad, and are those your hands too? About his legs, runner's legs, strong. About his smile, sweet like she could see Dean's could be, something guileless.
She talked long past when a living throat would have begun to croak, story after story, the air full of his brother, and he could only listen.
The husband was a small man with a modest place. No junkyard, but there was certainly plenty of junk here, in the scattered old things and the shiny sides of the house, redone to avoid a storm, a hail of shot. It was hard to tell. He wore a cap and a frown, face ravaged by time, weather, grief. He turned his small, snub nose up at Dean when he asked questions, and pursed his lips frantically the whole time. He was hiding something, or he was upset. Maybe both.
"Mr. Welch," Dean said, a signpost, to draw him back. "Your wife?"
"Prettiest woman I ever known, the love of my life."
Dean nodded, shoved his hands in his coat pockets. "So you had a happy marriage?"
Something flickered across the weathered face, hesitation, guilt. The man turned his head to the side, wouldn't meet his eyes.
"Definitely," he said after a beat.
"Mr. Welch," Dean's voice was deep. "Do you know what a Woman in White is?"
That brought his head up. "What?"
"A Woman in White. A ghost story."
Beside him, Jess laughed into her hand. She stood head and shoulders above Mr. Welch, in too fancy a dress for this place, this broken man.
"Spirits, Mr. Welch. Different women, same story. You know what that story is?"
Joseph Welch squinted at him suspiciously. He ran a dirty hand across his nose, reddening it.
"What in hell are you going on about, dick?"
"Betrayed, Mr. Welch. Husbands were unfaithful, and the wives went crazy, murdered their children, and then themselves. Sound familiar yet?"
Welch reeled back, and his voice hitched. "You – you think this has something to do with Constance, you – smartass."
He wouldn't look at Dean. He wouldn't look anywhere. Jess seemed taller next to him because he hunched in on himself.
"You tell me," Dean said, iron in his tone but something softer in his voice.
"Ok now, ok now, maybe I made some mistakes, but Constance, she never woulda killed her own children, no matter what I did."
The leather seemed stripped from his face, something very naked there, in his features and his shaking hands, the way he clung to the unhappy place around him. Jess' mouth opened in a soft little sigh and Dean felt badly for the first time, like he was looking at something he had no right to.
"You get out of here," Joseph Welch said, voice reined in, brimming with silence. His fists were clenched. "You get out of here and don't you come back."
"I don't like this."
"You've said that already."
The road was dark ahead of them, trees made into strange shapes. There was no smell in the air, no real sound. It was late. His skin prickled. He didn't like it either.
"You should trust him. They never let him down."
"Not going to drop this case."
She was cold, colder than before, curled against his side. There was a half moon in the sky, obscured by clouds.
"You should, baby, you should."
He squinted ahead of him, as if his brother would appear on the road, Jess' Sam, his own Sam, tall and lanky, real.
She looked back at him instead, wide dark eyes and a white dress that flirted with her bare legs. Her dark hair was rangy in the moonlight, the beauty of the picture untouched by death, though he knew he had yet to see her real façade.
He whispered, "Constance."
"Dean, Dean, baby," Jess said in his ear. She sounded frantic, worried, as she had not been before.
He turned to look at her.
"I can't do anything, baby. I can't stop her. You have to go. Go."
He looked back at Constance, waiting for him, beautiful, by the side of the road.
"No pact between the dead?"
She stared back at him, nothing sweet and everything arch in her expression now.
"You know better, baby. We are not the restless dead. I'm here to remember. You're the only one, Dean. That thing will kill because it doesn't know any better. It's mindless now. I can't stay, not with it here. You have to go. Go."
Her eyes were bright and desperate in the light. He almost hesitated because they were Sam's eyes, even if only for a moment.
Then Constance was coming up fast, coming up fast and not stopping, the wheel loose and powerful underneath his hands, his hands but not his control.
He swallowed, as Jess' cold fingers closed on his forearm, her mouth small and tense. She was already fading, glowing like the moon glowed, just a blue shape in his car.
She looked curiously wanton for a mother, her hands wandering up soft thighs, skimming the length of the dress with them. She arched her throat. Her fingers were a different type of cold, one that burned instead of soothed, as Jess' did. Her features were still Constance's, lovely and just a little lush, dark beauty.
"I can never go home."
It was a lonely sound, her voice, echoing in a way that Jess' never had. She smelled like rot, old clothes and bathwater. His hands were tight on the wheel, but they did nothing. They were driving somewhere, the road plunging ahead of them, no lights.
"Take me home," she said again, calf eyes on him, senseless, as Jess had said. No blonde in the car with him now though, dead leaving the dead.
He recognized the old house from the pictures as they pulled up. Fallen apart now, no one to take care of him. Joseph Welch had said he would never live in the place where his children had died.
"You're scared," he said, realization dawning at the anxiety on her lovely features, cold in the moonlight.
"Hold me, baby, I'm so cold."
She was ice against him, her hands slipping under his coat, as her body moved with her. It was a good one, modest curves and long legs, but he couldn't get the smell out of his head, or the fear.
"You can't kill me," he whispered. "I'm not unfaithful."
He wondered if that was so true. He had never made any promises. The only he could remember held no real stock anyway.
She reared up, hair scattering around her shoulders in dark licks, no flush in her cheeks. Her hands curved over her breasts, an offering, an attack.
"You will be."
Then her mouth was on his, cold. She still kissed like a married woman.
The desperation he expected, and the smell that crawled its way up his spine, little fingers of ice. The pain was actually a surprise, strange burn that hovered between cold and hot, sting that framed his heart. He couldn't breathe, and her cold lips gave him no breath, just a helpless arching against weight that crushed and held back. He could see the rot beneath the beauty now, the nakedness of bone and stripped flesh behind her picture features, see them and drink them in.
It was easy not to struggle too much, even as his chest throbbed. Unfaithful, he thought distantly. There was Sam, and Jess, Sam's Jess.
He heard the trigger right before she dissipated above him. The scattered dots of rock salt littered his face and shirt as he laid there, breaths coming strangled and difficult. Heavy hands, familiar hands, shoved him into the passenger seat, and the car was moving forward until the impact against the house jarred them both, lights flooding the empty space.
"Can you move?"
Sam's voice was unforeseeably deep, a man's now, and he rose up very tall when he straightened, one hand extended for Dean to take.
"Yeah," he said after he gathered his breath. "Yeah, help me."
Fingers that wrapped around his own, and a hot palm at his back, pushing him out, helping him up, until Sam was right beside him. The ache in his chest burned, Constance's handprint still here. Sam carefully laid his own over the bloody fingerprints, before tilting his face up for Dean's scrutiny.
He looked the same, narrow eyes that promised trust and sincerity, the familiar sweep of his cheekbones, the moles that dotted his skin, his thin mouth, held in a frown now, but capable of big smiles, unguarded happiness. His jaw had sharpened though, and his hair fell unfashionably into his face. He wore a suit that fit better than Dean's, cutting against his shoulders and nipping at his narrow waist. It was only a little rumpled.
"Sam," he said, nothing in his voice.
Sam didn't wait for him, just pulled him into the embrace, easily. It was as if all the years between them had vanished.
Behind them, water dripped. The children came, and Constance was home at last. He thought about Yellow, the dangers of Sam back in this city. No angels here. It made his heart thump painfully.
Dean didn't care.
"Should you be haunting him? He's here now. You're his girl. I just take the messages and then they go away. That's how it works."
She sniffed delicately. "Shows a lack of imagination, baby, if you ask me. Besides, he can't see me."
She was in blue today, a deep color that glowed improbably in the sunlight. It brought out the brightness of her hair. She looked untouchable.
When she turned to look at him though, her face was soft.
"He missed your pancakes, you know?"
They both turned to look at Sam, brilliant under the sunlight, his brown forearms dotted with light hairs and broad shoulders moving lithely beneath his shirt. Dean's chest hurt again, and it had nothing to do with Constance. It was the familiar ache of the unfaithful, a memory of fingers on his thighs, his hips, a boy's mouth. There was no boy anymore. He couldn't remember if he'd really made this promise. If he had, Sam had betrayed him first.
Looking at Jess made it worse. She only smiled for him, brilliance he couldn't quite touch.
Usually, they came one by one. Jess herself negated that. He still had a steady flow of letters, but they were rarely in clusters.
Sometimes, letters weren't enough.
They rode past a burnt out shell of a hotel. The ruins made Dean's chest ache.
First, it was a girl, beautiful with smooth, dark skin and a riot of hair. She looked a little ravaged and a little triumphant, her limbs wrapped in something dark.
Jess regarded her curiously.
"My brother," she said simply, and Dean could see him in his head. There was love in her voice, a lot of regret.
"Tell him," she hesitated, before a smile came over her. It transformed her face, made it alive. "Tell him he's a fucking punk."
Next was a gorgeous brunette, all legs and brilliant white teeth.
"It's not over till it's over," she smirked at him. "You're handsome."
Jess made a face behind him, but she didn't interfere when the woman touched his cheek, angling her hip to cradle his. She wore dark lipstick and a tattered glow. The kiss brought the image of the brother into a clearer focus.
"Not over," she said again. "It's never over."
The next one watched her go, watched her generous hips and swaying gait.
"I'm not going to kiss you," he told Dean. He was very young, painfully so, with features soft enough that he must have learned to fight early. His eyes were blue, and his hair soft. He made Dean think of Sam, think of everything he tried to protect.
His smile was much sharper.
"Things happen. Bad fucking things. They always do. No use griping."
A green thing chased him, pleasant face and rich, dark horns.
"Oh daddy," he said, grinning at Dean. "Would have come sooner if I knew about this."
His eyes tracked Dean's body up and down, from his hat to his long coat to his scuffed shoes. It made him feel self-conscious. It made him blush. He suspected that was the point.
"Sing for me, baby?"
The hand on his cheek was actually warm, and Dean felt his throat start almost in spite of himself.
"You tell him to sing, huh? The time for that hasn't past, even if he thinks it has."
The next one was an Englishman. Dean distrusted him immediately, but this one wore weariness in his every move. There was the shadow of unexpected stubble on his cheeks, and an age in his eyes.
"Dying for love isn't nearly as romantic as you would think."
He didn't say anything more, crisp accent lingering in the air long after he disappeared, dark figure that receded into the mist.
The next one was the most alive of them all, but definitely dead. Tall thing given to brooding, with craggy features and surprising humor in the heavy eyes. He wore a dark coat with ease. There was something shattered about him that reminded Dean of the Englishman. In him, he saw the brother again, younger this time, unvarnished.
"Tell him I'm sorry."
The accent wavered between a normal one and something that lilted. He was gone as soon as he said it, dramatic flap of the coat as if he couldn't help himself.
The last one was a pretty girl, not the vibrant beauty of the sister nor the starlet brilliance of the second, but a plain, quiet sort of loveliness that dragged him in. She had mousy hair that curled tenderly around her neck, collarbones that showed sharp, a frail body. Her eyes flashed blue. There was ferocity in her delicate hands, her little wrists.
"There are things you can never come back from."
Her voice was very quiet, wavering. There was something so sweet about her face, her twisting hands. He wanted to hold her, but he was afraid he would cut himself.
"But you can never stop."
She looked at him, eyes brown now, hopeful.
"Can you tell him that?"
Jess came to his side as she walked away.
"He won't like what you're going to do."
"I don't care."
"He shouldn't even be here. It's dangerous."
"You think that would stop him?"
Dean smiled, considering.
"You know how we met?"
She was smiling now too. He shook his head, shook out another cigarette. He needed it. The visits were making his head ache, the image of the brother, a sad, broken man, connected to that hotel somehow.
"Some bastard getting a little too handsy at a party, paws all over me. Sam came in swinging. Two seconds, I think. No more. No hands."
She grinned, and Dean returned it, offering her the cigarette for a suck. She accepted.
"That's my boy."
"He was a born storyteller. Did he tell you about law school?"
They both knew the answer.
"I knew," said Dean. He didn't tell me. We didn't talk.
"Halloween. He used to scare me, scare everyone. Like it was all real. What did we know, huh?"
She blew the smoke into his face, expert little rings. She was happy, lost in the memory.
"Two pictures in his wallet. Never left them."
Dean snuck a puff while she looked to the side. Her legs were crossed, the scritch of nylon loud when she shifted them.
He could see that. Picture of her smiling in the sunlight, beautiful in an uncomplicated way. Sam's life. He thought of Yellow again.
She looked straight at him, handed the cigarette back.
Sam was out now, saved from his own sentimental notions. Dean smiled with difficulty.
Jess was more than his opponent though. She saved the sharpest attacks for last. He wondered if it was just in her nature or a gift from death.
"He wanted you to come with him. To San Francisco. To Stanford."
He ground out the cigarette. It was hard to breathe suddenly. Something he wanted for so long dangled right in front of him. Jess looked beautiful, and he hated her in that moment.
"He told you that?"
She shook her head, hair up today and tight.
"No, I found out later."
The moon grew smaller in the sky.
Shaya was not a tall woman, but she had presence. She wore rings that weighed her fingers down, and bright scarves. They were for the public though. She wore only her tattoos for the right customer.
She was bare today, and unsurprised. She never was when he came.
"Hello," she said, low voice, ravaged by her own potions, her trances.
He told her about Jess, how she was always there, had been there for weeks now, when all the others just came and left. He didn't say that he felt ashamed. He remembered Sam's eager mouth as well as she did. And now the thing he wanted most in the world, his dead girl, his beloved girl. Dean had that too, and he couldn't even tell his brother. Unfaithful. The word came easily to his lips these days.
Shaya turned her back to him. She spread roots that looked like men across her table, touched them with fingers delicate and sharp. She made him wait while her eyes rolled back and her hands shook.
"Not a spell," she concluded, voice cool.
"What do I do?"
His desperation was fickle, not in his voice today, even though it thrummed through his veins. He looked at her tapestries, bright, her tattoos, winding.
"I don't know."
It as an honest answer, one that gutted him.
He had a lot of talents.
Getting roaring drunk was one of them. He didn't indulge often, because it fucked with his instincts as much as the nicotine concentrated him. This time, though, it was exactly what he wanted.
He drained glass after glass at his table until each burn made him want to throw up, but he didn't stop. His eyes swam and his legs didn't quite support him. Jess wavered first, and then he could barely see her at all through the haze. It was amazing. It was vile.
Sam found him on the floor, shaking a little, the flush full in his face, drink down his chin and on his clothes. He shook his head, and Dean could barely see him.
They stumbled to the sink together, and he emptied his stomach, everything burning its way up his throat and through his mouth. Emptied until he felt there couldn't be anything left, but more of it came, his whole body convulsing. Sam's fingers were hot on the back of his neck when he slumped against the wall, miserable.
They were long, clever. They stripped him of his clothes carefully, while the haze of alcohol still swam in his eyes. He jumped when a nail scraped the sensitive skin of his thigh.
"Sorry," Sam muttered, but he didn't stop.
The shirt was the first to go, down his shoulders and wrists. Dean squinted to see. He whimpered a little when the cold air touched his cock, limp between his legs, the dark hair at his hips vulnerable in the bad light.
Sam touched it, very lightly, not sexual, just considering, and looked into his face. Dean could see that he remembered. He wanted to protest, to get away, but nothing obeyed him when he was like this. He felt stripped of more than his clothes, too much of him for Sam to see. Nothing he hadn't seen before, and miles of new things too. Sam's hands drifted over his cheek, his throat, the rounded muscle of his shoulders and the place where his chest still ached, down his stomach, hard, and the ridges of his hips. Gently, just wandering, judging, as if to make sure Dean was still there.
He fell asleep with his face in Sam's hair, breathing in something he thought he lost years ago.
Dean was not a man given to shame, but he felt it keenly enough at Sam's amused face in the morning, and Jess' reproachful one right behind him. His body felt sore, still tender from the gentle touch of his brother's hands. His head was ready to burst.
Sam silently handed him a glass of water, a blush touching his cheeks. He could smell the coffee brewing.
"That was stupid, baby," Jess said, her eyes on Sam, brimming with pain. She wanted to touch him. Dean was never surer of it than in this moment.
"I'm sorry," he said, wretched.
Sam's head jerked up sharply, and Jess' softened.
"You didn't have to hide it," she said. "I always knew. He loved me. He wanted me. He just loved you too."
She was standing right behind Sam, his comforting height and his broad shoulders, the lean planes of his face. Close enough to touch. Dean got up, only the sheet around him, stood facing Sam, one hand on either side of his brother's hips, so Jess could grasp him. She was so beautiful, even far from whole. He would have liked to have known her. The regret tasted sharp on his tongue, a twisting painful swallow, but there was no time for regret when it came to his brother, not time for anything else in the world.
Sam stared down at him, wondering. Something flickered across his face, as if he had a clue, as if he knew, somehow.
"I'm sorry," he said again, for both of them this time.
The light was good. His room felt bright.
Jess would not stop talking. She had a foul mouth, and fouler ideas.
"Right against the wall," she whispered, while Dean tried to focus. "Again and again and again."
"My tongue against his cock, the slit of it, you know? You do know, Dean. Just a little flutter, right against the grain. It drives him insane."
It was driving him insane, and she would not stop.
He tried humming. He tried talking to other people, but that was only embarrassing, because he had to watch between his own legs.
It was revenge, that much he knew. He bristled at every memory of Sam accusing Dean of talking too much. She wasn't even dressed in a particularly provocative way. Today it was just a plain, green frock, cinched attractively at the waist, and scattering so her legs gleamed in the dim light. She wore no makeup, just her own fresh faced beauty, hair caught back in a youthful tail
The moon was barely a sliver now.
They both stopped short when they saw the figure at the end of the alley. Dean was glad that Sam was elsewhere.
Meg was Yellow's daughter, or his lover. The stories were confused. Either way, she was someone to avoid. She had the sharp, feline sort of beauty that warned away even as it entranced, hair cut like a boy's, slacks that were indecently tight and a sharp-toothed expression.
"Dean," she said with real pleasure.
Beside him, Jess bristled, helpless.
Meg smiled, but it was more like a grimace, a promise. They said she wore dead men's bones around her neck. White gleamed from her throat. He didn't want to think about it.
Her wrist was thin in his hand, so brittle, but she'd never broken yet.
"What are you doing here?"
"You've brought your brother back. He's pleased."
She leaned in for a quick kiss. It was brutal, no sense of giving in it at all. Dean wiped away blood when she drew back. She slowly licked the same from her own mouth, eyes closing briefly. He looked away in disgust.
"Not for you, or him."
Her nail was sharp against his throat.
"Dean, Dean. Don't make a mistake."
"I'll kill her," Jess promised, but it was an empty one.
When Meg turned, she dragged the nail sharply, deeply, until he gasped, hand going to his throat, more blood there. It was a small burn, but it made him glare.
"Reconsider," she said, and the car was already pulling up to take her away. The air smelled sour, like sulfur.
Jess drew close as soon as they were alone.
"You didn't tell me," she said.
"Don't you know these things?"
He didn't mean to sound so bitter.
She looked paler than he'd ever seen her. "I'm not really me."
His sharp look got her talking again.
"I am, but we, we're memories, of things we need to say. We only know the things that matter."
It made sense. In a very twisted way.
"He's not safe, you see?"
They stood alone, silent.
The bar was downtown, a district Dean had done business in before. He hadn't particularly enjoyed it. This one was in it with Yellow and a few others. It was currently owned by a fellow from the Far East, sulfur in his blood too.
"He won't like this," Jess insisted. "You should tell him."
She twisted her hand in his hair meaningfully. She was taller than him today, in improbable heels.
"I know," he snapped irritably. But he wouldn't. He couldn't.
"What?" Sam looked at him curiously, a little defensively.
"Nothing," he muttered.
"What are we even doing here?" Sam had never had patience as a gift. He was hunched deep into his coat, hat dipped over his eyes.
They were attracting the wrong kind of attention. Glittering creatures flitted in and out of the door, blowing kisses. The doorman eyed them suspiciously.
Dean bent his own head.
"I have to deliver a message."
The thin, pretty girl whispered in his ear, "Things you can't come back from."
The brother was exactly as Dean had seen him from their eyes. Smooth head that gleamed in the light, and intelligent eyes. His mouth was belligerent, his hands capable.
He was a talker though, a jovial one.
He didn't bat an eyelid as they went on about his sister, Dean easily deflecting personal questions and launching jokes, building up their shared history, of stakes and blood and night. He felt Charles Gunn's ache too easily.
"I've got a little sister too," he offered, grinning as Sam drew up to them, still brooding.
"And here she is now."
He laughed into the punch that Sam launched, watched Gunn laugh in turn.
"Gunn here has a sister too. Was thinking of pairing you two up, but two gals doesn't exactly make a relationship, huh?"
Sam scowled enough to bring rain. Beside him, Jess rolled her eyes. She had another cigarette, but there was so much smoke in the room, her puffs barely registered.
Behind Gunn, her hands hovering above his shoulders, Alonna winked at Dean.
"Charles Gunn's nothing more than a big, fat punk," she stage whispered at him.
"You in this game?" he said to her brother.
Gunn nodded. His sister smiled.
"You want to."
Sam's voice was flat.
"I told you," Jess said, and then she walked away.
He shoved his cold hands into his pockets. The day was foggy, and the night even more so, not like LA.
"I won't." If you don't want me too.
"We're just talking here."
Sam looked tired, and Dean wanted to touch his face.
"Is this like the letters?"
He bit his cheek. He tried to be furtive about it, writing them while Sam was gone. Listening to his brother and his visitors both when they came. But he'd gotten used to doing it alone, no one to avoid in his apartment, his office. Sam had inevitably caught him at it a few times. Like a thief, his hands full of scrawled messages, spidering across sheafs of paper, the absent addresses blaring like alarms. He had never explained them.
Dean only heard the splinter of uncertainty because he was listening for it. It was the boy again, his brother. Sweet mouth and headstrong searches.
He ripped his hands out of his pockets, scraping his knuckles across the stitching, to wrap his fingers around the nape of Sam's neck. The skin was slightly hot, slightly damp, Sam's hair curling ticklishly into his knuckles. Sam's head bent until their foreheads met.
"I won't," he said. "Not unless you say it's okay." He paused, trying to organize instincts into words because Sam had never trusted his instincts as much as he did words.
"He needs it," Dean said finally. "I mean, I don't know if he knows it. But if ever there was a guy who needed to let off some excess tension, present company excluded, of course – "
Sam grinned and shoved him, and Dean relaxed a little. He shoved back, both hands, and then they were tussling back and forth, his arm around Sam's neck in a headlock, and Sam, dirty fucking fighter, rabbit punching him in the ribs. Their coats were rucked around them, a companionable reflection in the pools of water on the dirty streets.
It was settled.
The brooding one watched with approval as Gunn began to remember, a wild joy sparking his every movement. The green one saw him sing again in the thrust of blades and guns.
"Not over," the gorgeous brunette hummed. She pivoted to allow Dean to take the last vampire. Pivoted and vanished. Behind her, the Englishman grinned at him crookedly, some of the weariness lifted from his face.
Gunn turned to look at him, triumphant, breathing hard.
Dean kissed him, because it seemed like the right thing to do. The sweetness of the girl was in his own tongue, the Englishman in his weary knowledge, and the leashed wildness, just barely leashed, of the brooding man. He could see that Gunn remembered all these things, in the way he surged against Dean, bit his lips, moaned with something other than lust.
The moon was barely in the sky, but Gunn was still wild with the fight, the blood, when they got back to the motel room.
It was a dismal affair, hard beds and flickering lights, but neither of them were in the mood to care.
A sweep, and Dean was down in the chair, hot all over, arching into Gunn's desperate grasps. The blood was fresh on him, and the dust. He could see the vitality all around him. A short letter this, but one with a bite.
The kiss was not a married man's kiss, no question of faith here, just giving and taking. Equals.
He laid out the conditions, easily, between nipping, biting kisses.
Gunn was just being practical, so Dean forgave him the assumption.
He watched the breath taken. The sharp nod.
The boy, the slender one with the soft face grinned behind him.
"Good for him. He always twisted things up, too fucking complicated."
He grinned, the boy's grin, as he flipped Gunn on his back with a heave, hands at his belt loops. This was easy, familiar.
He remembered Jess' litany, tongue swallowing the heavy weight of it, its dark smell, musk and earth and only a little regret. He let it flutter at the slit, just a little, and was rewarded with the hand that tightened at the back of his skull.
Gunn was just as enthusiastic in his exploration, tongue mapping Dean's scars, stripping him. It was too much. He had to lean back. He couldn't look. Unfaithful. Jess wasn't here. She wouldn't intrude on the other visitors before their message was delivered. Sam would be here soon, and Dean couldn't think of that.
The hand at the back of his neck, at the hollow of his hip, told him to relax. It was a slow, careful job, something of the old Gunn he saw in the eyes of all his visitors. That calmed him down before anything else.
"Don't," he said, the please hidden in the folds of his tongue. Gunn kissed him hard, teeth clacking, and then he kissed his cock, straining, ugly and red.
He was close, desperate, straining against the sheets, damp and catching with sweat.
"Fuck," he said, and thought of Sam's face, Sam's hands on his body, that old intimacy. "He's going to kill me."
When he emptied himself into Gunn's mouth, they were all there, gathered around the two of them, protecting. Thread of memory and worry holding them here, these forms. He felt warm, safe. He hoped Gunn felt it too.
"Can you stay?"
There was curious hesitancy to the now familiar voice, intimate in the darkness where they sprawled. His breath caught.
"Not all night," Gunn amended. "Just until I fall asleep?"
Dean knew he didn't ask things often, knew it deeply through the eyes of the dead. He couldn't refuse.
He said, "I can do that," and curled against Gunn's tense body, one arm curving around his waist. It felt right.
They nodded at him, smiles on their faces, as Gunn's breathing steadied.
Dean closed his eyes.
When the rakshasha got him in the side, he was more surprised than anything else.
Sam was still angry, had been since Dean reappeared, scrubbed clean of Gunn and his friends, the absence glaring.
He wrestled Dean out of his jacket, gave him something that made his head spin.
"What, what is this? Opium?"
His voice was already giving out on him.
"Ether," Sam said simply, voice smooth and slick, like a lawyer's.
His side hurt, the memory of the claws, hurt more than he could remember. He couldn't stop the soft, pathetic sounds that came out of his mouth. His head spun, and the adrenaline that had carried him this far was failing him. The pain was appalling, a streak of fire at his side. He had to bite his lip to stop the whimpers. The needle made him arch up, but he wasn't strong enough to buck Sam's weight.
"I'm sorry," he said instead.
The messages. No visitors today. Not even Jess.
The bite was sharp, like a burn. He made a sound again, an embarrassing one, and Sam's hand was soothing him.
"Want you," he said thoughtlessly.
"You're not making sense." Sam's voice was gentle. Behind his head, out the window, the moon had all but disappeared from the skin, just the thinnest brightness visible in the wide, velvet darkness.
When he started, he couldn't stop. Like Jess. Like himself. The messages. Gunn. The dead. How unfair it was, that Sam saw the living, saw the way to save them, and Dean could only give a little peace to those already gone, caught by one memory, one person. Forever in the wake of loss. Unfair, and unfaithful.
He still couldn't tell Sam about Jess. It felt wrong, even as his head swam on without him.
His brother listened in silence. His hand at Dean's side was tense.
"Does Dad know?"
His father, God, his father. Debts to pay. Yellow to assuage, his brother the price. He didn't even know what John Winchester had done. Where he had gotten the hardware that was in the trunk of Dean's car, the old gun and journal he made his son promise to keep. A soldier, his father, no politician, and ever uncommunicative.
He tried to shake his head, but it only made him dizzy.
"I only told one person."
There were tears pricking his eyes now, between the fading hurt and the cloudy brightness in his head, the drug taking over. He couldn't filter himself. He couldn't stop himself at all.
"Mom," Sam's voice was like a punch. "You told Mom."
And look what happened to her.
Sam didn't need to hear it.
"Not your fault," he said. "Not your fault."
His side still hurt, but Sam did good work, small neat stitches that would barely leave a scar. He ran his hand gingerly over the little black row of them.
Jess' pale one followed his fingers, cool and gentle, then up over the bands of muscle at his ribs, his shoulders. It was like she was remembering him.
"Well, I guess this is it, baby."
The moonlight had always lit her up, but it was faint tonight, the last slice of it almost gone from the sky. She wore a simple nightdress, clean and white. No bloodstain or sign of anything wrong. She ruffled his hair affectionately.
"What do you mean?"
The ache that came felt distant.
"Aww Dean, baby, you're so cute when you pretend not to understand."
She actually pinched his cheek.
"I don't," he began, then stopped himself. "Do you have something you want me to tell him or not?"
He had seen the naked want in her eyes when Sam was with them. It was no lie.
She patted his cheek fondly. "Baby, Sam really is the brighter brother, isn't he?"
She turned and walked away as the last of the moon slid from the sky.
He couldn't forget. He could never forget. Sam's face was beautiful, turned toward the dying sun.
Dean drew his cheek into the kiss gently, nothing like Constance, desperate, or Meg, vicious, or even Gunn, lost in his memories and his own return. It was the two of them. Brothers. Simple. And a world of things.
It took Sam a moment to respond, but when he did, it was with both hands, his whole body, his old eagerness.
"I missed you," Dean said simply, "when you were gone."
Sam blinked, his lips flush. His eyes were warm.
"I missed you too, Dean."