Title: Half the Man
Characters: Sam 'n Dean, a pinch of Kevin and Missouri
Warnings: four-letter words, much blood, spoilers for Season Eight
Summary: Nothing is certain but change. The angels are falling, Dean has the King of Hell in his trunk and a pissed-off prophet to placate, but Sam isn't even close to right. When it rains, it bloody well pours.
Notes: Written for ladykorana's prompt at ohsam: “What if the trials really did purge Sam of demon blood? But what if the demon blood was giving him huge advantages in health growing up (height, immune system boost, etc.)? Now without it, even recovered from the Trials, his immune system is just not what it used to be, and he catches every little cold and flu going around. And maybe takes longer to recover from injuries as well." I only got through half the prompt, but it works. I think. Maybe. Much love to my team of generous betas: nwspaprtaxis, amberdreams, monicawoe, and to honeylocusttree for her patient brainstorming. It truly does take a village.
The sky rained fire.
Steaming bodies crashed through the stark-raving night and walloped into the ground. Dull, heavy, ugly thuds and a spray of embers, everywhere the eye could see, the ear could hear. Dean hauled Sam into the salvation of the Impala and drove with an urgency that bordered on the manic.
There really was no other choice; he had the right to make that executive decision. Whatever shape any given angel would be in, Dean was damned certain it wouldn't be cheerful or gracious or even minutely glad to see a hairless ape, let alone a Winchester. They had to get gone.
Sam writhed in the shotgun seat, his arms glowing brighter than the dashboard. Not just his arms anymore, but his shoulders and his chest, illuminating the blood-stained plaid shirt, and then up his throat so that when Dean glanced over—the landscape soaring by at Mach ten—he could see Sam's veins and arteries in swollen definition. If Metatron made Sam uncomfortable by his mere proximity, by simply ‘resonating’ in his general direction, Dean could only imagine what it felt like to sense the resonation of hundreds, possibly thousands of falling angels.
“You hang in there. I ain't gonna let anything happen to you, little brother, hang on. Please, Sam, hang the fuck on.”
But Sam wailed Dean's name like he didn't know he was doing it and clawed at his own skin. He arched his back and gritted his teeth, blood leaking from the corner of his mouth and Dean prayed it was only a bitten tongue. Scratch that, he didn't pray because there was no one listening; he wished so hard that his brain throbbed. Made about as much difference.
Sam had begun talking to himself over the past few miles, eyes dull, still dragging fingers over sickly luminescing skin. Saying things like “too fast”, “they won’t stop screaming” and worst of all, “fucked it up I'm sorry sorry sorry.”
Dean stomped the gas pedal to the floor and stopped looking at Sam because now he was truly afraid. He turned on the radio so he couldn’t hear the mumbling, and didn't let up until the abandoned factory that housed the bunker loomed in silhouette against an anemic dawn sky.
“Come on, Sam, we’re home.” Dean trundled his brother out of the car, shouldering most of the weight. He couldn’t see Sam glowing, what with the world crawling towards daylight, but Sam was quivering and over-warm and had stopped speaking. Nothing good.
Dean kicked the door with his boot, looked up to the security cam covertly embedded into the brick. “Kevin, open the goddamned door. I will end you if you don’t—”
The door rattled open and Kevin’s bloodshot eyes peeked through the crack. He pelted Dean with holy water from a plastic nozzle. Of course.
Dean blinked and shouldered past, Kevin on his heels.
“Hey, what the hell happened? The—the whole place went off! Lights, alarms. I couldn’t get the damned door unlocked until an hour ago. Are you guys—”
“Timing, Kevin, timing.”
Sam’s head was lolling, his feet barely moving of their own accord. The heat bleeding off his skin made Dean sweat by proxy. Kevin finally had the wherewithal to get out of the way as Dean hauled Sam down a passage to a bedroom, any bedroom. The hallway echoed with their breathing and the squeak of their boots on the marble floor.
Dean leveled Sam onto an unmade bed and noticed what was likely Kevin’s clothes and rucksack in a corner. Oh well.
Kevin didn’t dare complain. “Is he …? Never mind. I’ll get some water.” And he darted off, probably the smartest thing he could’ve done in that moment. His footfalls faded down the hall.
Now that Sam was prone and quiet, and Dean’s heart wasn’t pounding in his ears, he could take stock, make a guess at the damage but if he had to be honest? This was unknown territory. He didn’t have a clue what was going on. He stripped out of his coat and dropped it on the floor before doing the same for Sam, pulling at his brother’s shirt to the detriment of the buttons. He rolled Sam onto his side and manhandled him out of his t-shirt.
Sam was sucking in breath like the air was thick, cuts all over his skin. Jesus, at some point Sam must’ve gone through a window. Dean gingerly pulled out a pinky-sized shard of blue glass and watched the blood run, the skin tug between Sam’s ribs with each inhale. He couldn’t tell if Sam’s skin was still faintly glowing or if he’d simply gotten that pale through the course of the Trials. Neither scenario was close to acceptable.
Kevin came back with a damp washcloth and a towel, a bottle of water tucked into the crook of his elbow. “Is it, is it over? Is Hell sealed?”
Dean took the washcloth and wordlessly shook his head. Kevin would be angry. The kid should be angry. This wasn’t playing out how any of them expected. Dean had devised Plan ‘A’ after Sam stole the Trials from him. One option: success. He’d make damned sure Sam lived through this fiasco and they slammed the gates on Hell. No deviation.
Until there was. And in typical Winchester fashion, they didn’t have a Plan ‘B’.
“Is Sam dying?”
“Not on my watch,” Dean murmured as he wiped the sweat and grime from Sam’s temple, the blood from his shoulder.
Kevin was silent for a few seconds before setting the bottle of water on a bedside stand and Dean heard him turn and walk out of the room.
“What a waste,” Kevin said flatly before shutting the door.
Dean’s phone was glowing 2:17 a.m. when he heard something thump in the hallway. It shocked him awake but he was miles from clear-headed. He untangled himself from the sheets and, squinting, fumbled a gun from the ledge over his bed.
He poked his head out the doorway and in the wan glow of a light left burning in another room, he saw the outline of haystack hair and sharp shoulders fifteen, twenty feet away, at the corner.
“Sorry, din’t mean to …” the silhouette of Sam scrubbed a hand across his face. He shuffled his feet and there was a damp, sucking sound. That's when the smell hit Dean.
Salty, metallic, but underscored with rot. Sulfurous.
Dean stepped into the hall and his bare foot slipped in something wet. Panic bloomed in his chest just as bile hit the back of his throat. He swallowed, slapped the wall switch, and the sconces threw warm light down the corridor.
Sam was still dressed, or rather, undressed exactly as Dean had left him earlier in the evening, but now his chest was slicked with bloody sweat. There was so much that it saturated the sagging waist of his jeans and must've run down his legs because the stain of footprints tracked across the floor. At intervals along the wall, Dean saw the marks where Sam had bounced off it.
"What did you do to yourself?" Dean snapped as he stepped into the hall, pointedly avoiding the slime trail. Sam Winchester, human slug.
"Whuh? Din't do noth—" Sam swiped his hand across his chest and made a choking sound when his palm came back red. He started again with the hacking coughs, and more blood, dark and viscous, came up. Sam's eyes rolled back in his head.
Dean shot forward and caught Sam before he hit the hard floor. If not for a fistful of waistband, Sam's slick and feverish body would've slipped right out of Dean's grip.
"Holy shit, what's he got? Ebola?" Kevin was gawking from the other end of the hall, surfacing from wherever he'd crashed for the night. Probably the bunkroom.
"Not helping," Dean grunted, stumbling. "Run the bath. Gotta see where this blood is coming from."
"You run the bath! I'm not getting anywhere close—"
"Goddammit, Kevin! Run the fucking bath," Dean boomed and Kevin twitched, but the authority in Dean's voice was compelling.
By the time Dean had labored and careened his way to the lavatory, the big industrial tub was half-full of tepid water and Kevin was still keeping a wary distance, looking decidedly green. Not that Dean could blame him. The kid had seen a hell of a lot and was soldiering on as best he could but … yeah. Even Dean was queasy with worry. Blood didn't spontaneously leak out one’s pores, as a rule.
Sam had roused to partial consciousness and was barely keeping himself upright as he sat on the edge of the tub, while Dean tugged him out of his jeans. The bathroom was starting to feel like a butcher shop, all the smooth sterile surfaces getting smeared with red and the air growing rank with the stuff. Sam had lost more weight, sudden weight, even since yesterday. The blood pooled in the shelves of his collarbones and the valleys between his ribs. It looked so fundamentally wrong that Dean couldn’t help but cringe. Sam worked too fucking hard to take care of himself, to eat right and work out and all that shit, and here he was, withering under Dean's watchful eye. What the fuck.
Sam didn't say a word as Dean helped him into the tub, a testament to their shared grim mood. The water drifted pink.
"How do you feel?" Dean said, swiping a washcloth across Sam's back, only to watch the skin sweat bloody pinpricks again.
"Well that's helpful."
"I know. Sorry. I mean I feel ... not awful." His words were still slopping together but he sounded more cohesive, actually finishing his thoughts. "Lighter."
"You need to eat, dumb ass."
"No, not hungry, Dean." Sam looked up, his damp hair sticking in curling tendrils along his forehead, his neck, trailing red. "Lighter. Emptied." Blood was running from his tear ducts. "Clean."
Dean took a breath, tried to ignore the coppery stink in the air. "Okay, Sammy. Okay."
“You know how skeevy this looks, right?” The voice hovered over Dean’s head, dull and dreamlike. His tongue was thick and it took a bit of work to get it moving again, if only to drag across his lips. He’d been sleeping on his back with his mouth flapped open. His throat stung and from the crick in his neck, he was fairly certain that he hadn’t moved one inch in hours.
He cracked an eye. “Kevin?”
The kid was annoyingly awake, but still wore the punch of dark circles around his eyes.
“It’s almost noon,” Kevin said. “I made lunch. Brunch. Something.”
“You did … what?” Dean smacked his lips dryly and shoved back the covers, his arm thwacking into a warm mound of blanket that was pressed up against his side. Judging from the tuft of brown hair across the pillow, it was Sam.
Last night’s misadventures came drifting back in seasick waves. Some time around 4 a.m., Sam had stopped bleeding. Both of them were falling asleep, Sam in the bathtub and Dean barely sitting upright on the commode. Dean had snapped to it enough to haul his brother to his feet and briefly rinse him off, but they both still smelled of blood. He’d dragged Sam as far as his own bed before collapsing, soggy and practically sleepwalking.
And now morning was happening and Kevin was kneeing the side of the bed, saying something about food.
Dean slid a hand around Sam’s neck, felt a solidly fluttering pulse and released his breath. Satisfied for the moment, he heaved himself upright and groaned. “Surprised you’re still here.”
Kevin shrugged. “My mom’s dead; I haven’t got friends anymore. Where would I go?”
Dean felt the fleeting urge to apologize but bit it back. Life sucked sometimes. Hell, most of the times. It’d do no one any good to take credit for all the bad crap, even if it might’ve been partially his fault. Their fault. The Winchester Syndrome.
“Right. Gimme a minute.” Dean scrubbed a hand across his face, over his dry, crunchy hair. Kevin turned away but before he could get out the door, Dean called after him. “Oh, and hey. Kev. Thanks.”
Kevin paused, slid a barely tolerant glare over his shoulder, and left.
Still, it was the right thing to say.
Kevin wasn’t a bad cook, all things considered. He must’ve gone out and shopped with one of the many scammed credit cards floating around MoL Central, and he’d fashioned a decent meal from eggs, bread, and ham. Orange juice, coffee. Nothing fancy but it smelled like Julia Child-caliber cooking to Dean. He still felt like he’d been rode hard and put up wet, but his belly rallied at the prospect of real food.
Kevin gave him half a glance when Dean stumbled to the eat-in kitchen and dropped down into a chair. The kid must’ve had time to cool off because when he spoke, he wasn’t dripping venom. God, Dean was glad.
“So you guys screwed it up.”
Maybe feeling ‘glad’ was a bit premature. Dean grabbed a plate and started loading it up. “We made a choice. One man’s screw-up is another man’s gold medal so suck it, Kevin.”
“The trunk. Hey, tasty bacon, man. Peppered. That’s some good stuff right there.”
Kevin stared for a few beats, his jaw slack. “In the trunk? Of your car?”
Dean nodded and shoveled food in his face.
“Shit, Dean! What’re you gonna—”
“There’s a dungeon in the basement. I’ll lock him up when I’m good ‘n ready.” Dean wondered absently if demon meatsuits needed to piss; he decided to move Crowley right after brunch. Just in case.
“No, they don’t.” A voice said on a yawn and Sam shuffled into the kitchen, dressed and more bright-eyed than he’d been in weeks. He’d thrown a gray robe over a plaid shirt over a t-shirt and jeans, and still seemed to be shivering. He grinned vaguely as he helped himself to coffee. “This looks awesome, Kev. Thanks.”
Dean paused, his fork hovering over his plate, and decided he wasn’t as awake as he’d thought. He must’ve been thinking out loud. “It lives! Any more glowy-arm business?”
“Nope. Just my normal shade of pale.” Sam sat at the table and snagged a piece of toast from the stack.
“Good. You can help me schlep Crowley to the dungeon after you eat.”
Kevin chimed up from his seat, most emphatically. “Because I’m not touching that ass-hat with a ten-foot poll.”
Sam chuckled, an honest-to-God laugh. “Fair enough.”
And Dean felt like the heavens had opened and the angels were singing. Well, the ones that weren’t face-planted on terra firma, anyway.
Sam swapped the robe for his old brown coat and they wrangled a hood onto the King of Hell, chained him to a chair in the warded dungeon, and left the fucker to his own devices. He could yell and sputter his indignation all he wanted, but no one would hear him. He’d get tired of his own company soon enough, then maybe he’d spill the beans on the location of every Earth-bound demon. Things were looking up.
Sam swore he was feeling better—and he wasn’t swaying on his feet or oozing blood so there was that—but Dean wanted proof positive. They slunk off to the indoor shooting range and Dean wagered if Sam was steady enough to hit the target, they could begin untangling this angel-demon thing in earnest and put the Trials far behind them. None too soon.
But something was … off. Sam hit the man-shaped silhouette on the paper target, no problem, but his aim was low every single time. Only a few inches, but that could make the difference between a shot to the heart and a shot to the groin. Kinda important if you’re aiming with a silver-filled bullet at a shifter. Sam’s center was off. And after assessing Sam’s stance and how he had to keep rolling up his sleeves after he fired, Dean needed to test a theory.
“Your sleeves are in the way. Try taking off your shirt.”
“What? That’s ridiculous.”
“Humor me, Sam.”
Sam rolled his eyes, naturally—because this was Sam—and took off one shirt. One. He was bundled in several more and it was probably restricting his movements just enough to matter. By Dean’s count, Sam was in two flannels, a thin sweater and one, maybe two, t-shirts—in descending order.
“You can not be that cold, dude,” Dean said. Sam’d better not have thermals on under his jeans or there was no way he’d make it through a Kansas winter.
“No, I do not have on two pairs of pants. Gimme a break, will you?”
“Okay, wait a minute. I didn’t say that out loud—”
“Yes, you did.”
Sam huffed and looked Dean right in the eye, clearly annoyed. Looked Dean right … in … the …
Dean felt a trickle of panic. “Dude. You’re shrinking.” He looked down, frowned at the way Sam’s jeans bunched over his wool socks.
“What? Seriously, Dean.”
“I’m not fucking around here. Take off another shirt.”
Sam should’ve been sweating buckets but he wasn’t. Color hit his cheeks when he must’ve realized Dean was on to him. Dean didn’t back down or stop glaring, so Sam sighed and stripped out of his second flannel.
“Another,” Dean demanded.
“This is stupid.”
“Don’t care. Let’s see the damage.”
Sam pulled the threadbare sweater over his head and stood, shamefaced, in front of Dean in his t-shirt. T-shirts. He was rail thin and pointedly shorter. He might’ve been a scant inch taller than Dean, considering footwear, which was just damned disorienting.
“But I feel fine,” Sam insisted.
What if you don’t stop? Dean deliberately kept the comment to himself, and watched as Sam’s face went from embarrassed to alarmed. “And then there’s THAT too. Don’t tell me you didn’t just hear what I was thinking or I’ll kick your scrawny ass from here to Oz, scarecrow.”
“Not funny.” Sam grabbed his discarded clothing, fuming.
“Damned straight, it’s not funny. When were you gonna tell me?”
“It just happened; I barely had a chance!” Sam turned on his heel and marched away, tugging at his belt when his jeans sagged.
“Hey, maybe you can borrow clothes from Kevin.”
Sam presented Dean with his middle finger and disappeared around the corner.
Dean sighed, began collecting the guns, and forced himself not to freak out. Maybe this was just some temporary Trial thing. Maybe if Sam would stop eating salads and turn to meat and potatoes for a change, he’d put the weight back on. This wasn’t the end of the world. Hey, if beanpole Garth could hunt, then Sam—
“I heard that,” came Sam’s bellow from down the hallway.
“Grab your coat.” Dean jogged down the three steps to the war room where Sam was skimming the morning paper, or rather, squinting at it.
Two days had passed and Crowley was still being obstinate. Sam seemed to have stopped shriveling at six-feet and 150-ish pounds, and had resorted to stealing Dean’s clothes. He actually did try Kevin’s, at Dean’s insistence, but was simply too tall to look anything but absurd.
“I think I need reading glasses,” Sam grumbled.
Dean bit the inside of his cheek as he filed Sam’s waning eyesight into the growing catalog of ‘What Else Could Go Wrong?’ and plastered on a bogus grin. “Great. We can get those on the way. Grab your coat; let’s go.”
Sam set the paper aside and squinted at Dean instead. “Where are we going?”
Somehow, Sam managed to squint and look petulant, all at the same time.
“Where’re we going, Dean.”
“Lawrence.” No sense in lying; Sam would suss it out after a moment anyway. They hadn’t seriously tested the boundaries of Sam’s psychic routine but so far, it seemed to limit itself to Dean, providing that Sam was being forthright.
“Um, why? Wait a minute. We’re going to Missouri.”
“Yep. If anyone can figure this out, it’s her.”
“Wow. She’s still around? You actually talked to her?”
“Nope, but it’s worth a tank of gas, right?”
Sam drummed his spidery fingers on the newspaper, frowning.
Dean put his knuckles on the table and leaned forward. “Don’t make me carry you out.”
It didn’t take a mind reader to know Dean could, and would, do it. Sam’s mouth pressed into a tight line but he grabbed his—well, one of Dean’s—old coats.
Missouri was off the grid. Her old number had been disconnected and Dean's patience with Google was shorter than a sneeze. Sam gave it a cursory try, but no dice. They decided they'd have better luck in person, grilling locals, than trying to chase a long dead 'paper' trail. It was only four hours to Lawrence from Lebanon anyway, three and some change if Dean pushed it, and the change of scenery would do them good.
They secured Crowley nine ways to Sunday in the dungeon and gave Kevin strict orders not to poke the King until they returned. Hopefully, the kid would listen. If not, Dean wasn't altogether certain he'd disapprove. Then they gassed up Baby and left.
An hour in, Dean got annoyed with Sam squinting at whatever paperback he'd brought along and made him buy a pair of reading glasses at the Target in Clay Center. It was weird as fuck seeing Sam in the specs, but not because of the nerdiness that went along with them. Hell, that was fitting. It was the conflict between Sam's current state of health and the last time Dean remembered him being this ... this frail. No bigger than he was at fifteen when he'd had that surprise growth spurt and was suddenly stealing Dean's clothes because his own didn't fit and was all stretched limbs and peach fuzz and full of possibilities. Back then, he'd worn his hair like a Beatle and had the shrewd, oblivious cockiness of a kid too smart to know his own limits. He played soccer and got fiendishly good grades and snuck beers on the weekends. The man that rode shotgun now had had all that unfettered potential carved away. His eyes sat in hollow sockets behind the new glasses, three-day's worth of stubble where a shit-eatin' grin used to be. He'd pawed his long hair off his forehead and years of frowning had furrowed delicate lines over his brows. A few rebellious gray hairs kept floating loose from the brown ones and fluttered in the burnt-smelling air from the car's vents.
Dean worked at keeping his grip loose on the steering wheel, his slouch casual.
"Turn the radio on," Sam said without looking up.
"You can listen to music—"
"You're reading. I'm trying to be Mr. Considerate, here."
Sam set the book upside down on his knee and fumbled off the glasses to rub his eyes. He still looked like he'd forgotten how to sleep. Again. "I'd rather listen to moldy rock than to you worrying about me."
Dean moved his mouth to snipe back, but couldn't really work up a good argument; he turned on the radio instead, as though it'd been his idea all along.
'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' filled the car. Awesome.
But Sam sniggered so Dean let it play.
The sun was low in the sky by the time they pulled up to Missouri's old house. Sam's glasses had slid to the tip of his nose and he was napping, the paperback fluttering its pages on his lap. He looked exhausted, even in sleep, so Dean left him in the car. Not even the groaning of Baby's door stirred him.
Laundry drifted ghost-like from a line in the sideyard. If Dean remembered correctly, the house used to be blue or gray, but now it was yellow. Someone still lived here. The air hung quiet except for the occasional song of a night bird and pings from Baby's cooling engine. When Dean stepped onto the porch, he heard the faint sound of someone humming inside.
He raised his fist to rap on the screen door and a woman's voice hollered from deep within the house: "You hold your horses, I'll be right there." There were only two women who could use that tone of voice and get complete compliance from Dean Winchester: Ellen Harvelle and Missouri Mosley. And Ellen was long dead.
A lock rattled, the door swung open easily and Missouri was standing there, smiling up at Dean. He hadn't expected to be surprised by her, but he was. Maybe it was just the fact she was still around. She'd hardly changed, though. She was a little stouter, crinkles around the eyes and a different hairstyle, but when she smiled, sad and warm, Dean felt like he could exhale and let his shoulders sag. He let all the pressure and fear he'd been carrying around since the start of the fucking Trials roll off him like a bad stink.
"Dean Winchester," she said fondly, and stepped aside for him to enter her home. When he started to mention Sam asleep in the car, she waved her hand. "He'll come in when he's ready. I want to talk to you. Just you. It'll be all right for a few minutes."
The house's insides had been repainted too, but the furniture was the same. A table lamp with a shade made of stained glass filled the corner with all the colors of a church on Sunday. Seemed fitting. Missouri reached out, wrapped him in a hug, and Dean melted a little bit more. He wedged his chin into the crook of her shoulder and just hung there for a few deep breaths.
She let him be the first to pull away. "Sit down, sit down. Let me get you something warm to drink. You need a nice hot cup of coffee. Doesn't take any special gift to see that much."
Dean knuckled his road-bleary eyes. "Yeah, well, it's been a rough few months."
"I know it has," she said softly as she went to the kitchen.
Even though he'd been driving for hours, Dean sunk onto her couch and doubted he could get back up until someone shoved him. Missouri came back with an oversized mug, handing it to him. One sniff confirmed that there was a good shot of whiskey in the brew. She lifted a knowing brow and Dean grinned at her over the rim.
"So," she said, after half of Dean's drink was gone and his belly was warm with it. "You here about Heaven leaking or is it family thing? Or both?"
“You’re the psychic, you tell me.” He regretted the words immediately.
“Now, Dean Winchester. I know you’re worried but that’s no cause to be a smart aleck.” She folded her arms across her considerable chest. “Yes, the angels have fallen and your brother is manifesting again. There’s been so much psychic static in the air, I can hardly tell one impression from the next. But it may not be as hopeless as you think, you know.”
“And maybe it is.” Dean slumped back, resting his mug on his belly, and sighed deeply. He felt a million years old. “Maybe Heaven is fucked and Sam is, shit, I don’t know. There’s no straight shot, here. I got no idea what to do. We’ve got the King of Hell in our basement, a pissed-off prophet playing house-sitter, and I’m … I’m not sure I even care.”
“Language,” she chided, with no heat. “You do too care, because that’s what you do. But honey, let Sam and your pissed-off prophet care for you back. You aren’t the only grown-up in the world, and if you keep thinking you have to be responsible for everything, for everyone, you’ll forget to be Dean Winchester.” Missouri leaned forward and clucked her tongue. “When was the last time you did something just for yourself?”
Dean struggled with the mental math. He could barely remember the last time he’d gotten laid. When was that Ren Faire thing with Charlie and the fairies and the fake orcs? Months ago?
“See?” she said, smug. “Wasn’t the world just a little bit brighter after that?”
“Aw, Missouri.” Dean felt his cheeks go hot; he didn’t need her poking around in his libido. He went from feeling ancient to feeling like a clumsy fourteen-year-old all over again.
“You listen to me, young man. It’s lonely enough, doing what you and your brother do, what your father did. But loneliness is scarier than any monster out there, so you let people into your life. You don’t be afraid of them. Of living. You’ve earned it.”
A light wind shuddered the screen door and brought with it the tread of footfalls. Missouri glanced up and paused, something thoughtful passing over her gaze as though listening to more than the steps approaching. “Well, I’ll be.”
Dean looked over his shoulder and for a flash, he didn’t recognize the scrawny man on the porch until Sam moved into the glow of the yellow bug light beside the door.
“Knock knock,” Sam said, in lieu of doing the deed.
Missouri bustled up, crossed the room briskly and pushed the door open. Before Sam could get all the way inside, she had her arms around him, chuckling. Dean watched her behavior with no small amount of surprise and from the look on Sam’s face over her shoulder, he didn’t quite get it either. But he didn’t seem to mind.
Finally, she let him go, brushing a palm over his cheek. “Sam, sweetie. You did it.”
“I … what?” He was grinning, confused, and Dean could only shrug.
“You did it. I’m not sure how you managed, but you’re clean. Clean as a whistle.”
His expression wavered, at first confused and then, hesitantly hopeful. He blinked, and Dean saw Sam’s eyes gleam. “But I didn’t do anything.”
“Yes, yes you did. You’re clean,” she enunciated carefully.
Sam’s grin split wider still and he squeezed her back, burying his nose in her hair.
Dean never gave much credence to all that sharing and caring crap, but Missouri's words bounced around in his head like moths batting against a porch light. Clean. All that demon-stained blood … purged and washed down the drain. This was now Sam’s normal, what he would’ve been if not for Azazel’s cruel intervention. Okay, so Sam was half the size he used to be, needed glasses and a trip to Goodwill for different clothes. And Dean would have to mind his thoughts because apparently, Sam was a natural psychic like Missouri herself, but he’d take it. He’d take every last fucking bit of it.
As he watched the ridiculous expression on Sam's face—the dazzling disbelief that lit up his strange new and delicate features—Dean saw, for perhaps the first time ever, that rarest of things in his life.
A silver lining.