Note: I cannot for the life of me get LJ to accept this chapter formatted right without it throwing me a Post Too Long error. Sorry, this the best it will let me do.
Dean panted, sprawled on the gym room floor, trying to catch his breath, Sam tossed him his hand towel. Dean wiped the mess off his stomach and chest with a grimace. “Shower?”
Dean panted, sprawled on the gym room floor, trying to catch his breath, Sam tossed him his hand towel. Dean wiped the mess off his stomach and chest with a grimace. “Shower?”
They rinsed off quickly and put their clothes back on, just in the nick of time. Danny strolled into the gym holding a large plastic shopping bag. “Here.” He tossed it to Dean. “The Jacuzzi’s all heated up now. You want to catch a soak?”
Dean peeked into the bag at the two pairs of board shorts, flip-flops, and beach towels, and then glanced over at Sam. “You wanna?”
“Totally.” Sam’s smile was pure happiness. Not a hint of worry.
Danny left them to change. They put on the new shorts, which fit perfectly. Then, slinging the beach towels over their shoulders, they shoved their sweaty workout clothes and well-used towels in a washing machine, and met Juliane and Danny in the common room.
Danny wore a grey terrycloth robe over red board shorts, and Juliane wore a thick, oversized Turkish bathrobe that covered her from neck to ankles. She shoved two bottles of Champagne into an oversized silver ice bucket. “Too early in the day?”
“Hell, no.” Dean nudged Sam. “Champagne and hot tubs, Sammy. Not too shabby, huh?”
Sam and Dean carried the champagne flutes and followed Juliane and Danny through a door in their private bedroom into a room they’d never been allowed to see.
The walls were lined with beautiful wood paneling, with soft, recessed lighting. In the center of the mosaic tiled floor was a large, jetted redwood hot tub, with a wooden ramp spiraling around it at a gentle incline, rising from the floor to the wooden deck that encircled the tub’s edge.
Dean whistled. “Nice.” He cast a glance at Sam. “You sure about this?” He remembered the last time Sam had tried to get into a tub of water. But that happened what felt like years ago, and there had been a lot of desensitization and distraction, teaching Sam to associate water with Dean loving him and making him feel as much pleasure as possible.
“I’m good. Promise.”
They hung their towels on the wooden pegs on the wall. Danny poured them each a glass of champagne and they walked up the curved ramp.
Sam dipped a toe into the water. “Whoa. That’s kinda hot.”
Danny checked the thermometer. “Shit. 104. I’ll turn it down.”
He adjusted the controls, and they all sat on the wooden deck, giving the water some time to cool. Juliane sat cross-legged, still wearing her Turkish bathrobe which covered her completely. Danny sat next to her, his hand on her lower back, keeping his robe on as well. Dean dunked his legs into the hot water up to mid-calf with a cocky grin. “It’s not THAT hot.” Danny followed suit. Sam stayed out of the water, as did Juliane.
“To family of choice.” She raised her glass.
“Family of choice,” they echoed.
Sam took a sip of champagne. “I could get used to this.”
Juliane laughed, a breathy, delighted sound.
They talked for a while. Sam and Dean jostled each other, Dean speaking in a ridiculous posh English accent, making everyone laugh. Juliane drank her champagne quickly, and poured herself more, refilling Sam’s empty glass too. After ten minutes, Danny checked the temperature, shrugged off his robe and climbed into the tub. Dean followed suit, not one to be shown up. They sank down until the water was at their collarbones, and held up their champagne flutes for a second pour.
Juliane dipped her fingers into the water, checking the temperature again, delaying the moment she would have to disrobe. Her eyes met Sam’s, and they exchanged a long look that said a great deal.
She drew strength from the quiet understanding on his face, and nodded to herself. “Alright.” She got to her feet, and turned to face the wooden hooks on the wall. A moment’s hesitation, a deep breath, and then she slipped off her robe and hung it from a hook. Beneath the heavy fabric, she wore a one-piece indigo blue bathing suit, with her core covered but most of her skin—and her scars—fully exposed. She had the lean, toned body of a dancer, with long elegant musculature. The deep marks the knives had left on her back, the indentations and scars standing out vividly on her pale thighs and calves, the slash that curved around her shoulder. All visible.
Danny didn’t look at her like she was brave. He looked at her like she was inexpressibly beautiful.
Dean blinked rapidly, careful not to make a sound, keeping his face still, to not betray any sort of reaction at the evidence of how much she had suffered.
She turned around slowly, her clenched fingers the only obvious sign of her nervousness. More scars laced the front of her legs, criss-crossing in a deliberate serpentine pattern.
Sam beamed up at Juliane, and raised his glass to her. Toasting her. She stood still, making herself linger in the moment instead of hiding from it, making herself feel how unguarded she was, how exposed…and how it was perfectly ok.
She knelt down and got into the hot tub, finally slipping into the sanctuary of the warm water, and snuggled into Danny’s side. He put his arm around her and kissed her forehead, murmuring something to her only the two of them could hear.
Sam drained his glass, the tension on his own face only barely perceptible, having a private conversation with his own thoughts. “Then so can I,” he whispered to himself. He gripped Dean’s shoulder and slipped into the water.
Dean’s smile was incandescent, as much pride on his face as if Sam had won a Nobel Prize. Juliane looked at him with pride, too, bearing witness to his act of bravery in doing something that scared him.
The hot water came up to his waist, jets burbling, bubbles tickling his skin. His heartbeat increased, but he took a deep, calming breath, looking at everyone’s faces. They were all so proud of him. He was Sam Winchester: Bane of Demonkind and inventor of the Pie Burrito. He wasn’t going to crack.
He turned his focus to Dean, losing himself in the shifting, indescribable color of his eyes. Dean mouthed, “Good job.”
Sam used the feeling of happiness Dean’s approval evoked in him to give him courage. He sank down and sat on the wooden bench inside the tub, settling down as far as everyone else had, letting the water rise to his neck.
death grip on his shoulders, pushing him down, forcing his head into the bucket of water
“Dean.” He refused to give in, shoved back the memories of his torture and near-drowning.
head under water no way to escape no air water filling his nose his mouth choking no air
He reached for his anchor, his love, his very soul, making himself remember Dean’s hands on him in the shower, washing him, his touch anchoring him in his body, in the moment, evoking such pleasure, such rightness, it was like seeing the face of God, remembering how Dean reassured him, murmuring you can breathe, Sammy, see, you can breathe, plenty of air, right?
Sam couldn’t breathe.
He wrenched himself out of the tub onto the deck, flopped on the slick wood like a hooked swordfish, then collapsed onto his side, shaking violently.
“Sam?” Dean was right there, hands on him, keeping him safe.
Sam could still hear the words faint and garbled through the water maybe this time I don’t let you up at all maybe this is last call or maybe I do this again five or twenty more times tell me boy which one are you praying for?
Sam scrabbled away from the water, in a panic to put space between him and it, and knocked over his champagne flute which shattered on the tile floor with a sharp, quick series of high-pitched cracks. He rolled off the edge of the spiral ramp and fell to the tile floor, narrowly avoiding the glass shards, landing on his shoulder and hip with a wet smack.
Dean was out of the water and at Sam’s side in an instant. He pushed Sam’s hair out of his face and cradled him in his arms. “Sam? Eyes on me. Look at me.”
“Sorry,” Sam sputtered. “Didn’t want to… disappoint… everyone.”
“Jesus, Sam.” Dean winced. “You could never…”
Sam’s eyes remained tightly closed. His chest heaved, so desperate to suck in the air he believed he was not getting that he exhaled too much, disrupting the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in his blood.
Juliane and Danny climbed out of the hot tub. “The towels.” She pointed toward the wall rack. Danny yanked down the towels, and together they draped them over Sam.
Dean wiped Sam’s face dry, and kissed him, trying to get him to snap out of it like he had done before.
Sam turned his head away to gasp for air, in a full panic now.
Dean looked to Juliane and Danny. “Help.”
“Let’s get him out of here.” Danny nodded toward the door.
Dean picked up Sam like he weighed nothing and carried him into the common room, where he lowered him carefully to the thick rug in front of the fire. Juliane rummaged in a kitchen cabinet and pulled out the glass bottle of peppermint. She opened it and waved it under his nose.
His eyes flashed open, the strong scent distracting his brain from the sensory loop in which he was stuck.
“There you go, Sammy. Look at me. Just me.” Dean stroked Sam’s cheek, relieved at being able to make eye contact again.
Sam struggled to breathe, still hyperventilating, but trying to stay locked on Dean, trying to slow his breathing despite his body’s confused signals that this would kill him.
Dean put his hand on Sam’s bare chest, over his heart, and held Sam’s hand over his own heart. “I breathe, you breathe. Got it?” He breathed in slowly, held it for just a second, and exhaled slowly.
Sam fought to calm himself, eyes locked on Dean’s the whole time. He tried to mimic Dean, trusting that no matter how badly his brain tried to tell him this was a bad idea, if Dean asked Sam to do it, he would do it.
“See? It’s easy. Feel me breathing. See? Nothing to it. Plenty of air.”
After a few breaths, he began breathing from his belly, moving Sam’s hand down to feel it, sliding his hand down Sam’s chest to rest on his stomach. “Come on. Breathe with me, Sam. Nice deep belly breaths.”
Sam began to calm and quiet his breathing. Juliane retrieved the burgundy fleece throw from the couch and tucked it in around Sam, then took his other hand, simply being a calming presence at his side, not demanding anything, just caring for him.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity but was actually around fifteen minutes, Sam’s breathing was nearly normal. Juliane squeezed his hand, relieved his struggle had eased.
Sam nestled into Dean’s arms, tears spilling down his cheeks. His eyes darted around the room, seeking something familiar and comforting, but all he saw was someone else’s life. Lovely things, things he was invited to share, but they were still other people’s things. Other people’s memories.
Suddenly, all he wanted was to be curled up with Dean in the Dallas Cowboys comforter, lulled into slumber by the rumble of the Impala—or barring that, in their bed in the closest thing to a permanent residence they had ever known: in their room in Bobby’s house, safe behind the lock he had put in; Sam’s notebook of drawings on the floor, his Batman and Superman action figures on the desk, the red-and-grey flannel shirt, the one he had worn the autumn they spent taking turns on the dirt bike riding around the salvage yard, hanging up in the closet; the childhood-familiar scent of Bobby’s biscuits and gravy wafting up through the floorboards from the kitchen, Bobby’s deep baritone singing, ”Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl”; the two of them wrapped up safe and warm in Cowboys Blue.
Sam slipped his hand from Juliane’s grasp and pressed his palm to Dean’s cheek, giving him a pleading, anguished look. “Dean. I want to go home.”
Neither Sam nor Dean noticed Juliane’s eyes well up with tears, or the way she retreated into her room like a rabbit disappearing down a hole.
Danny did, and followed her in.
They didn’t notice when she emerged wearing her heavy winter boots, flannel-lined pants and heavy winter coat, slipping through the common room with Danny one step behind, pausing only to place a soft kiss on Danny’s lips and press her hand gently against his chest, asking him without words not to follow her.
Alone, she walked outside, boots crunching in the thick snow blanketing the parking lot, wrapping her arms around herself to protect against the cold wind, trudging into the drifting snow where no one could see her break down.
It was early evening by the time Reggie and Bobby made it to Kansas City, showered off the road trip grime, and dressed as nicely as they were able.. Bobby wiped the sweat from his brow for the third time. He looked so nervous about seeing his ex again that Reggie didn’t have the heart to rib him any more than he had done on the drive.
“It’s gonna be fine.” Reggie filled a tumbler with water from the bathroom tap and held it out to Bobby.
Bobby took a deep drink, and blew out a loud breath. “Well, let’s get this over with.” They walked to the hotel elevator and pressed the button for the 11th floor.
Bobby wiped his brow once more as Reggie knocked on the door of room 1104. A slender woman with russet hair elegantly framing her face opened the door. She greeted Reggie with a smile of recognition from the old days, and then her attention shifted entirely to Bobby.
“Bobby Singer.” Her voice was soft, with a distinct Southern lilt.
“Katherine.” Bobby swallowed, eyes darting down to her black heels and back up, taking in the black skirt and red blouse obviously tailored to fit her, lingering for a moment on the sparkling chunky black necklace outlining her prominent collarbone, making a concerted effort not to look at her red mouth at all. “Um, you’re looking well.”
Katherine’s face lit up at the sight of Bobby. “You too.”
Bobby reached up to adjust his baseball cap, which he was not wearing, and covered for the awkward gesture by running his hand over his combed-back hair.
“Come on in, boys.” Katherine pivoted on the balls of her feet and walked back into her room, long legs working.
Reggie whistled between his teeth.
Katherine looked back over her shoulder, mouth open in mock disapproval. “Reggie Beaumont. I thought you didn’t play for my team.”
Reggie flashed his strong white teeth in a wide grin. “No, ma’am. But you’re looking just as fine as ever.”
Katherine poured two shots of whiskey, neat, and handed it to them. “You know, I always wanted to turn you.” She looked Reggie up and down from the tips of his boots to the elegant drape of his moustache.
“Oh, I know.” Reggie winked. “If anyone could have, it would have been you.”
Bobby cleared his throat.
“You jealous?” Katherine shot Bobby a coy look over her shoulder.
Bobby squirmed, sweat emerging on his brow once again.
Katherine eyed Bobby the same way she’d given Reggie the once over, took a sip of her whiskey, and perched on the edge of the bed. “Well, then, let’s see this book you came all this way to show me.” She patted the mattress next to her.
Bobby pulled up a chair next to the bed and retrieved Nathaniel’s notebook from his satchel. She began to peruse the symbols Nathanial had transcribed from Azazel’s mind.
Her mouth fell open.”My goodness.”
“There’s Sumerian there, and also some things I’ve never seen before,” Bobby said.
“Yes…” She ran her finger along a line of symbols. “And High Enochian. This looks like Elamite. Really early, too. But this…” she flipped through several pages. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Reggie’s cell phone vibrated in his pocket. It was from Marcus’s number. “You mind if I take this?”
“Not at all.” Bobby waved to Reggie to go ahead.
Reggie stepped into the bathroom, holding his tumbler in his other hand. “Hey, darlin’. Miss me already?” He took a sip of whiskey.
“Reggie.” Marcus’s voice was wrecked, weak and raspy. “Help.”
The sound of glass shattering on the tile floor brought Bobby racing to the door.
Reggie’s face drained of all its color. He sagged against the bathroom sink. “What happened?”
“Too strong. I tried to close the door. But it was too strong.”
Reggie’s body went cold. “It?”
Marcus coughed, and groaned with pain. “It hurt me.”
Reggie slammed his fist into the bathroom wall. “Fuck!” He used the physical pain to force the emotional pain into hiding. “Where are you?”
“Home.” His vocal chords were shot. “It pushed its way in. After you left.”
Reggie steadied himself, trying to freeze his emotions, willing himself to ask the question every fiber in his being wanted not to have to ask. “Why do you keep saying ‘it’?”
Bobby, listening outside the bathroom to Reggie’s side of the conversation, swore softly.
“It.” Marcus took a labored breath, and whispered, “Demon.”
“No. God, please no.”
“Told me things.” His speech was slurred, like it hurt him to move his mouth. “About…scary monsters.”
“I’m coming for you.”
“Told me…to tell you…tell you this was for Azazel,” Marcus choked out.
Reggie dropped to his knees on the cold bathroom floor as though someone had slashed his Achilles tendons with a knife.
“Ah. Zay. Zuhl. He made me practice.” Marcus’s voice was fading. “Get it right.”
Reggie tipped his head back, muscles contorted in a soundless scream of anguish. “Marcus. Jesus.”
The need, the love in Marcus’s voice, the way he said his name undid Reggie, made it impossible for him to rise to his feet. But he fought hard to stay in control of his mind, his voice. To stay clear-headed for Marcus.
“I’m gonna call you an ambulance. Get you to a hospital.”
“Don’t need a doctor. It was…careful. Not to do real damage.” He slurred his words, clearly exhausted.
“Please. Let me call an ambulance.”
“No! No hospital.” Marcus insisted. “Just you. Just need you.“
“Ok. Alright. You hold on. You hear me? I’m coming for you.”
“Please… Reggie. I need you.” Marcus’s voice was barely a whisper.
“I have to go. Right fucking now.” Reggie rose to his feet.
Reggie seized Bobby’s glass. “A demon kidnapped Marcus. Hurt him.” He finished the whiskey in one smooth motion. “Bad.”
Bobby’s mouth fell open. Katherine, standing behind Bobby, looked shocked, even though she did not know who Reggie was talking about.
“I thought all the demons went to ground.” Bobby looked stunned.
Reggie fixed Bobby with a stare so cold, it made him take a step back. “Guess one of them had one last ‘Fuck you’ in him before he hightailed it outta here. Marcus—” Reggie’s voice choked up. “Marcus said he did it for Azazel.”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph…” Bobby put his hand on Reggie’s shoulder.
Reggie ran his hands through his long silver hair, despair making him look older than his 62 years. “That son of a bitch hurt him because of us. Because of me.”
“Marcus didn’t know about the whole supernatural deal, did he?” Bobby already knew the answer to that question.
“No.” Reggie’s face contorted with guilt.
“You can’t blame yourself. Even if you had told him—“
“I damn well should have told him. I should have protected him. At least given him some wards. Salted his damn door. Or never let myself get involved with him in the first place.” He shook his head. “I’ve got to go. Right now.” He wiped the tears off his cheeks with both palms in an angry motion.
“Stay here. Get to work on this damn notebook.” Reggie pointed at the book on the bedspread.
Bobby started to protest at not accompanying his friend, but the implacable look on Reggie’s face made him shut his mouth, knowing any argument was fruitless.
Reggie clapped Bobby on the shoulder, blue eyes bright with anguish and righteous anger, then stalked to the elevator, his long black duster billowing behind him. Bobby watched him go. “Shit. That demon better run,” he muttered.
“If this is a trap, you black-eyed son of a bitch, you best be ready for me.” Reggie flung himself into the driver’s seat and peeled out. He broke every speeding law on every road between Kansas City, Kansas and Morrison, Colorado. He kept the speedometer pegged at 100 miles an hour most of the way. He called Marcus every hour, to let him know how much closer he was, but really for reassurance he was still alive. He drove with one hand white-knuckled on the wheel, the other gripping the handle of his knife.
His thoughts were of blood and revenge, memories of Nathan bleeding in his arms morphing into Marcus, limp in his grasp, life draining away. He pushed the car to 120, a hair below red-line.
People driving in the other direction gasped at the sight of the silver-haired madman, grim-faced behind the wheel of the Dodge Challenger, driving like a bat out of hell.
“I hope your friend’s…um, friend will be alright.” Katherine refilled Bobby’s whiskey glass.
Bobby sat heavily on the edge of the bed, ignoring Nathaniel’s notebook for the moment. “He better be.” Bobby knew that if Marcus died, after what happened to Nathan, Reggie would never survive it. Not the part that made him human, anyway.
“I have faith.” Katherine sat down next to him on the bed and placed her hand on Bobby’s in a comforting gesture and put her head on his shoulder. Her hair smelled like Chanel No. 5.
Bobby’s heart sped up. He pretended he had an itch on the back of his neck and awkwardly pulled his hand away, straightening up with a nervous laugh.
She made a soft laugh and sipped her drink in the awkward silence that followed. “It’s just really good to see you again.”
“Yeah.” Bobby heart was racing. “You too.”
She gave him a sidelong glance. “You look great, Bobby”
“Thanks. So.” Bobby spoke up to break the silence. “How’s.. um…”
Bobby nodded, embarrassed he didn’t remember his name.
She tucked her hair behind her ear. “He passed. Three years ago. Heart trouble.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Did you… did you ever…”
“Yes. Two girls. Maria’s teaching high school, and Sara’s off at university in London.”
Bobby smiled sadly. “I always knew you’d be a great mom.”
“Thank you.” She gave him a sweet, grateful smile. “I take it you stuck to your guns on that one?”
Bobby swallowed hard. “It’s complicated.”
An expression of pain tinged with betrayal flashed over Katherine’s face. “You had kids?”
“No. No, I didn’t,” Bobby clarified. “Not my own. But… it’s a long story.”
They sat on the bed side by side, facing the wall, no much going unsaid.
“You remember sitting on the bench behind the bleachers after you finished football practice?” She tucked her hair behind her ear, and crossed her bare legs at the ankles. “That hideous cheerleader’s outfit they made us wear, with the full sleeves, and that god-awful pleated plaid?”
Bobby glanced down at her legs, still toned even after all the years that had passed. He noticed the scant six inches between them on the bed. Wiping his forehead with a handkerchief, he looked at the closed door helplessly. “Balls.”
Faint beeps from hospital machinery sounded through the closed door of the hospital room. Gus unfolded the green brocade cloth in which Juliane had wrapped the crystals, and laid it out on the overbed table, rolling it close to Rosier’s hospital bed. Inside the cloth was a handwritten note with instructions.
Gus lifted the first crystal, a smoky quartz, from the gleaming green fabric. “I feel silly doing this.”
Rosier gave him a soft smile. “Couldn’t hurt, right?”
Gus lay the smoky quartz on the pillow above Rosier’s head. Its twin, he lay at Rosier’s feet.
His fingers brushed the green brocade, picking up the two amethyst crystals. He placed one into Rosier’s unburned left hand, and snugged the other one against his burned right hand.
He turned the pink kunzite crystal in his hand, feeling its coolness, then set it on Rosier’s sternum, on the heart chakra.
“Are you going to sing ‘Kumbaya’?” Rosier teased him, with no bite to it.
“Don’t even tempt me. I can sing.” Gus sat down on the chair next to the bed, and took Rosier’s right hand in his, closing his fingers snugly over the crystal. “Now, I just sit here, and, uh, think healing thoughts.”
Gus lay back in his chair, and closed his eyes. After a moment, Rosier did too.
Gus opened one eye and peered at Rosier. “Baaaaby,” Gus sang to him in a soft, unexpectedly rich voice, with a warm vibrato.
Rosier’s eyes flashed open in surprise.
“I can’t hold it much longer…it’s getting stronger and stronger.”
“Damn. You CAN sing.”
Gus changed the lyrics slightly. “When you get that feeling, you need sexual healing.”
Gus stood up and held Rosier’s hand in his, other hand on his chest, like he was a singer that had picked a fan out of the crowd and brought her up on stage to serenade. “Makes you feel so fine… helps to relieve your mind…”
Rosier, half-mummified in bandages and high on pain meds, tipped his head back and laughed.
“Sexual healing… is good for you…”
Gus leaned over the hospital bed, raising one eyebrow. “Get up, get up, get up, get up, let’s make love tonight…”
“I wish I could.” Rosier eyed Gus from head to toe, taking in all the lines and shapes of his strong body as Gus sang.
Gus stretched out his other hand in a dramatic lounge singer gesture. “I’m your medicine, open up and let me in.”
Rosier laughed so hard, he snorted. “You’re gonna fuck me better, little one?”
“That’s right.” Gus’s dimples popped. “Take care of you.”
“I’m not up to that yet, but…”
“I can do other things.” Gus ran his tongue across his lower lip.
“Yes. Yes, you can.”
Gus ran his hand over Rosier’s unburned thigh.
“I’m feeling better already.” Rosier shifted in the bed. “Must be the crystals.”
“Yeah.” Gus put his hands on either side of the pillow and leaned in for a kiss. “That must be it.”
Juliane deliberately faced the strong wind blowing crystals of snow against her exposed skin, welcoming the sting on her cheeks and lips. In the distance, a yellow light from a neon sign gleamed through the flurries of snow.
The soft crunch of boots in the snow behind her. Danny’s hand settling lightly on her shoulder.
“He’s going to leave.” She didn’t turn around, cold air driving tiny needles of snow into her bare throat. “Sam and Dean. They’re going to leave.”
Danny moved closer, pressing against her from shoulders to calves, wrapping his arms around her. She leaned back into his embrace, feeling his body support hers.
She began to cry.
Danny held her, loving her enough to just let her cry. When her tears ceased, he said quietly, “What if we go with them?”
“You’ve been talking about setting up other Sanctuaries in other states.”
The cold air blew against her face, her tears turning to ice, gleaming yellow in the neon light.
“What if we set up a new one near where Bobby lives? Austin and Eddie could take over managing this place. You know they’re solid.” The warmth of his voice cut through the cold. “This place? It’s where you locked yourself in. With all those memories. You’re free now. You can go wherever you want.”
“We can go wherever we want,” she breathed.
Alone in the common room, Dean lay in front of the fire with Sam, big spoon to Sam’s little spoon, the wine-red throw wrapped around both of them, their faces bathed in flickering light from the flames. The heat penetrated them to their bones. Sam sighed, breath finally restored to perfect balance.
“You could never disappoint me, Sam.”
“You don’t ever have to get into water again. No one will ever think less of you for that. Least of all me”
Sam raised their joined hands to his mouth and kissed the back of Dean’s fingers. “But I like baths. And swimming. I want to.” He shook his head. “I hate this. Having that stuck in my head. Still.”
“I just want to be better.”
“You are better.”
“All the way. I want all that damage out of my head.”
“That’s not how it works.”
Sam exhaled, and snuggled closer to Dean. “I know.”
“Some things, you never get over. You just have to carry it.”
Sam closed his eyes, letting the warmth of the fire soak into him.
“But you don’t have to carry it alone. You have me.”
“I have you.”
“And other people. Juliane. Danny. Bobby. Reggie.”
Neither of them said the name, “John.” The omission stung both of them.
“So… you want to go home? Go back with Bobby?” Dean mouthed at the baby hairs at the nape of Sam’s neck.
Sam turned his head to give Dean greater access to his neck. “I don’t know what I want. I want to stay here. And I want to go home.”
Dean kissed the back of Sam’s ear. “Then let’s stay here. And go home.”
Sam frowned. “That’s not how it works.”
“Why not?” Dean nipped lightly at the back of Sam’s ear, enjoying how it made him squirm. “Why not have both? We stayed here for a while. So let’s go back with Bobby. Not right away, but soon. We drive back. Have your big birthday bash. Get you through next semester. Then we come back here for the summer. See what happens after that.”
“Both.” Sam stared into the hypnotic dance of the flickering flames, heat bathing his face. “We could have both.”
Three quick raps on the door, and Marcus opened it to let Reggie in. Reggie’s moustache twitched at the sight of his bruised face and black eye.
“Thank God,” Marcus breathed, wrapping his arms around him. Reggie held him gently, his gaze moving rapidly around the room, looking for signs of someone else with them. Something else.
“It’s just us. I swear.”
Reggie ran his hand over Marcus’s cheek, so gentle, so careful. “I gotta make sure. Give me a minute.”
Reggie pulled his knife out of its sheath and thoroughly checked out the apartment. When he was completely satisfied they were indeed alone, he sheathed his knife, pulled a leather bag out of his duffel bag and laid down a generous line of salt on the windowsills and at the front door, then locked it tight.
“Salt. “ Reggie made himself look Marcus in the eye. “Demons can’t cross it.”
Marcus met his gaze with not exactly anger, but something resolute and unyielding. “I wish I’d known that yesterday.”
Suddenly Reggie was on his knees, arms wrapped around Marcus’s thighs, cheek pressed against his stomach, holding him gently as if he was afraid to hurt him with his touch. “This is my fault. This is all my fault.”
Reggie shook his head. “It’s my fault. God…I’m so sorry.”
Marcus stroked Reggie’s hair. “Baby. No.” His sweatshirt was wet with Reggie’s tears.
“I should have told you. Protected you.”
Reggie forced himself to regain his composure and stood up. He cradled Marcus’s face in the palms of his hands. “How bad are you hurt?”
“Bruised, mostly. I hurt all over. Nothing I won’t heal from eventually.” Marcus averted his gaze.
Reggie’s blood ran cold at the way Marcus said the last word. Softly, he said, “Please. Look at me.”
Marcus blinked a few times, then looked up.
“How bad are you hurt?” Reggie repeated, his voice cracking, searching Marcus’s face.
Marcus’s eyes filled with tears.
“It’s ok. It’s ok, darlin’. I got you now.” Reggie folded him into his arms, knowing full well what demons do, knowing what Marcus could not articulate in words.
He lifted Marcus easily and carried him to the couch, laying him down with great tenderness, holding him until his tears eased. “Were you able to tend to yourself at all?”
Marcus wiped his face. “I just slept.”
“The whole time since you called me?”
“Ok.” Reggie searched in his bag and pulled out a bottle of Vicodin. He gave Marcus two pills with a glass of water. “Take these.” Marcus swallowed the pills, wincing as they went down. Reggie tried not to notice. “I’m going to run you a bath. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Marcus gestured toward the closed bedroom door. “Could you, uh. Please? I haven’t… I can’t go back in there.”
Reggie pulled the blue blanket that had fallen to the floor back over Marcus. “I’ll clean up.”
He went into the bathroom first and started running a warm bath, lighting the three blue candles that Marcus kept on the silvery metal tray on the sink and dimming the overhead light.
Then he steeled himself and went into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him.
He closed his eyes at the sight of the crime— and the smell. Fear-sweat, acrid and strong, and the faint stench of sulphur. Rope restraints tied to the head and foot of the bed. Twisted sheets. Blood.
Not a lot. Just a small dark stain on the middle of the sheets.
Reggie bowed his head, and once again, he wept.
When he came back out of the room, he held a wad of material (the ropes and bloodstain carefully wrapped at the center of the bundle so Marcus could not see it). “Where do you keep your garbage bags?”
“Under the sink.”
He put the sheets into a heavy-duty Husky trash bag and knotted it tight. Then he double-bagged it. And triple-bagged it. He set the bag outside the apartment onto the walkway and locked the door again. He turned around to face Marcus. His skin was ashen, and his shoulders slumped. “I’ll burn that later.”
Incredibly, a faint smile curled up the corners of Marcus’s mouth. “Thank you.” The smile was short-lived however. “Reg. I can’t… I can’t stay here anymore.”
Reggie nodded as if he had expected him to say that. “There’s a place we can go. Where you can heal up and stay as long as you want. No charge. Where you’ll be totally safe.”
Marcus laughed, a hint of despair creeping into his voice for the first time. “All that? Where?”
Reggie stood up straight. “Sanctuary.” He walked over to the couch. “Ok, let’s get you into the tub. He bent down to pick Marcus up.
“I can walk.”
“Let me carry you.” Reggie’s eyes were wet.
“Ok.” Marcus let Reggie carry him to the bathroom.
“If you, um, want, I’ll wait for you in the living—“ The lines on Reggie’s face stood out, tortured with recrimination.
“Stay.” Marcus reached out to him and took his hand.
Reggie blinked, sending a tear rolling down his cheek. “I wanted to tell you. About what I do. The things I hunt. What’s really out there. But I didn’t know how. Didn’t want to drag you into this world. It’s ugly. And terrifying.”
Marcus swallowed with some discomfort, and nodded.
“But I’ll tell you everything. All of it. Anything you want to ask me, I’ll answer. No more secrets.” Reggie looked down as if he were afraid to say the next part. “And if you still want to have anything to do with me, I’ll keep you safe. I owe you that. For what happened to you because of me. And…” He hesitated before going on. “And because I want to. So, if you still want me around, I promise I’ll protect you. Keep you safe. Day and night.” He kept his gaze down, afraid of what he might see in Marcus’s eyes.
“For how long?” Marcus asked.
Reggie looked up. Marcus’s green eyes were wide, honest and questioning, with no recrimination or hatred in them. Reggie sent up a fervent prayer to the God he knew existed but kept Himself out of the fight for reasons unknown, thanking Him for showing mercy to an unworthy man.
“Forever,” Reggie swore.
With great care, Reggie pulled the sweatshirt off Marcus and let it fall to the tile floor. He trailed his fingertips over the bruises on his body, apologizing with each touch. Gently, he knelt at Marcus’s feet and pulled his sweatpants off, not shying away from witnessing the damage Marcus had endured, letting the pain of it crash into him, as his due, the price he owed Marcus. He begged for forgiveness with his hands on Marcus’s battered body.
He rose, and helped Marcus step into the warm water, helped him lower himself down. He hissed with pain as the water flowed between his legs, becoming tinged with pink.
Marcus averted his head to hide the shame on his face. Reggie gritted his teeth, a fresh tear rolling down his cheek unnoticed, and gripped Marcus’s hands. “That happened to me once.”
Marcus blinked in surprise. “You? You were…”
Marcus flinched at the word finally being uttered.
“Two good ol’ boys. I was just a kid.”
Marcus winced as he slipped down further into the bath. “Sucks, doesn’t it.”
Reggie tipped his head back and laughed, a deep, grateful laugh at the unexpected gift of Marcus’s ability to joke at a time like this.
Marcus laughed too, tension clearing the air. He lowered himself deeper into the bath, sighing with relief as the warm water enveloped him. “Is that why you don’t like to bottom?”
“No. Maybe. I never really thought about it.” Reggie fell silent, many thoughts and worries running through him that he would never dare say to Marcus.
But he didn’t have to say the words. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel about bottoming when I’m healed. But I don’t want to robbed of that. Because the best thing I ever felt in my life was you inside me.”
Reggie stared in astonishment. “You’re just not afraid of anything. Finding out monsters are real. Speaking your mind.”
“Not saying what you think just gets you into trouble. And secrets just cause a lot of pain, sooner or later.”
Reggie nodded, the truth of that statement right in front of his eyes.
The three blue candles gleamed, reflected and multiplied in the mirror. Reggie knelt at Marcus’s side, gently swabbing him with a dark blue washcloth, dripping warm water down his neck, stroking his face, wetting and squeezing the cloth out over his hair, his chest, his stomach, gently touching every part of his body, washing him clean.