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And Now, With Dragons!

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When the world went to hell, Sam’s morning had been going about as well as could be hoped for. He had been proud of the fact that he’d gotten out of bed with only two presses of the snooze button, before jumping in the shower with Jess to tickle her mercilessly. Their slippery tickling tumbled right into stolen kisses and trilling laughter, which always signaled that Sam was in for the time of his life.

Sam took his time toweling Jessica’s skin dry when they were through, enjoying the lingering shudders that followed the path of his hands. With a kiss to her still wet hair, Sam dried himself off and went to dress for the day. Finals were starting next week and he wanted to hit the library before his Accounting class that afternoon.

“Remember to lock up on your way out, Jess,” Sam called back over his shoulder, as he grabbed his backpack.

“Sure thing, Captain,” Jess retorted with a smart salute at Sam’s back.

Sam chuckled to himself and shook his head. He was the luckiest man on Earth and he knew well enough not to forget it.

***

Sam’s cell phone chimed impatiently at him. Another text message from Dean, no doubt. Sam huffed out a sigh and hefted the strap of his bag higher up on his shoulder, ignoring the beginnings yet another chime. His brother wasn’t usually this persistent with staying in contact. Generally, they limited themselves to calls on holidays that were more dead silence and intimate longing than endless text messages ‘just to say hi’.

Well, whatever was bothering Dean would have to wait. He needed to take care of his current problem first.

“I understand that this is a very busy time for you with Finals coming up, Deandra, but I really need those books. Can you tell me when they’re due back or who checked them out from the reference desk?” Sam pleaded, trying his damnedest to keep the worst of the whine out of his voice.

Deandra exhaled and shook her dreadlocked head sadly.

“You know that I can’t tell you any of that, Sam. Whoever checked out those books is using them in the library and it’s library policy not to give out student information. We can’t have you lot harassing your fellow students over shared materials. You know that,” Deandra said with the faintest traces of regret tingeing her tone.

“I know, “ Sam insisted. “But what if I didn’t want to harass my fellow students . . so much as share the materials with them? That’d be okay, wouldn’t it? Deandra, you know me. You know that I would never ask this of you if I didn’t really need it.”

Sam gave the most disarming smile that he knew how. Usually, it got him what he wanted and everything that he truly needed on more than one occasion. He was hoping that this would be one of those times in his most desperate hour of need, that good manners and no shortage of begging would merit him results.

Another sigh from Deandra and her eyes crinkled in thought. Almost, almost.

“Please, Deandra,” Sam whined just enough to show that he was not above throwing himself upon any shred of mercy his friend could spare.

“Oh, all right! But I didn’t tell you this! You looked over the counter and read the sign out list!” Deandra huffed in annoyance. “The things I do for you. And what do I get in return?”

Deandra scowled at Sam for several seconds, before her face gave way to the kind of smile that had Sam halfway in love with her when it caught him off-guard. In absolute certainty, Sam knew that between Deandra’s intellect and those smiles, he might be tempted to ask her out for coffee if he weren’t so thoroughly and happily attached to Jess. In another life, he supposed.

“According to the sign out sheet, Anna Davenport checked out all three books a couple of hours ago and she booked a dissertation room up on the second floor, “ Deandra told Sam, as she clicked through the lists on her desktop.

A flick of her eyes in his direction and then they were back on the screen in front of her. “I can’t tell you when they’re due back, since there’s no time limit outside of library hours,” Deandra finished with a click of her mouse.

“Thanks, you’re the best! I won’t forget this!” Sam said gratefully.

Sam grinned in relief. Anna wasn’t so bad. She was intense, but they all were. Competition was not to be dismissed where students were concerned. There were only so many spots available in the graduate program and those that did not exceed expectations while an undergraduate did not stand a chance, no matter how good their admissions interviews went.

With a parting wave to Deandra, Sam turned to head toward the elevator bank around the corner. If all went well, he’d have the materials he needed and perhaps a new study partner as well. He got as far as the wide open center of the main floor between the East and West Wings of Green Library before the world exploded around him.

***

An insistent ringing wormed it’s way into Sam’s dreams. He was lying in an overgrown field he had never seen before, but had no qualms against, on a blanket with Jessica. Her hand was inching toward his as she pointed out space ships and dancing elephants in the clouds.

“I’m telling you, that one is totally the starship Enterprise on its voyage into outer space,” Jess informed Sam. “You can see the twin impulse engines in the back if you look just there.”

Sam followed the direction she was pointing to and laughed in defeat. “When you’re right, you’re right,” Sam gracefully conceded, though there was never truly any argument at all.

“I’m always right,” Jessica chirped through barely held laughter.

The edges of Sam’s grin tugged down when he heard the chiming noise again. He couldn’t figure out for the life of him where it was coming from. Had he even brought his phone with him? He sat up and searched around them, finding nothing, but still hearing the familiar strains of music calling out to him. He knew that song.

Back in black!
I hit the sack!
It's been too long I'm glad to be back!
Yes I'm, let loose!
From the noose!

Sam was becoming frustrated now, because he only heard that song when one person called him; and it wasn’t like him to call. He received those calls even less so when his brother was endlessly on the road with their father.

That's kept me hanging around!
I keep looking at the sky!
'Cause it's gettin' me high!
Forget the hearse 'cause I'll never die!
I got nine lives!

The song played on and Sam looked over to see if Jessica was hearing it, too, but she was simply . . . gone.

 

With a start, Sam jerked awake. He was covered in debris and it looked like the front of the library had been bombed. He wiped the dust from his eyes and frantically searched around him for the source of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” His phone was ringing from somewhere underneath a pile of rubble to his right. He could hear other students moaning in pain and shifting through stone, library equipment, and books alike.

What in the hell had just happened? Had they been hit by a terrorist attack? Had an earthquake shaken the entire library loose from its foundation?

Sam warily got to his feet, afraid that if he stood too quickly, the pounding in his head would turn full tilt into a migraine that would land him back on his behind. Stepping carefully, Sam moved over and around the wreckage between himself and his phone. He snatched the little rectangle up just as it stopped ringing. He pulled a face at the dusty plastic and glanced over to the Information Desk to see if Deandra was okay.

“Deandra!” Sam called out, in hopes that his friend had also been spared from the worst of the explosion.

“Yeah, Sam. I’m all right,” Deandra answered back from somewhere below the counter’s line of sight.

Sam could hear Deandra shuffling about and then watched in relief as her head popped above the counter. Her brown skin was almost comically ashen with its new layer of dust. “You okay there?” she asked, looking Sam over for immediate injury.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m good,” was all that Sam got out before his phone started ringing again. Sam snarled in annoyance and snapped his phone open.

“Yeah, Dean! Right now’s not really a good time-“ Sam began.

“Sam! Thank God, man! We failed, Sam. We failed. And I thought you’d paid the price for it,“ Dean exhaled bitterly. “Listen, I’m on my way there and Dad is heading up to Bobby’s. We’re going to figure this thing out. I promise.”

“Figure what thing out? Dean, what did you fail to do and what does it have to do with me?”

His agitation grew with each passing moment, as more students and staff members were unearthed around him, while he stood there listening to yet another disastrous tale from Dean. He didn’t have time for the supernatural bad guy of the week, not when his school had so thoroughly gone to hell and he had sworn to leave that life behind him.

“We failed to save the world, Sam. We failed to stop Lucifer from rising!” Dean ground out slowly. “We got to nip this thing in the bud. I’ll explain when I get there.”

“Get here?” Sam uttered in confusion. How would Dean even know where to begin looking for him? So, he asked him as much. “Dean, how do you know where to look for me? You’ve never even been to my house.”

There’s a heartbeat of silence down the line before Sam hears Dean draw a shallow breath. “Never mind that. Look, just head to your apartment and stay put. I’m on my way and I’ll explain everything when I get there, okay?”

“Dean, no. Not okay. I’ve got my own stuff to deal with here. The library just blew in on me and people are buried under rubble here. I’ve got to deal with this, not whatever crap you’re bringing to my doorstep. Besides, I told you when I left, I’m done with that life. I’m out. I’m here and that’s it.”

Another hesitation, then, “That’s not it and you’ll see soon enough.”

“Dean? What is this? You’ve got to give me something more than ‘I’ll see.’”

Sam waited for an answer that never came. When he checked his phone’s screen, he saw that Dean had already hung up.

“Just great,” Sam muttered to himself before going to assist in the rescue effort. He could dimly hear the sound of sirens drawing closer, but he knew that they couldn’t get there soon enough for his liking.

***

Sam slung his bag down on the floor next to the couch. He was sore, filthy, hungry as hell, and ready to sleep for at least twelve hours. It was a shit day and nothing in his life had prepared him for the devastation of his new home. The news reports had been nothing short of a horror story on the radio the entire drive back to the house.

There were reports of earthquakes causing mud slides, rockslides and large chasms opening all over California. Sam had the misfortune of seeing more than his share of abandoned cars swallowed up by the greedy earth and roads blocked from the rockslides between the school and his home. He had also seen more of his fellow students mangled and crushed beneath the shattered heavy stone walls of the library than he ever cared to see.

The authorities claimed that a burst pipeline, as a result of the earthquakes, caused the blast that collapsed portions of the forward sections of the library and several other nearby buildings. Between Dean’s frantic calls and the sheer scope of the damage to the entire state, Sam’s gut said that this was something more. The shit was about to roll down hill and Sam had a feeling that he was about to land right in the middle of it.

Flopping down on the sofa, Sam clicked on the television and called out to Jessica. When she didn’t respond, he dug his cell phone out of his pocket and checked for messages. He had spoken to her earlier that day, just to make sure that she was alive, but he hadn’t heard anything since. It seemed that in all of the chaos, he’d missed two calls from Jess and the previous five from Dean. He thumbed through his call log until he reached Jessica’s name and pushed Send.

The phone rang and rang, right into voice mail.

“Hey, baby. I’m at home and I saw that I missed your calls earlier. I’m fine and I just wanted to make sure that you’re safe. Please call me back as soon as you can. I love you. See you when you get home.”

With that done, Sam turned up the volume on the television set and clicked over to a 24-hour news channel.

“Reports have come in from all over the state concerning the severity of the damage. Scientists are marveling at just how neatly the damage was contained to most of California. We’ve never seen anything like this. Right, Bob?”

A middle-aged woman with shoulder length, black hair and red-framed glasses grimaced in concern at the anchor sitting next to her. Bob gave a tight smile in return under his thick mustache, which caused what Sam was certain was a hair piece to slide slightly to the left.

“That’s right, Linda. The National Guard has been sent to the worst hit areas by the President and we suspect that there is more to come. On a related note, the National Speleological Society wants to remind Californians that now is not the time to go spelunking, not until California’s numerous caves have been checked for structural integrity. We will keep you up to date on the latest here on KRON 4 News.”

Linda gave a solemn nod to the camera. “Pacific Gas and Electric, as have other service providers, has reported widespread service outages. We do have confirmation that Pacific Gas and Electric employees will be working around the clock to restore service.

“And now for a look at national news. Harper, I still cannot believe that this happened. Growing up, we were always told that The Big One would cause California to fall into the ocean. But it was our neighbors to the south that have seen this tale become fact. You have more on that.”

The camera panned over to Harper, a tall, stocky man with the beginnings of salt creeping around his temples. “That’s right, Linda. As we reported here first, we have confirmation that the island state of Hawaii has sunk beneath the Pacific Ocean. Authorities are not completely certain yet if Hawaii’s demise is connected to the earthquakes here in California, the other earthquakes that have taken place in other countries around the world, or even the explosion of white light that has reportedly been seen in Ilchester, Maryland.

“If I didn’t know better, Bob and Linda, I’d say that someone upstairs was trying to tell us something. Back to you, Linda.”

“That indeed, Harper. It makes one wonder what that message could be.” Linda paused to smile primly for the camera. “And now in local Sports news. Tell us what we’re looking at, Jonathan!”

Sam didn’t hear what Jonathan had to show the viewers over the sound of Jessica’s key sliding into the front door’s lock. Craning his neck, he smiled at Jessica in greeting before rising to meet her and pull her into a tight hug.

“Hey. I’m so glad that you made it home okay. I was getting worried.”

Jess beamed at him in return and stood up on her toes to peck Sam on the mouth. “I’m glad that I made it home, too. It’s a mad house out there. I saw things on the way home that seem like they’re from a movie. It’s like none of it could be real, even though I know that it is.”

Jessica shuddered as she remembered the sight of chasms opening underneath cars and debris smashing to the ground when the earthquakes hit. She didn’t think she’d live to see the night or Sam even once more. She gave Sam one last, extra tight hug around his middle and pulled back.

“Mind if I drop my bags? They’re getting kind of heavy.”

Sam gave Jess an impish smile and tweaked the end of her nose as he let her go. “Of course, of course.”

Jessica let her backpack and purse slide from around her shoulders to the floor. She rotated her shoulders a few times to relieve the tension and sighed in relief as the blood started flowing uninhibited through her arms.

“Have you had dinner yet?” Jess turned toward the kitchen to go assess their refrigerator stock. “I would say let’s order in from that pizza place, but I don’t know if that’ll be an option tonight.”

“No, time kind of got away from me today, so I haven’t eaten. I’m starving. You want to cook or would you like me to?”

“I got it, but you can help if you want,” Jessica told Sam from her position in the fridge’s doorway. “Let’s see. We’ve got some chicken here that we need to cook before it goes off. I see some veggies, some cheesecake, rice, and uhmmmm . . . Jell-o? I can work with this. Jell-o chicken, right?”

Jess smirked at Sam over her shoulder. Sam playfully tugged her ponytail in reply.

“Or, chicken with veggies and rice is fine, too,” she said happily.

With a quick stop to the bathroom to wash off the day’s toil, the pair returned to the kitchen and set to work. It didn’t take long for Jess and Sam to wash and organize the counter, cutting boards, knives, and food. Jessica sliced chicken, while Sam cut up vegetables. The normalcy of the sounds of chopping and fresh food sizzling in skillets calmed their nerves as they worked. Within a half hour’s work, dinner was prepared and set on the table.

“Tell me about your day,” Jessica said as she dug into the steaming rice on her plate.

Sam told Jessica about going to the library for the books he needed and ending up digging out his fellow students. He told her about the drive home and the circuitous route he had to employ just to make it back to the apartment, even though the student apartments weren’t all that far from campus. He listened as Jessica told him about her day and what it felt like to watch the earth open up under the cars around her. He reached over and took her hand when she got to the part about how she didn’t think that she would make it home to see him again.

Their day was hell, but it could have been a lot worse. They came out on the other side alive and with one another. It was more than Sam could have ever hoped for back when he was crossing America in the backseat of the Impala. Back then, he knew that he would be lucky to stay in one place long enough to find a girl like Jess.

“That was delicious,” Sam complimented Jessica and began to clear the table as he spoke.

“Thank you. I had some help.” Jess grinned at him and moved to help Sam clean up.

Once the kitchen was clean and the leftovers were retired to their resting places in the fridge, Jess pulled Sam into the bedroom. It had been a long day that they were lucky to survive. Jess knew there was a social convention, which demanded that they have we-just-survived-a-major-disaster sex, but all she wanted to do was go to sleep for the rest of the week. Judging by the size of Sam’s yawns as she pulled him along, he seemed to agree.

They each went to their separate drawers to pull out their pajamas and changed in silence. Once done, they pulled back the covers and collapsed into bed together. Sam drew Jessica into his arms and kissed the corners of her mouth before surrendering to the pull of her lips. He pressed his mouth against hers, pouring all of his love and gratitude into the kiss. With her head tucked down against Sam’s chest, Jess finally gave in to sleep.

***

Sam was awoken by the sense of something being off. Even in his sleep, some unknown noise had shaken him from his dreams and the comfort he found in Jessica’s arms. He lay still in bed, hoping to hear what it was again, before he got out of bed to investigate the source of his unease.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

There it was.

Knocking at the door.

A quick glance at the clock told him it was just after three in the morning.

Sam rolled Jess over and slid from beneath their shared covers to answer the knocking. After the day they’d had, this had better be the most important thing Sam would hear in his lifetime.

Flicking on the hall and living room lights on the way, Sam yawned as he trudged to the front door.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me,” was the reply through the door.

Sam knew that voice, but-

“Me who? It’s three in the morning, pal.”

“It’s me, Dean, dipshit. You know who this is, now let me in before I let myself in.”

Sam laughed at the old insult from when they were kids. It irritated his brother to no end when Sam did not immediately grant him access to a dwelling, a fact which Sam used to use to needle Dean whenever he was feeling peevish. After all, if he had to put up with him and Dad’s crap, should he not be entitled to deal out a bit of his own?

The snap of the door’s locks in the quiet apartment stunned Sam’s ears, like the echo of a thunderbolt exploding in the sky overhead. Before he could pull the door completely open, Dean was pushing into the room and looking around.

Dean whistled in appreciation of his surroundings. “Nice digs. Got a beer for your older brother? It’s been a long drive, you know.”

Sam sighed and led the way into the kitchen. He retrieved a beer for Dean and pulled one out for himself as well. He might as well enjoy his own beer, before Dean dipped too far into their cache.

He watched as Dean made himself comfortable at the kitchen table and screwed the top off of his beer. Sam’s eyes were drawn to Dean’s throat as he drank deeply from the bottle, relishing every ounce he swallowed. When half the bottle was gone, Dean came up for air and wiped his mouth with his fingertips. Sam’s eyes followed their path. It was one that his own lips once knew so well. He loved college along with his new life that surrounded Jessica, but Dean was the one thing he missed and couldn’t entirely get over.

It might have seemed weird to anyone outside of their family, but both the quiet and boisterous moments spent in bed with Dean were some of the best of Sam’s life. He could never forget the way his brother had always looked out for him. Nor could he forget the way that Dean had kissed him when he needed it most to calm him after a difficult hunt or an argument with Dad. Dean’s embrace had been all the sanctuary that Sam had needed then in the midst of their distorted lives, and it unsettled him to see how far he’d grown away from their version of normal.

His observation did not go unnoticed and Dean chuckled in response. “I see some things never change, do they, little brother?” Dean whispered quietly. “I see that moving out here hasn’t changed all of the things that you want.”

Sam swallowed a gulp of beer before answering. “Actually, they have. I have a girlfriend now. Her name’s Jessica and she’s the reason I didn’t want you barging in here. Now, are you going to tell me what you’re doing here and how you failed to stop Lucifer from rising or not?”

Dean’s eyes flickered between emotions and his lips twisted into an ugly grin that Sam couldn’t tell if it was directed at him or at what Dean had to say.

“Straight to business, huh? Well, the long and the short of it is that Dad and I failed to stop the Apocalypse and we need your help to set things right. Dad already went up to Bobby’s to dig up any information they can find on Lucifer, Azazel, Abbadon, and Lilith. I’m here to bring you up to Bobby’s to help.

“Dad thinks he has a lead on a gun that can kill anything, so we need to go and get it,” Dean said, more to the tabletop and his beer bottle than directly to Sam.

“I just told you that I have a life here and you just expect me to just pick up and go with you? It’s been a long day, Dean. And, if you haven’t noticed, it hasn’t exactly been a pleasant day for the rest of California either.”

“Exactly! When Lucifer was set free from his Cage, it caused a domino effect that’s only going to get worse if we don’t do something to stop it. Hawaii falling into the ocean, the earthquakes, all of the civilians who don’t even know the real reason that they died, that’s on me and Dad. And I’m coming to you, telling you that I need your help to make it right. I need you, Sam. We need you, Sam.

“I know that it sounds like a long shot, but this gun of Dad’s seems like it’ll work. We just need more information. You were always good with that sort of thing, remember?”

Dean’s eyes pleaded with Sam to remember that their Hunts were not all bad and that Sam in fact did some good while the Winchester men were together.

Sam shuffled from foot to foot, balancing the weight of his body and the decision in front of him from hip to hip.

“I don’t know, Dean. It just seems like-“

“Dean? Your brother, Dean?”

Both men turned to look at the newcomer. Jessica leaned against the doorjamb in the tee shirt and shorts she’d worn to bed.

“Well, hello!” Dean began as his eyes wandered down the cut split in Jessica’s top.

“That’s enough, Dean. You’re wasting time,” Sam spoke up, crushing anything further perusal of The Smurfs. “Jessica, why don’t you go back to bed? I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Oh, I plan to, but I couldn’t help but overhear some interesting things about Lucifer and earthquakes and you guys’ dad. What is going on here?” Jessica asked, not moving from the doorway.

Dean and Sam glared at one another for a moment and violently shook their heads yes or no, depending on how the other responded. Finally, they settled for a mutual shrug of their shoulders.

“Jess, I don’t want you involved in this. The less you know, the better for you. Besides, Dean here was just leaving,” Sam uttered with a jerk of his head toward the door aimed at Dean.

“Like hell. I’m not going anywhere without you. Sam, we need-“

“I don’t know if I care what you need, Dean. I’ve got my own stuff here and Jessica shouldn’t have to go through what we went through.”

“What did you go through? And why all of the secrets? Sam, just tell me what’s going on. Maybe I can help,” Jessica offered.

There was another exchange of panicked glances and then concession. They could argue the entire night away or Sam could allow himself to hear some answers for the madness. He just couldn’t see why there wasn’t a way for him and Dean to go help their dad without getting Jess involved. However, he knew that once Jessica’s interest had been piqued, it was hard to contain it. She had a way of talking him into anything, including, it seemed, allowing her into the life he had worked so hard to escape.

Sam blew out a breath and then walked back over to the fridge. “You want a beer, Jess? You’re going to need it.”

“Sure. Make it two,” she said with an amused quirk of her lips.

Sam spent the next three hours explaining to Jessica that the world of the supernatural was real. He told her about the way they had grown up on the road and how they had really lost their mom. Dean filled in the gaps that he missed or omitted to be kind. Sam noticed that despite the impropriety of doing so, Dean slid in more than a few hints that he would interested in taking Jess off of Sam’s hands ‘for him’. A kick to Dean’s legs cut each attempt short. Dean might have most any woman he wanted, and even Sam himself, but he’d be damned if he stepped back and let his brother have at his girlfriend. Besides, Sam knew he had to hang onto the kind of woman who, in spite of her being completely unnerved by the truth, chose to hear them out the whole way through.

“Soooo, that’s about it, Jess. All of the stories are true and Dean and my Dad seem to have confirmed another one about Heaven and Hell being actual places,” Sam summed up their marathon information session. “Dean, you’ve got to level with us, but we’re all exhausted. Let’s get some sleep and pick this up in a few hours.”

“Yeah, okay. Can I crash on your couch?”

“Sure,” Jessica told him. “Let me get you some sheets and blankets to make up the pull out bed.”

“I see that someone likes to be prepared.” Dean grinned at Jess and Sam and finished his fifth beer in one swallow.

“Well, it’s not like you’re the first person to come over late, drink up all of our beer, which you’re going to replace, by the way, and then need a place to sleep. This is college, Dean. It’s what we do,” Jess told him without stopping to take a breath.

Sam laughed at his brother’s misfortune. He’d walked right into that. Sam found himself to be particularly grateful in that moment that he had a woman like Jess, who was equal parts sugar, spice, and spitfire. Dean wasn’t always used to women that could deal back as well as he gave, so the next few days were sure to be interesting for them all.

With little else to do besides set Dean up for the night and wait while his brother brought in his bags, Sam went back to bed and waited for Jessica to join him. He listened to the sounds of Jess telling Dean where everything was and her handing over the sheets. He listened as the front door was locked and lights were clicked off. Then, finally, Sam relished the simple pleasure of Jess’ footsteps coming down the hall.

He couldn’t help but smile at her when she came into the room, bringing with it his newfound sense of peace.

“Hey, you.”

“Hey, yourself.”

“Get over here.” Sam flipped back the covers on Jess’ side of the bed.

A put up sigh was his reward. “I suppose so. Just this once.”

And then she was there beside him, in his arms, where she belonged.

***

Sam awoke to the sound of Dean talking to someone on the phone. At least, he hoped that he was on the phone, based on the amount of times he heard his brother say “Yes, sir.” And honestly, he didn’t think that Dean would let a stranger into his home without being mildly considerate enough to wake him up. They had rules about that sort of thing, which Sam hoped that Dean still stuck to.

He rolled over in bed to cuddle with Jessica before they got up to face the day ahead. His searching hand came up empty, except for the rumpled, cool sheets that greeted him. It was then that he realized he could hear the sound of the shower running in competition to Dean’s conversation. Sam flopped onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. So much for that.

His morning wood rubbed against his shorts and the sheet across his lap in vain. He contemplated going to join Jessica in the shower, but he knew there’d be no way for them to quietly enjoy themselves without Dean hearing them. And, Dean being Dean, he wouldn’t let go of the fact that he’d heard them.

He let his hand slide under the sheet and into his shorts. He’d be quick, quiet, and get straight to the point. Sam gripped his cock, slid his hand down its length, and closed his eyes. It always felt better when it was Jessica’s hand on him, but he remembered another palm that once felt better than his own. He was just imagining Jess and Dean trading off, stroking his cock and sucking his nipples, when he heard the door creak open a second too late.

“Planning on putting on a show, baby brother?”

Sam’s eyes flew open as he jerked his hand out of his shorts and from beneath the sheet altogether.

“Dean! Have you ever heard of knocking? Or, better yet, staying the hell out of my room??”

“And what? Miss my baby brother taking care of himself? There was once a time where you’d ask me to help you out.” Dean smirked and planted his eyes firmly on Sam’s lap and the erection the thin sheet was doing a poor job of concealing.

Sam snatched a pillow and pressed it over his thighs. “Yeah, there was once a time, but we don’t do that anymore. We were kids. So what?”

Dean leaned against the doorway and crossed his arms. “Way I remember it, you weren’t no kid; not with the dick you had on you. But you’re right, that was then. As of right now, I need you to put it away and get dressed. Dad thinks they found a lead.”

Sam huffed in annoyance. “Dean, I’ll be out when I’m out. Now get out of here.”

“Going to finish up, huh? Okay, but make it quick. I’m going to need help figuring this one out.”

Sam flopped back against the bed and glared at the ceiling. Damn, Dean and damn his shitty timing. Hell, damn whatever tore through his city, while he was at it. He was about as pissed as could be expected, but that didn’t explain why he was still hard and aching. That fight with Dean should have put him out of commission, at least for a little while. But there his cock was, leaking precome and ready to go.

He listened to Dean’s footsteps return to the living room and his phone snap open. If Dean would just stay occupied for a few moments and he had the good sense to go close the door, Sam figured that he could take care of his little situation and get on with his day. The only problem being that he realized the shower had shut off in all of the overexcitement of the morning. Sighing to himself, Sam swung his legs out of bed and went to go collect clean shorts and clothes. He’d just jerk off in the shower and be done with it.

Sam greeted Jessica in the hallway with a smile and a kiss to her still-wet hair. Her eyes automatically flicked down to his crotch and the protrusion there. Her palm instinctively found the head of his cock, a place on his body that Sam felt her hands almost always belonged.

“Need a little help there, slugger?”

He chuckled to stop himself from jumping on her offer, as he would any other day. “Not . . . right now. Not with Dean here. He’ll hear us and believe me, you do not want that.”

“And what if I do? We can make him wait until we’re finished and he can thank us for the show.” Jessica winked as she squeezed him through the fabric of his shorts.

God help him, he wanted her all the more. Sleeping with Jess then would go a long way in paying Dean back for the times that he’d brought girls back to the motel room or house they were squatting in when he thought Sam was sleeping. The parade of Ambers, Ericas, and Natalies had kept him up more nights than he had originally cared for. However, it wasn’t long before teenaged hormones demanded that he rub off to the sound of the Beauty of the Week being plowed through the mattress by his big brother. He knew what it felt like to be pressed down underneath that delicious weight and spread open by those strong thighs.

Just for a moment, Sam was utterly tempted. Jessica’s hands were working in tandem, massaging him in the ways she knew he liked best and it had him needy and wanting to come like he hadn’t had sex in a week, instead of a single day. In the end, he nudged her hands away and pulled her to his chest.

“God, I want to like you would not believe. But whatever Dean came all this way to tell us seems important and I want to hear him out, so that we can put him out.” Sam kissed Jessica’s forehead and her adorable nose, before lingering over her mouth. “Once he’s gone, we can finish this conversation, okay?”

Sam put as much of his apology into his smile, as he did the tightness of his embrace.

Jessica stared up at his face for a long moment before nodding her assent and pulling away to get ready. As Sam looked at the closed door between them, he wondered if his good intentions were seen as something more; something he’d have to fix later with flowers and groveling and a lot of time with his lips wrapped around Jess’ clit. Not that he minded any of these things, but he hated for her to feel shut out when she was only trying to help.

Sam slunk into the bathroom and got into the shower. He let the water rush down his body for several minutes before giving in to the obvious need and took himself in hand. Here, he could be quick, quiet, and to the point, finally.

When he was done with his shower and dressed for the day, Sam strode into the kitchen where Dean was mid-sentence telling Jess about the time they were chased through the neighborhood of one of their Hunts by a pack of dogs. It hadn’t started out with the entire pack, just the one dog that they’d unintentionally provoked by stomping through an overgrown parking lot that ‘belonged’ to the dogs. From there, it quickly flew down hill and they barely made it back to the Impala without injury.

Sam laughed along with his brother and his girlfriend as he moved around the kitchen, collecting the various breakfast items someone had prepared on his plate.

“So then, Dad just gives us this look and asks us ‘Boys, what trouble have you gotten yourselves into?’ and me and Sam just look at each other and burst out laughing. You know, the kind of laugh where you don’t know why you’re laughing and you don’t know how you’ll stop, but you’re just so relieved to be alive that it just comes out of nowhere?”

Dean pauses while Jess nods encouragingly. “So, we tell him how we went through this parking lot and then shit went sideways. Of course, Dad snaps at me about my language, as usual, but I just shrugged it off because we’d just survived nearly being mauled.

“By the way, nice of you to join us, Sam. Jessica and I were just getting to know one another better,” Dean finished, when Sam sat down at the kitchen table with the pair.

“Nice to be invited into the conversation with my own girlfriend in my own house, Dean,” Sam grumbled and shoved a fork full of eggs into his mouth only slightly resentful.

Dean grinned at the remark and Jess gave Sam’s forearm a squeeze.

“Well, since we’re all here. Let’s get down to business. I just got off the phone with Dad and Bobby. Things have changed. I thought that we would have to go get this Colt from Dad and Bobby’s friend, but it turns out that we were wrong. While we were snoozing, Bobby got in contact with a friend of his by the name of Pamela Barnes. Psychic he knows that’s usually right on. Well, he asks her about the earthquakes, Lucifer, and the reigning King and Queen of Hell and she comes back with this prophesy that has nothing to do with a gun.

“She told him, and I quote, ‘The darkest of Winged Allies must be raised to stop the darkest of Winged Foes,’” Dean says and looks at Sam and Jess to see how they’ve accepted the news.

He notes that Jess looks half-sick with further news of the supernatural world and Sam appears to be pondering the meaning the prophecy already.

“Darkest of “Winged Allies” and darkest of “Winged Foes.” That makes me think that we’re looking for the same creature, if you will, but ones who are working for different sides. What else did she say?” Sam asks, twirling his fork between his fingers.

“She also said that she saw herself in a cave that moans out to be heard with flashes of what looked like very large wings. There should be a large main stairway and rooms that branch off. Other than that, she said the vision cut off before she saw anymore.”

“A ‘cave that moans out to be heard’?” Jess lets the phrase roll over her tongue while the boys glanced over at one another.

“Yeah. And I figure that if we’re going to be in a cave looking for winged creatures, my best guess are really large bats. You know, even though I don’t know how bats can help us save the freaking world from Azazel and Abbadon.”

“Wait, wait. Who are Azazel and Abbadon?” Jess asks, her face scrunching up in vague confusion.

Sam watched his brother’s face twitch as he exhaled deeply before answering.

“Azazel and Abbadon are the King and Queen of Hell and me and Dad managed to piss them off in a big way. We derailed their plans to use ‘special children’ they picked out to help them set Lucifer free, but fucked up and helped set him free anyway.” Dean rubbed his hands over his face and growled in frustration into his palms. “When I say that we fucked up, I mean bad. It’s never been anything like this before.”

“But . . . But how did you set Lucifer free?” Sam interjected.

“That’s . . . complicated and kind of a long story. So, we need to figure this thing about the caves out so that we can get on the road.”

“Wait, wait, wait. You come in here and demand that I help you, and by extension, Jessica help you, but you don’t offer us full disclosure? No, we need to know what we’re walking into. How did you set Lucifer free? And how does he even exist for real in the first place?” Every inch of annoyance that Sam felt growing through his body crept into his words, but he couldn’t say that he minded very much. This was a hell of a favor to ask of them and they needed to know; they had a right to know.

Another exhale had Jess rubbing Dean’s forearm encouragingly.

Through his teeth, Dean told the table about Dad’s capture and torture for 100 days by Azazel and Abbadon, to get him to start the Apocalypse. But their dad, their flawed and strong father never broke. He never accepted Azazel’s offer to climb off the torturing rack and cut into someone else to save his own skin. Dean told them how terrified he had been that Dad had been where Dean could not find him. He explained the horror he felt when the demons had thrown John’s tortured body on the side of the road outside of the motel Dean had holed up in for the previous week and a half.

Then, through stops and stutters laced with overwhelming guilt, Dean told Sam and Jess about their handful of days of rest, where he tried to bring their dad back to himself. At first, their father seemed too catatonic for thought or speech and Dean was becoming desperate enough to consider taking their dad to a hospital. He’d cleaned up his wounds as best that he could, but still, John was barely responding to food or water and he needed help getting to the bathroom. Speech was impossible. John merely laid in bed and stared into space with glazed eyes and nightmares that had him screaming awake during the few hours he managed to nod off.

John had just managed to recover enough for his eyes to focus and his first words to be spoken when the demons returned. John had just been about to ask Dean what he wanted for breakfast. It was a simple thing, but it gave Dean hope that their dad was returning to himself. In the bathroom mirror over his shoulder, John met Dean’s eyes as two demons grabbed a hold of each of his arms in the open doorway. The sound of their father screaming his name in terror still rang in Dean’s ears, all of these long weeks later.

At some point, Jessica had smartly removed the breakfast dishes, scraped the remaining bits of food into the trash, and set the dishes in the sink. She’d returned with the largest bottle of whiskey they owned and three glasses. Dean stared into the liquid comfort as he uttered the final words of his story concerning his own time on the rack and how he’d opened the first Seal by folding under torture after 40 days. The shame in his voice and his tears on their kitchen table told Sam and Jess everything they needed to know about how Dean felt as he cut into a fellow Hunter to relieve himself of his own torment.

But by the grace of God, or a demon tortured by John himself with the skills he had acquired from Azazel and Abbadon, John found out where Dean was being held. With the help of several of his Hunter friends, including the almost forgotten, Bill and Ellen Harvelle and their daughter Jo, John broke in set Dean free. But by then, it was too late. Azazel and Abbadon had escaped, laughing madly about how the world was about to become much more interesting.

Dean stopped then and stomped off to the bathroom to relieve himself or to cry himself out. Sam and Jess exchanged looks of confirmation across the table. There was no way they wouldn’t help Dean now. By the time Dean had collected himself, the pair had already packed for what they figured would be an extended absence and began talking over which cave the prophecy was referring to.

“Hey, Dean,” Sam called out from the kitchen. “We might have figured out which cave we need.”

“All right. Just gimme a second to finish up in here.”

Sam and Jess listened as water splashed around and faucets were shut off.

“Just needed to clean up a bit, you know? Long time on the road and all,” Dean said, by way of explaining his lengthy absence and the water use. “Now, what were you saying about you guys knowing the cave we needed to head to?”

“It was Jess, actually.” Sam grinned over at his girlfriend in pride and admiration for her quick thinking. She’d have made a fine Hunter, even though he would never wish that life for her. “We got to talking about all of the caves that we’ve visited and she remembered a cave that moans, the Moaning Caverns, to be precise. They even have the main stairway down into the cave and rooms that branch off, just like Pamela described.”

Dean chuckled in relief and clapped his hands together. “Now we’re talkin’! You guys get packed and then we can go.”

“Already ahead of you, Dean. We’re ready to walk out the door,” Jess informed Dean as she gestured to the bags around their feet.

“Even better.” Dean grabbed his things and made for the door.

As Sam locked the door behind them, he hoped against everything he knew they’d be facing that he’d see their home again at the end.

***

Driving across the state with his brother and his girlfriend turned out to be much more pleasant than Sam had anticipated. He wasn’t sure how much Led Zeppelin his girlfriend could take or how loudly Dean would insist they pump the music to ‘ready them for battle’. But surprisingly, Jess’ tastes in music ranged further than even Sam realized, a former unknown that he found himself to be insanely thankful for.

They were making great time until they hit traffic on I-880 and passed an accident that made him think twice about the fact that Dean was driving after their breakfast liquids of choice. But there’d been times where Dean and Dad both had driven after a few too many and their reactive instincts had grown so great that no small amount of liquor was going to have them crashing into a cement divider anytime soon.

Sam humored the small talk and Dean’s round of asking Jess as many embarrassing questions about Sam’s new life as he could squeeze in, but Sam drew the line at the weirdest place Jess and Sam had gotten down to business. It was the restroom of an ice cream shop with a broken door lock, thank you very much, not that it was any of Dean’s concern. Besides, Sam knew from the way Dean dutifully backed away from the subject at Sam’s glare, that he really didn’t want Sam spilling his own adventurous secrets in revenge.

He did opt to do Dean the honor of tuning back in once his wayward brother moved on to filling them in with more details about the situation at hand. You could never be too prepared for such an intimidating task.

Sam’s gaze was plastered to the landscape as they pulled into the welcome area of the park. It had been several years since he and Jessica had crossed this cave off of their to do list, but the mountains and the area surrounding them were as beautiful as ever. He briefly wondered why he and Jess didn’t make more time to get way off of campus to enjoy the natural beauty California had to offer more frequently; but, he supposed that he saw enough nature on his and Dean’s childhood travels and that his law degree wouldn’t earn itself.

He took note of the new zip line feature as they rolled past signs welcoming them to the park and informing visitors about the park’s hours of operation. They’d have some time yet before a group of what looked to be inspectors finished for the day and Sam told Dean and Jess as much. After a few moments of deliberation, the group decided to head into town for some grub and to rent a motel room for the night. They could come back after back after dark and reassess the situation.

***

Sam’s stomach felt almost uncomfortably full after the feast they’d had. Dean had insisted they pig out while they continued ‘get to know each other’. Sam already knew what that meant, as he and Dean knew each other better than anyone in the world. No one would know every one his flaws, his weaknesses, or his greatest strengths like Dean. Jess was coming in on a close second, a fact that she slyly reminded him of when she and Dean faced off in what they liked to call Facts About Sammy! It took all but a miracle from God, to whom Sam was fervently praying, to separate the two when they ganged up on him.

The sooner they were off of this road trip and back home, the better. This was more bonding than any man could take when his girlfriend plus his brother equaled an on-going one-upmanship between the two.

“Don’t fall behind there, Sammy. It’s not like we’re in a hurry here or anything,” Dean threw back over his shoulder.

Sam couldn’t help the face he pulled as he kicked rocks in Dean’s direction. He was back to being the baby brother, it seemed.

“I’m sorry that I’m not stomping ahead loudly enough for you, Dean. Some of us are trying to employ a bit of stealth here.”

Jess glanced between the two of them and laughed as she ran ahead like they could only hope to catch up with her.

Once at the front door, Dean popped the lock, with Jess taking in his every manipulation of the lock’s inner tumblers. As quietly as possible, they crept across the lobby to the main stairwell down. Through the beams of their flashlights, they saw that this cave had remarkably been spared the worst of the damage that seemed to have overwhelmed other areas of the world and other less fortunate caverns in California.

They had 234 steps to walk down to descend 165 feet, or so the posted signs and the cavern’s website told them, before they’d reach a flat area they could look around for clues. The cooler, humid air mixed with the walk down seemed to tax all of them the further they went. Sam wondered how in the hell they’d make it back up without keeling over.

Their feet landed in mud and rock at the end of their trek down into the conquering darkness. Their flashlights illuminated rocky hollows, off-shooting passages, the metal cage that encased the stairwell, and the places where 13,000-year-old human bones were discovered by the Miwok Native Americans. The layers of history that encircled them were not lost on Sam.

After an hour’s search of not much but rock and mud, Sam and Dean were ready to call it a bust. Although these caverns moaned, they couldn’t be certain that it was enough to fit Pamela’s vision. Just as Sam was about to call Jess back, she spoke up first from one of the further reaching tunnels.

“Guuuuuys, I think that I see something down here.”

The waver in her voice made Sam think that ‘something’ might be just what they were looking for.

“Anything with huge wings, because all I’ve found down here are bugs,” Dean replied.

“I think that I see light down here. Bright, flickering light and shadows,” Jess called back. “It’s like . . . There’s a fire down here.”

Not sooner had Jess uttered those fateful words, did a thunderous roar tear throughout the cavern. The sound of Jess’ feet hitting the ground competed with Sam’s screams for her to come back to the main area. Sam shouted for Dean to make his way back up the stairs and that he’d get Jess out.

He ran toward the tunnel he’d seen Jess take and bodily slammed into her as she ran toward him.

“Sam! Sam, I saw it! I saw what looked like huge wings shadowed against the walls. Whatever those things are, they aren’t bats. We have to get out of here!”

Sam didn’t need the following roars to convince him otherwise. Grabbing Jessica’s hand, Sam dashed toward the stairwell and hit the steps in a flat run. He could hear Dean running up the stairs above them and could only hope that they could move fast enough to outrun whatever was in the cavern below them.

They felt the rising heat before they saw the mushroom cloud of flame that filled the bottom of the stairwell they’d occupied only minutes before. Oh, this was definitely not bats.

Sam heard Dean crash through the lobby door and yell for him and Jess to move their asses before they ended up being rump roast. Even wheezing for air, Sam couldn’t contain his sigh of impatience. Was now truly the time for jokes when whatever the hell was behind them might honestly cook them? In Dean’s mind, apparently so.

His sides were killing him when Sam dragged Jess through the lobby door. A quick glance at his girlfriend told him that she wasn’t doing much better. Through the glass of the front door, Sam could see that Dean had pulled right up to the front of the building to collect them. Amongst his muddled thoughts of pain and fire and fear, Sam thanked God for small miracles before he dragged Jessica out the door and into the waiting Impala.

***

Sam had seen Dad and Dean floor the Impala before, but he had never seen Baby move like this. There had been obvious modifications in his absence. He spared half a breath to consider the whys and hows, but the unearthly boom of the world being blown apart cut across his idle musings.

His head whipped around in the direction of the mountain falling away behind them, only to see that the peaceful mountains were not so whole anymore. Chucks of boulders larger than Sam could comprehend were flying through the air, followed by a chorus of shrieking that chilled Sam’s blood and pressed against his bladder.

And then there they were, dark shapes and impossibly massive, flapping wings cutting across the night sky.

Oh, shit.

Oh, fucking shit.

“Deeeeean! Drive faster, man! There’s something huge coming out of that mountain!”

“You think I don’t know that?!” Dean stopped speaking a moment to check the rearview mirror. “I’m driving as fast as I can without breaking the damn car. Just hold on tight, you two.”

Sam’s eyes flickered to Jessica’s and as much as he wanted to remain calm and be a strong, solid presence for her on her first Hunt, he was certain that her unmistakable fear was reflected upon his own face.

Blasts of fire shot across the air and a circle of wings and large bodies formed above them. Quicker than thought or action, what could only be described as a dragon of faery tale proportions slammed down onto the road perhaps a half a dozen yards in front of them. Dean slammed his foot down on the brakes and the back tires fishtailed in response to having their momentum cut short. The smell of burned rubber gladly reached for Sam’s nostrils.

“Guys, what do we do???” came the barely contained screech of panic from the backseat.

“Back the fuck up, that’s what!” supplied Dean. Sam ducked Dean’s arm when it flew behind him to grab the back of the passenger seat as he put the car in reverse and stepped on the gas.

The car’s tail end veered wildly from side to side with each notch the needle climbed up the speedometer.

They didn’t make it nearly as far as they’d hoped before another enormous, shadowy body landed behind them. Dean slammed on the brakes to keep them from backing into large, clawed feet.

“Now would be a good time for any ideas the two of you have!” Dean snarled and banged the heels of his hands on the steering wheel.

“We could always run for it, but how far do you think we’d get before these things caught us?” Sam asked no one in particular, because their options were slim to completely moot.

“Not very far, I’d say. The terrain’s too rough to safely drive the car down the side of the road, but I’m game to try if you guys are,” Jessica offered bravely.

“Not necessary. I say we get the guns and go out and face these things. I’m not going to die hiding in a car. Not today!” Dean dug around until his pistol was in his hand and he’d freed an extra clip from between the seat cushions. Taking his cue from Dean, Sam followed suit and retrieved a spare gun for Jess from the glove box.

“Slowly squeeze the trigger, don’t clamp down or the gun might jam.”

Sam quickly pointed out the features of the pistol, including the safety and how to take it off. Out of the side of his eye, Sam saw Dean assessing the dragon situation.

“They still haven’t moved. If you guys are done, let’s do this.”

With both palms wrapped around Jessica’s hands and her borrowed weapon, he gave his girlfriend what he hoped would not be they last gesture of encouragement.

One after the other, each of the vehicle’s three occupants opened their doors and slid from their seats. They moved as one unit toward the front of the Impala through the glare of the car’s headlights, looking from the dragon in front of them, to the dragon behind then, and those that still flew overhead. Dean took point and Sam drew Jessica close by his side. If this thing went sideways, Sam wanted Jess to have the opportunity to run for the tree line, even if he and Dean couldn’t escape the flames that would follow any sizeable missteps on their parts.

“Hey, there! You seem to be doing a fine impression of a Snorlax, but we need to get through here. Do we have to battle Team Rocket or can we work this out like civilized . . . people . . . creatures . . . beings?”

Sam snorted and rolled his eyes. Only Dean would recall their summers of playing Pokemon on the road at a time like this. Smiling faintly to himself, he did have to admit that the comparison fit. Pokeflute or no.

Jessica’s own huff of laughter was drowned out by the sound of the dragon in front of them answering in a language they’d never heard before. Dean’s puzzlement gave way to amusement and him answering in English, as though he understood what was being asked of him.

Sam was duly impressed to realize that the more Dean spoke to the reptile, the faster it seemed to be acquiring English words for its own vocabulary. After half an hour of idle banter on Dean’s part and what appeared to be a genuine effort to follow along, the dragon who seemed to serve as the spokesperson, so to speak, had fine tuned enough modern human speech to introduce himself as Malek. Humans and dragons alike took a few minutes to exchange pleasantries, names, and species specifics. When asked what language had he been speaking by Jess, Malek told them that Dragons naturally spoke in the ancient language called Enochian. But, more to point, Malek wasted no time correcting Dean’s flippant referrals to T-Rex and Godzilla.

These were Dragons, not lesser beings with which to be trifled. They were the oldest of the Old Ones that came before humans and the modern record of time itself. They watched the dawn of many a civilization and their ultimate fade back into the sunset. Most importantly, they had been awakened by the humans’ folly once more to clean up the mess they had made.

At this point, Dean’s sarcastic jokes dried up completely and he became that much more interested in the pavement between his feet. Sam ignored Dean’s muttered complaint that it was ‘creepy’ how quickly the Dragons were picking up their language, but smiled at his brother’s concession that it was great since it seemed to be helping them get somewhere. He watched Dean’s eyes flicker between the blacktop and the Dragons as Malek filled in so many of the pieces they had been missing.

“We Dragons are of the Old World and we have long been the chosen guardians of Lucifer’s Cage. However, we cannot control Lucifer on our own. We must work with our human Allies to wrestle the beast back into his Cage, as has been decreed by the Mighty Creator.”

“So, wait. What you’re saying is that huge, powerful Dragons can’t put down one rogue archangel?” Dean asked, with only the barest hints of sarcasm marring his tone.

“Alone, we cannot. It has to be done together in solidarity amongst the strongest of our species. And there are no others stronger than Lucifer’s Vessel himself.” Malek dipped his head in recognition of this fact.

“Wait, wait, wait . . . You’re saying that I’M Lucifer’s Vessel?” The shock on Dean’s face radiated across Sam’s and Jessica’s features as well. This was beyond weird right into insane.

Malek made what could have been construed as a deep laugh in his throat before he spoke. “No, Young One. You are not Lucifer’s True Vessel. That honor belongs to the one behind you. Into every generation of a family, Lucifer’s Vessel is born into that bloodline until it ceases to be. At that time, another bloodline is chosen to carry the weight of producing Lucifer’s Vessel. So that at any time in history, should Lucifer arise from his Cage, a champion shall exist to either thwart Lucifer’s attempt to unleash ruin upon the Earth or to save the planet for the good of all.”

Sam watched through disbelieving eyes as Dean swung toward him and Jess drew away on instinct. He had sworn to fight his way out of this life, had only agreed to help on what was supposed to be a simple mission, but it was all for nothing. Genetically destined to be a Vessel? How could anyone hope to outrun that?

“I think you have the wrong guy. I’m just a college student that comes from a family of Hunters. Nothing special,” Sam spoke up for the first time since they’d left the car. “I think that you will need to get someone else.”

“I am not mistaken, Young One. You are, and shall be until death, Lucifer’s True Vessel. Your bloodline has been chosen and it is your turn to decide the fate of this world. Will you choose to stand with us against this terrible evil and all that may stand with him, or will you choose to let him in and destroy this world until it is no more? With his Awakening alone, Lucifer will have already put catastrophic events into motion and he does not yet possess a vessel. What do you think will happen once he has one?”

Malek posed the questions as choices and options, but Sam saw none. He did not want this life any more than he wanted to hunt ghosts or ghouls any longer, but it was clear that this was not something he could run away from. He had to face this before he could hope to return to the life he was building for himself and Jessica.

His eyes met Dean’s for a long time without speech and without fear before turning to Jessica, the woman he could see being the second love of his life. He would do anything for these two people and would do more still if they agreed to stay by his side through it all. Nods from both of them and Jessica clasping his hand in hers was all that he needed to know how to respond to the choice that lay ahead of him.

“I’ll do it. What can we do?” Sam offered, his gaze never leaving the faces of the two most important people in his life.

Another rumble of laughter from Malek cut into Sam’s thoughts of love and sacrifice, forcing him to look up at the Dragon blocking the road.

“This will be no easy task and it is not for the faint of heart. You cannot go back once you have begun, because you will have alerted Lucifer’s Allies to your presence much quicker than they would be able to scout out on their own. However, we have help to offer to you in the form of our children.”

At this, the trio stared at Malek in mutual confusion and not but a little bit of awe.

“Your children?” Jessica asked for all of them.

“Yes. Dragon children are far smarter than the human children you are accustomed to. They will carry with them the knowledge of the Dragons, but will possess the ability to hide in your world in a way that the oldest among us have not been able to do since we were children.” Malek paused and either chuckled or cleared his throat. “I give to you my own son, the daughter of my Second In Command, and the son of a member of the Council. You shall treat them well or you may not live to see another day.”

“Wait, what kind of deal is that? Couldn’t we-“ Dean stopped here to gesture between them and the Dragons. “Couldn’t we just work separately, but together. And then there wouldn’t be any ‘not living to see another day’? I don’t know about them, but I don’t think that we should be taking your Dragon kids on the road with us.”

“Our children are older than you could ever hope to be and are far wiser than any human I have ever met in our time. You will accept the help we have offered or we can try things your way to the detriment of all. Lucifer’s Vessel has already agreed to help us. I do not see what issue you can have with this arrangement.”

Malek blew bursts of steam and flame from his nostrils as he spoke and looked toward the other Dragons. His claws dug deeply into the asphalt in apparent irritation, as though it were mere sand beneath his colossal feet.

Noting this, Sam cut off whatever reply Dean was getting ready to throw back, and potentially get them fried to a crisp.

“We accept your gracious offer. Please, tell us what we have to do next,” Sam offered calmly.

“Get comfortable, Young Ones, this will take some time to explain so that your young minds will grasp the enormity of the task before all of you as Vessel and Allies,” Malek pronounced solemnly.

***

Over the next couple of hours, Malek, his Second in Command, and his Lieutenants laid out precisely how screwed they all were.

The Dragons took them through a quick run down of the true history of the world and all of the cataclysmic events the Earth had faced since its beginning. Everything from the disappearance of the dinosaurs, to the Great Chicago Fire, to the burning of Babylon, to the Great Flood mentioned in the Bible could be pinpointed to a rising of Lucifer. And with each scenario, upon seeing the destruction Lucifer wrought on the Earth and its inhabitants, the True Vessel had always sided with the Dragons in their fight against Lucifer and his Allies.

Malek also explained that although a True Vessel may be born, it is not guaranteed to be used, which explained why they, or none of the Hunters Sam and Dean knew, had ever come across the Dragons or Lucifer before this moment in time. It also explained why their father, John Winchester, True Vessel of his generation, was so completely drawn to Hunting after the death of Mary. There is something innately coded within the Vessels to lure them back to the fight against evil time and again.

On hearing this, Sam knew that no amount of college or his desire for a “normal life” could have saved him from this fate in the end. If it had not been Lucifer that drew him back, it would have been something else. The feeling of being trapped encircled his chest like steel bars that barely allowed for breath. Jessica wrapped her arms around him in response to feeling his body tense up. He met Dean’s eyes straight on and gave him a reassuring nod.

The Dragons summarized for them the plan of action the Vessel and its Allies must take to place Lucifer back in his Cage. The location of Lucifer’s Cage is both an abstract and an absolute. It exists as all things do, but it doesn’t possess a set entrance. Although it’s current location was underneath St. Mary’s Convent, Lucifer could be forced back into the Cage from almost anywhere on Earth.

Sam noticed that Dean seemed to visibly relax on hearing that he need not return to the source of their misguided quest. He remembered the way Dean seemed to crumble inside as he told them during the car ride to the cavern how the Knights of Hell, Lilith and Ruby, had tricked him and Dad into thinking they were closing off Seals to keep Lucifer confined.

All the while, Lilith and Ruby guided Dean, their father, and other Hunters to and away from the Seals they needed open. It was only when Dean realized the enormity of the women’s betrayal and how easily they had conned the Hunters, that Dean understood that their arrogance and their blindness to what was right in front of them had contributed to them being led astray.

The women had each played the men’s best and worst angles separately and then together at the end. Once the group had reached the end of the road at St. Mary’s, it was too late for Dean to stop their father from killing Lilith and providing the women with the willing sacrifice their cause needed to set their master free.

Sam listened in awe as the Dragons explained how their last encounter with Lucifer and his Allies had resulted in the spawning of half-Dragon, half-human offspring in reward for the human’s cooperation. At first, from the twist of Dean’s face and the widening of Jessica’s eyes, Sam thought he’d have to rein himself and his companions in. After all, how could one even begin to contemplate a Dragon and a human doing anything that would result in offspring?

On seeing the humans’ hesitation, Malek informed his young audience that Dragons can take human form once in a calendar year or never if they preferred to remain in their natural state. While in human form, the Dragons had been known to blend in amongst humanity. Or, in the case of their last awakening from hibernation, blend their bloodlines with their human Allies as a reward for their assistance.

The Impala groaned under their combined weight when Sam, Dean, and Jessica all retreated back to the car to sit down on its hood as Malek moved on to the whys and hows of their half-human offspring. At first, it was heralded as an ingenious idea to combine the best of both species to create long-term guardians for the human race. Unfortunately, in practice, the magic of the Dragons held within a human body turned almost immediately disastrous. The power, strength, intelligence, and magic lent to the Dragons’ half-human offspring corrupted them fairly early on, to both the Dragons’ and the humans’ dismay.

Teaming together one last time, the Dragons and humans formed parties to hunt down their children. Dozens were pressed from hiding, captured, and slaughtered. In light of their fear that some of their errant children had been missed, the Dragons used their knowledge of magic to forge swords with pools of their own blood. These two dozen swords were given to their Allies to help them in the fight against their half-Dragon foes.

When Jessica asked why the Dragons couldn’t simply have stayed and helped clean up the mess they helped create, Malek sighed and was silent for several moments.

“We Dragons are not limitless in our power. We are given great length of life from the Mighty Creator, but there is a price we must pay in exchange. We must surrender our bodies and our will to long periods of sleep to sustain our lives. It teaches us that even the strongest, most clever, and bravest among us must bow to the will of the Mighty Creator; that our time has a limit and is as precious as that of our human Allies.”

Jessica nodded thoughtfully and Sam rather thought he could see her as a regale Dragon in some other life, awakening to stop a great evil, basking for a time in her success, and then sleeping perhaps a millennia away as she awaited her next challenge. It was a comparison that Sam felt fit her like almost no other.

“Well, Story Time has been fun and I’d say ‘fascinating’…” Dean took a moment to mumble what sounded like “if I meant it” to Sam before continuing.

“But the sun’s coming up and we’re no closer to getting that answer about what we need to put Lucifer back in the ground. His army is coming and we’re standing around reminiscing about the good old days.” The corners of Dean’s mouth quirked in an expectant smile that searched for its mirrored image upon Sam’s face.

Sam wanted to laugh. He did. But the importance of this meeting could not be overstated. Which is how he found himself frowning at his brother’s shit-eating grin and shaking his head in a huge ‘God, no, Dean. Not this shit right now!’ warning. His brother’s brow furrowed in frustration, before he sighed as though the lengthy meeting was wasting his time, and turned his eyes back to Malek.

A tell tale cough from Dean preceded his customary return back to the business at hand when his mind began to stray.

“As you were saying?” Dean said with only a bit of sulking in his voice.

Malek made the same cough that could very well be a laugh deep in his throat as he continued on where he left off.

“I was saying, Young One, that you will need elements of what Lucifer’s Allies and our half-Dragon children have been after during this awakening. Just as Lucifer’s Cage can be accessed from many places upon this Earth, so too does the key to open its door change. When last we fought the Beast, the key was composed of the four rings of power of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This time, we need to look at what they have pursued to open the Seals.”

“Well,” Jessica spoke up without hesitation. “There was a lot of death, including Lilith sacrificing herself on an altar by tricking Sam and Dean’s father into killing her and the half-Dragons kidnapped virgins. In the end, Lilith and Ruby opened the Cage in a convent, which is where the pure of heart goes to dedicate their lives to God. If I didn’t know better, it seems like they were trying to corrupt “pure” sources of good.”

Malek took only the space of two heartbeats to ponder this information.

“If it is as you say, you will require a willing blood sacrifice, some element of a virgin, something to represent the purity of this earth, and something from a Dragon to create your key. Your prime target should be to collect one of the swords issued to our human Allies all those long years ago. Once these items are gathered, you shall need to repeat these words to open Lucifer’s Cage: Bvtmon, Tabges, Babalon. The rest, we shall leave to you and your three new Dragon Allies.”

Sam asked Malek to repeat the incantation once more, slowly, and his request was granted. He made a careful note in his cell phone as Malek spoke the words that meant more than all of their lives together.

“However, you must make haste, as every Hellhound, Knight, and member of Hell’s Court that walk the earth will be in pursuit of you; as will every Dragon offspring that survived the purge. You need to take care to ever be on alert, as they will be able to sense Lucifer’s Vessel, the same way that we are able to sense and locate a Vessel, no matter where it is located on this world,” Malek cautioned.

“We give to you our children and our hope that luck favors you in this endeavor. Go now, Vessel and Allies. The success or failure of Lucifer’s rise to power lies within your hands.”

***

Sam waited until Malek and the rest of the Dragons flew off into the rays of the rising sun before he pulled out his cell phone and opened his phone’s web browser. They knew next to nothing about the care of most living animals, let alone the gargantuan task of caring for baby Dragons.

After several minutes of searching for nearby hawking equipment, Sam found a store not terribly far from their current town. It would take perhaps an hour and a half to make it there. Sam hit the back button to return to the search engine’s main page and typed in a request for bookstores and libraries in that same town. He lucked out and found a county library location and two books stores. It was practically a metropolis just waiting for them.

“Good news, there’s a sporting goods store about an hour and half away called Dick’s Sporting and Outdoors that carries hawking equipment. It’s the closest store around that carries anything close to what we’ll need. Everything else under the “California+falconry” results are online stores and information on joining the California Hawking Club.”

“Okay . . . So what exactly are we going to need and how do we go see what Dick’s got for us?” Dean smirked lewdly at Sam, right on time, as expected.

“Let me get the map and I’ll get us there. As for what we’ll need, it’s a lot of stuff and it’d be easier to show you than to explain,” Sam said, dutifully ignoring his brother’s prodding grin.

The sound of Jessica humming in contentment from the backseat drew Sam’s eyes to the rearview mirror. One of the baby Dragons was already cuddling her face, while the other two snapped their teeth at one another. Each of the snapping Dragons kept attempting to lift off in the backseat, but were barely stopped by confines of the top of the car and the leather seats.

The tips of their wings tangled in Jessica’s curls and slapped against the face of their Dragon counterpart. A low growl and continual blast of steam in reply from Jessica’s Dragon seemed to do little to dissuade them against their game. Jessica took one look between the Dragons and Sam’s face and laughed as though she was having the best time that anyone could ask for. Sam rolled his eyes and sighed. This was going to be a longer trip than the one he had endured with Dean and Jess teasing him the entire way to the cave.

He resigned himself to his fate and turned his eyes back to the map. “Okay, we need to go all the way up here and take a left. But we might have to find some work arounds, since the streets are probably torn up in this part of the state as well.”

Dean nodded in response and cranked up the stereo.

Fantastic.

***

What should have been an hour and a half trip took the better part of two and half hours, due to the need for detours. Smaller roads were washed out from the surrounding tributaries that connected to New Melones Lake and various, unreported sinkholes seemed to spring up out of nowhere.

Before they’d even fully pulled into the parking lot, Dean volunteered to stay in the car and look after the baby Dragons. What Sam knew he was really saying was that he wanted to make sure that the little monsters didn’t tear up or burn his car to a crisp without a fight. Sam and Jess shared a look of comprehension with him as they laughingly agreed.

A wave of blessedly cool air-conditioned air hit them as they crossed the threshold of the brightly lit store. Although the Impala had air, Dean almost always preferred to ride with the windows down to ‘feel the breeze of Mother Nature’. Sam thought it made Dean feel more connected to the open road, but he also suspected that it merely saved on gas. With gas prices climbing and the insane amount of road Dean and their dad burned beneath their wheels, any little thing they could do to save money could help.

Sam snagged a pushcart, while Jessica asked the clerk at the service counter for directions to the falconry section. The pair made their way toward the back corner indicated with little in the way of conversation. They fell into their familiar routine of shopping together, in spite of the odd circumstances thrust upon them.

Sam dutifully went through his checklist of items aloud and Jessica collected multiples of the items they needed in their basket. They made short work of their shopping and breezed through checkout with a swipe of Mr. James T. Kirk’s credit card, courtesy of Dean.

Jessica and Sam returned to the Impala to find Dean holding an audience with the Dragons from the front seat. He’d somehow managed to get them all seated on the backseat and held their attention with the repeated flicking of his Zippo lighter. Ooos and Ahhs of rapture echoed from the back of the car and Sam couldn’t help the smile that he shared with Jess. Only Dean could have managed this. He was also pleased to see that one of the Dragons in particular crept close enough to Dean’s hand to nuzzle his fingers as they moved over the shiny surface of his limited edition Metallica lighter.

“Back to the motel?” Jess asked from the backseat, after their little monsters begrudgingly made room for her and Dean stopped flicking his Zippo for their amusement.

“Not yet,” Sam told them. “There are a couple of bookstores we need to hit in town to brush up on our Dragon myths.”

“All righty, then,” Dean quipped as he fastened his seat belt and started the car. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we might as well get started now.”

Sam kicked the bags at his feet around and couldn’t agree more.

***

They wasted little time exploring the rest of the town after Sam dug through every shelf of books that covered Dragon myths and the care of one’s pet Dragon, according to some very shaky sources. They ended up with a pile of dusty books and one brand new edition published by a so-called Dragon expert, who communed with them via a mind link. Even though Sam didn’t put much faith in the man’s claims, he bought the book anyway, just in case.

Dean suggested burgers on the way back to the motel and no one voiced any objections. At this point, food was food and they’d had the Dragons out in public for far too long for any of them to feel comfortable.

Jess brought in the bags of falconry supplies, while Sam and Dean hauled in the food and bags of books. She sorted everything into three neat piles of metal swivels with hoops on both ends, jesses, gauntlets, anklets, leashes, and falconry bags to hold all of their supplies. She created a fourth pile of extras they had picked up as she worked, which she shoved back into a store bag after she made certain that they had everything they needed laid out. Once the men and Dragons were settled in the room, Jessica clapped her hands to get their attention.

“All right! Dragons and men, let’s go over a few things. We have equipment for our guests when we need to travel together and we need to set some rules. I am suggesting the only two rules that really matter. They are that the Dragons don’t fly off for long periods of time alone and they aren’t seen by the general population.

“Now, Sam has done some research and this falconry equipment is the closest that we can get for our Dragon friends here. So, why don’t we pick a partner and take turns attaching our gear?”

At the sight of Sam and Dean nodding their approval, the Dragons hopped from bed to bed and flew around the room. Their smooth, shiny scales reflected the overhead lights that caught on the various shades of dark blue to dark green to bright red that covered their backs and the deep yellow that covered their stomachs. Dean just missed getting a claw in his eyes when the dark green Dragon, who’d been nuzzling his fingers in the car, flew toward him immediately at the mention of teams.

Sam chuckled in amusement and watched as the bright red Dragon made its way over to the table Jessica was standing beside. Which left the dark blue Dragon for himself. Sam and the Dragon eyed one another neutrally for a moment, before Sam’s newest Ally flew over and landed at his feet. The reptile flapped its wings and reproachfully stared up at Sam, as though it was his fault that it was now on the floor.

Seeing that everyone was paired up, Jessica continued, “Sam, why don’t you show us how to attach this stuff?”

Dean moved closer to the table with his Dragon circling his head and taking its place beside its fellow on the table. Sam’s Dragon flew up onto the back of a chair and made itself comfortable.

“There are a few pieces and it looks harder than it is. I think that we should probably introduce ourselves before we get started. Okay?”

Eyes met and slid away from one another as they all waited to see who would go first. As usual, Dean took the initiative.

“My name’s Dean, this is my brother, Sam, and his girlfriend, Jessica. Who are you guys?”

The red Dragon tilted its head for a moment, studying Dean, Jess, and Sam, and spoke with a surprisingly clear voice that enchanted all who heard it.

“My name is Mira. To my right is Adarsh and over there is Ehren. We are pleased to be your Allies, but we do not understand the need for all of this.” Mira nodded her head toward the piles of equipment on the table. “We have already agreed to work with you and we are not your pets. We do not feel that we need to be lashed to you, as though you are our masters.”

“We understand your concerns, Mira. But we are concerned about losing you when we are out in public. You have been asleep for a very long time and our world can be . . . disorienting. Sam suggested that we get these things for you only to be used when we’re out of an enclosed space. When we’re inside of a room or the car, you’ll be free to fly around,” Jessica explained diplomatically.

The Dragons looked at one another, silently assessing the explanation and the situation before them. By mutual agreement, they nodded at one another.

“We accept your terms, as long as you remember that we are here to help you for a limited time only,” Mira told them.

“We definitely understand and there won’t be any problem with us taking the equipment off when you tell us to,” Sam promised.

Hearing no further complaints, Sam showed the group what he’d learned from YouTube videos. He picked up a leather anklet and showed the group how one end of the anklet fit inside of the other to form a loop around the Dragon’s legs. At the ends of the anklets were grommets, through which the jesses would be placed to hold the Dragons’ legs secure. The other end of the jesses would be woven through and looped back through one end of a metal swivel. The metal swivels’ free hoop would be woven around the leashes that each of the humans would hold. The gauntlets were self-explanatory, but Sam covered them anyway, stating that their hands and arms needed the extra protection from the Dragon’s claws.

The group took turns trying out their new equipment and knowledge of how to use it all. Dean pulled a bit too tightly on one of his anklets to get one end through the other and nearly had his fingers snipped in response. Sam grinned at him and lost his own focus in the process, but was brought back on track with a growl of indignation from Ehren, when the flapping end of their leash caught him across the face. Jessica and Mira sailed through their first try without misstep or cause for alarm, all the while smirking triumphantly at the boys.

Once everyone seemed to have a grasp on how to attach and remove the various pieces of equipment, the Dragons opted to leave the anklets, jesses, and leashes on to become accustomed to them. Dean suggested they finally get back to those burgers. They wouldn’t eat themselves and he was starving, even if the food was probably cold by then. Dragons and humans alike agreed that it was high time that they ate something.

Dean divvied up the burgers and wondered aloud if Dragons even ate hamburgers. Adarsh told him that he would eat just about anything at that point, but that Dragons generally preferred live prey. All of the humans turned a bit green upon hearing that they would be taking their Dragons hunting in the very near future, but verbally said nothing to the contrary.

Jessica finished eating first and suggested to Mira that they practice their use of the anklets, jess, and leash set up a bit more. Sam finished eating second and settled himself on the floor with a book in his lap on the history of Dragons and his gauntlet back on. Ehren landed on his head and peered down at the book and commented on the validity of the supposed facts printed in black and white as Sam turned the pages. Dean stood by the window and had just unwrapped his fourth hamburger when Adarsh flew up onto his shoulder and leaned over to eye the burger in Dean’s ungloved hand.

“Hey, do you think that I can call you Zippo, because of the fire and all? You know, like a nick name?” Dean asked Adarsh as he laughed and moved his burger out of Adarsh’s reach.

Adarsh beat his wings against the back of Dean’s head and used the moment of distraction to free Dean’s burger from his grip. “Only if you let me have this!” he responded around his mouthful.

Jessica took in the sight of her boys being ruled by their Dragons, when she herself had already formed the perfect partnership with Mira. Mira flapped her wings from her perch on Jessica’s arm and the women laughed as one at the sight of minute discord in front of them.

After Dean was done with dinner, he called John and Bobby to update them on their progress. When Dean got to the part about the Dragons, Sam could hear John and Bobby yelling from across the room. Humans and Dragons alike looked on in interest when Dean pulled the phone away from his ear and gave the room a rueful look.

Eventually, the phone was passed to Sam for his take on finding out that he was born to be Lucifer’s True Vessel. He wanted to shut out Bobby’s advice and John’s attempt to connect over their shared fate. It was hard enough to bear without taking into account the words of men who knew the hunting life, but couldn’t understand his life. Sam found himself listening, agreeing, and tossing out the occasion ‘Yes, sir.’ out of respect for the fact that although these two men didn’t always understand, they understood what it meant to have your life wholly diverted from the course you thought it would take.

When talk had turned to the key for Lucifer’s Cage, Bobby told them about an old friend of his that lived in San Francisco and might be able to provide them with the most important piece of their key.

***

Jessica called to check in with her family from the Impala on the way out of Sonora. Mira, Ehren, and ‘Zippo’ perched beside her on the backseat, with Mira flying up to listen in on the conversation as she spoke. All of the Dragons seemed wholly fascinated with the developing technology of televisions, vehicles, indoor electricity, indoor plumbing, and other advances they had missed during their slumber. So to be included to any degree in a cell phone conversation had the miniature trio in awe.

Sam, Dean, and Jessica had discussed the means of retrieving the remaining three components for the key. As much as she hated to suggest it, for fear of exploiting her younger sister, Jessica suggested that they visit her family’s home in Palo Alto. It was on the way to San Francisco and would provide them with the necessary element from a virgin. That is, if Abigail had yet to sleep with her current boyfriend, Jimmy.

Jess didn’t know everything about him, but she knew enough from her calls and texts with Abigail to know that they appeared to be moving slowly. Jess had told her sister to let her know when she felt ready for more, because she would personally take her to Planned Parenthood to be seen. There’d been neither call nor text requesting Jess’ presence, so it was all that she could hope for that Abigail had upheld her end of their sisterly bargain.

There’d been a rather heated debate on who exactly should provide the blood of a willing sacrifice by the time they’d reached a drive-thru burger place for breakfast. Dean attempted to shout Sam down about him needing to bleed for this cause, because he started the damned Apocalypse in the first place. Sam reasoned that Dean didn’t know what he would unleash when he folded under extreme torment. Everyone made mistakes, but it didn’t mean that they needed to suffer for all of eternity for each of them.

The argument turned to pleas and tears and circled back to more shouting than Jess thought was strictly healthy. By the time Dean pulled the Impala over on the side of the road for him and Sam to jump into a fist-fight, she threw herself between them and volunteered to give up her blood if they’d just stop fighting. Even with blood on his mouth and his left shoe lost in the fight, Sam insisted that as the Vessel, his blood would be used. End of all argument and discussion.

Once that was settled, with Dean and Sam still grumbling and the Dragons chirping in excitement beside Jess, they moved on to their next bit of business: hunting. Ehren said that last night’s burgers had been great, but that they needed real food if they were to be of any help in the coming battle. Hearing her cue, Jessica typed in a search for a large enough park that would provide both cover and prey for the Dragons. Using their current location, she narrowed the search down to what seemed to be an ideal. She gave Dean directions on how to get there and leaned back against her seat, hoping that they were ready to see the insides of songbirds.

***

Less than an hour after they checked out of their motel room, Dean pulled into the Orange Blossom Recreation Area and drove away from the main areas in search of a river access point Jessica mentioned during her research.

“Fresh air and leg stretching for all!” Dean proclaimed, when the Impala pulled to a halt, much to everyone’s amusement.

“So, what kind of prey are you looking for exactly?” Jessica asked Mira as she shut her door.

“Usually birds, but a tasty lizard makes a delicious snack, too,” Mira replied.

“Personally, I favor birds of prey. Nice smooth muscle and they taste the best!” Zippo chimed in and dive-bombed toward Dean’s head.

Dean ducked just in time and shouted for Zippo to come back. A laugh and another lap around Dean’s head was his reply.

“Adarsh! Settle yourself. We need to practice use of our new equipment,” Mira scolded from her perch on the car’s rooftop.

Dean, Sam, and Jess all retrieved their falconry bags and their pistols from the trunk, while Ehren and Zippo landed beside Mira on the rooftop. Each of the Dragons held still as the anklets, jesses, and leashes were slowly attached by their Allies. Once done, Mira, Ehren, and Zippo each hopped onto a waiting gauntlet-covered arm and the group made their way into the cover of the trees.

The group took a moment to scan the surrounding area for humans and enemies alike before removing the jess and leash attachments. The sound of wings flapping filled the air and all three humans craned their necks to watch their Dragon Allies fly off into the trees.

Sam, Jess, and Dean took their time making their way back to the Impala and the nearby shoreline of the river. They passed the time chatting about Jessica’s family, whom they would be calling upon in less time than Sam had anticipated. Even though the two of them had been living together for some time, he didn’t often spend time with Jessica’s relatives. They made special trips for holidays, but generally kept to the campus.

Dean was just asking what Jessica’s parents were like and if her mom was anywhere as beautiful as Jessica herself, when the trunk of the Impala sprouted a large knife. The immediate shock of a weapon suddenly appearing in their midst held Jessica captive. The still vibrating metal shook in the confines it’d created within the painted metal.

Sam and Dean were already in motion, drawing their weapons and aiming for individual kill shots by the time Jess snapped into focus. She drew her weapon from the make shift holster she’d made out of her belt and took aim at what looked like a man, but possessed clawed hands that glowed orange in the center of his palms. These were obviously among the offspring that survived the purge.

What the things hopping along the ground were, Jessica could not say. She tried not to look at them dead on, as Dean and Sam took shot after shot after shot at their heads. Their scaly, reptilian bodies measured perhaps three or four feet high with a line of overly large spines that grew in a line down their backs and onto their whip-sharp tails. Their cruel eyes, bloodied fangs, and taloned paws called out death and destruction to her. It was all Jess could do not to turn and run from the nightmares surrounding them.

Instead, Sam was proud to see Jess take aim and begin emptying her clip into the nearest Dragon hybrid to drive him back. It wouldn’t kill them, of course, but whatever they could do to hold off the Horde until they completed their mission to create the key would help.

The sounds of gunfire and Dragon roars drew Mira, Ehren, and Zippo back to the Impala. With their freshly killed breakfasts in their mouths, they swooped down into the battle. The carcasses that dropped from their open jaws were followed by bursts of fire none of the humans could have ever foreseen being emitted from such small, raptor-like bodies.

The rays of sunlight that cut through the trees sparkled along Mira’s red scales, lighting up the hidden gold tones that needed the perfect angle of her chomping off a nightmare’s head to showcase her feral beauty. Sam couldn’t help but notice the way that Ehren’s dark blue scales were not solidly so, but shimmered lighter shades of blue along his side; while Zippo’s scales spoke of emeralds winking at him in the morning sun.

The hybrids and hopping nightmares retreated after several of the lizards lost their heads to Dragon’s fire, snapping teeth, and dead-on gunshots that would have made John Winchester proud. The hybrids promised that this was not over before they stooped down to gather their remaining hunched Allies, who hissed and flicked their pointed tongues in annoyance, and flew off into the sky.

Jessica couldn’t help her whoop of triumph that spread rapidly through the assembled group of unlikely heroes. The Dragons flew in a circle and blew celebratory fire into the air, while Sam, Dean, and Jess exchanged grateful smiles. This partnership might just work after all.

After several minutes of celebrating, the Dragons returned to their abandoned kills and dug into the feathered corpses with relish. Sam, Jess, and Dean felt a bit ill as they watched their Allies eat. Saying nothing, they turned as one to go wash up at the river’s edge and let their winged partners do what they needed to prepare themselves for the long trip ahead.

The sooner they finished eating, the sooner they could all be back on the road again.

***

The rest of the car ride to Jessica’s family home was dominated with explanations for what the hopping nightmares were and the group marveling at how well everyone worked together. Dean filled Jessica in on what chupacabras were and what prey they normally went after. It seemed that the war between good and evil had shaken everyone loose from their normal roles; which led the boys to believe that they would be fighting all manner of monsters they normally wouldn’t see otherwise.

Jessica nodded along and took in everything. She offered suggestions and details that she remembered from their first skirmish. Sam told her how she could improve her shooting accuracy and promised to take her out to a range to practice as soon as they were able. Mira, Ehren, and Zippo weighed in with their own suggestions on how they could fight better as a team. The debate on roasting versus chomping off pieces of enemies carried the group all the way up to Jessica’s front door.

All talk cut out when the tires of the Impala skimmed alongside the curb. Everyone agreed that the Dragons should be left in the car, while the humans went in to gather their first piece of the key. Dean threatened pain of death upon any Dragon that scratched or burned any part of his car while they were gone. Zippo promised to be thorough in his destruction, to make their impending fight to the death worth it.

Jess and Sam laughed at Dean’s huff of annoyance and his rolled eyes as they clasped their hands together and strolled up the front walk. Sam called out for Dean to hurry up as Jessica pulled out her keys and opened the door.

Shouts of surprise, Jessica’s name, and Sam’s name greeted them when they stepped into the living room. Jessica’s mom, Lori, pulled her daughter into a tight hug before moving on to embrace Sam as well. She turned Dean’s polite handshake into a hug and beckoned the group into the kitchen for something to eat. As soon as her mother was distracted by the task of gathering drinks from the fridge and snacks from the cupboards, Jess slipped out of the room and down the hall to her little sister’s room.

She knocked on the closed door and asked Abigail if she could come in. When Abigail called out that she was ready, Jess let herself in.

“Hey, little sis. How are you?”

Abigail closed the textbook she was reading and held it in her hands while she spoke. “Good. Fine. What was it that you wanted to ask me in person? Why couldn’t you ask me on the phone earlier?”

Jess walked over to the bed and sat across from her sister, whom she’d always tried her hardest to look out for. She hated that it had come to this, but they had to move fast. Taking the book from Abigail’s grasp and setting it aside, Jess took Abigail’s hands in her own and gazed into her eyes to measure her responses.

“Abbie, I hate to ask this of you, but I need you to do me a favor and not ask too many questions. Maybe one day I’ll be able to explain, but for now, I just can’t yet.”

Abigail nodded slowly and waited for Jessica to continue.

“Abbie, I know this is odd, but I have to ask. Have you had sex with Jimmy yet?”

A frown of confusion crossed Abigail’s face. “No. I would have told you if we were seriously thinking about it. I promised, remember?”

“I remember, but I also remember how teenaged hormones can get the best of us. I just wanted to be sure, because I need something from you.”

“What?”

“I need something of yours. This is going to sound crazy, but I need your tears.” Jess twisted her mouth uncertainly as she finished speaking. That sounded even weirder than she had anticipated.

“My tears? What kind of weirdo request is that?” Abigail said, dropping Jess’ hands and moving to pace the length of the room.

“I know, I know. I know that it’s weird, but all I can say at this point is that it is very important that I get this from you. It’s the difference between life and death.”

“Life and death? My tears can make the difference between life and death? Jess, that’s crazy! Seriously, tell me, what’s going on here?” Abigail pleaded.

“I . . . I just can’t tell you. Please. You know that I wouldn’t ask you for something like this out of the blue without a good reason. You know that, right?” Jess gave her most beseeching smile to convince her sister.

Jess watched Abigail chew her lip as she thought it over. True, it was an odd request, but it wouldn’t hurt her and Jess hoped that one day she would be able to explain her sudden appearance and the motives behind her actions.

“Yeah, okay. I mean, how much do you need?”

“Not much, I don’t think. Do you have some kind of container to hold them in?” Jess asked, looking around the room. Her eyes landed on an empty lip gloss pot on her sister’s vanity.

“How about this? Can I take this?”

Abigail waved her hand in acquiescence and returned to her seat upon the bed. Jessica twisted the top off of the pot and helped her sister through some of her more painful memories of their Dad dying of cancer and their childhood dog being hit by a car when Abbie was only three and did not yet understand death. When the pot was filled with what Jessica had come for, she held her sister and soothed her rumpled emotions until the tears had stopped.

As soon as her sister’s tears had turned into hiccups and sullen silence, Jessica excused herself to allow her sister a moment alone and to make her getaway. She had to rescue Sam and Dean before their mother fed the entirety of the house’s groceries to them in one sitting.

***

The tires of the Impala ate up the road to San Francisco with nary a glance back by any of her occupants. No one asked Jess how she managed to collect quite so many tears from her sister or why she seemed to run off like a villain, but Sam and Dean were grateful for the rescue from the mountain of snacks that were forming on Lori’s kitchen table. They all smiled, hugged, and promised to visit while inching ever closer to the front door and to their freedom. The Dragons had been delighted to see that the first component was already gathered and that they were all set to collect the Dragon’s blade next.

Dean checked the lanes before moving over to the exit into San Francisco. Bobby told him that his friend wouldn’t be expecting them, so they’d do well to mind their manners, or Bobby would eventually hear about it. Dean chuckled knowingly and promised to behave, scout’s honor. When Dean hung up the phone, Sam reminded Dean that he’d never been a Boy Scout, but that Sam himself had been one three times at three different schools. His brother rolled his eyes and pointed the car in the direction of Dr. Eleanor Visyak’s home.

They pulled up behind her overpriced sedan and reminded the Dragons to stay in the car and out of sight. Ehren and Zippo bounced on the seat, before squeezing the leather between their claws. Mira gave a flap of her wings and promised to look out for the boys.

Taking point, Dean approached the door and pressed the buzzer underneath Dr. Visyak’s last name and mounted security camera.

“Yes?” A stern woman’s voice called through the speaker.

“Dr. Visyak. My name is Dean Winchester. This is my brother Sam and his girlfriend, Jessica Moore.”

“Office hours are Monday and Friday,” the voice replied, dismissing them from her front door.

“Bobby Singer sent me.”

Silence.

“Hello?” Dean asked, exasperated by the lack of response.

All traces of the voice disappeared. Either the owner of the voice would appear at the door or there was simply nothing more to say after hearing Bobby’s name. Sam hoped that the former would hold true. He’d hate to have to break into such a beautiful home to get what they needed, but he knew they’d all do it if it came down to it.

Moments later, the door opened outward and beside it stood a beautiful older blonde woman. Her hair was pulled back into a sleek roll and she looked as though her annoyance fought her curiosity all of the way to the front door.

Sam watched Dean give her the once over and hoped that there wouldn’t be cause to . . . stay over.

“Hi.”

“Hello,” said Dr. Visyak. “Do come in. We have much to discuss, if that name brought you here.”

Sam, Dean, and Jessica followed Dr. Visyak into her study. They were still looking around when she began to speak once more.

“Bobby Singer . . .”

She left the name to linger in the air and retrieved her nearly empty tumbler from her desk.

“Tell him something for me the next time you see him.”

“Hmm?” Dean mindlessly answered.

Dr. Visyak turned toward the trio and said, “Actually, just kick him in the jewels. That’s more poetic.”

The blonde leaned back against the desk as Sam and Jess gasped and imagined pain and shock crossed Dean’s face.

“No love lost between you two, huh?”

Dr. Visyak chuckled bitterly. “No. Just the opposite.”

“Oh?”

There’s a wave of her glass and a deep sigh of what sounds like regret and something else Sam can’t quite identify.

“That’s his story to tell. He’s the idiot.”

Annoyed fingers tapped the glass held in Dr. Visyak’s hands as she sighed and glanced down toward the floor.

They all stayed silence for a moment, digesting this new bit of information. Bobby Singer, love ‘em and leave ‘em? It didn’t sound like the Bobby Dean and Sam knew, but even they had to admit to themselves that they only knew of Bobby what he chose to show them. They couldn’t possibly know everything there was to know about anyone, really.

“So, what’s this about?”

Dr. Visyak gestured to the couch behind them and they all took the cue to take a seat.

“Well . . . Uh. . . . Dragons.” Dean says this with a smile that says ‘Don’t label me as “crazy,” because I know how this sounds’.

Sam and Jess do their best to look as “sane” and “with it” as possible, too. No need to give the Professor any reason to kick them out so early in the conversation.

“Really?” Dr, Visyak asks, with a tilt of her head.

Dean gives a smirk that clearly says that he wouldn’t believe it if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes either.

“What, no 12-sided-dice jokes?”

“We can joke about them, because they’ve disappeared. But they aren’t funny. At all.” The older woman stressed the importance of her warning as she walked around the armchair and sat across from them.

“Well, I have to say that we agree with you. We need to kill several of them that have turned up stateside, along with a few of their friends.”

SeveralDragons? Are you sure?”

“We’ve seen them with our own eyes,” Dean assured her.

“But how? I mean, why? It’s been 700 years.” Their hostess waved her glass around in disbelief.

“Banner crop of crazy all the way around these days, Doc,” Dean says to sidestep the truth for just a little bit longer.

“So, you want to know how to kill them?” Dr, Visyak asks, as she finishes off her drink.

Dean spreads his hands wordlessly before answering her, “Actually, Dr. Visyak, we already know how to kill them. We need a blade; one that we heard you might still have. I know that you don’t know us and we can see that the person who sent us to you isn’t exactly your favorite person in the world, but it is extremely important that we get this blade. What can we do here to make this happen?”

“I- How do you know that I have a sword? I never told Bobby that I had a Dragon Blade.” Dr. Visyak falters at the unexpected revelation.

“I guess . . . He had a look around while he was here and put it together with what you study for a living. I hate to be pushy, but we’re sort of on a limited time frame here. I can prove to you that Dragons exist and that we really need to head back out onto the road asap, Doc.”

Dean glanced over at Jess and Sam, silently asking them to weigh in. Each took a minute to think it over and nodded their assent. Dean excused himself to go retrieve one of their little friends, while Sam and Jess discussed the courses and campus of Dr. Visyak’s college.

Several minutes later, Dean returned with both a gauntlet and Zippo on his arm.

“Dr. Visyak, I would like to introduce you to Adarsh. I call him Zippo, because of the flames, you see.”

Adarsh gave a formal bow from his seat and they are all amazed to see Dr, Visyak return the bow without hesitation.

From there, Dr. Visyak insisted that they all call her Eleanor and she offered to fix them tea. They all passed on the offer and explained that they had two other juvenile Dragons waiting for them in the car outside. At that, Eleanor refused to go any further until all three Dragons were seated and comfortable in her home, as befitting of their station. It would be an insult before God, she told them, for such honorable creatures to be left unattended and she had a chance to help it.

Sam and Jess stepped out to the Impala to bring in Mira and Ehren. By the time they returned to the study, they found that Eleanor had set up plush armchairs for each of her new reptilian guests. Sam, Dean, and Jessica were still relegated to sharing the couch, naturally. After everyone was seated and once again offered refreshments, the six Allies went through the story of how their partnership came to be. They omitted elements that were need to know and cut right to the part where the Sword of Bruncvik was needed to serve as the key to Lucifer’s Cage.

Eleanor was delighted to help, but hesitated for several heartbeats. When Mira asked if she no longer possessed the sword, Eleanor quickly assured them that she still had the sword. However, it was bound in stone, as was the fashion back in the days when she obtained the relic. With a sigh of relief, Mira told everyone not to worry, for they already had a brave knight willing to step up and kill the beast, as it were. When Dean triumphantly claimed the title, Mira cleared her throat loudly and cut his boasts short.

With a slow blink of her eyes and a steady voice, she turned to her audience and said, “I believe that I was referring to Sam Winchester. Who better to pull the sword from stone than Lucifer’s True Vessel himself?”

There was little talk of dissent, for who could argue with the validity of Mira’s statement? Sam sighed to himself and figured that he could find one voice to disagree with the assumption.

They all humored Dean and let him try first. He fell twice trying to force the sword out of the stone. While everyone was still laughing, Jessica decided to take a turn as well. She swore that she could feel it wiggling in the cement shoe, but the blade did not slip free. It was only when Sam’s hands found themselves around the sword’s grip did the blade come alive. The sword seemed to omit an audible sigh of joy to be free once more and to be wielded by a worthy knight.

Sam looked slightly shamefaced at the cheer that went up and stumbled forward from the hard pat on the back Dean gave him. Handshakes and formal bows are exchanged and then the six Allies were led up out of the basement and out through the front door. Eleanor made the group promise to return and fill her in on the results of their quests, and to return her sword, if they were able to do so.

Jessica got the Dragons settled back in the backseat beside her and Dean gave a honk of the horn as they backed out of the driveway.

Two down, two to go.

***

It was early evening when Sam suggested that they do a quick pick up of spring water and then think about sleeping arrangements for the night. Everyone agreed and they headed toward a gas station to refuel and to grab their third component.

Everything was going well enough at first. Jess offered to fuel up the car and Dean agreed, but only after she swore not to put in any of the cheap stuff. It was nothing but the best for his Baby. Jessica made the three finger sign to swear on her scout’s honor. Dean glared at her in response, before retreating to the store, grumbling every step of the way. Sam shared a laugh with her and followed Dean in to get the restroom key.

Sam had just come back from around the side of the building when he knew that something was wrong. Jessica was gone from the Impala and the nozzle had been replaced in its slot in the fuel dispenser. A quick check of the backseat came up empty. Sam whirled toward the store itself and could see that chaos had erupted inside the building. The Dragons were flying along the aisles, blowing bursts of fire, and Jess was taking shot after shot at what look like people, but they weren’t slowed down much by the gunfire. And Dean, Dean was swinging a short, pointed knife that caused the people to light up briefly inside and then fall to the ground, presumably dead, when he stabbed them. It was all that Sam needed to see to get him moving and drawing his own gun to join the fight.

Sam burst through the door just in time to pull Jessica out of the way of a flying shelf one of the people with black eyes had thrown toward her. Demons.

Several of the demons were set on fire and fell to the ground to be consumed by the flames. Sam watched bitterly as the demons smoked out of their meat suits before they roasted all of the way through. The Dragons took every opportunity to chomp, claw, and burn any part of the demons that came close to them. Between Sam and Jess’ gunshots and Dean’s new knife, they ended up with ten bodies and ten lives lost around their feet.

Sam, Dean, and Jess gave no voice to their sorrow for the humans that once were, but their shoulders slumped forward heavily from the burden they’d all picked up together. In the near silence of the occasional flap of wings, Dean stepped over the corpses to take two bottles of spring water from the case at the back of the store. Sam returned the bathroom key to the counter and Dean set a five dollar bill on the counter next to it. They took one last look around and then ducked out of the store to head back to the car. No one spoke until they reached the entrance to the freeway.

***

“I looked up the next big park to take Mira, Ehren, and Adarsh hunting. It’s just across the bay if we take the Golden Gate Bridge. We can be there in half an hour if the bridge is still intact and traffic’s not bad. Did we want to do that first or get a room first?” Sam asked everyone in the car.

The general consensus was that they should get a room first and then go hunting after everyone was settled. Dean suggested the place he and their father had stayed the last time they were in town. At Dean’s suggestion, Sam asked his brother why he’d never seen him on the campus before the world went to hell.

The passing question blossomed into an argument that ended with Dean’s admission that just because Sam hadn’t seen him, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t there. When Sam demanded to know what that meant, there are several moments of angry silence and glares before Sam asked again.

“Dean?! What is that supposed to mean? You said that ‘just because I didn’t see you, doesn’t mean that you weren’t there’. What? Were you stalking me?”

Dean rubbed his hand over his eyes as he reached a red light.

“We weren’t stalking you, all right!”

“We???”

“Me and Dad. We weren’t stalking you. Dad would just suggest that we swing by the campus to check up on you when we were in the area. That’s all, okay?” Dean said crossly and turned into the parking lot of the Surf Motel.

When Dean stopped the car in front of the office, Jess shot out of the backseat and fled to the relative safety of the main office. Sam and Dean flicked their eyes in her direction in misplaced annoyance before turning back to one another.

“So, what you’re saying is that you didn’t write, call, or Heaven forbid, stop by and see me, but you would stop by the campus and watch me . . . with Dad? Dean, that’s the very definition of stalking! You do know that that, right? I mean, obviously not. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be explaining it to you right now!”

“We weren’t stalking your precious ass. Dad and I just wanted to check up on you, make sure that you were still alive and hadn’t gotten your throat ripped out by some ghoul or something, all right? Can’t your real fucking family be worried about you for two seconds?”

“Well-“ Sam began, but was quickly cut off.

“And don’t you give me that shit about us not caring about you when you left, either. We needed you, man. I needed you, Sam.”

At the sarcastic twisting of Sam’s mouth and the bunching of his eyebrows, Dean hissed in frustration before he continued on.

“And not just for fucking around, either! I can get ass from anywhere, but I can’t just go out and get another brother, okay? And Dad never, not once, said dick about replacing you or not caring that you were gone. We were pissed, but we still cared and I will always give a damn about you, okay?”

Dean’s snarl was interrupted by the sounds of Jessica’s knocking on the window and the excited chirping from the backseat. Jess opened the door and slid onto the bench seat.

“All clear in here?” Jess asked tentatively with her door still open, ready for another quick getaway.

“Yeah. Yeah. We’re all right,” Sam said quietly.

That was all the assurance Jess needed to close the door and direct Dean where to park the car. Once everyone’s bags were settled inside, Sam pulled up the driving directions for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Fifteen minutes later, they were on the two-lane street that led into the park and were admiring the hills and foliage along the way. Dusk was quickly approaching and the various parks were certain to be closing soon, which Sam thought was best for their intentions.

The Impala crawled along the road until they reached an isolated area of the Presidio. Over 200 types of birds could be found there throughout the calendar year and Sam knew there was no better place for them than this. Sam, Dean, and Jessica slid out of the car and collected their falconry bags and pistols from the trunk. Mira, Zippo, and Ehren flew out of the backseat from Jess’ open door to circle overhead. With a call that all was clear, the Dragons settled on the car’s rooftop and awaited the attachment of their equipment.

When every anklet, jess, swivel, leash, and gauntlet was in place, Dean locked the car and the group walked into the woods. After a quick search of the area, the Dragons were set loose on the unfortunate bird population of California. Sam, Dean, and Jess waited in the looming darkness, speaking little, and were insanely grateful when the Dragons returned with fresh kills on their breath and nothing in pursuit. Sam had never been so happy to leave a National Park without incident in his life.

The drive back to the motel was a quiet one. Eyes met and darted away. The baby Dragons excitedly bounced on the bench seat and described the delicious meals they’d enjoyed. When the Dragons started comparing the dying screeches of the birds versus the tastiness of their innards, the humans unanimously called a halt to that direction of the conversation.

When asked why, they told their Dragon Allies that they’d heard enough for the time being. Ever obstinate, Zippo insisted that since the humans would never experience the joy of the wind under their wings and fresh bone, blood, and flesh in their mouths, it was the Dragons’ duty to fill them in on what they were missing. At that, Dean stared hard at Zippo in the rearview mirror and told the Dragon that in no lifetime would they ever need that information and maybe everyone should go back to being quiet. Humans and Dragons alike silently agreed and the rest of the trip back to the motel was spent in brooding silence.

***

Sam told Dean that he could have the bathroom first to clean up, but to give he and Jess a moment to empty their bladders before he hopped in the shower. After Sam and Jess each took their turns in the bathroom, Mira, Ehren, and Adarsh expressed an interest in exploring the immediate area. After promising not to be seen and to stick to the shadows, Sam opened the door and allowed them out into the night. He wished them luck and told them to have fun.

Once done, Sam found himself sprawled on his bed with Jessica molded against him. His hands instinctively went into her hair to draw her mouth to his. Their sweet kisses quickly gave way to nipping teeth and exploring hands that cupped one another through their jeans and fingers that found their way underneath the hems of tee shirts.

Sam allowed Jess to push him onto his back while she straddled his hips. She ground down against his growing erection and Sam wondered if they could be quiet enough not to draw Dean’s attention from his shower. If anything, he hoped that his brother would be attending to his own needs and would take a while. Sam watched Jess’ shirt slip over her head and her bra come into view.

He let himself to be moved and positioned as Jess stripped them down and returned to her place on his lap. She took her time running her hands over their bodies and circling her tongue around Sam’s nipples. Jess drew the tender flesh between her teeth as her hands stroked his cock and gently rolled his balls in her palm. When she felt satisfied that Sam had suffered long enough, she positioned herself over him and slid down the length of cock until she’d taken every inch of Sam inside of her.

Sam groaned in approval as she begin to move, slowly building a rhythm that had him clutching her hips and thrusting up into the wet heat of Jess’ body. His world narrowed to the slap of flesh and the bouncing of Jessica’s breasts in time to her every rise and fall on his dick. Sam could feel the beginnings of his release snapping at the edges of his consciousness and focused on the tingling heat of anticipation as he finally gave in to instinct and slammed his hips up hard to meet Jessica’s.

Jessica shook in his lap as her own orgasm overtook her and forced a loud moan past her tightly pressed lips. The sight of Jess finding her release as she used his body for her own pulled Sam over the edge with her. The last thrusts of his hips had Sam spilling inside of her and calling out Jess’ name like it was salvation itself. Sam collapsed back on the bed, sweating and pulling Jess down to rest on his chest, and let the moment of bliss and the thought that all was right in the world take him away into the fog of unconsciousness. Before he could fully succumb to their shared petite mort, Sam was startled awake by the sound of his brother’s voice.

“Not bad. I’ve been waiting to see that since I found out that you’d managed to land Jess as your girlfriend. And let me tell you, little brother, you two did not disappoint.” Dean chuckled and finished pumping his fist along his dick, milking the last of his orgasm from his body. With little thought to spare, he wiped hand on his towel and eyed the couple on the bed.

Jess tiredly opened her eyes and Sam could see that she was muddling somewhere between screeching and hiding and complete resignation. It was obvious that Dean was after her in some capacity from the start, but great sex had a way of draining away one’s ability to function. Sam took that moment to speak for the both of them.

“Dean! Get the fuck out of here! I’m serious!”

“What? If you didn’t want me to watch, why’d you decide to loudly fuck while I was still here? Anyone would have thought that was an invitation.”

“You were in the shower and I didn’t think that we were that loud.”

“Well, you were, but I’ll give you lovebirds a minute to cover up, okay?”

Sam curled his arms protectively around Jess and growled out an ‘okay’ and told Dean to take his peeping eyes back into the bathroom. Jess sighed heavily, pushed herself off of Sam, and began the search for her underwear. Sam joined her in the hunt and helped her get dressed. It was just like Dean to stick his nose where it wasn’t invited, but Sam couldn’t help but admit to a tiny part of himself that he liked being watched by Dean. Not only did that part of him liked being watched, it flourished at the thought of Dean’s praise for their skill.

With each snap of Jess’ bra hooks, Sam wondered if he was being greedy to want both his brother and his girlfriend as one package, when they were in the middle of a war to save their planet. He was still trying to decide when Dean reentered the room. He was dressed and eying their slightly rumpled clothing.

“Okay, Sam. Let me have it,” Dean said and sighed in defeat.

Sam directed Jess to sit on their bed and for Dean to sit on his before he responded.

“Dean, it’s like this. You can’t just barge in anytime that you want. If we knew that we’d be so loud or that you’d get out of the shower so soon, we wouldn’t have done anything while you were here. But it just got the better of us. So, we need to set some boundaries.”

“Boundaries?! Sam, I used to nail girls in my bed while you were in the same room all the time back when we were kids, because I was hoping you’d come over and join us. Instead, you just laid there in your bed jerking off, so I thought that’s what you wanted. You fuck, I watch, I jerk off.”

Sam huffed out a sigh of annoyance and rubbed his hands over his face. “That was then and this is now. We aren’t kids anymore. I know what you want and I know what we had, but it isn’t just us anymore. I have Jess now and her feelings need to be considered and respected. Who’s to say that she wants you watching her have sex, man?”

“I would,” Jessica cut in. “I would say if I want Dean to watch me have sex. And the fact is that it’s tempting. It was a little weird at first when I realized that the two of you were sleeping together at some point and Dean seemed to want to pick up where you guys left off. It was weirder still when I realized that Dean seemed to want both of us together. But, I love you, Sam, and I can see that you love Dean. I can also see the way he looks at you and I’ve seen the way he looks at me.

“Dean, if you’d have just asked us first, you might have received a yes. But you chose to sneak in where you weren’t invited. Part of me wants to pack my shit up and go home, if it weren’t for the fact that we might not have a home to go back to if we don’t see this thing through.”

Sam watched the up and down bob of Dean’s head as his nodded his understanding at the floor. With his shoulders drawn up around his head, Sam thought Dean resembled a dog that knew what was coming to it after it had stolen its master’s dinner. Sam was so furious with Dean, but he would do anything to make that look of dejection go away and to try and bridge the chasm between his past and his present.

“Dean, look at us.”

Sam waited until he and Jessica had his brother’s attention.

“I want to make this work, but this is something that needs some thought and some time. I care about you and Jess and if we could work something out, something that would let all of us be happy when this crap is over, I’d be thrilled. Until then, let’s see how this mess with Lucifer’s Cage plays out. I’m not telling you no, but I am telling you not to spy on us anymore. Are we clear?”

“I’m definitely not telling you no either,” Jess promised. “I just think that it’s something that we should talk about first. Sam and I live in Stanford and you’re always on the road. Are we going to do the long distance thing or will you stay with us? Are you ultimately just after Sam or are you just after me? These are things we need to know before any of us makes a decision that will affect all of our relationships.”

Dean nodded his head slowly and said, “I’m not just ‘after’ you guys. Sam’s one of the most important people in my life and I like you, Jess. A lot. You’re a good Hunter and a decent woman. There is no one I’d rather see my brother with, if he wasn’t with me. We can get the whole me being on the road thing figured out after we put Lucifer back in his Cage like you both said.”

Dean stood up and brushed his hands off on his jeans. “For now, who wants some dinner?”

Jess offered him a hopeful smile and said that she was starving. Sam concurred and looked around for the Dragons. They should have been back by now. Just as he was giving in to worry and Dean was telling them about the best places to eat nearby, the sound of knocking came from the door.

Thank God.

Sam’s relief lasted right up until Zippo flew into the room with a severed hand in his mouth and Mira and Ehren following suit with their own human body parts in tow. The Dragons set their bounty down on the table and turned expectantly to the humans for comments or congratulations on their excellent hunting. When no comments were forthcoming, Zippo took that moment to explain.

“We nabbed these parts from two demon Allies and a Dragon hybrid. They had the place staked out and probably weren’t expecting us to be out on patrol. But there they were and here parts of them are now.”

Zippo grinned proudly and beat his wings against the air. Mira and Ehren added their own details to the tale and the humans dutifully offered their congratulations on the Dragons’ fine work, before quickly moving on to the business of disposal.

Jess suggested wrapping the body parts in plastic and dumping them in a dumpster far away from their motel. Sam and Dean both suggested that they make use of the ocean that wasn’t far from them. When Jess reminded them that the dumping site needed to be far enough at sea that the hand, fingers, and ears didn’t simply wash up on the beach by the next day, they all settled for burying the body parts in the next suitable patch of land they found.

With that settled, dinner was back at the forefront of conversation and Dean volunteered to go pick something up. Before he’d even pulled away, Sam and Jess got on to the job of cleaning up the Dragons and their table. No need for pieces of uninvited guests to join them for dinner, after all.

The task of clearing away the Dragons’ cache took less time than Sam had anticipated, so he clicked on the television and beckoned Jess to come join him on the couch. They settled together, side-by-side, while the Dragons flew over and landed on the back, arm, and seat of the couch. They had tuned into the local news just in time to see the on-going mass of natural disasters that seemed to be conquering the globe. Detroit, in particular, seemed to be hardest hit with both floods and fires decimating various parts of the city.

There were still no survivors from the collapsed islands of Hawaii or any of the other places that had fallen into the sea. The State of California was doing its best to clear the mud and rock slides, as well as fill in the sinkholes that still remained open.

By the time the news had reached the story about California’s residents spotting large Dragons flying over the state and Disney being blamed for the sightings, Dean had returned with chili cheese dogs, tater tots, and milk shakes. Food was divvied up, the television was turned to face the table, and seats were taken.

The news anchor was just telling her audience that there had been no conformation, nor any denials, on whether Disney was behind the Dragon sightings for an upcoming ride, when a goofy smirk took over Dean’s face.

“Hey, Sam!”

Dean waited until Sam, and even Jess, had turned from their hot dogs to look at him. With a jerk of his hand holding his milk shake and a chortle of self-amusement, Dean sang to them about the ways in which his milk shake brought the boys to the yard and how they would need to pay him to teach them his skills. Sam rolled his eyes and Jess snorted into her own shake in response. Dean threw his head back and laughed, half-chewed food in his mouth and all, when Jess informed him that she could teach him a thing or two and he’d do well to pay attention if he wanted to keep any boys satisfied.

When dinner was consumed and the table was cleared by Sam and wiped down by Jess, Dean got out his cell and dialed Bobby’s house number. Several rings led straight to voice mail, so their Dad’s cell was called next. Their father answered on the first ring and told them that he and Bobby were already on the road. They had been in touch with quite a few others in the Hunter’s Network and had put together where the final battle was to take place.

Between the mythology and the movements of monsterkind, they’d deduced that they needed to head to California itself. Bobby ran their theory past Pamela and she confirmed what they had figured out with what she saw. After she had finished describing her vision for them, she told them that there couldn’t be a better place to decide the fate of the world’s end than a beautiful graveyard in a town called Paradise.

Information on their numbers that were headed toward the fight was traded for information on how far along Sam, Dean, and Jess were on the key. When everyone seemed assured by their collective progress, goodbyes were exchanged via speakerphone and Dean put his cell phone away. Sam seized the lull in conversation to volunteer to provide them with their fourth component. Jess helped him collect blood from his palm in a glass from the bathroom and cleaned his wound when they were done.

Dean looked on in mild interest, noting the way they worked together and how easily they’d come to fit together. Sam felt his brother’s eyes on them while they worked and strangely enough, he didn’t feel the least bit perturbed by the scrutiny. In fact, Sam found himself smiling when he glanced between his brother and his favorite woman in the world.

Yeah, they just might be able to make this work.

***

A slim hand slid over Sam’s shoulder and traced the path of his arm down to his hand. Sam smiled as their fingers interlocked and he turned over into Jessica’s embrace. His sweet girl. She was all that he needed in the dead of night when his past became too much to bear and the future that lay ahead of him wanted to freeze him where he stood; neither moving forward nor backward, but pushed into action regardless.

“Hey, baby,” Jess said with the sweetest smile on her face. “What are you doing, Sam?”

Confusion flickered across Sam’s mind at the odd question.

“What do you mean? I’m lying here with you.”

Sam reached up and brushed the blonde curls away from Jessica’s face and rested his palm against her cheek.

“You’re running away, Sam.”

“Running away how? I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.” Sam brushed his thumb across Jessica’s lips and smiled as she kissed his thumb in return.

“You’re running away from what I need from you.” Jessica pressed her body closer to Sam’s and swung her leg over his thigh.

“What do you need? Sex? Dean’s in the other bed. Can’t it wait until we get back home?”

Sam checked the other bed, only to realize that they are alone in their single bed motel room. No Dean, no Dragons, just them and the sheets they were lying between.

“Dean, who? It’s just me, baby, and I don’t want to see you waste your life this way. You think that you can just live forever with your head buried in the sand?” Jess stroked his face and smoothed her thumb over his chin.

“Buried how?”

“By fighting what you were born to do, who you were born to be. Why are we struggling so hard to keep you from Lucifer, when things would be so much easier if you just said ‘yes’?”

Sam sighed and he wondered, for only a moment, if she was right.

“I love you, Jess, but you’re wrong. I was not meant to help evil, but to fight it.”

“What makes you think that letting Lucifer in would be evil? What makes you think that Lucifer is evil? Because of some stories you read in a book? Because the rodents you call humans told you so? No, baby. Let’s think this through.”

Disturbed by the turn their conversation was taking, Sam gently removed Jess’ leg and drew away from her. Her face appeared open and sincere, but her words were all wrong. This was not the Jessica he knew. She would never say these things to him. When she reached for him again to draw him back to the comfort of her breasts, Sam threw off his covers and sat up. He sat on the edge of the bed, facing away from Jess to give himself a few seconds to clear his mind.

“Have you not seen what he’s done? Have you not seen the millions that he’s killed? No. I was not born to help him kill millions more. There is reason to hope. You can decide your own fate and choose your own path.”

Jessica’s hand swept his hair away from his ear and traced the skin she found there.

“No, Sam. You can’t.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because it was written and it shall be so. Your own father freed me to allow me to get to you.”

Jess’ hand moved from his ear to his shoulder and it felt as though her hand was rippling as it went. A shot of panic overtook Sam then and he turned to face his girlfriend, only to find himself in bed with a man with short, sandy blond hair, sad eyes, and a look of bleak determination on his face.

Sam lurched backward out of bed and retreated across the room.

“That’s right. You know who I am.”

“Lucifer.”

“You are a hard one to find, Sam. Harder than most humans, even though your location should be open to me. I‘m guessing that those pesky Dragons are somehow shielding you from me. I don’t suppose that you will tell me where you are?”

“What do you want with me?” Sam circled around the bed toward the door.

“I want to give you a gift. I want to give you everything.”

“I don’t want anything from you,“ Sam snarled in response.

“I’m so sorry, Sam. I- I really am. But Nick here is just an improvisation. Plan “B.” He can barely contain me without spontaneously combusting.”

“What are you talking about?”

Lucifer stood and slowly moved toward Sam as he brought his palms together. “You’re the one, Sam. You’re my Vessel. My True Vessel.”

Sam’s pulse thumped heavily against his veins. This couldn’t be. He had done everything right and here they were regardless.

“No.”

The nod of Lucifer’s head was filled with certainty. “Yes.”

“No. That’ll never happen.”

“I’m sorry, but it will. I will find you,” Lucifer told him and stepped closer still to Sam.

They exchanged places and Lucifer began to walk Sam backward toward the bed.

“And when I do . . .”

Another step forward.

“You will let me in. I’m sure of it.”

“You need my consent?” Sam asked, boggled by the way that the Devil himself was not bragging about forcing his way into Sam’s body, the way he’d let himself into Sam’s mind.

Lucifer crossed his arms and puffed out his chest proudly. “Of course. I’m an angel.”

Sam chuckled at the irony.

“I will kill myself before letting you in.”

Lucifer rolled his eyes as he said, “And I’ll just bring you back.” Lucifer exhaled heavily, as though dealing with a difficult child.

“Sam. My heart breaks for you. The weight on your shoulders. What you’ve done. What you still have to do. It is more than anyone could bear. If there was some other way . . .” Lucifer gave a sad shake of his head, resigned to their fate together. “. . .but there isn’t.”

Lucifer took another step forward, a step closer into Sam’s personal space.

“I will never lie to you. I will never trick you. But you will say yes to me.”

Sam shook his head in denial. How could he resist the pull he felt even in his dreams? There was something here, an unexplainable attraction that he felt was drawing him closer and closer to the fallen angel before him.

“You’re wrong,” Sam said with more bravery than he felt.

“I’m not. I think I know you better than you know yourself.”

Sam’s voice broke as he uttered his next words. “Why me?”

“Because it had to be you, Sam. It always had to be you.”

Sam stared down at the floor, his emotions and fears broke through the protective walls he built to separate himself from his old life and what he thought he’d become if he stayed on the road with Dean and their dad. All of the sorrow he felt at always knowing that he never belonged, that there was something innately unclean about him flooded through him.

When he felt that he was collected enough to look into the face of his worst fear, he brought his eyes back up to meet Lucifer’s. But it was too late, he was already gone.

Sam jerked awake and sat up in bed. Dean was passed out in the other bed. Jess stirred in her sleep and reached out for him. Still shaken by his dream and not knowing if he was truly awake, he backed away from her touch. How could he be sure that this was real this time?

The Dragons snorting out steam as they slept and Jessica’s passing moment of confused hurt told him that he’d returned from the land of dreams back to the land of nightmares. Sam carefully laid himself back down and reassured Jess that he was merely having a bad dream, but that all was okay and that she could go back to sleep.

He closed his eyes and pretended to drift off, but it was a long time before Sam was able to separate how good Lucifer’s hands and offer had felt when they were wrapped up in the package of the woman he loved and a man he’d never met.

***

The next morning dawned bright and way too early for Sam’s tastes, but they had to head out on the road. They had also heard from their father and Bobby that morning that the Dragons had been in contact with other Hunters and other friendly, ancient Allies they had awaken for this sole purpose. Some, John had said, were of the Fair Folk and others, none of them knew the correct names for what they were. Still, John and Bobby had been assured by Malek that they would all fight as Allies and the last defense against Lucifer and Hell’s Horde.

Last night’s dream was still eating away at Sam when he slouched down into his seat and blew off Jess and Dean’s questions about what was troubling him. When Dean chuckled and slapped his chest while asking if Sam hadn’t gotten enough beauty sleep before the big battle, Sam batted his hand away. He wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to joke about the very real prospect that Lucifer could find him no matter where he was and wear him down. As exhausted as he still felt, he refused to go to sleep and let the Serpent back into his brain.

They made the three and a half hour drive up to Paradise with little incident, which Sam found to be the strangest thing of all. The roads between San Francisco and Paradise were suspiciously free of sinkholes, debris, and even traffic snarls. It was as though Hell was rolling out the red carpet for their favorite guests. They all knew a trap when they saw one and even Jessica said as much when they didn’t have to take a single detour.

But trap or no, they were going to see this through. There would be no going back now that every piece of the key was in their possession and everyone had signed their lives to this cause.

Sam admired the beautiful trees and flowers along the edge of Paradise Cemetery. He kind of thought that he’d like to be buried some place this nice when he died, if they didn’t have the need to burn fallen Hunters, that is. The Dragons pushed their faces toward the windows and used their superior vision to pick out the double gazebo they saw people and monsters gathered around in the distance.

Dean suggested that they wait until they saw the others arrive before getting too close. They had all agreed that it was a good plan, right up until a Dragon hybrid carrying a chupacabra in its claws dropped down onto the hood of the car. Dean put the car into Drive and stomped down on the gas pedal. The hybrid and its passenger flew off, leaving them slightly shaken and cementing the fact that this battle would begin whether they were ready or not.

Dean silently consulted each of the passengers with a raise of his eyebrows on what to do next. Each of them nodded their assent as he met their eyes. The time was definitely now. Dean floored the car toward the two gazebos that were temporarily sheltering Azazel, Abbadon, and several other Dragon hybrids. Numerous demons and various types of monsters the men had hunted and killed with their father over the years surrounded the open structures, as though they were all gathered for a lovely day in the park.

The Impala stopped short of running over several gremlins before everyone was in motion. Doors were kicked open and the Dragons burst out of the car with little time to bother with equipment. Blasts of fire charbroiled everything close enough to touch the Impala or her passengers. Dean shouted a warning to watch the car, but even his momentary irritation was swallowed up by him quickly drawing his knife and sinking it into the chest of a demon that was barreling towards him.

Sam pulled out his pistol and stood back-to-back with Jess as they selected targets and fired. They moved in a circle together around the side of the car to reach Dean, who was pinned to the car by two demons that had caught his swinging arms. Shots were fired directly into their brains, which gave Dean just enough time to slit their throats with Ruby’s knife. Their meat suits lit up like Christmas, before falling dead to the ground.

Gremlins, chupacabras, and ghouls alike were shot through their hearts and heads with a steady onslaught of silver bullets. Werewolves joined their numbers on the ground with silver bullets of their own resting in their hearts.

Mira, Ehren, and Zippo chomped their way through the Horde, setting the hardest to kill on fire with great bursts of flame that engulfed their victims. Their half-relatives were not so easily slain, but their body parts fell prey to the baby Dragons’ teeth all the same. Little by little, several hybrids were ripped apart between the jaws of all three Dragons working as one.

Hell’s Horde was falling fast, but their reinforcements were faster still. Sam had just surrendered himself to prayer when he heard the growl of his father’s truck and the blasts of a shotgun tearing across the cemetery to his left. Behind their father’s truck came a parade of other vehicles. Some patchwork, others in mint condition, but they all contained Hunters that were firing into the outer edges of the crowd.

High above them, came the terrible shadows of Winged Allies descending upon the fray. Dozens of demons, vampires, and banshees disappearing between Malek’s crushing jaws as he led his fellow Dragons in their coordinated attack on the outlying lines of foes that were trying to reach the Impala.

Sam was stunned to see the surrounding woods come alive with movement. One moment there were trees and flower bushes, and the next, there stood nymphs, satyrs, and other members of the Fae he had never seen with his own eyes, but had read about. They were armed with long knifes, roughly hewn clubs made from tree branches, golden whips of light, and other weapons Sam simply did not have a name for. They ran into battle screaming for blood in a way that Sam had never imagined the Fair Folk were capable of. He, for one, would never doubt the Fae again.

Bodies smashed into one another and monsters and human alike fell dead to the earth. The Dragons’ jaws separated the battle from utter hopelessness and the clear edge they were gaining. Even though their side appeared to be losing, Sam could see Azazel and Abbadon standing serenely in the gazebo closest to them with content smiles on their faces. Sam’s eyes darted around to see what could cause a supposedly losing side to stand idle and smile as though all was right in the world.

It was then that he saw them through the parting Horde. A wave of cold air crawled along Sam’s neck and he knew that it came from one person alone. Lucifer, inside of the unfortunate, decaying Nicholas, had Ruby by his side and was headed directly toward them. It was time for him to either save them all or for Sam to write everyone’s ticket to Hell.

He got Dean and Jessica’s attention and they shielded him as he drew the sword from the car and deftly rubbed each of the components for the key upon the blade. He swung the weapon in his hand to gain a feel for the balance of the sword before he grinned up at Lucifer. His answer should be obvious when he drew his sword instead of going to his would-be master. The trickles of blood lust that were demanding justice for all who were killed thanks to Lucifer’s manipulations forced the corners of his mouth up and his teeth to clench together in a half-mad salute.

Sam raised his hand to bring the blade of the sword down into the earth and open up the Cage, regardless of who all might fall into its trap. But faster than thought, Ruby was at Sam’s elbow, holding his arm and the sword aloft. She dug her nails into his skin and began to wrestle the sword from his grip. She hadn’t had a chance to do more than pry Sam’s pinkie finger free before Mira’s jaw closed on Ruby’s wrist and freed her of the appendage.

Ruby’s mouth had snapped opened in a scream when Ehren and Adarsh closed in on her from both sides and clamped down on her throat. Working together, they bit through her neck and held her still as Dean delivered the deathblow with her own knife. Sam looked on in disgust and triumph as he tightened his grip on the sword and found Lucifer’s gaze once more.

With their eyes for one another alone, neither man acknowledged the battle that was carried on around them. Lucifer’s eyes pleaded with Sam to let him in and allow them to become the partners he longed for them to be. Sam’s heart solidified into an unfeeling chunk of stone in his chest as he shook his head ‘no’ and tossed the sword, point-first, in the ground a couple of yards from Lucifer’s feet.

Lucifer had just enough time to glance down at the trembling blade and then the words to send Lucifer back to where he belonged were on Sam’s lips. He shouted the words into the vacuum of battle and the throes of death that cried out around them and watched as the ground sank inward in front of the Devil.

The graveyard earth fell into the hole as it widen, swallowing demons, grave markers, and several unlucky Fae. The sound of unholy screeching filled the air as Hell called for its master to return home and settle himself within its walls. There was a split second of regret and longing that crossed Lucifer’s face before he was pulled forward by the vortex of wind that swirled out of the pit. Looking into those forlorn eyes, Sam almost felt that if things could have been different, he might have made them so. But he knew that it was either one fallen angel or all of humanity and there could be no other choice besides the obvious.

The hole threw out a blast of blinding white light and the sound of electricity zapping all of their hopes away with its passing. And then, remarkably, there was only a slightly stained sword still vibrating in the grass, as though the entrance to Lucifer’s Cage had never been. Sam didn’t have time to question the hows or whys, not when the fight grew nastier when the minions of Hell watched their God fall into ruin, taking all of their dreams for death and destruction with him.

Sam found himself in motion, running toward the sword and drawing it from the earth. He swung the sword around him. Cleaving through demons and Dragon hybrids alike. Their death cries meant nothing to him but uninhibited joy to his aching heart. From his own place in the graveyard, Sam watched as scores more demons and monsters fell beneath the onslaught of the Dragons and their Allies.

He had just managed to spear two ghouls through the chest on the blade of his sword when he saw Azazel and Abbadon retreat from the gazebo with barely a glance back at the mayhem they had conjured. He tried pushing his way towards them, but found his path blocked by three demons and a wraith with its spike extended. He had just cut the spike from the wraith’s wrist when Dean and Jess were there beside him, slashing, kicking, and shooting anything that got too close.

Sam, Dean, and Jess were breathing hard and covered in blood when they realized that every monster was either dead or had teleported away in defeat. A cheer went up from those that remained standing or lying injured upon the ground and was carried across the cemetery until everyone who still possessed a voice echoed it back to its creator. High fives where exchanged between thrilled humans and confused Fae. Dean, Sam, and Jess laughed and hugged one another tightly, thankful to be alive and mostly unharmed.

Their eyes immediately began the search for John and Bobby. They found Bobby on the ground with a bleeding stomach wound and John with a dislocated shoulder that looked as though it would hurt more to shove it back into place. Without missing a step, Malek flew overhead and instructed the warriors to organize themselves and their fellows into groups of the worst hurt to the least. He promised that all who had sustained life-threatening or other serious injuries would be given a measure of Dragon’s blood to heal all that ailed them. The rest with minimal injuries would be better served by human and Fae medicine.

In a shorter time that any of them could have imagined, the worst of the survivors were rejuvenated with sips of surprisingly sweet Dragon’s blood and the rest were bandaged up by the healed and unharmed. When all of the Dragons, Fae, and humans were accounted for, either dead or alive, each of the races separated to collect their dead. The Fae were the first to leave, returning to the trees from which they had emerged.

Sam overheard them speaking to one another in a high, fast language that he couldn’t hope to understand. When asked to translate what they would do with their dead, the humans were told that their dead would be offered to Nature through the roots of trees and the cool waters of fast moving rivers. All would be returned to the Great Mother that gave them life.

The human Hunters gathered firewood in the gloom of night and built pyres right there in the cemetery. With a bit of help from their Dragon Allies, the bodies of several Hunters Sam and Dean didn’t know and all of the Harvelles were laid to rest. Jess took Sam’s hand when he flinched at the ignition of Jo’s flame. They never spent as much time together as he would have liked, but he loved her like family all the same. She was the sister he and Dean had never had, but could have used to brighten the long days on the endless road.

The Dragons, however, were the lucky ones. They had lost none of their number, not even among their young. Their tough hides and quick healing made them the most difficult targets on the field. Even through their sorrow for their own losses, Dean, Jess, and Sam had to appreciate the small blessing of retaining their temporary Allies for just a little bit longer.

Sam, Jess, and Dean were a slightly unnerved to see the Dragons clear the remaining demonic and monstrous bodies by feasting upon them, but they figured that whatever got the job done and kept the civilian inquiries to a minimum would do.

When all of the Hunters’ bodies and their pyres were turned to ash and collected for spreading later, there came a demand for beer and food and a chance fuck, if they could manage it. Dean laughed and met Sam’s and Jess’ eyes. They sent the rest of the Hunters on to a bar on Clark Road called Kings Tavern they had passed on their journey to the graveyard, and turned to the Dragons that had saved them all.

“I guess this is it, huh? Or are you going to stay around and celebrate?” Dean asked, looking up into Malek’s deep amber eyes.

“Yes, Young One, this is it. We will not be staying around to celebrate with our human Allies, as we have Dragon business to attend to before we go back into hibernation for Lucifer’s next rise to power.” Malek tilted his head thoughtfully as he spoke and looked over the three human in front of him.

“I suppose that you also have your own business to which you must attend, if I am not incorrect.”

Jess and Sam blushed crimson knowing that Malek had ferreted their secret out so easily with only a glance. Dean chuckled and grinned at the Dragon leader.

Maybe.”

Dean’s eyes slid over to where Sam and Jess were holding hands and examining him in return.

“It just depends. So, what about our new Dragon friends there?” Dean jutted his chin toward Mira, Ehren, and Zippo, who were amusing themselves by flying around the heads of the Dragon Council with the other juvenile Dragons.

“I am afraid that they must return with us. You will be allowed to say goodbye and then we must move on before first light. I regret to inform you that we have been spotted by several humans of your world and it did not go as we had hoped. Your kind would do well to remember the old tales,” Malek advised.

Jess sighed unhappily and pressed her face against Sam’s arm. He pulled her into a short hug and they beckoned to their Dragon companions. Each of the Dragons flew away from their group of friends and hovered in the air in front of their newest Allies.

Mira and Jess exchanged nuzzles of their noses and said how much the other had meant to them. Ehren knocked his head lightly against Sam’s and told him to keep his brain in shape, because he never knew when he might need it, now that they wouldn’t be around to help them. Sam smiled softly and dropped his eyes toward the ground before returning Ehren’s rather serious regard with the promise to continue his studies.

And Dean. Lord help them all when Sam saw Dean prepare to duck yet another diving attack at his head from Zippo. Instead, Zippo hovered in front of Dean and offered him a formal bow and told his Ally that he would be missed, even during his Dragon sleep. Dean pressed his lips together for a moment and smiled sadly. Without breaking eye contact with Adarsh, Dean dug into his jean pocket and pulled out his lighter. He returned the formal bow and then he did something so uniquely Dean, that Sam didn’t know why he hadn’t expected it sooner.

There were no words capable of expressing this agony of separation, so Dean flicked open his Zippo in his final goodbye.

At this, the Dragons rose together in the air and circled the cemetery one last time. They roared together and released blasts of flame into the night sky before they flew off to parts unknown.

Although Sam was heartbroken to see them go, he knew that if the world ever needed them again, they would return as quickly as they had left. He yanked his two favorite people into his arms for one last hug before suggesting that they go join the other Hunters in triumphant celebration.

***

Dean drove to Kings Tavern like he spent every day of his life there and couldn’t wait to get back. Sam smiled at his brother and hung his arm over the back of the seat to hold Jessica’s hand. The backseat seemed so much larger and lonesome without their Dragon friends there beside her. She smiled up at him and it nearly killed Sam to see the admiration, love, and joy sparkling in her eyes for him, with the occasional glance at Dean.

The trio arrived at the bar in spectacular fashion and burst into the middle of a shot shoot off. Dean demanded to play the winner, while Sam and Jess ordered drinks at the bar. They found a corner and watched the Hunters do the only other thing they all did best, drink the place dry.

When the locals took offense at the loud noise or the odd war stories or even the unrestrained consumption of “their” booze, their protests were quickly shut down by the partying Hunters. Sam grinned to see his father and Bobby toasting their good fortune with their arms wrapped around the waists of what looked to be twins. He hated to admit it or see it in action half the time, but even Sam knew that his old man still had it. And, it seemed, so did Bobby. He hated to be the cleaning staff or management of whichever motel they ended up in, because there was no telling what two old men with not a lot to lose and a hell of a whole lot to celebrate would do to themselves, their rooms, or their partners for the evening.

When the whiskey ran dry, the crowd turned to every other liquor the bar had on hand. When those bottles too ran dry, the beer on draft, in bottles, and cans were shown no mercy. When the last keg spurted out its last shots of foam, shouts of disappointment and disbelief arose from the drunken horde. The manager and bartenders informed the group of out-of-towners that they could either leave on their own or they could be escorted out by the cops. The Hunters laughed heartily at that and all said they’d leave, since the staff were such good sports and told a mean joke. Cops. Yeah, right.

Jess chuckled along with them and pinched Sam’s nipple through his shirts before going up to settle their tabs. Sam wandered over to where Dean was braced against a wall and leaning into the personal space of a brunette Hunter that he thought might have been named Tracy. He laughed as he watched his brother be rebuffed and the beautiful young woman moved on to an older man she called Irv. The sight of them walking out of the door, arms around one another, was all that Sam needed to see to throw his brother’s heavy arm over his shoulder and half-carry Dean out of the bar.

Sam waited while Jess dug the keys out of Dean’s pocket and opened the rear door of the Impala. Sam laid his brother down across the backseat and closed the door behind him. Sliding into the driver’s seat, Sam watched Jess walk around the car to let herself into the passenger door. Sam thought about trying to find a motel in town, but he figured that every room would soon be booked with inebriated Hunters and their chosen entertainment for the evening. Instead, he dug his phone out of the glove box and looked up the nearest motel in the nearest town. His ever-trusty search engine pointed him in the direction of the City of Chico, California and toward the Haven-Inn Chico. That would certainly do for one night or even two.

Twenty minutes later and several hundred drunken questions and song requests from Dean later, Sam pulled up in front of the motel. He got out of the car and booked them a room with a single king sized bed. If they were going to do this, what better time to start than now? Besides, it wasn’t like he hadn’t shared a bed with both of them before.

Sam and Jess helped drag Dean into the room and laid him down on the bed. Jess removed Dean’s boots while Sam went back out to the car for their bags and to lock up. He helped his girlfriend remove the thickest articles of Dean’s clothing, leaving him in his undershirt and boxer shorts to sleep. They then moved on to one another, carefully stripping their ripped and bloodied clothing from one another’s bodies. Grateful kisses were exchanged and they crawled into bed on either side of Dean, tugging him underneath the covers with them.

Sam sighed in contentment and threw his arm across Dean’s waist to reach for Jess. He gave a sleepy smile when her arm met his and they encircled Dean in their embrace. Sam curled his free arm protectively around Dean’s head and drew their faces together to breathe him in. He was surprised and felt a shot of hope zing through his body when Dean responded in kind and wrapped Sam and Jess in his arms in return.

Sam’s last thoughts before he surrendered to the seductive pull of sleep were that he was thankful for both of the people in his arms and proud of himself that he’d thought to pay for a weekly rental upfront. With the way they were sure to sleep tonight, Sam would count it a miracle if any of them awoke to see the light of day tomorrow.

The End