A Cardinal Affair

Chapter 4: I Think I Wanna Marry You

As nice as it is living in a co-op, changing rooms every quarter is a tiring affair. Vicki concurs, so they go looking for an apartment. Conveniently, one of Jasper’s tenants is moving to another state, and Jasper offers to let them rent the three-bedroom for about half the usual price, which puts it just within their price range. They’re surprised when Jess offers to take the third room, so they can split the rent four ways. Even though she and Misha have switched places in Sam’s life pretty comfortably, it still seems awkward and callous to be overtly affectionate with Misha in her presence. Still, she seems very happy with Darius, and she even recently suggested they go on a double date sometime, so maybe Sam’s overthinking things, and he needs to stop feeling guilty.

The new place is nice — far enough from campus that it’s quiet, but near enough that the commute is short. The four of them take turns cooking one meal a day, either breakfast or dinner, which they eat together. Sam and Misha share a room and a queen-sized bed, go for morning runs, and drive to and from campus together. Life is idyllic, perfect even, if ever that were possible, and Sam thinks if this is what the rest of his life will be like, he’s going to take Misha home to Massachusetts on graduation day and marry him.

He’s at his desk studying for his LSAT, which he plans to take in a few months, when Misha sits up in their bed. “Sam?”

“Hm?” he responds distractedly, scribbling thoughts in his notebook.

“Could you look over my résumé for me?”

He marks his page and turns to find Misha holding out his orange laptop. “Of course.” He takes it. The first page is a large photograph of Misha, and if looks were the only criterion, he’s sure they’d hire Misha sans audition. His boyfriend looks like a model in that photo, and Sam doesn’t think it’s only because he’s biased. Misha looks on expectantly as he scrolls down; it looks good — well organized and properly formatted. Then he gets to Special Skills.

Sam stifles a snort as he reads the first line and has to hold his breath as he reads the second and third, but by the time he hits the fifth line, he can’t rein in his laughter any longer, and has to set Misha’s laptop down on the table because he nearly dropped it. He’s laughing so hard he can’t breathe.

“Sam! You’re supposed to fix it! Not laugh at me!” Misha protests, but he doesn’t even manage to sound indignant.

“C’mon, Mish, acting on camera?” He snorts, dissolving into guffaws. “How is that ‘special’? Isn’t that what you do?”

“As opposed to stage, you neophyte,” Misha ripostes, smacking him on the arm.

“Okay, fine. Fine, but bicycle touring, Mish? What’s your excuse here? ‘Cause I’m pretty damned sure it’s just called cycling. And what the fuck is Tibetan throat singing?”

Misha demonstrates, and okay, so Sam has no idea when that will ever be relevant to any job outside the Tibetan monkhood, but fine, at least it’s legit. Whereas “You can barely remember how to dance Appalachian clogging!”

“So? It’s like riding a bicycle, Sam. I just need a refresher!”

“Yeah, well, you weren’t doing so well with that refresher on your birthday, so I wouldn’t list that. And speaking of riding a bike, I call bullshit on horseback riding. You cannot ride a fucking horse.”

“You doubt me? How could you doubt me?” Misha whines theatrically. “You’re not supposed to doubt me, Sam. Sure I can ride a horse.”

Sam scoffs. “Yeah? Where have you even seen a horse, Mish?”

“Not the point, and sure I can — it just has to be standing still!”

Sam roars with laughter, now rolling on the bed because his sides are aching. “That doesn’t fucking count!”

“Yes, it does! They never said the horse had to be moving! And I rode llamas when I was a kid. How different could it be?”

“Very, and so not the point!”

“Well, the kind of riding I’m really good at isn’t appropriate to list for this kind of job, okay?”

Sam grins, lying flat on his back as he catches his breath. “Mm,” he agrees, lifting Misha into his lap. “You could list female impersonation,” he points out, thinking of Sharon Carter. “Or needlework. And cooking! You could knit or cook on shows, right? In drag even. Also, you’ve got a great singing voice, and can’t you play the guitar?”

For a moment, Misha’s expression turns serious. “Huh. You are a genius.”

Sam chuckles, lacing his fingers over the small of Misha’s back. “Silly Mish, you are,” he declares fondly, pulling Misha down for a kiss. “You’re the most talented person I know, baby. You could just be yourself, and they’d be crazy not to take you.”

“Mm,” Misha giggles, hovering over him so they’re nose-to-nose. “Pity this isn’t a porn audition, though.” He bats his eyelashes, coquettish and a little rueful. “I’d have way more special skills to list if it were.”

“Ooh~” Sam waggles his eyebrows, playing along. “Such as?”

Blue eyes glint. “I can blow myself.”

Sam gapes. “No way.”

“Hmph.” Misha sits back, looking away, miffed. “I keep saying you’re not supposed to doubt me.”

“Then prove it,” Sam challenges, intrigued.

Misha immediately slides off his lap and drops his pants.

“Jesus Christ, Mish!” Alarmed, Sam lunges for the open door to slam it shut. “Public decency! Jess has friends over!”

Misha shrugs carelessly, discarding his shirt and underwear as well. “Exactly why they won’t be coming upstairs.”

“You don’t know that,” Sam points out reproachfully with a frown, but it’s short-lived because Misha sits down in his desk chair, spreads his legs and extends his hands in invitation.

“Little help?” he offers with a small smile. “I need to be hard for this to work.”

Sam takes his hands, laces their fingers and kneels between Misha’s knees without hesitation, and Misha’s breath hitches from just that. He rises to Sam’s lips as warm breath ghosts over his cock, and not for the first time, Sam wonders how he ever lived without this, without Misha.

Misha sighs as he mouths reverently at smooth skin, hips jerking as he traces feather-light circles up sweat-slick inner thighs, and Misha has to push him away with a groan when he licks off the drop of precum beading at the tip because “Fuck, Sam, it’ll be over before I can prove it if you keep doing that.”

Misha stands and stretches, and Sam can’t take his eyes off that lean and graceful form, can’t stop going over every single sweet spot he’s ever found in his mind as he stands and pulls Misha flush against him from behind, fits his clothed erection into the crease of Misha’s ass the way he knows always drives Misha crazy. And Misha moans, tilting his head back to bare his throat, rocking his hips back as Sam’s fingers skim every sensitive part of him.

“God, Sam,” he whines, twisting out of the embrace as Sam’s teeth scrape lightly over his collarbone. “C’mon, I thought you wanted to see.”

Holding Sam’s gaze, he links their hands and leads Sam along as he backs into the bed, dropping lightly onto his back when the backs of his knees meet the mattress. “Sam,” he murmurs, lifting his legs to rest his heels on Sam’s shoulders. “Sam,” as the other presses a kiss to the turn of his ankles. “Sam.” He crosses his feet behind the taller man’s neck and tugs, bending his knees, and Sam comes obligingly. Bracing himself with his arms under his back, he curls in on himself, folding his knees over Sam’s shoulder and taking his leaking cock into his mouth, and he keens around it from the sheer pleasure. He can’t even remember why he doesn’t do this more often as he swirls his tongue around the tip, and the intensity of the desire he sees in olive eyes makes it worth so much more.

“God,” Sam breathes, awed, riveted. “You like this…”

His muscles tremble from the strain as he nods. Sam holds him in place so he can relax, and he shifts his arms to prop his neck up instead.

“Wow. Just…” Sam shakes himself a little, as if he can’t believe his eyes. “Wow. If only you could see… Mish, so fucking beautiful like this.”

Then Sam ducks his head, swipes his tongue over Misha’s balls, and a whimper escapes as Misha’s hips jerk and his cock slides deeper into his mouth, and he sucks harder reflexively. He cries out as Sam sucks a mark into his perineum while breaching him with one finger. God, he’s going to come down his own throat like he hasn’t since he was in high school, and the doctors’ advice be damned — he should have tried this with some of his partners sooner. “Don’t stop, don’t stop,” Sam’s teasing now, swirling his tongue around the wiggling digit inside him, “Want to see you come like this, Mish,” and if Sam could possibly fuck him while he does this… Ahahahn, Sam is pressing just his tongue in now, and he’s already holding back, leaking down his throat in a steady stream, wet as the last girl he was with.

“Christ, Mish.” Sam trails fierce kisses up his thigh to the side of his knees. “Do you want to? Or can we make this last?”

“I can’t,” he gasps, letting his head fall back to rest. “I can’t. You have no idea h—”

Sam nuzzles his thigh. “God… clench so hard, so tight, want to be inside you.”

YesyesYES, and he’s not sure this is going to work, but man, he wants to try. “Do it, Sam,” he breathes, stretching out and rolling over. “Take me.”

Sam doesn’t wait, just shucks his clothes, grabs the lube and opens him up before sliding home, blanketing Misha’s body with his own, kissing him fiercely behind the ear and holding him tight. Misha reaches back, running his fingers through Sam’s hair. “Roll over,” he instructs. “Sit up,” and Sam obeys, lifting him so he’s sitting in Sam’s lap with his thighs parted.

Sam just holds him close, mumbles an indistinct string of declarations and promises that Misha doesn’t need to hear to understand, and all he says is “lie back” because sometimes, he can barely breathe from how much he loves Sam.

Again, the other acquiesces without delay, and Misha carefully, carefully curls in on himself again. Oh. Oh, this is possible. Good God.

He sucks on the tip, and Sam’s hips jerk slightly into his, cock rubbing against his prostate inside. Fuck. Oh. OH. He moans as he swallows around himself, Sam rocks into him again, and he sucks harder just as Sam jars his prostate again, and ah, Sam, SAM!

His vision whites out as pleasure sears through him like lightning.

He chokes a little, doesn’t quite manage to swallow all of it — it’s been so long. But then Sam is pulling him back for a kiss as he spills inside, and nothing matters but this. As sweet as it is desperate, as tender as it is intense, whether they’re fucking each other into the mattress or lying curled up together in bed, talking about everything and nothing at all, knowing that only he knows the whole truth about Sam. Making breakfast together; volunteering at JS on weekends; cycling to the nearby park to study over a picnic; sparring at All Star now that he’s finally convinced Sam to accompany him to self-defense class. This. It’s more than love, more than anything he can put a name to, and nothing’s changed since that first night — it still fills his heart to bursting, and he’s never been more content. This, he decides, is what he wants forever. No. Sam, he amends; Sam is what he wants.

Forever.

~*~

Misha winds the colorful striped scarf around his neck and adjusts his wig and hat. He grins at the mirror. It’s perfect, and he can just ditch the wig and hat later.

“Saaammm~” he calls, bounding back up the stairs two steps at a time. “We’re late~ Come on.”

Sam steps out of the room in dark brown slacks and a tan plaid button-down. “Do I have to?”

Misha frowns, poking Sam on the nose. “Yes, but the least you could do is wear something that matches my outfit, even if you won’t put on a costume. It’s our first anniversary, Sam.”

Sam laughs and ducks his head. “You know I don’t own anything that colorful.”

“Figured you’d say that.” Misha prances into their room and takes a paper bag out of a drawer. “That’s why I made you a matching sweater for our anniversary gift!” he announces brightly, pressing the bag into Sam’s hands.

Tentatively, Sam opens it and is pleasantly surprised to find it’s not a sweater-shaped replica of Misha’s colorful striped scarf. It’s a deep olive green, trimmed with the same terracotta color of Misha’s coat, and it laces up at the wrists and collar. It’s actually an unexpectedly ordinary-looking sweater for a Misha original, if the last two he received are any indication. Misha looks at him expectantly, and he obligingly pulls it on over his shirt. It fits perfectly as always, and Misha smiles happily, fixing the laces and smoothing it down.

“Much better,” Misha pronounces, stretching up to peck him on the chin. “Happy anniversary.”

“Get this.” Sam smiles, going to his desk drawer and taking out a small box. “I got you something too.” Truth be told, he’d only remembered because Misha had asked him last week if he’d like to go to the café where they first had dinner, way back when they first met, for their first anniversary. But he’d found something anyway, so Misha doesn’t have to know that. He takes the pendant out of its box. “Happy anniversary, Mish.”

It’s a smooth, mostly orange gemstone carved in the shape of a hand on a simple leather cord. “Hamsa,” he explains, lifting Misha’s hat to loop the cord over his head. “For protection from evil.” He presses his lips to Misha’s forehead. “Got the orange ‘cause it’s your favorite.” He carefully replaces the hat on the wig just the way Misha had it before. “And topaz for fidelity,” he finishes shyly, fiddling with Misha’s scarf. “Also, um… I figured you’d like something more exotic than a pentagram.”

“Is this your version of a promise ring?” Misha asks with a giggle, looping his arms around Sam’s neck.

“I—” No, he’s not ready to talk about either of those things yet. “Kinda, yeah,” he says instead, and Misha lights up, kissing him again.

“I kinda expected something along the lines of a penis cage, but I’ll take what I can get.”

Sam grins. “Well, that can be arranged.”

“Yes, and we can take turns. Now come on,” he says, leading Sam out the door and tucking the pendant safely under his shirt. “It’s just a couple of drinks, then dinner’s just us. It’ll be fun! Forget it’s Halloween.”

Sam coils an arm around Misha’s waist tightly. “Only because you’re going.”

As soon as they enter the bar, Jess runs over to give them a hug. “You’re late again! Can’t leave you guys alone to get ready. You always get distracted.” She’s all dolled up in a sexy nurse outfit, and she gasps as she gets a good look at Sam. “Is that— Are you dressed as Sarah Jane Smith?”

Sam turns to Misha, glaring. “Misha?” That would explain the sporadic giggling they encountered on the way.

“What? So I made you a sweater I saw on TV! It was a nice sweater!” Misha protests, ducking behind Jess. “You liked it!”

Jess snickers. “Yeah, that just so happens to be your Doctor’s companion’s.”

“Jess!!” Misha whines as she leads them over to the table where the rest are waiting. He’s not worried though. Sam’s punishments are always the best.

The bar is covered in tacky Halloween decorations, but it’s early evening, so the real partying hasn’t quite started, and Classic’s What Cha Gonna Do is playing. Luis brings them a tray of Lemon Drops, and they each take one.

Jess raises her glass. “So here’s to Sam and his awesome LSAT victory.”

“All right, all right,” Sam chuckles, ducking his head. “It’s not that big a deal.”

They all clink glasses, and Jess adds, “Yeah, he acts all humble, but he scored a one-seventy-four.”

Sam, Misha and Luis down their shots.

“Is that good?” Luis asks.

“Scary good,” Jess confirms, drinking hers.

“So there you go.” Luis claps Sam on the shoulder, sitting down on his other side. “You are a first-round draft pick. You can go to any law school you want!”

“Actually,” Sam admits. “I got an interview here. Monday. If it goes okay, I think I got a shot at a full ride next year.”

Jess leans forward. “Hey. It’s gonna go great,” she declares with a reassuring smile, and he mirrors the expression.

“It’d better.”

Misha leans to rest his head on Sam’s shoulder. “You’re going to get that full ride, Sam. And you’ll raise the bar for everyone else who applied. I know it.”

“Which makes you competition,” Alex cuts in, pushing her brown curls out of her face. “But I will at least drink to the anniversary of your coming out of the closet.”

Sam laces his fingers with Misha’s on the table and lifts their hands to press a kiss to Misha’s knuckles in response, and everyone else goes, “Aww…”

“So.” Luis nudges Sam a little in the shoulder. “How does it feel to be the golden boy of your family?”

Sam chuckles wryly, staring into his empty glass. “Ah, they don't know.” Misha squeezes his hand, and he squeezes back.

“What?” Jeff shakes his head. “C’mon, man, I’d be gloating! Star of the family for a change. Why not?

“Because we're not exactly the Bradys,” Sam replies evasively.

“And I'm not exactly the Huxtables,” Luis ripostes, but doesn’t press. “More shots?”

“No,” Misha insists. “We need to drive to our anniversary dinner.”

“Ooh, where are you headed?” Jess asks, grinning.

He beams. “The place we had our first dinner together.”

Shawna rolls her eyes. “You two make my teeth rot.”

“Oh no. Terrible for an aspiring dentist,” Sam responds with mock sympathy.

“C’mon,” Misha tugs him towards the dance floor as the Black-Eyed Peas comes on, marking the start of a more college-dance-party-friendly playlist for the night. “Let’s see if I’ve managed to teach you anything.”

Sam ducks his head, but doesn’t resist, chuckling as he loops his arms loosely around Misha’s waist. “If you say you’re my dance teacher, I’ll only embarrass you.”

“Nonsense,” Misha declares dismissively, already gyrating to the beat. “They should have seen you before. And it’s not like you could make me any prouder.”

~*~

Wood slides on wood, metal clinks on metal, and Sam wakes with a start. Beside him, Misha shifts in his sleep. Downstairs, he hears the wooden floorboards creak, and he sits up. Quietly, he exits the bedroom and checks the other room — Jess is sound asleep, too. Vicki is, as usual on Halloween weekend, back home, which leaves only one possibility. He worriedly glances back into the room at Misha. He’s been dreaming again lately, dreaming of Misha, Misha burning on the ceiling above him. He wakes up crying and tries not to wake Misha as he holds him closer. He won’t let that happen. Not if he can help it.

The floorboards creak again, and for a moment, he runs through the list of possibilities in his mind. Then he realizes that no monster he’s ever encountered sneaks in through the window, and he heaves a sigh of relief. He heads downstairs and looks around. A window is open; they never leave the ground floor windows open at night. He can hear footsteps now that he’s nearer, then a man walks past the strings of beads Jess hung at the far end of the hall. Silently, Sam moves into the kitchen and waits.

The intruder steps in mere seconds later, and Sam lunges forward, grabbing the man’s shoulder. The man knocks Sam's arm away and aims a strike at Sam, who ducks reflexively. Then he grabs Sam's arm, swings him around and shoves him back. Sam kicks; the man blocks, then shoves, and they’re careening into the dining area, hitting chairs. A bit of light from the street lamp outside falls on the intruder’s face, and Sam thinks he’s seeing things, but then the man is elbowing him in the face, so he retaliates by kicking at his head. The other ducks and swings, but Sam blocks, so he barrels into Sam, knocking him down and pinning him to the floor with one hand at Sam's neck and the other gripping Sam's wrist.

“Whoa, easy, tiger.”

Sam blinks in disbelief, struggles to catch his breath. “Dean?” His brother laughs, and he’ll never admit how much he’s missed the sound. “You scared the crap out of me!”

“That's 'cause you're out of practice.”

Oh yeah? He grabs Dean’s hand and yanks, slamming his heel into Dean's back and reversing their positions.

“Or not,” Dean concedes, and he taps twice where he’s holding his brother down pointedly. “Get off me,” Dean grouses, and he rolls to his feet, pulling Dean up with him.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asks, deciding that ‘sneaking into my apartment in the middle of the night through the window like a thief’ is beside the point.

Dean shrugs, gripping Sam by the shoulders as if to take a better look. “Well, I was looking for a beer.” He shakes once and lets go.

After almost two years of radio silence, after telling him he’s either all in or all out, Sam isn’t buying this bullshit. “What the hell are you doing here?” he demands again, squaring his shoulders.

Dean sighs. “Okay. All right. We gotta talk.”

Sam raises an eyebrow. “Uh, the phone?”

“If I'd'a called, would you have picked up?” Dean challenges.

Before he can remind his brother who cut ties between them for good, the light flickers on.

“Sam?”

They turn as one. It’s Jess, in her running shorts and a cropped Smurfs shirt. Damn. Act normal, he decides, so he smiles and says, “Hey. Dean, this is Jess.”

Dean is too busy checking Jess out to answer, but Jess does a double take. “Wait, your brother Dean?”

Sam nods, and Jess smiles. Dean grins at her, glances back to throw Sam his best “score, baby brother!” look and moves closer. Sam rolls his eyes.

“Oh, I love the Smurfs,” Dean enthuses, and he resists the urge to bury his face in his hands. “You know, I gotta tell you. You are completely out of my brother's league.”

Jess snorts. “Well, back when he was batting for my team, I thought he was completely out of mine, so…”

“Sam?” As if on cue, Misha comes down the stairs, stretching like a lazy cat in his Matrix T-shirt and plaid pajama pants.

“Hey, Mish.” Sam smiles fondly, turning to Dean. “Dean, this is Misha. Misha, this is my brother, Dean. Jess over there is my best friend.”

Dean turns to him slowly, scrunching up his face as he repeats, “Misha?” incredulously, and Sam can hear every bad joke Dean could possibly make in his head.

“Yes,” he confirms, hoping to pre-empt disaster. “My boyfriend.”

Green eyes blink slowly, moving from Sam to Misha to Sam to Jess and back to Sam again. “Seriously?!”

Jess shakes her head, laughing, and heads up the stairs. “I’m going back to bed, guys. It was nice meeting you, Dean.”

Misha, on the other hand, bounds over excitedly and holds out his hand. “You’re Dean? I’ve heard so much about you. He didn’t tell me ‘gorgeous’ runs in the family, though.”

Dean blinks again, and the reality of it all finally seems to sink in. He smirks, shaking Misha’s hand warmly. “Yeah, well, if you want the more attractive brother now, sorry, but I’m gonna have to crush your dreams. Now, Jess on the other hand, is exactly the way I swing.”

Misha grins, winking at Sam. “Guess I gotta tell Darius he’s got competition?”

Sam shrugs. “Only for a day.”

“Hey,” Dean protests half-heartedly, heading back to Sam’s side. “Anyway, I gotta borrow your boyfriend here, talk about some private family business, but uh… nice meeting you. I love the Matrix.”

“No.” Sam pushes past Dean to wrap an arm around Misha. “No, whatever you want to say, you can say it in front of him.”

“Okay.” The older man turns to look at them both straight on and hesitates. “Um. Dad hasn't been home in a few days.”

Sam frowns and shrugs. “So he's working overtime on a Miller Time shift. He'll stumble back in sooner or later.” Misha knows about the alcoholism, too, but just the thought of saying ‘Dad’s getting wasted as usual’ leaves a bad taste.

Dean ducks his head for a moment and looks back up. “Dad's on a hunting trip,” he rephrases carefully. “And he hasn't been home in a few days.”

Misha glances up worriedly. “Hey, you think he might be…” He turns back to Dean. “What monster was he hunting? Do we know?”

Dean blinks, looks from Sam to Misha and back, then “He knows?!” More angrily, “You told him?! O—”

“He found out,” Sam corrects, crossing his arms and angling his body in front of Misha. “The hard way.”

His brother has the good graces to look somewhat chagrined at that. “Okay,” he says, calm again. “Okay. C’mon, Sam, you gotta help me find Dad.”

Sam sighs, running a hand through his hair and sitting down on one of the dining chairs. “Look, you can't just break in, in the middle of the night, and expect me to hit the road with you.”

Dean takes one of the other chairs. “You're not hearing me, Sammy. Dad's missing. I need you to help me find him.”

“You remember the poltergeist in Amherst? Or the Devil's Gates in Clifton?” Misha rubs his shoulders, and he leans back into the touch. “He was missing then, too. He's always missing, and he's always fine.”

The older Winchester shakes his head. “Not for this long. Now are you gonna come with me or not?”

Sam closes his eyes. “I'm not.”

“Why not?”

He opens them to give his brother a Look. “I swore I was done hunting. For good.”

Dean leans back. “Come on. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't that bad.”

Sam shakes his head. “Yeah? When I told Dad I was scared of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45.” Misha hugs him.

“Well, what was he supposed to do?” comes the retort.

“I was nine years old!” Sam gestures emphatically. “He was supposed to say, don't be afraid of the dark.”

“Don't be afraid of the dark?” Dean echoes, incredulous. “Are you kidding me? Of course you should be afraid of the dark. You know what's out there.”

Sam squeezes Misha’s arm and leans back into him again. “Yeah, I know, but still. The way we grew up, after Mom was killed, and Dad's obsession to find the thing that killed her.” Dean averts his gaze to glance out the window, so he presses on. “But we still haven't found the damn thing. So we kill everything we can find.”

“We save a lot of people doing it, too,” the other points out, and it’s true, but that doesn’t change the rest of it.

He pauses, then barrels on ahead. “You think Mom would have wanted this for us? The weapon training, the melting silver into bullets? Man, Dean, we were raised like warriors.”

Dean rolls his eyes and stands, moving over to the window to look outside. “So what are you gonna do? You're just gonna live some normal, apple pie life? Is that it?”

Sam shakes his head, turns to press a kiss into Misha’s arm. “No. Not normal. Safe.” Where he’s not going to find Misha dead on the ceiling of their burning room.

Dean looks down, runs his fingertips along the window sill that’s never seen a salt line. “And that's why you ran away.”

“I was just going to college. It was Dad who said if I was gonna go I should stay gone. And that's what I'm doing.”

Dean turns. “Yeah, well, Dad's in real trouble right now. If he's not dead already. I can feel it.”

Sam falls silent. He doubts it’s serious, but still…

“What if he’s right, Sam?” Misha murmurs, voicing the thought on all their minds. Dean sounds so sure.

Dean places his palms flat on the table and meets Sam’s gaze. “I can't do this alone.”

Sam looks at him pointedly. “Yes, you can.” He’s been doing just fine so far.

Dean looks down. “Yeah, well, I don't want to,” he admits, and Sam figures this is the closest he’s going to get to “I’m sorry. I missed you.”

Misha kisses him on the temple. “At least hear him out?”

Fine. Fine. “What was he hunting?”

Dean cracks a small grin. “Come on out. It’s easier to just show you what I have.”

Sam stands and nods. “Let me put something on.”

“All right, let's see, where the hell did I put that thing?” Dean pops the trunk and rifles through its contents.

Sam rests his hip near the taillight. “So. When Dad left. Why didn't you go with him?

“I was working my own gig.” Dean answers distractedly as he keeps searching. “This, uh, voodoo thing, down in New Orleans.” He picks up a folder.

Sam’s eyes widen. “Dad let you go on a hunting trip by yourself?”

Dean shoots him a Look. “I'm twenty-six, dude,” and Sam decides not to point out the time Dad wouldn’t let Dean go after that poltergeist alone when he was twenty-two. Dean pulls some papers out of a folder. “All right, here we go. So Dad was checking out this two-lane blacktop just outside of Jericho, California. About a month ago, this guy,” he hands one of the papers to Sam, “they found his car, but he vanished. Completely MIA.”

Sam reads the article. It’s a printout from the Jericho Herald, headlined "Centennial Highway Disappearance" and dated September 19th, 2005; it has a man's picture, captioned "Andrew Carey MISSING". Sam glances up. “So maybe he was kidnapped.”

“Yeah. Well, here's another one in April.” He drops a second sheet into the trunk. “Another one in December oh-four, oh-three, ninety-eight, ninety-two, ten of them over the past twenty years,” he continues, tossing a sheet onto the stack for each date he mentions. Taking the article back from Sam, he picks up the rest of the stack and puts them back in the folder. “All men, all the same five-mile stretch of road.” He reaches back into the trunk for a bag and opens it, pulling out a handheld tape recorder. “It started happening more and more, so Dad went to go dig around. That was about three weeks ago. I hadn't heard from him since, which is bad enough, then I get this voicemail yesterday.” He presses play.

“Dean...” It’s Dad. There’s a lot of static, and the signal was clearly breaking up. “Something big is starting to happen... I need to try and figure out what's going on. It may...” A burst of static and some background noise Sam hasn’t heard in a long time obfuscates the rest of the message, then “Be very careful, Dean. We're all in danger.”

Dean presses stop.

Sam glances up. “You know there's EVP on that?”

Dean grins. “Not bad, Sammy. Kinda like riding a bike, isn't it?” Sam shakes his head, but doesn’t answer, and Dean’s smile fades, but he drops it in favor of business. “All right. So I slowed the message down, I ran it through a gold wave, took out the hiss, and this is what I got.” He presses play again.

It’s a woman’s voice, wistful and ghostly. “I can never go home...”

Dean hits stop.

“Never go home,” Sam echoes, pensive.

Dean drops the recorder, puts down the shotgun, straightens and shuts the trunk to lean on it. “You know,” he begins conversationally, “in almost two years, I've never bothered you, never asked you for a thing.”

Again, Sam thinks to remind him that he’s the one who said Sam should stick with his choice and not call anymore, but he doesn’t feel like starting a fight. He glances back at the apartment, then sighs, faces Dean. “All right. I'll go.” He nods. “I'll help you find him.”

Dean nods approvingly.

“But I have to get back first thing Monday.” He turns to head back to the apartment. “Just wait here.”

“What's first thing Monday?”

He stops, turns back, and hesitates before answering, “I have this...I have an interview.”

“What, a job interview?” Dean tilts his head dismissively. “Skip it.”

“It's a law school interview,” he corrects, “and it's my whole future on a plate.” He knows Dean probably won’t understand.

“Law school?” Dean smirks, a little proud, a little wistful, and okay, maybe it’s not too late for them after all.

Sam levels him a look of worn patience. “So we got a deal or not?”

For a moment, Dean is silent, then finally, he pushes off the trunk to circle around to the driver’s seat. “I’ll get you back in time, no problem.”

~*~

Misha is fast asleep when Sam gets back to their room to pack, and it’s too tempting to crawl back under the covers and wrap himself around Misha, too easy to imagine doing so every night and never leaving. Misha wouldn’t turn family away though, and he’s already agreed to go, so he quietly grabs his knapsack and packs some necessities before putting his jacket on and shouldering it. Looking back at Misha once more, he thinks to leave a note, but decides he’d be better off calling in the morning, so he only heads back down and out just as the Impala pulls up and gets in beside Dean. Motörhead’s Back On The Chain is playing as they head towards the highway in silence.

“So,” Dean starts, and it’s never been so awkward. “How long have you and uh… Misha um…”

“A year,” he answers, reaching back to put his knapsack on the back seat.

“Oh. Uh… Cool dude.”

Sam smiles fondly, deciding to ignore the hesitation. A boyfriend instead of a girlfriend probably doesn’t fit in with Dean’s ideal of a hero’s machismo, but this is his life, not Dean’s, and it’s not like Dean could possibly hold anything greater than abandoning the family mission against him. “Very.”

“So how did he find out ab—”

His smile thins. “Vengeful spirit.”

Just then, “—aam!!”

Dean glances up at the rear-view mirror and blinks, squints. “Hey, is that—?”

Sam turns in his seat to look.

“Saaammm!!!”

It’s Misha, cycling furiously after them, screaming Sam’s name at the top of his lungs like it isn’t half past three in the morning and waving frantically instead of gripping the handlebars. Jesus Christ, he’s going to get himself killed.

“SAM!!!”

“Dean, stop the car.”

He does, and Misha swerves onto the pavement as Sam practically jumps out of the car. “Jesus, Mish, are you crazy?!”

“Yes!” Misha leaps off the bicycle, letting it fall carelessly onto their neighbor’s lawn, and into Sam’s arms. “So don’t you ever leave without me! I’m coming with you.”

What? “No. Mish, y—”

“No. No, no, no, Sam, I know what you’re going to say,” Misha interrupts as Dean climbs out of the car as well. “It’s dangerous, I’ll get hurt, I’ll die… but listen, I’m going to die eventually, no matter what, whether I’m lying in a padded room or running from a monster. And if I have to go regardless, then all I know is,” he grips Sam’s shoulders and looks up into olive eyes, “the only way I want to go is with you.”

Sam opens his mouth to say something, but no words come. To his surprise, Dean spares him with a click of the tongue, tilting his head and pointing at Misha with a wide grin. “Never thought I’d say this, Sammy, but marry this guy.”

And Sam wants to say that’s the plan, that he even bought a set of matching rings in some spur of the moment during his last shopping trip, but no, he’d decided. Graduation. So he just pulls Misha to him in a tight hug.

“Okay,” he mumbles. “Okay. Just… promise you’ll listen to us about the hunt, okay? I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Scout’s honor!” Misha beams, returning the hug. “So can we take the bike back before we go, or should we let the neighbors find it?”

~*~

They make a stop at a gas station to refuel for the trip. Dean has gone into the convenience mart, so Sam has the car door open because it’s warm. In the meantime, he’s looking around, taking stock of the differences since Dean took over the car from their dad. The only one he can put a finger on is that it’s cleaner. Not that Dad didn’t love the car, but Dean — if the Impala were a woman, Dean would marry it in a heartbeat and have wild sex with it multiple times a day.

Just as he finds Dean’s cassette tape collection, “Hey!”

He leans out to look as his brother comes out of the convenience mart carrying junk food.

“You want breakfast?” Dean holds up the bags — soda and chips.

“No, thanks.” Dean’s eating habits haven’t improved either.

Misha glances at the bags and leans closer to ask, “Is that what you grew up eating?”

Sam chuckles. “Pretty much, unless I could help it. Dean’s idea of vegetables is onion rings.”

A perturbed look crosses his boyfriend’s face. “I swear this is the Matrix. There is no way you two can eat like that all your life and end up this gorgeous.”

Sam snorts and kisses Misha briefly as Dean circles around to the pump. “So how'd you pay for that stuff?” he asks, turning back to his brother. “You and Dad still running credit card scams?”

“Yeah, well, hunting ain't exactly a pro ball career,” Dean replies, putting the nozzle back on the pump. He shrugs. “Besides, all we do is apply. It's not our fault they send us the cards.”

“Yeah? And what names did you write on the application this time?” Sam challenges, swinging his legs back inside the car and closing the door.

“Uh, Burt Aframian.” Dean climbs back into the driver’s seat and puts his soda and chips down. “And his son Hector. Scored two cards out of the deal.” He closes the door.

“That sounds about right.”

Misha raises an eyebrow, wrapping himself in the knitted throw he brought. “Sam, I thought you said you guys were Peter Venkman and Raymond Stantz, not Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan.”

“Is there a difference?” Sam ripostes drily.

Dean turns, grinning at the reference. “I like your boyfriend.”

Sam rolls his eyes and changes the subject. “And I swear, man, you've gotta update your cassette tape collection.” He goes through the box in his lap; there are more than he remembers — some with album art, others hand-labeled.

“Why?” Dean asks as Misha shifts forward to look over Sam’s shoulder into the box.

“Wow, these things still work? Heck, they still exist?” Misha blinks. “I haven’t seen cassette tapes in years.”

“No one has seen cassette tapes in years. And secondly, Black Sabbath? Motörhead? Metallica?” He holds up the tape in question as he goes down the list. “It's the greatest hits of mullet rock.”

Dean snatches the Metallica tape out of his hands. “Well, house rules, Sammy,” he declares, popping the tape into the player. “Driver picks the music; shotgun shuts his cakehole.” He drops the cover back into the box and starts the engine.

“Well, since I’m not in the shotgun seat,” Misha begins, crossing his arms.

“You get even fewer privileges,” Dean finishes as he pulls out of the bay to the opening riffs of AC/DC’s Back In Black.

“I just wanted to point out that that isn’t even Metallica. I know AC/DC when I hear it.”

Dean pauses before driving back out onto the highway to face Misha solemnly. “Don’t ever change.” He turns back to the road. “Seriously, Sammy, where’d you even find this guy?”

“He was waiting in my room when I arrived,” Sam deadpans, smiling fondly. “And you know, Sammy is a chubby twelve-year-old. It's Sam, okay?”

“Sorry, I can't hear you,” Dean says, turning the volume up as the vocals kick in. “The music's too loud.”

“Granola bar?” Misha offers, holding one out as Sam leans back in his seat with an exasperated huff, and Sam grins, taking it.

“I do love you.”

~*~

As they get closer to Jericho, Sam decides to try to narrow things down a bit, and he calls the morgue. He’s relieved when they say no one there matches his description of John Winchester. Next, he tries the hospital. Fortunately, no matches there either. He thanks the receptionist for checking and closes his phone.

“All right. So, there's no one matching Dad at the hospital or morgue,” he announces as they pass a sign that reads ‘JERICHO 7.’ “So that's something, I guess.”

Dean glances over at him, then back at the road. Up ahead, there’s a bridge, and as they get closer, they see two police cars parked nearby and several officers inspecting the bridge.

“Check it out.”

Dean motions with his chin, and both Sam and Misha lean forward for a closer look as Dean pulls over a short distance away. They watch for some time before Dean kills the engine and opens the glove compartment. Sam recognizes the box he pulls out — it’s their fake ID stash. He picks one out and grins at Sam, who can’t think of anything appropriate to say and just stares. He does not miss this at all.

Misha, though, lights up with delight. “So this is how you learned to make fake IDs!”

Dean raises an eyebrow in question, and Sam buries his face in his hands and slumps in his seat, mumbling “Don’t ask.”

His brother shrugs and opens the door. “Let's go.” Turning to Misha, he instructs, “You stay here and hide.”

“But I’m an actor,” Misha protests.

“Well, the authorities don’t travel in threes, and you look even less the part than Sammy here, so no. Stay.”

Misha pouts, but accepts Dean’s logic and lies down obediently with his head on the cushion he brought, beaming and leaning into the touch when Sam reaches over to ruffle his hair. The brothers get out of the car and approach the crime scene like they belong there. There’s a car in the middle of the bridge, dark blue and a little beat up on the roof. One of the officers is inspecting the car; another is taking photos as a third, who appears to be the man in charge, looks on. As they approach, he leans over the railing to yell down to two men in wetsuits who are poking around the river.

“You guys find anything?!”

One of the men looks up to yell back, “No! Nothing!”

He turns back to the car where his colleague is looking more closely around the driver’s side interior. “No sign of struggle, no footprints, no fingerprints,” the second officer reports, shaking his head. “Spotless. It's almost too clean.”

“So, this kid, Troy. He's dating your daughter, isn't he?”

“Yeah.”

The lead deputy’s expression grows sympathetic. “How's Amy doing?”

Somberly, the other replies, “She's putting up missing posters downtown.”

“You fellas had another one like this just last month, didn't you?” Dean opens like he’s done this a million times, and Sam thinks he’d be more impressed if they hadn’t done this a million times.

The policeman straightens and turns to Dean. “And who are you?”

Dean flashes his badge. “Federal marshals.”

He looks them up and down, taking in their appearance, before finally saying, “You two are a little young for marshals, aren't you?”

Dean laughs. “Thanks, that's awfully kind of you.” He goes over to the car and circles it, inspecting it. “You did have another one just like this, correct?”

“Yeah, that's right. About a mile up the road. There've been others before that.”

Sam steps closer. “So, this victim, you knew him?”

The man nods wistfully. “Town like this, everybody knows everybody.”

“Any connection between the victims, besides that they're all men?” Dean asks from the other side of the car as he finishes his inspection.

“No. Not so far as we can tell.”

“So what's the theory?” Sam asks, walking towards Dean to take a closer look at the car as well.

The officer shrugs. “Honestly, we don't know. Serial murder? Kidnapping ring?”

Dean nods. “Well, that is exactly the kind of crack police work I'd expect out of you guys.”

Sam stomps on his brother's foot, forcing a smile at the deputy. “Thank you for your time.” He turns to the rest as he starts walking away with Dean close behind. “Gentlemen.” He shakes his head as he heads back towards the car. Those men are doing good work; there’s no need to be rude. Then Dean smacks him on the head. “Ow! What was that for?” he demands in a hushed tone.

“Why'd you have to step on my foot?”

“Why do you have to talk to the police like that?” he retorts.

Dean looks at him incredulously and moves in front of him. They stop. Bad timing.

“Come on. They don't really know what's going on. We're all alone on this. I mean, if we're going to find Dad we've got to get to the bottom of this thing ourselves.”

He clears his throat and looks pointedly over his brother's shoulder at the sheriff and two FBI agents. Dean turns.

“Can I help you boys?” the sheriff asks, unimpressed.

“No, sir, we were just leaving,” Dean answers, walking to the other side and nodding at the FBI agents as they pass. “Agent Mulder. Agent Scully.”

Sam resists the urge to slap his forehead and walks after Dean. He really does not miss this.

As they drive further into town, they spot posters around with a photo of a young man and the caption “MISSING TROY SQUIRE” beneath it. They pull into a parking space and climb out to walk. Amy can’t be far. Misha has never been to Jericho before, and he looks around, taking in the sights as they walk. As they near the theater, they spot a girl in a jacket the color of her dark red hair tacking another poster to the wall.

“I’ll bet you that’s her.” Dean points, and Misha steps in front of them.

“Let me.” He turns and approaches the girl as Sam and Dean hang. “Hey, you must be Amy.”

“Yeah.”

“Um.” He smiles shyly. “I’m Troy’s cousin, Austin. And these are my friends, Sam and Dean.” They wave a little.

She smiles back just the slightest bit, but says, “He never mentioned you to me,” as she starts walking away.

Misha’s expression turns wistful. “Yeah, we uh… don’t talk about my side of the family much. We’re kinda like… the black sheep, you know?” He scratches the back of his head awkwardly. “We used to be pretty close when we were kids, but then stuff happened, and my family moved up to Boston, and we kinda fell out of touch. The last thing I heard from one of our few mutual friends is that he started dating a girl called Amy. So now I’m finally back in Cali for college, and I’m thinking I should look him up. You know, see if we could be close again like we used to?” Blue eyes tear up. “But just as I manage to get his number, I can't reach him, and then I see he’s gone missing on the news, and— and—” Misha flails, a despairing look on his face. “I had my friends drive me up here to help look for him. D—do you know anything?” He takes her hands. “Is there anything you’ve heard? Anything you can tell me?”

Another young woman, a blonde, comes over, placing her arm on Amy’s. “Hey, are you okay?”

Amy nods. “Yeah.” She turns back to Misha, then tilts her head towards a nearby diner. “C’mon. Let’s talk inside.” They grab a booth, Dean pulling up a chair while Amy and her friend, Rachel, take the seat opposite Sam and Misha. After they’ve ordered, Amy explains “That night, I was on the phone with Troy. He was driving home. He said he would call me right back, and… he never did.”

Sam and Misha exchange glances, feigning worry. “He didn't say anything strange, or out of the ordinary?” Sam asks.

Amy shakes her head. “No. Nothing I can remember.”

He notices her pendant then, a silver pentagram hanging on a simple black leather cord. “I like your necklace.”

She takes it in her hand with a wistful expression and looks down at it. “Troy gave it to me. Mostly to scare my parents,” she laughs a little, “with all that devil stuff.”

Sam chuckles as well and looks down at his hands, wondering if he should correct her.

“Actually, it means just the opposite,” Misha pipes up beside him, leaning into his side. “A pentagram is protection against evil. Really powerful.”

Hurriedly, Sam interjects with “Well, if you believe in that kind of thing.”

Dean looks at him.

“Yeah, but it’s the thought that counts, right?” Misha says with the smile of one madly and happily in love, running his fingers over the outline of the pendant under his shirt. “Sam here wanted to give me one. Whether or not it works, I think it’s really sweet that he wants to keep me safe even when he’s not physically with me.”

Sam wraps an arm around Misha then, and Rachel leans back. “Oh. Oh, I guess I needn’t have worried.” She laughs.

“So um... about Troy.” Misha leans forward, his expression again anxious, wringing his hands on the table. “The way he disappeared, isn't it kinda strange?”

“Yeah,” Dean agrees. “Something's not right, ladies, so if you've heard anything...”

The girls exchange glances.

“What is it?” Dean presses.

“Well...” Rachel hesitates. “It's just... I mean, with all these guys going missing, people talk.”

“What do they talk about?” all three ask in unison.

“It's kind of this local legend,” Amy supplies, dropping the pendant.

Sam nods attentively.

“Yeah, this one girl?” Rachel leans forward and continues more quietly. “She got murdered out on Centennial, like decades ago.”

“So they say she's still out there?” Misha asks, equally hushed and looking troubled. “As in, her ghost?”

Rachel nods. “Supposedly, she hitchhikes. And whoever picks her up? Well, they disappear forever.”

Sam and Dean exchange glances.

“Oh no.” Misha frowns. “I hope that isn't really what happened to Troy.”

Amy sighs, slumping in her seat. “Yeah, me too.”

~*~

After thanking the girls and saying goodbye, they head to the local library to see what they can dig up. The librarian informs them that the complete Jericho Herald archive can be accessed from the computers, so they head over to one that isn't in use to start searching. Dean sits down and types “Female Murder Hitchhiking” into the search box as Sam pulls up a second chair to sit beside him. He clicks “GO” as Misha leans in to look, resting his arms on Sam's shoulders. There are no results. He replaces “Hitchhiking” with “Centennial Highway,” and Misha frowns. Again, no results come up.

“Let me try.” Sam reaches for the keyboard.

Dean smacks his brother's hand. “I got it.”

“No, you don't,” Misha retorts as Sam shoves Dean's chair out of the way to take over.

“Dude!” Dean smacks Sam in the shoulder. “You're such a control freak.”

Sam ignores his brother, turning to the screen. “So angry spirits are born out of violent death, right?”

“Yeah.”

As Sam hits the backspace button, Misha rolls his eyes and crosses his arms. “Seriously, where are you guys even from? You do realize this search takes Booleans, right?”

“Well, he's ruled out some words for us,” Sam replies with a grin as he types in 'suicide' instead. “Maybe it's not murder.” He hits 'enter' and a result comes up, an article entitled “Suicide on Centennial.” Dean glances at Sam, an unreadable expression on his face, as Sam clicks on the article dated April 25, 1981. There's a picture of a woman near the top.

“This was 1981. Constance Welch, twenty-four years old, jumps off Sylvania Bridge, drowns in the river.” He skims quickly, scrolling down.

“Does it say why she did it?” Dean asks.

Sam sighs, leaning back. “Yeah. An hour before they found her, she called 911. Apparently, her two little kids are in the bathtub. She leaves them alone for a minute, and when she comes back, they aren't breathing. Both die.”

Dean raises his eyebrows. “Hm.”

“'Our babies were gone, and Constance just couldn't bear it,' said husband Joseph Welch," Sam reads further.

Another two pictures are shown side-by-side, one of a man and the other of a bridge. The captions identify them respectively as Joseph Welch and Sylvania Bridge.

Dean leans forward to take a closer look at the picture. “The bridge look familiar to you?”

Sam and Misha exchange glances. Sure it does — they were just there a couple of hours ago. It's where Troy Squire's car was found.

~*~

They drive back to the bridge. The sun has set, and it's pretty dark when they arrive. As they pull to a stop, Sam turns around in his seat.

“We're going down to take a look. You stay here, okay?”

Misha's eyes widen, and he shakes his head. “No, I'll go with you.”

Sam turns a pleading look on him. “Mish, you promised me.”

Misha deflates, but nods. “Okay.”

The brothers climb out of the car, walk along the bridge, then stop to look down at the river, leaning on the railing.

“So this is where Constance took the swan dive,” Dean muses.

“So you think Dad would have been here?” Sam asks, looking over at him.

“Well, he's chasing the same story and we're chasing him.”

Dean resumes walking, and Sam follows. “Okay, so now what?”

“Now we keep digging until we find him. Might take a while.”

Sam stops. “Dean, I told you, I've gotta get back by Monday—”

Dean turns. “Monday. Right. The interview.”

“Yeah,” he agrees with a pointed look.

“Yeah, I forgot. You're really serious about this, aren't you? You think you're just going to become some lawyer? Settle down in suburbia with your boyfriend over there?”

Sam squares his shoulders. “Maybe. Why not?”

“Does he know? What you've done? What it's really like out here?”

He looks Dean dead in the eyes and answers, “I told him everything, Dean. The whole truth. We fought a ghost together, and you heard him. Nothing's changed.”

For a moment, before his brother looks away, Sam could have sworn he saw a hint of envy in green eyes, of pain.

“For Christ's sake, Sammy, you can't even go a few years without the cat coming out of the bag. You can pretend all you want that you can live a normal life. But sooner or later you're going to have to face up to who you really are.”

Dean turns around and continues down the bridge.

“And who's that?” Sam challenges, walking after him.

“You're one of us.”

Sam strides forward quickly to intercept his brother. “No. I'm not like you. This is not going to be my life.” He won't let it. He has Misha, and he's not going to give that up.

“You have a responsibility to—”

“To Dad? And his crusade?” he interrupts, throwing his hands up in frustration. “If it weren't for pictures, I wouldn't even know what Mom looks like. And what difference would it make? Even if we do find the thing that killed her, Mom's gone.” That's the problem with Dad and Dean, he thinks.They can't let go of the past. But they can't change the past, “And she isn't coming back.”

In a flash, Dean has him pinned up against the railing by the collar with a furious glare. “Don't talk about her like that.”

Okay, maybe that was going too far, but his point still stands. He's not going to give up what he has for what is gone and can never be. Dean lets him go and walks away to continue his inspection of the bridge, but stops short.

“Sam.”

He turns. It's the woman in the picture, Constance Welch. She's standing on the railing near the end of the bridge. She turns to look at them, then simply steps off the edge. He inhales sharply and runs over to where she jumped off, Dean with him, and they look over the railing down at the river. There's nothing.

“Where'd she go?” Dean wonders aloud.

“I don't know.”

Suddenly, he hears the familiar rev of the Impala's engine starting behind them and whirls around just as the headlights come on.

Beside him, Dean squints against the glare. “What the—”

“Did y—”

Dean pulls something out of his pocket and shakes it. His car keys jingle.

Shit. “Misha!” He starts towards the car.

Just then, it jerks into motion, heading straight for them.

“Shit!” He turns and runs. “Dean! Go! Go!”

Dean starts running as well, but the Impala is accelerating, and he can hear how close it's getting. Damn it! Misha's still in there too. Then, just as abruptly, it stops. They turn. The back door is thrown open, and Misha practically falls out of the car in his hurry to get to Sam, who meets him halfway and pulls him into a tight hug.

“Are you all right?!” they ask as one, then simultaneously sigh in relief.

“I saw her,” Misha blurts, a panicked edge to his voice, looking up as Dean approaches. “In the car. Shotgun seat. She looked right at me, I swear, and I thought she was gonna kill me, but then she just turned back to the front! And—and the car just started moving by itself! And I thought she was going to kill you, and—”

“Sure looked like that was the plan,” Dean agrees, going over to inspect his precious car. “What a bitch!”

“Guess she doesn't want us digging around. Why'd she stop though?”

“Oh.” Misha looks a little sheepish. “Uh...”

“What's this?” Dean asks with a frown as he opens the front door on the driver's side, leaning in for a closer look.

Sam blinks, turning to his brother. “What's what?”

“That's... Well, when she turned around and looked at me, I kinda freaked, okay? So I grabbed the salt shaker in my bag and flung the contents all over the front seat?”

Dean turns, dusting salt off his hands, his expression somewhere between bemused and impressed. “Not bad.” He nods approvingly. Then he frowns, confused. “Wait, wait. Why'd you even bring the salt shaker with you?”

Misha blinks, looking from Sam to Dean. “Well, Sam said salt keeps lots of things away, so I thought it might come in handy as I was packing. It's not like I had anything really useful anyway.”

Sam takes Misha's face in his hands and kisses him emphatically on the forehead. “God, I love you.”

~*~

By the time Dean completed his thorough inspection of his baby and declared her fit for the journey, it was almost dawn. The local motel is a pretty standard affair. It feels like every motel he grew up in — plain, cold and impersonal. Still, it's more than Misha had growing up sometimes, so he feels a little grateful in retrospect. He tightens his hold on Misha's waist, thinking about how cozy Rebecca's place was with all its handmade furnishings. And their apartment feels so much like home now, since Misha brought some odds and ends over and decorated the place with his handmade throws and drapes. He doesn't want to go back to this.

“One room please,” Dean says, flicking a credit card onto what looks to be a handwritten guest ledger as he saunters up to the check-in desk.

The clerk picks up the card and looks at it. “You guys having a reunion or something?”

Sam blinks, coming up to the counter as well. “What do you mean?”

“I had another guy, Burt Aframian,” the clerk answers as he processes their registration. “He came and bought out a room for the whole month.”

The brothers exchange looks.

~*~

A spot of poking around turns up John's room number. Jericho isn't exactly teeming with attractions, so the motel really doesn't see high occupancy. No one answers when they knock, so Dean hands Sam the lock picks and goes to stand watch. It takes a little work because he's out of practice, but the door swings open in short order. He stands, putting the picks away.

“You have got to teach me how to do that, Sam,” Misha declares, following him inside.

He reaches out and yanks Dean into the room as well and shuts the door. “Whoa.” He takes in the sight before him.

There are papers pinned everywhere — maps, newspaper clippings, pictures, notes and other little things attached. The desk is strewn with books, and the floor and bed are a mess, everything from useful gear to seeming junk scattered everywhere. Dean turns on the bedside light and picks up the half-eaten hamburger on the nightstand as Sam steps over a line of salt on the floor. Misha is looking at the papers pinned to the nearest wall as Dean sniffs the burger and recoils.

“I don't think he's been here in a couple of days at least,” is the verdict.

Sam crouches to finger the salt on the floor. “Salt, cat’s eye shells...” He looks up. “He was worried. Trying to keep something from coming in.”

“Wow, you guys are like the metaphysical CSI team,” Misha murmurs, reading one sheet after another. “This stuff is pretty thorough. I'd make an X-Files reference, except it looks like you guys actually solve these cases. And I never knew the paranormal rate was higher than the crime rate.”

Dean heads over to another section of wall. Sam approaches. Right in the middle, there's a row of photos and notes.

“What have you got here?”

“Centennial Highway victims.” Dean looks from one photo to another, scanning the notes around them. “I don't get it. I mean, different men, different jobs—”

Seeing nothing else of use, Sam walks around, scanning the other walls and skimming Dad's notes and printouts — the Bell Witch, a cambion, people burned alive, mortis danse...

“—ages, ethnicities. There's always a connection, right? What do these guys have in common?”

Devils, demons, sirens, witches, the possessed... He stops. It's a printout of the Jericho Herald article they'd read on Constance's suicide earlier. There's a note above it with “Woman in White” scribbled on in Dad's handwriting. He flicks on another lamp.

“Dad figured it out.”

Dean turns to look. “What do you mean?”

“He found the same article we did. Constance Welch. She's a woman in white.”

Dean looks back at the photos of the victims, a sardonic grin curving his lips. “You sly dogs.”

Misha comes over. “Hm? What's a woman in white? Aside from the literal obvious, I mean.”

“There are many variations of the folklore, but basically, a cursed spirit that preys on men who have been unfaithful to their partners because her husband was unfaithful to her in life, driving her mad and causing her to murder her children. She then commits suicide upon realizing what she’s done.” Sam explains.

Misha falls silent at that, pensive.

Dean turns to Sam then. “All right, so if we're dealing with a woman in white, Dad would have found the corpse and destroyed it.”

Well, she's still out there, so “She might have another weakness.”

“Well, Dad would want to make sure.” Dean crosses to Sam to take another look at the article. “He'd dig her up. Does it say where she's buried?”

Sam scans the text again just to make sure, but “No, not that I can tell. If I were Dad, though, I'd go ask her husband.” He taps the picture of Joseph Welch. The caption says he's thirty as of the article dated 1981, so he must be sixty-four now. “If he's still alive.” He goes to look around at the other papers, see if he can find anything else useful.

“All right. Why don't you, uh, see if you can find an address,” Dean suggests, heading for the bathroom. “I'm gonna get cleaned up.”

Sam turns. “Hey, Dean?”

His brother stops and turns back in question.

“Um. What I said earlier, about Mom and Dad, I'm sorry.”

Dean holds up a hand. “No chick-flick moments.”

Sam laughs and nods. “All right. Jerk.”

Dean grins, “Bitch,” and it’s just like old times, before they stopped wanting the same things in life.

He laughs again as Dean takes off, then something on the mirror catches his eye, and his smile fades. He crosses over for a closer look. A rosary hangs in front of a large mirror, and stuck into the mirror frame is a photo of Dad sitting on the hood of the Impala with a toddler on his lap, next to Dean who's wearing a baseball cap. He takes the photo off the mirror and holds it, smiling sadly. He must have been, what, three? Misha comes over to look at the photo.

“Huh, guess your brother always was the cuter Winchester,” he remarks teasingly.

Sam squeezes him around the waist and chuckles. “Changing your mind already?”

Misha smacks him on the ass. “You wish. You're never getting away from me, young man. Never, you hear?”

Sam puts the photograph down to pick his boyfriend up and spin him around. “What if we get sick of each other?”

“Impossible,” Misha declares confidently, flipping his hair. “No one could possibly get sick of me.”

Sam laughs, setting Misha down to ruffle his hair. “Silly Mish.”

“And what’s not to love about you anyway? I've already realized I'll never get over you, so there.”

He leads Misha to the door with an arm around his shoulders to go look up Joseph Welch's address, but Misha stops, tugging him to a halt as well.

“Hey,” he mumbles, suddenly uncomfortable. “I... I wonder why she didn't try to kill me.”

Sam turns. “Constance? Why? It's not like you've been unfaithful.”

Misha frowns, hesitant. “Well, there was that one night with Tom...”

“Wasn't that before we got together?”

Misha looks up. “You knew?”

Sam ducks his head. “Yeah.” He chuckles sheepishly, taking Misha's hands. “I was jealous, too. But I told myself I was being irrational, because I should be happy my best friend's found someone, right?” He sighs, meeting blue eyes with a wry smile. “Yeah, I was stupid, I know.”

Misha shakes his head. “I was stupid, too. Don't even know when or how it ever seemed like a good idea. I couldn't even manage more than one night. It didn't matter who it was or where I looked, all I could think about was you. Sometimes I think the dates I went on, the hook-up with Tom, they only made things worse, elevating the fantasy by supplying the contrasting disappointment.” He steps in closer, rests his head on Sam's chest. “What about Jess though? We kinda made out in that haunted house before you two broke up. In a manner of speaking, isn’t that cheating, too?”

Sam doesn't really have an answer, so he says nothing and just holds Misha close.

~*~

They're curled up on the bed taking a short nap when Dean grabs his jacket. “Hey, man. I'm starving. I'm gonna grab a little something to eat in that diner down the street. You guys want anything?”

Sam shakes his head. “No.”

“Hm?” Misha stirs, stretching contentedly beside him.

“Aframian's buying,” Dean points out as if it makes a difference.

Running his knuckles through the stubble on Misha’s chin, he replies, “Mm-mm, I'll get something with Misha later.”

Dean inclines his head agreeably and heads out, pulling on his jacket.

Misha levers himself up with an elbow to bop their noses together. “Good idea. Let's find some place that serves kale.”

Just then, Sam's phone rings. It's Dean. He answers.

“What?”

“Dude, five-oh, take off.”

Shit. Sam jumps to his feet, pulling Misha with him. “What about you?” He gathers their things, and Misha seems to take the hint, briskly helping him pack.

“Uh, they kinda spotted me. Go find Dad.”

Dean hangs up, and Sam drops his phone into his pocket to usher Misha over to the windows in the back. That's the other thing he doesn't miss, he thinks bitterly, as he helps Misha through the window — being a fugitive, not only from monsters, but from the authorities as well. They sneak over to the Impala in the back and quickly drive off.

“Sam?” Misha finally asks, now that they’re safely in the car. “Are we leaving without your brother?”

“We’re going to ask Joseph Welch some questions,” he answers, glancing back. Good, the police aren’t chasing. Yet. He turns onto a back road towards Joseph’s house, avoiding the main thoroughfares. “Dean’s been arrested.”

“Wait, what?”

Sam almost laughs at Misha’s alarm. Almost. “Yeah, he called to tell us to take off. Guess they found out the IDs and cards were fake.” He glances at Misha’s worried face. “Don’t worry. This happens a lot. He’ll be gone before they can properly press charges.”

Misha turns back to the road ahead and nods slowly, as if digesting this. “Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan,” he repeats to himself. “Right.”

“Right,” Sam agrees, spotting the house he’s looking for up ahead and pulling over. “So uh…” He turns to his boyfriend. “Think you could do me a favor?”

“Will it get me arrested too?”

“If you get caught, probably,” he admits. “I need you to go find the nearest public phone booth and call 911.”

There’s a long pause, then “Oh.” Misha grins as the plan dawns on him. “Does that make me Tess Ocean?”

~*~

They’re back on the highway, comparing notes in the car, and night has fallen again, when Sam’s phone rings. He picks it up; it can’t be anyone else.

“Fake 911 phone call? Sammy, I don’t know; that’s pretty illegal.”

He grins, glancing over at Misha. “Julia Roberts says you’re welcome.”

Dean snorts, and Misha huffs indignantly, but squeezes his hand as he shifts gears.

“Listen, we gotta talk,” Dean says, back to business.

“Tell me about it,” he agrees. “So the husband was unfaithful. We are dealing with a woman in white. And she's buried behind her old house, so that should have been Dad's next stop.”

“Sammy, would you shut up for a second?”

“I just can't figure out why Dad hasn't destroyed the corpse yet.”

“Well, that's what I'm trying to tell you. He's gone. Dad left Jericho.”

Sam blinks, turning into the phone. “What? How do you know?”

“I've got his journal.”

Perturbed, Sam frowns. “He doesn't go anywhere without that thing.”

“Yeah, well, he did this time.”

Thank you, Captain Obvious. “What's it say?”

Dean sighs. “Ah, the same old ex-Marine crap, when he wants to let us know where he's going.”

Right. “Coordinates. Where to?”

“I'm not sure yet.”

“I don't understand. I mean, what could be so important that Dad would just skip out in the middle of a job? Dean, what the hell is going on?”

“Sam!!”

Sam looks up and slams on the brakes, dropping the phone to brace one arm against the wheel and hold Misha back with the other. Constance is on the road in front, and the car fails to stop in time, going right through her. Distantly, from the phone, he can hear Dean shouting his name, but there are goosebumps on the back of his neck, and a glance in the rearview mirror tells him Constance is now sitting in the back seat.

“S—Sam…?” Misha stammers beside him, a look of terror on his face as he clutches his cushion with one hand and laces their fingers with the other, and Sam squeezes Misha’s hand, struggling to slow his breathing.

Constance looks right at him in the mirror. “Take me home.”

Misha swallows thickly, throwing Sam a disturbed look. “T—too soon.”

If Sam’s face could speak, it would have said, “Seriously?”

“Take me home!” she repeats more fiercely.

“No,” Sam replies firmly.

She glares and the doors lock themselves. He struggles to reopen them to no avail. Then the gas pedal presses down, and the car begins to drive itself. He tries to steer, but the wheel won’t budge. He goes back to trying to open the doors, and Misha tries on his side too, but nothing they do has any effect. In the back seat, Constance flickers, and they exchange glances. They link hands again. The car pulls up in front of an abandoned house, presumably Constance’s old home, and stops. The engine shuts off, and so do the lights.

Sam looks up into the rearview mirror and pleads, “Don't do this.”

Constance flickers again as she looks forlornly at the house. “I can never go home,” she says sadly.

“You're scared to go home,” he realizes, turning to Misha, whose eyes widen.

Suddenly, the seat reclines sharply, and Sam is pulled into the back seat with her. She straddles his chest, holding him down, and he struggles.

“Hold me,” she begs, leaning in close. “I'm so cold.”

“You can't kill me,” he protests, still struggling. “I'm not unfaithful.”

“Hey, I’m right here!” Misha yells, tossing a handful of the salt still scattered all over the front seat at her.

She vanishes, a flash of decay behind her pretty face, and they look around. Abruptly, she reappears in Sam’s lap.

“Aren’t you? You’re sinners together.”

She slams Misha into the driver’s door so hard it breaks the window, and he cries out in pain.

“Misha!!” Sam tries to reach for him, but pain sears into his chest as her fingers dig in, burning through his clothes, and he screams.

Suddenly, the engine starts, and the car starts moving. “You want to go home? I’ll take you home!” Misha yells, bracing as the car crashes through the side of the house, and Sam yelps loudly as he rams into the back of the front seat.

“Sam! Sam!” Dean shouts, running in, gun at the ready. “You okay?!”

“I think...”

“Can you move?” Dean asks as he reaches the car.

“Yeah. Misha. Help Misha.” Sam gingerly clambers towards Misha, who groans and shifts. “Mish. Misha? Come on, baby, say something. Answer me.”

Dean opens the door to help, and Misha grunts in pain as Dean pulls him to his feet out of the car. “There you go.”

Sam manages to get the door open and hurries around to where Misha and Dean are standing as Dean closes the car door.

“I’ll be bruised and sore for days, but I’m fine, Sam,” Misha answers hoarsely at last, and Sam sighs in relief, looking around for the woman in white.

She’s looking at a large framed photograph. When he turns to her, she looks up. Glaring at them, she throws the picture down, and Sam wraps himself protectively around Misha as she slams a bureau into them, pinning them against the car.

Just then, the lights flicker.

Constance looks around, scared, as water begins to pour down the staircase. Ghostly voices echo, “Mommy, mommy,” and she goes to the bottom of the stairs, looking up, distraught.

“You've come home to us, Mommy.”

Suddenly, they are behind her, and before she can react, they embrace her tightly. She screams, her image flickering as energy surges between them, as if their very essence is being sucked in, and they melt into a puddle on the floor. Sam and Dean exchange glances, then shove the bureau over and go to take a closer look at the spot where the spectral trio vanished. Misha leans into Sam.

“So this is where she drowned her kids,” Dean muses aloud.

Sam nods. “That's why she could never go home. She was too scared to face them.”

“You found her weak spot. Nice work, Sammy.”

He slaps Sam on the chest as he walks back to his car, and Sam laughs through the pain. Misha turns to press a gentle kiss to his chest through every hole burned into his shirt by Constance’s fingers.

“She said we are sinners together, Sam,” Misha murmurs, his arms looping around Sam’s waist.

Sam lifts his face, so their eyes meet. “I only care what you and Jess think.”

“I’ll tell you another thing,” Dean interjects, and they turn as he leans down to inspect his car. “If you screwed up my car?” He twists around to look pointedly at Misha. “I'll kill you.”

Sam snorts, pulling Misha into a tight hug. “Can’t. Dibs. He’s mine, all mine.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “Get a room, you two.”

~*~

With some maneuvering, they manage to get the Impala safely out of the house. The right headlight is out, but there’s no real damage, nothing Dean can’t fix in a jiffy once he gets to Bobby’s. Sam sits with Dad’s journal in his lap and a map atop it, trying to find the coordinates 35-111 on it with a ruler. Misha holds a flashlight over his shoulder, and it doesn’t take long before he finds it.

“Okay, here's where Dad went.” He taps the spot with the ruler. “It's called Blackwater Ridge, Colorado.”

Beside him, Dean nods. “Sounds charming. How far?”

He takes another look, estimating the scale. “About six hundred miles.”

“Hey, if we shag ass we could make it by morning,” Dean notes brightly, turning to him.

Sam looks at his brother, hesitating as Misha turns off the flashlight. “Dean, I, um...”

The other glances at the road and back. “You're not going.”

And he feels bad. Even though he hasn’t missed hunting, he has missed Dean, and the last two days have been so much like old times, like it used to be before his wanting something more out of life drove a wedge between them. But “the interview's in —like— ten hours. I gotta be there.”

Dean nods, clearly disappointed, and returns his attention to the road. “Yeah. Yeah, whatever.” He glances at Sam again. “I'll take you home.”

Misha looks between the brothers in the uncomfortable silence. “What about after the interview?” he suggests. “We could take a trip down to Colorado after the interview, see if your dad’s there?”

“Hm,” Sam considers it as Dean throws him a sidelong glance.

“It’d just be a day or two, and you could cite a legit family emergency.”

“Y—Yeah,” he agrees, but it feels like a slippery slope somehow, like every time he agrees to one of these trips, he’s taking one step back into his old life. Safe. He’d decided. And if he went, Misha would insist on going too. This was bad enough. He can’t protect Misha from everything that could be next, and even one thing is too many.

No doubt seeing his hesitation, Dean frowns and says, “I don’t want to wait that long. If Dad needs help, those hours could make a vital difference.”

He nods, and this time, Misha too falls silent.

By the time they pull up in front of the apartment, after a long drive in uncomfortable silence, Dean is still frowning. Sam and Misha get out, and Sam leans over to look through the window, an arm around his boyfriend.

“Call me if you find him?”

Dean nods.

“And maybe I can meet up with you later, huh?” he adds hopefully. Does it really have to be this way — will there always be a part of his brother he can’t reach anymore, just because they’ve made different choices?

Dean exhales heavily, relaxing a little. “Yeah, all right.”

Relieved, Sam pats the car door twice and turns away. He’s glad. At least it doesn’t have to be all in or all out anymore.

Misha smiles and waves, bouncing a little on his heels. “It was nice meeting you. We should catch a movie sometime. Y’know, once we’ve found your dad, one day without a hunt?”

Dean grins. “Sure thing. I heard Æon Flux is coming soon. I’d watch it just for Charlize in skin-tight leather.”

“Well, Goblet of Fire comes first, so let’s try for that. See you!” Misha turns to hurry after Sam.

Dean leans toward the passenger door, one arm over the back of the seat for support. “Sam?”

Sam turns just as Misha catches up.

“You know, we made a hell of a team back there.” He looks over at Misha and back. “All three of us.”

“Yeah.”

Dean nods once, smiling wistfully, and drives off. Sam watches him go and sighs, slipping his arm around Misha’s waist. Misha leans back to rest his head on Sam’s shoulder. “Let’s get some sleep?” he suggests quietly. “Knock ‘em dead at that interview, and we’ll meet up with Dean again after, right?”

Sam smiles warmly at that, letting them into the apartment. “What would I do without you?”

“Crash and burn.” Misha giggles, stretching on tiptoes for a peck on the lips as Sam shuts the door behind them.

Together, they head in. There’s a plate of cookies on the table, a note that reads, “Good luck!” and the latest copies of National Geographic and Captain America beside it.

“Ooh!” Misha snags a cookie and passes one to Sam as they head up the stairs. It’s chocolate chip. The shower is running in the bathroom further down the corridor. “Jess? You’re the best!” he calls as they turn into their bedroom.

Sam flops back on the bed, eyes closed, and Misha climbs atop him to press their hips together. Sam moans a little into the kiss that tastes like chocolate chip cookies, and slips his hands into Misha’s back pockets to squeeze his ass, eliciting a soft sound of desire, and breaks off to murmur, “So much for sleep, huh?”

Misha grins, then flinches as liquid drips on him. “Since when is the ceiling—”

Sam gasps as he rolls off, and he looks up to see— OH MY GOD. Jess. JESS. NO.

“NO!!” Sam screams, and it startles him to realize the screaming he hears is his own.

Jess, pinned to the ceiling, stares down at them with blood dripping out of her belly, and Misha can’t look away — no, no, no, no, no. Suddenly, she bursts into flame, and it’s just like his old house, just like it was back then, and he curls into Sam for cover, so he can’t see it coming for him.

“Sam! Sam!!”

Then he’s being pulled from the bed. Sam is screaming, “Jess!! JESS!!! NO!! NOOO!!!” as they’re pulled out together, and he covers his head with his arms — no, no, no.

“SAM!!! MISHA!!!”

Abruptly, he’s lifted into strong arms. Sam. It’s Sam.

“GO, GO, GO!!!”

The blast of cool air hits him like a freight train, and he gasps as they fall, careening to the grassy ground. Sam rolls off him to stare up as the inferno engulfs their home, and it’s just like it was back in high school.

After so much time spent moving from place to place, they finally had a home to call their own, and now he has to watch it burn to ash. Everything,everything Momma made that he could take with him is in there, and now it’s all in ashes, and he d—wait, he’s lying on his knapsack, because he never got around to putting it down.

Sitting up, he opens it to pull out the orange cushion and knitted throw he took on the trip and clutches them to him tightly, burying his face in them. He’s glad now that he chose these two to bring along — the first cushion Momma made for their last apartment and the throw she’d used to teach him how to knit. It’s colorful because they just used whatever yarn they had on hand, switching as each one ran out, and even though it’s a few years old, it’s well cared for. They’re the only things he has left from her that he can keep close now.

Warm, familiar arms wrap around him as sirens approach, and he leans into the embrace. Sam’s crying. Sam’s crying, too. And Jess. Jess. Oh God, the poor girl. He’s so grateful that Vicki went home and won’t be back till later in the morning. He doesn’t know what he’d do if she had been in there too.

The firemen come and tell them to clear the area, and Sam helps him up, gathers their things. Sam still has his knapsack too. Nothing important is in it, though — Sam always travels light and practical. Dean pats Sam on the shoulder, leads them over to the Impala. It must have been Dean pulling them out of the apartment earlier.

“I thought you went to find Dad,” Sam says hoarsely, putting their things on the back seat and sitting down. He pulls Misha into his lap and wraps the throw he’s holding around them both. “What made you come back?”

Dean holds out his arm. “My watch stopped.” The watch on his wrist still isn’t ticking. “Demonic activity. And it’s the same son of a bitch that killed Mom!!” Dean shouts, slamming his hands into the roof of the car.

Sam stiffens, shakes his head numbly. “Why? Why Jess?”

“Why Mom?” Dean ripostes, slumping against his baby.

“It’s me,” Sam mumbles, still shaking his head. “It’s my fault. I brought them.”

“What? Sammy, it’s not like that.”

“But Jess,” Sam continues as if he hadn’t heard a thing, still shaking his head. “She wasn’t even— she never—”

Misha gets his feet on the ground and turns in Sam’s arms, rubbing the tears on Sam’s face away with his hands and taking in the look of desperate anger. “Do you wish that had been me?”

Olive eyes flick up to him, pure terror and disbelief. “What? No! Mish, how could you think that?”

He loops his arms around Sam’s neck. “Then don’t leave me.”

Sam swallows thickly. “What… what a—”

“I know you, Sam.” He presses their foreheads together. “Now that you think your past has caught up to you, you’re not going for that interview later. You’re not even staying till later. Am I right?”

Sam closes his eyes, pained. “How could I—”

“If you’d left me here this weekend, that could have been me in there.” Sam is shaking his head even before he says it. “Take me with you, Sam.”

“No, Mish, I told you; I never wanted this life for us, and for you, it doesn’t have to be that way. You’ll make a great President someday, an amazing actor; I know it. So do that, Misha. Please. You have a life, dreams, friends and family. Don’t give that up. Don’t risk your life.”

“That,” Misha straightens, points at their burning apartment where the firemen are still trying to douse the flames. “That was my life, Sam, our lives.” He chokes a little. “So don’t you leave me, too.”

Sam buries his face in Misha’s chest, still shaking his head. “Don’t do this, Mish.”

More gently, resting his cheek on soft brown hair, he murmurs, “Do you think I could do it? Just live my life every day, wondering if you’re still out there, never knowing if some monster had killed you? If our positions were reversed, could you?” Sam shakes his head again, and he presses a kiss into Sam’s scalp. “You’re my family, Sam, and there isn’t a single dream I have without you in it.”

Sam pulls away. “You don’t understand. You’ve barely seen what it’s like. It won’t always be this easy. Everything, everything out there is going to try to kill us, and—”

“No, you don’t understand, Sam.” Misha cups his face so their eyes meet, and he can’t look away. “Listen, you idiot,” Misha says fiercely, shaking him. “I’m not with you because it’s easy.” Blue eyes soften. “Love isn’t easy, Sam. Some people search their whole lives and never find what we have. So I’m not giving this up. I’m not giving you up. I told you, Sam: everyone will die someday, so let me go on my terms — with you. I won’t run if you won’t, so don’t you dare leave without me, young man.”

Firm hands clap them both on the shoulder, and they look up at Dean as one. “Again, I never thought I’d ever say this, Sammy, but marry this guy.”

Sam huffs a laugh, looking down now that Misha has let go. “Y’know, it’s funny. That was the plan before you showed up.”

“Why only before?” Dean asks, frowning.

Sam smiles wryly, but doesn’t answer, instead continuing with, “I was going to ask after graduation. I’d even bought a set of rings, a—”

“Tell me they’re not in there,” Misha states with surprising vehemence, pointing at the fire that’s almost out. “I swear to God, if that fire’s claimed them too, I’m going to hunt that fucker down, flay him and kill him,” Dean’s eyes are widening as Misha speaks, “then stuff him, so I can hang him on my wall in some lifelike but terrifying pose and use him as a dart board f—aww… Saaammm~”

Sam’s pulled a little jewelry box out of his pocket and opened it to reveal a pair of matching silver rings. “I never go anywhere without it, Mish. I kept worrying you’d find it before the right time.”

“Aww, look! Samantha’s blushing!” Dean cries with a laugh, which Sam ignores.

“Or that some perfect moment to ask would come up, and I wouldn’t have them with me.” Misha is just smiling now, blue eyes shining, and Sam can’t take his eyes off that stupidly happy look on his boyfriend’s face. “And um… I know this is shit for timing, and… and it won’t be anything like what we talked about last Christmas, but um…”

“I don’t care about that, Sam.” Misha takes one of the rings. “I can live without the dogs. Or the house.” He grabs Sam’s left hand. “The only thing I need is you.” He puts the ring on Sam’s fourth finger resolutely. “So swear it to me, Sam. Right now. Till death do us part.”

Sam shakes his head. “Are you kidding me?” He laughs, putting the other ring on Misha’s left ring finger and pulling him into a tight hug. “I’m not letting even death get between us.”


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