Sorry for the delay. Here's the last bit. 5,718 words to finish this thing off.
He cuts Jo's hair, at her request, while she sits in a chair near the row of three-quarter-sized appliances that passed for a kitchen - New York apartments were apparently designed by the same people who'd fashioned tins for sardines. Her hair is light like fluff, silky when he catches hold of a strand and rubs it between his fingers. "I'm not tender-headed, Sam," she laughs when he draws the comb carefully and gently through her locks. "You think my mom went this soft on me?" And no, he can't imagine that Ellen would have; it's hard to picture Ellen with a little curly-haired girl. "Five quick swipes with the brush, bristles digging into my head, and a smack on the bottom if she thought I'd been fidgety," Jo says matter-of-factly, sounding happier than she has in a long time, even before he invaded her life and set up camp on her couch. Maybe this is what she sounded like when she was talking to Sean and he could answer back with words and touches; maybe this is how she sounded before she had to burn his body.
Memory might be sweet, but he's not Ellen, bustling about with a million things to do; he's got nothing but time, and he can certainly lavish some of it on her. So he keeps going with the wet tortoiseshell comb, watching the gold in it and the gold of her damp hair wink at him with each careful pass. "This is how she did it on days we'd all get dressed up and go somewhere," she says, reminiscing, and he squeezes her shoulder before dropping the comb on the kitchen table and reaching for the scissors.
"Tell me something?"
"Hmmm?" Her eyes are closed now like she wanted to give herself over to the pleasure of the comb running through her hair and scraping gently across her scalp; he can see the dark spikes of her eyelashes down against her cheeks.
"What makes Rob an expert on fae?" He doesn't quite want to broach the subject of her anger when he'd first mentioned what had snatched Dean, but that question's there too, if she chooses to pick it up.
She shifts her weight a bit, trying to get comfortable with staying in the same position for so long, but there's not enough padding on her or the chair to make that really feasible. The newspaper on the floor crinkles with her movements. "Sean told me that Rob's mom used to tell them both stories about the fae, long, detailed stories about their beauty and their danger and the glamour, all of that. He could never remember any of them to tell me, but he'd always talk about that time with a smile on his face. I don't think he got over her death."
He turns her head to a different angle, trying to catch the best of the light, and starts snipping at the ends of her hair again.
Her eyes are still closed. "Rob listened to those stories too, only he pretty much memorized them. He told me a couple once. I don't remember them now, but I heard enough to jibe with the lore that was out there. Those stories were true."
"So, what?" Sam asks, carefully combing the strands out again; they keep stubbornly curling back up. "You think Rob's mom was a hunter?" He's never heard of a hunter with the last name Robson or Kelly, but then again, most hunters stick to what they know and kill - like Gordon, like Elkins; the Winchesters got dismissed as jacks-of-all-trades until people took a closer look at their track record.
"Could be," Jo says. "Maybe it was her, maybe it was her husband, maybe her parents. I never got to meet her." She shakes her hand, where a piece of hair has landed. "I know for a fact that he didn't get over her death either." She pauses, hesitates a little before saying, "He's been really good to me, Sam."
"I know," he says, surprising himself. He's never seen her go all ... cloudy and dazed, helpless and boneless around the guy; Jo might be made of sterner stuff than he is. Rob comes through the door before he can say any more, a wide and genuine smile forming on his face when he sees what they're up to.
"Well?" Jo asks; she'd refused to do this in front of her bedroom mirror.
Rob cups her chin with kind fingers and turns her head this way and that. "You look beautiful, Joanna," Rob says, completely straightforward, and Jo beams up at him and leans back to let Sam finish the job.
Rob's been snappish all day, a far cry from his usual cooler-than-thou demeanor, and Sam desperately, angrily wishes that Rob would just touch him and set his mind free of everything except seeking and accepting the next touch instead of making him the object of all of his frustrations. But Rob's keeping his hands to himself, and Sam can't take another minute of this pissiness.
He pretty much lunges forward, achieving direct contact at last, and startles back immediately. Rob's skin is hot; usually he's warm - Sam can't pinpoint much in his memories, but he does remember, vaguely, dopily, that lulling warm lassitude that Rob's touch brings to his mind and body - but now he's running a few degrees even above that. He wonders if Rob is sick, if all of his irritability is a sign of shame that his body can succumb like anyone else's, but Rob looks just the same. Better than ever, actually, his eyes glittering and so blue it almost hurts to look at them, and his pale, perfect face set off by black hair tousled by Sam's embrace. Rob's not looking flushed or hectic, just keyed up and anxious, and Sam gets a glimpse of Rob's big, square, silver watch and realizes what day it is. The vernal equinox is here, and Rob's wondering whether he made the right call.
The realization that saving Dean is this important to Rob, enough for him to get this worked up, takes Sam by surprise but doesn't budge him an inch off his chosen course. He opens the window, letting the first day of spring's chilly air in, and presses forward to lose himself in Rob's hot, smooth skin.
"We're going to do this spaghetti method, 'cause all I've got is a bunch of little fragments that don't add up to much," Bobby says, voice sliding in and out as the phone he must have balanced on his shoulder gets jostled around while he picks up one set of notes after another.
Bobby was right about loving Dean, if he's hung on to that pet phrase. Sam can remember the day the joke was born.
They'd been at Bobby's on a hot summer afternoon, trying to figure out what could have sucked the intestines out of three white businessmen over in Charles Mix County. Dean had been pushing for some kind of creature living in Lake Andes, and Bobby had gone so far as to allow that there was always that possibility, while Sam, irritable from the heat and the way his hair curled uncomfortably high in it, had scoffed and pointed out that there had been not a drop of water anywhere near the bodies. "This's the spaghetti method, Sammy," Dean had said, smiling broadly, conspiratorially, at Bobby, who'd taken a huge package of ground chuck out of the fridge and tossed it on the counter. "Throw it all against the wall and see what sticks."
"Quit grinnin' at me like you're waitin' for me to drop my panties," Bobby had said, clearly waiting for Dean to get his lazy ass up from the kitchen table and start helping out with making hamburger patties. Sam had kept shuffling the papers in front of him, sure the solution was in there somewhere.
He had looked up to see that Dean couldn't decide whether to laugh or make a face and so ended up choking on his ice water, and Bobby had clapped a hand to Dean's back as if to smack the choke right out of him, but ended up rubbing warm, paternal circles over Dean's shoulder blade. "You idjit," Bobby said. "You know anyone who makes spaghetti that way, you kick 'em out of your goddamned house."
Sam thinks he can feel Bobby's hand against his spine, comforting and somehow permanent, before remembering that it was Dean's back, not his; that sense-memory must live in another bit of Dean's soul that got swapped over permanently to him. "I'm listening, Bobby," he says; "hit me."
"Okay, we got a fae band that lost its queen in The Book of Green. Followed the footnotes from there to find a group of satyrs that organized themselves like fae in the Index. I found a legend of a migrant band of fae. And another about fae that've teamed up with tricksters, as if either of 'em needed any more mojo. And there was an apocryphal tale about fae scouring the world for their rightful king in the first appendix of Bower's last book." In another lifetime, Sam thinks, Bobby, translating texts and chasing down footnotes, could have been a strict but beloved professor, sporting a grizzled beard and neatly slicked hair. And in another lifetime, another world, Dean would dote on his wife and be ruled by the iron fists of the little sons and daughters he loved like he couldn't get enough of them.
He has to get Dean back, even if that means bringing him into a world that's caused him nothing but grief; he needs his brother desperately.
"I'm wanted by the FBI," Sam points out, as rationally as he can. "I'm not about to walk into an airport and hand myself over on a silver platter."
He waits for Rob's leer, but it doesn't come; Rob's frowning like a wrench has been thrown into his plans. "You want to drive to South Dakota?" There's a strong hint of that's the dumbest idea I've ever heard in his tone.
"Done it before. Lots of times," Sam shrugs. "It's easier to slip by unnoticed on the ground."
Rob's hand shoots out to circle his wrist, pale, elastic handcuffs. "We'd be wasting time."
"We can make it in less than a week," Sam says, the declaration of an expert. "And this way we can carry all sorts of stuff we wouldn't be able to get through airport security. Trust me."
Rob looks up at him through his eyelashes, straight, dark bristles, with an odd smile on his face. "There's not a lot of 'stuff' we'll need for this; it's down to you and me, Saintly, not weapons." His smile grows broader, Cheshire Cat-like. "Trust me."
Rob clearly wasn't expecting him, but Sam just waits patiently on the doorstep until Rob blows out an ill-tempered breath and lets him in. The place is palatial, one of the old New York brownstones that was built to last. There are wide windows framed in thick velvet curtains, the panes polished clear and sparkling. Everywhere he looks, something is twinkling brightly, the furniture and the art on the wall all gleaming and coordinated in shades of gilt and green.
"I'm ready, man," Sam says before Rob can ask. "All packed" - he hoists his duffel bag up to eye level - "and ready to go." He takes another long look around, deliberately avoiding Rob's impatient eye. "Looks like you're not, though, so just steer me to the books and I'll stay out of your way while you pack."
He feels better than he has in months; he hasn't taken a first, proactive step in rescuing Dean in so long, and when he woke up and realized he could familiarize himself with the texts Rob was using, his stomach had settled and he'd been able to breathe again.
"Out," Rob snaps.
"No," Sam says stubbornly. "We need to get going today, and I know I owe you, but I'm not going to let you fuck this up either." He's toe-to-toe with Rob, glaring up at him.
Rob smiles all of a sudden, that familiar smirk settling back into place as he slides a warm hand around Sam's neck and bends his head to kiss him thoroughly. Sam cannot keep his arms from coming up to hold Rob closer.
"Most of the books are already packed away, Saintly," Rob says, strong teeth near Sam's ear, Sam's cheek. "But sit tight and I'll bring you something."
Sam goes obediently to the green velvet settee he'd dumped his duffel next to and sits; the piece is firm despite the plushness of the cushions, and he sits up straight. On the opposite wall is a framed piece of thick, heavy paper, metallic ink glittering under glass. He gets closer and finds it's a family tree, an unusual one, with only female names in the unbroken chain of branches until there, at the very bottom, are "Mary" leading to "Sean" and "Moira" to "Rex." "Very House of Black," he says when Rob comes back into the room with a big cloth-covered book in one hand. "Harry Potter," he clarifies when Rob makes no comment. Rob just steers him back to the couch and Sam takes the suggestion and opens the book.
There's not a lot of new information there, but it's good to have things so clearly laid out, and he goes through the material carefully, trying to commit as much to memory as possible. If Rob said there wasn't room for this in the car, or that it's not one of the crucial texts they'll need, then that's good enough for him.
His stomach growls and he holds his place in the text with a finger and checks his watch. It's been hours since he showed up unannounced, and he's starving. "Rob?" he calls, getting no answer. He makes his way down a bright hall, glancing into each room he walks by; the place is empty. He turns to head back to the living room and sees a large framed photograph on a small table in the corner of the hallway, just near the open doorway back to the main space. It takes him a minute to realize that it's not Rob staring out at him with those challenging blue eyes; it's Rob's mother, who passed those eyes and that face down to her son intact, as if there was no second person involved in Rob's conception. Next to her is a woman with lighter hair and china-blue eyes holding a small, round blond boy against her hip. Rob is seated on his mother's lap, upright like it's a throne, his face already much more defined and stripped of baby fat than his cousin's, defiant gaze mimicking his mother's.
He hears the front door open and goes back to the living room to see Rob, who says, "Let's get going, then, Saintly." Sam scoops up his duffel and the open book and sees an envelope addressed to "Joanna" on the table by the front door; he leads the way out and Rob locks up behind them.
Sitting out front is a big, shiny SUV the color of pewter with tinted black windows. "Hop in," Rob says. "Maps are in the glove compartment. You're navigating."
The car is tricked out with all the bells and whistles, so conspicuous that Sam's tense until they get out of New York City, only then reasoning that Henrickson has no clue that he's not with Dean or in the Impala. And Rob isn't anyone the FBI would be looking for. Right here, in the buttery-soft pale grey leather passenger seat, sitting high above the traffic, is the safest place he could be.
Rob doesn't drive like Dean; there's no easy slouch with one arm out the window, no fond pats to the steering wheel, and no domination of the stereo. Rob's got the A/C on low and some radio station on, the volume too low to make out much. Sam looks sideways at him and sticks one of the maps from the glove compartment into the back of the book; he keeps reading, trying to take advantage of the silence.
"Pull in here," Rob says out of the blue.
"I'm not tired," Sam assures him. "I've only been driving for a couple -"
"I'm stopping for the night, and that means you are too." There's no room for disagreement in Rob's tone.
"Here, though?" The place is way nicer than his usual digs; there's a valet coming for their keys already. "We can't - I mean, I can't -"
"Saintly," Rob says, meaning shut up. "Can't take it with you, can you?" If that's code for anything, Sam doesn't get it. Still, he can't let Rob assume the expenses of a trip that's to save Dean; he needs to pay his way.
"Unless you're rolling in it -" he starts before Rob interrupts him yet again.
"I am." Rob gets out and heads for the shining glass doors and thickly carpeted lobby, and Sam scrambles to get his book and his bag and follow.
He reaches the front desk in time to see that the credit card Rob slides across the cool marble counter has his real name on it, and the man in the discreet dark-blue uniform smiles after he swipes it through. "Thank you, sir. 2448. If you'll follow the bellhop to the elevator."
The room is large, the bedspread and the curtains beige shading into gold. The bed itself is enormous, bigger than a king, and heaped up with pillows. Five minutes after Rob's tipped the bellhop for bringing up his luggage, Sam's face is buried in one of the pillows, soft and cool, his ass is in the air, and Rob's heavy hand is inching down his bare back.
The bed is too plush for Sam to have any stability at all on his hands and knees; he just keeps sinking into the dense softness like it's quicksand. Rob lays Sam out flat with a pillow under his hips and drapes himself on top of Sam like a blanket. The air conditioning prickles pleasantly against Sam's warm skin, and by the time he comes back to himself and hears the shower running, he's covered in marks from an insistent mouth.
"Why would the fae take Dean?" Sam asks, finishing another chapter. Rob looks in the rearview mirrors and switches lanes.
He doesn't realize he even said it out loud until Rob answers him. "Fae take what they like. They like beauty."
No surprise there; Dean's always been the one with the outrageous good looks. But he's had those all his life - at least, once he grew into his too-pretty features and bulked up a little. If it was just a matter of getting Dean alone, why hadn't they taken him when Dad had taken off and Sam was at Stanford?
"Surprised, though, that they didn't wait for you, Saintly," Rob says with a smirk. "That pretty face and those visions dancing around in your head. Fae like power even more than beauty."
Sam tries to smile back around the lump in his throat and the knot in his gut. He made Dean the perfect prey with his soul-switcheroo; the visions he sloughed off onto Dean only made his brother even more attractive to the things he was hunting. Even if he spends the rest of their lives apologizing, he can't make up for what he did to Dean. "Pull over," he says sharply. "I need to drive."
Once he's behind the wheel, he asks, "So why did Missouri only see him sleeping? What are they doing with him, with the people they take?"
"They'll keep him for the ceremony at Midsummer," Rob answers, looking pointedly out the window. "The stolen are a big part of the ceremony. That's when they'll decide whether to make him one of their own forever or kill him."
No. Not even the fae could fail to see Dean's worth and choose to discard him like trash. Sam refuses to entertain the notion for a single moment; he concentrates on the real threat, that the fae will adore Dean so much that they'll want to keep him with them for all time. He pushes down the thought that at least that way Dean would be safe - from hunting, from Henrickson, from him; Dean would never choose anything but Sam.
They've hit Illinois and are making good time when Sam looks out the window to see flat, dry land and weathered buildings on which the paint has faded until they blend right in with the dust. "How are you going to find the fae?" He'd called Bobby again, pushed for any information that would give him a reasonable starting point, but Bobby had said that his dogs hadn't even been able to find a trace of Dean after about three miles northwest of Bobby's property. And the site where they'd stopped, whimpering and pawing at the ground, didn't so much as set off a click from the EMF meter or flare up at a little salt, iron, or holy water. "Do you have a self-bored stone?"
Rob eyes him speculatively, with eyes that look like the only water around for days. "Never did find one of those," he says thoughtfully. "That's why the timing of this has to be just right. Come on, Saintly, you read the book. Midsummer Eve -" he prompts.
"- under the full moon, even a mortal can see the fae reveling," Sam finishes with him. "But how do you know where to look at all? 'Three miles northwest' is pretty vague, and that's a lot of area to cover. Plus we don't know if they're even in the same place." He needs to know the plan; Dean only wouldn't share the details of a plan when he knew he was taking on too much of the danger and Sam would pitch a fit. He doesn't think he's got another martyr on his hands, but Rob's dedication to this case has never made much sense to him; it's certainly not due to any loving devotion to him.
"These fae are constantly on the move, you're right. No one's ever been able to pin them down before." Rob pulls his sunglasses out of his pocket and slips them on.
"So how are we going to do it?"
"I've got a plan," Rob says dismissively.
"And I've got a right to hear it."
"Ooh, Saintly, look at you with your backbone firmly in place," Rob teases. "The plan is you."
Instinctively, Sam shrinks back into his seat. "Me?" His heart starts racing. This is the most important case he's ever been on, and the most nebulous, and Rob needs to have a better idea than that. "I couldn't even get out of the apartment to do any research, I've got no idea what kind of fae we're after, I don't know how to convince them to let Dean go -" The words are spilling out of him, panicked and sharp and high.
Rob's hand, tight on his jaw, is the only thing that stops him. Rob shakes, none too gently, and Sam's head feels like it's been set on a spring like a jack-in-the-box instead of a neck. "But you know your brother," Rob says firmly. "I'm not tracking the fae; I'm tracking Dean, with you as my self-bored stone."
Oh, he wants to say, that would make sense, except I'm not the one with a hole in me. That'd be Dean - I'm actually overflowing with what I took from him. Instead he clicks his jaw, nods, and keeps quiet.
His blood starts buzzing one day and won't stop, no matter how long he lies in the oversized tub. Rob's hands only makes it louder, but the vibrations feel too good to stop, and Rob draws back, uncertain for the first time, and Sam latches on to him, won't unlock his arms and legs, cinching them tightly together. All he can think about is Dean and his Magic Fingers obsession, and then it hits him, this is because he's close, Dean is almost in his grasp, and he laughs, wild and free, even when Rob's mouth covers his.
There is nothing to stop him from pressing Rob down into the big soft bed, nothing to keep him from swallowing down Rob's dick, nothing that won't let him crawl up Rob's big, hard-muscled body to sink down at last on his spit-slick cock and watch Rob's eyes go from electric to fiery. Every touch just gets his blood humming more insistently, and that is the sound of the victory drums. He knows, deep down, that they're going to win. And then Rob pumps his hips and Sam just can't think anymore.
The moon rises full and luxurious overhead, spilling light down almost wantonly, wasteful and reckless. Sam just follows the tug in his gut, Rob moving next to him, both of them stepping silently through the tall grass of this untended meadow.
Somewhere between one breath and the next, he sees Dean. And then he's running, flat out, like he's aiming for a four-minute mile, and his blood is singing, but Dean doesn't get any closer. Rob's hand closing around his arm brings him up short. Suddenly Sam can see the fae ringed around his brother's bier, every detail extraordinarily sharp. The flowers heaped up on Dean's recumbent form are as varied and vivid as Missouri had prophesied, but the fae's faces are far from friendly. Some of them, he sees, are carrying spears or bows and arrows, and their beauty is terrible, a weapon all its own; he has to slit his eyes to be able to look at them for more than a moment.
They ring protectively around Dean, and before the circle closes, Sam can see that Dean looks like he's merely asleep, resting for a few hours. Most of the lines on his face have smoothed themselves out, and there's no loss of muscle mass, no diminution that tells the truth about the many months he's lain there. He dares a look at Rob, who's watching Dean with a hungry gaze, drinking in Dean's beauty.
Rob propels them both forward, and the music that's been winding its way through the air and into Sam stops, the dead silence shocking him, making him think for a moment that Dean's somehow been killed. Rob's hand is trembling, damp with sweat, but his voice rings out, clear and carrying. "Midsummer Eve, many full moons ago, you lost your queen. You have been seeking her heir, the king from the prophecy you all know in your hearts." He drops Sam's arm and steps forward, the moonlight hitting him like a spotlight, washing out his pale skin and making his eyes glitter; Sam cannot get his feet to move him closer to either Rob or Dean - they're cemented to the ground. "I am the lost king. Her blood runs in my veins. I am Rex."
Instantaneously, every single electric-blue gaze is focused on Rob's face, and Sam finds himself able to move once more. The sound of voices - questioning, demanding, staking claims - floats over his head; he leaves it behind and rushes over to his brother's side. "Dean," he whispers, reaching out to touch that still face, that loose hand lying by his side.
He doesn't know how long he stands there, but it cannot be long enough to take in every detail of Dean's physical being, the dense softness of his hair, the patterns of his freckles scattered across his cheeks and nose, the slow and steady throb of his pulse in his throat. A cheer goes up behind him and Dean's eyes - soft and lambent - open and focus, after one long heartstopping moment, on him. "Sammy," Dean says, voice rasping and trying to find a smile.
Sam holds out his shaking hands and Dean, reaching for him, vanishes.
"What did you do?" Sam screams.
He's not sure who he was yelling at, but it's Rob who steps forward. "Dean was taken because they believed he might be the lost king. Now that I've been acknowledged as the rightful king, they've let him go."
His brain is just not working. "Let him go? Killed him?" His fists are raised, itching for weapons.
"No." Rob's voice stops him mid-stride. "Let him go, put him back where they found him, no different than when they took him."
It takes some time to process that, but when he finally does, he's sure of something else. "You used me. You've been trying to find these fae ever since your mother told you that you were the lost king, and you let me believe you were trying to help me find Dean."
Rob's wearing that familiar, unsettling smile, but his eyes - and the eyes of all his clan - are cold. "Didn't I help you find your brother, Saintly? Safe and sound, not a scratch on him? And when they realized he wasn't the one, wasn't he set free to go?"
He can't bring himself to admit it, any of it. But he cannot walk away either - something is binding him to the ground again. "It's you that we're puzzling over now," Rob says, and Sam's blood runs cold. He cannot be kept apart from Dean one minute longer, or the last vestiges of his sanity will slip away. "What are we to do with you?"
Rob comes close, tips Sam's chin up with his warm fingers, and brushes the hair out of Sam's eyes. "Such a pretty boy," Rob murmurs, kissing him deep, and Sam cannot fight it.
Rob breaks away and Sam gasps for breath; Rob just smiles and slides a hand into Sam's hair. "Any time one of my band requires a favor, you will do all that is in your power to grant it." He grins, a flash of white teeth in the dark night. "I'll be seeing you," he whispers, and seals the deal with another kiss.
When Sam opens his eyes, Rob and the rest of the fae are gone. It takes a moment for his legs to start moving, and he tries to remember where Rob left the SUV. He finds it in about ten minutes, and remembers Rob making a show of putting the keys in the glove compartment. He fishes them out, starts the engine, and turns on the headlights, scouring the landscape for Dean.
Dean's asleep in the passenger seat when he knocks on Bobby's door. The Impala is gleaming in the moonlight, sitting next to Bobby's truck in the driveway, away from the scrappers that litter the yard. Bobby says not a word when Sam points to Dean, just squints to see him through the windshield and makes no excuses for the water welling in his eyes.
Sam carries his brother upstairs and puts him to bed. There are two chairs in the room, and Sam drags them both over so that he and Bobby can sit side-by-side and keep vigil.
Sam wakes up to the smell of coffee and bacon and sits up with a start when he realizes the bed is empty. He runs down the stairs, taking them four at a time, and bursts into the kitchen. Dean and Bobby are sitting there, all four elbows on the table, nursing enormous mugs of coffee. "Dean," Sam breathes, then chokes on the torrent of words he feels coming up.
"Morning, Sammy," Dean says quietly.
"I don't - I'm sorry - what do you -" Sam stutters, and Dean's face softens.
Dean gets up and with steady hands gentles Sam into a chair. "Sam. You saved me. From the crossroads demon and from the fae. So quit saying you're sorry."
"But I took away what you need to hunt," Sam says, focusing on Dean's face, full of forgiveness, instead of Bobby's.
"No." Dean doesn't shake his head, but the denial is unmistakable.
"No?" He can hardly dare to believe. He darts a glance at Bobby, who's shaking his head like he knows exactly what Dean's up to, and his heart sinks.
"Look, Sam, this was always about saving people. Even more than hunting things. And I can still do that."
"But you could - you could settle down, live a normal life." Even as he says it, he knows it's not true. Dean might possibly have chosen to settle down, but he won't be forced into it because the skills and instincts he spent a lifetime honing have been stripped away from him.
"I can still save people, Sammy," Dean repeats quietly, and Sam subsides.
So, Sam thinks, the fratboys they saved from the vengeful spirit that haunted their basement were right; this bar is the perfect place to unwind: cheap beer that tastes like the good stuff, pretty girls who could shoot pool, and a bartender whose eye could be easily caught.
Dean's talking to one girl in particular, a girl with long black hair and little black glasses and big black boots, so Sam heads over to get the next round. "Hey," he says, and the bartender looks over, nods, and starts to mosey over.
Sam looks over at Dean, laughing and bending a little to get his ear closer to the girl's pretty mouth, and figures he should buy the girl a drink too, just for putting that smile on his brother's face. "Let me get three beers, please," he says, pulling the cash from his pocket and setting it down.
This time, when he looks up, he notices that the bartender's eyes are a familiar, unmistakable shade of electric blue. The bill he's laid on the bar gets swapped for a note on stiff, pale paper. You are very good at this, indeed. Doesn't matter how that came to be, does it, Saintly? What matters is that you remember what you owe me. Your first job starts tonight. He crumples the note in his fist and the bartender smiles pityingly at him.
He thinks he can hear Rob's laughter.
I'd started off thinking that Rob would be a younger, more obviously athletic version of Dylan McDermott, but then Chuck reminded me of the existence of Matthew Bomer, who was closer to the right age. So picture the baby those two guys would have had, if you'd like a mental image of Rob.
Notes and a Request
Hmmm. Where to begin? I guess with the request. Please tell me, as honestly as you can, what needs work. If I do manage to muster up the energy to edit and rewrite this into a workable story, I would like to do so with the best input possible, and that can only come from you guys. I won't say "don't worry about my feelings," but I will say, like Jo, I'm not terribly thin-skinned, and I know you guys are smart and wonderful readers who have no investment in making me feel bad about myself. So.
I think I should say something about my intentions for the story, so you can gauge what I succeeded at and what I failed at. I should note too that the finished story was originally going to be called "Silk Road," but I watched Mississippi Burning a little while ago (wow, are there a lot of shots Supernatural has borrowed from that movie!) and found a better title from the quote "This can of worms only opens from the inside."
(1) The Sam/Sarah relationship was supposed to be wonderful for the short time it lasted, and the bloom was supposed to wear off pretty quickly. Sam was supposed to be confused by this - Sarah is exactly the kind of girl he wants, should want to marry - and he's not really clear on what went wrong. I'm not sure if the external stuff (Dean's disappearance) kind of messed that trajectory up. Also, I don't know if it's clear that the reader is free to imagine Sarah and Jason getting together after Sam leaves.
(2) The Henrickson subplot was a last-minute addition, and really goes nowhere, though it does keep Sam conveniently cooped up. I don't know if it's still necessary.
(3) June was supposed to have a much larger role. I'd originally considered naming all of Rob's friends and giving them personalities, but decided the story didn't require that work; in cutting them, June's role was supposed to expand to fill that space. Somehow, it just didn't. But I love June. There's more I'd like to explore with her.
(4) Jo's marriage. I wanted Jo to have realized from her horrifying experience in Duluth that pining for Dean was going to get her nowhere, and so she takes off and unexpectedly finds a guy to love who loves her back. I didn't really want to be mean and take him away from her, but she needed to be sad and not content by the time Sam caught up with her. Sean is less clear to me than June, but it might be nice to think about Sean/Jo at some point in the future.
(5) Rob. Oh, what a pain in the ass he's been. First he was going to be just a Bad News Bear, someone who'd turn Sam upside down and not be all that nice about it. I will admit that at least some of that was motivated by the fact that, in my fanon at least, Sam has been extraordinarily lucky with the people he loves. By that I mean not that Sam gets happy endings (duh - Jess), but that the people he loves tend to love him back and want to take care of him: Irene, Ben, Jess, Sarah, DEAN. I kind of thought it was about time that Sam got to know what it's like when he's not put first. Also, I really enjoyed exploring Sam's sexuality in "Sunshine State," his repudiation of his love for another man when that man was revealed to have some startling similarities to Dean. Sam pushed all of that - loving another man, wondering if he loved Dean romantically, his identity as a Winchester and soldier, etc. - away in one fell swoop, so I figured it should be a guy rather than a girl who challenged Sam here. Anyway, Rob was pretty much going to be an unrepentant bastard, someone who could put the whammy on Sam and didn't have a lot of compunction about using it. But I didn't think that was very interesting, and I had NO desire to write even borderline non-con, so. I don't know if it came across, but for all that Rob does have some fae power and Sam (being Sam and demon-touched) is especially receptive to it, the fuzziness that Sam keeps claiming sweeps over him whenever Rob touches him is not entirely real. I think it's Sam's way of evading responsibility for the gay relationship he is in. Because he thinks of himself as straight, and has convinced himself that the episode with Ben was more about his feelings for Dean and his messed-up childhood than his own bisexuality. I'm not really planning to write any more with Rob, but I want to know if he was interesting, believable, consistent, etc., or if his character and his role in the plot will need a major rehaul.
(6) Dean's soul. I really did not mean to write something so permanent and so sad. But I think if there'd been a quick and easy solution, Bobby would have found it. Man, it always comes back to Dean breaking my heart.
Thank you so very much for reading and encouraging me! I hope you had a good time somewhere along the way!