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This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Knight Moves

STORYINFO title: one false move fandom: SPN date: 2007-11-21 summary: wordcount: 5,544  

"Oh hey," Dean said, surprised, as the purple crackling lightnings sputtered out over his body.

"Do you feel any different?" Sam asked anxiously, but instead of answering, Dean hopped off the hood of the car and got back inside. He said something Sam couldn't hear while Sam was collecting the spell workings.

"What happened?" Sam demanded as he flung himself into the passenger seat and twisted to shove the still-smoking detritus into the back seat. "Did you sense any—like, weight lifting, or bond snapping, or something?" He fell back in his seat and looked over at Dean.

Dean seemed—well, confused, and smiling a little, but not released-from-deal-with-Hell smiling. He was probably going to make some sort of kinky sex joke, the bastard.

The spell had been a long shot. Sam hadn't expected even little purple electric shocks, quite frankly, and it was something, after so many days—a number he wasn't even thinking about, because it was far too high—so maybe, just maybe—

"You switched us!"

Sam narrowed his eyes and leaned forward, wondering if the electricity had fried Dean's brain. The lines around Dean's eyes had relaxed, and he was grinning the goofy smile that all the girls thought they were getting when he hit on them, even though they were getting only its echo.

"Me and Dean," Dean continued happily, just as Sam was realizing that his soul-protecting spell just might have invited something else in. He grabbed for his gun, and the glove compartment popped open, bashing his hand, while the speakers came on, blaring Meat Loaf.

The car.

The car.

"Dean said I should say, if it happened again," the thing wearing Dean's body said, almost shyly.

Sam gaped at him—it—

It began to rock back and forth in the driver's seat, just a little. "I want to have more food! Can we go to a White Castle?"

Sam put his head in his hands.

****

There were no White Castles in the area, so they ended up going to a Burger King drive-through. Sam listened for any change in the engine noise, any Deanish commentary, but heard nothing. Of course he didn't know jack about engines, as Dean would have been happy to remind him.

He watched with disbelief as the car crammed half a cheeseburger into Dean's mouth, stuffing his cheeks like a squirrel's. "That's disgusting," he said automatically.

"What's disgusting," the car said, speaking through its mouthful, "is regular gas with ten percent ethanol. Dean always knows when you do that. He apologizes to me."

"Gas is expensive!" he protested. This was like dealing with a fifteen-year-old Dean, except without the hero worship that had blurred his vision. Shouldn't a machine that had been around for forty years be a little more mature?

Okay, stupid question.

The car sucked loudly at the dregs of its soda, confirming that yes, the noise was just as obnoxious when someone who wasn't Dean did it.

When it was finished, the car carefully collected all the wrappers, napkins, and other leftovers of the meal, putting them in the takeout bag, folding the top over so that it wouldn't come loose if they had to drive fast, and stowing the whole package, as always, on the passenger-side floor. Dean, he realized, was the car's role model—Dean, who couldn't have been trusted to be a role model for a kitten.

"Does, um, does Dean talk to you about me?"

It looked at him and fluttered its lashes coyly. "That's between me and Dean." The look on its face was hard to place, especially filtered through his Dean-sense, but he thought, maybe—

"Sometimes he needs to talk to someone who isn't you, you know," it continued. The dash chimed warningly, but Sam had already placed the look. Dean wasn't just its role model. Dean was its crush. Its personal god.

Okay, that was crazy but actually might make it more manageable.

"Now what, Research Guy?"

"I'm not sure," he said. "It wore off last time overnight. It's possible the same thing will happen again. Given all the other spells I've been casting on you—on Dean—it might be safest to wait until the morning and see if it resolves on its own."

"That means there's time for more food," it said happily. "And more sex!"

Sam choked on air.

"Last time, Dean and I had sex, and it was good."

He sputtered incoherently. The radio squealed, running through every frequency and settling on white noise.

He was going to ask if it were joking, but even with Dean's face it didn't seem like the kind of—entity—that cracked a lot of jokes. Dean and—in his body—he was going to kill Dean—first he was going to have to get Dean back to be killed—

"I liked it," the thing inhabiting Dean said, pounding the point home like a kid, which made the whole mess even more awful, especially combined with the lascivious gleam in Dean's eyes—and sure, limited cognitive abilities or not, spending a lot of time in Dean's company had to have educated it in human sexuality. "We should do it."

Sam was pretty sure the sounds coming out of his throat indicated disbelief and denial. He grabbed onto the armrest, hard, hoping it hurt, and forced himself to be calm. "That's not going to happen," he forced out. The very act of speaking coherently helped him organize his thoughts.

"He's giving me to you anyway," not-Dean said.

"You can't just give someone—" he began.

"I'm not a person," it said, with the same matter-of-factness that Dean brought to 'I'm going to Hell.'

Sam shook his head, trying to focus on the fact that something else was inside his brother, and they only had a few days left on Dean's deal—

They only had a few days left on Dean's deal.

He looked at the Impala, examined it carefully. It was staring back at him with big eyes, parted lips, flushed cheeks, the kind of look Dean had perfected before he turned fifteen. If he'd ever needed confirmation that Dean's body was built for sin, this was it.

No matter how much the car loved Dean—assuming it was even capable of it—Sam knew all the myths and even some of the modern versions. Houseguests tended to overstay their welcome. Give it a few days, and it might decide it could run Dean's body better than Dean could.

But he needed it in there, for now.

So: It was a conscious entity, and it wanted something from him pretty badly. He remembered his own first experiences with sex—they weren't all that far away, emotionally or time-wise—and how overwhelming all that desire had been. How he'd gone along with the most ridiculous things just to stay close to a girl.

They'd been staring at each other for too long. "Sammy?" it asked, hesitant.

Sam struggled to see something other than his brother—it— her, that might be easiest, her. He looked at those familiar eyes, soft mouth, curve of jaw and he saw something new. He brought his hands up to cup both sides of her head. "Yes," he said and kissed her, full of passion.

Dean's five-o-clock shadow scraped at his palms, which were still tender from the heat of the spell. He closed his eyes.

She whined high in Dean's—her—throat and tried to climb on top of him. The car was shaking, probably Dean's doing, but whether it was outrage or approval was entirely unclear. Sam pulled his head back from the kiss, gasping.

He'd given in too fast, and a person would have known that. She didn't.

"What do you want?"

She shook her head slightly. "I—everything."

"Easier back at the motel," he suggested. Every dial on the dash flipped to the right, which was possibly Dean objecting, applauding, or making an obscene gesture.

She drove them. Sam had a million questions, but the thought of asking them made him feel a little sick, so he watched her hands instead. They moved confidently on the steering wheel and the stick shift and lingered on the knobs of the radio, even though she didn't, or couldn't, make the car—Dean—switch away from the goddamn Meat Loaf album.

When she got out, she ran a friendly hand over the top of the door, just the way Dean always did. She settled his leather jacket on his shoulders, just the way Dean always did, and looked around, smiling like someone who'd won the lottery and then been propositioned by the St. Pauli Girl. Just the way—

This was unusually twisted, even by Winchester standards. Hell, it was unusually twisted by Voldemort standards.

He occupied himself with leading her back into the motel complex. It had an interior courtyard, and their room didn't face the parking lot for once, so she didn't know where they were going.

Sam had no sooner closed the door than she was on him, pushing him back against the cheap wood, his head thudding against the emergency exit diagram. It was shocking—he hadn't expected Dean's strength, which was stupid on so many levels, not least of which was that she was used to weighing thirty-seven hundred pounds. Dean's eyes looked up at him with the wide-eyed happiness he associated with a successful hunt. His hands—her hands—

He closed his eyes and kissed her back, tangling one hand in her short hair, running the other under the jacket to get it off. He knew what Dean's body was like intellectually, he knew what it felt like when he sewed up the latest slash, and he knew what it could do turning a wrench or digging a grave. But this—

Dean was so good-looking that you'd expect his skin to be smooth. But there were all sorts of imperfections—dents from old scars, slightly raised moles, the scratch of hair. His muscles were solid blocks, though, warm under his hands where the skin had been covered by clothes—and God, she was pressing the lower half of her body against him, obviously aroused. His hips moved without his volition.

She'd worked her hands under his shirts—bigger hands than he was used to, but not at all tentative, moving over his stomach and chest with smooth, even strokes.

Windshield wipers, he thought and had to clench his jaw against the noises that might have come out.

He fought free of her grasp long enough to pull Dean's shirt off and toss it on top of the crumpled jacket—a good reminder that this wasn't Dean, because no matter how much he wanted to get laid, Dean would never let that jacket stay on an indifferently clean motel room floor. And right now his brain needed that reminder, not least because his dick apparently didn't.

"Sam," she said, and he stopped looking over her shoulder, pulling his head back so he could look down at her face again. Her eyes were hidden by Dean's luxurious lashes; her hands had stilled on his chest, resting over his heart.

He found himself thinking of her revelation that this was not the first time these two bodies had collided.

"What did you do before?" he asked, keeping his voice gentle.

She shrugged, the shy glance down obscene on that face. Why are you doing this? he asked himself. It was easier to reach out and tip her chin up than to think about the answer.

"I used my mouth, and he used his hand," she said softly. He couldn't help it; he clamped a hand down on her ass and pushed their groins together, even as he thought: my mouth.

She didn't protest when he shoved her backwards across the floor, tumbling onto the low bed with him right on top of her, kissing and ripping at her jeans. She got them below her knees, but then tangled with the boots, whimpering a little until he gave up and batted her hands away, untying the knotted laces himself.

And then his mouth was right next to that hard cock. What the hell, he thought, wondering if body memory would kick in at any point.

The answer was no, but she wasn't a particularly tough crowd, babbling happiness and patting his hair through the whole thing, until he pulled away with come dripping down his chin. He stretched out on the still-covered bed and grabbed a pillow, wiping his face and tossing it over the side. She followed and curled into him, kissing him unhesitatingly and reaching for his erection.

"I'm going to fuck you," he said, and had to close his eyes at the flush that stained her cheeks. "You know a guy can get fucked, right?"

She laughed, not meanly but with genuine amusement, and the story of how she acquired that knowledge would probably be enough to shred his brain into confetti.

It was much easier when he'd put her on hands and knees.

This is Dean's body, he reminded himself as he slicked his fingers with lotion, except that the same thing that reminded him to be gentle also made him crazy, so in the end he wasn't very gentle, and since he hadn't done much more than open his jeans to pull out his dick, he probably left Dean's skin chafed and scraped where his belt buckle dragged over Dean's skin. She didn't seem to mind after the initial shock of it; in fact, once he really hit a rhythm and she had to brace herself against the headboard, she was pretty damned enthusiastic.

The way she talked—"Do you like it, Sam?" stuttered out between gasps—so fucking needy—"Is it good?"—should have turned him off, but instead her noises mingled with his affirmations. There was a part of him that knew they sounded like a cheesy porn film, except that was exactly how he expected Dean would sound, so it all spiraled into this absolute fucking maelstrom of wrongness, wrong, wrong, wrong, chanting it in his head with every thrust, so very very—

It was like hitting the water wrong from a high dive, or falling through a plate glass window, a full-body shock overwhelming every nerve.

Eventually, he realized that he was just collapsed on top of her, his chin digging in just below her shoulder. He pulled away, wanting to apologize but unable to say a word, and concentrated on getting into a better position.

They ended up facing one another, on their sides, knees touching and foreheads close. Sam imagined that, from above, they looked like a pair of lovebirds.

"What should I call you?" he asked, pushing a sweat-stiffened strand of Dean's hair back into place.

She dropped her eyes, smiling softly. "Dean calls me Baby."

Sam clenched his fist, hidden above her head, until he felt his nails cutting skin. "I know, but that's Dean's name for you."

She was silent for a few minutes, her fingers tracing circles on his chest, like wheels turning. "Genie," she said finally. "Like, in a bottle? Only not a bottle."

"Genie," he said, sincere as a death curse, "you know Dean's in trouble."

She jerked back, looking at him with sudden fear. He wasn't ready to see that open terror on Dean's face.

"But I've got a plan," he continued.

She sighed and closed her eyes, just for a second. "I knew you did," she said, her voice small. She'd known nothing of the kind—which meant that Dean hadn't believed him either.

He wiggled himself a little closer to her, leaned in for a kiss, slow and wet. "I need your help," he said into her open mouth as he pulled away, denying her attempts to follow him, catching her hands in his own and pressing his fingers into her palms.

"Help me save Dean. Will you?"

"Of course," she said, her eyes round and shining.

****

Ten hours from the deadline, Ruby showed up again.

"Cutting it a little close, aren't you?" he asked, not bothering to fake indifference.

She strolled into the room and looked Genie—Dean, he thought, Dean—up and down. Dean was sprawled across the bed, his shirt rucked up to expose a flash of flat belly, one knee bent. His boots were on, tracking dirt on the bedspread. He grinned back at her.

"Still partying hearty, I see," she said. Sam's gaze was drawn unwillingly to the red marks on Dean's throat, the bruises on his forearms.

Ruby's avaricious eyes darted between them. "No, really?" she asked. "'cause I've got to warn you, Sam, my offer is not a get out of Hell free card no matter what you do."

"And what is your offer, now?" he asked. "Time to put up or shut up."

Ruby crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed, drawing one foot up to rest on her knee. "I've got a demon army and a plan. I need a figurehead."

"Sam's not going to do that," Dean said, serenely confident.

"Then you—" she reached out and nudged his foot—"get to burn in Hell for all eternity! Sure you don't want him to rethink that?"

Sam's breath was stoppered in his chest. Dean lowered his chin and deliberately moved his foot away. "We're going to beat this without you."

"What, with all your little binding rituals?" Her scorn was so great he could almost taste the sulfur. "Good luck with that. But hey, Sam, despair works for me too. Any time you want my help digging him out of Hell, you give me a shout. Price goes up after midnight tonight, though."

Ruby stood, brushing nonexistent dust off her jeans. "Be seeing you, Dean," she said with a wicked grin.

"I guess that's how I'll know it's Hell," Dean said. Sam was impressed despite himself.

"You can let yourself out," he told the demon. She shrugged and sauntered off as if it didn't matter; he hoped she choked on her own sang-froid.

"How'd I—?" Genie began, but he waved her silent, pressing up against the door for a full minute before he opened it to check that Ruby was really gone.

She was.

He sealed them back inside the room and turned back to Genie. "You did great," he said. "Just what I needed." Once again, he put his hands on her face, stroking her cheekbones with his thumbs, and kissed her.

****

The last night of Dean's year was cool and bright, moon-lit. Sam had driven the Impala into a burnt-out field and circled her with every protection he knew. After a year of research, goofer dust was only the beginning of his tricks.

None of them stopped the crossroads demon. The new crossroads demon—it was a job description, of course, and he should have known that. She was wearing a blonde host this time, maybe a joke on Sam, and she stepped over the lines with the delicacy of a girl protecting her grandmother's back from breaking.

She smiled at him, but didn't say anything, just waved a hand at the car. The trunk popped open, exposing Dean's semi-conscious form. He was wrapped in blue-tinted ropes. It hadn't been easy to get woad, but Sam had been motivated. Weaving the spells into the ropes by hand, now, that had been difficult.

"You think that you can bind his soul to his body with those?" she scoffed.

He inclined his head. "I guess we'll see." See if Ruby had been pretending, see if this was one last cruel joke.

"According to the covenant of the crossroads," she said, sounding both vicious and bored, "I claim my payment, this soul." She reached in, past the ropes, into Dean's body, and retrieved something that looked like a baseball-sized soap bubble made with dirty water, swirling and gray. "Sorry, S—"

He waited.

She stared down at the soul in her palm, then turned her head to the sky and screamed. A cloud rushed over the moon, leaving them lit only by the stars. Starlight was bright enough to see the rage on her face. "This isn't even human!" she spat. Where her spittle hit the soul, it hissed and smoked.

"And yet you said the magic words."

"His soul is here, in this circle! I can feel it!"

He wouldn't let himself smile. Not yet. "Deal's complete, contract fulfilled."

She clenched her hand into a fist, and the soul ran through it like a crushed egg, dripping onto the ground. "You may have kept his soul from me, Sam Winchester, but all you've got left is a meat puppet. When you finally decide to put him out of your misery, give him a kiss from me."

Methodically, he began to recite the words of exorcism. She snarled and broke into a cloud of ravens, swarming around him, pecking and clawing. He stumbled forward, blind, and slammed into the car.

Blood streamed down his forehead as he loosened the ropes he'd bound around the Impala, woven through the windows and side supports, wrapped around the wheels. It took too long, and when he got back to Dean's body, it was barely breathing—he didn't know exactly what correlated to a soul in physical terms, but autonomic function wasn't doing well without it. He cut the cords on the body, then sliced his own palms, smearing his blood on the inside of the trunk and on Dean's cheek, chanting rapidly.

He pressed hard against Dean's cooling skin, hard enough that Dean's head turned, the body not resisting at all, and his forehead smacked hard against a stray box of ammo.

Dean didn't react to the rough handling.

He didn't bother berating Dean's body, just started the incantation again, wishing this was like a television hospital show where he could just charge the spell to three hundred and have it work.

When he finished the second time, he had to take his hand off the trunk to wipe his forehead—the blood was making it hard to see—and by the time he rubbed his eyes clear, the trunk lid had begun to swing down, as if it were a Venus flytrap claiming its prey. Sam shot his bloody hands out, but the metal was too heavy, and it bit onto his biceps with bone-bruising force, obscuring Dean's body.

The magic coursed through him like a twelve-foot wave, rolling the air out of his lungs, bowing his back and almost sweeping him off his feet. He stayed mostly upright only because he was trapped, and he had to get on his knees and rest before he could work up the strength to work his arms out from the grip of the car.

When he pulled free, the trunk slammed down before he could see Dean, the sound like a coffin lid coming down over salt and ashes. He had to stagger back to the driver's side to grab the keys, then back to fight the trunk open. It stuck, dragged against his straining fingers, as if it had spent years rusted shut.

All at once resistance ceased, and the trunk sprang up so fast he nearly got bashed in the nose. He dove forward, grabbing at Dean's limp form—

Which wasn't so limp any more; in fact, Dean was swinging at him, weakly, his eyes still shut under the layer of goose fat and graveyard dust Sam had used on all his exposed skin. Sam laughed—it hardly sounded crazy at all, bouncing off the inside of the trunk—and reached down to swipe at Dean's eyelids with his thumb.

He got his arms around Dean's shoulders and helped him to a half-sitting position, and then Dean was recovered enough to fight him off. Sam backed away and turned a few victory circles, looking up at the stars and the silver-backed clouds scudding over them, imagining the force of the winds it must take to move them that fast. His smile hurt his face.

"What happened to her?" was the first thing Dean said after he'd struggled to his feet. Sam remembered how his own perceptions had been spotty when his consciousness had been switched, and Dean had it worse because he'd been in there longer and because of Sam's own binding spells.

"'Thank you, Sam, for saving my soul,'" Sam said, because someone ought to.

Over Dean's shoulders, he saw a row of white lights—the cab of a truck, alone on the distant highway. He felt decaying straw squelch under his feet. He smelled cow shit—or maybe it was horse. Actually it could have been goat, or emu, for all he knew. Didn't matter, except insofar as Dean was going to bitch about getting it on the undercarriage.

"Dammit, Sam—" Dean was still swaying. He brought one hand up to swipe at his mouth, like a boxer recovering from a hit.

He sighed. God forbid they take a moment to celebrate after walking away from a deal with the devil. "We talked it over. She agreed."

"Did you tell her she'd be safe?" Dean's voice was dangerous, but for some reason it leached the anger right out of Sam.

He shook his head. "I told her you'd be."

"What happened to her?"

Involuntarily, he looked at the spot by the trunk where the crossroads demon had stood. There was a pile of grayish goo, something between ectoplasm and cotton candy, still glowing faintly. Dean followed his gaze and dropped to his knees.

"Baby?" he said. The same way he'd said "Dad?"

And like that, Sam saw what Dean did, what even the demons had seen. He'd spent the past few days telling himself that the car was just like a dog, or a monkey. Regrettable but acceptable. Not an innocent. Not real.

Bile rushed up in his throat, and he leaned over, bracing his hands on his knees as he gagged.

"No!" Dean's voice was hoarse but commanding. "Sick later, help me now! What do I do? What do I do, Sam?" He was holding out his hands, fingers almost slipping into the greasy-looking remains—

Which were trembling, straining towards Dean, coalescing back into a ball. It was noticeably dimmer than the thing that had come out of Dean at first, and even as he watched, it lost more luminance.

"I don't know!" He staggered towards them. "The binding spells on the circle must be barely holding it here—the crossroads demon didn't break them, just came through them—but I don't think a soul can survive on earth without a body."

Dean was cradling it in his hands now, like a man contemplating a newborn, his face alight with wonder. "Okay, then. C'mon, baby, you know me—there's got to be room for a little soul in here."

The bubble began to sink into his right palm and flared golden, washing them with light.

Sam closed the distance between them, then stopped, unsure what to do, his hand hovering over Dean's shoulder.

For a moment it seemed like it was going to work. Dean gritted his teeth, then grinned triumphantly, obviously relishing the discomfort.

But when the bubble was just over halfway into Dean's hand, Dean threw his head back and screamed. Sam yelled his name, but there was no reaction, just the frenzied tendons of his neck, the tears tracking down his cheeks.

The soul had stopped moving. It sat on his palm like a blister, the golden light fading to gray again.

Dean managed to choke off the scream, but the pained grunting of his breath was no better. Blood burst from his nostrils, as if he'd been hit by an invisible fist.

Sam's knees gave out and he joined Dean on the ground, his hand poised over the trembling soul. He could pop the bubble—it was triage now, practically self-defense. Dean would understand.

Then he looked at his brother, his hero, the Impala's hero, and closed his eyes for a second.

"Plenty of room in here, too," he said, and wrapped his fingers around Dean's hand, putting them palm to palm.

It was like sticking his arm into a meat grinder, like they were spinning in a tornado, each limb being torn in a different direction. He'd been shot and stabbed and burned, and this was worse, this was full-on mangling and it just went on and on.

He slung his free arm around Dean's shoulders, so he wouldn't lose the connection even if he passed out—and then he did.

****

According to Dean, it was Sam who got them to their feet and into the front seat, which was where Bobby found them two days later, hungry and thirsty and too scared to leave the confines of the car, since she would only respond to questions about one out of every three times, and that with just a tremble of the gas gauge.

Sam figured she'd made the jump back when they were touching the car. Blood and touch together made powerful magic.

Bobby called them names for 'stupid' Sam hadn't even known and said that it was a sad thing when adding a car actually increased the average intelligence of a group of hunters, but he towed them back to his yard. "Soul-swapping's not like spit-swapping," he berated them. "You can get a lot more than the clap that way!"

"Uh, Bobby," Dean said with his most blood-pressure-raising grin, "I hate to tell ya, but—"

"Shut up, Dean," Bobby and Sam said simultaneously.

According to Bobby, what Sam had done with the initial spell was the spiritual equivalent of popping a shoulder out of its socket. It would be easier and easier to do, unless they did something to reinforce all the proper connections.

Thus it was that Sam found himself under the Impala, soldering the runes he and Bobby had adapted from their best binding rituals onto the undercarriage. His back was still sore from his new tattoos, but Dean had spent so much time putting charms and tokens everywhere in the car—he'd even taken up the upholstery and then restored it, with little scraps of spelled paper buried deep in the cushions—that he'd bled through his own bandages. So when it came time to add this extra protection to the Impala—who was still acting pretty shell-shocked, if that's what you called machine trauma—Sam volunteered.

It wasn't real auto maintenance, of course, but he figured he could pick that up a piece at a time, just like he'd been doing before. And it felt like an apology. No wonder Dean liked working on her, he thought. She didn't have nearly as much use for words.

He liked the look of the runes, attached more firmly to her skeleton than would have been possible with a human.

Actually, if he could talk Dean into it, he was thinking scarification. Tattoos could be removed.

Someone kicked at his boot, and he rolled himself out to blink up at Dean, a pillar of black against the brightness of day behind him.

"Hey," he said, propping himself up on his elbows.

"Hey." Dean squatted down, balancing easily on the balls of his feet. Sam grinned stupidly up at him.

"It's looking good," Sam told him. "We should be ready to get back on the road by tomorrow."

"Great, great." This was obviously not why Dean had come out. Sam tilted his head expectantly. "So, uh, you and her," Dean said, putting his hand on the door, just under the handle. He raised his eyebrows, waiting for something.

Sam looked at him blankly until he realized what Dean meant, at which point he wanted to scoot back under the car and come out, well, never sounded just about right. Somehow he'd managed to convince himself that Dean wouldn't notice what his body had been doing, which had probably been part of the whole denial thing he'd had going on.

He stared up at Dean, searching for words and finding nothing, closing his mouth at last when he realized it was just hanging open.

Evidently this meant something to Dean, who smiled at him, a little sadly. "Here," he said, fishing the key out of his pocket and holding it out to him head-first.

"Dean," he said, truly scandalized. "I'm not gonna—it wasn't like that!"

He waited for the next, obvious question, but evidently Dean wasn't ready for that answer any more than he was.

"Okay, then," Dean said, just a touch gruffly, and stood back up.

Sam sat up, his eyes locked on Dean's face. "She was willing to take your place. That's how much she loves you. Beyond unconditionally."

Dean scuffed the dirt with one steel-capped toe. "Yeah, well—" He stopped, looking at the Impala guiltily.

Sam sighed. "Nobody's expendable, Dean. Not her, and not you."

He'd keep saying it, in as many ways as he could, and maybe someday Dean would hear it.

If not, Sam guessed, he could always just lock Dean in the car when danger threatened. He had a feeling the Impala would help him out there.

END

Note: astolat saved this story, and by "this story" I mean "the Impala." She has amazing powers!

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