Title: The Boatman
By: nixa_jane
Pairing: gen
Rating: R
Warning: Spoilers up to All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1.
Summary: Dean doesn't care why.

They've got him laid out on a funeral pyre, and Bobby's about to light a match when Sam bolts straight up and starts gasping for breath. There's a beat of silence as they all stare at each other, and then Sam starts clawing at himself and screaming at the top of his lungs.

Dean grabs him and holds onto him and tells him he's fine even though he doesn't know that, and really doesn't think he is. Sam believes him, eventually. Always does.

Bobby doesn't like it. Says it's not natural. Dean tosses him his keys and tells him to have a nice drive home, they don't need him anymore. Bobby shakes his head like he always did when John told him the same thing, and tells him to be careful, doesn't quite meet Sam's eyes as he does.

Dean tries not to look too closely at them either, or he might have to admit to himself that they seem a shade or two darker than they had before.

But Sam isn't dead. Dean doesn't care why.


Dean tries three times but the Impala doesn't start. He doesn't want to stay here. He's been in ghost towns before but there's something different about this one, and the worst part is that Sam looks right at home.

"It'll be fine," Sam says. He's still got blood leaking out his back. Dean can hear it drip drip dripping on the leather seats. It's weird he's not even worrying about stains.

The radio flickers on again, then off, and the doors unlock with a loud snick. Sam gets out of the car and Dean follows, grabbing his shotgun out of the back seat. A woman appears a few feet down the road, out of the fog. Dean recognizes her as that girl Sam's been looking for.

Ava laughs, light and sweet, even as her eyes look as dead as the rest of her. They think she's a ghost, at first, but the rock salt slams into something solid when Dean fires his gun.

She doesn't even flinch.

"You're dead," Sam tells her, moving in front of Dean.

It's a newly developed habit and one Dean doesn't like, so he tugs him back beside him by the sleeve, and keeps the shotgun aimed straight at Sam's latest psychic playmate.

"So were you," she says. "What, did you really think that was the first time I died?" she asks, tilting her head. There are still bruises around her neck, five little points on each side from where it was nearly twisted right off. "I've been here five months, fighting against people more powerful than us. It's not about who doesn't get killed, Sam."

Ava grins, wide and almost sincere. "It's about which ones don't let that stop them."


They find Andy next.

His shirt's still bloodstained and he looks more manic than usual, bouncing on the heels of his feet, eyes wide. The most disturbing thing is that his expression is just as innocent as it was before.

"Dean!" he says happily. "Sam thought you might be dead."

Dean narrows his eyes. "Who isn't, these days?" he asks.

Andy smiles and sticks his hands in his pockets, rolling back and forward again. "You're so funny," he says. "You're like, my hero. I mean, sorry, Sam, you're cool and everything, but Dean's like a real live crime fighter. He's like Batman."

Sam just rolls his eyes and leans back against the Impala. Ava's in the trunk, making quite a lot of noise for someone so small. Dean's glad they moved the weapons to the backseat, because he doesn't even want to think about the kind of damage she might do.

Andy leans over the trunk curiously. "You got Ava in there?" he asks.

Dean nods once, and Andy shrugs. "Okay," he says. "Can we get the hell out of here now?"

"Car won't start," Dean says.

Andy grins. "Sure she will," he says. Dean's not even surprised when she roars to life before he can put the key in the ignition.


Ava's screaming finally calms down a couple hours later and she goes quiet. "I'm making her watch gay porn," Andy tells them. "Only I think she likes it."

"If it shuts her up, more power to you," Dean says, and they all go quiet again. It's quiet enough now he can hear his heartbeat below the purr of the engine, but it's a little unsettling it's the only one he can hear.

"So where we off to?" Andy asks. "We gonna kick some Demon ass?"

Sam's eyes are shuttered and he's staring at the road in front of them like it's the only thing he sees. "That's the plan," he says.

"I didn't sign on for that plan," Dean snaps. "This thing has cost us enough, we're going to lay low, whether you want to or not."

"No, we're not," Sam says calmly. It's his lawyer voice, not his little brother whine, and Dean never knows how to argue against him when he's like this. "We're going to kill him."

"What makes you think you can?" Dean snaps.

Sam smiles, and it reminds Dean of John, that time he had the yellow-eyed demon inside him. "Because it can't kill us," he says.

"I can make him watch gay porn," Andy suggests helpfully.

"We'll call that Plan B," Sam tells him.


They let Ava out of the trunk in an abandoned field the next day and toss her in a Devil's Trap. She huddles in on herself and shivers like she can actually get cold. "You can't just leave me here," she says.

"Let's test that theory," Dean says, as he puts his weapons back in the trunk. He's not sure how he feels about letting Andy so close to them either. Better to lock them up tight.

"I'll starve," she says.

"A broken neck hasn't slowed you down any, I think you'll survive," he says. It's actually what he's worrying about.

Ava's eyes go black and she drops her hands to her sides. "You're right about that," she says. "And when I get out of here I'll find you. You'll be the first of many."

"That would be a lot scarier if you could move more than three feet in any direction," Dean says.

Ava smiles, a little more on the left side, and looks up at him with those cold black eyes. "You know what you're really worried about, Dean," she says. "We both do."

She leans as close to him as she can, and there's a slight spark of friction as she leans into the outmost edge of the circle. "You're afraid I'm not the only one this circle would hold, and you're right about that."

Dean slams the butt of his shotgun into the side of her head, and she drops like anything human would--but she doesn't bleed.

"I still say we should burn her alive," Andy says.

"It's possible she's just possessed," Dean tells him. "We've talked about this."

"She made my chest explode," Andy says. He pulls out a pack of cigarettes and lights one, and Dean keeps one eye on the flame just in case.

Andy got them from the last gas station they stopped at. Asked the cashier for them and didn't even have to pay. Dean tries not to wonder if Andy's using that trick on him, but he figures he's not, or Ava would be burning by now.

So maybe there's hope yet.


Two towns later they get served by a waitress with golden eyes. "Fancy meetin' you here," she says. "You boys left before the test was done."

Dean reaches for the gun at his back but Sam just sits there, staring him down. "You made me like this," Sam says.

The demon grins. "You can thank me later."

Sam is up faster than Dean can follow, and next he knows, the waitress is pinned to the far wall and Sam is standing in front of her, hands calmly at his sides, holding her there with a different kind of strength. "I'll thank you now," he says.

Andy bounces to his feet. He doesn't seem to move as fast Sam. Dean doesn't know if that's because he can't or doesn't want to, and doesn't ask. "I think you should go back to hell now," Andy tells the demon.

The waitress laughs. It's a nice pretty laugh, but there's something underneath it that sends chills down Dean's spine. "You think your parlor tricks will work on me?" it asks. "I made you both."

"Yeah, you did," Sam says, and then he wraps a rope that's been soaked in holy water around the waitress's thin porcelain neck and pulls it tight. "Regretting it yet?"

"Sam," Dean warns. "Don't hurt her, she's just a host."

The demon laughs. "He's right, Sammy. Can't go killing an innocent. Winchesters are better than that. Oh, wait, Dean's done it a few times himself, haven't you, Dean? Good enough for you but not for Sammy, is that right?"

"I had no choice," Dean says, and tries not to let his voice raise or go too soft. He still has nightmares about firing that gun.

Sam starts speaking in Latin, an exorcism that Dean doesn't quite recognize, and he pulls that cord so tight around the waitress's neck that she starts to bleed. He starts to move forward to stop him but Andy just gives him a sideways glance and says, "Stay."

So he does.

Sam finally stops speaking and the demon comes surging up out of the woman's mouth, before getting sucked straight into the ground, back to hell. Sam lets go of the rope and steps back, and the woman falls to the ground, dead before she hits the floor.

"You killed her," Dean says, disbelievingly.

Sam wipes her blood off on his shirt. "I didn't have a choice, either," he says.


They go back for Ava after the demon is banished. Sam says she might be better now it's lost his hold on her, but Dean has his doubts about that. She's sitting cross-legged on the ground when they reach her, looking up at the sky.

"Do it, Dean," Sam says.

Reluctantly, Dean smears the symbols with his foot. He doesn't ask why Sam can't do it himself. Ava grins and gets to her feet, glancing at him slyly as she walks by. "Tell you what, cowboy," she says. "Since you came to your senses, I'll let you live."

"She doesn't sound better to me," Dean snaps.

Sam smiles. "We can help her, Dean. What happened wasn't her fault anymore than it was mine."

Dean sighs and nods, because it's true, there are a few too many similarities between Ava and Sam for him to condemn Ava without a second thought. But Ava gave in and Sam didn't.

Dean knows Sam didn't. Sam wouldn't, and what happened to that waitress was awful but it'll save more lives in the end. Dean's done similar things himself.

Dean climbs into the front seat of the Impala and puts the car in drive. Ava's in the backseat fixing her hair and Andy's tapping his foot against Dean's seat. Sam's just sitting there, perfectly still. "So where to next?" Dean asks.

"To find the rest," Sam says.

Dean sighs. "Sam--"

"We can help them," Sam says. "They can be dangerous on their own, Dean, but we can help them."

It sounds logical enough, but Dean doesn't like it, anyway. He's never been much for logic. "Where would we even start?"

"I know where to find them," Sam says, and the wheel of the car starts moving on it's own beneath Dean's hands.

He snaps his mouth shut but grips the wheel tighter, trying to take back control. Sam just grins wryly and keeps on steering it himself. "It's okay now, Dean, really," Sam says. "The demon is gone. The thing that took everything from us is in hell where it belongs and we're free--the future is in our hands now."

Dean doesn't know what kind of future Sam has in mind, but Andy tells him not to worry about it, so he doesn't.