Somehow, through it all, Adam Hauptman managed to hold on to his wallet. The cash and cards there bought all three of them clean clothes, an impressive amount of food (their first meal in months), and a taxi to the nearest airport.
"Wait, we're flying?" Dean demanded, sounding alarmed. "Not renting a car?"
"Driving? From Maine to Washington?" Adam blinked. "Do you know how long that will take? Days. I am ready to be home. With my daughter."
Dean whined, "Man! Dammit. You couldn't have mentioned that before dinner?"
Hours later, Mercy knew why as Dean dry-heaved into yet another barf bag. It was his fifth; the rest having been mercifully disposed of in the bathroom trash.
"Isn't he done yet?" Adam demanded, bemused.
"I hope so," Mercy muttered. The smell was…not nice. To say the least.
Dean groaned. "I think so. I'm down to just bile."
"You face down witches and demons and fae and monsters." Mercy reminded him. "You've marched across hell and purgatory, twice, and you didn't twitch. But you do this when flying. Really?"
Dean heaved into his little paper bag before he could retort. Groaning and still hunched over he begged, "Just tell me its almost over."
Forty-five minutes later, Mercy was surprised that Dean didn't fall to the tarmac and kiss the ground. But then realized she shouldn't have been. The Dean she knew from the shop would have played it cool. Never mind that anything with a nose could smell the vomit on his breath. Never mind that he was pale enough to pass for a vampire. Her Dean Sharp could walk around naked with an expression that demands to know why everyone else is over-dressed.
"Nothing looks different." Adam observed from the taxi cab window.
"You've been gone for a week. How much can change?" Dean laughed.
"A week?" Mercy echoed. "We were gone for months."
"Time runs different Downstairs. Three months there isn't even a full day here. Purgatory runs time like earth; we lost most of our time there."
Mercy blinked, processing. "We aren't even late for Jesse's date."
Adam and Mercy waltzed boldly into their home, Dean trailing behind. At least half the Pack was there, probably trying to find their Alpha. Dozens of pairs of eyes focused on them, pupils moving to take in every detail. Dozens of nostrils flared sampling their scent. But dozens of bodies stayed frozen in surprise and caution.
Except one. Jesse Hauptman screeched 'Dad!' and threw herself across the room and into her father's arms.
Adam held her tight, barely remembering to control his strength. He stuffed his nose into her hair and breathed deep. Tears of joy flowed from parent and child. After a beat, Jesse threw an arm out to drag her step-mom into the family embrace. Mercy's eyes were no drier that the rest of the family's.
The Pack began to crowd around their Alpha, needing tactile reassurance that it was really them and everything was alright.
One Wolf, a smallish man with sandy hair, drifted over. The Pack parted like the Red Sea to let him through with Samuel hot on his heels. He took Mercy by the face and pressed his forehead to hers. "I felt you two reconnect to the Pack a day ago," he told them. "If it had been anyone besides you and this trickster here, I'm not sure I would have believed it. By the Pack bonds, you were dead."
"Bran." Adam acknowledged. "Credit goes to Dean. We would not have made it back without him to guide us."
All eyes in the room turned to the human lingering in the doorway who flashed a nervous smile, unsure if he liked all the attention. Usually when a wolf-pack focused on him like this, blood was about to flow.
"Where have you been?" Samuel demanded.
"Give them some air," Dean drawled. "They've been through Hell. Literally."
Bran's mouth fell open. Even for a Wolf as old as him, that was a new one. "How-?"
"Dean." Adam answered simply. "We owe him everything."
"You guys are really making too big a deal about all this," Dean insisted.
Bran turned to regard the Hauptman's savior and found a human able to hold his gaze. "Not used to public thanks, are you? I would have assumed an experienced Hunter like you and your brother have received a fair number of thanks over the years."
Dean ran a hand through his hair. "What gave me away?"
"The Winchester name is famous in certain circles, with an amazing number of rumors attached. Did you know, the Family Winchester is the subject of chapter three of Modern American Folklore by a Professor Delmonico. Some of us even consider you the urban legend, since two mere humans couldn't possibly do all they say you have done."
Dean laughed. "Well, that's irony."
"But, Bran, when I asked you about Dean..?" Mercy broke in.
"I didn't know anything about Dean Sharp." Bran answered patiently. "But I know of Dean 'Freakin' Winchester. Him and his brother Sam. They have saved the world several times, five, by my count."
Most of the Pack whipped around to stare at the human. Its not that they didn't believe their Marrok; they did. But…even after the events at the warehouse…Dean was just a man.
"And now he saved the two of you from a terrible fate. So I thank God for Dean Winchester." Bran finished prayerfully, meaning every word with his whole heart. He had no way of knowing that such a deep and faithful prayer would resonate in heaven. He had never heard of term like 'soul-phone' or 'angel-radio.'
Although, he might have known anything to do with a Winchester would turn the usual rules on their ears…
"I'm not sure Dean is thanking God for his existence these days." A new voice commented from the back of the room. Despite the british accent, no one mistook it for Ben's. As one, the Wolves turned on the interloper and snarled. The recipient of all those growls didn't seem concerned as he raised on hand as though to snap his fingers.
"Crowley!" Dean snapped in annoyance and rebuke.
Mercy and Adam knew that name. King of Hell. Both tensed, causing the rest of the Wolves to tense even more. But the Pack and even Bran waited for some cue before attacking.
Crowley, apparently, coolly contemplated him for a moment, then shrugged. "Fine, but keep a leash on the furries. Not here for them, anyway. Dean," his voice held a chastisement of his own. "I'm hurt. Wounded even. You took a trip to my kingdom and didn't even stop by the palace to say hello."
"You hate your palace. You hate being in the Basement. I figured you'd be up here in your abandoned nut house." Dean returned. "And I hate all your flunkies."
"Three living mortals wandering around Downstairs unescorted? Of course I had to come down for that. I was following your trail, trying to catch up."
"So you could torture the location of your back door out of me," Dean finished.
"Naturally." Crowley agreed.
"Ain't happening. Wouldn't work for you, anyways. Human-only escape hatch." Dean drawled.
The Wolves could smell the lie. But apparently, demons weren't as good as catching it. "Oh well, had to ask." Crowley shrugged. Then eyed his old drinking buddy. "You know Moose and the Tree-Topper are tearing around trying to find you, right?"
Dean nodded, "I figured. I told them I needed some time to clear my head, but I guess they didn't figure I'd need this long."
"Yes, who'd have thought there was that much going on in that head of yours." Crowley sneered. "Squirrel, go home. Before your brother tortures his way through all of my crossroads demons looking for you. The Moose is murder on business."
"My heart bleeds for you, Crowley, really. Besides, I was going to anyway."
"Empty-headed, again?" Crowley snarked.
"Screw you." Dean returned evenly.
Crowley smiled. Then sobered. "Why? Why now? What changed?"
Dean rubbed his arm. "Because of him." He jerked his head at Adam, who looked on, surprised.
"What about the puppy?" Crowley prodded.
"He let me help them. An Alpha like him, let me help, and came out clean on the other side. This Mark," Dean patted his arm. "This is a problem. I'm gonna go home and let Sam and Cas help me with it. As much as they can, as long as they can. Gonna swing away with everything I've got until I got nothing left…or we find a way to come out clean on the other side."
"Well, that is what you Winchesters are known for," the demon laughed.
"Damn straight." Dean agreed.
A/N For anybody interested, I wrote that chapter 3 from Modern American Folklore by a Professor Delmonico and posted it as "American Folklore." I'm also working on a companion piece called "Professor of American Folklore" telling the story of how Delmonico does her research and has run ins with the Winchesters.