For the prompt: Jacob Pond does not have anywhere to go. Dean is forced to make arrangements for the boy whose mother he has just killed.

I wrote most of this while stranded in an airport at 4 a.m., see if you can guess where the sleep deprivation kicked in.

Also, google the Cabbage Patch Hospital in Cleveland, GA, real life is stranger than fiction.

The gun wasn't pointed at Dean. It was the week before Independence Day, and Jacob Pond was so hollowed out from travel-five miles from the road, forty miles from the nearest town, all of it bear country- that Dean slapped it out of his hands on the first try. Stupid kid.

Sam arrived soon after, a dead deer slung across his shoulders, to find Jacob face-down on the floor and Dean straddling his back and eating an apple.


"We're just talking." said Dean, biting his core in half. Jacob tried to rise and Dean slammed his head back against the floor with a flat hand.

"Is dinner ready?"

Dean nodded toward the next room, and Sam took a step toward Jacob. "When did you last eat?"

Jacob twisted his head around to look at him. Sam was flush from the hunt, tall and brown and hungry for red meat. The boy's eyes flicked to the gun on the dinner table, and Sam followed his gaze.

"How many bullets you got?"

Jacob's lip curled. "I only need the one."

"Go ahead," said Sam, his shadow falling across the boy's face, blood dripping down his gleaming chest and down on his boots, "I won't need any."

A timer dinged. "Oooo pie's ready," said Dean, tossing the apple remainder in the air to catch with his teeth, "Put that thing in the shed, I just mopped."

There were only two chairs, so Jacob sat by the fire with a tin plate balanced between his shoes. Sam and Dean ate from the same dish and did not talk, wordlessly adjusting the other man's dinner (Dean cutting Sam's meat, Sam pushing vegetables onto Dean's fork). When they finished, Dean pulled a jar from a hatch in the floor and passed it to Jacob.

"I don't want it."

"It gets cold at night."

Jacob wiped his mouth with his sleeve and took it. The stuff was a warning label short of paint thinner, but he swallowed it and then went for seconds. Dean nodded and pulled his saddle from a hook in the wall.

"I'll be back in a few hours."

Dean felt eyes on his back, and turned to Sam for some silent exchange that ended with Dean leaving and Sam piling more food on Jacob's plate.

"What was that about?"

"It means he's giving you a running start," said Sam, taking the jar, "Eat up."

Jacob tongued the back of his teeth. "Mom always had nice things to say about you."

"She was a nice lady."

"And he killed her. I saw him do it."

Sam took another drink. And taking his silence for contempt Jacob rose from the floor and snatched up the gun and leveled it with both hands. Sam watched all of this over the rim of the glass jar, his eyes glittering in the firelight, but did nothing to stop the child. He had outgrown pity and anger.

"Dean doesn't know what it's like to be alone."

"You're wrong."

"I can't even remember what she looks like. All I hear is my mother's voice, telling me to move, telling me to find him."

"Yeah. I stopped listening to that voice years ago."

Jacob took a step forward. "Maybe she'll be quiet now."

He pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. Blinking in confusion, Jacob thumbed back the hammer and tried again, but the chamber was empty, and the next, and the next, until silent tears of frustration welled in his eyes and he was right up against Sam's heart, clicking on empty. Sam sat there and took it.

"Next time," said Sam, holding up the shell, "Bring two bullets."

Dean led his horse up the ridge, shotgun across his lap, watching the moon and the shadows of clouds drifting over the mountains. It had been touch and go after the Trials, but time away had restored Sam's health, and now Dean only hunted what the park rangers couldn't keep up with. Retirement suited him.

He found Jacob easily, shivering in a hollow tree.

"You can sleep on the couch tonight."

Jacob eyed him warily. "And the next night?"

"You know you've got an aunt in Tennessee?"

"How do you know this?"

"Cuz down in the basement of the world is a file with her picture and every grave she ever robbed to feed her family."

"Or you could kill me soon as I turn around."

Dean looked up at his cabin. "I could. But I can't forget your mother. What I did..." he said, watching smoke curl from the chimney, as if his memories were shaped there, "Let's get some sleep. It's a long drive."

After seeing to Jacob, Dean turned down the horses and found Sam asleep at his writing desk, pen nib pressed to a slowly expanding circle of ink. THE HISTORY AND PRACTICE OF AMERICAN BLOOD MAGIC, VOL. II. Dean blew out the lantern and put away the paper and carried Sam to bed, pulling up a blanket along with the stuffed dog that Sam hid under his pillow and Dean pretended not to know about.

His own bed was two feet away, and when Sam panted in his sleep a minute later (another chase dream), Dean held his hand and together they stayed like that until morning.

Butler Tennessee was a grid of houses beside the reservoir, too hot for hikers and too far from Graceland to do anything except pin speeding tickets on the tourists. A wide place in the road. Save for one point of interest...

"Welcome to the Daisy Baby Hospital," said the nurse, "Will the tour be for your son or...?"

Dean lingered on her cleavage. She was sixteen wearing pearls, pumps, and platinum hair sprayed into shape three inches above the rest of her head. She almost made the uniform look convincing. "Oh no," said Dean, pointing at Sam, "He's been nagging me about this place for years, this is like his dream."

Sam's jaw worked. Easily the tallest object in the room, he tripped a motion sensor and vanilla air freshener spritzed his head. "Yes. Nothing would make me happier."

She smiled and rang up Dean's credit card. Among the brochures was a stack of calendars for sale, and Sam flipped through to them to find a number of ruby-lipped nurses bent toward the camera as though they'd dropped a pencil somewhere. The cashier was Miss April, though you wouldn't know it from the way she sucked on her pearls.

A door opened and a little girl with a Daisy Baby doll emerged with her parents in tow, the mother beaming and the father grinding his teeth into a cell phone. Dean looked down at the girl.

"Find the one you wanted?"

She bobbed her pigtails once and then looked back at her doll, rocking it in her arms. The mother patted her head. "It's her birthday."

"Happy birthday."

The little girl pressed a button on the doll's foot, and it repeated "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" in a tinny singsong voice. The mother looked around, breathing in the vanilla scent which, to Sam, smelled like this side of party barf. "It's so great what they have here, the children really...connect, you know?"

The nurse handed Dean a receipt and turned around. She wore seamed stockings and her dress stopped three inches below the small of her back. "If you'll follow me this way."

They trailed behind, Sam leaning to hiss in Dean's ear. "I thought the kid was supposed to adopt the stupid doll."

"Look, the kitsune on file has been running this toy operation since the Men of Letters first noticed her, and I don't want Jacob involved with anything weird."


"You know, internet weird."

They turned a corner and the nurse faced them with her hands braced against the doorknob. "Are you ready Sam?"

"I thought everyone was coming along."

"Family members stay in the reception area, only Mommies and Daddies are allowed past this point."

Sam swallowed, and Dean clapped him on the shoulder.

"Proud o' you little man. We'll be waiting outside with cigars and a feeding blanket."

"You are so dead."

"Or formula, I don't judge."

Dean and Jacob walked back while Sam was ushered down the hall and left alone before a pair of white paneled doors. A ribbon of light flickered at the bottom, soft voices on the other side, and resting one hand on his gun he touched the door and stepped inside.

In the Men of Letters file B374, Sam's testimony would describe the room as 'Christmas for little girls who are afraid of sex'. A massive plastic tree stretched the length of the room, white lights pulsing in its' branches while beneath it the floor was carpeted in a field of pruney-faced flowers that swayed in the artificial breeze. One bobbed to its' neighbor, and Sam imagined they were whispering about him.

A nurse with CLARA sewn into her uniform gave the bubble machine a kick and then resumed her beatific smile. "Congratulations...Sam," she said, checking the name written on her hand, "Do you want a white baby or a brown baby?"

"Um," he stammered, "Well, they're uh, they're all so beautiful."

Clara clasped her hands to her breasts, eyes rolling to the ceiling as if her smoke break couldn't come soon enough. "Bless your heart. You must be so excited."

Two other nurses, both teenagers in skimpy uniforms, came from behind the tree. "Is he excited?"

"Oooo we're excited TOO!"

"Come this way!" said one of them, guiding Sam by the arm, "Now what about this green-eyed baby. Isn't he. Just. PRECIOUS?"

Sam pictured the doll in a bustyasianbeauties onesie with a tiny bottle of malt liquor. "It is, isn't it."

"Okay Daddy," she said, peering up at him with big bovine eyes, "Just step right over here while we get him ready for you."

"Please don't call me that."

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

The breathy baby voice was gone, and all three nurses snapped to attention as though he'd been discovered drawing penises in the prayer book. He folded his hands and smiled. "Nothing."

Clara snapped on a latex glove. "Okey dokey."

The girls turned away, and with a practiced grunt they 'birthed' the doll from its' leafy chamber, holding it up high for Sam to see before setting it on a scale to take its' measurements. Sam stood in the fairy lights, brooding, mysterious, pink bubbles wafting over his head.

"Oooo I think he's asleep." one of the nurses whispered, and Sam blushed so hard the frown lines hit his chin.

"Yes. Well," he said, taking the newly swaddled doll, "I suppose we'll be moving along now."

"You need your certificate," said Clara, hand on her hip and jerking a thumb over her shoulder, "The doctor will want to swear you in."

He squinted and just made out an office tucked away behind the tree, the name DR. JUDITH FOX stenciled on the glass. It was unlocked, and when he entered the woman at the desk looked over her glasses and set aside whatever she was working on.

"Please have a seat."

She was a short woman, four and a half feet tall and nearly as much wide, with long nails and perfectly white teeth that weren't hers. A matron rare but by no means extinct, who called strangers darling, left a card when no one was at home, and could smell Sam's bullshit a mile away.

She took off her glasses and swung them around. He stared right back, daring her to out him, but she perched the glasses back on her nose and opened a desk drawer.

"Sign at the bottom." she said, tapping a form with her pen.

Sam glanced at the medical diplomas behind her. They were genuine. "Why do you need me to sign?"

She lifted her hands and smiled. "Well, it's an adoption!" she said, eyes twinkling merrily, "We have to keep records on all our little ones."

He scanned the document and scrawled his signature. "What's with the watermark?"

"Oh that's traditional," she said, signing as a witness, "That way it looks like the old birth certificates."

"Right..." he said vaguely.

"Now," she said, lifting her right hand, "Repeat after me."

Sam hesitated, but only for a moment. He and Dean wanted to question her afterwards, and he couldn't afford to raise suspicion. She glanced at his handwriting, barely legible at the best of times. "I, Slinky Wooster."

He bit the inside of his cheek and rolled with it. "I, Slinky Wooster."

"Do solemnly swear."

"Do solemnly swear."

"To cherish and protect my baby...I apologize, what name did you decide on?"

Dean was probably miles away, blasting the radio and hip-deep in mob connections to fetch a jar of brains for Jacob's dinner. Having fun. Sam thought of his brother, and ran a finger over the doll's downy cheek.

"You named our baby Tits?"

They were staked outside the hospital exit, Sam giggling against the window and Jacob laughing so hard he was coughing. Dean snatched the doll away protectively. "You're not a fit parent."

"So do you wanna talk to this doctor or not?"

Dean checked his watch. "The place closed an hour ago, what's taking her?"

Suddenly a police car zipped past, then a second, then an ambulance. Dean fumbled in the glove compartment for an FBI badge. "Sammy, stay here. Jacob, do what Sam says."

"Am I gonna meet this lady or not?"

"Oh don't worry," said Dean, as Dr. Fox emerged with a coroner's bag, "I think you'll get your chance."

"Shame really," said the sheriff, helping himself to some birthday cake, "At least the kids weren't around when Sonny here bit the dust."

Dean toed the corpse onto his back. Water leaked from the corners of his mouth and was so swollen it was as if he'd been dead for days and not half an hour. "You think this was natural causes?"

"That's what the coroner said."

Dean watched Dr. Fox from the corner of his eye, playing peek-a-boo with a crew of pig-tailed cherubs. All of them had a Daisy Baby doll.

"We got any witnesses?"

The sheriff sucked frosting off his mustache. "Nope."

"This guy have any enemies?"

"Well, we all do," he said, adjusting his police hat, "You stay on the force long enough."

Sam stood at the edge of the lake, reading a historical marker, when he heard the click of a cigarette lighter.

"It's all crap, you know," said Clara, blowing out a stream of smoke, "She's not even a real doctor."

"The diplomas looked real."

"She hasn't had a patient since before I was born."

"Business is good, she must be rich."

"Small-town rich."

"Friend of the family?"

"My grandmother," she said, squinting at the water, "And my landlady. And head of the Ladies Rotary Club. Everyone's so nice I could just vomit in my sun hat. Just a few more paychecks and I am outta here."

"I know the feeling," he said, touching the historical marker, "You know I was thinking, says here the town was founded in 1832."


"Lot of aluminum siding for such an old place."

She dropped her cigarette and crushed it with her heel. "Those are the new houses. All the original stuff was flooded for the electrification project."

"They flooded the houses?"

"Everything. Houses, schools, the cemetary..." she said, sticking another cigarette between her teeth.

"Anything famous down there?"

She gave him a look. She was pale and delicately made, but had a lot of Dr. Fox in that look. "Don't ask stupid questions."

"I'm just surprised you don't get treasure hunters."

"We lose at least a coupla tourists every summer, they dive down and get stuck on tree limbs and never come back."

"That's bizarre."

"Please," she said, gesturing at the fake nurse uniform, the fake hospital, the fake baby in his arms, "That's normal."

The brothers compared notes, seated across from each other on matching hotel beds. Dean unwrapped his cheeseburger. "So we got a cop who drowns on dry land," he said, squirting a thick line of ketchup, "Potential restless dead with that underwater cemetary..."

"And I checked out that watermark," said Sam, turning his laptop around, "Wagnerian binding spell."

Jacob stared at him. "You got that off of Google?"

"Lesbian tech support," said Dean around a mouthful of french fries, "Every time we pass the Bechdel test we get a hardware upgrade."

"Which in Dean's case is a Speak n Spell."

"Hey if you think your dimples can out-sing my WHAM cassingle then we can throw down in the parking lot son."

Sam waved him away. "These events may be unrelated. Just because Dr. Fox was present soon after the victim's death doesn't necessarily mean she's summoning ghosts to kill policemen on her behalf."

"True, if she wanted brains then her coroner's badge would do her just as good at half the trouble."

Sam pecked at his keyboard. "I wish Charlie were here. If I could just compare the adoption records to local deaths..."

Dean sucked down the last french fry, his eyes alight. "I've got a great idea."

"This is a terrible idea Dean."

"Shut up and hand me that flashlight."

"But why the labcoats?"

Dean shined a light in Sam's eyes, lockpick between his teeth. "Gotta keep up with security cameras dude, they have these new kind that can ID you based purely on how you walk. Labcoats will mask that."

"That's pretty Big Brother for a toy company."

"Have you been to Disney World?" he said, spitting out the pick, "Ugh this stupid lock, it's so hot in here."

He unbuttoned his labcoat and laid down on the desk, hooking his arm under the drawer to try and pry it loose. Sam began snapping photos of hospital records when two nurses walked in, coffee steaming in their to-go cups.

"What are you guys doing in here?"

These were not the nurses from the previous day. Dean was stretched across the desk, labcoat open over miles of lined muscle, and Sam poised with the camera. The boys avoided looking at each other, then answered in unison.

"We're teddy bear doctors." they said, with Sam adding, "And we're doing our calendar shoot today."

Jacob flattened himself against the wall, listening to Clara and Dr. Fox arguing in the main office.

"Your lease isn't up until September."

Paper ripping. "I don't care!"

"Why are you yelling?"

"Cuz Officer's Sonny's dead." Rip. "Cuz you let the Winchesters walk out here." Rip. "Cuz I'm tired of dressing like a pin-up so you can sell motherhood to little girls."

"There's no one else to run the hospital. If you leave and I were struck by lightning...California's so far away, why can't you do online classes?"

"I'm not gonna be in this town forever. I need a real job from a real college."

"And how long do you think you'll last?"

Rip. "Longer than you," said Clara, removing something metal from a cabinet, "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm frikkin' starving."

Jacob rushed out to the parking lot, waiting until Clara was at a safe distance before approaching her.

"Where you going?"

She didn't bother to look. "I'm kinda busy honey."

"Can I come with you?"

"Not right now honey."

"Are you going to the cemetery?"

She rounded on him, teeth bared and brandishing a bloody shovel. "SO WHAT IF I AM?" and tacked on "honey" at the end.

He locked eyes with her, hoping to see something of himself in her face. "Cuz I'm hungry too."

Recognition flitted across her face and she held her breath, frozen save for the uniform whipping about her legs in the wind. She smoothed it with a gloved hand. Then the butt of the handle connected with Jacob's chest and the ground lept up to hit him in the back of the head.

The sun rose behind her head, casting her face into shadow as she pressed the curve of the shovel to his throat and leaned on it with one patent leather Mary Jane.

"How did you find us?" she asked, mouth twisted in a sneer.

He tried breathing. It was like sucking through a straw. "Hunters."

"You working for them?"

"No," he managed, shaking his head, "They said I had family out here."

"And they're just gonna leave us alone?"

He nodded, but she did not remove the shovel. "You have an hour. If they're not gone when I get back..."

"You can't kill the Winchesters. The other hunters would never stop looking for them."

"I've got a bottomless lake, a bunch of half-empty graves, and a whole sheet of 'Natural Causes' sticky labels," she said, eyes flashing yellow, "They'll be lucky to find a grease stain."

He swallowed hard. "One hour?"

She removed the shovel. "One hour."

"What about me?"

She looked him up and down, then hoisted the shovel over her shoulder and turned on her heel. "I'll save some brains for you."

Sam flexed for the camera. "Where's Jacob?" he hissed to Dean.

"I fought he wath in the car." Dean lisped, a plastic rose between his teeth, legs kicked up ala Bettie Page with a teddy bear balanced on his feet.

Sam rolled his eyes. "Okay ladies, I think he's had enough."

"Wow for doctors you guys are, like..." said the nearest girl, poking Sam's arm, "I could crack a walnut on your body."

"Dean, could you check on him?"

"Come on I fink I found my calling."


Dean spit out the rose. He pronged two fingers next to his ear and mouthed 'call me' to the nurses before exiting, leaving Sam to their devices.

"Okay get comfortable," said the nurse, framing the scene with two hands, "This next shot's gonna be kinda weird..."

Jacob edged around the door, Dr. Fox's shoulders shaking in silent sobs. Sam's doll dangled from his hand.

"Miss Judith?"

She turned around in the chair. "Yes?"

"It's me," he said, eyes shining, "Amy's boy."

She held his face in her gnarled hands. "Where's your mama?"

His lip trembled, and she pulled him into a hug. "Oh why did you seek out this terrible place child."

"The Winchesters brought me. They say there's something wrong with the dolls," he whispered, "I won't tell. I can keep a secret."

She pursed her lips, then looked around at the torn paper. "This town has been haunted for as long as I can remember. When they flooded the Butler valley, the dead rose up at night, angry for that which they had been robbed. So I..." she said, sniffing back tears, "I found them a new home."

Jacob looked down at the doll, and calculated how many must have been sold over the course of fifty years. "But some of them are bad."

"Sonny's death was a first. The dead were so happy with their arranged adoptions, I haven't had a single incident since this place opened. But...not everyone was evacuated in time," she said, her eyes hollowed in the dim light, "Did you know Butler had a jail?"

He shook his head weakly, clutching the doll. "No ma'am."

"They left someone behind. No one knows his name. No one knows his crimes. Maybe he just had the misfortune of being locked up by a sheriff with too much on his mind."

His eyes got wide, and then he let out a nervous laugh. "There's no such thing as ghosts."

Her eyes flickered gold. He was only a child. "Can't fool you, can I?" she said, a half-smile curving up the side of her face, "Well it doesn't matter anyhow, Clara destroyed all the adoption papers. The ghosts are no longer bound to the children."

"Where will they go?"

She raised her hand as if to say 'elsewhere'. "Their bones are nothing by now, the magic is the only thing keeping them here."

He nodded. "Can I put this one back with the others? It doesn't really belong to us."

She smiled, and he made his way to the garden room. All the colors were muted, the machines silent and the flowers staring at nothing. It had the feel of a darkened theater. It was only when he set the doll down that he noticed a hard spot on its' foot, and he pressed it with his thumb.


He jumped, but caught himself, realizing it was pre-recorded. He pressed the button again.


The voice had moved that time. The flowers tickled his legs and he kept his eyes on the doll. They can't get you if you don't look. He pressed the button again.

He looked up, and a pair of milky eyes opened in the tree.


Dean had his hand on the white paneled door when he heard screaming. "Jacob?!" he shouted, banging on the door, "Let me in!"

Something thumped in return, hard enough to splinter, and he pulled out his gun. A branch split the door in half, and when he emptied his clip into the creature to no effect and reloaded and emptied that one he felt sweat run inside his labcoat.

"Ooooh that's not good." he said, as ceiling tiles fell and a great shadow crossed his.

Sam was busy getting dressed while the girls went through his phone's photo gallery. "What's this thing with the teeth?"

He snatched it away. "Ex-girlfriend."

She sighed. "Yeeeeah, I've had dates like that."

"Excuse me," said Dr. Fox, staring at the mess in her office, "What exactly is going on?"

He was about to reply when Dean shot around the corner hopping on one foot and said, "We gotta go. Now."

Furniture crashed in the next room, and all of them sprinted for the exit sign, Dr. Fox waddling at such a slow pace that Sam finally scooped her onto his shoulders and wore her like a jiggly hat. The tree burst from the roof, swinging Jacob from a long winding branch.

"Dean, ideas?"

Dean pumped his arms, racing to the car. "We can burn it. It's paper mache and chicken wire."

"But it's got Jacob!"

"We have to burn the jail!" shouted Dr. Fox, limbs wrapped around Sam's head like a koala, "His body must still be down there!"
Dean stared at the lake. "It's under WATER, how the heck am I supposed to-"

His eyes fell on the billboard on the side of the road. HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY FROM NERVOUS WILLY'S GAS, GUNS, AND FIREWORKS.

"Dr. Fox?" asked Dean, holding up his hand, "I know this might sound a bit forward, but I could trouble you for your car keys?"

Jacob looked between his fingers. A 1974 Oldsmobile tipped off the dock and went headlong into the lake, while Dean was waved his arms and shouted at Sam to run back. Jacob couldn't make out the words, but the tree cottoned onto Dean's intention right away, and dropped Jacob in Dr. Fox's hydrangeas. Scraping its' roots across the parking lot, it sank into the slate-gray waters, lines of Christmas lights bobbing on the surface before they too vanished.

"You okay?"

Jacob let himself be pulled up. "What did you do?"

Dean smiled, drumming his hands on his chest. "Wait and see. It's gonna be AWESOME."

Something tugged on the back of Dean's shirt, and he looked down to see the little pigtailed girl from the previous day. "Where did the Daisy Baby tree go?"

Dean looked at the lake, then at her mother, and then back down at her. "It went to jail."

Her eyes widened. "Tree jail?"

"Tree jail."

"But I...I..." she sniffled, tears springing in her blue eyes, "I need a new doll. The old one's no good."

"Oh well, I happen to have one right here," said Dean, snatching the doll from Jacob's unyielding hands, "Ta-da!"

She examined the doll, then buried her face in her mother's shirt and burst into fresh tears. "It says Tits, Mommy!"

The mother's mouth formed an O, and patted her daughter's head. "Who names their baby Tits?!"

Dean's eyes swung over to Sam, shaking his head sadly. The little girl gave a rattling sniff and pointed to a brown ear sticking out of Sam's duffle bag. "What's that?"

"That's nothing-" Sam began, right as she pulled out his stuffed dog.

"Oh he's just PRECIOUS, Mommy can I have him PLEEEEZE?"

Sam's face twitched. Just then Clare arrived, shovel on her shoulder, wiping brains from the corners of her mouth. "What I'd miss?"

"Nothing." said Sam, gesturing to the little girl as she skipped away, tossing the dog in the air and catching it before curling up in the back of her parents' station wagon and disappearing around a corner.

Dean clapped him on the shoulder. "Come on man, let's enjoy the show."

And together they sat on the hood of the Impala, filthy, exhausted, stolen labcoats billowing in the breeze, as Dean pressed a button and a hundred pounds of dynamite wired to the Oldsmobile detonated at the bottom of the lake. Dean cracked open two beers and passed one to Sam, the mushroom cloud flattening their hair.

"Pretty good work."

Dean looked sidelong at Dr. Fox, one arm wrapped around Jacob's shoulders. "Yeah. Sometimes I get things right."

Sam flicked beer foam from his hand. "You owe me a dog."

Dean smiled. "Fair enough," he said, turning to watch the fireworks, "But I get to name it this time."

Back at the cabin, Dean watched Sam sleep. He sucked the last of the pie from his thumb and set the plate by his bed.

"Here boy."

T-Bone pricked his ears. He and Dean had been holding a staring contest all night, and he wriggled out from under Sam's right arm and dropped to the floor, scooting the tin plate across the room with his nose. Sam's face tightened (another chase dream).


Dean reached up, but this time Sam latched onto his wrist and yanked him in, wrapping his arms around his chest in a warm tangle of flannel and woodsmoke and wet dog. T-Bone looked up once and resumed eating. In the distant mountain town fireworks swam across the sky like little red fish, but if Sam heard it he gave no sign.

Dean curled his hand around Sam's until the dream passed, and they lay like that until morning.