Kobayashi Maru: (n)

1- An unbeatable test

2- A no-win scenario

"Dean, Dean you don't want to do this," Sam Braddock begged over the phone, watching on the screen as their most recent hostage taker steadied his hand. The words had had the opposite to intended effect, and the subject became more invested than ever.

"It doesn't matter. I have to," he rasped.

"Go, go, go!" Eddie urged into his headset, and the SRU surged forward, racing across the lobby.

"Bang, bang, bang," Greg's voice said, gun still pointed straight at Jules. Then he lowered the weapon and went to his knees as the tactical units closed in, cuffing him more for procedure's sake than for anything else. Jules stood up from the chair she'd been cowering in with a sigh.

"That's that," Eddie declared, and Spike immediately removed Greg's cuffs and gave him a hand back to his feet.

"Damn it!" Sam exclaimed, but Eddie was already shaking his head.

"Don't blame yourself, Sam. This one was supposed to be hard. Dean Winchester is one of the hardest criminals in the world to pin down. You ask a dozen profilers to read his file, you'll get two dozen explanations of his behavior."

He turned to his team sergeant and asked, "Out of curiosity, which profile were you modeling off of?"

"Dr. Spencer Reid," Greg admitted. "He sent out an update a couple months ago, and it makes as much sense as any of the others."

Eddie nodded. "I figured it was either his or Gideon's 2006 briefing."

"The explanations do seem to come in cyclical trends, don't they?" Greg mused, before he turned back to Sam. "Don't be too hard on yourself. We'll sit down with the transcripts later and I'll explain why I reacted the way I did, but you did good."

Just then Greg's cell phone rang, and he walked away to answer it. Sam came over to Spike and Jules, still smarting from the outcome of the simulation. "How did I do good if you ended up dead?" Sam asked, frustrated with himself and with the Sarge.

"Dean Winchester is just the name we use when the bosses want to run a sim that's out of normal bounds," Jules reminded him. "You heard what Ed said, no one understands him and we don't know anything for certain except that he's got a brother. Maybe he's delusional. Maybe he's prejudiced. Maybe he's psychotic, or a sociopath, or hell, maybe he's been framed." Jules laughed at her exaggeration, and Spike picked up the job of reassurance.

"Dean Winchester is like our Kobayashi Maru, but it's all just simulations. We'll never see him. For one, he's American. Two, he might or might not be dead. More importantly, he's one of a kind. There's literally no one else out there like him except maybe his brother, who's always with him. That's bad news for the people trying to profile and catch him, but good news for us and the general public. Sarge was just stretching your limits, and you lasted a three hours. That's not a record, but it's better than 90% of Winchester Sims."

Sam nodded, mollified. He still wanted to talk to Sarge and understand what "delusions" had been driving "Dean Winchester" and what he could have done differently when negotiating, but he heard what his teammates were saying.

Jules read his mood shift easily, and punched him in the arm. "Buck up. We've only got a couple more hours left, and then we can go get burritos."

"Oh!" Spike enthused. "Mexican food and margaritas. Now there's an idea!"

The call came in at 9:02 AM, and by 9:08 they were in route. Just as Greg was opening his mouth to summarize the situation and begin strategizing, he got another call from Winnie. Wondering why she'd called his private line instead of using the team communications, he picked it up and grunted, "Hey."

"It's Dean Winchester," Winnie said in a rush. "They just confirmed his ID from the traffic cams. If he's in there, we've got to assume he's one of the gunmen."

Greg felt his mouth say, "Right. Keep me updated." Mechanically, he hung up the call and let his hand drop down into his lap. Dean Winchester, in the flesh, here in Toronto. That was… almost unbelievable.

The SRU had been using Dean Winchester's name in simulations ever since he'd first held hostages in Milwaukee back in 2007. So for the last four years, they'd been conditioning their people to believe that Dean Winchester was a boogie man, and they'd attributed twenty or thirty different profiles to his name in order to challenge their officers. That hadn't been a problem when Dean was hiding in the US, and then later believed dead.

It was something more of a problem now that they were going to be negotiating with him.

Greg cleared his throat, ordered his thoughts, and then spoke into his headset. "Alright team, listen up. We have a hostage situation at RBC. The few witnesses that got out say there's somewhere between twenty and seventy people still trapped inside. There's two gunmen, and they've got the hostages on one of the upper floors."

Greg took a deep breath, which earned him a sidelong look from Eddie. "Camera footage from across the street shows the front doors, so we've got some idea of who's in there, and we should know more by the time we get on scene. So far we only have one confirmed name. Dean Winchester."

There was silence on the line, a distinct lack of the "copy that Sarge" which was his team's ingrained response to briefings. Greg knew that meant he needed to find something else to say.

"We don't know anything more right now," he confessed. "So we treat this like any other day. We're here to keep the peace. We connect, respect, protect. Don't overthink this one guys." Greg didn't have anything to offer them except the well-worn mantras, not at the moment, so he hoped it would be enough.

This time, when he paused, Greg got the chorus of affirmations he expected. Still, it was easier said than done. Eddie gave him another heavy look, but they arrived at the scene before the team leader could say anything.

"Sam, you're Sierra One, Jules you take Sierra Two," Greg ordered. "Spike, you're my second, setup command in the van. I'll have uniforms send witnesses to you."

Spike broke off, and Sam and Jules were already in discussion, deciding where they thought they'd have the best chances.

"I'll find you a way in," Eddie promised from near his elbow as they approached the inspector who had been on point. After a brief discussion, Greg returned to the truck as Eddie took Wordy and Lewis toward the bank.

"Alright team," Greg briefed his team over the headset, climbing into the command post, "It's a four story bank. All the public areas are on the ground floor, and as far as we can tell that's all empty. The gunmen have taken the hostages up the stairs, but we're not sure which floor they're on. All three upper floors are laid out like any other office complex with cubicles, offices, and conference rooms, but with security checkpoints between floors. The gunmen have managed to activate the bank's siege and lockdown features, which we can't override from out here yet, so those checkpoints are going to slow down any interior movement."

"Copy that Sarge," echoed back to him from Sam and Jules. Eddie didn't bother acknowledging, since he was already bending over building plans and Greg hadn't told him anything he didn't already know. Greg switched off his transmission to talk to Spike.

"What do we have?"

"Complete camera access," Spike assured him, "including previous footage. The bank keeps the last twenty-four hours and all live feeds available from outside the building just in case of situations like this."

With that, Spike started playing one of the monitors, which he'd cued up, and began dictating into the transcript microphone for the record as he and Greg watched the action play out on the screen.

"8:54 AM, Subject enters the building and immediately pulls out a hand gun and grabs the nearest customer, a young woman. A few customers and one bank employee run out the door behind him and both security guards draw their weapons. Subject points the gun toward the ceiling and fires one shot, then returns to pointing the gun at the hostage's head. Remaining hostages come to a stop and then sit, and both security guards reluctantly lower their weapons, but do not set them down. Subject advances several paces, and both security guards slowly set weapons on the nearest surface and step away. Subject shouts and gestures towards the door with his weapon, immediately returning the gun to its threatening position. Bank manager Bill Walters slowly moves toward front door and locks it, then returns to his position behind the counter.

"8:55 AM, male hostage raises his hands into the air, drawing the subject's attention. Hostage appears to be Dean Winchester. Winchester and Subject speak, then Winchester slowly stands up and takes his hands off his head. Winchester picks up a briefcase and sets it on the nearest desk. Winchester walks to each of the guards' guns. The first he puts in the back of his jeans, the second he holds in his hand. Winchester and Subject then speak again. Winchester appears calm, and Subject slowly calms from red down to yellow. Winchester then reaches out and takes the woman from the subject, holding her arm and keeping his gun pointed at her rib cage. Subject stows his handgun back in the side holster on his belt.

"8:57 AM, Winchester addresses hostages. Subject moves to the briefcase and extracts a large handful of zipties. Subject begins to pair up hostages, tying their ankles and wrists together, men with men and women with women. When all hostages are paired up, hostages stand and proceed through the bank and up the stairs, taking purses and other personal possessions with them. Subject leads the way upstairs with his gun trained on the two security guards. Dean Winchester and the woman are the last ones up the stairs.

Spike stops narrating and switches camera views, and the two SRU officers watch together in twice real-time speed as the hostages emerge on the second floor. The Subject leads the guards to the largest conference room on the floor, and forces them to sit on the floor in the corner. As each pair follows, they are directed to sit next to them. All in all, Greg counts ten hostages, plus the woman Winchester is still using as a shield. Winchester and the subject talk again, and then Winchester leaves the room with the woman in tow.

Winchester walks each floor of the bank, looking for employees who are trapped in the building with them. Per bank protocol, they have gathered in the stairwell, and it doesn't take him long to clear the bank and escort the employees back to the conference room where the unknown gunman pairs them up with more zip ties and has them sit on the floor. When all's said and done, the two gunmen have fifty-five hostages sitting in terrified silence. The two exchange words briefly, and then Winchester leaves the subject standing in the doorway of the conference room with his gun drawn.

For his part, Winchester finally releases his personal hostage, tying her to another pair of women, and backtracks to the security office and fiddles with the system. He manages to institute the lockdown protocols, then cues up the security footages from a full twenty-four hours ago and starts watching.

The time stamp on the tape says 9:12 AM. In exactly 18 minutes, Dean Winchester managed to go from hostage to gunman, and has now locked himself in a building with 55 innocent people and a co-conspirator.

Greg glanced at the time on the computer as Spike watched the security video in fast-forward, confirming that nothing more had happened in the last quarter hour, while SRU arrived on the scene and got up to speed.

"We have fifty-five confirmed hostages, confined on the second floor," Greg informed the team. "They're in an interior room with the unknown gunman. Dean Winchester is in a separate interior room. Sam, keep your post in case the situation changes and we need to cover the main entrance. Jules, come back and join the infiltration team."

"No entrance plan yet, boss," Eddie told him over the headset. "Short of breaking down the main doors, there aren't many ways into this place and they're all covered under the siege lockdown."

"Keep looking," Greg urged him. "Both subjects are in the green, so I'm going to initiate contact, but it'd be nice to have options."

"I hear that," Eddie assured him. Greg lifted his hand and ran a hand over his head, then checked back in with Spike. "We've got that second face out?"

"Yes sir, no matches yet." Greg nodded, and knew he was stalling.

"Can you call the phone in that conference room?" The phone was sitting on the main table, on the far side of the room from the door. The subject would either have to cross the room to answer, putting him with grabbing distance of a large number of the hostages, or else have a hostage answer for him.

"On your signal," Spike answered, not even glancing up from the many sources of information he was dealing with on other monitors while Greg watched the live action feed of what was going on in the bank.

Greg took a deep breath to steady his nerves, picked up the van's handset, and then said, "Do it."

Two keystrokes later, Greg was listening to the familiar sound of a ringing line while he watched on the screen as the subject and half the hostages jolted. On the other camera feed, Dean Winchester paused the feed he was watching and stood up, walking slowly and casually down the hall to the conference room.

The subject gestured with his gun, and one of the pairs of bank employees carefully got their feet and coordinated to answer the phone. From the echo in Greg's ear, it was on speakerphone.

"Hello, this is Sergeant Gregory Parker with the police Strategic Response Unit. To whom am I speaking?" He forced his voice to come out slow and steady like always, rather than rattling off the familiar words. Having Dean Winchester standing casually in the hallway, eavesdropping on the conference call was messing with his head more than it should.

"Rusty," the subject replied, then he cut himself off and he realized he'd just given his name to the police. Greg breathed out a sigh of relief. This guy was as much of an amateur as he'd seemed, so unless there was something weirder than usual going on there was a good chance of getting everyone out of here alive. Then Greg caught the sight of Dean Winchester's face, smiling, and he was reminded that the situation wasn't quite that simple.

Still, he had to deal with Rusty first. "Okay, Rusty. How are things going in there?"

Rusty didn't answer, instead raising the gun a little, obviously unsure of what to do. That was bad, he didn't want Rusty to escalate because he felt trapped. Instead, Greg changed tactics. He could see that the hostages were okay, he didn't Rusty's confirmation. "Rusty, I just want to get everyone home safely today. Can you tell me what it's going to take for that to happen? What do you want?"

The gun dropped back down a bit, and Rusty took his eyes off the hostages to look at the phone. "I want, uh," Greg could see Rusty lick his lips in the video feed. He was nervous. "I want 25 million dollars, and, ah, I want…"

Dean Winchester had started moving again as soon as Rusty started listing demands, and his voice came over the line in an easy drawl as he came up behind his partner. "Dude, seriously?"

Rusty jumped as Dean's hand landed on his shoulder, but Dean just continued past him to take a seat at the conference table near the door, away from hostages. "Do you know how heavy 25 million dollars is?"

Dean still had one gun in his hand, and he held it comfortably, far more comfortably than Greg liked. He continued in the same bored, mocking tone. "Did you ask for a helicopter too? How about pizzas?"

"Oh, right," Rusty stumbled on, but he stood up a little straighter, as though he was feeling more confident. The gun didn't raise, but maybe Rusty didn't feel the need to threaten the hostages when Dean's very presence oozed control and violence from where he was lounging, gun pointed calmly towards the densest section of innocents. "We want a helicopter. You have, ah, six hours."

Dean responded by laughing out loud, and several hostages flinched. Greg couldn't blame them; Dean sounded downright deranged. "Rusty, my man, you're dealing with professional profilers here," Dean said when the laughter was done.

Rusty shifted on his feet, and asked "So?" as insolently as any six year old ever had.

"So stuttering you way through a list of stereotypical demands makes it pretty clear you're not here to rob anyone," Dean said casually. Greg inhaled deeply, again, as Dean confirmed his fears. This would not be a run of the mill negotiation, but it was beyond time to interject himself back into the conversation.

"Why are you here?" Greg asked, leaving off a name so that either subject would feel free to respond. Dean's mirth died away, and he sat up a little straighter. He glanced at the phone, then at Rusty. Rusty was watching Dean like a hawk, deferring to him. Damn.

Greg had hoped that Rusty's concessions to Dean had been temporary, based on whatever Dean had said to make himself a partner rather than a hostage, but it seemed that Rusty was willing to be submissive to Dean all the way. This was not good. Rusty had had a purpose in coming to RBC today. He had a goal.

Unless Greg had misinterpreted what he'd watched, Dean had been surprised by the violence, and had taken advantage of the situation, but he hadn't planned on this. Which meant that Dean had taken fifty-five people hostage for kicks. Keeping the peace had just gotten harder.

"Before I answer that," Dean Winchester said as he met Rusty's eyes, "Rusty, I left the security footage cued up in the office down the hall. Do you know what you're looking for?" He waved the hand not holding his gun towards his face. Rusty nodded.

"Okay. We don't need two people in here," Dean continued. "You go watch, and I'll deal with this. Good?"

Rusty seemed relieved. "Yeah. Good."

Dean smiled. "Okay. Before you go, write down your phone number." Dean was already reaching for a set of sticky notes and scribbling something down. The gun was out of his hands for less than fifteen seconds, and none of the hostages made a move while it was. "In case you see anything on the live feeds, or I need to contact you."

Rusty clumsily came forward, took the note Dean had written, and wrote down something of his own. Dean smiled at him, and then Rusty left.

"Alright, Sergeant Gregory Parker. You wanted to talk?" Dean asked as he leaned back in the chair. The motion was too deliberate, not at all like the relaxed nonchalance of when he first entered the room.

Greg briefly debated his next move, then decided to take play this low-key and see how Dean responded. "What's your name?"

Dean laughed again, startled by the question. "Don't you have us on video?"

"Why do you think that?" Greg asked, dodging the question just as Dean had.

"Because you're not crowing about the hostages. In Milwaukee all I could get out of Henriksen were death threats and demands for status updates."

Greg ran a hand over his head again as Spike glanced up at him in alarm. They would like to avoid a repeat of Milwaukee if at all possible. Just remembering the pictures of that woman… it was some of the worst stuff Greg had ever seen.

"Then you are Dean Winchester?" Greg asked. It would have been better for Dean to volunteer that information, to trust Greg with his name, but it was more important to keep the conversation moving.

"Well I sure as hell ain't Elvis Presley," Dean quipped back. None of the hostages seemed to have reacted to Dean's name, which was good. At this point, calm hostages meant a calm subject, which was good for everyone. They needed options.

"What do you want, Dean?" Greg asked for the third time. Maybe it was the use of his name, or maybe it was the repetition, but this time he got an answer, though Dean paused for a long time first.

"You mentioned everyone going home, Greg. I want that. I want to make sure everyone makes it home." With one hand still gripping the gun casually, forearm resting on the conference table, aim vaguely in the direction of the security guards, Dean reached up and ran his other hand through his hair in the same motion of frustration that Greg himself used.

The answer caught Greg flat-footed. Usually he was the one who had to identify with the subjects, finding common ground and earning trust. But Dean was already turning the tables back on him, using his own words and his first name. Suddenly, Greg could see why every fifth or sixth witness tried to defend the Winchester brothers.

Shit, where was Sam? Well, a worry for another moment. Right now, Greg needed to continue the conversation before he lost Dean. "Why did you come here today?"

Dean's mouth twisted in a wry smile and he answered, "Just wanted to open an account." After a moment he continued, "Not in my own name, of course. But an account, nonetheless. Have to have somewhere to put my paychecks." There was something in Dean's voice that made Greg believe him. At least for now.

"You didn't plan this?" Greg asked, although he was sure that Dean would deny involvement whether it was true or not.

"Nah. Just saw a friend in need," Dean drawled.

"I see fifty-five people in need, Dean. Why did you help Rusty?"

Dean turned his head a little further towards the phone, giving a little less attention to the hostages, but his gun never wavered. "Right. Like Becky was so much safer with Rusty's shaking finger on the trigger." The woman whom Rusty had grabbed and Dean had dragged behind him as he rounded up hostages looked up, and Greg assumed she was responding to her name.

It was interesting that Dean knew her name; it meant that he had asked and that he remembered it. It indicated that he sympathized with her, maybe even empathized.

Dean sighed and continued before Greg had decided what to say next. "Look, bound and corralled like animals may not be the Monday morning anyone wanted, but it beats what could have happened. After Milwaukee, I did some reading."

Dean corrected himself, "Well, Sam did some reading and he shared it with me. The most dangerous moments of a hostage situation is the first twenty minutes and the last two. Rusty was shaking; he wasn't prepared; people were panicking. We were about to have heroes on our hands, and like as not someone was gonna get shot.

"Instead, here we are. Thirty, forty minutes in, past the danger zone, and everyone is calm. No one's been hurt. No one is going to be hurt if I have anything to say about it. I stay calm, they stay calm, Rusty stays calm, you stay calm. Calm people don't shoot people. Everyone goes home."

It was… a remarkably good point, from a certain point of view. Dean's control and professionalism was chilling in its way, but it was also keeping the situation from escalating due to a heroic escape attempt gone wrong.

"That's why I'm talking to you right now, actually." Dean continued when Greg didn't respond. Greg made a mental note that silence was an effective technique with Dean, but knew that he needed to answer soon in order to build up their connection. "You and I keep talking, no one tries to throw smoke grenades in here."

"We're not going to do anything to escalate the situation," Greg assured him, and Dean nodded decisively, his analysis confirmed. "So what's the next step here, Dean?" Greg asked. "How are we going to get these people home?"

"I'm working on that," Dean admitted, all trace of jovialness gone now. "We don't have time to watch all the tapes, but Rusty needs to feel like he's doing something. When I've got an exit strategy, you'll know."

Dean didn't seem to be concerned with the fact that he'd just confessed to a police officer that he didn't have a plan for getting out. If anything, he seemed to be honestly contemplative. Greg wasn't sure what to do with that.

"What are you looking for on the tapes? We've got eyes out here. We can help."

Dean grinned like a school boy again, and again it seemed more than slightly unhinged. Then he leaned forward towards the phone and growled, "You can't handle the truth."

Greg's stomach dropped. Until that moment, he'd hoped that whatever was going on might not have anything to do with Dean's delusions. Even psychopaths went to the bank. And a psychopath might decide to interfere, as Dean had, without needing a bizarre explanation. But that one sentence killed off Greg's growing hope. While he was still scrambling to find his mental footing, Dean went blithely on, as though he hadn't just changed the entire lay of the playing field.

"Listen, man, I do need to do some serious thinking. So either call me back in twenty, or give me a number to call you, or, hell, I don't care, stay on the line and get the names of the civilians and whatever else you want. But give me a little peace, yeah?"

Numbly, Greg responded. "Alright Dean. We'd appreciate the names of the hostages. That would make our job easier."

Dean waved the gun casually, the first time it had so much as twitched. "Sure, sure. And while you're at it, give the good man any other info he might need," he told the hostages. "If you're asthmatic, or diabetic, or allergic, or whatever. We might be in here a while, so Greg you should start planning lunch."

Then Dean leaned back in his chair, gun coming to the same steady resting point, and he seemed to sort of shut down. Cautiously, sometimes tripping over each other, the hostages started to give their names and other information. Greg turned off the handset, letting Spike record and categorize the information while Greg came up for air after that very intense conversation.

Dean Winchester was possibly the most terrifying subject he'd ever dealt with, for the simple fact that it was impossible to communicate with him. Greg and Dean had both talked about getting people home, and yet Greg was almost certain that they had different definitions of the word. Dean had to know he wouldn't be walking away from this.

If he really had looked up the statistics, then he knew that his previous escape from Milwaukee had been a fluke. Gunmen didn't walk out of hostage situations. Dean had escaped from a lot of custodies and tight places, but he surely didn't think he would be able to just waltz out of this?

And then there was the issue of his delusions. No two profiles quite agreed on what sort of reality Dean Winchester might live in, but they all agreed it wasn't planet Earth. Dean had claimed to believe in everything from monsters to angels, and that was the trouble.

Anyone Dean believed to be a civilian was probably safe - there was a reason nearly twenty percent of his victims later tried to defend him. But anyone marked as "other" would be in imminent danger, and there was no way to know where that invisible line was, or what might trigger a shift in the delusion. Greg could build a perfect rapport, and yet have it disappear without warning.

Reminded of Dean's past, Greg turned to one of the spare computers and pulled up Dean's electronic file, which Spike had already received from the FBI. Greg followed the profile updates on the Winchesters out of a sort of morbid curiosity, and as ammunition for future SRU training simulations, but he didn't pay much attention to the actual file.

Just a glance told him there was too much to read right now. He just needed to get a sense of the subject, and then move forward. So, skimming it was. Greg already knew the early highlights: Dean Winchester had come to the attention of America's national law enforcement after a series of murders in Baltimore. Although the Winchesters were eventually proven innocent in that instance, and the actual murderer was now tried and behind bars, it was this event which alerted the world that Dean Winchester hadn't died in St Louis, after skinning and killing multiple women.

The next big ticket in the file was the Milwaukee hostage situation, which Greg already knew backwards and forwards. Then the brothers turned themselves in, only to break out of prison soon after. There were a number of suspected crimes in the intervening time, but the next time law enforcement actually interacted with the Winchesters was in Monument, Colorado. It was here that the boys were assumed dead, again, after an explosion killed everyone else in the police station.

That assumption had been challenged on several levels. First, people knew that Dean had already faked his death once with a degree of detail that had never been properly explained. Second, there was no definitive proof the Winchesters had died in the helicopter fire or in the later resulting explosion. Third, the explosion itself hinted at foul play and gave possible credence to the Winchesters' escape. Fourth, there had been a continuation of crimes that might fit the Winchesters' MO.

Until this morning, the file had been in a sort of unofficial no-man's land for the simple reason that the Winchesters' didn't really have a consistent MO beyond "weird" and varied crimes. Now that Toronto had confirmed Dean's continued existence, however, Greg had a feeling that the FBI was shuffling manpower to sort through the case and list of possible associated crimes.

The only real value in the file was the profiles from the BAU. It seemed that someone had made the decision to keep the Winchesters' files open, and require bi-annual reviews and profiles. Each member of the team seemed to be taking a turn, and while none of them agreed with each other in the details, there was enough there to give Greg a picture.

Dean did have a moral system, (probably). He wasn't racist, white supremacist, or sexist as some had accused him of being. He just… didn't grasp reality the way that others did. He lived in a world where monsters were real, and were hurting people. And because Dean was the only one who believe in these monsters, he was the one who had to save those people.

The only ray of hope that Greg could see was that Dean was willing to share his delusions. Not only with his brother and father, but with some of the victims too. It was possible to get him to open up about what he believed. None of the profilers told him how it might be done, but it was enough for Greg, at least for now.

"Talk to me, Eddie," Greg implored, pulling himself out of his own thoughts.

"Bad news boss. As long as they've got live video feed, we're trapped. There is a little bit of good news. There is a roof entrance we can override if we can get the bank manager or his codes out of the bank. Through that entrance, we can get down to the second floor in about 90 seconds. The bank alarms and security measures are sectioned by floor, so if we can get into the system we can turn off just the ones in our path and hopefully not alert the subjects. The bad news is that they'll know the minute we turn off the cameras."

"Can we feed them false images? There's nothing moving up there."

Eddie sighed. "I wish it was that easy. The system is specifically designed to look for loops being fed to the viewing screens. There's a software that watches the wall clocks. If they don't advance as expected, the security office gets an alarm. It's sensitive to a five minute change in time. So again, we do have a window, but it's small. Once we start moving, we're committed."

"Okay, prep that and keep looking for options, but don't make any aggressive moves yet. Both subjects are in the green right now."

"Sam, any luck?"

"None, Sarge. I've got a good view of the entire front of the building, but right now it's just a building."

"Copy that." Greg switched his headset off of transmit and sighed. Before he could get too deep in his own thoughts again, however, Spike caught his attention.

"Boss, you need to hear this." Greg picked up the handset and opened the line on mute as he moved back into position to watch the security footage.

A few of the hostages had their hands in the air, and Dean was using his gun to point to one pair at a time. As he did so, each pair stood up and did a three-legged shuffle to the other side of the room, then sat back down. Then Dean indicated the next pair.

"He's categorizing them," Spike explained. "He asked everyone who had a medical condition that was time or stress sensitive to raise their hands. He's put them all in the same corner."

The new arrangement put the hostages at least twenty feet from the door of the conference room, but they were the ones closest to the door.

"Okay," Dean's voice came on the line as the last of the identified pairs sat down. "Now, management, hands up."

This time Dean moved them away from the door, but only the pairs of two men. The one pair of women he saved for last.

"What's your name?" he asked, gun trained unerringly on the woman with her hand up.

"Cynthia," she whispered.

"Mid-level management," Spike told Greg.

"And you?" Dean asked the woman who was tied to Cynthia, while his gun stayed on Cynthia, who had lowered her hand cautiously.


"Okay, Cynthia and Janet, you're going to do something different. Wait until I tell you to stand up, okay?"

Both women nodded eagerly, and Dean looked towards the hostages he'd identified as "sick" while the gun remained where it was. "Each of you is going to tell these women where your medication is, if you have any medication in the building. You'll tell them in the same order as you moved. Then Cynthia and Janet are going to go get your medication from wherever it is and bring it back here, just in case. Then they'll go get any first aid kits or other emergency supplies that the rest of management," he waved the gun lazily towards the group of men he'd assembled before returning it to Cynthia, "can think of."

There was a pause, and then Dean continued. "Do you understand? Raise your hand if you do not." No one moved. Dean turned toward the management. "You may talk quietly. Raise your hand if any of you do not understand." Again, no one moved.

"Greg," Dean said in the same tone, without raising his voice at all while Greg scrambled to hit the unmute button, "are you listening?"

"Yes, Dean," Greg answered, "I'm here."

"Do you have a problem with anything I've told these people to do?"

"No, I think that's a good idea." It was a remarkably good idea, in fact.

Dean nodded, but he wasn't done. "These women are almost certainly going to call you as soon as they leave the room, if you don't call them first. Are you going to tell them to get out of the bank? They could, you know. I'm occupied here, and I'd rather that Rusty kept watching the tapes. Two hostages isn't worth it to me to upset the status quo. Are you going to tell them to run?"

Greg gaped at the phone, thinking as fast as he could. Dean was putting him in a hell of a bind. On one hand, the chance to save two hostages was not one to be overstated. Greg could rescue these two women from their current terror and any future harm.

On the other hand, telling the hostages to disobey Dean was clearly a hostile act. It would make it difficult for Dean to gather the emergency supplies he wanted, all of which would be to the hostages' benefit. The only other option was to lie to Dean now, and then tell the hostages to run, which was a doubly hostile act.

And since Dean had asked him flat-out, Greg only had a moment to consider his answer. Not knowing what else to say, Greg stalled for time. "What would you do if I did?" he asked.

Dean sighed, gun still trained on the trembling hostages. "Well, that would be a dilemma. Like I've already told you, I like the status quo. It's safe for everybody. On the other hand, just letting them go without any sort of response might make you think I'm not deadly serious. And I get the feeling that'd be bad for Rusty and I. On the other, other hand, if I do retaliate in any way, it increases the chances of you coming in here guns blazing and people getting killed in the crossfire."

Dean laughed a little hollowly. "I can't even threaten to retaliate. If you believe me, it means that you think I'm capable of whatever violence I threatened, and we're back to flash-bangs and messy situations. If you don't believe me, well, then you've called my bluff and I'm in a real pickle. So no, I'm not going to threaten anything. If you tell them to walk out, then they walk out. No need to hurry and risk hurting themselves. But I'll tell you this Greg, giving them that advice changes the whole ball game."

Greg could see that Dean was serious. So far, Dean had helped keep the situation calm and under control. He was cooperating with Greg, but that could change in an instant. Greg could save those two women, but it would escalate the situation and he wasn't sure what direction that escalation would be in. Without an entry plan ready, it was too great a risk.

"Dean, you can't hold the hostages forever," Greg said, still stalling. On camera, he could see Dean nod as though this was a reasonable point, which it was. "Can you give me a concession?" Greg probed. "Let Cynthia and Janet go after they retrieve the items you want."

Dean cocked his head, thinking, and studying the two women. "Rusty isn't going to like it," was his eventual answer. Not a no, and no indication of what Dean himself thought of the idea. "Rusty won't like it at all."

"You can talk to him though, right Dean? Explain that this is the best solution?" Greg pressed. He really didn't have anything he could do if Dean pushed back. He'd have to cave. But maybe it wouldn't come to that. Dean was still considering his offer, staring hard at the two women.

"Counter offer," Dean finally said, glancing down at the phone. Whatever judgment he'd been making was now complete. "You let them gather the stuff and come back, and I'll release four hostages of my choice before… shit. What time is it?"

Greg glanced at the clock. "It's 10:13 AM."

"Alright. I'll release four hostages of my choosing by 11."

Greg knew he had to take the offer, but he didn't like what it implied. Dean was willing to release hostages, but not Cynthia and Janet. It was possible he was keeping them because he thought Cynthia was someone important in the bank, but it was a slim chance. More likely, Dean had decided one or both of them had to die.

"Alright Dean," Greg said as calmly as he could. "That's fair. I won't tell them to run."

Dean nodded, but he didn't tell Cynthia and Janet to stand up. "Give me whatever phone number you want them to call," Dean said, and Spike pointed to the wall where the van's second outside line was posted in bold lettering. Greg read it off and watched as Dean wrote it on a sticky note.

Then he turned his attention to Cynthia and Janet. "When you leave this room, go down the hall a ways and call this number. Talk to whoever answers the phone, and do whatever they tell you to do. If they tell you to escape, then escape. That's between me and Sergeant Parker. You just do what the police say."

The two women nodded, and even with the gun still pointed directly at them it was easy to see that they were both reassured. Greg found himself impressed, again, at Dean's ability to connect with people nearly instantly, even while threatening them.

Dean then looked toward the corner where he'd moved the health-risk hostages. "Do you have any medication?" Dean asked.

Greg couldn't tell who he was talking to, but the man clearly knew that he was the one being addressed. He sounded remarkably calm when he answered, "I keep an epi pen in my jacket pocket. I can reach it without help."

Dean nodded, and turned his head just slightly. The next hostage spoke without prompting. "My inhaler is in my purse." She gestured toward the conference room table, where all of the personal belongings had been piled when they came into the room.

"Cynthia, Janet, stand up," Dean ordered and they both obeyed, stepping up to the table.

"It's the red one. Inside pocket," the woman volunteered.

Janet sorted through the purses for just a moment, before she found the requested inhaler.

"Hand it to her," Dean instructed and Janet did as she was told.

"You next," Dean said, empty hand indicating who he meant.

This man, too, was able to be very factual about the situation. "I take my heart medication three times a day. It's at my desk. Cube 2435, top drawer. It's not locked."

Dean nodded, stoic. "Wait just a moment ladies, while I call Rusty and let him know you're going to be moving around. Keep talking to them, see if anyone else has stuff on the table, and figure out where else you need to go."

With that, Dean pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket and dialed the number on the sticky note, while Janet started talking to the people sitting in the corner. On the screen, Greg could see Rusty jump, scramble to pause the security video he was watching, pick up the gun in a shaky hand, and then answer the call. As calm as Dean was acting, Rusty was his polar opposite.

"Rusty, I need you to listen carefully," Dean said, totally nonchalant, and Greg watched as Rusty relaxed. "I'm going to send two hostages out of the conference room. They're going to go collect some emergency medications and supplies just in case we need them. I don't think we will, but I don't want to be caught with my pants down. You can watch them on the cameras, but there shouldn't be any trouble."

Rusty was nodding along as Dean talked. When Dean paused, he said something, but Greg couldn't tell what.

"If they try to run, let them," Dean answered.

That made Rusty stand up very quickly and start yelling. Dean barely raised his voice as he replied. "Dude, either you trust my judgment or you don't. Now which is it?"

That shut Rusty up for a long second until he answered. Dean nodded in satisfaction, so Greg assumed that Rusty had capitulated. It was also interesting to note that Dean didn't seem concerned with the possibility of escape. Either Greg had read him wrong, and he didn't think the women were monsters, or Dean was very confident in the deal he'd just made.

"Listen, Rusty, they're also going to be making a phone call. Don't worry about it. In fact, don't worry about anything. Let them do whatever they want to do. If you have a concern, call me, but I won't be worried unless you start seeing police or any other visitors."

Rusty reluctantly nodded as he answered. "Good," Dean continued. "I've got my cell if you need me." Greg noted that Dean hadn't mentioned the other half of the deal, which required him to release four hostages, and wondered what he should think about that.

Dean snapped the phone shut with an audible click, and Janet and Cynthia stood back up immediately. "It's okay ladies, you're free to go. Take as many trips as you need." He picked up the note with the van's number on it. "Take this with you."

Cynthia was the one to reach forward and gingerly accept the phone number, then the two women hobbled their way out the door. It suddenly occurred to Greg to wonder why Dean had had so many large zip ties in his briefcase, but that was a question for another time.

As soon as the women were out of sight, Dean stood up. He set the gun down on the table, close at hand, and opened his briefcase. He pulled out a small penlight, then shut the case and set it back on the floor. The hostages were watching him with rapt attention, but none of them moved.

He sent the penlight on the table, then dug in his pocket and pulled out his loose change. He selected one coin, set it on the table next to the penlight, and pocketed the rest.

Still standing, Dean surveyed the hostages. "Who wants to get out of here, show of hands?"

Cautiously, wondering if this was a joke, every hostage raised a hand. Dean chuckled. "Good. Show of hands, who is afraid of paper cuts?"

With just as much confusion, the hands slowly lowered. Dean nodded decisively, as though he'd just made some sort of excellent point. Greg had a bad feeling about where this was going. Dean was charming and charismatic, and he was putting no small amount of effort into working his crowd of fifty-three hostages. There weren't many good places that could be headed.

"Greg, are you watching?" Dean asked, just as casually.

"I am, Dean."

"Good. I know you're watching me, which means you're watching the hostages too, right?"

"That's true."

"Do me a favor," Dean mused. "Let me know if anything interferes with your video feed. A momentary glitch. A camera flare. Even if it doesn't distort the image, you let me know if there's any trouble. That's reasonable, right?"

"It is. What is it that you want me to see, Dean?" Greg asked, scared of what was coming next. There was nothing Dean Winchester wanted to show him that Greg wanted to see. Into his headset only Greg barked, "If you've got an emergency entrance, brace."

"No solution," Ed responded. "There's no way past the siege security with the manager still inside."

At that moment, Cynthia and Janet reached the cubicle they were looking for and called the van. Greg unmuted the handheld but kept broadcasting on the headset too, in case he needed to give directions to his team.

"Dean, Cynthia and Janet are calling. Hold on just a moment." Dean shrugged casually, as though he didn't really care, and leaned back a little, his back barely brushing the wall behind him. Despite whatever appearances he was trying to give off, Greg could see that Dean didn't relax an inch.

He picked up the second line and muted Dean's, watching Dean's monitor closely. "Cynthia, Janet, this is Sergeant Greg Parker. How are you two doing?"

"We're okay," Cynthia said, leaning into the speaker phone. "We're calling like Dean told us to."

"I know. You're doing really good. I'm really impressed with how calm you are."

"Sergeant, I think we should stay," Cynthia responded. "I don't know what they want, but they don't want to hurt us. Dean said they're just looking for something on the tapes, then they'll go. They don't want money or anything."

Dean was still leaning against the wall as though he was willing to hold it up all day. This was the moment of truth. Greg had to decide if he trusted Dean to release the hostages he had promised, and if he thought Dean would hurt these two women specifically. A minute ago he'd been resolved to uphold his end of the bargain, but that was before Dean started… whatever Dean had started.

Still, he had time. It would take time for the women to collect the items they'd been sent for. If he told them to run, then he was pushing Dean. That he definitely did not want to do, not when Dean had fifty-three other people in the room with him.

"You're very brave Cynthia, and you're right," Greg said, his mind already working on the next step of this problem. "How many things do you have to collect?"

"Two inhalers, four medications, and I know where three first aid kits are at. Then we'll go drop that stuff off and see what else they want us to collect."

Greg paused, suddenly realizing a chance to change the situation and protect these women at the same time. "Are any of those medication on other floors?"


"Okay. I want you to collect all the things on this floor, and then wait by the stairway up to the third floor. The building is in a siege lockdown, so Dean will have to unlock that door for you. Wait by the door, and we'll call one of the phones near you when it's open."

"Yes sir," Cynthia said, and then she hung up.

Greg immediately turned his full attention back to Dean, who hadn't moved a muscle. With the handset still on mute, he turned to Spike, who was looking back at him.

"You think Dean will lift the siege protections?" Spike asked.

"Yes. The only other option is to give them the manager's code to get through the doors, and then they can give it to us. Or he has to walk around and do it himself, or have Rusty to it, and he seems very determined to stay with the hostages and keep Rusty in the security office."

"What do you think he's planning on doing with the flashlight?"

"Nothing good," Greg admitted, and Spike nodded grimly back at him.

"Are you going to preempt whatever he's doing to ask about the siege?"

Greg considered the option, then shook his head. "I'd rather let him start, so we can see what exactly we're dealing with. Then I can interrupt him."

"We won't have an entry option," Spike pointed out. Greg nodded to concede the point.

"If he's planning anything really gruesome, he won't give us an entry option anyway."

From the look on Spike's face, that made him feel the same as Greg did: sick. Still, they didn't have any choices. Greg swallowed hard, then picked up the handheld line once again. "You there Dean?"

On camera, Dean didn't so much as twitch as he drawled back, "Still here, Greg. Cyvia and Janet okay?"

"They're doing just fine. They should be back soon." Dean chuckled at that, so Greg decided it was up to him to move the conversation along. "You had something you wanted to show me?"

Dean straightened up and shrugged, looking totally unconcerned. "I actually don't. I just want you to watch your screen and tell me if you see anything odd. Even the slightest technical glitch. Call it civic concern." Dean flashed a ten thousand megawatt smile at the camera, but Greg wasn't in a position to enjoy it.

Dean's request was a bizarre mix of narcissism, dominance, and self-deprecation. He wanted Greg to watch him, which indicated self-focus and anticipation. He was giving Greg instructions and requests, forcing Greg to comply or lose the connection they'd established. And yet, Dean insisted that it wasn't his actions that Greg needed to focus on.

"I'm watching, Dean," Greg finally said, unsure what else he could do.

Dean nodded and turned his attention to the hostages. "Here's the thing. There's fifty-five of you, and only two of us. So if Rusty and I are going to let you go, we have to trust that you're going to do what we tell you to up to that point. No matter how weird or bizarre it might seem. So, I've thought up two very simple tests for anyone who wants to be a candidate to be one of the first four hostages released.

"First, you and your partner agree you want to take the tests. Then, when I tell you to, you both stand up and walk over to stand in front of me. I will have the gun in my right hand. With my left hand, I will shine the penlight in each of your eyes. It's not a laser, it can't hurt you. Just a penlight.

"Then, you will each pick up the silver dollar I have there on the table. You'll notice it has a notch in it. That notch is sharp, I scratched myself on it this morning when I stuck it in my pocket. But it's a tiny scratch, less than a paper cut. So you each use the silver dollar to give yourself a little paper cut. And then you go sit back down, and I invite the next pair up."

Dean smiled his most charming smile once again. "That's it. I know it seems strange, but that's the point. You don't have to understand why I picked these two tasks, and you don't have to do them. But when I pick the four hostages who are walking out of here at 11, I'll pick four who have papercuts."

Dean turned his gaze back to the conference phone, "Any objections, Greg?"

"No, Dean. There's no harm in a little paper cut," Greg said, while he tried to understand what was going on.

"Alright, volunteers put your hands up," Dean drawled. Almost immediately, there a dozen hands were in the air and Greg watched as one pair at a time slowly stood up, maneuvered their way to Dean, and underwent his two tests.

Throughout the process, Dean kept a friendly mask firmly in place, and Greg suddenly had a very bad suspicion about this process was supposed to do. Dean was looking for someone who fit his criteria for violence, whatever they were. It seemed that today, his criteria involved a flashlight and a silver dollar. Dean was waiting for some sort of sign, and if any of the hostages accidentally gave it, they'd be marking themselves for a gruesome death. Greg grit his teeth, but there was nothing he could do. Dean was processing the pairs coolly and efficiently, and none of them knew the danger they were in.

After nine pairs, and the group of three women that included Becky, had all been tested, Greg interrupted Dean. Cynthia and Janet had finished on the second floor and were waiting by the staircase.

"Dean, Janet and Cynthia need to get to the third floor," Greg said into the handset, pleased for an excuse to interrupt. Dean finished his tenth pair of hostages, but didn't call up the eleventh.


"The siege protocols you put in place locked down each individual floor, as well as some specific offices and other barriers."

Dean looked surprised, which was further indication that this was not a pre-planned job. However, even when given new information, Dean wasn't slow on the uptake. "I assume that's also why I haven't seen any uniforms yet, right? Well, nuts."

Without waiting for a reply, Dean reached for his cell phone again and hit redial. As before, Rusty scrambled in a thousand directions before he answered the call.

"Nothing's wrong," Dean answered whatever Rusty had said, and the second gunman relaxed, sitting back down in the chair and setting his gun back on the desk again. "Listen, on the far left monitor, do you see the program that's open?"

Rusty twisted in the indicated direction, and after a bit Dean continued. "Great. Poke around in there but don't change any settings. It's the program that runs the building's security. When we came in, I initiated siege lock-down protocols, because I figured limiting mobility was good for everybody, and that's generally what lock-down means. Good news and bad news. Good news, it's working. Police are out there and we're in here. Bad news is, the lockdown also protects each floor. So not only can we not get all the meds and shit, we also can't get lunch."

Rusty gave a long response, which seemed to slightly irritate Dean: not enough to call it escalation, but enough that it showed in his voice when he answered.

"Well, if you don't care about that, think about this. I've got twenty-three people here who are absolute gems. I mean, okay, they're hostages at gunpoint so give them a silver medal instead of a gold one, but they're clean souls. At some point, these twenty-three people are going to have to leave the building. I promised Greg we'd give him four of them by 11 to keep him off our backs. How are they gonna get out if we're stuck on the second floor?"

Rusty had a lot to say in response to that, and he said it accompanied by many big hand motions. Greg could even hear his very muffled voice at the edges of conversation as it echoed down the hall. Dean let him rant on for a little while, before he cut in again. "Rusty, listen to me. You have twenty-seven pairs of people in this office. That's twenty-seven pairs of people that need to go to the bathroom, and eat, and it's twenty-seven pairs of people who might decide at any moment to risk their lives and everyone else's by charging the dude with the handgun. Having eleven less, or hell, even two less variables, is good for everyone."

Rusty sat back in his seat and talked more calmly. Dean started nodding almost immediately. "Exactly right. Don't ask me how. What I want you to do is poke around that program and see if there's a way to open up the interior doors without lifting the lockdown that's keeping the police out. I'm going to talk to Greg Parker about what our options are moving forward. Call me if you have good news. Otherwise, I'll call you."

Dean hung up the phone, and Greg prepared for his next verbal sparring match, indicating to Spike to project this part to the entire team. He wanted Ed and Sam's perspectives on whatever Dean offered them, tactically.

"Hey Greg," Dean said cheerily. "I'm assuming you heard all that."

"I did. I think you're making good choices, Dean." Dean shrugged, sitting back down, gun held at the ready but for the first time pointed up rather than at a hostage.

"Why thanks Sergeant. You're doing your job very well today too." It was clear from Dean's sarcastic tone that he knew he was being patronised.

"Let's talk about the building protocols," Greg said. "My people tell me there's only two ways to get around the siege. Either you lift it from inside, wholesale, or you can use the manager's access code to move around specific barriers. I'm sure you see the dilemma."

Dean frowned, but nodded. "So what happens when we lift the lockdown?" he asked, and Greg noted that Dean had said when, not if.

Once again, Dean was putting him in a hard position. During every negotiation, Greg's team was working to find solutions: lethal, less lethal, and verbal. Usually, he didn't have to discuss the first two during the course of the third.

"My men need to do their jobs," Greg finally decided on saying. Dean frowned more heavily, but he didn't disagree right away. Instead he was thinking again, trying to problem solve.

"Do you remember those statistics I talked about?" Dean finally asked. Greg swallowed, because that was not a response he'd expected.

"I do."

"I want an honest answer from you, Greg. Is your team more or less lethal when you've got an officer directly involved?"

Greg didn't know how to answer that, and after a moment Dean kept going. "See, Sam was telling me that when an officer is also a hostage, the odds of someone dying, whether perp, police or civilian, goes way up. I thought that was a little screwy, because if you've got an officer in the thick of things, then your odds should get better, right? Not worse. So I'm asking. Is your team more or less lethal as they get closer?"

"Less," Greg choked out. It was true. Of course, that had a lot to do with team dynamics. Usually, he was the one who ended up in the line of fire, so to speak, and his specialty was negotiations. So the closer he got, the better than chances were that he could talk the situation down.

"Okay, then," Dean said as he nodded, having made his decision. "I suggest the following. We will lift the siege protocols, and immediately release one hostage pair. They will walk down to the first floor while Cynthia and Janet get what they need from the upper floors. Your people can come in and set up on the first floor, do whatever they need to do. And you come up here, to me, unarmed. You can bring your comms and your armor or whatever else, but no weapons. Then I release another hostage pair. And you still get four more hostages at eleven, as promised."

"I need to discuss that with my people," Greg said, and immediately put the conversation on mute, so Dean couldn't hear anything else.

For his part, Dean sat back casually and surveyed the hostages, who were all wide-eyed.

"Thoughts?" Greg opened the floor. Spike was the first to answer.

"He seems almost eager to get hostages cleared out of there. We can probably push him for more."

"We're not usually in the business of prisoner exchange," Jules observed, "but in this case, having you in the room might be a good thing. Dean's most dangerous quality is that he can turn on a dime, if his perception of reality becomes skewed unexpectedly. Right now, we are helpless if that happens. Having a face there, rather than just a voice could be powerful."

"If we set up on the ground floor, we'd be forty-five seconds away," Eddie put in.

"Normally, I'd say that's too long," Greg admitted, "Plenty of time for him to empty his clip. But Dean is driven by his rituals. He's using a gun to control the crowd, but I don't think he'll use it to kill."

"It's a big risk, Sarge. Dean is very skilled in close-quarters combat. He might not need the gun to put you out of commission," Wordy said. Greg sighed, because he hadn't considered that angle.

"But he'd need more than forty-five seconds," Spike pointed out almost reluctantly. Greg knew his second didn't like the idea, but it would greatly improve their tactical position.

"Any other reasons not to do this?" Greg asked, but he didn't receive any answers. "Alright team. Get ready for infiltration. Sam, you too."

"Already on my way, Sarge."

"Copy that." Greg waited a moment in case anyone else had anything to say, then he unmuted Dean and exhaled. "It's a bold move, Dean," he opened with, wanting to get every advantage he could out of the risks he was going to take. "It's pretty rare for us to negotiate at gunpoint without a police shield or cover fire available."

Dean shrugged, unconcerned. "Greg, I'll be honest with you, this isn't going to end in the next hour, or even the next two hours. You don't want your guys holding up heavy police shields all day. Put on your bullet-proof vest and whatever else you wear and come on up."

Interesting. Dean thought this was going to take hours, and yet he'd "tested" half the hostage in less than ten minutes. Had Greg misjudged the purpose of the tests? Did Dean really just choose two random actions as some sort of power play? Or was there something that Dean wanted to do after the test identified whoever it was going to identify? Something he believed Greg would let him do?

Greg thought about pushing for more hostages, but he was suddenly worried that Dean was getting rid of hostages so that the remaining ones would be easier to control when he decided to escalate to violence. In that case, having a crowd was preferable.

"Alright Dean, we'll do it your way."

"Thanks. Before I call Rusty I need to check one detail: you police types, do you ever go anywhere alone?"

Greg turned that sentence over in his mind, but couldn't see any harm in answering. "Well, I'll be coming alone to see you."

"That's not what I meant," Dean insisted. "You're going to be bringing your people into the building. I'm strongly advising you not to let them go anywhere alone. Pairs or more. Two-person minimum. I can't force you to do so, obviously, so consider it friendly advice."

With that, and without waiting for a response, Dean called Rusty and explained the plan.

Greg used the time that Dean was coordinating with Rusty and talking to the hostages to brief Jules on the parts of the negotiations she hadn't heard and discuss his assumptions with her. Now that they were moving into the building, Jules would be his backup and Eddie was taking the Sierra two position, if they ever got to the tactical position where Sierras became possible.

All too soon they were gathered outside the front doors, listening to the electronic click as they unlocked. At Rusty's insistence, the team opened the doors and entered the lobby camera's view, but didn't move any further. A pair of women, still zip tied together, carefully made their way down the stairs, then past the police line and out the doors without stopping or speaking, as they had been instructed by Dean to do.

Then Greg stepped forward, hands raised to indicate it was him, and walked up the stairs alone. When he got to the second floor, he made his way down the hall to the conference room where Dean was waiting for him. Once he could see Dean Winchester, he spoke into his headset. "Green light."

It was the signal to his team that they could move about the lobby as they wished, that all of Dean and Rusty's demands had been satisfied.

Dean smiled at Greg, still sitting in the seat at the head of the conference table, and beckoned him inside with the hand that held the gun. Greg wasn't sure if that was meant to be a subtle threat, since the gun didn't stay on him, or if Dean was just that comfortable with firearms. He came into the room cautiously, not wanting to spook Dean.

"Dude," Dean said as though they were old friends and not opposite sides of the law, "You're bald!"

Greg found himself smiling back at Dean without being aware of when he started. Sitting in the van, watching the screen, he'd been honestly terrified of what Dean might do. Now, when he was within striking distance and at Dean's mercy, he found himself more relaxed. That, in it's own way, was terrifying.

"You do not sound like a bald dude," Dean said. If he knew that the conference call was still active, letting Greg's team listen in to everything in the room more effectively than Greg's mike would otherwise allow, he didn't seem to care.

"How to bald dudes sound?" Greg asked as he took a seat at the table. In doing so, he put himself in the line of fire for about a third of the hostages, primarily the ones who'd been deemed sick. Dean didn't seem to care about that either.

In fact, he shrugged noncommittally. "Just didn't picture you as short and bald, that's all. You sound seven feet tall on the phone."

Greg let himself grin again, building rapport. "Dean, the hostages?"

"Oh, right," With the gun still pointed up, Dean leaned around Greg to gesture to a pair of men sitting with the at-risk hostages, "Mike and Ike, you're free to go. Walk down the stairs, don't try to run a three legged race. It's not as fun as it sounds."

"Mike and Ike" shared a glance. "You can let the women go first."

Dean narrowed his eyes, but didn't protest right away. Greg held his breath. This was the first time he was aware of that anyone was pushing back against Dean's authority, except for Rusty, and Greg wanted to see how he'd handle it.

After a moment, Dean loosened back up and turned on his smile again. "That's very noble of you, but your partner there has a severe peanut allergy. Touching peanut oil could kill him, and we'd never be able to help him in time. If it happens in here, it's on my record. So I'd really appreciate it if you two would stand up and walk out of here."

The two men hesitated, then the one who hadn't spoken stood up and forced the other man to follow suit. Awkwardly at first, but then with more grace, they made their way out of the room. fifty-one hostages to go, Greg thought. Then he remembered to count himself. Fifty-two.

Dean watched them go, and then he turned his gaze back to Greg. It was sharper now, not less friendly but more assessing. It made it a little easier to remember why Greg was being so careful.

"Thanks for the reminder, Greg," Dean said. "That would have been awkward to try to explain. 'I'm sorry officer, I forgot to release the hostages.'" Dean raised his voice into a falsetto on the last sentence, mocking the absurdity.

"I'm just here to keep the peace," Greg said, using the mantra to help get his mental feet back under himself.

"Speaking of," Dean responded with fake casualness, "how about setting a good example?" Dean reached out and picked the silver dollar up off the table, where it was laying next to the penlight. For half a second, Greg considered refusing.

If he was right, and Dean was looking for his next victim, then taking his test was like playing with fire. Greg had no wish to damn himself.

A moment later, Greg managed to control himself and reach out for the coin. "Sarge's taking Dean's tests," he heard Spike report in his ear, keeping the team informed. If Dean reacted, the team would be there in less than a minute. So Greg took the coin, turned it until he found the sharp edge, and scraped it across his left palm. As promised, it opened a cut barely the size of a paper cut. It didn't even really hurt. When Greg looked back up from his hands, Dean was waiting with the bright penlight.

The momentary blindness, on top of his tension, nearly set off Greg's instincts. He could feel his body tensing for fight or flight, but then it passed as his vision cleared and he could see Dean, still sitting across from him, totally relaxed, and grinning. A moment later Dean glanced over Greg's shoulder, towards the hostages and said, "See, no harm done."

Despite this pronouncement, Dean didn't make any move to continue administering the test to the rest of the hostages.

"We're clear," Spike said in Greg's ear. If the team responded, it was on a different channel. That was good: Greg didn't need any distractions.

Before Greg could decide which direction he wanted to take the conversation in, Janet and Cynthia returned, their hands full of first aid kits and a purse, which they'd evidently grabbed and used to help carry the medication.

"I believe you ladies know Sergeant Gregory Parker?" Dean joked as he used his empty hand to gesture from the women to Greg. Without waiting for a response, Dean started issuing orders. "Give the meds to whoever they belong to, then hand the kits to Greg so he can put them on the table."

As the two women obeyed, Dean looked over towards the management side of the room. "You clowns come up with anything good?"

There was an exchange of glances, then one man said, "There's a fire extinguisher on the wall behind my desk."

Dean laughed out loud, but the gun came down to point at the hostage. "You're kidding, right? You think I'm going to send out two hostages to go get an excellent non-lethal weapon capable of blinding me from a distance? Think again. But nice try." Despite the humor in his voice, the gun didn't waver. The man was shaking his head vigorously.

"No, no, you… you said emergency supplies, I, I didn't…"

"Dean," Greg interjected, and Dean looked over but the gun didn't twitch. The man tried to cower away, and the gun tracked his movement without Dean looking over, so he must be monitoring the man in his peripheral vision. "I don't think they meant it like that."

If they had, it was more invention than hostages usually showed. In fact, if it could have been coordinated with the SRU, it might not have been a bad plan. It said something, however, that Dean's first assumption was that the supplies would be used against him. Greg wondered if Dean had seen an extinguisher used that way before, or if that was just how Dean's mind worked.

Dean nodded, but turned back to the hostages rather than answer him. "What else did you geniuses come up with?"

The man under gunpoint was too incoherent with fear to answer, so Dean looked further to the left, though the gun stayed where it was. Another man answered, "We keep individual water bottles in the fridge of the conference rooms for guests, but it'd take a long time to bring sixty bottles here by hand, and I don't know if we even have that many."

"Uh," a woman on the other side of the room volunteered, and Dean looked at her while slowly raising the gun back up towards the ceiling. "We keep the cases of water in the janitor's closet. I think there's two there now."

Dean nodded. "What's your name?"

"I'm Ellen. This is Cathy," she indicated the person she was bound to.

"Alright, Ellen and Cathy, you go with Cynthia and Janet and go get that water. It's not cold, but it's better than nothing. Take your time and be careful, take multiple trips if you have to. I don't want y'all getting hurt, alright?"

Ellen and Cathy both nodded vigorously, and then stood up. As they shuffled out the door, Dean picked up his cell phone and made a call.

"He's calling Rusty," Spike told Greg.

"Rusty, man, I just planted a bad idea in our hostages' heads. Anyone reaches for a fire extinguisher, you tell me." He barely paused, then answered whatever his partner had said. "Don't worry about it, I just jumped the gun a little. I don't think it's a problem, but I want to be sure. Sorry, man, and thanks." He hung the phone up and put it on the table. Almost immediately, it rang.

"Outside call, I can't get into it," Spike informed him, and Greg braced himself in case Dean escalated in response to whatever he was about to be told.

"Green. Forest. Soggy." Dean said, making each word it's own clear statement, and not waiting for the caller to speak. "Green, forest, soggy," he repeated, then hung up.

"Sorry about that Greg," Dean apologized, sounding almost sincere. "But that one I'm not explaining."

The gun was still pointed up, so Greg felt it was safe enough to ask the obvious question. "I assume you have someone on the outside?"

"Not as such. Just someone who I was supposed to meet up with. I needed to let him know my day had gone a little off the rails."

"This person doesn't watch the news?"

Dean shrugged. "This person doesn't know me as Dean Winchester." He sighed. "Being a dead, wanted serial killer can be difficult on friendships."

"Not so dead," Greg observed. Dean shrugged again, but looked over towards the door instead of answering. The four women had returned, and each pair had a flat of water bottles between them.

"Alright," Dean said, his smile returning and the glimpse of whatever he'd started to share with Greg vanishing. "Carry those over to the back of the room," He indicated the foot of the conference table with the gun, then returned the weapon to its upright position, "and pile them there. Then have a seat."

The four women set the water down as directed, as hostages shuffled out of the way to make room. Then the women sat on the flats. Dean nodded.

"What time is it, Greg?"

"Eight minutes till eleven," Spike supplied, since Greg wasn't wearing a watch.

"It's 10:52, Dean. Are you going to pick the 11 am hostages?"

"Sure. Becky, you three can go. And whichever one you had epilepsy. You're the other set." When no one moved, Dean rolled his eyes. "Oh, go ahead and stand up. Becky's trio first, then when they're out the door you two can follow."

Hesitantly, the five women Dean had indicated stood up. Dean picked up his cell again. "Rusty, I'm going to release that next set of hostages, as discussed. They're going to walk right past the SRU and out the front door, just like the others," Dean said as he held eye contact with the women, who all nodded, understanding his message. Dean waved a hand, and Becky's group shuffled past Greg's chair, having to maneuver slowly and carefully to avoid tripping each other.

As Dean watched them go, he listened to whatever Rusty was reporting. Then he sighed, and said, "I hear you, but there's nothing we can do about that. I told Greg pairs would be better but it's his team. Plus, first floor is low probability anyway, right?"

There was more silence, and Greg desperately wished they had some way to hear Rusty's side of the conversation. The two were probably discussing whatever it was they really wanted right now, and Greg was only getting Dean's very vague half of the conversation. Understanding what they were looking for, and what Dean believed about what they were looking for, would be the key to any negotiation endgame.

"We just keep doing what we're doing. Remember, the most dangerous enemy is the man with nothing to lose. So I do my part, and you do yours."

Dean hung up, but didn't move to open conversation.

"Sarge, can you listen?" Spike asked. Greg nodded, knowing Spike would see it on the camera. "Okay, I talked to Ellen and Cathy when they went to get water. They were both on the first floor when this all started, so they saw the initial interaction between Rusty and Dean. Rusty came in yelling and got everyone down on their knees like we saw.

"Dean's first words to Rusty were, 'Do you recognise me?' and when Rusty said yes, Dean stood up as though that was all the answer he needed. Dean asked, 'Do you want some help?' and when Rusty said yes, that's when Dean started moving. After he had the guns, Dean asked, 'Do you know what you're looking for?' and Rusty said, 'Damn camera flare.' Dean asked him if he knew who, and Rusty shook his head. Dean then said, 'Let me handle the civilians. We get upstairs, find the security room, and I'll set up the tapes. Then I'll keep everyone calm and easy. You find what you're looking for, and we get all these civilians out safely. That okay?' Rusty nods, and that's when Dean reached for Becky. 'Give her to me. You're terrifying her.' Then he starts giving instructions to the hostages, calm as you please."

Greg nodded again. The information was helpful in a couple ways. For one, it indicated yet again that Dean was at least pretending that this was coincidental. For another, it partially explained Dean's earlier interest in camera malfunctions.

Greg glanced at Dean, who was grinning at him. Seeing that he had the sergeant's attention, the killer asked, "Your team tell you anything useful?"

Greg blinked, surprised that Dean had both noticed his silent interactions with Spike and chose to comment on them. Greg decided to answer honestly. "Ellen and Cathy told Spike that you didn't plan this with Rusty. You were a hostage just like them until Rusty recognized you."

Dean nodded warily. "Do you believe them?"

"Yes, Dean, I do." Dean looked surprised at that, so he probably believed Greg. Greg himself wasn't sure what he believed, but there was enough evidence that he was willing to give Dean the benefit of the doubt. "How did you know that Rusty would recognise you?"

Dean shrugged. "I recognized him first. I mean, not that we'd ever been introduced, but a friend told me he was in the area."

"Do you always help a friend of a friend when they want to rob a bank?"

Dean snorted. "We're not robbing this bank and you know that. I'm helping Rusty because if I hadn't, he'd already be dead and probably a lot of civilians with him. He had zero control of the situation, and that's dangerous for everybody."

A small piece of Greg wanted to grab Dean and shake him until he made sense. What sort of person looked at a situation and decided the best way to keep everyone safe was to threaten them at gunpoint? Still, physical shaking wouldn't help. Greg had to be smarter than that.

"What is it that you want, Dean?"

"I want everyone to go home safely. We've talked about this Greg."

Maybe the question needed to asked a different way. "What is it that Rusty wants, then?"

Dean's gaze sharpened, but his lips stayed curled in the same friendly expression. It took Dean just a half second too long to come up with a response, but Greg doubted that any of the hostages noticed the change in tone. "He just wants answers."

Greg clicked his tongue, trying to keep up the teasing tone that took the bite out of the conversation. "Dean, we can't help you if you don't give us anything to work with. Unhelpful non-answers like that one aren't doing anyone any good."

Dean shrugged, but the motion was much less casual than it had been before. He didn't like discussing this with Greg. Greg, however, was watching the gun as much as he was reading Dean's body language, and the weapon hadn't twitched. Dean didn't like the topic, but he wasn't escalating.

"What can I say, Greg? What we want, you can't give us."

Greg spent the vast majority of his time negotiating with people who wanted things he couldn't give them. It wasn't often that the subjects themselves recognized that limitation. Tellingly, Dean had also slipped, admitting that he wanted Rusty's answers as much as Rusty himself did.

"We don't know that if we don't try," Greg said, although the truth was that the chances of them being able to satisfy Dean and Rusty were slim to none.

"Perhaps. We'll keep to our methods for now, though. Which reminds me, we should talk about lunch."

"Lunch?" Greg echoed, surprised.

Dean rolled his eyes. "Yes. Lunch." Then his brow furrowed and the teasing tone was back, "Come on! On cop shows you lot are always so eager to make deliveries and stuff. You know, sneak bugs in, or have the delivery boy be secretly an agent or whatever. Aren't you supposed to be throwing pizzas at me?"

"Why should I, when there's already an officer here with full communications?" Greg asked, trying to figure out how serious Dean actually was. He'd mentioned lunch several times, and yet it was always flippantly.

Dean shrugged, and the motion was back to it's normal, easy casualness. He was much more comfortable now that they were off the topic of what Rusty was looking for. Perhaps that was why Dean had brought up lunch: any topic so long as it wasn't that topic. "Espionage or not, we're gonna get hungry eventually."

"Why do you think that this is going to last for hours?" Greg probed, knowing that now that his team had an entry option, chances were that this would be over one way or the other in the next hour. Very few people willing to resort to violence were also capable of patience. Even if Dean could sit around all day, watching hostages and slowly releasing them back to the SRU, it was unlikely that Rusty would be as controlled.

"Rusty's got piss-poor instincts, that's why. He could be watching that crap for ages." Dean didn't say it derogatorily. If anything, his tone was weirdly factual.

"And yet you're risking your life to help him."

"Well, even broken clocks are right twice a day."

Greg's instincts said there was more to it than that, and his were plenty sharp, so he decided to push a little. "What makes you think Rusty is right today?"

Dean laughed, almost bitterly. "Because if there is trouble in a hundred mile radius, it will inevitably find the man named Winchester. Case in point, I come in here to open my first bank account to deposit my first paycheck, and," he spread both arms, gesturing to the entire room, then resumed his previous posture, elbow on the table and gun in the air. "Fate, man," he finished with another bitter chuckle. "What a bitch."

"Do you always carry heavy-duty zip ties around with you?"

"Well, they're lighter than duct tape. Not as versatile, but not bad."

"And a silver dollar?" Greg asked, just to continue the conversation. Dean actually laughed out loud at that, then reached his left hand down to his boot, and pulled out a knife.

"I figured if I ask the hostages to use this beauty, you and they would both have a conniption fit." So saying, Dean brought the knife down on the corner of the table closest to him, where it sunk two inches into the wood. Dean released the handle, leaving the knife standing straight up within his arm's reach but at least five feet from Greg. Dean grinned, honestly amused, and the expression was as chilling as anything he could have done.

Greg could feel his heart pounding as his estimation of Dean's danger level took another serious jump. His thoughts must have shown on his face, because Dean rolled his eyes, then reached out and casually pulled the knife out of the table, crossing his ankle over his knee so he could return the knife to its hidden sheath.

"Jeeze, no need for a freak out. Knife's away." With another teasing grin, no different than when he'd told Greg he sounded seven feet tall, Dean tacked on, "You asked, anyway."

Greg still didn't speak, begging his body to calm down and his heartbeat to stop racing. He needed to be able to match Dean's teasing casualness, and he was afraid that if he opened his mouth an oath was going to come out.

Dean had pulled the knife so casually, so quickly, that if he'd so much as stood up or leaned forward in the motion, he could have cut Greg's throat before he even realised the threat. And who knew what other weapons Dean was carrying?

"Don't worry," Dean said, as his fingers fiddled with the sheath and a couple snap-clicks echoed in the utterly silent conference room, "There's a couple different catches in the sheath. It doesn't draw easy. I had it loosened after Rusty pulled that stupid stunt this morning, in case the idiot didn't recognise me. I've been meaning to snap it back closed ever since." He uncrossed his legs, setting both feet back on the floor and taking the knife out of immediate range. That knife, anyway.

"Subject has de-escalated," Spike said. "Knife is away. Gun is still pointed up."

"I don't think he did escalate," Jules commented. "The gun never moved an inch."

Greg chose his next sentence to address both Jules and Dean. "You know, a knife is every bit as dangerous as a gun."

"Of course it is," Dean replied promptly. "It never jams, never runs out of ammo, never shoots just a little left. Damn sight easier to clean, too." He ran his empty hand through his hair. "Look, man, I'm sorry about that. I just… you asked the question and I couldn't help myself. I wanted to see your reaction. I forgot for a moment that you've probably seen those damn St. Louis pictures."

Greg felt a whole new sort of cold fear rush through him as he remembered the crime scene photos from St. Louis. Was that the knife Dean had used? Was Dean confessing to the crimes? As far as Greg knew, neither Dean or Sam had ever admitted any culpability before.

Not that Greg was fishing for a confession now. Besides freaking out the hostages, there was also the fact that Greg didn't want Dean dwelling violence. He needed to keep Dean in the here and now, happy and on an even keel, until they could resolve this situation.

"It's okay, Dean. No one is hurt," Greg reassured Dean while he stalled for a topic. Fortunately, Jules was still on his channel and had a suggestion for him.

"Go back to the tests. Maybe we can figure out his delusion."

"What's so special about the silver dollar?"

"It's silver," Dean said, very slowly, as though speaking to a child, "and it's worth an American dollar."

"Boss, something was weird about that knife. I'm going back over the glimpse we got of it, and it's not a hunting knife or anything else you'd expect to be using in this day and age. It looks ceremonial. And based on the way it has tarnished, I'd guess it's made of silver, not steel."

"Silver. There's your connection," Jules added, while Greg gave Dean the stink-eye his irrevrant comment deserved. "He even said it, he just hid it under the sarcasm. Spike, go back over the other flippant stuff he said and see if anything stands out."

"Thank you, Dean," Greg said in the best dead-pan he could manage. Dean grinned like the cat that had caught the canary.

"I knew you had a sense of humor somewhere," Dean teased back.

Greg was still recovering from the close encounter with Dean's most recent weapon, but he managed to smile

That was when Dean's phone rang again, and he answered it as Spike told Greg, "Not Rusty."

"Dude," Dean said without greeting, "What part of 'green, forest, soggy' was unclear to your big brain?"

There was a short pause, and then Dean's sarcasm was back.

"Thank you, princess, I would never have guessed."

The other person asked a question, Greg could hear that much of a tone, and Dean was suddenly wary.

"How?" That one question was enough to raise the hair on Greg's arms. Dean was worried, and even though his posture hadn't changed Greg could see the tension coiling in every inch of Dean. He didn't like what his companion was saying.

The other end of the call gave a slightly longer answer, and it was enough to make Dean swear, "Well, shit. Doesn't that just figure?"

Another single sentence, then a short question from the other end of the line. The two seemed to be able to pack conversations into sentences, which made sense if they had pre-arranged code words. During the short break, Spike spoke in Greg's ear again, "We've got a cell phone jammer if you want it."

Greg shook his head ever so slightly as Dean answered the caller, "No, keep going. One way or the other, I'll find you. Gotta do this right, regardless. Don't need any more innocent blood on my hands."

With that, Dean hung up his cell and shook his head. "Damn." Then he looked up at Greg. "So, Greg, moment of truth. Do you have any issue with the stupid tests? Mind if we continue?"

"What's the plan here, Dean?" Winchester didn't seem to have escalated, but there was definitely something different about him now. It wasn't just the tension, it was a certain tiredness that seemed to have settled in as well. Greg felt like the negotiation had shifted on him, again, and he didn't know what had changed.

Dean shrugged. "I figure I finish testing any hostages that weren't totally freaked out by the knife and aren't scared of a tiny little paper cut. Then we do lunch, and I let some more hostages go. We give Rusty until five o'clock, and I'll keep releasing hostages to prove our good will. At five, Rusty and I talk. He should have his answers by then."

"What happens when Rusty gets his answers?" Greg asked.

Dean waved the gun in a gesture that was dismissive, except that it was made with a gun. "That depends on how big an idiot Rusty wants to be. But I told you Greg: everyone gets to go home today. No more innocent bloodshed. Not today."

It was an interesting echo of what Dean had just told the unknown partner, who Greg suspected might be Sam. He had wondered after the first coded call, but the reality was that with Dean on the run from the law, he might have any number of contacts using code words. The conversation he'd just heard, on the other hand, showed a certain personal intensity. According to several profiles, Dean had only one emotional bond.

After a moment, Greg decided not to push. Dean probably didn't have an exit strategy yet. If that was true, it might explain why he was trying so desperately to get hostages out of the building without upsetting Rusty. It was a nicer thought than him narrowing down who he wanted to torture to death. The problem was that Greg had no way of knowing which theory was true.

So Greg just nodded, and Dean called for volunteers for the tests. He handed the silver dollar to Greg, who handed it to each hostage in turn. The hostages were closer to him than to Dean as the murderer shined the penlight in their eyes, and watched with hawk-like intensity as they scratched the palms or backs of their hands.

Not every hostage pair complied. When it was all done, Spike's voice told Greg that four pairs had chosen to abstain. Greg tensed for an escalation, but Dean acted like he didn't even notice. Perhaps he didn't. Dean had made no notes of any kind throughout the process, so it was possible that he'd assumed those four pairs had already been tested previously.

Greg doubted it though. Dean might not have kept perfect track of which pairs volunteered, but he knew he would have at least kept count. Even so, Dean didn't react.

By the time the process was done, Greg's internal clock told them they were getting close to lunch, so he used that as the conversation opener as the last pair found their way back a seat on the floor.

"So, Dean, you wanted to talk about lunch?"

"Sure. Let's order pizza, and a couple more cases of water. Your people bring it to the base of the stairs, I'll have a couple of guys go down and retrieve it. When the food is all here, I'll release… six hostages."

"Why not eight?" Greg asked. It was the first time he'd pushed Dean on the number of people to release, the first thing he'd really asked for, since he asked Dean to release Cynthia and Janet. Last time, Dean had responded to being pushed by releasing more hostages, but keeping control of the negotiation by changing who it was.

In fact, Dean had controlled every negotiation, and Greg had let him because the deals had been very reasonable. Even his counter-offer now was more about uncovering information than fearing for the lives of hostages. He was relatively confident that no one would be in danger until they reached the endgame, or unless Rusty or a hostage escalated the situation.

Dean shrugged, and Greg suddenly suspected that the movement wasn't so much habit as it was a deliberate stalling technique to give him an extra second before he had to answer. "Because it will probably take six hostages to go get the food. They go down the stairs, see the open door, grab the supplies, come back up, then it's back down and freedom for them."

"You think six people will be enough? That's a pretty big staircase out front. We're talking about pizza for forty-eight people here."

"It's about fifteen pounds," Dean answered confidently. Greg's eyebrows shot up, so Dean rattled of his logic. "Forty-seven hostages here, plus me and Rusty is Forty-nine. Less the six people who are leaving gives you forty-three. Assume a fourth of a pizza each, which means eleven pizzas. Pizzas weight just over a pound, but we'll be generous and call it a pound and a half. That's between fifteen and eighteen pounds. We rounded up on weight, so round down now. Fifteen pounds. That's one pair. Two flats of water, so we're not stealing from the bank here, well that's two more pairs. Six people."

"Okay, Dean," Greg said, seeing that Dean wasn't going to shift on this. "Six people. Let me talk to my guys."

Dean shrugged, again, so Greg turned his head to the side, looking towards the open door, and tried to talk to Spike normally, as though he wasn't being watched. "Spike, I'd like eleven pizzas delivered to the lobby, along with two flats of water. Think we can do that?"

"Boss, if you want us to try to sneak something to you, a weapon or anything else, touch your ear." Greg left his hands were they were, one on the arm of his chair and the other on the table.

It was tempting to have the team slip some sort of weapon to him, but he wasn't confident in their ability to get past Dean. For someone who hadn't planned the day's events, he had managed to stay in control at every turn, and he was smart. Greg didn't want to risk the calm they were currently enjoying.

"You want anything in particular, Dean?" Greg asked, to cover for what Spike had actually asked him.

"Just good old pepperoni pizza," Dean said. After a pause he glanced over at the hostages. "There aren't any vegetarians here, are there? Put your hands up." Cautiously, one man raised his hand. It was one of the ones that Greg had watched pass Dean's ritual.

"Good," Dean told him, "You just volunteered to be one of the six." Four more hands went up, but Dean just laughed and ignored them. "Pepperoni all around, Greg."

"Make that eleven pepperonis," Greg repeated for the sake of the cover conversation.

"Want us to try to drug the food?" Spike asked.

"No, nothing else," Greg answered "Just the pizza and water."

"Sarge, good news and bad news," Jules said, "I just got off the phone with one of Henriksen's old partners. He said that the body Dean used to fake his death in St. Louis was shot with silver bullets. Whatever silver means to Dean, I don't like that it showed up there. That's the most personally violent the Winchesters have ever been."

"How long do you think that will take?" Greg asked, not reacting to Jule's briefing. He'd worry about that in a minute.

"We can have pizzas in twenty minutes, probably. Definitely by 12:15." Spike said.

"Alright. Let me ask Dean." Greg looked back over, to find that Dean's amused expression was back. "How does lunch at 12:15 sound?"

"Sounds like I'll be six hostages poorer come 12:30."

"12:15 works for us, Spike."

Greg turned back to Dean, and was caught by his smirk. "What's so funny?"

Dean cocked his head. "Why do you act like they can't hear every word we say? The conference phone is still on, and I bet that's no Radio Shack toy in your ear. For that matter, why do you pretend like you don't have a dozen team members in your ear, feeding you information? It's not like I can't clearly see your comms."

Once again, Greg was struck by how badly Dean broke the mold of most hostage takers. Criminals did not typically tell him how to do his job.

"This is about you and me, Dean," Greg said, trying to answer honestly and yet not bluntly. "You and me, and maybe Rusty. My team are out there. They're not in here with us."

"Except they are," Dean countered back. "You think I don't know that every one of them tensed their grip on their guns when I pulled that knife? Hell, I'm shocked I didn't get a panicked call from Rusty, telling me they were charging up the stairs. If I'd held onto it another ten seconds, would my phone have rung?"

Greg swallowed, but answered as calmly as he could manage, "Probably not. You weren't threatening anyone any more than you are right now. You weren't advancing. We prefer to talk. It's better for everyone if you choose to walk out of here."

"In cuffs," Dean tacked on, saying what Greg hadn't. "Better for everyone if I surrender."

Greg was pretty sure the hostages weren't breathing. He'd be a little surprised if his team was, either. "There's not a lot of other ways for this to end Dean."

"I know." Dean met Greg's gaze solidly, and the tension in the room grew like a physical being. Then he shook his head and chuckled a little, and the atmosphere vanished like it had never been. "Just need a little time, Greg, that's all. Then everyone goes home."

Greg wondered whether that was some sort of personal mantra of Dean's. Though Greg had used it first, and Dean had seemed to be deliberately echoing him when he repeated it the first time, he had said the phrase a lot. He wondered what "home" meant to Dean, who had committed crimes all over the US and was evidently hiding out in Canada.

Dean made eye contact again, the kid-like grin that made him look so innocent and dangerous back on his face. "But pizza first. Man, that sounds so good right now."

There was a short silence, while Greg fished for a topic. He wanted to keep Dean focused on him, engaged, and it seemed like he might need to keep him occupied for a couple hours, as Dean slowly released hostages. That required conversation a little deeper than he normally used.

Well, maybe he could get a question answered. "Dean, you mind if I ask a question?"

Dean shrugged, and drawled, "Can't promise to answer," as he twirled the gun in a little circle, which Greg took to mean he could go ahead.

"Where is your home?"

Dean looked startled, and didn't immediately answer. Then his facial expression grew somber. "I mean the hostages, Greg. The civilians go home. Your guys go home. You get to go home. Kiss your wife. Hug your kid. Pet your dog. Whatever. I think it's obvious that I'm not headed for a destination resort."

Greg sighed, partially out of relief that Dean was engaging and partly out of weariness for what he was about to do. "No wife for me, Dean. Not any more. And I haven't see my kid in years. No dog, either. For me, my home is my team. I've got good people out there, every inch my family and my home. What's yours?"

Dean swallowed, hard. "Don't you have a file that answers that?" he deflected bitterly. "Henriksen sure had his theories. Haven't the good ol' FBI shared their toys yet?"

"That's all just theories, Dean. Mostly from people who never met you."

"Don't push too hard, Sarge," Jules murmured. "He's getting tense."

"Is this the part where you tell me that you think I'm innocent?" Dean asked with a sardonic smile. "The part where you tell me you'll believe me if I spill my guts?"

Dean leaned back in his chair, putting distance between himself and Greg, and he pulled his ankle up to rest on his knee again. Greg wasn't sure if he was doing it because it was comfortable - Dean had used the posture from the very first time he sat in the chair - or if he was bringing his knife within easy reach.

Greg shook his head, not wanting Dean to think that he was patronising him. "No, Dean, I don't think you're innocent." Greg gave a significant glance toward the gun, and Dean seemed to relax a little. He wanted to be taken seriously. Well, that was easy. Greg didn't treat any part of this situation lightly.

"Then why do you care? Why ask me about my home?"

"Guilty people are still people. I just want to understand you, Dean. That's all. No lies, no games."

Dean studied him carefully, but Greg was sincere and he knew that Dean would be able to see that. "What's there to understand?" he ventured.

"Boss, don't push on the family. He's too defensive of Sam. Ask about the car."

Greg nodded to show Jules he'd heard, and followed her advice. "Your file says you drive a black '67 Chevy Impala. Feds have the plates, the description, and an APB in every law office nationwide. Yet you still drive the same car."

"Course we do," Dean answered easily. "Baby is family. Sam and I grew up in that car."

'And there's your definition of home,' Greg thought to himself. 'The car named Baby.'

"And she still runs well?" Greg asked, careful to use the female pronoun. He'd never met or heard of a car fanatic that didn't refer to his pride and joy as female.

"As long as she's loved, Baby will run to the end of time. Besides, any work she needs, I can do."

"Really? Where did you learn that?" Greg asked, though he was pretty sure he knew.

"Dad." Dean didn't volunteer anything further.

"Must have been a good mechanic." Greg vaguely remembered reading somewhere that John Winchester had worked in an auto shop, before he started dragging his kids all over the country.

"Sure. But Baby's been my car a long time. He gave me the keys when I turned sixteen, but I'd been doing all her work for a long time before that." Dean nearly glowed with pride as he talked, which was the most human expression Greg had seen on his face yet today.

"You know, you'd get along well with Spike," Greg said, just to keep the conversation moving. "He'd be a real fan of an Impala like yours."

"Good," Dean said with satisfaction. "That means if y'all find her, I can trust that you'll treat her like a lady."

"I promise, Dean, we're not out to hurt your car." Greg purposefully injected just a touch of humor into the otherwise serious statement, and was rewarded with another of Dean's laughs.

"Well that's reassuring," he said when the laughter was over. "That's very reassuring."

"Boss, we've got pizza on site," Spike said.

"Copy that, Spike," Greg said, since Dean had already commented on the ridiculousness of the charade. "Looks like pizza got here early."

"First time anyone has said that, ever," Dean quipped. "Your people ready?"

"How do you want to do this?" Greg asked, knowing Spike was probably patching this to the rest of the team, assuming they hadn't all been listening in from the moment he entered the room.

"A combination of what we did earlier. The three teams I designate leave this room. They walk downstairs and retrieve the food and drinks. They come back, and put the stuff on the table. Then they walk back down the stairs. At no time do they speak with or touch any of your people. Once they are out the front door, clear of the building, they can do anything they want. Officers can cut them free or whatever. After they leave the bank."

"Copy that, boss," Eddie said, echoed immediately by Spike and Sam.

"That works for us," Greg relayed, and without delay Dean reached for his cell phone.

"Rusty? Good news. Lunch is here. SRU is going to bring the stuff into the lobby and leave it at the base of the stairs. Six guys go get it, bring it here, then walk out. No contact, just like before."

Rusty talked for a little while. Dean listened with a serious expression.

"Well, we've got time Rusty. Don't rush yourself. If you miss it, this will all be for nothing. We don't have forever, but you've got a couple more hours at least. Do this right."

"Rusty's between green and yellow, boss," Jules said. "He's feeling the time pressure, no matter what Dean said."

"But time pressure for what?" Spike asked. "I wish they'd tell us what they were looking for."

"Alright, Mr. Veggies," Dean ordered, his gun coming down to point at the self-identified vegetarian, unaware that he was talking over the voices of Greg's teammates. "You and your partner, stand up."

Cautiously, but without any real fear, the two men stood. "You two," Dean said, gun shifting to point at two other men, who weren't sitting with either the health risks or the management, "And Mr. and Mr. Security. You four stand up, too." All six people had taken Dean's test.

"Now everybody walk around the table, behind Sergeant Parker, and out the door. We'll see you in a couple minutes."

Calmly, the six men made their way out of the room, Dean's weapon following them until they were out of sight, then returning to its upright position. It was a tense silence that occupied the conference room as Spike narrated what he was seeing to Greg.

But the exchange went off without a hiccup. The six men were able to carry the pizza and water as Dean had predicted, and they followed his directions to the letter. Then it was over, and Greg had only forty-two hostages to worry about.

Dean sent two hostages down the hall with a plate of pizza for Rusty, then had them serve the rest of the civilians. Greg reached for his own slices without waiting for prompting, putting himself on a more equal footing with Dean, who had managed to serve himself without coming in reach of Greg or the other hostages.

As inconvenient as it was, Dean's situational awareness was impressive. He never let anyone come within striking distance of himself, and except for when hostages were moving about, he was always the closest person to the door.

As soon as Greg noticed it, he realised something else. The way Dean was sitting, chair slightly turned towards the door, gun in the air, meant that he was ready for anyone that might be coming through the door. It was a guarded stance, like he was watching for trouble. Although Dean had used it effectively to control the hostages, it was not the best place to do it from. In fact, there were some hostages Dean couldn't even see thanks to the table and the setup of the room.

Once the pizza was dealt with, Dean started eating with his left hand, the right hand never releasing the gun. He asked Greg about his favorite sports teams, about his hobbies, and about why he liked being in the SRU. Every time Greg tried to turn the conversation back around, Dean gave a flippant answer, or side stepped the issue. They spent almost an hour in the verbal jousting, before Dean's phone rang.

"That's Rusty," Spike told him. "He's got the video he's been watching paused. I think it might be from this morning, but it's hard to tell."

Greg could hear Rusty talking quickly, but couldn't hear what he was saying. After a bit, Dean interrupted him.

"I hear you man. Don't move yet. Describe where the desk is again?"

Rusty answered.

"Boss, he's escalating. Rusty has picked up the gun and he's on his feet. He's definitely looking at footage from the lobby," Spike warned him.

"Bad news man," Dean told his partner in crime. "He's not here. He made it out the door before you got it locked. I watched him go. Shit, I was afraid of this." Dean sounded upset, but he wasn't escalating. If anything, he seemed resigned.

Rusty's tones barked back over the phone line, and Dean was sharper in reply as well. "Because I ain't a god-damned moron. I didn't stay alive this long by ignoring my gut. I was sitting four feet away, trying to figure out what the best move was when you came in, waving your gun around. I watched him rabbit, man. He's gone."

"Rusty is escalating. Pacing around, waving the gun," Spike said.

"Copy that," Greg murmured. "Do not engage. Let Dean talk."

If Dean heard, he didn't react, focusing on Rusty's call instead. "Doesn't change anything." Then, more forcefully, he insisted in answer to whatever Rusty had said, "No, it doesn't. We do this right, Rusty. We clear everything. No assumptions. Believe me, you do not want to look in the rear-view mirror in six months or a year and wonder what you could have done different. You stay on those computers, and we do this right." Dean growled out the orders, leaving no doubt that he expected to obeyed.

Greg couldn't hear Rusty's answer, it was too quiet.

"Subject is de-escalating. Boss, he's sitting back down. Gun's still in his hand, but he's using it to scratch his temple. He's looking down, he's upset, but he's not on the move."

Dean let Rusty ramble for a little bit, then he sighed, and answered in a gentler voice. "I get it man. You did what you thought you had to do. No one can do more than that. Right now, focus on what you can control. We'll deal with the rest later."

Rusty said something more, then he hung up. Dean pulled the phone away from his ear, but he didn't set it back on the table right away. Instead, he just kept looking at it.

"Rusty is back to green. He's put the gun down," Spike reported, sounding relieved. "I repeat, subject is back in the green."

"Dean," Greg ventured after another moment of silence, "you want to tell me what that was all about?"

Dean looked up, and set the phone on the table. "Just confirming a suspicion." His tone tried and failed for disinterest.

"Did Rusty find what he was looking for?"

"Maybe," Dean allowed. Then, he reluctantly amended, "Probably."

Greg swallowed, but he had to ask. There was no other way to know. "Then why is he still watching the tapes?"

Dean met his eyes squarely, calmly, and Greg felt a chill go down his spine. Dean's gaze looked almost dead. "There's forty completely innocent people in this room, Greg. I know I'm not walking out of here. You know that. But Rusty hasn't thought that far ahead. When he gets to that conclusion, I'd like there to be a lot less than forty civilians in this room."

Greg wasn't sure what to do with that. Who was Dean not counting as innocent? Or did Dean still think there was a monster in here? Or did Dean mean innocent in the same way he used the word civilian, disqualifying Greg?

"I'd like that too, Dean. What do you say we release another pair of hostages?"

"Forty people. It's, what's, just after one o'clock?" Dean was doing some quick mental math, judging on his expression. "One pair, every ten minutes. We'll deal with our eight hold outs in the meantime, and have this whole thing done by five. Sound good?"

Greg nodded. "Sure, Dean." Honestly he didn't like the sound of dealing with the hold outs, but they could cross that bridge when Dean came to it. For now, saving two people every ten minutes sounded like a damn good idea.

Dean's gun indicated two of the women who were sitting with the health risks. "You two stand up. I'm gonna call Rusty back."

He reached for the mobile and called his partner. "Rusty, Greg's getting a little antsy. We're going to have to start releasing people again. We've agreed on one pair every ten minutes. That gives you three hours, okay?"

There was a pause. Rusty didn't sound happy. "Man, listen," Dean cajoled, "these hostages did exactly what I told them to. The police are doing as we've asked. Every pair is going to walk out the front door without stopping. We need to do this. I promise, everything is going to be okay."

Then Dean hung up the phone and looked at the two women he'd selected. "Go on," he ordered, and they stumbled out of the conference room.

"Sarge," Spike said, sounding confused. "I went back in the tapes to identify who Dean was talking about. When Rusty came into the bank, Dean was sitting at a desk talking to a bank employee name Ryan Greyson. Greyson did make it out of the bank before Rusty fired his shot into the air and people stopped moving, just like Dean said. I'm watching Greyson on the tapes now, trying to see whatever Rusty noticed."

"Let's see if we can track that down, Spike," Greg murmured.

"Copy that. Winnie's trying to find Greyson now. Uniforms are on their way to his house, but if he didn't go home we're not sure where else to look."

"Something interesting on the comms?" Dean asked.

Thirty-eight other people, Greg reminded himself. Forty-one with himself, Rusty, and Dean. He just needed to get forty-one people out of here safely.

"Like you said," Greg quipped, "a dozen helpful voices."

"Any of them worth repeating?"

"Tell him his fly is down," Spike joked.

Greg felt himself smiling, unprepared for the humor. Dean's eyebrows raised in question, so Greg repeated, "My man on the cameras says your fly is down."

This startled a laugh out of Dean. "Good man."

"He is," Greg agreed.

"This is weird, boss. You remember he asked about camera flare? Well there is. About 8:30 this morning, Greyson went to go get some papers for a customer, and he looks up at the camera. And right over his two eyes are two perfect little camera flares. It's there only a couple seconds, but it's definitely there."

"Anything else you want to tell Dean, Spike?" Greg asked, keeping the rapport with Dean while giving himself an excuse to listen to Spike.

"Camera flare doesn't work like that boss. It's not localized to one little piece of the image. Holy shit! There it is again. Ten minutes later, different camera, but it's the same. Camera flare over both eyes."

"Maybe he's got contacts and they're reflecting the light weird?" Jules ventured. "Boss, if that's what they're looking for they could stare at footage for days. A couple seconds of video out of twenty-four hours, from multiple cameras on four floors?"

"Don't forget the flashlight," Wordy volunteered. "Maybe Dean's looking for some sort of reflection in person."

"Copy that," Greg said, trying to chuckle. He thought fast to find something to tell Dean. He couldn't tell Dean what he'd just heard, but he had to say something without lying. "I don't think you want me to repeat that. Some of my teammates are… opinionated."

Dean chuckled. "I bet. Well, maybe I can win them over. You tell me when we hit the next ten minute mark."

"Sure thing, Dean." Greg nodded, then stilled as Spike started talking again.

"Rusty just stood up. Looks like he's headed for the bathroom. No one is watching the cameras. We can move in. Touch your ear if you want us to move in."

Greg didn't move, and a moment later Jules was backing up his decision. "No. Dean is serious about getting the hostages out safely, but he's still paying a lot of attention to those eight who didn't take his tests. He's calm, and he's responsive. Let this play out."

"I'm more worried about Rusty," Eddie said. Greg kept both hands down and tried to look relaxed.

"So is Dean," Jules explained. "Dean has had this situation under control from the moment he first addressed Rusty, he wants to get the hostages home, and he's doing that. He understands Rusty, and he thinks this is the best way to get the hostages out. He's repeatedly referred to Rusty as stupid or idiotic. I think he'd stand between Rusty and a hostage, if it came to that. And Rusty defers to him. This is Sarge's call, and he's making the right one."

"Rusty's leaving the washroom. Less than a minute of freedom remaining," Spike urged. Greg kept still, and Eddie didn't override his decision. "Rusty is back in front of the cameras. Do not move, people, he's watching."

Greg carefully didn't sigh in relief. While he might catch flak later for not ending the situation when he had the chance, he didn't feel the risk was necessary. There were still too many people around. Unless they could guarantee taking Dean down fast, while he had two guns and a knife in his possession, forceful entry was risky. Better to let the situation keep on as it was.

It was time to start talking to Dean again, and he needed a good subject. Something that wouldn't spook him, but was personal enough to keep him engaged and keep deepening the relationship they had.

"You know," Greg mused aloud, "we've got a Sam on our team. He's a sniper. Good man. Came to us a couple months ago right out of Afghanistan, special forces."

"Sam, Spike, Sarge," Dean mused back at him. "I'm seeing a pattern here."

Well, there was no harm in telling Dean their names. "Sorry to burst your bubble, Dean, but the trend ends there. Jules, Eddie, Lewis… they don't fit your pattern."

Dean laughed. "I knew a Jules once. Dated my brother for a while. Quick as a whip, and too good looking for him by far."

"Too good looking, but not too smart?"

"Nah, no girl is ever too smart for Sammy. Kid was born with a book in his hand. I know, because when he was really little that book weighed more than he did." Dean laughed at his own joke, and Greg chuckled along with him, amazed that he'd finally got past Dean's barriers.

He was actually talking about Sam. If there was one thing the Winchesters did not discuss, it was each other. They protected each other with stonewall silence, and yet Dean was breaking that.

Greg held off on answering, and as before Dean filled the silence. "When he was a teenager, I used to have to hide his schoolwork to get him to come out with me. 'I can't, Dean' he would whine. 'This is due tomorrow.' No matter how many times I told him it didn't matter, he just didn't listen."

Dean laughed self-deprecatingly. "Of course, little Sammy got a full ride to Stanford, so what do I know?"

Greg shook his head, but didn't verbally respond. Sam Winchester's four years at Stanford, apparently without contact with his family, was one of those events that was so hard to profile. Greg wasn't going to risk being wrong.

"You should have seen him there," Dean crowed proudly. "I went to check up on him a few times, you see. He fit right in. Had his books, and his girl, and he drove his professors absolutely nuts." The fondness felt real, with no undercurrent of bitterness. Not an attitude the profiles would have predicted.

"Jessica Moore, right?" Greg asked, figuring that was a safe enough reply.

"Yeah. Jess. Talk about a good looking girl." Dean tried to say it flippantly, but Greg could see grief in his eyes. Interesting, that it was grief and not guilt.

Dean looked off to the side, and Greg let the conversation die.

"Time check, Spike?" he asked loudly enough for Dean to hear easily.

"It's been eight minutes," Spike told him. "And boss… there's more weirdness."

"Eight minutes Dean. You want to release the next set?"


As Dean selected his hostages, gave the familiar instructions, and called Rusty, Spike filled Greg in on the details.

"Uniforms went to Greyson's house. They found it locked, but there was damage around doorframe, so they went in. And they found Greyson. Dead. He'd been strangled, and get this boss, the coroner said he's been dead for the last twelve hours, minimum, probably closer to twenty-four. I double checked the footage, and it's definitely Greyson on the tapes. They're getting dental records for the body, but he sure as hell looks like Greyson. There's no sign of a struggle, but neighbors said they saw Greyson leave for work today. So someone killed this guy, spent the night in the house, and then went to his job today. There's something bizarre going on here."

"Let's stay focused," Eddie countered. "We don't know or care what happened to Greyson, unless it affects whatever is going on upstairs."

"Dean Winchester specializes in the bizarre," Sam shot back. "If he killed Greyson, that affects the profile."

"That doesn't make sense," Jules argued, "even by Winchester standards of logic. Dean kills a man, and then twelve hours later decides to stick around and visit him at work?"

"The Greyson look-alike and Dean could be in on this together?" Wordy put in. "Rusty surprised them both? Greyson got out and Dean didn't?"

"But Rusty recognised Dean. Recognized and trusted him," Jules reminded them.

Greg just listened to their suggestions with an open mind, trying to decide if the information was relevant or not. The problem was that there was a dozen possible explanations, each one too weird to give any credit to, except that there wasn't a more logical option. For now, it was probably best to continue as they were, unless Dean seemed to change moods or escalate.

By the time 3:30 came around, Greg could feel the exhaustion starting to set in. He'd been in contact with Dean Winchester nearly non-stop for six hours, every moment choosing his words carefully and being on high alert in case the situation shifted. There were still twelves hostages besides himself: four who had accepted the scratch-test, and eight who had not.

Dean had been mostly silent for the last twenty minutes, speaking only to check the time and give instructions to the hostages. Greg didn't blame him. It was hard to keep up witty banter and shallow deflections for so many hours. This time, however, as the hostages left, Dean didn't lapse back into contemplative silence.

Instead, he looked over towards the remaining hostages. Though the gun didn't move, something about Dean seemed to have escalated just slightly. "Why didn't you take the test?"

He didn't seem to be addressing any specific pair, but the bank manager, Bill Walters, answered him casually. "I'm Bill Walters, bank manager. I felt like I should be the last one out. My partner was willing to wait with me."

Dean's eyebrows fled for his hairline, and his jaw all but dropped open in shock. After a moment, he clearly glanced left, looking at another pair. "And you?"

"I heard Bill and Ryan talking. They're my friends. I was willing to wait with them."

The next two hostages were nodding, too. "We wanted you to let the women go."

Greg felt a swell of pride for these people whom he didn't even know. They'd all effectively put themselves in the line of fire for their co-workers. And that was quite obviously not what Dean had expected to hear.

Dean, for his part, was still staring at the six men, thinking. Greg could almost see him coming to some sort of decision. "And you two?" he asked, voice cautious. The man on the left turned to the one on the right. Judging by their clothes, they were not bank employees, just unlucky customers.

The man on the right licked his lips, obviously nervous. Dean didn't move the gun, but the tension was easy to read in his body. He was bracing for action if he didn't like this answer. Greg tensed to, preparing as much as he could, in case he needed to lunge for Dean. From this angle, he couldn't get between Dean and the hostage, but he could knock Dean's aim off. What happened after that would be anyone's guess.

"My name is Spencer Wilson," he finally managed to get out in a voice barely above a whisper, "and I am HIV positive."

Dean's tension lessened, but didn't disappear. "I see," he acknowledged. Then he looked at the other six men. "Given that there are no women left, I don't suppose you'd all like a shot at this?"

With his left hand, he reached over and picked up the silver dollar, which had been sitting on the table this entire time.

Bill Walters looked over at Greg, who gave him an encouraging nod. Slowly, each of the six men took Dean's tests and sat back down.

"Spencer," he said when the procession was finished, "I'm sorry. I know what it is to live under a clock. But you see, we're in a bit of a bind. Rusty is trusting me to live up to certain expectations. And because I'm doing my part, he's letting me work with Greg and his team to get everyone home safely. I need to keep doing my part. Which means I need you to do yours. I need your partner to take my test, and then I need you to do so. You can keep the dollar afterward. Will that suffice?"

His tone was reasonable, cajoling, almost sad. Greg believed that Dean believed every word. Very slowly, Spencer nodded. Then the last two hostages got to their feet and walked forward. They stopped about equal with Greg, on the other side of the conference table. From his place, eight feet away, Dean shone his like in each of their eyes. Then the man on the left picked up the silver dollar, and opened a shallow cut on the heel of his palm. As he always did, Dean watched that cut carefully for a moment. Then Spencer accepted the coin and repeated the motion. A single drop of blood welled up, and Spencer put the dollar in his pocket, closing his hand around the cut.

The rest of the tension dropped out of Dean's shoulders, and he reached for the cell phone.

"Dean, what are you doing?" Greg asked, nervous because even though Dean seemed calm, he felt like he had missed something.

"It's okay," Dean assured him as he dialed.

"He's called Rusty," Spike said.

Dean had stopped calling Rusty after the second set of regular hostages were released, so this was the first time he was talking to Rusty in to hours.

"Rusty." Dean greeted. "No, no, everything's fine. In fact, we're better than fine. In all those tapes, you find anyone in the building that we missed?"

"He's shaking his head, boss," Spike narrated.

"Good, good. Listen man, we're clear."

"He just stood up, but the gun's still on the desk." Spike's voice was calm, doing more for Greg's nerves than anything else could.

"That's what I said," Dean continued. "We're completely in the green. Turns out the only hostages who were holding out on me were trying to be heroes. That's been cleared up. We're all good here."

"He's pacing, boss, escalating slightly but the gun is still down."

"No," Dean said after listening for a bit. "No, Rusty, you know that's not true, but right now isn't the time to talk about that. We need to let these people go."

"He's reaching for the gun!" Spike exclaimed, even as Dean responded to whatever Rusty was saying.

"Then come down here and test me yourself," Dean challenged, hostile. His grip on his gun had tightened.

There was a short pause, while Spike told Greg, "He's frozen in the middle of the room. Gun's in his hand, but it's not raised and he's not leaving.

"That's pretty much it. Look, you found what you were looking for. I swear to you, that's been handled. Right now, we need to think about the twelve innocent people in here. Don't make the police come get us, Rusty. That's how people get killed. You, me, innocent people are all going to be in the line of fire if you do that. Greg's team is good, and they're here to save lives. Don't make that harder."

"He's setting the gun back down," Spike said, sounding as shocked as Greg felt.

"Yeah, Rusty, that sounds about right. Unless you really want dead police officers on your conscience as they cuff you anyway."

"Subject just collapsed back into the chair. He's defeated."

Dean nodded as he listened, then said, "Let me tell Greg."

Dean looked over and met Greg's shocked gaze. "Rusty is going to leave the gun in the security room and walk downstairs. Your guys can cuff him as soon as he steps off the last step. Then, on your cue, these twelve hostages are going to leave the room and go wherever you tell them to go. Then we'll talk about you and me. Is that okay with you, Greg?"

What else was there to say? Dean was still talking into the phone, so Rusty had clearly heard Dean say that he was going to give himself up. Spike hadn't indicated that Rusty disagreed with the idea. Going from two gunmen and twelve hostages to just him and Dean was good, very good. But it was also the endgame, and Greg was worried about what Dean might try to do.

"Alright, Dean."

"You're good, Rusty. Go down slow, keep your hands up, and do whatever they tell you to do. It'll be okay, man."

"He's coming out," Spike reported. "Gun is still on the desk. No other visible weapons. He's at the top of the staircase. He's coming down."

"I see him," Sam said, "I have the solution."

"Wordy, go cuff him," Eddie ordered.

"He's kneeling down," Spike told Greg, tension high and strong. "Wordy's got him. He's cuffed. Patting for other weapons now. No weapons. Wordy's taking him out of the building."

Throughout the whole wait, Dean didn't move. He was watching Greg's face, perhaps reading his tension or relief, but it was more patience than wariness. He was just waiting for this part to be over.

"This is good, Dean," Greg said when Spike reported that Rusty had been handed into the custody of another unit. "The hostages are going to stand up and leave now, okay? They're going to walk around behind me, go down the stairs past the police, and out the front door." As he spoke, he could hear Eddie giving orders for the rest of the team to move up the stairs stealthily. He hoped the hostages understood the message not to interact with the SRU, but just to leave the building.

"Okay," Dean agreed, and the hostages stood up and made their way out of the room as quickly as they could.

"Alpha team is set. Ten second entry," Eddie growled in Greg's ear. Greg could picture his team leader crouched behind Lewis' shield, ready to enter if necessary.

"No solution, the door is too exposed," Sam said.

"Just touch your ear boss and we're there," Spike promised him.

"Now what, Dean? It's just you and me."

Dean nodded. "I told you that I read about these statistics? I know how many criminals are killed during the last few minutes of their encounters. So now I'm going to take the clip out of this gun, and hand it to you, and you're going to put it out of arm's reach. Then I'll eject the bullet in the chamber and give you that. Then I'll give you the gun. After that's done, we'll repeat it with the second gun. Then I'll hand you my knife, hilt first. And I'm going to keep disarming until I'm done. I won't do anything I don't announce first.

"Then I'm going to stand up, and turn to face the wall, and put my hands behind my head. If you want to call your team in now, you can. I won't shoot. The stupid safety is on, anyway. It's been on the whole time. I would feel better if you let me disarm first, because then I know that I'm not dangerous. Whatever else happens, I know that I'm the only one in danger. Because that's the other statistic Sam told me. He told me how many police die in the last minutes of an encounter. But no one is going to die today. So what do you say, Greg? Can we do this one last thing my way?"

There was nothing but sincerity in Dean's face. Greg knew he should bring his team in, have his people disarm Dean, but he couldn't. He want to give Dean this one, last thing, to let him go down on his terms.

"Okay, Dean. That gun first."

"I'm ejecting the clip," Dean said, as he thumbed the release and did so.

All told, it took almost ten minutes for Dean to totally disarm, mostly because of the methodical way he made every motion, and the drawling commentary he ran as he did so. It was a lot of weapons. In addition to the two guns he'd appropriated and the knife he'd already shown, Dean was also carrying a switchblade and an even smaller blade hiding in his belt. He also had a coil of wire, a pack of matches, a pocket knife, a lighter, and a set of lock picks. Finally, Dean explained that he had a second set of picks sown into the lining of his boots, and he needed to take them off.

Then Dean stood, in his socked feet, and turned and faced the wall, and Alpha team came in to arrest him. Eddie patted down every pocket and seam, but found nothing else.

By the time they had Dean Winchester downstairs, and the building secured, it was 4:12 PM.

"So how does it feel?" Eddie asked Greg the next day, after the paperwork was finished, while they watched the rest of the team drill on the firing range.

Greg turned to him with a cocked eyebrow, pulled from his thoughts.

"You beat the Kobayashi Maru," Eddie explained. "How does it feel?"

Greg smirked and said, "Damn good," but his heart wasn't in it.

The truth was that Greg didn't feel like he had beaten anything. Everyone had made it out safe, yes. They'd kept the peace, yes. But Dean Winchester had been in control of himself and the situation the entire time. Despite the fact that he ended up arrested, Greg felt like the murderer had gotten everything he wanted.

But then… that's why Dean was considered the Kobayashi Maru, the unbeatable test. There was no winning and losing. There was just wrapping up the situation, which they had. Dean was someone else's problem, now.

Eddie reached out a clapped Greg's shoulder. "You should feel good," he said in a tone that made it clear he knew Greg was faking.

That earned an honest smile, and a reluctant nod.

"Team One, hot call," Winnie said as the alarm suddenly glared.

"Suit up!" Eddie barked to the rest of the team. Greg followed him to the locker room, putting Dean Winchester from his thoughts. It was time to keep the peace.