6 miles outside Spencer, WV


"This it?"

Sam nods, because he knows Dean is already looking at him and he doesn't have to turn his head to know it. Dean's attention is like fingers brushing across his skin these days, and no telling how long that'll go on. Dean's always been a force to be reckoned with and now he's a hum of energy and intent in the back of Sam's skull, like the pickups of electric guitars when they're too close to fluorescent lights. They've only been out in public, as in, in a crowd of more than five since Dean awoke, and Sam knows for certain he saw that one girl flinch when Dean was checking her out from behind. Cuffing him on the back of the head wasn't enough of an explanation but it did keep his attention.

They are back at the beginning.

"I don't remember this," Dean says.

"Nothing worth remembering," Sam replies absently. "Before it grabbed you."

When they finally get out of the car, they leave the doors open by unspoken understanding that the concussion of closing them might attract more attention than the engine did; and open doors are attractive enough to whatever might be out here. It rained right up until dark. Everything is damp and sound carries easily.

Sam has yet to explain why he thinks there was more than one. Dean doesn't bother questioning him any further because he gives Sam at least that much - trusting him with his hunches. He follows Sam places he doesn't want - no, can't stand - to go. Kansas, for one, to the house he meant never to see again, and now dark roads where he's recently been violated.

No, they don't speak of it.

They're here for two things: to get rid of any others, and to make sure that Dean is alone in his own skin. The thing had been waiting there rather than traveling around, which meant attachment to a place. It would likely have been attracted to any human presence, to ground itself, but Sam would have been irresistible. Had it been patient enough to wait and figure out which brother was shining, things would have been very different. Sam understands that Dean was the more vulnerable because all his energy goes to hiding until he accidentally gives at the seams.

Dean is shining now too but it's not the Shining. Dean's seams are all unlaced for awhile, that's all. He's off his game and can't admit it even to himself so he's dangerous as well as vulnerable. He's also discovered to his great amusement that when he snaps his fingers, there's a brief spark of the same caliber they got as kids when chewing wintergreen Lifesavers in the dark. Sam thinks Dean's soul has always been too much for his own body to hold, however that works, and now that the doors are all open he's probably too much for the world until he puts his boundaries back in place again. Dean has always been loud but lately he's way too much to handle; he hardly speaks but everything he does is loud underneath. Sam's pretty sure it doesn't even take anyone with sensitivity to hear him.

Sam knows absolutely jack about it and isn't likely to try and figure out more than he already has.

What the hell do you suppose we really are, Sam?

Dean's earlier question was rhetorical and sarcastic, but Sam decides it's that they've lived their lives touching and being touched by what few believe or understand, and it makes them so left of center. Not necessarily better but something more than your standard carbon-based life form.

Their pockets are full of salt. That's what Sam is willing to wager on the likelihood of the place holding more than miles of damp foliage. Dean's got the shotgun and couldn't care less whether it'll do any good. Their father taught them that armed men behave differently and that sometimes makes a difference.

They stand shoulder to shoulder near the rear bumper of the car and listen to the breeze in their ears. It's mostly overcast and off to the west the distant haze of light pollution stains the low clouds a grim mauve. The occasional star shows a glimmering face between the wisps, but not enough to steer by. They don't have to speak. They do because their voices are necessary contact.

"Feel anything?"

Sam is cautious in the way he says it. He is not asking for something literal.

"You mean wanting to run crazy away from you and the car screaming 'free at last, free at last'?" Dean says. "No. Nobody in here but me." There's a grin to go with it but it's nervous, something Dean always thinks Sam doesn't pick up on.

He no sooner gets the words out than he's startling away from Sam and the car and staring out into the dark to his left. Sam doesn't question him, doesn't try and break the quiet, just comes to stand close to him to listen and watch. He's just behind Dean's left shoulder, where he usually is, shield and guard. He's closer than Dean usually tolerates, but this is not usually and Dean is not quite Dean again yet.

There's a gathering that Sam can't see. Dean can't really see it either but he's looking with more than his eyes. There's nothing left of the bodysnatcher that grabbed him. Still, he can feel something similar nearby. It's only natural to try and look. They stand at the ready, motionless, predators in the territory of others, testing the air. There's a handful of maybe-shadows or random bits of motion in their peripheral vision and nothing more.

The EMF meter in the backseat is just now going off.

Something comes close enough for Dean to feel. He doesn't back away; he's being prowled and assumes Sam is as well. He stills the visceral impulse to run because he knows he's being tested, he refuses to give anything the satisfaction, and fuck you I still have my boots on.

Sam rests a closed fist on the top of Dean's shoulder in reaction to his own nervousness as well as Dean's.

The moment he makes contact, the shadows scatter. The circuit closes again.

"Yeah, you better run," Dean tells the darkness. He's got the shotgun over one shoulder and Sam standing over the other; he needs nothing else. He makes a rude gesture into the darkness before waving a dismissive hand and heading back for the car. "Fuckers. Boring."

Sam stands a moment longer, measuring. They'll mark this place on the map and come back to it with a plan, because there's something to get to the bottom of here and they aren't equipped to do more than chase. The chances of someone else running afoul of the place by stopping in just the right spot are small, and Sam tucks that sparse solace into his jacket along with his hands. It may have been that only one was that desperate, that ravenous, that tempted. Saw too much, got too greedy, ran out of luck.


Sam turns to see Dean leaning against the car's right rear quarter panel.

"There's nothing here to worry about," Dean says. He pauses and glances around again. Sam can barely see him in the ambient evidence of civilization off to the west, and it doesn't matter. He isn't posing this time. "Trust me. The rest of 'em...they're just lost."

Sam looks into the dark again briefly and feels it look back, and he's less concerned. That's not their gig. Not yet, anyway; maybe when the world is less rife with demons run rampant, they can turn their attention to the discontented dead. To help in other ways.

What the hell do you suppose we really are, Sam?

Sometimes God divides by zero and comes up aces. Sam shrugs and goes to close his half of the circle he makes with his opposite number.