Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Note: Um...no comment.

Tap, tap, tap.

He hears it in his dreams now, in the quiet dark when barely sleeping. When wide awake.

Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.

A steady, constant echo resounding in his ears, mocking him.

When it stops, finally, it only lasts for a minute, a brief and fleeting moment, just long enough to lull him into a false sense of security, lure him into thinking it may actually be over. But it's not. It never is.


Tap, tap, tap.

For two days straight, two days, and he's been waiting all along. Waiting for it to make its move, stop knocking and just come on in already. Come and get me, you bastard.

But no move is made, no tiny door thrown open, not even a crack. No round bright eye peeks out at him, measuring him up, learning his moves. Nothing. Nothing but the never-ending torture of tap, tap, tap, rapping upon the wall.

Sam begins to worry after the first hour, watching him get all itchy at the sound. Dean is not a patient man, but he is stubborn. Bad combination.

Two hours in Sam can see his brother's eyes begin to glaze, jaw tick with frustration. But he's on a mission, and damn it, Dean Winchester doesn't half-ass jobs. He'll stick it out to the bitter end.

By the time the sun begins to set that first night Sam has to leave. Because his brother won't listen to reason. This is stupid. It's not even doing anything, hurting anyone. You're just driving yourself crazy. And he doesn't think that remaining in close quarters with Dean, especially with weapons so near, so easily accessible...so tempting, is a good idea.

He spends nearly four hours at the diner across the street, eating pie, drinking coffee, and learning everything about Lola, the down and out single mother of four who has to work two jobs just to make ends meet. She serves him up slice after slice of peach, cherry, apple pie, all on the house, until he thinks he might explode. Then she gives one more in a to go box for his sick brother back at the inn, whispers in his ear that her number's on the napkin inside.

He pitches the pie, keeps the number, and returns to the room. Hour thirteen now, and Dean hasn't moved, still sitting and staring at the same spot on the wall where a little storage access door had been put in, long ago, when the inn was still a house, a home.

Dean doesn't understand how Sam can't hear that, the steady scribble-scrabble behind the door, the constant tap, tap, tap, like a branch being blown into the window.

Tap, tap, tap.

He goes to bed, finally, only because his back is aching and his ass is asleep. And he figures he can just as easily watch and listen for the little bastard from the bed. He even hits a point where sleep nearly takes over, maybe even does, for a moment, just a moment. Before it gets louder.

Tap, tap, tap.

And Sam can hear it, of course Sam can hear it, he's not deaf. And Dean's not crazy, not really. It's there, it's happening, deep within the walls. But for some reason, it doesn't bother him, doesn't keep him from sleeping, snoring contentedly through the rhythm of pure evil.

Dean doesn't sleep. And he doesn't speak either, not when Sam tries to make small talk the next morning. Not when he asks when they're going, more important hunts to be had. Not even when he relays details of the freebie-giving MILF serving up breakfast right now across the street.

Sam considers pulling out his .22 and leveling it at his brother's head. Put them both out of their misery. But he takes a walk instead, hoping that some sort of showdown will happen in his absence, ending this once and for all.

But it doesn't, of course. So he gives in, offers to help, to at the very least take this thing seriously, in as much as he can.

We can go in after it, he suggests.

Too tight, can't fit. And it knows it.

Sam takes a breath. Lure it out?

He shakes his head. Too smart. They're on to us.


Dean looks his way, making bleary eye contact for the first time today, and drops his jaw. God, I hope not.

He's frustrated now, crazy-ass, sleep-deprived brother, pain in the ass mystery tapper, and too much pie slowly rotting inside of him. He doesn't have the time or the patience for this. Then what, Dean? What do you want to do?

He turns to him with wild eyes, seeming not even to see him at all. Burn the motherfucker down, he sneers.

And for a moment, the tapping stops.

Both brothers eye the door suspiciously, waiting, wondering if something will make its presence known. Wondering if, perhaps, Dean's threat had actually managed to get it to shut up, back off. But then it starts again, even louder and faster and more disruptive than before.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap, tap.

And Dean could swear, somewhere beneath the pounding - because in his head it turned to pounding long ago - there was a steady, tinny chuckle. So he throws himself at the tiny door, slamming open palms repeatedly on it, and the surrounding wall, forcing his own beat, beat, bam, to drown out the tap, tap, tap from the other side.

When he runs out of steam the room falls silent, no sound but of his own heavy, exhausted breathing. That lasts just long enough for Sam to reenter the room, having left long before to take everything out to the car, and observe the awkward, hopeful quiet.

Then, tap, tap, tap.

And he moves faster than he thinks he ever has before to reach down and lurch his brother off the floor, drag him out the door, before he flings himself once more, this time possibly through the wall. Dean fights, but he's weak, no sleep, too much exertion. So he gives in, without even realizing it, and allows Sam to thrust him in the car.

Refusing to give him any time to catch his breath and jump out, break down any tiny doors or burn mother fuckers to the ground, Sam speeds off, smell of burnt rubber lingering in the air.

It's nearly four hours before he speaks, awake the whole time, mind racing, fingers twitching, jaw grinding. Fucking gnomes, he mutters absently, leaning his head back and shutting his eyes. Stupid fucking gnomes.

And he tries to block out the tapping echoes, and sleep.