A/N: okay, had to re-post this because of a bug at my end of the system. Previously posted under the pen name 'Ma'heono'. Apologies if people who may have hit that link get confused. What can I say? It's a long story but the salt has been spread and the chants read. Hopefully sorted.
To any new hitters, this story takes place after 'Hunted' and before 'Playthings'. Usual disclaimers apply: canon characters are not mine, I'm just toying with them.
The noise of passing traffic on the highway spoke of immense trailers and big-rigs making their way across country, using the quieter roads during the hours of darkness to their advantage. Reflected headlight beams swept the ceiling of the motel room in pale yellowish strips, highlighting for a brief moment the garish orange plastic chandelier that hung in the center.
Watching the swift passing of the beams as they glided over him, Dean slipped one arm behind his head and let his free hand rest back against his forehead. Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, aware of the air filling his lungs from the bases right up to under his collarbone, he then sighed out the breath and listened to the gentle sound. Repeating the deep breathing a few more times and trying to recall where he had learned the technique (then remembering the whole point was to relax and clear his mind), he felt his shoulders beginning to release their tension and was aware of his heart rate slowing.
And then Sam stirred. Dean forgot his attempts to relax and lowered his arm, turning his head and peering across to the other single bed that lay a short distance away adjacent to his own. The headlight passes gave brief moments of enough light for him to watch his brother lying prone, fidgeting in troubled sleep, and Dean groaned in dismay. Never sure quite what was the best thing to do in moments like these, he sat up slowly and rested back on his arms, the hideous orange and yellow blankets sliding away from his chest.
Nothing. Although Sam seemed to become more rested at his brother's voice and Dean could not help but smile as the notion of just what he meant to his little brother pushed all other concerns to the side for a second. He sank back against the pillows and closed his eyes.
It was barely a whisper but was laced with such emotion that Dean instantly sat up, swung his feet out from under the covers and turned to perch on the edge of the bed. "You okay, man?"
"Can't sleep." Came a tight, quiet reply.
"I know … me neither …" Dean peered through the dimness and could just about see his brother opening his eyes and looking back at him. Sam frowned and gave a gentle groan of what sounded like exhaustion mingled with a generous portion of discomfort and a sprinkling of worry. "Ava?" Dean surmised softly.
Sam was quiet for a moment and then rolled onto his side, clutching at his thick duck-feather pillow and giving a loud sigh. "Yeah."
Dean nodded. "Not your fault man … she sought you out … remember?"
"Dude …" Sam countered quietly, "So not the point."
"Look, Sam." Dean dragged his hands back through his hair and held both fists at the back of his neck for a moment, aware of the tight tension across his shoulders. "The way I see it, we've got enough to deal with right now … adding casualties to our worries will only make - "
"Casualties?" Sam echoed, raising himself up on one elbow and frowning at his brother. "Is that how you see them?" He waited for an answer and was met with silence. Sure that his brother was trying to find the means to defend his lack of emotion on the matter, Sam sighed in annoyance and lay back down.
Sam looked back and was sure he saw his brother hang his head in dismay. Intrigued, Sam sat upright and waited for Dean to continue. And that was when his phone rang.
Grunting at the effort it took to clamber from the bed, Sam flicked on the bedside light and winced in the sudden brightness of the day-glow decor. Dazed for a second, he stumbled towards the chair at the foot of his bed and searched through his jacket pockets. Finding the cellphone, he checked the caller ID and frowned in interest. Aware of his brother watching him in equal intrigue, Sam accepted the call and put the phone to his ear.
"Hey. It's me. I think I found one."
"What?" Sam sank onto the end of the bed and pinched his nose with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. "Andy …? D'you have any idea what time it is, man?"
"Yeah. I know. I'm sorry. It couldn't wait." Andy replied hurriedly. "I'm serious, man. I really think I found one of them."
"Of of whom?"
Dean edged closer to his brother and frowned in concern as he watched the color drain from Sam's face. It seemed to make the cuts and bruises on his swollen cheeks that much more obvious and somehow so much worse. He leaned forward and his forehead knotted in concern. "What is it?"
"Yeah, Andy …" Sam closed his eyes and pressed the palm of his hand against his temple. "I … uhm … you what?"
"One of the psychics." Andy insisted with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. "I mean, I can't be sure but I'm pretty certain. It's where I am now. I broke into this psychiatrist's office and I've got her file. She certainly fits the profile you spoke of and - "
"Wait! Wait! Wo …" Sam sat up straight and turned to Dean, his eyebrows sinking with the weight of his confusion. "Where are you?"
Andy continued on regardless. "She's the same age as us and claims to have abilities that sound suspiciously similar to what we have. Look. I think you need to get here and see for yourself."
"Tulsa?" Sam gasped and gave a brief chuckle, shaking his head slightly.
"What?" Dean urged, "What's in Tulsa?"
Sam raised his hand as if to request that his brother please not add to the worries in his already aching head and then sighed loudly. "Look, Andy … it's not that I don't - " He closed his eyes and smiled thinly, "Give me what you have and let me check with my source - "
Sam flinched slightly at the sudden shout and was aware of his brother leaning even closer in increasing concern.
"I'm sorry." Andy sighed heavily, "Look, you pulled me into all this and now - "
"No, that was Webber."
"Ok. Alright. You're not interested. I get it. Sorry I bothered - "
"No! Wait!" Sam hung his head and held his forehead, groaning softly. "Dude … I'm sorry. I'm tired and … it's cool. We'll meet to talk. Where can we find you?"
"Dude!" Dean urged, moving closer, "Tulsa must be at least a 12 hour drive from here!"
"Dean!" Sam hissed in annoyance, holding up his hand again.
"I can park up in a truck stop outside the city." And suggested quietly.
"Okay." Sam nodded. "Give me the info you have so I can do a little research on the way."
"Sam!" Dean argued.
Sam glared a warning at his brother and stood to grab a pen and some paper. He swapped his phone to his other hand and frowned as he struggled to grip the pen firmly with his plastered right hand.
"That's all I know." Andy concluded quietly, "Her file is pretty short - I don't think she's been here long. But all that Dr Kavanagh told me seems to fit what we know about us."
Sam paused for a moment and closed his eyes. "Why did he tell you all this …?" He trailed off as he guessed the answer and gave a soft groan.
"What?" Andy defended, "I heard all this screaming and had to know what was going on."
Sam considered this for a moment and looked at the profile he had jotted down. He then frowned and stood up straight. "Wait … what were you doing seeing this guy?"
"Oh …" Andy gave a small embarrassed laugh, "Tracy. She insisted. You know. After everything."
"Ah." Sam smiled, "Hoping to get back into her good books, huh?"
"And a lot further, if all goes to plan."
"Okay, enough info." Sam laughed gently and arched his back, stretching out aching muscles. "I'll call later."
Now wide awake, Dean watched his brother in mild annoyance as Sam started to get dressed, pulling on his jeans and struggling slightly to button the fly with his broken hand. "So …?"
Sam tugged on a t-shirt and turned round as he pulled the faded cotton over his bruised ribs. "So I'll do some research on the way."
"And we're gonna drive all the way to Tulsa …?"
"And that's it?" Dean stood from the bed and tossed aside the sheet that clung to his thighs. Frowning at Sam as he neared him, he laughed gently and shook his head. "Sorry, Sammy. I need a little more to go on."
"Why? It's Andy. We told him to call if he ever needed us." Sam lifted his shirt from the chair and slid it on, frowning as he saw more buttons and then deciding, with a weary groan, to leave it open.
Dean reached past Sam and grabbed the small motel-embossed note pad. Sighing, he scrolled through the rough handwriting. "Tori Lakin, 23, originally from New Hampshire, training to be a vet at OU." He laughed suddenly and grinned up at Sam. "Hey. You think she talks to the animals?" Seeing Sam's definite lack of amusement, his smile fell away and he looked back at the list. "Both parents dead - car accident 1991." He frowned and then raised his eyebrows with a slight snort of interest. "Paranoid schizophrenic? Lovely! She sounds quite the catch."
"Dude!" Sam snatched the paper back from him and folded it small to tuck it into his jeans pocket. "Please? Can we just go?" He asked wearily, shoving his jacket and sleep-shirt into his hold-all and picking up his laptop. "We've hit the road for a lot less."
"Yeah. And got into all kinds of trouble because of it." Dean countered, sitting back down on the bed. "And what makes Andy think she's one of the psychic-demon-kids, anyhow?"
Sam frowned at his brother's tone and dropped his bag onto the floor with a sigh. "He said she was screaming in Latin and that this shrink he spoke to told him that she terrifies him."
Looking down at his hands, he picked idly at the edge of his cast and took a deep breath. "And she draws pictures of eyes." Frowning, he could feel his pulse racing and looked up at his brother's worried frown. "Yellow eyes."
"Crap …" Dean closed his eyes and stepped backwards to sit back down on the end of his bed.
Sam watched his brother's shoulders sag and could feel his throat tighten as he recalled Dean's confession as to just how much all of this was wearing him out. Knowing that he had to go and find out more about Tori and also knowing that his brother would not let him take the trip alone, no matter how much he disagreed with the idea, Sam felt a stomach churning collection of guilt building inside him.
"I dunno, man …" Dean began in a whisper, closing his eyes and letting his head sink lower towards his chest. "I'd give anything to just be rid of all this …"
"Yeah … I know …" Sam stepped past him and perched on the end of the opposite bed. "But … maybe we can find some more answers. I mean, if this girl's been in therapy then … I dunno … perhaps the shrinks have something to offer …?"
Dean lifted his head and met his brother's earnest eyes. Suddenly smiling, he slapped his hands against his knees and stood quickly. "Fuck it!"
Sam watched in cautious relief as Dean started to pull on his jeans and pack up his belongings into his tattered old hold-all.
"I knew we were making a move as soon as the phone rang." Dean explained with a slight chuckle. Glancing back at his brother, he sighed and shook his head in mock exasperation. "It's how this gig works with you."
Sam stood slowly. "I'm sorry, man."
"Yeah …" Dean pulled on his leather jacket and checked the pockets for his car keys. "Well, you can take the first leg and breakfast along the way is so on you."
"Sure." Sam smiled and took the keys. He watched his brother open the door and carry his bag out to the car that was parked in front of the motel. Glancing about the room to ensure they had gathered all their belongings and pausing for a moment as he realized that all of his worldly goods could be fitted into an average size hold-all, Sam followed after Dean and closed the door.
Sam rested his face against the cool glass of the window and could feel the gentle rumble of the engine vibrating against his shoulder where he leaned into the door. It was comforting somehow, almost soothing and he wondered when his brother's prized Impala had become so much more to even him that simply a means of travel. Hearing the dull roar of the tyres rolling over tarmac, he let his thoughts wander and was suddenly transported back to the sight of the sleek black Chevy after the semi had slammed into them. Recalling Bobby's dismissal of the battered car that was unsalvageable in his eyes, Sam remembered his own determination and realized that this was when he had fully understood what the car meant to Dean.
"Hey, sleeping beauty. Rise and shine."
Sam groaned as his brother's rough thump against his left shoulder reverberated through him and knocked his forehead against the glass. His contented musings vanished in a puff of annoyance and he opened his eyes wearily.
"Gonna stop for gas and breakfast." Dean offered with a yawn.
Sam slowly righted himself and groaned as his neck ached from having been slumped in such an awkward, yet surprisingly comfortable, position against the door. He peered out at the passing countryside and stretched his arms out before him, yawning loudly. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was a little before 10 am and he rested back against the seat with a sigh. "Where are we?"
"Just north of Springfield, Missouri." Dean replied. "Saw a sign for a diner not far from here and suddenly got me a hankering for some grilled beef."
Sam grimaced and rubbed at his aching side, feeling aging bruises still tender under his skin.
"And coffee would be good." Dean added as an after thought, taking one hand from the wheel to slide his fingers round to the back of his neck and massage his tired muscles.
"Yeah." Sam sat upright and blinked in the brightness of the morning sunshine, stifling another yawn as he looked around at the light traffic cruising alongside them on the highway.
Dean glanced at his brother and smiled in amusement. "Have a good sleep?"
"Not really." Sam turned to see the last of his brother's mocking smile and shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry, man … I'll take the next leg."
Dean nodded in agreement, "Tulsa's only about 4 more hours, I reckon. Shouldn't be too much of a chore."
Sam smiled and nodded, acknowledging that his brother's teasing was well-deserved; this trip was on his insistence and yet he had not been able to keep his eyes open much past the Indiana state line and Dean had needed to take over his share of the driving.
"Here we are!" Dean declared merrily, pointing out through the windshield at a large, brightly colored sign. "Daisy's Diner. Home grown beef patties. Yum!"
Sam nodded slowly, unsure if he was quite so keen on the idea of a quarter pounder for breakfast but only too happy to let his brother feast on whatever he chose; it was the least he deserved.
Dean pulled off the highway and guided the Impala into one of the parking spaces beside the apparently newly refurbished diner. They climbed from the car and took a moment to stretch out their aching bodies, pacing back and forth across the neatly gravelled yard.
The Impala was ticking as the hot engine cooled and Sam could feel the heat radiating out from under the hood. Almost following the urge to pat the car gratefully, he laughed at himself and hurried after his brother who was eagerly crossing over to the diner.
The diner was still quiet as Dean headed out from the restroom and strode back towards their table in the corner. Seeing the booth empty, he paused and quickly looked around the brightly decorated restaurant.
"Your buddy already left."
Dean spun towards the long bar that filled one side of the diner and saw the waitress smiling warmly at him.
"He paid and said he'd meet you in the car." She wiped down the chrome surface of the bar with a cloth and her smile grew. "Gave a good tip, too. Thanks."
Dean forgot his initial panic and stepped towards her, matching her smile with one of his own. "You're very welcome."
"It's not often that someone asks for the full ½ pounder deal much before noon." She continued, pausing her cleaning and regarding him in interest. "You sure were hungry."
Dean chuckled and leaned his elbows on the bar, his smile growing as he held her gentle gaze and gave a contented sigh. "Well … we've been traveling through the night and - " He stopped himself and groaned suddenly, hanging his head to meet his fists against his forehead. "Speaking of which …" Standing up straight and tapping the bar with one fist, he pointed out towards the car and gave another gentle moan. "We really should get going."
"Oh." The waitress sighed in dismay and her smile softened a little. "That's too bad."
"I … oh god, you have no idea …" Dean muttered and waved as he headed out of the diner.
Sam was waiting inside the open Impala, sitting sideways in the passenger seat and holding his head in his hands. Seeing something in his brother's body language that sparked a familiar dread deep inside him, Dean galloped down the steps from the diner's entrance and jogged across the gravel car park to skid to a halt beside the car.
"Shit!" Sam's face was pale and twisted in pain as he heard his brother's arrival and glanced up at him.
"Sammy?" Quickly crouching down, Dean placed his hands on Sam's arms and peered up into his brothers troubled face.
"God, Dean …" Sam lowered his plastered right hand and rested the heavy cast on Dean's shoulder. "I saw them killed." He managed.
Sam closed his eyes and took a deep breath, his hunched shoulders relaxing as the vision faded and the pain in his head began to ease. "Orderlies … guards …" He looked up and frowned in confusion. "It was a hospital … a secure wing like - "
"Like a psych ward?" Dean surmised hurriedly, still supporting Sam's arm and watching him recovering gradually.
"Yeah." Sam answered quietly. "Dude, I think - ""We need to hurry!" Dean concluded and got to his feet. Waiting for Sam to turn and swing his legs up inside the car, he closed the passenger door and ran round to the driver's side. Sliding inside the car, he fired up the engine and the Impala lurched forward and out of the car park, the tyres slipping on the gravel in his haste
Grasping the door handle for support, Sam reached back over the front seat and grabbed his laptop from the bag behind him. "I saw a symbol. A name, maybe …" He explained to no one in particular, opening the laptop and waiting for the computer to power up. "It was …" Flicking through the files he had already downloaded from the searches he had done using Andy's information, his brow knotted as he looked at the various images. "It was familiar … like - " Gasping in dismay, he stared at the report he had opened and the logo in the top corner seemed to leap out from the screen at him.
"What?" Dean urged, his mind half-focused on the highway as he glanced at his brother. "Sam?"
"Oh god …" Sam husked, turning the laptop towards his brother and giving a loud sigh of sorrow. "It's definitely her … I saw the symbol of the hospital …"
Dean took a quick look at the computer screen and then his eyes met Sam's horrified face. Knowing that there was nothing more to be said, his lips tightened and he gripped the steering wheel as he pressed on the gas and felt the Impala immediately respond.