Disclaimer/Spoilers: See Chapter 1.
a/n: Those of you who have been missing Sam will be glad to see his return in this chapter. It was unusual for me to write so much where the brothers were separated, but it was necessary (I thought) for the flow of Dean's story. I was glad when Dean remembered him—I missed writing their interactions. :)
I hope the end of this story provides the resolution you've been looking for. The story kinda… punched out of me, to quote Sam, and I didn't alter it much when I broke it up into three sections. I may have triggered more questions by the way I broke it up, so I'll have to take that into consideration if I post this way again. I know that the possibility of holes exists because this was written so quickly (and I chose to post rather than play with it), but I hope that any you may notice don't detract from your overall enjoyment of the story.
Okay, here 'tis. Oh, and Onari, there's a song in here for you.
"Man is the only creature whose emotions are entangled with his memory."
- Marjorie Holmes
Dean forced his left hand to rest on the throttle of the motorcycle. Turning the bike in a tight circle, he headed for the alley opening. His stomach tightened with anxiety, his head full of one thought: find Sam. Glancing to either side, he thought back to his return trip last night. The rain had obscured his vision and was now clouding his already sketchy memory. Closing his eyes briefly, he retraced the landmarks in his mind, then turned right.
Twisting the throttle to punch up his speed, he leaned low over the handle bars and behind the Plexiglas shield. Wind rippled around him, bunching up his black T-shirt at his back and exposing the 9mm that he had tucked into his waistband. Holding the bike steady with his stronger hand, he reached behind him and removed the gun, then curled his stomach in so that he could tuck the weapon in his front. His shirt inched up, exposing the flat planes of his stomach. He felt the caress of the wind over his skin and his lip curled up in a brief moment of pleasure.
Tipping the bike slightly to the left, he blew past a red pick-up truck, then tucked back in front of it to narrowly avoid a delivery van heading at him, horn blaring. The wind stole moisture from his squinted eyes and rustled his short hair. His shirt was now up to the middle of his chest, and he felt the heat of the sun on his bare back easing the muscle-weakening shivers that shimmered through his body.
Angling his right knee to the side as he'd seen Sophie do, he took a corner fast and straightened the bike quickly. When he reached Kat's bungalow he was almost disappointed that the ride was over. He couldn't remember what he normally drove, but he felt sure he could get used to feeling speed like this.
The motor rumbled low as he slowed, stopped, then turned off the bike. Tugging down his T-shirt, he swung his leg over the bike and sprinted up to the front door. Taking a breath, he first tried the handle, then peered in the window at the side. The house was dark. He glanced over his shoulder. Too many eyes. Using his right arm as a brace, he vaulted over the edge of the porch railing, dropping to a crouch in a flower bed, and hurried around to the back of the house.
The back door was unlocked. Shaking his head, he eased in, glancing around the kitchen. He crept through the dark room, starting to step into the hallway when intuition had him ducking into a low and immediate crouch, narrowly avoiding taking a frying pan to his already wounded head.
"Whoa!" He exclaimed as the pan was brought back around just as hard. "Hang—hang on!"
"Get out of my house!"
The voice was eerily familiar, the growl unmistakable. Dean reached out, grasping a slim wrist, and stood, pulling the form of a girl of about twenty-five up close to him. Her chest bounced off of his and she gasped, her eyes gray and hot.
"Just hold still—"
"You let go, or I'll—"
"Kat! Hold on!"
At his bark of her name, she froze.
"I'm not here to hurt you," Dean continued. He shook her wrist once and the frying pan dropped to the floor. "I'm not here to hurt you," he repeated, his tone softer. He released her wrist and she backed away from him.
"Who are you?"
Dean gaped at her as she reached around the side of the wall and flicked on the kitchen lights. Except for the chin-length cut of hair, he could be staring at Sophie. Her high cheekbones, full lips, pert nose were her great-aunt's. Her eyes were wider, softer, and he didn't imagine they turned a vivid blue when she was scared or angry. But there was no denying the family resemblance.
"Hello? I asked you a question."
Or the similar attitudes.
"My name is Dean Winchester," he said, his hands up and open. "I'm here to find my brother."
"You think I've got him stashed somewhere?"
"No… no, listen, I was here last night…"
"Oh, hell," Kat turned away, running a hand through her hair. "He wasn't crazy."
"He? Who was crazy?"
Kat flopped down on a kitchen chair, dropping her head into her hands. "That guy that dragged me out of my window last night. He said his brother was gonna come back looking for him. Told me to tell you…"
She brought her head up, her brows furrowed.
"Tell me what?" Dean crossed to her, crouching in front of her. "Kat, please… please I gotta find him."
"I'm trying to remember… it was… weird."
Dean rubbed his hand over his face. "Weird like…" He prompted.
"It was…" Kat tapped the center of her forehead as if she could shake the memory forward. "Gimme a break, okay? A lot has happened in the last twenty-four hours."
"Tell me about it," Dean stood up, swaying slightly. He turned from her and walked over to the kitchen sink, bracing his arms and dropping his head.
"Hey, you're bleeding," Kat stood up and crossed quickly over to him.
Dean glanced down at his arm, surprised. The bullet wound on his upper arm was seeping red through his bandage, soaking through his T-shirt and starting to trickle down his arm. "Damn," he said, surprised. Now that he saw it, he also felt it.
"Here, sit down," Kat took his arm and led him to the chair she just vacated. "Let me look."
"No, seriously, it's—"
"I'm a nurse," Kat interrupted. "Let me look."
Dean sighed, suddenly very tired. Kat rolled up the T-shirt sleeve, then carefully unwrapped the gauze, her lips pursed, her brows furrowed.
"From last night?"
"Your chair saved my life."
"And to think I was this close to selling it at last week's garage sale," Kat muttered, her calm eyes running quickly over his face. "You got a good abrasion here, too. Looks like this laceration could have used some stitches." Dean simply blinked at her. She lifted his left forearm. "Do I want to know what happened here?"
"Burn," he said.
"Campfire or curling iron?" Her lips quirked up in a half smile.
Dean tilted his head at her humor. "Exploding cabin."
"Well, that'll do it," she set his arm down gently on the table. "Don't move. I'll be right back." She patted his hand and turned away, pausing at the doorway. "Butterfly."
"Come again?" Dean blinked sideways at her.
"That's what your brother said… I'm pretty sure it was butterfly."
As she ducked down the hall, Dean stared after her in confusion. Butterfly… He wracked his brain, trying to figure out what Sam might have meant, what message he was trying to send, but the harder he thought, the emptier his mind became. It was like staring into a dark corner of a room trying to see if anything was there. The harder he stared, the darker it became. He was trying to pin smoke to a wall.
Kat returned with a large plastic box. She sat it down, pulled out latex gloves and wiggled her fingers into them. Taking out antiseptic, gauze pads and bandages, she started with his shoulder. She poured a generous amount of antiseptic on a gauze pad and with careful, gentle strokes, she began to clean the wound. Despite her care, Dean couldn't help but flinch, biting back a groan as the antiseptic found its way into the raw places on his shoulder.
"You clean this out yourself?" Kat asked, reaching for a pair of tweezers.
"No," Dean forced out through clenched teeth.
"Well, whoever it was did a decent job," Kat whispered. "Easy, this might—"
"—hurt," Kat finished. "Sorry, but you had some pieces of material in there… looked like leather."
Dean felt the shaking begin just over his heart. He realized suddenly that he was fading. The edges of his vision were folding in, the sharpness of objects softening. He picked a focal point—the drip from the kitchen faucet behind Kat—and started counting. The only sound he heard was the seemingly deafening boom of the water drop hitting the empty sink. He pulled air in through his nose and counted the beats to the first song that came to his head.
"But your thoughts will soon be wandering, the way they always do, when you're ridin' sixteen hours, and there's nothin' much to do. And you don't feel much like ridin', you just wish the trip was through…"
"You still with me?"
Dean closed his eyes, focusing on the sound of the water hitting the empty sink, and nodded. He felt his body list, shifting slightly to the side, his ribs resting against the edge of the table. With weak fingers, he gripped the edge of the table top.
"Can you open your eyes for me, Dean?" Deft fingers were flitting over his shoulder, wrapping the wound.
He shook his head. Six, seven, eight…
"Sure you can," Kat fingers gripped his chin carefully, tilting his face toward her. Dean felt the echo of his trembling body against her still fingers. He forced his eyes open, pulling his lips in, breathing carefully through his nose.
"Atta boy," Kat smiled. "One down, two to go."
"'M fine," Dean protested, starting to push away.
"Listen," Kat stopped him. "Your friend wrapped these good, but whoever it was didn't know shit about medicine."
Dean blinked at her candid tone.
"I am going to check this burn and clean that head wound," she said, her eyes steady. "Unless you're looking to get an infection."
"N-no," Dean replied, pissed at himself that he couldn't keep his voice steady.
"Right, okay," Kat took a breath. "I'm just gonna unwrap this first, take a look, okay?"
"Out there in the spotlight, you're a million miles away. Every ounce of energy you try to give away. As the sweat pours out your body, like the music that you play…"
"Hmm…" Kat muttered as she gently pulled the saturated gauze from his arm. She seemed to be talking to herself as she inspected the swollen, pink of his arm. "Nasty."
"Gee, that's encouraging."
She tossed the old bandages on the floor with the bloody ones from his shoulder. He grimaced as the air hit the burns. Kat winced in sympathy.
"You smoke the day's last cigarette, rememberin' what she said…"
"N-no," Dean said, closing his eyes again as a shiver betrayed him.
"It's the burn, Dean," Kat said softly. "From the looks of it, these are second degree burns. The swelling and the blisters should go down in a couple of weeks, but you need to keep it clean and keep the salve on it."
"Mm-hmm," Dean nodded. Two, three four…
"You guys French?"
Dean blinked. "What?"
"I said are you guys French?"
"French? No. No we're not French." He stared at her, the song in his head fading.
"What are you taking?"
She was making his head spin. "What? Taking?" His eyebrows quirked, meeting over the bridge of his nose.
Kat dropped her chin, looking at him through her lashes. "For the pain."
"Oh, uh… aspirin."
Kat frowned. "When was the last time you had some?"
"Couple hours ago."
Kat nodded. "I need to clean this, Dean," she said. "The salve is helping, but these blisters are pretty bad."
Dean huffed out a breath, nodded, and looked over at the sink. The drip continued its cadence. He felt Kat's eyes on him.
"Hang on," she said, pushing herself to her feet. She stepped over to a kitchen cabinet, reached up to the top shelf, and brought down a nearly-full bottle of Jameson. Turning, she plunked the bottle down in front of Dean.
Dean groaned out loud, reaching for it. "I could kiss you right now."
Kat grinned. "You stop strange men from breaking in and shooting up my house, I might let you."
She pushed his hand away, twisted off the lid and lifted an eyebrow at him. "Need a glass?"
Nodding, Kat sat back down across from him, exchanging her whiskey-soiled latex gloves for clean ones. "Might want to take a drink now."
Dean didn't have to be told twice. Taking a long pull off of the bottle, he set it down and stared again at the drip coming from the kitchen sink. He saw the antiseptic-soaked gauze pad approach his arm and tried to bite back the groan of pain as the burn shot electric currents from his fingertips to his teeth. He took another swig.
"W-why did you… ask me if we were… French?"
"Oh," Kat shrugged, concentrating on her task. "I just remembered that your brother used the French word for butterfly."
"He did wha—"
"W-wait…" Dean looked down at Kat, then immediately away. Seeing the bright red of his arm made it hurt worse. "Are you saying that he said papillon?"
"Yeah," Kat nodded. "I heard the noise downstairs and before I could make it past the top of the stairs, he was up, grabbing me and carrying me back to my room. Gotta tell you, I was scared shitless. Thought he was going to…"
Dean hissed, gripping the edge of the table with his good hand. Even the drip couldn't block that stab of pain and he'd lost his song.
"Sorry, sorry," Kat said sincerely. She glanced up once at his face, then rushed on, keeping her voice even, constant, a viable distraction. "Anyway, he's got me up off the ground—guy's ginormous, by the way—and he's got his hand over my mouth and tells me not to scream, he's getting me out of there."
Kat reached over into her kit and grabbed a tube of salve. As she applied it, Dean felt an instant cooling relief.
"Anyway, he hauls me out of my window and we're both soaking wet and he tells me to shimmy down the drain pipe. Mind you," Kat flashed her eyes up at him. "I'm in my friggin' nightgown."
"B-bet Sammy didn't even l-look," Dean grinned. His chin was trembling and he clamped his teeth together, feeling the muscle in his jaw tighten.
"Yes, he was a complete gentleman. I get to the bottom and I'm thinking… make a break for it? And he drops down beside me, grabs me up and starts running. I was too shocked to fight back. All my self defense training—whoosh. Right out the window." Kat reached in her kit again and grabbed a roll of gauze. "You doin' okay?"
Dean took another swig of whiskey.
"Anyway, he takes me to this big black car, kinda tosses me in, and peels off. He stops at a church about five miles away, takes his coat off, and hands it to me. Tells me—oops sorry," Kat flinched as her gloved knuckles brushed against one of his blisters and Dean cried out. "Tells me that I need to wait until morning and then I can go back, but that I needed to grab stuff and go stay with a friend."
"That's my boy."
"Well, I thought he was insane."
"I see you didn't listen to him."
"Just before I get out of the car, he says that his brother is gonna come back and look for him and that I need to tell him papillon. He made me repeat it back to him, then he let me go."
"He wasn't talking about the butterfly," Dean said as Kat stood and leaned close, her fingers gently probing the bruised cut above his left eye.
"He was talking about the movie."
"Movie about butterflies?"
"Steve McQueen… Dustin Hoffman… ring any bells?"
"Sorry," Kat shook her head. "If it was made before 1982, I probably don't know it."
"I don't think there's much I can do for this except clean it out," Kat said, frowning at his forehead. "It's too late for stitches."
"It's okay," Dean reached for the bottle of whiskey, but Kat pulled it away.
"Enough," she said, shaking her head. Dean lifted beseeching eyes to her and she stared resolutely back. "You still gotta drive, y'know."
Her eyes were slightly different from Sophie's, but they held the same fire, the same fight. Dean let his gaze linger and watched as her eyes shifted to his mouth, then back to his eyes. His lips curved up into a smile and his lids dropped, half-shielding the green of his irises.
"Don't you give me that look," Kat whispered.
"The one that I'm willing to bet turns girls into puddles of goo at the local bar," Kat said. "It won't work on me."
"Really," Dean said, a warmth growing in the pit of his stomach that had nothing to do with the whiskey.
"Really," Kat's tone was soft, her lips barely moved with the word.
She stared at him a moment longer, then stepped back, pulling off her gloves with a decisive snap. Dropping them on top of the pile of old bandages, she picked up the bottle of Jameson, took a long drink, then pressed the back of her hand to her lips.
Dean chuckled, his lips curling up in amusement.
"I think I just liquefied my throat," Kat breathed, coughing.
"Give it a second," Dean advised. Sighing, he rubbed at his forehead. Papillon… He stood up carefully, holding on to the table. "You got a phone book?"
"Yeah," Kat rasped. "Top of the fridge."
Dean stepped over to the refrigerator, gripping the countertop to keep his balance, and flipped to the section of motels. His eyes caught the name of the first hotel on the page almost immediately.
"Can you tell me where the," he looked down at the page, "Sleep Easy Motel is?"
Capping the bottle and setting it on her counter, Kat nodded. "Just about ten miles south of here on Highway 62. Edge of town."
Dean closed the book and set it on the counter behind him. "Thanks."
He sighed, his eyes resting on nothing, his body screaming at him to sit down, rest, just stop, his head arguing that there was a job to do, and his heart, the loudest in the cacophony of rebellion inside of him, telling him to find Sam.
He ran his tongue over his teeth, pulling his lower lip into his mouth, tasting the whiskey that lingered there. Once he was sure that the pain had receded enough not to knock him on his ass, he stepped away from the counter and started toward the back door.
"Wait!" Kat called after him. "You're just… going?"
"I have to find my brother," Dean said, hand on the door knob, his eyes on Kat.
"What about that… that oily guy? The one from last night?"
Dean pressed his lips together. "Kat," he started. What could he say? You got an open mind? Turns out you have an aunt, only she's undead… "You think there are… things at work in our lives… stuff that we can't see, but that protects us?"
Kat narrowed her eyes and lifted a shoulder. "Sure. I mean I guess. Why?"
"Then believe me when I say that someone is watching out for you," Dean said. "And if I can get to Sam, we're gonna stop the… oily guy from coming after you again."
"Hey, Dean," Kat said, reaching for him and catching the edge of his T-shirt. He stopped, turning. "Your brother seemed… pretty sure that I should leave."
"I'd listen to him," Dean said. He ran his eyes over her face once more, then jerked the door open and stepped through.
He walked quickly around to the front of the house, swinging his leg over the back of the bike, kick-starting it. He glanced once to the windows of Kat's house, seeing her standing with her hands pressed against the glance in an eerie likeness of her aunt. He nodded once at her, then pulled away from her neighborhood. He'd seen a junction sign for Highway 62 on his way over, and merged smoothly into traffic.
Throttling the bike, he leaned close, noting that he could actually grip the handle bars with both hands this time. The wind whipped around him, the sun beginning its afternoon decent into the western sky, warming his right side. He felt his shirt shift and flap against him, relished the feel of the wind wrapping around his bare stomach and back. He leaned low, dodging between cars and watching for the exit for the motel.
The Sleep Easy sign was neon-green. As he slowed to a stop. he realized that his insides were strung tight, his heart hammering loud enough he thought could hear it over the motorcycle engine. He shut off the bike, dismounted and headed to the office. He walked in under a ringing bell and grinned disarmingly at the forty-ish woman behind the counter.
"Afternoon," he greeted.
"That it is," she smiled back.
"Wondering if you got a room here under Dega. Louis Dega."
The woman raised an eyebrow. "And what if I do?"
"I heard he was in town," Dean said, tilting his head and softening his smile, his eyes crinkling slightly at the corners. Giving her what Kat had dubbed as that look. "Thought I'd surprise him."
"You from around here?"
"No, ma'am," Dean shook his head. "Just passing through."
She studied him a moment longer, then flicked red-tipped fingernails through a box of registration cards. "Room 494. Take the stairs just outside the door."
Dean rapped his knuckles on the top of the counter and broadened his smile. "Thanks a lot."
He had to stop himself from sprinting up the stairs and down the exterior landing to room 494. Once there he pulled up short, inexplicably nervous. Sam was here. Behind this door. A wave of something almost… possessive… stole over him. His brother…
I want you to… watch out for Sammy…
Dean swallowed, curling his right hand into a tight fist as he stared at the door. Knock? Try the handle? Kick the door in?
He opted for trying the handle, expecting it to be locked—didn't all motel rooms lock automatically? His eyebrows shot up when he realized that the door wasn't even latched. He pulled the 9mm from the waistband of his jeans, his heart in his throat. Easing the door open with his elbow, he led with the gun barrel into the dimly lit room.
"Sa—" he started. Before he could finish, long fingers gripped his wrist, jerking him into the room and spinning him around roughly. He blinked at the sight of a familiar-looking gun barrel pointed directly between his eyes.
"Dude," he snapped. "That's my gun."
The gun lowered and Dean found himself staring at his little brother's shocked blue-green eyes. He flicked the safety on his HK, dropping it to his side, grinning.
Sam, holding the gun in a point-shot position, looked like he was struggling for breath. "I-I thought… I thought you were… and then I saw you at…"
It took every ounce of Dean's remaining energy not to reach over, grab Sam, and pull him in for a hug.
"It's… it's really good to see you, man," Dean lifted the corner of his mouth in a hesitant grin.
His lips dropped into a frown as he took a closer look at his brother. There were bruises around Sam's right eye and his lip had been split. A cut under his eye had been pulled together by white butterfly bandages.
"Did Rena do that?" Dean nodded at Sam's face.
"God, Dean," Sam pressed his hands against the sides of his head, Dean's silver .45 still in his right. His eyes darted quickly in thought, running from Dean's face to his bandaged arm, to the gun still gripped in his right hand and then back to his face.
"I'm gonna kill that sonuvabitch," Dean growled, dropping the 9mm on the bed and reaching for Sam's hands. He pulled them from his brother's face, removed the gun and dropped it on the bed next to the 9mm, then tipped Sam's face to the side, inspecting the damage. "I'm gonna kill him and then bring him back and kill him again."
Sam shrugged away from Dean's hands. He reached out and shut the door, pulling the chain lock across. Turning back to Dean, he rested his hands on his hips, dropped them, then put them back again.
Dean braced himself. He felt Sam building up, felt a countdown in his head, waited for the explosion.
"What the hell, Dean?" Sam finally yelled, moving past him and across the small motel room.
Dean simply watched him. He couldn't seem to get enough of watching Sam move, watching Sam react, watching Sam talk. He remembered feeling this before… in Palo Alto when he'd come back for Sam after Dad vanished and then again when he found him in that hotel room with Ava. Just seeing Sam settled him, balanced him. His brother… Even royally pissed off, Sam was a sight for sore eyes.
"I thought you were dead!" Sam roared, spinning to face him. "That room exploded… and I saw you go flying back… and then Rena pulled me out…"
"Were you hurt?"
"What?" Sam blinked.
"Did you get…burned or anything?"
"No, I didn't get burned," Sam shook his head, his brows meeting over his nose. "But I did spend the last two days with a psychotic hunter. And until last night I thought you were…" Sam's voice caught. "I thought you were dead, Dean," he said again; this time it was an accusation.
Dean felt his breath stutter in his chest as he watched tears gather in Sam's eyes. Sam pressed his lips together, looking away. He gathered himself, then looked back, facing Dean as if braced for bad news.
"When you showed up at the girl's house… I didn't know what to think. I'd… I let him pull me away… from the… the fire. I just… I left you there."
"You did the right thing, Sam," Dean said, taking a step toward his brother. Sam stepped back. Dean felt his heart crack.
"No…" Sam shook his head, his chin trembling with the effort of keeping the tears in check. "No, man. I… You don't know what that was like, Dean. I tried so hard to get back in to that cabin, to get to you, but Rena held me back. He was so damn strong. And then the next thing I knew I woke up in the back of his truck—"
"—and he was telling me that she killed you… that she set the trap—"
"Sam, she saved my life."
"—and I knew he was lying, man, because he was at the cabin before we were, and he told us to go in, told us that she would follow us, remember—"
"That's just it, Sam, I—"
"—and I knew, dammit, I knew before we went in, but he was a hunter and he was supposed to be on our side and—"
"—I trusted the bastard and you didn't and if I'd just listened to—"
Sam finally stopped, slightly winded. "What?"
Dean closed his eyes briefly. The world was teasing him with motion. "I was trying to tell you," he said, his voice controlled, "that I don't remember. I mean I didn't. That's why it took me so long to find you."
"What do you mean you…"
Dean rubbed his forehead with his left hand, sighing. He felt himself sway and opened his eyes to regain his balance.
"Holy shit," Sam said softly, his eyes darting from the bandages on Dean's arm to the bruised cut above his eye as if just noticing them for the first time. "What the hell happened to you?"
Dean sank on the edge of the bed, then peered up at Sam through shadowed eyes. "Too much, Sam."
Sam narrowed his eyes, sitting slowly on the edge of the adjoining bed, facing his brother. He rested his forearms on knees, twisting the fingers of his right hand with his left.
"You… you said you didn't remember?"
"I woke up and she was there—"
"Sophie, yeah," Dean nodded. "She got me out of there and to her place. Dude," he shook his head, "she had to tell me my name."
Sam's shoulders seemed to sink. "Damn, Dean."
Dean rubbed at his bottom lip with his index finger. "It all kinda came back to me in… flashes. Really friggin' painful flashes. Like… like fire in my head."
"Huh," Sam bounced his head. "Sounds like what my visions feel like."
Dean looked over at Sam, startled.
I have these nightmares… and sometimes they come true…
Dean winced, looking away.
First, you tell me that you've got the Shining and then, you tell me that I have to go back home?
"I, uh… I forgot about that," Dean said softly, rubbing at his forehead.
Dean nodded, pulling his hand from his face, his fingers open, searching the air for a way to explain the sensation of nothing so swiftly turning into everything. "It's like… holes. Most of it's there, but then I fall into this hole and it's empty and I… fall until the words fill it up."
Sam looked down. "I'm sorry, man," he said. "I didn't know. When I… when I woke up in his truck I didn't know where we were." Sam swallowed, twisting his fingers, staring at the floor. "And that fire… Dean, that fire was so hot… He told me you were dead. I just… I kinda checked out. Only thing I could figure was that I had to finish the job. That's what you would have done, right?" Sam glanced up.
"I just did the job, stuck with Rena, listened in on his calls, got to the girl's house. He said she was the key to getting the vamp… But Dean, he was… seriously unhinged about that girl, and even when… when I knew you were there... I knew I had to get her out, keep her away from him. I would have come back for you, Dean, I swear, but—"
"Rena got to you first."
"I came back and the house was empty. I knew he'd find me, so I headed back to the hotel... the first one. I was gonna clear out and head here, but he jumped me when I got out of the car," Sam huffed out a frustrated laugh. "Woke up in the back of his friggin' truck again."
"How'd you get away?"
Sam's lips twisted into a humorless grin. "He's psychotic, but he can't tie knots for shit."
Dean looked up at him. "I would have found you a lot sooner—"
"Kinda hard to find someone you don't remember exists." Sam's smile turned sad.
"I remember you, Sammy," Dean said softly. "I remember the important stuff."
They stared at each other a moment and Dean felt a tug in his chest, a desire to connect, an almost physical need to simply touch his brother. He didn't move. Sam looked away, rubbing at the bruise on his face.
"You okay?" Dean asked.
"Yeah," Sam said. "Just need a couple of aspirin or something."
Dean brightened. "Here," he said, digging in his pocket and pulling out some of the ibuprofen that he'd taken from Sophie's house.
Sam grinned and held his hand out. Dean reached over to drop the pills into Sam's open palm. As his fingers brushed his brother's, Dean flinched. Fire flashed before his eyes, Sam's terrified voice called out, pain enveloped him, and darkness unlike anything he could remember feeling crashed into him.
It was an instant, a heartbeat, and it passed within the sound of a gasp, but Sam saw. He twisted his hand quickly, gripping Dean's wrist. Dean looked down at the fingers wrapped around his wrist and swallowed.
"When I remembered you… I saw everything, Sam," he whispered. "From when I carried you out of our old house until we got to that cabin with Rena."
"Everything?" Sam asked softly, tightening his grip on Dean's wrist, as if he, too, was reluctant to break the connection. Dean felt one of them trembling.
"Something was missing, though… there were still holes, but I… I watched you grow up on fast forward," Dean kept his eyes pinned to Sam's fingers, watching as the grip turned white. "I saw you… us… and Dad, and what it was like without Mom, and hunting and you going… going to school… and finding you again… and it was… I—"
He couldn't finish, the lump in his throat making speech impossible.
"I know, Dean," Sam said, softly.
Dean looked up, blinking, his eyes dry, but full.
"I know," Sam repeated.
"I mean it, Sam," Dean said.
Sam's grin was watery and he reluctantly released Dean's arm. "You forget about your own chic-flick moment rule?"
Dean laughed softly. "Yeah, I guess," he said. "Thanks for reminding me."
Sam nodded at his bandaged arm. "The vamp—er, uh, Sophie do that for you?"
"The first time, yeah," Dean nodded, flexing his left hand. "I don't really remember how it happened. Woke up and my arm was on fire. She wrapped it once, but I managed to mangle it. Her niece fixed it, though."
Dean looked up at Sam's shocked question.
"Kat—the girl you told about Papillon," Dean said. "Nice one, by the way."
Sam shook his head. "Dude, it was all I could think of after I tried to get away from that freak… but wait, niece?"
Dean pushed himself to his feet and crossed to the duffel bags sitting on top of the table across the room. He unzipped one: weapons.
"Yeah," he replied to Sam. "Who'd you think she was?"
Sam shrugged. "I didn't really… care. He was after her as a means to an end. I just knew we, uh, I mean, I had to get her out of there."
Dean glanced over at Sam, then back into the weapons bag. He pulled out his Bowie knife, grinning. Sophie would drool over this baby…
"You handed that over to me before we went into the cabin," Sam reminded him.
"I give you all my guns, too?" Dean said, frowning.
"No," Sam shook his head. "You didn't have any—just the machete."
"Huh," Dean nodded. "Guess that explains that…"
"So… how does a vampire have a niece?" Sam prompted.
Dean shoved the Bowie knife back into the weapons bag. "Long story short, Sophie has a soul, traded her vamp husband for it, and she's been keeping watch over her niece, Kat, for the last fifteen years."
He started to dig through another bag.
"That's mine," Sam said.
Dean moved to the third. "And you're never gonna believe this one."
"You've narrowed the possibility of disbelief down to one thing?"
Dean glanced over his shoulder at Sam. "Jim Murphy performed the ritual."
"Pastor Jim?" Sam asked, incredulous. Dean nodded. "What ritual?"
"Returning Sophie's soul," Dean said, turning back to the bag. "There's a Latin… spell or charm or something tattooed on her back—"
"Whoa, wait," Sam stood, crossing the room and leaning against the wall next to Dean, watching his brother's face. "You saw her back?"
"She got shot back at Kat's—when you and Rena were there. Saved my life."
"Huh," Sam rolled against the wall until he was leaning back against it, his arms crossed over his chest. "A vampire with a soul. They oughta make a TV show about that."
"Very funny," Dean pulled out a gray T-shirt, a pair of jeans, clean boxers, and socks.
"You gonna shower?" Sam asked.
"Not right now," Dean said. "But I've been in these clothes so long I feel like they're growing on me."
Dropping the clothes on the bed, Dean started to change as Sam slid down the wall, sitting on the floor, lost in thought.
"So… she got her soul back just to watch over her niece?"
"Great-niece. And yeah."
"Does Kat know this?"
"Where is she now?"
Dean tugged the gray shirt down, then turned to sit on the bed and put his boots back on. "I trapped her at her apartment."
"Trapped her? How?"
"She had all these Latin verses on papers taped to her windows," Dean said, standing and going back to his bag. "I just used one."
Sam lifted an eyebrow. "Dude, you used Latin?"
Dean tossed a look over his shoulder. "Yeah, why? Don't I usually?"
Sam folded his lips down. "I mean, you know it… you just usually, y'know… shoot first."
"Yeah, well," Dean dug deeper in his bag. "That wasn't an option this time." He held the items from his bag against his chest with his right hand and turned around.
"You're shaving?" Sam asked eyeing the razor and shaving cream.
"Dude, this is driving me nuts," Dean said, scratching at his scruffy jaw line. He started toward the bathroom. "Hey, why did you have the door unlocked anyway?"
Sam tipped his head back against the wall. "I thought you were going to be somebody else."
"You greet all your dates like that, Sammy?" Dean said, the lower half of his face covered with white foam.
"Funny," Sam said, rolling his neck. "Nah, I thought you were going to be this little rat bastard, Rudy, who's been playing both halves against the middle."
Dean ran the blade down one side of his face, rinsing the hair and shaving cream off, then continued along his jaw. "How so?"
"Oh, he was meeting with Rena, giving him leads on vampires, then he'd make friendly with the vampires and set up the hunters."
"How's that pay off for him?"
"Rena and the hunters pay him for information, the vamps pay him for information, and let him live… I guess," Sam rubbed his thumb across the palm of his other hand. "He has bugs and eyes everywhere. Listens to everything. He's scary smart—like if Ash ever went to the dark side."
Dean walked out of the bathroom, wiping his face with a white towel. He tossed the towel back into the bathroom, then rubbed the flat of both hands down his cheeks. Much better…
"How'd you get messed up with him?"
Sam tilted his head to look up at Dean. "He found Kat's house. Told Rena. I was surprised as hell to see you there with Sophie. Rudy said he'd sent her in a different direction."
"Hold up, wait," Dean spread his hands out, frowning at Sam. "You telling me that this Rudy guy told you where Kat was?"
Dean shifted his eyes to the side. "Sophie got a call… telling her that Rena was about to get Kat… that's why we were there."
"Told you," Sam pushed himself to his feet. "Rat bastard."
"Sam, Sophie trusts this guy," Dean said.
Sam lifted a shoulder. "So does Rena," he went to the weapons bag. "They're both wrong."
"No, you don't get it," Dean said. "She calls him her familiar."
Sam looked over at him, frowning. "I thought familiars were supposed to be animals."
Dean rubbed at the bridge of his nose. It keeps the rats away… "She knew."
"Knew? Knew what?"
Dean looked over at Sam, his eyes wide. Sam shifted, his head tilted, eyes pinned to Dean.
"Sam, she knew someone was listening to her… she just didn't know who," Dean said. "She keeps music playing… only really talked when it's on in the background…"
"So, she's being betrayed by someone she trusts," Sam said, his tone matter-of-fact, his eyes narrowed. "Not the first time it's happened."
"Yeah, but—" Dean stopped, realizing what he was about to say.
"Nothing," Dean shook his head, walking over and grabbing the 9mm from where he'd dropped it on the bed. "Got us a new gun."
"No, don't do that," Sam shook his head.
Dean lifted flat eyes to meet Sam's, saying nothing.
"You care about her, don't you?"
"What?" Dean pulled his head back, his brows twitching. "No! She's a vamp."
"Who saved your life," Sam tipped his chin down.
Dean sighed, scratching the back of his head. "Maybe we should call Dad on this one… see if familiars could be shape-shifters or something…"
Sam went utterly still. Dean dropped the HK and the extra clips into the weapons bag, turning to retrieve the .45. He glanced up at Sam's silence. All of the blood had drained from Sam's face, and his lips were parted in an attempt to pull in more air.
"Sam?" Dean stepped forward, alarmed. "Dude, blink or something."
"Jesus, Sam," Dean grabbed his brother's arms, forcing him to sit onto the bed behind him. "What the hell—"
"Dean, we can't…"
Dean frowned at the weak-sounding voice. "Can't what?"
"Can't call Dad," Sam finished.
"Why the hell not?" Dean said, pulling his head back slightly. "I mean, I know we'll get voicemail, but—"
"Dean," Sam swallowed. He reached up a careful hand to grasp Dean's right arm. "Try to remember."
Dean felt the bottom drop out of his stomach as Sam's eyes searched his. Remember what? His heart hammered painfully in his chest and he felt strangely hollow.
"Try to remember," Sam repeated. "When is the last time you talked to Dad?"
And Dean's world ended.
A slick sheen of sweat instantly covered his body as his legs disappeared and he sat down, hard, on the motel room floor in front of Sam. His brother's strong hands held tight to his upper arms, but he didn't feel the contact. He couldn't hear Sam's voice telling him to take it easy, easy… just breath, okay, I've got you… he couldn't see his brother's frightened eyes. He saw only the holes in his memory filling in with the devastating truth.
Dad… Dad, don't you let it kill me…Dad… Please…
"Aw, fuck," Dean breathed, leaning forward and gripping his head. The pain was complete, it wrapped around him, held him in an icy grip of fire. He curled in, pulling away, searching for the darkness that had saved him before, the darkness he knew.
You took care of Sammy, you took care of me. You did that. I am so proud of you…
"No… God, no…" It couldn't be real. He didn't want it to be real. He wanted to go back. He didn't want to know. He didn't want to hear that ear-splitting whine.
Time of death: 10:41am.
"Stop…stop it…" He curled his fingers into his hair, trying to force the images away, trying to stop the voices, the words crashing into each other, bouncing away, tearing through him in their journey.
You are my children. I'm trying to keep you safe… Your mother's death, it almost killed me. I can't watch my children die, too. I won't.
"No…" He saw brown eyes, dark, full of mixed emotions, shifting to pride, then sorrow. Twisting away from the grip that held him firm, held him fast, arms that wrapped around him, rocking him, working to soothe, he tried to pound the images away, tried to summon the black, tried to deny the truth… the truth that Sam knew… the truth that had driven Sam away…
I want you to watch out for Sammy… You gotta save your brother, Dean… you're the only one who can. If you don't save him… you have to kill him.
It was real. Dad was gone. And Dean hadn't stopped it...
What happens if you die? Dad, what happens if you die and we could have done something about it?
The family he'd fought for, all of his life, was down to two. His hero was gone…
It scares the hell out of me, you two are all I've got. But I guess we are stronger as a family.
And he hadn't stopped it…
Knowing how your daddy died for you, knowing he sold his soul. I mean, that's got to hurt. He's all you ever think about. You wake up and your first thought is 'I can't do this anymore.' You're all lit up with pain. I mean, you loved him so much. And it's all your fault.
He had caused it…
Don't be scared, Dean.
"…breathing, so I know you're alive… thought you'd left me… shoulda known… too stubborn…"
Sam. Sam's voice. Dean clawed his way back to awareness. He wanted to see Sam. The holes were gone, and he needed to see Sam.
"…never really knew what it felt like… always had you… always knew you were there…"
Dean tried to shift, tried to open his eyes, but his body wouldn't obey. His head felt stretched, balloon-like. One wrong move and it would pop and expose every thought and fear that he'd kept walled-up inside. He was lying against something, and he felt safe.
"Dean… when that door blew you back," Sam's voice came in clearer, tears laced through the words. "I thought it was over. I thought you were gone. And I was alone. And I didn't know what to do. I forgot how to... breathe. I kinda… lost it, man. I was just moving, y'know? I wasn't really there. Not without you."
Sam sniffed and Dean felt him shift, realizing then that he was lying basically in Sam's lap, his brother's long arm across him. He felt Sam breathing, felt the motion of his brother's body, felt the steady thrum thrum thrum of Sam's heartbeat as his brother's arm anchored him.
"When I heard your voice in that house… man, it was like I woke up. It took that moment for me to realize what my leaving must have been like for you. Especially… after Dad…"
Dad… The memory brought with it a familiar pang through Dean's chest, a longing that he knew he felt every day… but this time his head remained steady. The searing pain that had accompanied each memory over the past two days was gone. In its place was a hollow space. And the hollow was shifting, settling down around his heart, shrinking until it occupied the same area inside of him where it had rested since 10:41am the day his father had given his life for Dean's.
"Dean, c'mon, man," Sam gripped his shoulder. "I need you to open your eyes, okay? I can't do this by myself."
"Yes, you can," Dean rasped.
Sam sobbed out a laugh. "Yeah, well," he sniffed. "I don't want to."
Dean forced his eyes open a crack, his lashes heavy with residual emotion. He shifted slightly, peering at Sam.
"My head still on?"
Sam nodded. "You scared me, man." He started rubbing Dean's arm in a distracted, unconscious manner. "You wouldn't stop shaking and it was like you didn't even know I was there."
Dean swallowed and closed his eyes. He could feel the trembling ease under the weight of Sam's hand. He forced his eyes to open wider.
"You're petting me, Sam," he pointed out.
"Oh," Sam stopped. "Sorry."
"Dad's gone." He had to say it out loud.
"Yeah," Sam nodded.
"Because of me."
Sam didn't reply.
Dean closed his eyes again. "I know it, Sam. It's okay."
"It's not okay," Sam argued. "It's never gonna be okay."
Dean felt weak, and that pissed him off. He was tired of hurting, tired of being taken down by his memories, tired of life sitting behind the wheel while he was forced to ride shotgun, always on the lookout, always prepared. Enough was freakin' enough already.
"Help me up."
"Wait, Dean, just—"
"Sam, help me," Dean tried to shift away from Sam's grip.
Sam put a hand under his shoulder, helping Dean rotate until they were side-by-side, leaning against the foot of the bed. Their shoulders touched.
"Has he been gone?"
"Have I been out?"
"Oh," Sam blinked, peering at his watch. "Little over an hour."
"Good," Dean rubbed his forehead. His entire body felt bruised. "Last time it was all night."
They were both quiet. Then Sam cleared his throat.
"It's been almost six months."
"Feels like six minutes," Dean said softly.
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "Even when you don't relive it all in one blow."
Dean heard sympathy and pain in Sam's words.
"You okay, Sammy?"
I'm not alright, not at all…
"I am now," Sam replied, looking over at Dean, his eyes honest.
But neither are you, that much I know.
"Me, too," Dean said, the corner of his mouth pulling up.
They sat for a long while, silent. Dean let the warmth from Sam's shoulder seep into him, warming his bones, easing the sting the dark places inside of him left behind. He felt his body tick like a cooling engine, the aches standing up to be counted, and then summarily quenched by a will to get up, to move, to fight, to do the job. Sam held still, seeming to feel Dean's need for balance without comment.
When the silence became heavy, Dean took a breath and leaned forward, breaking contact with Sam. Sam shifted, glancing over at his brother out of the corner of his eyes. Dean felt his gaze and looked back.
"I can't believe you let that slimy bastard take you," Dean teased. "You must be getting rusty."
Sam shook his head. "He's vicious as hell. Fights dirty."
Dean's eyes flicked down to the split on Sam's lip. "I can see that."
"The second time I got away, he tied me to the bed of his truck."
"Freakin' psycho," Dean grumbled. "I'm seriously gonna beat his ass."
"You and what army, Shorty?"
"I'll go for the legs," Dean grinned.
"Maybe we should introduce Rena to Gordon," Sam joked.
"Oh, shit!" Dean suddenly exclaimed. "Shit!"
"What?" Sam looked over at his brother, confused.
Dean pushed himself to his feet, reaching out for the wall to steady himself. "I trapped her in that goddamn apartment… and if Rudy knows…"
Sam stood. "Rena could already have her."
"Sam, he's not after Sophie," Dean looked at him. "Not really—I think he wants her husband, Wade."
"The one Pastor Jim made her kill to get her soul?"
"That'd be him."
"Oh," Sam pulled his lip in. "We've got a problem, then."
"He's never gonna believe that she traded her husband in for a soul," Dean rubbed the back of his head.
"Where would he take her?"
Dean shrugged. "You're the one that spent time in solitary because of him," he said to Sam, referencing his choice of movies. "What do you think?"
Sam chewed on his thumbnail, thinking. "We went to that cabin because he said it was hers."
"Only, it wasn't," Sam continued. "He didn't know where her place was—"
"He couldn't see it," Dean interrupted. "Because of those spells."
"But if you trapped her in there… and Rudy knows where it is…"
"Dammit, you're right," Dean grabbed his .45, checked the clip, and grabbed an extra from the weapons bag. Sliding the gun into the front of his jeans, he turned to the door.
"You forgetting something?"
Dean looked over at Sam. "Not funny."
Sam smiled softly, "Didn't mean it that way." He picked up a leather jacket from the back of a chair and handed it to Dean.
"Oh," Dean took the jacket, slid his arms in the sleeves, groaning audibly. "Oh, yeah. That's the stuff."
Sam rolled his eyes. "If you're like this with a friggin' jacket, you're gonna be impossible with the Impala."
"The Impala!" Dean cried out, practically ripping the door from its hinges in an effort to get outside. "Where—"
"I parked around back," Sam said, following him. "How'd you get here?"
"Sophie's bike," Dean called over his shoulder, heading for the stairs.
"You rode a… bike?"
"Isn't she the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?" Dean said for the tenth time as he navigated the path through the evening streets back to Sophie's apartment.
"So glad you're able to find moments of pleasure in the middle of potential tragedy," Sam said, shaking his head.
"Don't listen to him, baby," Dean stroked the steering wheel.
"I could always tell her that you forgot her," Sam teased. "That you liked riding the Harley."
Dean tossed him a look. "You wouldn't dare." He turned left at a light. "Although, I have to say that machine had some fire."
Sam shook his head. "You and your machines."
Dean used his right arm to navigate a corner, holding his left close to his chest.
"Still say you should have let me drive," Sam grumbled, eyeing the stiff way Dean held his body.
"Are you high?" Dean shot his brother a look. "No friggin' way."
"Why not?" Sam suppressed a grin.
"Because it's my car."
Sam shook his head, glancing out of the side window.
"Here it is," Dean said, forced to park on the street across from the warehouse as the Impala wouldn't fit down the narrow alley. He looked over at the building. "Is that his truck?" He asked, nodding toward a black Ford pick-up.
Dean looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "You ready?"
"We got a plan?"
Dean took a breath, sliding his eyes sideways to Sam. "Keep Rena from killing Sophie."
"And then what?"
"I don't know!" Dean shrugged, reaching across with his right hand and opening his door. "I'm making this up as I go along."
"Nice," Sam stepped out and joined his brother in a jog across the street and down the alley.
Dean knew something was wrong the minute he stepped into the building through the outside door. The fine hairs on the back of his neck came to attention. His fingers itched.
"What is that?" Sam was looking at the swath of blood smeared along the wall leading to Sophie's door.
"Whose blood?" Sam's voice hardened.
"Mine." Dean gingerly touched the wound at the top of his shoulder. "Got hit back at Kat's."
Sam's eyes shifted to Dean's shoulder. "Where was I?"
Dean pulled his .45 out. "Shimmying down a drainpipe."
"Oh," Sam pulled out his Glock, and flicked off the safety in unison with his brother.
Dean approached Sophie's door, using the barrel of his gun to tip the broken door open. It was dark in the apartment, but the music played on. Dean stepped through, making room for Sam, his eyes adjusting to the shadows, his gun up, ready.
"The last girl and the last reason to make this last for as long as I could. The first kiss and the first time that I felt connected to anything. The weight of water, the way you taught me to look past everything I have ever learned. The final word in the final sentence you ever uttered to me was love…"
"Sophie?" Dean called when he saw nothing in the living room.
"Dean," Sam whispered.
Dean looked over at Sam, hearing the tightness in his voice. Sam was looking up. Dean went cold. He felt his breath quicken. Bracing himself, he rotated his eyes to the ceiling.
Kat was hanging there, her hands bound behind her, her feet dangling. A piece of duct tape was over her mouth and eyes, and a thick cord of rope was laced under her arms and around her chest, tied securely to the same metal hook that held Sophie's overhead light.
"Sonuvabitch," Dean hissed through clenched teeth.
"Ah, here you are at last." The voice slid out of the dark and settled on Dean's shoulders like a weight. He saw Kat flinch and knew then that she was conscious.
"Show yourself, Rena," Dean growled, stepping further into the room. He felt Sam at his back, covering the areas he couldn't see.
"Now, where's the fun in that?"
"Oh, you mean your knife-throwing vampire lover?" Rena's voice sneered. "She's around…"
Dean let the lover comment slide, shifting his eyes to the empty kitchen doorway. He caught Sam's eyes and mouthed bedroom. Sam nodded. They began working opposite sides of the living room, making their way to the bedroom.
"You won't get what you're after, Rena," Dean said, still searching the dark corner of the small apartment. "He's already dead."
"So she claimed," Rena spat. "But demons lie, Winchester. Or haven't you learned that by now?"
"They also tell the truth," Dean retorted. "They know they'll win either way, Rena. Because they know we expect lies."
"Oh, very poetic," Rena scoffed.
Dean pointed the barrel of his gun to the open bedroom door. "Why don't you let us get Kat out of here?"
"Over my dead body," Rena replied, his voice suddenly coming from behind Dean.
Dean whipped around, surprised, and was confronted by the tall, sallow-skinned, curly-haired hunter. He brought his gun up, cracking Rena across the cheek, but the surprise of Rena's attack and the close proximity of his face deflected the power of the blow. Rena stumbled back and Dean regrouped, adjusting his grip on the .45, holding it steady on Rena.
"Dean!" Sam bellowed from the bedroom. "She's here!"
"Dead man's blood, Winchester," Rena said, spitting out blood. He drew the back of his meaty hand across his mouth, staring at Dean with dark, beady eyes full of contempt. "Saved special, just for her."
Dean twisted his face up in disgust. "You saved some dude's blood? Man, that's gross."
"My father's blood," Rena yelled. "I knew I would find them… I knew it was only a matter of time."
"She seems weak, Dean," Sam called out to him.
Dean began to work his way from the bedroom door toward the kitchen, drawing Rena with him. "Listen, Ben," Dean said, his voice low, calm, his eyes hard. "I get it. I do. When I find the bastard that killed my Dad, I'm gonna enjoy ending him."
Rena nodded, stepping into the semi-light from the papered windows. Dean saw that his right hand was wrapped, and he held a .45 in his left. Dean had a moment to wonder how the hell he'd managed to string Kat to the ceiling when Rena spoke.
"So you should understand," he said, stepping closer to Dean. "She's a monster, protecting her lover. I am doing my job—our job—getting rid of her."
"There are circumstances you don't understand," Dean tried, circling carefully until he'd managed to position Rena with his back to the kitchen doorway. "Sophie traded Wade—the vampire you're after—for her soul. She got her soul back, Rena. To protect her niece."
He was aware that Kat heard every word, and couldn't begin to think what was going through her head.
"Lies," Rena spat. "All of it. Lies."
"No, man," Dean shook his head. "You're wrong. Wade is dead. It's over."
"It's not over!" Rena pointed in the direction of the bedroom. "That bitch is in there, poisoned with my father's blood. The man she allowed her husband to kill—the man she watched die! His blood is in her veins and she's burning with it."
"Ben," Dean tried reasoning again. "You don't get it… it doesn't matter, okay? It doesn't matter what you do to her. She isn't the one you want."
"I know. But she'll give him up, or watch her niece die." Rena raised his gun to Kat and aimed.
"NO!" Dean shouted, firing at Rena's arm. Rena's shot went wild as Dean's bullet found its mark, bury itself into Rena's shoulder.
"I'm—" Dean started, but realized quickly that Sam wasn't checking on him, he was warning him.
As Sophie charged past him, Dean caught a glimpse of her face, terrible in its intensity. Fangs extended, eyes electric-blue, brow furrowed with anger, Sophie became the monster everyone believed her to be. She slammed into Rena, knocking the gun from his hand and driving him into the kitchen.
Her inhuman roar of rage was matched by Rena's and he grappled with her, grasping and clawing at her throat. Sophie hammered him down on the ground, her supernatural strength the only thing saving her from being tossed about like paper by the much bigger man.
"Sophie!" Dean yelled.
But she was beyond hearing, beyond reason. The shot at Kat seemed to have snapped her last vestige of control and overpower any weakness left inside by the poison Rena had infused into her system. Dean realized that he was witnessing the ferocity of a protector whose charge is threatened. Kat whimpered pathetically behind him and he shot a look over his shoulder, then turned fully to face her when he realized what had happened.
Rena's wild shot had somehow, impossibly frayed the rope holding Kat to the ceiling. As she struggled, the rope splayed and unraveled. Dean dropped his gun, stepping under her hanging body just as Sam joined him. The rope snapped and Kat fell face-first into their arms, Dean stumbling a bit to keep his left arm back, Sam struggling to take most of the girls' weight.
Something crashed behind them in the kitchen. Dean rolled Kat into Sam's grip and pivoted, picking up his gun on the run. He burst through the door of the kitchen in time to see Ben Rena lying next to the over-turned kitchen table, Sophie sitting astride him, his neck gripped tightly in one hand, her mouth descending.
She froze. Without turning, she growled, "He almost killed her, Dean."
"You have a soul, Sophie," Dean yelled.
"You're the one that said a soul doesn't cancel out evil."
"Yeah, well, I was wrong, okay?" Dean took a step forward. "You do this, you'll feel it forever."
"I feel all of them," she whispered, her voice low, deadly, and heartbreakingly raw.
"This one will be worse."
"He won't quit, Dean," she said. Her shoulders curved slightly. "He won't believe that Wade is gone."
"It won't matter when he's in jail," Dean said, taking another step forward. "Let him go."
Sophie sat very still for a moment, and Dean saw her fingers flex, tightening on Rena's neck. He took a breath, but she turned to face him and Dean saw that her eyes were once again gray, her full lips closed over a small mouth. Her hair slid over her shoulder and she stood, taking his outstretched hand. Stepping away from Rena's sprawled mass, Dean glanced out through the doorway. Sam had removed Kat's ropes and the tape and she stood next to him, rubbing at the sticky residue the tape left behind.
"Kat's okay, Soph—" Dean started.
"You bastard," Rena's bitter hiss was his only warning.
Dean turned, realizing his mistake one moment too late. Rena reached for the sheathed knife—visible now that the table was on its side—and jerked the blade free. With a heave, he threw the weapon, straight toward Dean's heart. Dean had time only to gasp as Sophie's small frame blocked the deadly blow, the blade burying itself deep into her chest, and sending her crashing into Dean. They fell to the floor in a bloody tangle.
"Dean!" Sam cried out.
Dean blinked, working to draw air back into his lungs. He pushed Sophie off of him, raising himself to sitting position with his right arm. Sam rushed through the doorway, gun drawn. He met Dean's eyes briefly, then crossed over to Rena. The large man was pushing himself forward, a look of dark fury on his bloody face.
Sam didn't pause; he pulled back his right hand and cracked Rena across the cheek with the barrel of his gun as he moved toward the man in a fluid motion of pent-up rage. Dropping his gun, Sam grabbed Rena up by the shirt, slamming his fist into the man's jaw once, twice. Rena dropped, dazed, and Sam punched him again, and again, not satisfied until the beady black eyes rolled up in his head and Rena fell back, unconscious.
"That's for lying to me," Sam grumbled, shaking his bruised knuckles.
"Sophie?" Dean leaned over her, his hand hovering over the hilt of the knife.
"You're right," she said, then groaned.
"About what?" He wrapped careful fingers around the hilt.
"It hurts like hell," she whispered.
"You gotta stop doing this." He shook his head.
Sophie grimaced, blinking at him. "Somebody has to save you, Dean."
Dean flinched at that, taking a breath.
"You ready?" He asked, looking her straight in the eye. She swallowed, nodding.
"On three, okay? One, two…"
Sophie screamed as he pulled the knife out and threw it aside. He pressed his hand against the wound instinctively. He knew it would close of its own accord, but there was so much blood. Sophie clamped her teeth shut, her body trembling, her eyes blinking rapidly as tears escaped from the sides and ran into her hair.
"You did good," Dean said, smiling at her. "You did real good, Sophie."
"She's okay," Dean said. "Sam caught her."
"Don't know how he got her up there in the first place," Sophie muttered.
Dean felt motion around him and looked over his shoulder at Sam, watching as his brother used the ropes that had been wrapped around Kat to hog-tie Rena, pulling the rope from the man's bound ankles up through his bound hands and wrapping it securely around his meaty neck as he mumbled, "Oughtta dump you in the back of your damn truck, you freak."
Dean knew that any attempt Rena made to loosen his bonds would result in near-strangulation. He met Sam's eyes and nodded. Looking the other direction, he saw Kat sitting on the floor of Sophie's living room, staring blankly back at him.
And Sophie's music played on.
"You look so fragile I could break… but I try to hold myself together for the both of us… but in truth I'm just as scared…"
"Dean?" Sam asked, standing next to him.
"Just need another minute, Sam."
"'K," Sam whispered, turning to Kat in the living room.
"You don't have to stay," Sophie said, looking up at him. She slid a shaking hand over the one he kept pressed against her chest. "I'll be okay."
"I'm not staying for you," Dean said.
He looked at her soft eyes, her strong face, letting his eyes linger on her mouth. It looked so innocent, so… normal. But he knew, soul or no soul, it was an instrument of death. She stared back at him, seeming to understand his need to work it all out in his mind. The dichotomy of hunter and prey, working on the same side, working as one.
"Sophie," he said, pulling his eyes from her face and shifting them to stare into the middle distance. "The things I've seen… the things I've done… I'm not really meant to live a normal life."
He looked back at her, forcing her to meet his eyes. "But that doesn't mean I won't try."
She pulled her brows together. "What do you mean?"
"Don't get me wrong," he grinned. "I don't plan on painting a picket fence white anytime soon. But… Sam and me… we have our own normal."
Sophie released his hand and Dean realized that the bleeding had stopped. The wound had healed. He gripped her hand at the wrist and pulled her to a sitting position. They sat for a moment, looking at each other, then Dean glanced over to Sam and Kat. Sam reached out a hand to the young nurse, pulling her to her feet.
"I think there's someone you might want to meet," Dean said, not looking back at Sophie.
They stood, leaving Rena tied up in the kitchen. As Sophie approached her niece, Dean and Sam eased off to the side. Dean felt Sam shift, knew his brother was checking on him, and he glanced quickly to the side, offering Sam a nod as the two nearly identical women faced each other. As one, Sophie and Kat crossed their arms, then dropped them to their sides when they realized what they'd done.
"So… turns out I have a relative after all," Kat said.
"Some family reunion, huh?" Sophie shrugged.
Kat tilted her head. "How long have you been… watching over me?"
"Since you were ten."
"Did your husband kill my parents?" Kat asked, her voice flat.
Sophie didn't flinch. "No."
"He won't hurt anyone anymore," Sophie said softly.
They regarded each other silently for a moment. Dean felt the tension in the room. He glanced at Sam who was staring very hard at a spot on the carpet.
Sighing, he looked back at the women. "Chick-flick moments are okay for, y'know, chicks," he said.
Kat's chuckle was watery and she blinked over at him, then back to her aunt. Hesitantly, she reached out, grasping Sophie's upper arm. Sophie touched Kat's cheek, tucking her hair behind her ear. Kat's chin trembled and Sophie pulling her in close, hugging her tight.
"This is so weird," Kat said, tears in her voice. She didn't let go of Sophie.
Sam grinned, glancing at Dean.
Dean rolled his eyes. "God, kill me now," he muttered.
A low moan was heard from the kitchen and Dean turned toward it. Sam clamped a hand on his shoulder, stopping him.
"I, uh, hate to break this up, but," Sam glanced into the kitchen, "we need to call the police about Rena."
Kat pulled away. "I don't think Sophie should stay here, either."
"I agree," Dean said, nodding. Sam dropped his hand when Dean made no further attempt to head into the kitchen.
"Whoa! Since when did everyone start making plans for me?" Sophie raised her hands.
"It's not safe here," Sam replied. "Rudy knows too many hunters. Hunters like Rena."
"Rudy?" Sophie frowned at him. "Rudy my familiar Rudy?"
"He's the one that told Rena where Kat was… and then he called you…" Dean explained.
"That rat bastard," Sophie muttered darkly. "That means… he's the reason I have to have this damn music playing all the time."
"Yep," Dean nodded.
"Come stay with me," Kat said suddenly.
"What?!" Sophie looked at her, shocked. "Kat, you don't realize—"
"What's to realize?" Kat retorted. "You get a night job, sleep during the day. And you can't die. Believe me, in my line of work, that's music to my ears."
"Uh, Kat," Dean shoved his right hand into his coat pocket, his left arm pulled up close to his side in an unconscious gesture of protection. "There's something you might not be thinking about…"
"Blood supply?" Kat asked matter-of-factly.
Dean blinked. "Yeah, actually."
"Dean, I'm a nurse, remember?"
Sam huffed out a laugh, looking over at Dean. "Takes care of that, I guess."
"We'll handle Rena," Sophie said, glancing into her kitchen.
Dean opened his mouth to protest, but Sophie raised her hand. "By calling the cops, I mean. You've done enough."
"Yeah, and," Kat said, walking over to Dean with a concerned frown. She touched his left arm carefully, "you have some healing to do. Those wounds need regular cleaning and you need rest."
"I'll be fine," Dean muttered, stepping away from her hand.
Kat pulled her eyebrows together. "Maybe. If you rest, keep your wounds clean, and keep this one wrapped with burn cream."
Dean opened his mouth to protest the attention and Kat laid cool fingers over his lips, silencing him. She looked over to Sam.
"He look like he's dead on his feet to you?" she asked.
"Yeah," Sam nodded, shifting his eyes between Dean and Kat.
"You have any luck talking sense into him?" Kat dropped her hand, rotating to face Sam.
"Hey!" Dean protested. "Right here, people."
Sophie lifted an amused eyebrow. "Join the club."
"I'll watch out for him," Sam said softly, his dimples showing as he smiled at Kat. He reached out to shake her hand. "Thanks for doing what you did," he jerked his head toward Dean. "He can be a pain in the ass sometimes."
Dean frowned, but said nothing.
She smiled at Sam, gripping his hand. "Thanks for saving my life," she replied. "And now I think I have to go rent that butterfly movie."
"Papillon," Dean and Sam said together.
Kat stepped toward Dean, and his lips relaxed into a smile. She grinned back, reached up to touch his cheek, and kissed him lightly. He blinked in surprise, watching her face as she backed slowly away.
"Take care of yourself, Dean."
"Yeah, uh… you, too."
Kat glanced over at Sophie, whose gray eyes were pinned on Dean.
Dean looked at Sophie. "Your bike's at the Sleep Easy, edge of town."
She nodded. "Better be in one piece."
"Beautiful machine like that? Wouldn't dream of anything less," Dean said. He glanced down, then, keeping his chin lowered, lifted his eyes to hers. "Pastor Jim was right, y'know."
Sophie pulled her eyebrows together. "'Bout what?"
"He knew which evil to get rid of," Dean pulled his bottom lip in, tipping his chin toward the dark, knife-laden jacket on the couch behind her. "Maybe the crosses aren't… y'know… needed anymore."
Sophie swallowed and looked down. "Fifty years is a long time, Dean."
Dean lifted a shoulder, ignoring Kat's confused glance and Sam's narrowed eyes. "Maybe it's been long enough."
Sophie took a breath, lifting her eyes to his face, shifting them to Sam. Dean looked at Sam, who returned his glance with a raised eyebrow. Dean could see the questions lurking in his brother's eyes and he offered him a crooked grin. It's okay, Sammy… I got this.
Something subtle shifted in Sam's easy eyes and Dean watched as his shoulders relaxed, his smile accepted, and he nodded quietly. Dean looked back at Sophie.
"Your own kind of normal, huh?" she asked.
Dean nodded. "Yeah. It works. Most days."
Sophie nodded, looking down, then rubbing at her bottom lip with slim fingers. They waited a beat, but when she didn't say anything else, Sam glanced once at Dean, shrugged, then turned to the door. Not willing to allow too much distance to come between them, Dean moved to follow.
"Dean, wait," Sophie called him back. He turned and watched as she went to her window, pulling down one of the papers. "I want you to have this one."
He looked down at the passage, then frowned. "Why?"
Sophie shook her head. "I don't know, really. Something just tells me it will mean something to you."
Dean pulled up one corner of his mouth in a grin. "Thanks."
His eyes shifted to her mouth once more, then back to her eyes. She watched him. He reached out his right hand, trailing two fingers through the thick, dark tresses of her ponytail as it lay across the front of her shoulder. He twisted his fingers in it briefly, pulling her slightly closer to him. She met his eyes, taking in the cuts on his forehead, the curve of his mouth, then pressed the palms of her hands on the sides of his face.
Dean lingered one moment more, watching, wanting… then let her hair slide between his fingers, dropping his arm to his side. She ran her thumbs softly along the curve under his eyes, then lowered her hands.
"You gonna be okay?" Dean asked, narrowing his eyes at her.
Sophie glanced once back at Kat. "Yeah," she nodded. "I think so."
Dean pivoted to the open door.
"See you," she whispered as he stepped away.
Dean nodded, silently following Sam out of the apartment.
"You want me to drive?" Sam offered as they crossed the street toward the Impala.
Dean shook his head.
"You sure? You look—"
"I need to, Sam," Dean interrupted, rubbing his thumb over the paper Sophie had given him and reaching for the door handle.
Sam jogged around to the passenger side of the car.
"What does it say?" Sam asked as they closed their doors in unison.
Dean handed him the paper, firing up the engine.
"It's in Latin," Sam said.
"You're kidding," Dean dead-panned, glancing at Sam out of the corner of his eyes.
"If you believe it will be true, this will save you when debts come due," Sam read. "Bring with you the only one who stood beside you when life was done."
Sam looked at Dean, question marks in his eyes. "What the hell?"
"You got me," Dean said. Sam folded it up and handed it back to him.
"Put it in the glove box," Dean said as he slowly pulled forward to a stop sign, then paused.
"Yeah," Dean nodded. "Out of all of us, that glove box is the only thing that's made it in one piece over the last two years."
"Try twenty-three," Sam said, grinning. He put the paper in the glove box, then leaned back, stretching his arm across the back of the seat. "Wanta get some food?"
"Hell, yeah," Dean grinned. "That's the best idea I've heard in two days."
"Where do you want to go?" Sam asked, looking out of the passenger window.
"Uhhh…" Dean said, looking out of the driver's window.
"Do you even know where we are?"
"Not really," Dean chuckled, turning right and merging onto the highway.
Sam laughed. "It's good to have you back, man."
"I wonder what Dad would have thought about what we just did," Dean mused, reaching for the radio.
"Letting a human girl become roommates with a vampire?"
"A vampire with a soul," Dean corrected.
"He would have…" Sam sighed. "Hell, I don't know. Since Lenore… since Gordon… it's all inside out, isn't it?"
"But no matter what Dad would have said or done," Sam watched as Dean spun the radio dial. "We did the right thing."
"You sure?" Dean stopped turning the dial when a station came in.
"Yeah, Dean," Sam nodded. "Evil's all over the place. But… so is good."
"Sometimes the things I say, in moments of disarray, succumbing to the games we play to make sure that it's real…"
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Dean said, sitting back, wrapping his fingers around the steering wheel. "I guess I just… for a little bit there, I forgot that we were alone, y'know?" He sighed, rubbing his temple. "I forgot a helluva lot."
"We're not alone, Dean," Sam said softly, pulling his arm from the back of the seat and dropping his hands into his lap.
"When it's just me and you, who knows what we could do, if we can just make it through the toughest part of the day…"
Dean glanced at him.
"We got each other," Sam said, smiled a bit sadly and looked over at his brother. "I mean, right?"
You gotta save your brother, Dean… you're the only one who can. If you don't save him… you'll have to kill him…
"You bet your ass we do."
"Besides," Sam said, looking back out of the passenger window as the lights from the highway ticked by. "You remembered the most important thing."
"Black coffee? Metallica?"
"How to find your way home."
Songs (in order of appearance):
Metallica/Bob Seger: Turn the Page
Snow Patrol: Make This Go On Forever, and In My Arms
Staind: Everything Changes
Papillon is a 1973 film based on the autobiography of Henri Charrière. The film was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starred Steve McQueen as Henri Charrière (Papillon) and Dustin Hoffman as Louis Dega.
Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. I sincerely hope that you've enjoyed the ride and I thank you all so much for your comments.
Starting very soon, a story that I'm co-writing with a fantastic author named Sojourner84 will begin posting. It is called "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and will post under Sojourner's name on fanfic[dotnet. We'll be posting it under my name on supernaturalville[dotnet. The story is set very soon after the close of Season 2 with the release of the Hell's Gate Demons and will take the boys on an investigation through humanity's psyche… forcing them to face their own mortality. Should you choose to read, we hope you enjoy.