*checks pulse* Sweet Jebbus, I am alive! Whodathunkit? I was so very nervous about this chapter, I think I rewrote the entire thing three times. I'm still not 100% happy with it, but I figured three months and counting was waaaaaay too long without a post. I shall not bore you all any further, though in keeping with my own tradition, there's probably going to be a giant author's note at the end. Enjoy!

(As a side note though, thank you all so very very much for your awesome reviews! The previous chapter had almost double the number of any chapter before it, and that almost floored me when I noticed. Also, to Kent Rigel, your request has been granted. :D )

The woman's blue eyes took in everyone assembled and her smile solidified, "You made some friends."

Harry's expression held no hostility--just a good bit of annoyance and worry--which lead Dean to feel a bit silly keeping his gun out. As he put it away, he couldn't help remembering something Dresden had said to Bella during their first meeting; something about a friend that had been hurt during her escape. He also noted that said thief was subtly inching her way behind Sam.

The wizard glared, "Yeah, a couple. You, on the other hand, are supposed to be in the hospital. On pain killers. Lots of them."

A prescription bottle appeared in the woman's hand and she gave it a jiggle, smile turning to a grin. "Got plenty."

"And you drove?"

"Taxis are wonderful things."

The exchange ended with the two of them glaring at each other and everyone else trapped in an awkward silence. Thomas broke it slightly by shouldering past Harry and easing himself painfully into the room's only armchair. "She's here, Harry, get over it," he said. "You and I both know that Murph wouldn't endanger you by showing up if she were that bad off."

Dresden grumbled and ran a hand across his mouth. After a moment, he waved everyone inside with an agitated flick of his hand. He himself took up the remaining couch beside the blond, settling down carefully so as not to jar her. The others were left to fend for themselves as far as seating went.

As Bella entered, her eyes caught the other woman's and she nodded respectfully, "Sergeant Murphy," she mumbled in greeting.

The woman--Murphy apparently--narrowed her eyes. "Percocet is a beautiful drug, Miss Lugosi. It's the only thing giving you the privilege of standing right now." Her gaze slid to Dresden and grew even more icy, "Speaking of which, why is she still here?"

If Dean didn't know any better, he'd have said the wizard looked sheepish. "She is still being chased, Murph," he said. This did not seem to impress the diminutive female. "If it makes you feel any better, these two fine gentlemen have taken over her case; I'm just pointing them in the right direction."

Murphy stared at him, deadpanned, clearly not buying it. "So you're helping them…"

"Yes…" Harry cautioned.

"And they're helping her."

"Uh huh."

"Which means that you're still protecting her."

The wizard's forehead wrinkled, "Now, that's just splitting hairs."

Murphy sighed and rubbed her temples, "You're a pig, Dresden."

Thomas snickered.

In the meantime, Bella had settled herself primly near the fireplace and Dean had found himself leaning against a formidable bookshelf. He'd been on the verge of saying something to her, when he found Murphy looking at him expectantly. It dawned on him then that he and Sam had yet to be introduced.

As he stepped forward, his first inclination was, as always, to offer up an alias. Dealing with the supernatural had more then once landed both he and Sam--mainly himself--in situations that looked a wee bit suspicious to members of law enforcement. On a federal level. Unfortunately, a stroke of genius upon meeting Dresden had him using their real names, so he figured the safest route at the moment would be to try and keep things on a first name basis.

"Hi, I'm Dean," he said simply, leaning down to shake her hand. "The guy behind me is Sam."

Murphy nodded politely, "And you two would be the 'fine gentlemen' taking over Miss Lugosi's-"

"Talbot," Dean interjected. A mischievous impulse nudged him into the correction, and who was he to deny it after all the trouble the bitch had caused? "Her last name is actually Talbot."

"I see," said Murphy with a cocked eyebrow.

As he returned to his original position, Dean couldn't stop himself from sending a subtle smirk in the thief's direction. She looked anything but annoyed with his candor, however. Instead she simply smiled pleasantly.

"Now, Mr. Winchester, it isn't polite to go around revealing a lady's secrets," she chided gently.

The eldest Winchester flinched inwardly. Oh well, he'd walked right into that one. That didn't stop him from fixing Bella with his best baleful glare, though. Still unruffled, she continued to smile. After a moment, she pointedly looked past his shoulder and lifted her eyebrows as if there was something going on behind him.

Shyeah right. Like he'd fall for that.

Half a second later, Sam yelped in surprise. Dean spun to find his little brother scrambling to his feet. Apparently Sam had been in the process of settling into a sitting position with his back against the wall. Said wall was moving now, though, the dim candlelight of Harry's apartment alighting on what looked like gray fur.

"Dresden, your wall's moving," Dean said calmly.

Thomas craned his head to see the cause of the commotion and grinned, "Heh, I was wondering where he went."

"It's just a dog," Sam laughed at his own jumpiness. The "dog" in question continued to struggle to its feet revealing a massive head, floppy ears, and a nose that twitched wildly while it took in all the new scents.

"Yeah…right, just a poor, defenseless puppy," Dean mumbled disbelievingly. Face-eating bear is more like it, he thought. The monstrosity easily stood taller then Sam as he sat. Given that Sam was well over six feet tall, he had a lot of torso. Even an Irish wolfhound should have had to strain to be taller than him.

"That," said Harry with a note of fondness and pride in his voice, "is Mouse. And yes, he's just a dog. I think."

Sam smiled and held out his hand to be sniffed, "I've never seen one this big."

Dean grinned at Molly and tossed his head toward his brother, "Chicks always go for the dogs."

Mouse stretched his neck forward to tentatively sniff at Sam's hand. He seemed to study it for a moment, then sneezed violently--covering his hand in dog slobber and other gooey things--before lumbering over and laying his head in Harry's lap. Dean laughed, Sam looked horrified, and Dresden seemed oddly troubled by his dog's actions. He said nothing, however, instead scratching Mouse behind the ears before turning back to Murphy. Everyone else followed his example, and so they didn't notice Sam covertly wipe the slobber on Dean's jacket, nor did they hear Dean's indignant, "Dude!"

Harry sighed, "Ok, so, moving on: Why did you leave the hospital? Or more importantly…why did you come here?"

Murphy cocked her head to the side, "Do you want the long version or the short one?"

"Right now? I'll go with the short one."


The wizard shot a glace at the man in question, who was already holding his hands up in the universal "don't look at me" gesture.

"Alright, fine. What's the long version?" Dresden grumbled in defeat.

Murphy smirked, "Thomas, at least, had the presence of mind to keep someone aware of your location. Every time you'd stop to scry while chasing Bella, he'd call Butters and let him know where you were. Once I finally got out of surgery and was lucid, Butters kept me updated too."

"That was mighty chivalrous of both of them," Harry looked to the other man, "How'd you manage that?"

Thomas shrugged, "Payphones mostly. I bummed a cell here and there."

"And you managed to retain the numbers of any cell owners that were female and under twenty-five, I assume?"

Thomas grinned.

"Anyway," Murphy cut in, looking slightly amused despite her brisk tone, "I was worried so I kept an ear out for anything going on along the route you were taking."

"You did that from the hospital?"

"By proxy, I had some friends help me out," she obviously didn't want to use any names in front of Sam and Dean. "Now, I have to ask, Harry: Where did you catch up with Bella?"

Dresden seemed to think about it for a moment. "Weatherford? Yeah, Weatherford, Nebraska."

Murphy nodded, "And how long did it take you to get back?"

"A little over sixteen hours. Why the third degree, Karin?"

"So assuming you stayed on the interstate, and that whomever was driving held no respect for traffic laws," she continued on, ignoring the question; Dean found the ceiling very interesting after her comment, "that would mean that there was a convenience store clerk murdered within two hours of you passing him."

The room fell dead silent.

"It was a Shell station, wasn't it?" Sam asked quietly.

Dean spoke up as well, "How did he die?"

Murphy was about to answer, but was interrupted by Dresden, who shifted his position slightly and winced. Shifting again, he reached into his coat and pulled out the skull he'd taken from Bella. Dusting it off slightly, he set it on the coffee table in front of him with a muted clunk.

Dean couldn't stop the glare that wrinkled his brow. There was something unnatural about that thing, and whatever that something was, it had possibly caused the death of an innocent man; not to mention that it had gotten him mixed up with Bella gain. He hated it on principle.

Either not noticing or ignoring Dean's consternation, Harry nodded apologetically at Murphy and motioned for her to continue.

"The fact that someone died near you in that timeframe wasn't much in and of itself. The death hasn't even officially been classified as a murder," she pressed on, "but there were some things that caught my attention. According to the reports I found, his heart was literally crushed from the inside. There were no marks otherwise, no signs of struggle, but it still looked as if his heart had been clenched in someone's fist."

Harry frowned, "Was there anything else unusual?"

"Yes, one thing: There were traces of sulfur found along the window sill."

Dean's blood ran to ice.

Attention focused on Harry, Murphy missed his reaction. "I might've thought that even I was being paranoid, but there was another set of murders in Chicago a couple of hours after your apartment was attacked. An entire family was wiped out except for the youngest daughter and she's been missing since."

"Were their hearts crushed like the clerk?" Thomas asked.

She shook her head, "All of the deaths were different, but feasible; snapped neck, stabbings, that sort of thing. SI might not have even gotten the case except for some oddities around the house. One was that the father had obviously been killed days before the rest of the family and left on the couch. There were no signs of struggle or containment, yet no one tried to run. Another was--"

"Sulfur on the windows," Sam finished under his breath.

Murphy turned and fixed the younger Winchester with a stare that could've melted through steel. If it hadn't already been made painfully obvious by the way she described the crime scenes (or the fact that she already knew so much so quickly), that look would've been all it took for Dean to peg her as a cop. "You know something about this?"

"Um, not about these specific murders, no, but everything you've described is a classic demon attack," Sam had shoved his hands in his pockets, a sure sign that he was nervous having so many eyes on him.

"Demon attack, huh?" Dresden asked, slouching into the couch a bit. He cocked a rueful eyebrow, "Care to be a bit more specific?"

Dean blinked, "How do you get more specific then demons?"

"Well, by just saying 'demon' you've pretty much described a fourth of the Nevernever. There are many, many different kinds out there." In answer to the brothers' continued blank stares, he continued on, "What're some of the characteristics the kind you're talking about have?"

"They come from hell?" asked Dean, raising his own eyebrow. "And what's a Nevernever? Wait, never mind, I sense a speech. I'm sure Sam'll ask later."

Sam glared at his brother's rudeness, but the others just seemed to find it entertaining. "Well, for starters, they do come from Hell, but they aren't fallen angels like you'd find in the Bible. They're actually human souls; people that've been corrupted by centuries spent in Hell and somehow found a way back to Earth," he paused, looking around the room. Bella looked bored, but everyone else seemed not only interested…they believed him. It was nice.

"Ok, go on," Harry prompted.

Sam shuffled his feet a bit, "They have to inhabit a physical body to stay here, but it's pretty easy for them to posses just about anyone. Killing the host body is pointless, they can keep it moving no matter what you do to it. The only way to get rid of them is an exorcism, but holy water still hurts like a bitch."

"How good are they at impersonating the people they posses?" Molly asked.

"Almost perfect. We haven't figured out if they can read a host's mind or if they're just that good from living so long. I've seen some of the younger ones make a few minor mistakes. Also," Sam added this with a pointed look toward Murphy, "they tend to leave traces of sulfur around when they take over a person."

"Makes sense," Murphy conceded, then looked to Dresden for his opinion.

He shrugged, "I've never heard of anything like that. What do you think, Bob?" Much to Dean's surprise, he turned to the skull. "Bob?"

"Is he talking to the skull?" Dean whispered, leaning near Sam.

His brother nodded, "Yeah, I think he is."

The skull, apparently, wasn't accepting any callers, for it remained still and silent. Harry glared and kicked the coffee table. "Bob!"

After a moment, two teeny orbs of orange light appeared in the skull's eye sockets. If Dean didn't know any better, he'd say they looked as if they were peeking out from almost closed eyes.

Then, God help him, it spoke.

"…I'm not talking to you." The lights winked out.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

The lights came back, "It means I'm not talking to you," and winked out again.

"What the- You can't possibly be mad at me."

Again, the orbs returned, this time a little brighter. "I'd say that 'mad' is an understatement, but for the sake of argument, sure, we'll go with that."

"I gave you permission to use Mister if you were going to be ganked again. There was no excuse for you being taken this time, you can't lay it on me."

"No excuse?" Bob stuttered. "Harry, I know your libido has taken to eating tapioca and playing Bingo, but you have you looked at that woman?" The orange lights panned dramatically in Bella's direction. "There was no escape."

It was almost a physical effort for Dean to resist poking Bob. "A talking skull…how'd you manage that one, Dresden?"

"The skull talks," said Bob, "because unlike most of the other skulls in this room, it has something useful inside it. I am, of course, excluding you, Lieutenant Murphy. How are you doing, by the way?"

"It's sergeant now," she corrected quietly.

The orbs brightened suddenly, almost like he had widened his eyes, "Really?" He focused on the wizard. "What did you do, Harry?"

"What? Bad things happen and they have to be my fault?"

Pointed silence.

Harry sighed, "Body snatching demons, Bob. Focus."

Dean didn't miss that Molly looked a bit green at the mention of Murphy's demotion.

"Right. Demons that posses people. I don't even want to begin to think about how long that list is, but throw in the sulfur and the formerly human thing and that narrows it down a lot."

"How much?"

"Down to one, actually. Umbra evertos."

Harry frowned. "Shadow demon?"

"Translated loosely, yeah. It's supposed to refer to the fact that they walk in the shadow of their human life. All very dramatic. What it boils down to is that they're annoying. The sulfur they leave behind is what happens to the bulk of their power when they cross a threshold. They're subject to the same rules as anything from the Nevernever, but they still bring a lot of mojo with them when they cross a line."

"The sulfur…is it like the faeries and ectoplasm?" asked Molly.


"Gold star, Grasshopper," Dresden grinned.

Murphy's brow furrowed, "But there was sulfur at the convenience store. That shouldn't have had any kind of threshold, right?"

"Creatures that leak power a lot tend to be a little tricky with their rules," Bob explained. "If they have difficulty holding themselves together without a host (and in this case, our guys do) then any kind of barrier can knock a little of them off. Sure, thresholds are by far the strongest, but even a one foot tall brick wall has its uses."

"I see."

"I don't," Dean waved his hand a little. When everyone turned to look at him he said, "Sorry, but I'm lost. I'm not following the connection between ectoplasm and sulfur. Mind breaking it down for the normal guys over here?" He appeared to think for a moment before he turned to Sam with a frown. "I can't believe I just called us the normal ones."

Luckily, Harry obliged him. "The Nevernever is pretty much an alternate plane of existence," he said. "A lot of times, when beings from it cross over to our plane, their body is made up of ectoplasm, which is basically material from the Nevernever. If you managed to dismember them, kill them, etc, the part that was separated reverts to pure ectoplasm, which eventually evaporates."

"So it's the same ectoplasm that ghosts leave behind?" asked Sam.


"And we're guessing that sulfur is a demons version of ectoplasm?" Dean tried to clarify.

"We're not 'guessing', Einstein, it's a fact," Bob shot from his place on the coffee table. "Trust me, I don't guess."

Dean crossed his arms as one eyebrow seemed to raise on its own, "Really? Never? You're trying to tell me that you're never wrong."

"I'm not trying to tell you. I've already done that. I'm just waiting for the concept to sink in."

Sam stepped forward and cut Dean off before he could retort, "Ok, I get what you guys are saying, but really, how does the clerk tie into anything?"

"And that, my friend, is the million dollar question," the wizard sighed.

Something occurred to Dean and he leaned against the bookshelf behind him, "He died within hours of seeing us, and you said that hex we were hit with was a trap, right Dresden?"

Bob perked up, "You were hit with a hex?"

"Yeah," said Harry, sitting forward as his brain began to work, "someone left a hex nice and wrapped up almost like a land mine waiting for us to drive over. It stopped the car and there was a sniper waiting for us."

"Oh well, that explains almost everything," Bob chirped happily.

Dean ran a hand through his hair, "It explains nothing, I'm still totally lost."

"Big surprise," Bob grumbled. Harry kneed the coffee table.

"Ok, well," the wizard stood and began pacing, no small feat in the cramped quarters, "we can assume for now that this demon came to town pretty close to when we ran. Then it shows up again on the way back. A few hours later, a wizard lays a trap for us," he'd been ticking off the events on his fingers and he looked down at them, pursing his lips. "Molly, could you grab me paper and a pen, please?"

"Sure thing," the girl began rifling around for said items.

Dean raised his hand in a lazy parody of a school kid, "How do we know the hex was done by a wizard?"

"See any electronics around here?" Harry beamed, gesturing toward his kitchen with its archaic ice box and stove. "Wizards muck with modern technology just by being around it. Well, that goes for magic in general, but that hex we ran across was pretty basic stuff. All he had to do was bind up a little of his will and leave it waiting for us. There's two things that make me wonder, though. Oh, thanks, Molly," he said as she passed the requested objects.

Dresden settled back down on the couch and began scribbling notes as he spoke. "One: he'd have to know we were coming and what route we were taking. He'd also probably have to have a good idea of our speed, a couple of hours later and the magic would have dispersed." At the questioning looks from the Winchesters, he added, "Sunrise unravels most magic. Some of the bigger spells can take up to three days."

"So he was warned," said Dean.

Sam raised his head, "The clerk?"

"That's what I'm thinking," Harry nodded. "I think we can safely say that one of us is being followed. That leads us to number two: He'd have to have a personal item of someone in the car, or something from the car itself. Otherwise it would've gone off on the first thing that crossed it."

"That leaves a lot of possibilities open," Murphy mused, "but logically I'd say it was the man that was after Bella."

Right. Bella. The busty damsel in distress that always ended up landing Harry in water far over his head. Dresden sighed and felt his fingers unconsciously rubbing his temples. Normally, at this point of the mystery he'd have been holed up in his lab, being berated by Bob in the privacy of his sanctuary and working his wizardly magic without interruption, but he needed these kids pointed in the right direction. For the time being, anyway. He was extremely thankful that Murph was following his lead and speaking freely (for her) in front of them, even if she hadn't been filled in on his motives yet. She was right though: everything concerning this warlock was centered around Bella, and he was beyond tired of beating around the bush.

"Bella," he said quietly, not looking up, "I'm not an idiot. No one in this room is. You're involved with this situation in ways you haven't told us. You need to come clean with us, and you need to do it now."

All eyes in the room fell on her with that statement, but to her credit Bella appeared unruffled. She faced him levelly, though she wisely refrained from eye contact. "I can't do that, I'm afraid."

"If you told us, he'd have to kill you?" Harry didn't bother straining the sarcasm from his voice.

Bella's answering smile was wooden, "Something like that."

"By my reckoning, it looks like you've already started paddling down that creek. You don't have a lot left to lose."

"There's always something else to lose," she said, and the sadness in her voice tugged on the sleeve of his inner caveman and begged it to come play.

Harry clenched his jaw. Stars and stones, she was good. It was impossible to tell from her body language or voice if she was lying. He looked to Murphy, but she shook her head slightly, also uncertain. He also pointedly ignored the fact that Thomas was little more then asleep with his eyes open. One battle at a time.

Something wet bumped against his hand and he looked to down see Mouse nuzzling him gently. When he had Harry's attention, he chuffed and glared pointedly, a gesture that told the wizard all he needed to know.

"Mouse doesn't believe you," he said, "and neither do I."

Bella's tight smile returned. "I'm afraid you have me at an impasse, Mr. Dresden. I can't explain my situation further, only to say that I can't explain it. I could give you my word, but we both know how far that goes, so unless you plan on torturing me," she raised an eyebrow at this, "there isn't much more to be done."

"Actually, there is," Dresden said, and turned slowly. He didn't want to do this. He did not want to do this. Unfortunately, she wasn't wrong. If they wanted the truth out of her--and if they wanted it quickly--they were tragically low on options.

Two steps brought him within and hand width of her and he knelt, staring directly into her eyes. She, on the other hand, was tactfully finding his chin very interesting at that point. "You know what I am," he said, voice barely above a whisper, meant only for the two of them, "you know what I can do. Look at me."

She licked her lips, "I'm not going to do that."

"If you're truly in danger, and if you're not a threat to anyone in this room, then you have nothing to hide. Look at me, or walk out the door. I'm not going to make you, but you're not going to jeopardize me or my friends past this point unless you give me something to go on."

There was a moment's pause before she breathed, "You're serious."


Bella took a shaky breath, and Harry could see her silently weigh her options behind the veil of her hair. Moments passed before her shoulders subtly squared under the resolution of her decision.

Then she raised her gaze to his.

Unlike some of the more violent soul gazes he'd experienced, this one washed over him with the smell of sunlight and furniture polish. Harry found himself standing just inside the entrance of a ridiculously huge house (scratch that, mansion) that was bathed in cheery morning light. It was old, easily dating back to the late seventeenth century, but the dark wood that made up everything from the furniture to the walls to the floor was immaculately kept and freshly polished. He took a step forward and as his boot struck the floor, the sound echoed endlessly throughout its halls. Instantly, with a sixth sense usually only found in dreams, Harry knew that the house was empty aside from himself. It was beautiful, well tended, but empty.

His wandering steps brought him to the base of an enormous staircase and he began to climb instinctively, one hand sliding along the dustless banister. Mirrors lined either side of the stairs. They varied in shape, color, and size, but all of them were ingeniously placed so that one was always facing into another. No matter what angle they were viewed from, they always showed infinite copies of each other. Images within images.

The higher he climbed, the darker it became, until he reached the third floor and continued to walk down its halls, footsteps reverberating into the muted shadows. At last, the hallway ended with giant double doors and Harry pushed through them, finding himself in a child's playroom. The soft tinkling of a music box floated along in the dusty air of the room, and he could see that though every shelf and cubby was filled with toys, all of them were covered with layers of grime. As his gaze followed along the walls, he quickly picked up on the theme present. On a shelf to his left, a stuffed tiger cowered in fear of an innocent looking bunny. Ahead of him, a masculine doll face peered out from behind curly locks and a pink bonnet. In the corner, a set of Russian dolls constantly stacked and restacked themselves. Nothing was as it seemed, everything in this house contained a secret. Yep, it was Bella's.

A quiet sob caught his attention and it was then that Harry noticed another door at the far end of the playroom. Sensing that he'd finally found his destination, he pressed through, finding himself in a dark bedroom once again made almost entirely of wood. Across the room, a dark stained canopy bed dominated the corner, and it took a moment for him to realize that there was a figure lying on the bed. It was Bella, obviously, but she was younger, much younger, probably not even in middle school yet. She laid with her back to him wearing a dark plaid school uniform.

Harry saw with growing horror that the uniform's skirt was hiked high around her hips, and that her white stockings were dirty and torn toward the top. One shoe was missing, and her hair had been matted to a solid mass at the back of her head. Unconsciously, he took a step forward but was stopped again when she spoke.

"You're back early, father," she said, her voice wonderfully composed but hollow, dead. It tore at his heart to hear that tone from any woman, but from one so young…he did his best to bite down his mounting rage and pay attention to his surroundings. What was done was done, and there was nothing he could do to help her now.

He began walking forward again with every intention of touching her shoulder to gain her attention. However, once his hand reached the edge of the bed, a barrier sprang into place with a flash of white light, forcing him back several paces. The light dimmed slightly, and Dresden watched in fascination as it coalesced into thousands of tiny runes that skittered madly from floor to ceiling. He tried focusing on any of them in a search for recognition, but they moved too fast, and continued to move yet faster.

The soul gaze chose that moment to end itself. Harry growled in frustration, straining against it to stay even one second longer, but the relentless darkness closed in on him anyway. In the final moment before he came back to himself, he could have sworn he heard a little girl stomp her foot and yell: "MINE!"

Harry came to with his hands on the ground, sweat beading on his forehead and his breathing coming a bit faster then what was dignified. Bella, on the other hand, had scrambled as far away from him as she could, one foot actually in the thankfully unlit fireplace. She gaped at him with a mixture of near awe and raw panic, seeming to have forgotten how to blink.

They stayed like that for a moment, simply staring at each other. After a time, a creaking noise reached Dresden's ears and he realized that he'd been unconsciously attempting to clench his left hand. A dull ache throbbed from the unscarred sigil of Lasciel on his palm.

"A contract," he said simply. "You're under a contract."

"Yes," she said, finally folding her legs back beneath her in a more ladylike fashion.

"And that's why you didn't want to say anything."

A nod.

Harry leaned forward again, looking her in the eye without fear with the soul gaze gone. "Give me a name," he all but pleaded. "That's all I need. Give me a name and I promise you that I can get you out of this."

Bella gave a small but sardonic laugh, "The brave little wizard is going to protect me, is that what you're saying?"

He ignored the tick that formed in his jaw, "Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying."

"Swear it," she demanded, her stare turning hard, "Swear it to me on your power."

His teeth clenched of their own accord. Even in a situation like theirs, he didn't make such an oath lightly. Still… "I swear on my power that I will do everything I can to keep you safe from the one that holds your contract."

A high level of tension seemed to drain out of the thief as she sank bonelessly against the wall behind her. "Ambrose," she said quietly.


"The wizard you're looking for," she rolled her head to look at him again, "his name is Ambrose."

"Does that sound familiar to you, Dean?" he heard Sam ask. Once Dean replied with a negative, the room lapsed into silence as everyone surely began to feel the same confusion Harry was feeling. At first reaction, he would have confidently said he'd never heard of a wizard by that name, but the little voice in the back of his head was insistently shouting that the big voice had no idea what it was talking about. He did know it from somewhere, or maybe somewhen…

He closed his eyes, thinking hard, letting his mind drift back through recent memory, then deeper into the past when that turned up nothing. Suddenly, it was as if someone had poured ice down his back and the world became a little darker as the floor decided to try and dump him into the fireplace.


He knew him.

Stars and fucking stones, he knew exactly who he was.

Author's Note:

1) When I first posted chapter five, I was pretty happy with the results…but then I read "Backup" and I realized how incredibly far off I was in interpreting Thomas' character. I almost went back and reposted the entire chapter, but I'm moderately to completely computer illiterate and I wasn't sure what that would end up doing to the story as a whole. That being said, I'd like to apologize to everyone out there for my gross inaccuracy, and I promise to do my best to stay more true to the character. I've already decided that once this monster is finished I'm going to go back and rewrite it, so everything will most definitely be fixed in that far off day.

2) …Actually, I have no 2. Weird O.o