A/N: This is a sequel to The Apothecary. You don't have to have read that story for this one to make sense. All you really need to know is Dean was poisoned by an unknown creature and they sought help of a healer. This story picks up immediately after The Apothecary. In fact, it picks up as Galen and Rob leave the apartment and head downstairs.

A/N II: I've posted this under the series for my book. A couple of people have stories in the works, but said I should be the first to post here. Thank you everyone for reading and reviewing. The first two chapters of The Legacy: Book One of the Custodes Noctis are up on my website at MuffyMorrigan (dot) com.

The Forest

Chapter One

Galen paced down the steps, pausing to look out the backdoor the way he always did in the morning. He wandered into the shop and unlocked the door, turning on the sign and rearranging items in the front window before walking back to counter. Rob was pacing around the edge of the shop, straightening items on the shelves and randomly moving things around. From his movements, Galen could tell he was thinking hard about something—and probably working himself into a temper as well. He could hear Rob muttering under his breath. "Rob?" he said, his brother stopped and looked up at him.

"Yeah?"

"How many times have I told you swearing under your breath in Old Norse is a pain in the ass?"

"It was Anglo-Saxon," Rob said with a smirk.

"That makes it so much better, sorry." Galen said with a roll of his eyes.

"Galen…"

"I need coffee." Hoping to avoid the conversation for another minute, Galen walked across the street to Becci's coffee stand.

"Morning, Galen," she said, smiling at him. She adjusted the scarf she was wearing and started his coffee without asking what he wanted. She never did. "You want one for Rob?"

"Sure." Galen glanced back at the shop, he could see his brother pacing around behind the counter. "Great," he muttered, the conversation was going to be even more fun than he thought.

"Galen?" Becci asked.

"What?"

"I said who was that guy with Rob this morning?"

"Sam, he's, uh, he's a friend of Rob's from school." Galen smiled as she handed him the coffees. "Thanks, Becci." He walked slowly back to the shop. Judging by the set of Rob's shoulders, he was annoyed, seriously annoyed or worried.

"What the hell?" Rob said as Galen walked back into the shop.

Annoyed. "What?"

"We are not going out with those two amateurs in tow," he waved in the general direction of the stairs.

"Sam and Dean are hunters…" Galen began, hoping to get Rob to lower his voice.

"They are not going out with us, Galen. No."

"Rob, calm down." The emotion coming off his brother was almost too much to take.

"Galen…"

"They are going to go after this thing with or without us, Rob and Dean…"

"What?" Rob frowned at him.

"The poison, it…" The bell on the shop door rang as it opened. "Later," Galen said, then headed over to his customer.

It turned into a busy morning. There was a steady stream of people, and both he and Rob were kept running. They didn't have a chance to return to their conversation until after noon, when the lunch crowd was through shopping and the customers had dwindled to a trickle. He was sliding a jar back onto the shelf as Rob finished the last transaction. The woman smiled at both of them before leaving the shop.

"Damn good day so far, Galen." Rob grinned at him. "It makes up for the past few."

"Yeah, I know. I can't believe we actually sold that statue. It's been lurking back there for a month." He dropped on his stool behind the counter. "We need to talk about this, Rob."

"I know." Rob leaned against the shelves, several jars wobbled before settling down. How many times have I told him not to lean there? "What is it?"

"The poison that infected Dean, it acts like a beacon. I stopped the initial effects, like dad did six years ago, but the beacon is still there."

"And?"

"Something happened while I was healing him."

"Yeah, I noticed that—when you fell down and stopped breathing," Rob said with a frown.

"Oh, you noticed that?" Galen smiled. "But something happened, the poison left over from six years ago—it's like it was reactivated."

"Reactivated?" Rob's voice hovered on the edge of an explosion. "What do you mean?"

"I can, how do I put this, I can feel it?"

"Feel what?"

"Feel it out there, hunting." Another voice entered the conversation. They turned as Sam and Dean walked in from the back of the shop.

"You too?" Galen asked Dean.

"Yeah."

"Sorry, I was hoping I solved that."

"Galen," Rob growled.

"Dean," Sam said in almost the same tone.

"Whatever it is, it's hunting. Not just for us, but it's out there, aware we're alive," Galen said.

"And it'll come after us, no matter where we are," Dean added.

"I thought you healed him," Sam said to Galen.

"He did! Were you paying attention when he almost died helping Dean?" Rob snapped.

"Then what's going on?" Sam took a step closer to Rob.

"We're trying to figure that out," Rob said.

"Coffee?" Galen asked Dean.

"Yep."

Galen led the way out of the shop. He could hear Sam and Rob's voices as the door closed. He rubbed his forehead. The headache that had started the night before still hadn't gone away. He focused a little of healing into himself, feeling the pain back off a little.

"Holy crap," Dean said with a huge grin.

"Oh, yeah, it's scarf day," Galen said with a laugh. Becci had her back to them, the tattoos decorating it standing out against her pale skin.

"Scarf day?" Dean looked at him.

"Theme days. Today is scarf day—the girls wear a scarf on top. Tomorrow is Goth Fantasy day, I think Friday is apron day." Galen walked up to the window and tapped on it.

Becci turned and slid it open. "Hi, your mocha and…?" She looked at Dean.

"Hmm?" Dean was smiling. Galen nudged him. "Oh, uh, Americano, thanks." He grinned at Becci when she handed him his coffee. "How'd she get talked into that?" Dean asked as they walked back to the shop.

"It's her idea. She bought the place a while ago, and didn't do very well, then came up with the idea of Hot Babes Coffee. Theme days came later. She's doing pretty well now."

"I bet. Coffee's nice and fresh," Dean said, taking a sip. "Hot, too—and not just the coffee."

"Yeah, she's busy pretty much all day." Galen paused outside the door, trying to get a sense of his brother's emotions before walking in. "Do we really want to go back in there?"

Dean looked in the door. "Well at least it looks like they're talking."

"Any blood?"

"Nope."

"Okay, I'm game if you are." Galen opened the door and walked in.

"I know, he was out of sight for a good five minutes," Sam was saying as they entered the shop.

"Five minutes, but it was gone when you got there." Rob was frowning. Neither seemed to notice Galen and Dean.

"Yeah."

"The werewolf," Rob said, frowning in concentration.

"What?" Sam asked.

"You said the werewolf was running from it. What happened to the werewolf?"

"Dean killed it."

"Huh. I wonder…" Rob trailed off.

"What if…" Sam said at the same time, he looked up at Rob. "Whatever it was—it was hunting the werewolf wasn't it? But why did it attack Dean?"

"He killed its prey?" Rob shrugged. "Maybe he was tastier."

"Tastier?" Dean said, Rob and Sam jumped. "I'm tastier than a werewolf? Damn right I am."

"Why?" Galen asked.

"What?" Dean turned to him.

"Why would something like that, something that hunts werewolves want you—or me for that matter?" Galen looked at Rob. "Any ideas Saga-boy?"

"Nothing off the top of my head," Rob said. "Huh."

"Huh? I see the wheels turning, Rob, what?"

"I need to look something up," Rob said with a distracted smile. "Want to help?" he said to Sam.

"Sure." Sam followed Rob out of the shop, a second later Galen heard their footsteps on the stairs.

"Hopefully they won't kill each other," Galen said, grinning at Dean.

"When Sam's in research mode not much distracts him."

"Rob, too." Galen sat down beside the counter, he looked out the window, the rain was starting again. He sighed. Sometimes I hate the rain. "Maybe you should move your car around back. I have a private parking area there. Turn right at the corner, then into the alley. I'll meet you out back."

"Sure." Dean pulled his keys out and headed out to the Impala parked in front of the store. Galen listened to the purr of the engine with appreciation. Nothing like a big block. The car eased away from the curb and Galen walked through the shop to the parking area in back. The Impala pulled around the corner and Galen gestured Dean to park next to one of the Jeeps. Dean pulled in and hopped out of the car, making a beeline for the Ford parked by the door.

"Is this yours?" Dean said with a whistle.

"It was a gift from a customer. She decided that she didn't want to drive anymore and wanted me to have the car. My family has helped her a lot over the last sixty or so years."

"What is this? Thirty-eight or thirty-nine?" Dean was running his hand over the car.

"Thirty-nine Ford Coupe. All original." Galen opened the door. "She kept it up very well."

"I'll say. There's hardly a mark on the thing. Do you drive it?"

"Of course. Mrs. Barkley informed me that if you don't drive it, it gets cranky and cross. So we use it around town a lot. We take the jeeps when we go out hunting."

"Good idea." Dean straightened from his examination of the interior. "Uh, could I drive her?"

"Sure, before you leave. Only if I get to drive that Impala, though."

"Awesome." Dean grinned.

They walked back into the shop, happily discussing cars. The conversation strayed into music and Galen mentioned The Urban Werewolves. The afternoon moved pleasantly on, except for a small ache that was moving through Galen's chest. He saw Dean unconsciously rubbing his chest as well.

"Think we should check on them? See if we need to clean up any bodies?" Dean said around four.

"Rob knows the rules, you get blood on the floor, you have to clean it up." He chuckled and walked into the back. "Yeah, let's go check, let me flip on the bell that rings upstairs." Galen hit the button and turned to Dean. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," Dean said, swallowing. "Just a little lightheaded." He paused, putting a hand on the wall for a moment. "It's the poison coming back, isn't it?"

"It shouldn't be back like that. Maybe Rob and Sam have a few answers for us." Galen waited until Dean stood straight before heading up the stairs.

XXX

Sam followed Rob up the stairs. There was a low throb of panic, carefully controlled, but beating in his chest. He was sure there was more going on with Dean than his brother was letting on. And what's new? One of these days Dean, I am so strangling you. When they reached the apartment, he grabbed his laptop and carried it to the kitchen table. Rob walked over to the bookcase and stood staring at it. While his computer was booting up, Sam wandered over and stood beside Rob.

"I'm tempted to just throw a dart at the shelf and start there," Rob said, frowning at the books.

Sam looked down the row of titles, some old, some new—and some that were beyond old. "Is this a copy of 'The Sagas of Sigwulf?' I thought there were only three copies extant," he said as he reverently pulled the book off the shelf.

"Four copies," Rob said with a grin. "I have a copy of Aelfric's Bestiarum Vocabulum, that might be a place to start. And here's Clyde's Listing of the Demons. What else?"

"You have Aelfric?" Sam replaced the first book and reached for the one Rob was holding. "This copy…"

"Yeah. If I'd sold it, I could have paid for grad school and had enough left over for Jaguar." He grinned. "Most of these are the family's, passed down over the years. I've added a few here and there. Some of them are originals. There's an herbal over there that Galen mutters about regularly—from 927 A.D., I think."

"Really?" Sam resisted the urge to go look. First, they needed to figure out what the thing was and how to kill it, then he could spend some time going through the other books.

"Yeah, I'll show you later, let's get on this before something happens."

"You think something is going to happen?" Sam asked as they carried books over to the table.

"Yeah."

Something in the other's tone alerted Sam. "Like what?"

"It's…" Rob dropped into a chair and put his head in his hands for a moment. "I can see the poison, you know?"

"You can…?"

"Yeah." He shrugged. "I can 'See' things like that. Good, evil, illness."

"You have the Sight?" Sam sank into the chair opposite him.

"It's part of being a Keeper. I have that Gift, Galen can heal…"

"What did you see?"

"I'm not even sure Galen is aware of it yet, but the poison—it's visible in him now, and it wasn't before." Rob sighed.

"And Dean?" Sam asked, his heart slamming in his chest.

"It's there. Moving. It's changed since you first arrived, it looks different—and exactly like what's in Galen. And…"

"And?"

"I've never seen anything even remotely like it, Sam," Rob said, his eyes bleak. He took a deep breath and smiled. "We'll find it." He shoved a book over to Sam. "How's your Latin?"

"Not bad," Sam said, opening the book. "Hey," he said almost an hour later. He looked over to where Rob was frowning over a huge book full of loose vellum leaves.

"What?"

"Look at this, it's an entry about werewolves." Sam shoved the book over. "I've been chasing it through the net as well and I think this might be something."

Rob chuckled. "I think so, too." He pushed his book over to Sam. "I think we're researching the same thing. Constantinus, an eighth century monk, calls it 'the eater of death'."

"Aelfric calls it the 'black worm.' He said it preys on werewolves."

"Vampires too, according to the monk." Rob flipped a page. "But why Dean and Galen?"

"I don't know," Sam said, scrolling through a page from Oxford. "Oh god. Has Galen ever—has his heart ever stopped?" Sam looked up when Rob didn't answer. The other's face was sad. "Rob?"

"Yeah. It has. Why?"

"I think this is our common denominator, listen to this." Sam read the entry he was looking at. "The black worm devours those touched by death, the unnatural, the evil, even the just and brave who have survived great wounds, all are devoured by the worm. Its evil knows no bounds and once it touches its victim, all hope is lost."

"Well, shit."

"Yeah."

"Someone has to have killed one sometime, Sam, we'll find the answer." Rob got up and went to the bookshelf and grabbed another book.

"What if they haven't?" Sam said more to himself than Rob. "Then we'll be the first."

"Yeah." Rob sat down and opened the book. "Can you read Icelandic?"

"Not much."

"Okay, you start on Saint Swithun, I'll go through this." Rob sighed and opened the book—the scent of old pages drifted through the room.

"How's it going?" Dean's voice broke into the silence sometime later.

"Huh?" Sam looked up at his brother and blinked. "I think I'm beginning to think in Medieval Latin."

"Veni, vidi, too much researchi?" Dean said with a smirk.

"Dean," Sam said.

"That's just painful," Rob groaned.

"How's it going?" Galen asked, walking over to the table.

"We have an idea of what it is," Sam said.

"And it's not good," Rob added.

"Of course it's not, and that always makes it more interesting." Galen walked into the kitchen. "Want a little coffee?"

"Yeah, I better. I'm worried the blood is overrunning my caffeine system," Rob said, standing and stretching.

"Well?" Dean asked, looking at Sam.

"A black worm," Sam said, frowning. Dean's face was pinched around the mouth and eyes—a sure sign his brother was in pain.

"Black worm?" Dean's eyebrows climbed. "That doesn't sound too bad."

"It hunts werewolves for food, Dean." Sam sighed.

"Oh, that sigh is so not good. What? I'm not a werewolf."

"You have been 'touched by death', though," Sam said. "That makes you prime prey. According to… never mind who said it… but apparently it really prefers humans."

"Sounds fun." Dean was absently rubbing his chest. "How do we kill it?"

"We're trying to find that out now. Dean?"

"Huh?"

"You okay?"

"Yeah, Sammy, of course." Dean smiled and walked over to the table. "You two went through all these?"

"Yes," Rob said, looking at Dean with an odd, unfocused look. "I was thinking of getting out the Ogham rods."

"Ogham rods?" Dean said, looking from Sam to Rob.

"Rob has an interesting collection," Galen said from the kitchen.

"Yeah." Rob was still looking at Dean.

"Rob?" Galen said quietly.

"Dean!" Rob was moving before Sam could react, before Dean cried out and clutched at his chest. Rob caught Dean as he fell.

"Dean!" Sam dropped down beside his brother.

"Sammy?" Dean reached out and fisted his hand in Sam's shirt, he was gasping for air.

"Oh god," Sam whispered, looking at his brother. A dark mark appeared at the edge of Dean's collar, looking a little like the ring left by a leech.

"No, Galen!" Rob said, his voice desperate.

"I have to help, Rob," the healer said, reaching out to put his hands on Dean's chest.

"You can't, the poison's moving in you too, it might kill you," Rob said.

"Rob…"

"No."

"Sammy?" Dean said, his voice strained.

"I'm here, Dean."

"I know." Dean sighed. "Not blind."

"Fine," Sam huffed. Dean smiled a little.

"I'm sorry…" Dean said, his fist clenching tighter.

"Sorry? Nothing to be sorry for, Dean. We'll figure this out."

"No, sorry because..." Sam saw Dean's muscles spasm. "I can't… Hurts, Sammy… Sorry… I…."

"Dean?" Sam said. What? Dean, What?

"Can't help… Sorry…" Dean gasped out.

"Dean?"

Dean started screaming, the sound pulsing with complete agony.

To Be Continued