This chapter would not have happened without the bullheaded determination of my beta and cheerleader, MusicalLuna. Srsly, babe, what would I do without you?

TIMELINE MARKER

Psych: So close . . . and yet so far. Either way, still pre-series. :D

SPN: The Benders. *giggles* This one is FUUUUUUUUN.


"Sam!" Dean spun in the parking lot, the rising sense of panic breaching his gut and starting to snake up his esophagus. "SAMMY!" Struggling to force down the fear threatening to cut off his air supply, he looked around again, eyes catching on a surveillance camera on a nearby streetlight. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck, where was Sam?

Feet moving of their own volition, he walked to the middle of the empty road, staring in both directions, a sick feeling washing over him in a wave. "SAM!"

Where the hell was he?

"When I find you, your ass is grass, Sam!" he informed his wayward sibling.

When Sam didn't leap out of the bushes near the road laughing like an idiot and no other explanations presented themselves, he shoved both hands through his hair and headed back toward the Impala, stuffing a hand into his pocket.

"Shitshitshit."

He paced as he brought the phone to his ear, muttering to himself in a voice that he refused to admit was getting a little higher than was manly. "Come on. Come on. Come on. Dammit, answer the phone!" he snapped.

"Well, hi to you too," Shawn replied blithely.

"Did Sam call you?" It was a little more brusque than his usual approach but fucking hell-

Shawn was as perceptive as usual and there was a frown in his voice when he replied, "No," and then tacked on hesitantly, "Is something wrong?

"Fuck," Dean muttered under his breath and swiped a hand over his mouth. "Shit."

There was a half-second pause on the other end of the line and then: "I'll take that as a yes. What's going on?"

Dean's hand clenched into a fist that he pressed into one eye socket until he saw stars. "I don't know, dammit."

"Okay, I'm going to assume that Sam is not with you. And that this has been the case long enough to make you concerned."

Dean's hand dropped, and his expression and voice both went flat. "No shit, Sherlock. You win fucking Detective of the Year award."

"Hey, you're the one communicating in profanities and not much else. I'm just trying to figure out why."

Dean sighed, head dropping until his chin touched his chest. He breathed deeply for a moment, then lifted it again, trying to at least sound calm.

"Sam and I are looking at some disappearances. We have a witness who says that it was some kind of monster but couldn't give a real clear description. We came to a bar tonight to get a drink and spin some theories but fucking Sam wanted to call it a night early."

Damn. Losing it again.

He inhaled and exhaled and swallowed.

"I had to piss and Sam was packing up. I told him to meet me outside. He was outta my sight for all of three minutes, I swear. And now he's fucking gone. I'm gonna put a damn leash on that boy when I find him."

"Okay," Shawn said. "Now, please don't bite my head off but, you've checked the bar and the parking lot I assume?"

Dean frowned. "What the hell kind of question is that? You think this is my first missing person I've encountered?"

"No. But I think your brother is the one missing and I don't know if you've noticed this, but you tend to be a little protective of him. It can cloud your ability to think."

"You know what, screw this. I just wanted to know if he'd called you or something. I don't need your help finding him."

"No! Wait, De-"

He snapped the phone shut and headed for the car.

The sounds of Metallica drifted out of his pocket, but he just glanced at the screen long enough to see it wasn't Sam and then stuffed it back in and ignored it.

He didn't need Shawn's help. He'd been hunting since he was a kid.

He could do this his damn self.

o.o

"This is Dean Winchester-"

"Dammit," Shawn cursed. He waited for the message to end, then sighed. "Dean. Stop being an ass. Call me back." He shut his phone and tossed it on the counter.

A day and a half and at least thirty voice mails later and Shawn had yet to hear from either Winchester brother.

Sam's phone was going straight to his mail service which didn't bode well, and Dean wasn't picking up.

He didn't know if it was because Dean was pissed at him, but since there was no answer when he used Gus' phone either Shawn assumed it was because Dean was too busy looking for Sam.

He had no reason to assume they were dead yet, and he'd keep telling himself that until he did.

Or until Dean's phone stopped ringing and started going straight to voice mail too.

Dammit.

He couldn't even go there and force Dean to talk to him in person because—as usual—he had no idea where the hell they were.

What was it with the Winchesters and keeping their location a secret? You'd think they worked for the CIA or something.

He leaned on the counter, arms braced, fingers of one hand tapping in agitation.

Bobbling his head from side to side, he frowned at his phone then snatched it up and pressed the send button for auto-redial.

"Come on," he muttered. "Pick up, dammit."

"This is Dean-"

"SHIT."

He growled out his frustration, then grabbed his jacket and headed out, phone secured in an inner pocket where he'd actually feel the vibrations if it rang. He needed some time on his bike.

o.o

The first time Dean had called him it was Monday night.

By late Wednesday afternoon Shawn had given up on getting an answer by phone.

Fortunately he had learned a few tricks in his time away from Santa Barbara. Actually, he'd learned quite a few of them before he'd left, but the ones that would help him now had come while outside the city limits of his hometown.

First he tried calling the major providers with a story about his cousin who'd been in a car accident not too long ago and was still suffering some memory problems and wasn't answering his phone and could they maybe use his E911 signal to give him the location because he probably needed more of his meds. Unfortunately, none of them had a 'Dean Winchester' listed as a customer. Not too surprising a result, but he had to try.

Next he tried a reverse number search online to see if he could figure out Dean's alias. Also a bust.

It took the cashing in of a favor with a friend from Texas, but he finally managed to get a location on Dean's cell phone GPS.

Hibbing, Minnesota. Shawn's head tilted to the side. Huh. Okay.

Calling for flights netted him disappointing news.

It was possible to get there from Santa Barbara which was good. He didn't want to leave his bike at the LA airport. And it went right into Hibbing itself, which was also awesome because he wouldn't have to try and find the stupid town.

Unfortunately it was only possible if he changed planes three times between here and Hibbing.

And it would take him almost a full day.

But since he didn't seem to have any other options . . .

He booked the flight while he assembled a stack of clothes for a day or two. He paused briefly in his closet, staring at the corner where he'd hidden the 'Supernatural First Aid Kit'.

Should he bring what he could? The weapons were out, obviously, unless he checked his bag and he didn't want to waste that time, but he could get more of those in Minnesota if he absolutely had to. Probably.

Deciding that preparedness was the better part of not dying at some mythical beastie's claws, he snagged the handle and dragged it out.

He hadn't really taken that close of a look at the stuff yet, but a quick search was able to identify and remove the obvious contraband for a plane.

The rest he left in, stuffed his clothes on top, paused to grab a few toiletries, and then headed for the door.

If Dean was just being an ass and not answering his phone Shawn was going to kill him.

Or call his father and tell John that his son was a jerk and let him take care of the ass-kicking.

When your opponent could hand you your butt on a platter without breaking a sweat, tattling wasn't the wussy way out. It was strategy at its finest.

Plan in mind, Shawn revved his bike and set off for the airport.

o.o

Shawn wasn't really feeling up to searching the entire town of Hibbing, Minnesota, when he finally got off the plane, but all his friend in Texas had been able to tell him was that Dean was a few miles outside of the city.

As eager as he was to locate the missing Winchesters, he wasn't dumb enough to go rushing out there without some sort of plan. It's not like they were being held hostage by a couple of humans or anything. Who knew what it was that had caught them?

Unfortunately, John Winchester wasn't answering his phone either—what the hell was their problem with that anyway?—so Shawn didn't really know what to expect might be out there.

He settled for the safer option of locating their motel room and hoping it would have some clues. Perhaps a diagram with the vulnerable area of the beast circled in red and a note on what kind of weapon would kill it . . .

Unfortunately, there were no Winchesters listed at any hotels or motels within fifty miles of Hibbing, a fact that took him most of the afternoon to determine. Happily the diner he had settled into had a very delicious pineapple upside down cake.

He decided as he finished off his third—or was it fourth?—piece that he seriously needed to have a talk with Dean about aliases.

His failures so far left Shawn with one option: going to the police.

He hailed a cab and was dropped off in front of the local sheriff's office.

Spotting the Impala outside he breathed a fervent thanks to any deities that might be listening and jogged for the doors.

A trim, perky blonde was manning the front counter and she smiled widely at Shawn when he entered. "Hi!" she greeted.

Shawn was not immediately impressed by the police force of Hibbing, Minnesota. They had customer service down pat, sure, but a lifetime of dealing with law enforcement left one with a certain understanding of why cops acted the way they did. Polly Perky here meant either she was very new or just reeeally inexperienced. Neither was a good thing when you were looking for someone under normal circumstances. Add in the supernatural element and a growing feeling of doom was taking root in Shawn's gut.

But he could work with this. Maybe. "Hi," he said, returning the smile. "My name is Shawn Spencer. I'm looking for a friend—actually, two of them."

"Are they missing?"

Shawn blinked. No, he thought sarcastically, I just figured you might know the location of every damn person inside the city limits.

"Uh, yeah."

"Okay," she said, fingers hovering over her keyboard. "Last name?"

"Winchester."

Her eyes widened. "Sam Winchester?"

"Yes!" Finally! "Is he here?"

"Oh, uh, no, but Deputy Hudak is with an Officer Washington? I think that's his name."

Shawn's eyebrow rose. "You're not sure?"

She grinned. "I wasn't really paying attention to his name, you know?" At Shawn's eye roll she shrugged. "Anyway, he's from State or something. I guess he's Sam's cousin and he was there when Sam was taken, so he's following up on the case personally."

"Awesome," Shawn said. "Where is he? Can I talk to him?"

"Oh they're out following up on a lead. Been gone all day today and yesterday actually. I haven't even seen them since they left yesterday. I can leave them a message though. Unless you have information on Sam's whereabouts? I could call them on the radio too."

"Ah, no. See, I'm Sam's . . . other cousin. From his Mom's side," he added when she looked confused.

She nodded. "Oh. Well, I can have him call you when they get back."

"No, that's okay. I've got his cell phone number. I'll try it again. Maybe they were just out of range."

"Okay! Well if you need anything else, just let me know," she said, giving him a quick scan that said she probably hadn't been paying that much attention to his name either.

Shawn smiled and left, wondering how the hell she'd ever gotten through the academy.

Minnesota must have lower standards than California. Or it was a case of Affirmative Action biting them in the ass.

Stopping on the sidewalk in front of the station, he looked at the Impala sitting across the street.

He'd taken a cab from the airport and then mostly walked around town as needed.

And if Dean was just out with the Deputy, he'd be pissed as hell to come back to find his 'baby' missing.

Buuuuuuuut he'd been an ass the last two days.

Or he was missing.

Either way, Shawn figured that taking the car was a better idea than leaving it.

However, Shawn didn't have keys and breaking into a car in front of a police station was never a bright idea.

Thinking of Hibbing's 'finest', he turned and headed back inside.

The front desk jockey—Plattner by her name tag—looked up and smiled again. "Back already?" she asked.

Shawn gave her his best sheepish grin and tossed a thumb over his shoulder.

"Ah, actually . . ." He coughed. "I'm a little . . . uh," he waved a hand near his head, "distracted by my cousin's disappearance, and I seem to have locked my keys in my car. I don't suppose you could-"

"Oh sure!" She turned on her seat. "Hey, Mark?"

A head poked out of a back office. "Yeah, Sherrie?"

"He locked his keys in his car," she said, pointing to Shawn. "Can you give him a hand?"

Mark's eyes shifted to Shawn who was desperately hoping 'Sherrie' was a representative of the average Hibbing Deputy IQ and not a special case.

But Mark just smiled. "Sure. Let me grab the slim jim."

He vanished again and Shawn returned Sherrie's bright smile. "Thanks so much . . . Sherrie?"

"You bet, Shawn," she said with a wink.

Oh look. She had been paying attention.

Mark reappeared and Shawn led the way outside.

"She's a beaut," the deputy said as he drank in the lines of the muscle car. "Restored?"

"Ah no. She's been in the family for years."

"Nice." It was the work of a few seconds to slip the bar down into the door and flip the catch. A tug on the handle and the door popped open.

"There you go."

"Thanks, Mark. I really appreciate this," Shawn said as he climbed in. He laughed. "I just don't know where my brain is," he added, feeling under the seat and praying there was a spare set of keys.

Happily Mark wasn't paying that close attention.

"It happens to all of us. You have a good day."

"You too," Shawn said and closed the door, making a show of still looking for the keys.

Mark patted the roof, then left, heading across the street and waving to a woman and her kids walking past on the sidewalk.

Shawn watched him go as his hands left the floor mats and reached under the ignition.

He paused for a moment to ponder the likelihood of Dean killing him for this—pretty much guaranteed—but Shawn figured he'd worry about that when he found Dean.

A few stripped wires and a touch to the steering column later and the car roared to life.

Now to find the Brothers Winchester.

o.o

In the end it was a receipt for a motel, dated a week ago and with an address located here in town, that pointed Shawn in a productive direction.

It also, handily enough, had a name and room number on it.

He parked the car just within sight of the front office and then headed inside.

No cute little blondes here, the motel manager was old, wrinkly, and male.

And also in need of a bath. Ugh.

Shawn smoothed away his revulsion and put on a grin before the guy turned from his TV.

"Hi, my name is Shawn Newsted. My brothers are staying here, uh, but," he smiled and chuckled, "they forgot to get a key for me. Would it be possible-"

"Room?"

"Um, nine?" Shawn said, not entirely surprised when the story was bought without any real resistance.

A key was tossed his way and he caught it before it slipped off onto the floor.

"If you're staying past tomorrow you're gonna have to pay more."

Shawn glanced up at that and then nodded. "I'll remind them, thanks."

Key in hand, he headed out and down to room nine.

Inside he found signs that they had definitely been here for at least a week, but probably not in the last two days. Damn.

They had—helpfully—tacked what looked like most of a case file to the south wall across from the beds, so that was good.

Shawn gave it a quick scan, but saw nothing obvious by way of a creature description or picture jump out at him.

Lovely.

He sighed, and took a seat at the table, resigning himself to actual going through all of this to find some clearer answers.

o.o

By the time they got back to town, Dean was more than ready to pick up his baby, go back to the motel, shower, get some painkillers in his system, and pass out for a day or two.

It was a glorious plan in its simplicity and he was quite proud of how it cut out any extraneous effort that might cause delays.

There was just ooooooone little problem.

His car was not at the station.

He stopped and stared at the empty spot while next to him Sam gave a low groan. "I thought you said you left it here!"

"I did."

Dean's brow furrowed. Had he taken her back to the motel?

No. Because then Kathleen would have had to pick him up. Or he would have had to walk.

No, he was sure he'd left her here.

Which begged the question . . . WHERE THE HELL WAS SHE?

Sam seemed to realize that Dean's silence was not a good thing.

"Dean?"

Dean was turning in place, wondering if they would have towed her into the station's impound lot here or if that was located somewhere else.

"Fuck."

Sam sighed, head lolling back. "Don't tell me. It got towed."

"How the hell should I know? I left her right the fuck here," he snapped, jerking a hand at the empty curb.

Dean looked at the spot as if willing his car to reappear. "Dammit."

Sam sighed. "Look, how about we go back to the motel and in the morning-"

"Sam, I have had a shitty week. And today, with its creepy ass family and their creepy ass hobby of hunting people and locking them in cages and using fucking flaming hot pokers on them, was just the shitty sauce on top of that particular crap sundae. Now to add a turd of a cherry on top, my car has been taken who the hell knows where.

"Now I'm guessing—since we're in front of a police station—that she wasn't stolen. Which means the officers inside the police station probably know where she is. I am not walking back to the motel just so I can walk back here in the morning and ask where the fuck they took my car. Got it?"

Checking the road for traffic, Dean strode across the asphalt, the weariness from walking all the way back into town gone in the anger of this latest reminder from the universe that he was not a favored pet of Fate.

"Dean! Wait!" Sam said, cutting him off before he got to the doors.

"Sam," he said through gritted teeth. "Move. Your. Ass."

"Dean, you can't go in there."

"Why the fuck not?"

"Because you stole a police officer's badge along with his identity and they know it."

Dean's face screwed up. "FUCK!"

Could this day get any fucking worse?

"I'll go in."

Dean looked him up and down.

"What?" Sam asked under the scrutiny.

"And this a better plan how? You're the missing person they've been looking for. And not just because I said so. Your record says you're wanted for questioning."

Sam huffed a breath in frustration. "Look, Dean, either one of us goes in there or we go back to the motel. I'm not seeing a lot of other options and frankly, I'd like to get to a shower and a bed sometime before the end of this century."

Dean still didn't look happy. "And I don't?" he snapped.

Valiantly repressing his first response behind compressed lips, Sam said, "I'm just going to ask about the car. I won't tell them who I am. If we're lucky the officer at the desk won't recognize my face."

Dean snorted. "Oh yeah, because our luck here has been outstanding so far. And why are they going to tell you about my car? You're going to have to give them something besides morbid curiosity."

"What do you want me to do, Dean?" Sam demanded, arms stretched out to the side. "It's this or we go back to the motel and call. And either way, once we locate the car we still have to figure out how to get it out of the impound."

Dean unleashed a string of curses to make a Marine blush.

"I'll go in, take two seconds, be back out," Sam said. "That or we start walking again."

Dean considered it, then shook his head.

"No, you've been the hot topic around here the last few days thanks to me. I doubt anyone in there hasn't seen your picture. Fuck!" A frustrated hand carded through his hair as he paced a short circuit away and back.

Sam sighed, exhaustion giving way to the desire to argue about this. "Well, we can't do anything standing around here and if both of us are wanted, then we should probably loiter somewhere else."

With one last heartfelt, "Dammit!" Dean led the way back to the sidewalk and down the road toward the motel.

o.o

Arriving at their home-of-the-week, Dean gave the parking lot a hopeful sweep of his eyes, but no dice. He hadn't suffered a massive brain fart and left the Impala here.

Muttering dark thoughts about law enforcement who needed to be eating more donuts and towing fewer cars, he dug his room key out of his pocket and fitted it into the lock. A wiggle and a bump and it opened, allowing them entrance.

Sam went straight for his bed, dropping to sit on the end with a groan of pure relief and allowing gravity to take over and pull him down to lay flat on the mattress. Lumpy it may be, but at this point he didn't even care. It was heaven in misshapen poly-cotton fibers.

Dean wasn't yet ready to call it a day, though he was getting close. He just needed to find out where his baby was being held for the night.

With that in mind he called up the number for the station on his 'Recently Dialed' list and held out the phone to Sam.

Sam frowned, then recalled their remaining problem and accepted the cell.

He sat up while it rang, eyes following Dean to the first aid kit and then back to the bed to sit next to him. It gave his older brother proximity to eavesdrop on the phone call and allowed him to perform the necessary after-action-treatment.

It also got Sam closer to sleep so he didn't even consider protesting.

"Hibbing County Sheriff's Office. This is Sherrie. How can I help you?"

"Yes, uh, hi. I'm calling to inquire about a vehicle I believe may have been towed."

"Okay, can you give me a description of the vehicle including license plate number?"

Sam realized just how asleep his brain was when it finally occurred to him that the Impala would be linked to their records and having it put into a database for a search would likely bring up a red flag.

He shut his mouth, then glanced at Dean who raised his eyebrows to ask why the hell he wasn't answering.

"Black," he muttered. "1967. Chevy Impala. Come on, Sam, Dad's had that thing since before I was born."

"Hello?"

"Uh, yes. Sorry. Um. It was, uh, it was parked in front of the station earlier today-"

If she thought it odd he wasn't describing his missing vehicle, it didn't show. She just plowed right ahead. "And you think it was towed?"

"Well it wasn't there when I went back for it," Sam said dryly. "And it was parked in front of a sheriff's office, so I doubt it was stolen."

Dean rolled his eyes as he swabbed alcohol over an abrasion on Sam's arm making him flinch.

"Sorry," Dean said, and it sounded sincere enough to make Sam think that Dean's concern for his car was waning in the light of seeing the extent of Sam's injuries. The frown on his face and the hardness of his eyes said clearly that he was thinking of going back and finishing the damn hunt. Maybe give the Benders a taste of their own medicine.

"I don't have any cars towed from that location. We did have a guy lock his keys in and need a jimmy, but-"

Dean's head shot up as his eyes met Sam's.

"He said he locked his keys in the car?"

"Yeah. Poor guy. He was worried about his missing cousin and it's got him all messed up."

"Did you happen to get his name?"

"Yeah. Why?"

Dean pressed a bandage into place as the sound of a car engine outside drew closer and stopped right in front of the room, then cut out.

They exchanged a look as Dean rose, grabbing a gun and moving quickly and silently to flank the door.

Sam gave a sort of laugh as a key was inserted in the lock of the door.

"My cousin," Sam said, hand moving to his own gun, "he's got such a sense of humor, I just thought it might be-"

Just as the door opened the deputy on the phone interrupted. "You're Shawn Spencer's cousin? Are you Sam or are you guys having a family reunion this week or what?"

Shawn stepped into the room and then froze, hands coming up at the sight of two guns pointed at his head.

"Shawn?" Dean demanded as he and Sam lowered their guns. "What the hell?"

"My cousin just showed up. Thanks for your time." Sam hung up and dropped the phone on the bed, wiping a hand over his face as the adrenaline began to fade for the thousandth time today.

Dean stuck his head out the door, then yanked it back. "You had my car? How the hell were you driving my car? You don't have-"

The bug-eyed look that suddenly possessed Dean's face would have been hilarious if it didn't mean that Sam had to stand up again and get between his brother and Shawn before the former killed the latter.

"Dean-" he started and took a step, but Dean's arm was already pulling back in preparation for a nasty right hook. "No!" he shouted and leapt forward, tackling his brother as Shawn jumped back against the wall, pressing himself into the corner, all color drained from his face.

"Let me go, Sam! I'm gonna kill him!"

"Wait! I can explain!" Shawn protested.

"Dean," Sam said, grateful for their long walk now as it actually evened the playing ground just a little. But not much, so he'd have to talk fast. "Dean, you can't kill him."

"Sure I can. I have a gun. I have several guns. I have a knife. Hell, I even have a car. I could run him over. I have lots of ways I can kill him, Sammy."

"Dean! He's not- STOP IT, DEAN!" Sam snarled when his wriggling sibling tried kicking out at Shawn, leaning his full weight on Sam and lifting his feet.

"He hot-wired my car, Sam. He hot-wired it!"

"I know, Dean," Sam said, searching for patience but quickly coming to the end of that particular rope. "But he doesn't deserve death for that."

"You're right. He deserves so much more."

Dean surprised them all when he suddenly went limp in Sam's grasp. The dead weight was unexpected and Sam went down with a, "Shit! Dean!"

He released his brother's wet noodle-esque form and rolled him onto his back, one hand going to his chest to check respirations, the other pulling up his eyelids and looking for any signs of bleeding that might indicate stroke. Holy hell, had he just died from that pissy fit?

"Is he . . ." Shawn asked, swallowing audibly and creeping closer, gaze flickering between Sam and Dean.

And then Dean's eyes flew open and his hands braced on the ground and he was up, pitching past Sam and straight for Shawn.

"Oh SHIT!" Shawn said and jumped back, sliding along the wall and up onto the bed, headed for the safety of the open area of the room.

Dean was too close behind him though and he grabbed Shawn's leg and yanked, bringing Shawn down before he even got over the bed.

"Ow! Owie! Ow! Ow!" Shawn hissed as he tried to push up and keep moving.

Dean was already on him though, their shared momentum taking them both onto the floor between the beds where Dean got in two good punches to Shawn's back.

"Dammit!" Shawn cursed, body twisting, hands coming up to protect himself. "Ow! What the- STOP! OW, DEAN!"

Sam managed to catch up and stop Dean's fist from going for a third.

"Dean!" Sam was shouting, wrapping his arms around his brother and pulling him away toward the end of the bed, his only goal at the moment to get distance between Shawn and Dean.

Dean was still panting and muttering direly, but his energy was fading and Sam was able to contain him.

"I'm gonna kill him. I'm gonna fucking kill him."

"What the hell?" Shawn said, dabbing a finger to his lip where he'd smacked his head on the side of the bed in his fall. It came away red and he frowned at the blood.

Dean stopped actively fighting in Sam's grasp, trying to jerk free here and there, but not to go after Shawn.

"Let me go," he growled.

"Are you going to kill Shawn?" Sam asked.

Shawn's eyes came up at that and locked onto Dean's face.

Dean's narrowed eyes focused on him but there wasn't an immediate verbal answer.

"Dean!" Sam barked.

Dean half-sighed/half snarled. "No," he finally said. "He'll live. For now."

Shawn took the opportunity to climb up onto the bed and back over to the area by the door. Just in case.

Sam let his grip loosen and when Dean just pushed to his knees and then hauled himself up on the bed, making no movement to go after Shawn again, it appeared that the danger zone was finally past.

Sam thought about staying on the carpet and passing out. He could see who was still alive in the morning.

But Dean extended a hand down to him. "Come on. We've got to finish cleaning those cuts. And while we do, Shawn," he glared again at the other man, "is going to explain what the hell he's doing here."

Some of Shawn's fear faded and he leveled his own glare on Dean. "You weren't returning my calls."

"And? I don't answer to you, Shawn. I'm not obligated to keep you up to date on my social calendar."

"Dude! You called and said Sam had gone missing. You were freaking out!"

Dean's gaze drew darker if that was possible. Interestingly to Shawn, it also flicked to Sam.

"I was not freaking out."

Shawn's head tilted to the side, his chin dropping. "Dude, if that wasn't freaking out then I wasn't attacked by a werewolf. Seriously. You were totally freaking out."

Dean's lips pressed tightly together and he started for Shawn.

"Whoa!" Shawn protested, arms coming up for protection, face scrunching down, bracing for impact. "Okay! Okay! Maybe it wasn't freaking out!"

"Dean!" Sam said and followed.

Dean put up a hand to halt him. "I'm not going to hurt him. I just want to talk to him. Outside. If that's all right with you two?"

Shawn opened his eyes and peeked at Dean, but when Sam nodded he did the same. He was pretty sure Sam still liked him enough to not want him dead. He hoped.

"Okay. Just talk," Sam emphasized, pointing at Dean.

"Yeah, yeah. No blood." The corners of Dean's lips dipped briefly. "No more blood anyway."

Shawn opened the door and stepped outside. His eyes went to Sam, the plea there easily read.

"He's not going to kill you, Shawn. And if he tries, I'm right on this side of the door."

Shawn nodded and Dean pulled the door shut.

Dean headed for the driver's side door of the Impala, his eyes roaming over the exterior to see if there were any glaring dents, dings, or scratches. He grunted. Nothing obvious. But he'd be taking a closer look later.

Shawn was still on the sidewalk in front of the room and Dean jerked a hand at the car. "Hop in."

"I don't think-"

Hazel met hazel, one set deceptively—and alarmingly—calm, the other blatantly—and alarmedly—nervous.

"I'm not going to kill you. We're not even driving anywhere since you freakin' tore up the ignition. I'm not hot-wiring her again right now. I'll fix her in the morning. And you're paying for flushes and fills of all her fluid systems as an apology."

Shawn was smart enough not to argue with the man who was probably armed but didn't need any weapons to kill him right now. Or ever. He was also having some serious reconsideration of his plan and reasoning behind it. A mistake he would not make again.

"Then why-"

"Because I'd rather not have this conversation in the open air where everyone can hear it!" Dean snapped. "Holy fucking-"

The rest of his curses were lost as he climbed in and shut the door with both great force and great care.

Shawn hesitated another moment and then went to the passenger side and gingerly took a seat, shutting the door with just great care under Dean's watchful eye.

Shawn immediately started in. "Look, maybe I shouldn't have taken your car-"

"Maybe?" Dean said. "MAYBE? How about definitely? You shouldn't even be in this state!" Then Dean's brow furrowed. "How the hell did you find us anyway?"

"I had a friend hack into your cell carrier's system and trace your E911 GPS signal."

Dean's eyebrows rose.

"Which reminds me, I'm not sure I can do that again so maybe you can tell me what name the contract is under so I can give them a story about how you're diabetic and need your medication and could die if I don't find you?"

Dean just snorted. "Yeah. Right. Like I'm going to make it easier for you to find me."

"Dude, you weren't answering your phone! I was worried, okay? So sue me!"

"And just what was your plan anyway? Come out here and what? Hunt down whatever snatched us by yourself? I told you, Shawn, you're not a damn hunter."

"Oh well, forgive me for not wanting to just let you vanish into the wilds of Minnesota," Shawn snapped. Dean had toned down the scary and Shawn was feeling much more comfortable expressing his own frustration with the last three days.

"Shawn, we're hunters. I did mention this part to you, I know you did. Vanishing off the face of the Earth never to be seen again is pretty much the number one way you get out of this life when you hunt the supernatural. It sucks, but it's a risk of the job. A job you don't share."

"Oh for-" Shawn rolled his eyes. "I get it, okay? I'm not a hunter! How many times are you going to say that?"

"As many times as it takes to get it through your thick freaking skull! This is not a game or a joke or a fun adventure for the weekend and vacations. This is serious and it's deadly and, dammit, I am tired of people dying."

Shawn fell silent at the admission, the pain and weariness under the words.

Dean stared out the front window as he sought control. When he had as good a grip as he was going to get on it, he continued, voice low.

"Every day, every case, do you know what I see?" He turned to look at Shawn now, pinning him in place with his intensity. "I see people die. Normal, regular people with no clue about what's out there hiding in the dark. They're just living their lives, fat, dumb, and happy until one day the shadows grow teeth and claws and jump out and rip them to shreds. I see it every day and I can't stop it. Not really. I kill every evil fugly I can, but you know what? There's always another one out there. Another one waiting in the dark and until it kills someone . . . I don't even know it's there. I can't stop the first few deaths because that's what tells me there's a pattern, a connection, a reason. I just . . ." His fingers dug into his eye sockets, then he wiped his hand down his face.

"I don't like seeing people die, Shawn. But people I know? I like that even less."

Shawn sighed, leaning an arm on the door to prop up his chin as he stared out into the night. The rain clouds that had moved in and been threatening all evening finally broke, pattering on the roof and sliding down the windows.

"Do you understand what I'm saying? Can you see where I'm coming from?"

"Yeah." He turned to look at Dean, arm still in place, fist cushioning the back of his head against the window. "But you need to understand something about me, too, Dean. Friends are important to me. And if you need help . . ." He shrugged. "I'm going to try to help. I may not be a badass werewolf hunter, but that doesn't mean I can't help."

Dean snorted, but his smile was genuine.

"You remind me of Sammy when he was, what? Eleven or so? Wanted so damn badly to come on hunts and help. He volunteered to do anything. Carry the gear bag. Dig up a grave. He'd stay up all night reading every book on the supernatural he could get his hands on so that no matter what Dad and I were hunting he could give us something useful to fight it."

Shawn gave look of mock indignation. "Dude, I'm not eleven-years-old."

Dean chuckled. "Not physically maybe. But mentally?"

Shawn shrugged one shoulder. "Yeah okay. Maybe."

Dean's smiled faded and his eyes strayed back out the windshield.

"Look, Shawn, I do appreciate the thought. But, really, if we get in trouble on a hunt? There's not much you can do, man. Except maybe call in some backup for us. You said Dad gave you some numbers?"

"Yeah."

"Call one of them. If Caleb or Pastor Jim can't get to us, they'll find someone who can."

Shawn frowned. "Yeah, fine. You just want to hog all the fun."

Dean snorted again. "Yeah. Fun. Hunting things that try to eat you or throw you into walls. Whee!" he said and tossed his arms up, wincing when that motion reminded him that the adrenaline and therefore the home-grown pain killers were pretty much gone again.

"Ow," he hissed.

But not quietly to escape Shawn's notice, even with the rain tap dancing on the roof.

"Dude, are you hurt?"

Dean waved it off. "I'm fine."

"Uh huh. Wait here."

He ducked out of the car and was hunching quickly through the rain to the room door before Dean could even blink.

Sam answered, stayed for a half second before vanishing inside again. He came back, first aid kit in hand, glanced at the car as he said something, then gave Shawn a small, quicksilver smile and surrendered the kit. Something like amusement crossed his face as he offered a parting shot of some kind and let Shawn go.

The door closed on his grin, Shawn's door opening pulling Dean's attention back to the car.

"Dude!" Dean protested as Shawn slicked back his wet hair. "Water on the seats! Man!" He tried to lean over and rummage in the backseat but his shoulder—throbbing now—lodged a protest.

Shawn just rolled his eyes and ducked over the seat back, coming up with a towel from the floor. "I really hope this doesn't have any sort of bodily fluids on it," he said with a grimace.

He was about to situate it under himself when he had a realization.

"Anything hurt but your left shoulder?"

"No. I'm fine, Shawn, really."

"Humor me, dude. You look like shit. And fine? Yeah, it doesn't include caked blood on your face. Which I totally would have commented on before but someone was trying to kill me."

"You started it," Dean said as he gingerly probed the cut on his scalp with his fingers.

Shawn slapped the hand away. "Stop that." Deciding where he was would work for now, he lifted his ass and slid the towel underneath, then grabbed the first aid kit from the dash and popped it open.

"Wow. Uh, pretty . . . comprehensive kit here." Shawn frowned and picked up a packet, reading the label before dropping it back in.

Dean grunted, leaning back against the seat, having resigned himself to the tender mercies of Shawn.

At least it wasn't Sam who would emo all over him while he cleaned and patched. If Dean was lucky, Sam would never know about some of his wounds and how he came about them.

A shudder ran though his frame at the memory of the hot poker searing his shoulder and then moving to hover above his eye as he desperately tried to think of an alternative to choosing who would live and who would die.

If he never had to even contemplate such a scenario again it would be too soon.

A thought occurred to him and Dean's brow furrowed. "Hey, Shawn, are you even trained in- AUUUGH! FUCK! THE HELL?" His head lifted and turned to Shawn, a glare darkening his eyes.

Shawn shrugged and grabbed Dean's chin, holding him in place while he dabbed the peroxide soaked pad against the cut on Dean's head again, ignoring the continued wincing. "I have been trained in first aid since I was like nine, dude. Dad insisted. CPR certified since fifteen, CPR instructor since like eighteen," he added with a bob of his head to the side. "Lifeguard at sixteen, instructor at eighteen. And yes," he said, dropping the used pad on the lid of the kit and getting a fresh one, "those are all current still. I even spent some time working with EMTs in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I definitely know my way around a first aid kit." He pulled out the mini-Maglite and used it to inspect the now butterflied cut, then lowered it.

"One down, lots more to go. Look at me," he directed and turned Dean's head his way. Pupil checks, a few questions, and another inspection of the cut later and Shawn clicked off the light and popped it between his teeth as he lifted Dean's arm to look at another cut.

"Hohent feem wike-"

"Dude, I have no idea what you're saying."

Shawn pulled the light out and met Dean's eyes. "No concussion. Now hold still."

Dean considered arguing, but gave in and leaned back, letting Shawn work in silence for a few minutes.

"Shirt up."

Dean managed a half-hearted, "You just wanna see my chest, you perv. Try not to be jealous," he said and complied with the order, lifting both layers up to his collarbone.

Shawn rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah. You've got me pegged so well," he said in a dry monotone. "I want your body one way or another."

Dean laughed, then winced. "Ow. Not cool. Don't do that."

"So what was it?" Shawn asked as he poked and prodded Dean's ribs looking for cracks or breaks.

"Ow!"

Shawn glanced up, but it was only a bruise, nothing more.

"Friggin' people."

Shawn looked up again and frowned. "What?"

Dean huffed a laugh. "Yeah. I know. Not even supernatural. Just some crazy whack jobs living out in the middle of nowhere and not getting out nearly enough if you know what I mean. They liked hunting people. So they'd kidnap a few a year, take 'em back to their place, cage 'em up for a day or two, then let 'em go and hunt their asses down while they tried to escape. Sick bastards," he muttered, hissing when Shawn hit another tender spot, also just a bruise. He'd be black and blue for a few days but nothing more.

"Looks like you got off lucky," Shawn said, sitting up.

"Or something like that," Dean muttered, lowering his shirt. "Ah!" His shoulder flared with white-hot pain and he gritted his teeth. "Fuck."

"Yeah. That's next. Switch me."

Under raised brows, hazel eyes met Shawn's own. "'Scuse me?"

Shawn waved a hand, gesturing. "I need to be on your other side so I can see what I'm doing. Now scootch."

Dean was not pleased with this idea, mostly because it would hurt like fucking hell, but also because it put Shawn on the driver's side and, irrational though it may be, the fear of what had happened before that Dean would never know the details of, lingered. Was Shawn a lead-foot braker or did he give it enough time and ease it down? Only a thorough inspection he didn't have time for would tell.

"Dude, seriously. If we don't go back in soon Sam's going to come out here, knock on the window, and stuff chastity pamphlets in when we open the door. Come on. I'm hungry and way overdue for dinner. Let's finish this up."

Stifling more laughter at the mental image of Sam doing just that, Dean slid sideways while Shawn plastered himself to the roof and then shifted over to the empty spot.

"How did you get a key to the room?" Dean asked as he freed his arm from the over shirt, then pulled down on the sleeve to bare the wound. It was raw and ugly and it hurt like frigging hell. And it was, also, so going to scar. Ah well. Chick-bait. "You tell the manager we had a lover's quarrel and I locked you out?"

Shawn frowned as he concentrated on picking bits of cloth out of the wound with tweezers.

"I told him I was your brother. Almost done with this part," he said, too focused to see the look of surprise cross Dean's face followed by a half smile.

"I already have a little brother. I don't need a second one to look after. You guys are like stray puppies. With worms and mange and shit. Lots of work and your idea of affection is to slobber all over my damn shoes."

Shawn snorted and looked up briefly from under his still lowered head. "Dude, who are you calling little brother? I may be shorter, but I know I'm older."

"No way, dude."

"Year of birth?"

"Seventy-nine," Dean said, craning his neck to watch the progress.

"Seventy-seven."

"No shit? What month?"

"December. You?"

Dean relaxed a little. "January. Barely a year between us."

Shawn grinned. "I'm still older. Told you so."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah, I can totally see how you're more mature than me."

Shawn sat up and reached for the wet-wipe packet, still grinning. "Are not."

"Are so. Shit," Dean cursed and braced himself. It wasn't as bad as alcohol or peroxide, but still a second-degree burn like this was really tender to any kind of treatment.

He kept up a steady stream of profanities and vulgarities while Shawn worked quickly.

A slathering of burn cream and a clean, dry gauze pad taped into place and it was done.

Dean was still panting, swallowing down more colorful invectives against the Bender family patriarch and his fucked up hobbies.

"Okay, done," Shawn pronounced. "Anything else?"

Dean shook his head, still trying to stuff the pain back under his usual mask.

He blinked his eyes open again when a, "Here," was murmured. Two painkillers on a palm sat in front of his face and he accepted them, washing them down with the bottle Shawn dug up from the floor.

They sat in silence for a moment as Shawn repacked the kit and gathered the trash, stuffing it into an old fast food bag from the back.

"Okay!" Shawn said, slapping hands on his thighs. "Did we get everything?" He ticked items off on his fingers as he listed them. "More fighting, check. Kiss and make up, check. First aid, check. Requisite gay jokes, check. Therapy for which I am graciously not going to charge you, check." He pouted and wiggled his fingers. "Nope, I think that's all."

Dean pressed a hand to his chest and laughed, trying not to jostle his bruised body any more than necessary.

"Thanks, Shawn."

"You're welcome!" Shawn said, grinning. "See? I can totally help like an adult. Neener neener neener." He stuck out his tongue and Dean didn't quite contain himself, wincing even as he laughed.

"Dose of the best medicine, check," Shawn said smugly.

Then his good humor faded. "Seriously, anything else you need? Anything at all?"

Dean thought momentarily about telling Shawn about Sam's visions and psychic crap, Max Miller and their old home in Kansas . . . Jessica. Maybe ask him if he could do some research or something.

They'd been kind of busy lately and hadn't had much time to do any extra bookwork. At the very least Dean wouldn't be the only one that knew and had no fucking clue what to do about it.

It was Dean's ingrained sense of paranoia that kept his mouth closed.

He liked Shawn and he trusted him about as much as he trusted anyone that wasn't Sammy or Dad.

But this was big. Epic big. And Dean . . . well, he wasn't sure he even trusted himself with this, let alone anyone else.

"Well," he said, rolling his head where it rested on the seat back until he was looking up at Shawn. "You said you trained with EMTs, right?"

"Yeah," Shawn said, confusion descending on his face.

Dean shifted to his side and pointed to his ass. "I have this boil . . . I think it's getting infected. Do you think you could-"

Shawn smacked him on the side of the head that wasn't recently gushing blood. "Shut up."

Dean grinned and lowered his arm.

"Nah, I'm good. What about you? You took a tumble or two in the room there. And, uh, sorry about the punching and, you know, stuff. I break anything?"

Shawn shook his head. "Nah. Just a split lip. I'm fine."

"You sure?"

"Why? You wanna check my ribs? Dude, and you accuse me of being a jealous perv."

Dean snorted. "Whatever, man." He looked around. "I think we're good. I got all of Sammy's wounds already, so it looks like first aid practice is over."

"Good. You hungry?"

Dean groaned. "Starving."

"Pizza okay?"

"It sounds fantastic. As long as it's here soon I don't really give a rat's ass what it is."

"Let's head in then, shall we? Before the chastity pamphlets start flying."

The rain had slowed to a very light sprinkling as they headed for the door.

"Hey, Shawn?" Dean said, stopping him on the sidewalk.

"Yeah?"

"I do appreciate your coming out here. It's, uh . . ." Dean scratched at the back of his head. "Thanks. Even if you shouldn't have come."

Shawn smiled. "Lecture duly noted."

"Also, if I ever find out you hot-wired my car again, I am kicking your ass from here to Antarctica and back. We clear?"

Shawn smirked. "Crystal."

"All right then. Get your ass inside and order me some pizza already."

"Yes, sir!" Shawn effected a mock salute and led the way in, Dean on his heels smacking him upside the head.


Okay so, now we come to a sad point. :(

The next story in this 'verse is too big and too plottish to put into PT. So it's being published separately.

And I don't post multi-chapter stories (that are NOT one-shots) until completed. I just don't do it. I have a horrible habit of not finishing them. So I won't be posting that until it's done.

What this means for PT is that we're going on a short hiatus until that is finished. (Really, this makes sense chronology-wise, I promise.)

Review, please and thanks and I'll see you all soon with sick!Dean and angry!Sammy and overwhelmed!Shawn. :D