Circle of the Tyrants

Chapter 1

Disclaimer: No offense intended to the owners of the show. We gotta do something before the premier of season five, LOL.

oooOOOooo

Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar Stood ruled, stood vast infinitude confined; Till at his second bidding darkness fled, Light shone, and order from disorder sprung

John Milton

oooOOOooo

He stood in front of the bathroom sink, first aid kit sitting open on the toilet tank. The gash on his arm needed stitches, but first he had to stop the bleeding. The whiskey wasn't helping him do that, but it was keeping the pain somewhat at bay.

Once he was cleaned up, he swallowed one of the pain pills from his stash and then stumbled out of the bathroom. He fell onto the bed and once the drugs, with the alcohol's help, had taken effect enough to let him relax, he fell asleep.

-----

Sam Winchester sat down on the steps outside the latest school he was attending and tried to be invisible. He hated being the new kid, and it hadn't taken him long to see that this one was one of the rougher schools he'd had to attend. After a month, he'd managed to avoid trouble, but it seemed like every day it was getting harder.

He watched as a group of guys walked past him, one of them going out of his way to knock into him. Sam said nothing and looked away when the boy turned toward him, laughing. The group paused when they reached the sidewalk. Sam couldn't hear what they were saying, but he knew they were talking about him.

He normally didn't like to move, but this time, he couldn't wait to get out of town.

-----

John Winchester didn't know he was dreaming and reliving every moment of the beating he'd taken earlier. For him, it was all new and when his eyes opened, it took several minutes for him to figure out that he was in a motel room and not out in the woods. But even after the realization hit, he was still disoriented.

After making his way to the bathroom and having the wherewithal to swallow a dose of antibiotics, he fell back onto the bed and was quickly asleep again.

-----

Sam was alone outside the school when he saw his brother walking toward him. At 17, Dean attended the high school down the street and his day ended 20 minutes before Sam's.

"Where have you been?" Sam asked. He wasn't angry, but judging by Dean's reaction, he must have sounded that way.

"What's got your panties in a wad?" Dean's tone was defensive.

"Nothing," Sam grabbed his backpack and walked passed his brother.

"Hey!" Dean fell into step next to him. "Did something happen?"

"No," Sam sighed. "I just really hate this school."

"I know, but we probably won't be here much longer. You know Dad likes to keep you in better schools."

"Not just me," Sam said quietly.

"Yeah, whatever. You sure nothing happened?"

"I'm sure. So? Where were you?"

"I had to talk to a teacher after school."

"A teacher?" Sam didn't believe him.

"Yeah. I…" Dean hesitated. "I kind of mouthed off and had to do some damage control."

"What did you mouth off about?"

"I was in the hall after the bell and when the teacher told me to go to class, I told him to bite me."

Sam shook his head. "Dad's gonna kick your ass if you don't stay under the radar."

"You don't have to tell me that," Dean said.

"Did the damage control work?"

"I think so."

"You better be sure before Dad gets back."

"Can we go back to talking about your day?"

Sam smiled to himself.

-----

John had told his sons they'd be in Colorado for a while so he could work with some hunters in the area and do some local research. He'd found them an apartment in not too bad a neighborhood, and got them into school. He hadn't planned on going anywhere, but he had gotten word of a werewolf hunting around a town about 80 miles away. One of his first mentors told him that hunters never turned down a job and that was something John had taken to heart.

Dean unlocked the door to their third floor unit and dropped his backpack just inside. Sam walked past him and into the only bedroom in the apartment. He'd already pulled his books out and was set up at the small desk when Dean joined him a few minutes later.

"You hungry?"

"Not really."

"You're never hungry. I'm gonna order a pizza, anyway."

"What are you gonna use for money?"

"I was thinking I'd use, you know, some money."

Sam turned in his chair. "Where'd you get money?"

"Dad always leaves money. Besides, I played poker last night. You know that."

"I was asleep when you got back. How much did you win?"

"A couple hundred." Dean sat on the edge of his bed. "You have a lot of homework tonight?"

Sam turned back to the desk. "Yeah. I have a big math test tomorrow."

"You're good at math."

"I have to study, Dean."

He heard the squeak of the mattress when Dean stood up, but wasn't expecting him to say anything.

"Why do you do that?"

Sam glanced at his brother, who was now standing in the doorway. "Do what?"

"Work so hard. Even in places we won't be very long."

"Cuz I don't want to fall any further behind than I already am. It's hard enough to keep up with all the moving we do."

"Yeah," Dean agreed quietly. "You want mushrooms?"

"Yeah, thanks."

Sam heard a knock on the front door half an hour later, and knew the pizza had been delivered. He walked out to the living room and wasn't surprised to see his brother's backpack next to the couch and a book on the coffee table. Dean pretended not to care about school, but Sam knew he did better than just get by.

Dean paid for the pizza, then joined Sam on the couch. They ate quietly for a few minutes, their eyes on the television screen.

"Dean?" Sam didn't even know what program was on.

"Yeah?"

"You think we'll get into better schools when we move?"

"Dude, you gotta be honest with me. Is there something going on at that school?"

Sam dropped his slice of pizza onto a paper towel. "Not really."

"What does that mean?"

He ignored Dean's penetrating look. "It's just a rough school. My teachers aren't very good and that makes me even more mad that the principal made me stay back a year."

"Yeah, that sucks. You're smarter than most of the kids in any of the schools we've ever been to." Dean paused for a few moments. "How rough is it? You got someone messing with you?"

"It's nothing I can't handle."

"Well, I know that," Dean said, pride in his voice.

"Just forget about it," Sam said, reaching for his pizza.

"Sammy, come on. Talk to me."

Sam sighed. "I'll just be glad when it's time to move on."

"I don't think I've ever heard you say that before," Dean said with a smile.

"When was the last time Dad called?"

"Yesterday."

"And he was going after the werewolf last night?"

"Don't worry, Sammy. It's Dad. He's fine."

"I just wish he'd call."

"He will," Dean said, his voice sure.

Sam looked at him. His brother never seemed to lose faith in their father and sometimes Sam was jealous that he couldn't feel the same way.

"Come on," Dean said, encouragingly. "Eat your pizza so you can get back to the books."

-----

Sam was perfectly capable of getting to school on his own, but every morning he left when Dean did, and went to what passed for the library in his school until homeroom started. Just like every other morning, he was alone except for the staff, sitting at a table in the back of the room.

His math book was on the table in front of him, but Sam's mind wasn't on studying. He was worried because his father hadn't called the night before. Dean had tried to tell him not to worry; their dad didn't call every day, after all. But Sam had a feeling that something was wrong, and with every minute that passed, he became more confident.

Despite his fears, Sam made it through his first period math test, and he felt good about what his grade would be. The rest of the morning was more of a struggle and by the time lunch came around, he was ready to just walk out of the building and not come back.

He couldn't do that, though. He was reasonably sure that he could get away without being seen, but he owed it to his dad to stay out of trouble. There were a lot of rules in the Winchester household, and staying out of trouble at school was near the top of the list. They already had enough official eyes on them because of the traveling and spotty school records, and Sam knew their dad didn't want anyone looking too closely. He also didn't want them to know the boys were left alone so much, though now that Dean was older that concern wasn't quite as compelling.

Sam sat at a table in the cafeteria with a couple other people who, under normal circumstances, might be friends. He didn't bother getting close to people in most of the schools he went to, but being too much of a loner usually got the attention of the teachers, so he pretended.

They were talking about the math test and an upcoming history assignment, but Sam was only partially listening. His attention was on a group of boys across the room. He knew them to be the worst of the many troublemakers in the school, and he sensed they were up to something. Nodding toward them, Sam suggested to his group that they leave.

They had to walk near the other boys to get out of the cafeteria; Sam was almost through the door when he heard someone call his name. He wanted to ignore it, but found himself turning around.

"It's only a matter of time, new kid."

He made sure to turn back around before rolling his eyes. He'd heard that before, and he'd been at the school a month. How much longer did he have to wait?

-----

John gradually came out of another dream and the pounding he hadn't understood turned out to be someone knocking on the door of his motel room. He had no idea how he looked and really didn't care, but judging from the expression of the person on the other side of the door when he opened it, he looked pretty bad.

"Uh," the man hesitated. "You only paid through today and it's past check-out time."

"Charge the card for another day," John said. His throat was dry and his voice more gruff than usual.

"Yeah, sure. Are you okay? You don't look so good."

"Little under the weather."

"Uh-huh. Well, uh, can I get you anything? You need medicine or…?"

John knew he needed food, but he didn't want to get too close to this guy. It was one of the rules of hunting, but he also didn't feel good enough to even ask for anything.

He shook his head, leaning heavily against the door. "No, thanks."

The man looked unconvinced, but he nodded and said he'd charge the credit card John had given him when he checked in. He seemed about to say something else, but then turned and walked away. John closed the door, and snagged a bottle of water from the table before making his way to the bathroom.

He tried to think rationally, and remembered the motel was in a fairly remote location. It was definitely nothing fancy, but he didn't need much. It wasn't the same kind of seedy place he normally chose and he probably could have trusted the manager to help him, but it went against everything he'd ever practiced.

In the bathroom, John examined his wounds, most of which still looked pretty raw, then turned the water on in the shower. He didn't need a thermometer to know he had a fever. Shedding his clothes, he made his way to the bedside table for another dose of antibiotic and when he returned to the other room, the water was still wasn't any more than tepid.

John had to hold himself up against the wall of the shower to keep from falling, but the water felt good despite the sting on the various cuts and gashes. His muscles loosened up a little, but his strength soon waned and he was forced to sit down in the tub to finish bathing. He wasn't able to stay awake long enough to leave the bathroom and dress.

-----

Dean was headed to his locker to drop off some books when a girl he recognized fell into step next to him.

"You're Dean, right?"

He glanced at her. "Yeah."

"My name is Lindsey," she smiled. "I'm in your history class."

"Yeah, I know."

"Oh, good," she pushed some blonde hair behind her ear. "Well, some of us go to the Burger Barn down the street after school most days and I was wondering if you'd like to come along some time?"

Dean looked at her again. She was pretty; tall and blonde. Her green eyes almost sparkled and he couldn't believe it had taken her initiative for him to talk to her. "Yeah, maybe."

"How about tomorrow?"

Dean thought about it for a moment. Sam was plenty old enough to get himself home from school and to stay at the apartment alone.

He nodded. "Yeah, tomorrow would be great."

"Good. I'll meet you at your locker after school."

"Okay."

She smiled. "I'll see you in history class tomorrow."

"Sounds good."

She touched his arm briefly, then veered off to another hallway. Dean watched her walk away before he shook himself and headed for the door.

-----

"Hey, newbie!"

Sam ignored the voice behind him.

"I know you heard me."

Sam slipped a book into his backpack and closed his locker without looking behind him. He started for the front door, mindful that some of the other students were scattering. He wasn't afraid of the bullies; he had more training in hand-to-hand combat than they probably ever would and if he wanted to, he could rip them apart. But that would bring too much attention to him, so he'd have to be content with making it look like a fair fight. Of course since he'd no doubt be outnumbered, he'd have to lose to make it look fair. He really preferred to avoid the whole encounter.

Sam kept walking, but he knew he was being followed. He pushed through the door and as soon as he did, felt himself being shoved. He couldn't keep himself from going down the concrete steps, but was on his feet quickly. Three boys were on him immediately.

-----

Dean heard the commotion as he rounded the corner next to the junior high school and he didn't need three guesses to know that Sam was at the center of the noise. Dean raced forward, but before he got involved, he saw that some adults were already pulling the boys apart. He hung back a few feet away.

"I don't have to ask who started this." Dean saw who he assumed to be a coach holding one of the boys by the shoulders.

A woman in a grey suit approached the group. "Again, Donovan?"

The boy being held by the coach stared at the ground, and the woman turned her attention to Sam. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, ma'am." He wiped at his nose.

She looked at the coach. "Will you escort Donovan to my office, please?"

"Let's go," the coach said gruffly, pulling the boy along with him.

"You, too," she said to the other boys who had been fighting. A teacher accompanied each of them. "Okay, the rest of you. Time to move on."

As the students began to disperse, Dean stepped forward. "Sam?"

He saw his brother turn with a surprised look on his face.

"Who are you?" the woman asked.

"This is my brother, Dean," Sam said quickly. "Dean, this is the principal. Miss Holly."

Dean was surprised that she held out a hand like he was a parent. He shook it and put his arm around Sam's shoulders. "Can I take my brother home now?"

"The nurse is still here," she said, looking at Sam.

"I don't need the nurse. Thanks."

She looked uncertain, but nodded. "If your father wants to talk about this, just have him call the office."

Dean squeezed Sam's shoulder to keep him quiet. "Thanks."

They turned around and Dean grabbed Sam's backpack as they walked past. He was pretty sure the principal was watching them, so he waited until they were around the corner before he stopped in front of Sam and looked at him closely.

"I'm fine," Sam grumbled, pushing past him.

"You're gonna need ice on that eye," Dean called after him.

"Whatever."

Dean sighed and caught up to his brother. "Sam, --"

"I don't want to talk about it, Dean. Just let it go."

Dean did, but only until they were inside the apartment. He didn't stop Sam from going into their bedroom, but he left his brother's backpack in the living room so he couldn't immediately start on his homework. The kitchen wasn't stocked with much, but there was a bag of ice that was probably too old to use in beverages. He wrapped some up in a towel and found Sam sitting on his bed.

Dean sat down across from him and held out the makeshift icepack.

Without a response, Sam took it, gently placing it on his already swelling face.

"What happened?" Dean asked.

"They were just bullying me because I'm the new kid."

"Looked to me like you were letting them."

"I was fighting back enough not to get too hurt. Any more than that and Miss Holly would have wanted to bring Dad in. I don't see Dad here, do you?"

"He'll be here."

Sam scooted back leaned against the wall. "That isn't even what this is about. He still didn't call?"

Dean noticed the difference in Sam's tone when he asked the question. He sounded worried. Dean leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "He's on a job, Sammy. He'll call."

"You know, it's going to happen someday."

"What is?"

"He's going to get hurt or killed. He won't be able to get home."

Dean kept his anger in check. "Don't say that."

"What do we do if that happens?"

Dean looked at his brother. That was the kind of question he'd asked when he first learned the truth of what their father did. It had been a while since Dean had seen him acting so vulnerable.

"I can take care of us. And we've got Pastor Jim, Bobby, Aidan…." Dean slapped Sam's leg playfully. "Hey, you want some mac and cheese?"

Sam looked at his brother for a moment before he nodded.

-----

Dean wanted to go out for burgers, but he knew from his brother's mood that he would prefer to stay home. He'd offered the macaroni and cheese because that had always been Sam's favorite comfort food, and they generally had it on hand. Sam had tried a fancy restaurant mac and cheese entrée once, but was just as happy with the cheap box kind.

Dean put a pot of water on the stove, then pulled his cell phone from his pocket. Even on a hunt, their father kept in touch. He didn't always call every day, but he rarely let more than a day or two pass in between calls. It didn't surprise Dean when his call went to voicemail, and he left a message, trying to keep any tension from his voice.

When he was younger, the rule was if he'd not talked to his father after two days, he was to get in touch with Jim Murphy, a pastor in Blue Earth, Minnesota and one of John Winchester's first contacts. He was one of the few people the man had trusted to be near his boys, and they both trusted him implicitly.

As Dean got older, the decree to call Jim softened, but Dean was wondering if it might not be a bad idea to call him. It had been a while since they'd talked, anyway. He pushed the thought away hearing Sam coming toward the kitchen.

"You might want to take something for the headache you're gonna have."

"Already have is more like it."

Dean leaned back against the counter to look at him. "You sure you're okay?"

Sam took a can of soda from the refrigerator. "Yeah."

"Where's the ice?"

"Melting in the bathroom sink."

"Sammy…."

"Fine," the younger boy sighed and turned away. "I'll get it."

"It's for your own good!" Dean called after him.

-----

John's eyes opened. It took him a few moments, but he remembered where he was. He was cold, having fallen asleep on the bathroom floor, and his muscles protested when he stood up. He couldn't tell if he felt better or worse, but he knew that he was still sick.

Exhausted after the simple act of pulling on some clothes, John sat on the edge of the bed, and looked around the room. He saw a flier advertising pizza delivery and reached for the telephone next to it. After ordering food and soda, he slowly made his way back to the bathroom to check his wounds.

"Damn," he muttered. Back in the bedroom, he looked at the date on his cell phone and was relieved to see that not that much time had passed. He knew he should call home, but also that Dean would be able to tell something was wrong. He thought he'd feel and sound stronger once he'd eaten and would call then.

John thought he might have fallen asleep again when he heard knocking on the door; he didn't have any recollection of what he'd been doing in the 30 minutes since ordering the pizza. The few steps to the door and back tired him out, but he forced himself to eat a few bites of the pizza. It wasn't long before he was in the bathroom, throwing it up.

-----

Dean tried to hide his concern the next morning when there was still no call from their father. He knew Sam was still worried, but that he also had other things on his mind. There were a few bruises on Sam's face, but no real damage.

"I'll try to get here earlier this afternoon," Dean told him as they paused in front of the junior high.

"Thanks, but I can handle myself."

"I know you can, but I'll still try to be here earlier."

Sam nodded and took a few steps toward the school. He stopped and turned around, "Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm worried about Dad."

"I know. I'll make a deal with you. If he doesn't call tonight, we'll call Jim before going to bed."

Sam nodded. "Okay."

Dean watched him until he'd disappeared behind the door, then headed off to his own school. Lindsey was waiting at his locker.

"Hi," she smiled.

"Hi. Hey, about this afternoon…."

"I heard what happened to your little brother yesterday."

Dean was immediately on alert.

"My brother goes to that school, too," she continued, seemingly oblivious to his concern. "He's a grade behind Sam, but everyone knows when there's a new kid in school. Sometimes the younger kids come to the Burger Barn, too. Why don't you pick Sam up and both of you come? It's okay if you're a little later."

Dean relaxed. "It depends on how he feels."

"Did he get hurt bad?"

"No, Sam can handle himself. He just hates having to."

"Were your parents mad?"

"Uh, it's just us and our dad. He's out of town on business."

"Oh, so….are you sure Sam is okay? I mean –"

"I'm sure," Dean interrupted her.

She glanced around, then looked back at him, seemingly embarrassed. "I've seen you with him. Walking home from school, or sometimes when you're out. You guys are really close, huh?"

Dean shrugged. "Yeah. I mean, you know, it's just us."

"Look, if you can't come this afternoon, how about you and he come to my house on Saturday? Sam and Aaron can hang out; we can get some movies and order a pizza or something. Why don't we do that even if you do come today?"

This wasn't the kind of girl Dean was used to. He had more experience with the easy girls and even at 17, he'd even been with a few women, but something about just hanging out with Lindsey at her house was surprisingly appealing.

"I'll talk to Sam about it," Dean said.

"Good," she smiled and glanced away when the bell rang. "I'll see you in class later."

"Hey, Lindsey," Dean called as she started off. She turned to look at him and he hesitated for a moment. "Uh, what do you do for lunch?"

"Meet me at my locker," she said as her smile broadened. "It's on the second floor, next to the center stairs."

Dean found himself returning her smile. "I'll see you there."

-----

Sam was wary throughout the morning, but he didn't see Donovan. Most people seemed to think he'd been suspended, but Sam didn't take the time to find out for sure. The other two boys who had been involved in the fight were at school, but didn't so much as look at Sam.

At the end of the day, Sam wasn't surprised to see Dean waiting for him on the sidewalk outside the building and was more relieved than he thought he'd be.

"Everything go okay?" Dean asked as Sam approached.

Sam nodded. "Yeah."

"Good. So, uh, how would you feel about stopping at the Burger Barn on the way home?"

Sam rolled his eyes. "What's her name?"

"Come on, it's not like that."

"Yeah, right. Leave me out of your mating rituals, okay? I'll just go home."

"Oh come on, dude. You're hungry, right?"

"There's food at home."

"Not so much, really."

Sam sighed. "Fine."

"She has a brother about your age; a little younger. And she invited us to her house on Saturday."

"You have got to be kidding me."

"Look, the first time I even talked to her was yesterday. She's different, Sammy. She's…sweet."

"Spare me. You hear from Dad?"

"No. I left another message."

"So, we'll eat, you'll flirt and then you'll call Pastor Jim?"

"Sammy, I –"

"Just promise you'll call Jim tonight."

"Before bed; like I promised."

-----

Dean was attracted to a lot of different kinds of girls, but he didn't bring most of them around his family. Sam could tell Dean liked Lindsey, but there was something about her that made Sam nervous. He also didn't like being expected to hang out with her brother and it was almost like Aaron was trying too hard to be his friend.

After two hours, Sam had had enough. He had an essay to work on and Aaron was starting to annoy him. He walked over to where Dean and Lindsey were sitting; Lindsey smiled at him and he almost shuddered.

"I'm going home," Sam said to his brother, trying to keep any irritation out of his voice.

"You're not having fun?" Lindsey asked.

"I have homework," he said, looking at his brother.

Sam noticed that Lindsey didn't take her hand from Dean's wrist, but was surprised by what she said. "You know, I have homework, too. Aaron and I should be getting home, anyway."

Lindsey and her brother didn't live too far from the Winchesters, but the neighborhood was completely different. There were a lot of similar houses with perfect front lawns and even a picket fence or two. Sam tried to ignore the pang of jealousy he felt; this was exactly the kind of place he wanted to live.

After watching Lindsey and Aaron walk to their front door, Sam and Dean continued to their apartment. Sam thought it looked even dingier than it had that morning. He wasn't surprised that Dean didn't bring up calling Pastor Jim. He knew his brother didn't like asking for help; their father always expected him to be able to handle anything that came up and not doing that made Dean feel weak. Sam had his own cell phone, but there were very clear lines of authority within the family. When their father wasn't home, Dean was in charge and Sam was supposed to follow his orders. Not that Dean ever gave him any; their relationship wasn't like that.

Sitting at the desk in the bedroom, Sam pulled his phone out of his back pack. It was always with him, but he almost never used it. Most kids didn't have one, and he didn't want to bring any more attention to himself than necessary. He set it next to his notebook and went back to his essay. When he heard Dean's phone ring later, he ran to the living room only to be disappointed. Dean waved him off; Sam knew the caller was Lindsey, so he went back to the bedroom.

He was involved in his homework when Dean came into the bedroom almost half an hour later. "How's your girlfriend?" Sam asked, trying to keep his tone neutral.

"She's not my girlfriend. But, uh, she asked if I wanted to meet her for a cup of coffee."

"You said you'd call Pastor Jim."

"I said I'd call before bed."

Sam looked at him, but said nothing.

"I won't be gone long," Dean said as he pulled a clean t-shirt from the dresser.

"Whatever," Sam sighed.

"Keep the door locked," Dean said, clearly not hearing Sam's irritation.

After hearing the front door close, Sam picked up his phone, but put it back down. Going over Dean's head could cause problems and he didn't want to do that. He tapped the phone thoughtfully, then grabbed it and scrolled through the contacts until he found the name he wanted.

"Hey, little dude."

"Hi, Aidan."

Aidan Prichard came into the Winchesters' lives when he was about 12-years old. He'd watched his parents die at the hands of demons and was hiding in the basement of his house when John happened to find him while investigating the scene. John took him to Jim, and he lived in the children's home run by the parish until he was 18, though Jim took a special interest in him. John stayed a part of his life and even though he was seven years older than Dean, the two were particularly close.

Aidan must have recognized the uneasiness in Sam's voice. "What's wrong?"

"Dad's off on a job and hasn't called since Monday."

"You with Dean?"

"Yeah; well, he's not home right now, but….He doesn't seem real worried, but I…I think something's wrong."

"You're both all right?"

"Yeah, we're fine," Sam tried not to sound impatient.

"Why didn't you call Jim?"

"Dean is supposed to call him if he gets worried and Dean isn't worried."

"Oh, I get it. You can't call because that would be jumping rank, right?"

"Something like that," Sam grumbled.

"What kind of hunt did your dad go on?"

"It was just a werewolf."

"Where?"

"In the Pike National Forest. He was going to some place named Green Mountain Falls."

"Where are you?"

"Outside Denver; we've been here about a month."

"Really? Where have I been?"

"Can you focus?" Sam asked, annoyed. "There are some hunters in the area that Dad said he was going to do some work with, but he went on this hunt by himself."

"So, would it be okay if I called Jim? Does that break any of those Winchester rules?"

"Well…."

"Let me see what I can find out, okay? I'll call you back."

"Thanks, Aidan."

"It's gonna be okay, Sam."

"Yeah." Sam dropped the phone onto the desk.

-----

Sam grabbed his phone when it rang half an hour later. He hadn't been able to concentrate on his homework since Dean left, and the time had been dragging.

"It's me, little dude. I know a hunter who lives near Denver, so I took the chance and called him. He knows your dad and knew he was going after a werewolf, but that's all he knows. He's going to take a drive down to Green Mountain Falls. It's about an hour and a half away, but there's a ton of motels. He knows the area pretty well and has a few ideas to narrow down the possibilities."

"Thanks, Aidan," Sam said. He'd been hoping for something more, but was grateful that there was someone nearby who was willing to help.

"I'm headed your way."

"Why?" Sam was suspicious. Aidan wasn't psychic, but he could sometimes sense things about people who were close to him and Sam was afraid he'd sensed something about his father.

"Don't freak out. I haven't seen you guys in a while and if something has happened to your dad, I want to be nearby."

"Do you know more than you're telling me?"

"I've told you everything."

"You promise?"

"Yeah, man. I promise."

"You can't tell Dean I called you."

"Don't worry; he won't hear it from me. Is he home yet?"

"No."

"Look, you just hang in there. My contact is going to keep in touch with me and I'll call as soon as I know something. I'm about 12 hours from you, and you can call me any time, okay?"

"Thanks," Sam said quietly.

"You know how your dad is, Sam. He goes on a hunt and he gets tunnel vision. Most likely he's fine and just focused on what he's doing."

"Yeah, I know."

"That's what you say, but –"

"I'm just worried, ya know?"

"Yeah, I know. Are you safe where you are? Doors locked, everything salted?"

"I need to check the salt."

"Do it. Then sit on the couch and watch TV for a little while before going to bed. Don't try to concentrate on your homework, just try to relax. You want me to call Dean?"

"What? Why would you do that?"

"Settle down, runt. You know, just call to say hi. I do that now and then."

Sam thought about it for a moment. "No. He's with some girl and I think he really likes her. Just let him be."

"He likes her? Like…likes her, likes her?"

"Yeah. She goes to his school."

"Huh. Well, anything is possible, I guess. You sure you don't want me to call? It might prompt him to come home."

"Don't call him," Sam said. "But thanks."

They talked for a few minutes longer, then Sam hung up and took Aidan's advice. He packed his books for the next day, then checked the salt lines in front of the windows and the front door. After settling on the couch, he channel surfed for a few minutes. There wasn't anything on that he was particularly interested in, so he picked something at random and tried to pay attention.

-----

Dean looked at his watch, shocked to see that it was almost midnight. He hadn't intended to leave Sam alone for so long, and he felt a pang of guilt. He was also a little surprised that Lindsey was out so late. He'd figured her parents to be the strict type who expected her to adhere to a curfew.

"I need to go," Dean said.

Lindsey looked at her own watch. "Oh wow. It's a lot later than I thought. My dad's gonna be mad."

"Are you going to be in trouble?"

"Nothing I can't handle," she grinned.

A few minutes later they left the all-night diner. Dean held her hand as they walked, keeping an eye out for trouble. There were a few other people out on the streets, but no one seemed to pay them much attention.

"Be careful the rest of your way home," Lindsey said from the sidewalk in front of her house. "I'd better get inside."

Dean nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow."

She smiled. "I'll come to your locker before homeroom."

"Okay," Dean hesitated. He'd never spent so many hours with a girl just talking before and he wasn't sure what to do next.

Lindsey caressed his hand, then leaned closer. He took her lead and after the kiss, he wanted more. She continued to return his kisses, but kept his hands from roaming too far before she finally pulled away.

"My dad thinks I was with girlfriends."

Dean glanced toward the house and nodded. The last thing he wanted to do was walk home now, but he didn't really have a choice.

"Good night, Dean."

"Bye, Lindsey."

He waited until she was inside her house before continuing on. When he got home, he found Sam asleep on the couch. Dean watched him for a moment before going into the bedroom. He came back with the blanket from his bed and gently laid it over Sam before turning off the television. After another few moments, he went into the bathroom.

-----

The next time John woke up, the sun was shining brightly through the window. He expected someone to be in the room with him, although he had no idea why. Except for the boys, he generally hunted alone, but he was still surprised to find that he was the only person in the room. He remembered being sick, but felt much better.

After a shower, John gathered his things and loaded them into the Impala before going to the office to make sure his bill was settled. He saw the shocked look on the manager's face when he walked in.

"Wow! You look a million times better than when I saw you yesterday. Feeling better?"

John forced a smile. "A million times better."

"Good for you," the manager chuckled.

"I'm heading out and just wanted to make sure everything's covered."

"Oh yeah, sure. I billed another day to your credit card, so you're good to go."

"Great, thanks." John tapped the counter and then turned toward the door.

He got into the car and when he reached the highway, he paused to check for traffic. He knew the fastest way home was to the right, but he turned to the left without a second thought.

-----

Sam jerked awake and quickly realized where he was. At first he thought Dean hadn't come home, but when he saw the blanket, he realized Dean must have covered him with it. He could see the sun had come up, but wasn't sure what time it was. After stretching, he stood up and reached into his pants pocket for his cell phone. He had a message from Aidan, but it was just him saying he'd heard from his contact and there was nothing to report yet. Disappointed, he made his way down the hall and looked into the bedroom. Dean was sprawled out on his bed, snoring quietly. He left him that way, knowing the alarm would go off soon.

"What time did you get home last night?" Sam asked when he walked into the kitchen after a shower. Dean was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee.

"About 12:30. I'm sorry I was out so late; I just lost track of time."

"Yeah," Sam poured himself a glass of orange juice. "Did you call Jim?"

"It was late. Look, I'll call him after school today. I promise."

"You better get ready for school." He saw Dean's curious look, but he left the kitchen without another word.

-----

"How long is that kid suspended for?" Dean asked Sam as they got to Sam's school.

"I don't know. Probably at least until Monday."

"The others giving you any trouble?"

"No; yesterday was fine."

"I'll be here at the regular time to pick you up, okay?"

"Okay,"

"Are you mad at me about last night, Sammy?" Dean asked as Sam started to walk away.

Sam turned around. "I want you to call Jim after school, okay? Like you promised."

"I will."

"Promise."

"I promise, Sammy."

Sam nodded and turned back toward the school. He'd expected Dean to resist calling Jim, but the fact that he didn't seem worried at all about their father bothered him. He had been angry with Dean, but now he was just worried.

Instead of going to the library, Sam continued through the school and out the back door. He leaned against a tree and pulled out his cell phone.

"Hey, little dude. Shouldn't you be getting ready for school?"

"I'm at school. Have you heard anything?"

"Leon, the hunter I know, is still looking. He found the motel where your dad was staying, but the manager said he took off just after sunrise this morning."

"What's going on, Aidan? Dad gets focused on a hunt, but –"

"Your only job today is to pay attention in school, okay? I'll be at your place when you get there and we'll get it all figured out."

"Aidan?"

"What?" his voice sounded caring.

"Dean's not acting like himself."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I know he doesn't like admitting he can't handle something, but he refuses to call Pastor Jim. He tells me he will, then doesn't. I don't know; he's just…."

"Maybe he's distracted by that girl you said he likes."

"He gets distracted by girls all the time, Aidan, but he still does his job. I mean, I know you're handling it now, and I appreciate it, but I still want Dean to do his job, ya know?"

"Yeah, I get it. It'll all get straightened out tonight, okay?"

"Okay. Thanks, Aidan."

"Nothing to thank me for yet, kid. I'll see you later."