Carlos' head twisted around so far and so fast that if he'd been alive he would have snapped his own neck. The spirit flickered, but kept both frigid hands clamped to Dean's face.

"No te preocupes, mi amor. No voy a permitir que ella se acerca a ti!"

"You won't let ME near him?" Her voice was shrill, unreal, nails on a blackboard. "You caused that accident."

"I did not!"

The cold seemed to be working its way right into his brain. Either he had learned Spanish in the last minute or Carlos was speaking in English. "Carlos. Look at me." Carlos' head slowly turned back towards him. It was like The Exorcist. Kinda awesome. As long as he doesn't go for another kiss.

"Si, Guillermo?"

"I, ah, did love you."

Mrs. Gunderson screamed. Dean thought his ears would start to bleed. Carlos's face, though, lit up like a Christmas tree. "You really did?"

He gazed soulfully into Carlos' eyes and said, "Yes. I did. But I loved her more."

Another screech and Mrs. Gunderson was pressed to his side, his front, his …. He yelped as her left hand snaked down inside his jeans and then up, cupping his dick, while her right hand slapped tight on his ass. "Holy shit, lady, grab something else!"

"You do love me!" Her lips locked on his mouth.

No tongue, but he was freezing again. It was worse than swimming. His balls were going to climb right up into his body if she didn't let the fuck go. And what he was about to do—was kissing ass goodbye. His ice cold ass goodbye. That's what he was doing.

"Like a little sister. Enid, I loved you like a dear, dear sister."

Carlos started to laugh. Or maybe scream. Hard to tell with angry, insane, spirits. But it did the trick. Mrs. G's hands disappeared and she flickered there to face off with Carlos. Dean gasped and fell to his knees, breath frosting in front of him, the crowbar clanging to the floor, dropped out of numb hands, the sound quickly overwhelmed by the sound of breaking glass. The cases around him were shaking, the silver pieces inside starting to dance and jitter on the shelves as the large panes of display glass cracked and shattered.

Silver was flying through the room, skimming over his head, caroming off walls, crashing into other pieces midair… he ducked as a platter frisbee'd in his direction, only to have a silver comb bounce off his shoulder. Diving for the bust, oddly quiescent in the hailstorm of cutlery and tea sets rebounding off the walls, he scuttled on his hands and knees back to his duffel by one wall.

Holding the bust upside down between his knees, he found and tugged out a rubber plug from the base. A handful of salt went into the hollow center followed by a couple of good squeezes of lighter fluid. The room got deathly still as he held his lighter to the bust and eerie blue actinic flames began to waver and coil over the bust. "Gotcha."

Huffing in relief, he looked up, just in time to see Carlos flicker in front of him. Dean was snatched to his feet and pinned to the wall behind him. The bust, fee of support, tipped to its side, burning lighter fluid spilling on the floor. Carlos's mouth was moving but all Dean could hear was the roar of fire.

Mrs. Gunderson was in the center of the room, head back, mouth open, flames lapping around her feet and the hem of her dress. She gestured and the room came alive again, silver and glass lifting off the floor and rising slowly, spinning and revolving around her like a madman's solar system. And like a solar system, when the center exploded, Mrs. G's image dispersing in flame as if she'd gone nova, the silver flew out from the center.

Dean threw an arm up to protect his face just as something punched him in the chest. He sagged back and sat down hard as his legs went out from under him, leaning heavily against the wall. "Really gotcha this time." He sucked in a huge breath and his vision whited out, the room washing out in front of him. He scrunched his eyes shut as the pain in his chest made his back arch, cracking his head backwards into the wall. Okay, no deep breaths.

He cracked an eye open and looked down, and felt bile rise in his throat. There was something stuck in him. He'd been stabbed with a—ladle? A silver ladle? There was the cup part that scooped up soup, which meant the handle was inside him, rammed in below his ribs.

He tilted his head back slowly to rest it against the wall. Oh hell. If Dad found out about this he'd never live it down. He could see him now, drinking a beer, grinning and telling anyone who would listen about his macho son Dean getting a girly kitchen tool stuck in him. What would be more embarrassing? A whisk?

Now, a knife would have been manly. He was going to have to go to the hospital and tell them he was running with a ladle. Shit. Maybe he'd been serving punch in those little glasses with the tiny round handles you couldn't put a finger through. Or serving something else freaking gay, like consommé, or ratatouie or that whatever you call it, gazpachinko.

The room looked like a tornado had gone through it, and in some ways, one had, but after a little clean up and new glass, the museum would have the room back in order in no time. A hint of movement in one corner had him sighing in frustration. Carlos' image was reflected in the broken glass of a display cabinet. This wasn't over. Tugging the duffel to him, he packed what he could reach. The distant crowbar was going to have to be a present to the museum since there was no way he was going to be leaning over to get something off the floor once he got on his feet. Hooking a foot around the bust, now thankfully not on fire, he rolled it closer, and hissing, tried not to burn his hands as he juggled it to rest on top of the duffel.

Now, strap over shoulder. One hand down and onto his knees. One foot on the floor. Up slowly, bracing against the wall, until he was standing, one hand holding the ladle still. When he could breathe again, he lurched for the door and picked his way to the lobby. The exit door was suddenly right in front of him. He pushed his way through, missed the step, and stumbled, his hip screaming at him, and he would have hit the ground if someone hadn't grabbed his arm.

"Dad?

"What? No, it's me. Em. Are you alright?"

He blinked. "Not supposed to be here. Supposed to be far away. Not safe yet." God, he couldn't even talk. "Got one more thing to do, then it's over." He let go of the ladle and brought his arm up, making the universal phone gesture toward his ear. "Go. I'll call."

Her eyes widened, focused on something, focused on his hand. Turning his head, he regarded it with surprise. It was black with something. The smell hit the back of his throat and he almost gagged. Blood. "Sorry." He wiped his hand off on his jeans. "Be fine."

"What happened? I know you were limping earlier but… what's that?" Her voice went up two octaves. "What are you doing with that ladle?"

"Umm. I'm not stealing it or anything." She reached for the scoop unthinking and he slapped her hand away. "Don't touch."

"Where's the rest of it?"

He closed his eyes. "Come on, Em. I need to finish this. Will you help me?"

"Oh my God." Her hands clamped on his arm. "It's in you? The rest of it is in you? But that's a thirteen inch solid silver... oh my God, it's in you?"

"Perfectly safe and sound. Em, will you help me? I need to…" She was going to scream or faint. "Em! Em! Look at me. It's going to be okay." He waved his hand to the far side of the parking lot. "Help me over there. Got to burn Bill's head."

She nodded, mouth open, and walked next to him, her eyes locked on the ladle. Her voice was breathy. "Don't you want to pull it out? No, you can't, can you? I've seen that on TV. But shouldn't you pull it out or, oh god, if you pull it out you'll bleed to death, right?"

"They'll get it out at the hospital."

"Right, hospital. I'll call 911."

"In a minute. Here. Hold this." Dropping the bust, now cool to the touch, in her hands, he pointed out a metal table and bench by the sidewalk, set a few feet from one of the lamps illuminating the museum grounds and parking lot. "There. Put the head on the table." The duffel went on the bench and he sat heavily next to it.

"What should I do?"

"Walk to your car and wait for me." He pointed a chin back toward the Impala and her sedan, looking ridiculously tiny, parked next to it. She shook her head. "Alright, you can wait but get over there," he pointed to a spot several yards away. "Wait there, but if I tell you to run, run."

She nodded. "I'll stay. What are you doing to the bust?"

"Pretty sure I have to burn it. Is there anything you didn't tell me about the bust? Something that would connect Carlos to it?"

"Connect Carlos? He had it commissioned and owned it. There was a rumor that he had the foundry add a few drops of his blood to the silver before it was poured—oh, is that what you meant?"

"That would do it."

"But, it's silver. You can't burn silver."

Rooting in the duffel, he extracted a plastic sandwich bag and held it up, glancing at Em with a grin. "Secret weapon." He unpacked a wooden popsicle stick, a slim metal detonator, and something that looked like a golfball-sized piece of Play-Doh once he'd carefully unwrapped it. This was Jefferson's 'Don't-use-this-unless-you-have-absolutely-no-other-choice-and-don't-use-it-then-either-because-you-are-not-James-Bond-and-you-are-not-living-in-a-movie-but-all-you-Winchesters-are-batfuck-crazy' and he was pretty sure Jeff had said some things after that about phosphorus and chemical interactions with oxygen, but Dean had just tuned him out and asked if it came in different colors.

Holding the clay between two fingers, he tucked it up inside the bust, pressing it into place with the stick. Satisfied, he carefully primed the detonator and inserted it, letting the cord string out onto the table. Even in the dim illumination the lamp provided, it was clear that his vision was starting to gray around the edges. And it was getting harder to breathe. His arms were getting awfully heavy, but they held him up long enough to get his feet back under him and stand. "Would you take the duffel?" When she didn't reply, he carefully turned his head. "Em?"

She had that 'deer in the headlights' look, eyes locked on something off to his right. His breath misted in front of him. He couldn't spin, but he could step back and bring the saltgun up to bear, but rather than blasting something, he found himself flat on his back, pain sheeting up his side and spiking straight up his chest and into his brain. He still had the shotgun but his hands were shaking so badly he wasn't sure he could pull the trigger. He sucked in air, not sure how things could hurt more. "Em, are you alright? Stay where you are. Em?"

"I'm okay."

She was probably pretty far from it. He rolled to one side, grunting in pain as involuntary tears gathered in his eyes. Goddamn spirits. He pushed himself up on one arm. Carlos was flickering by the table, intent on the bust.

"Em. I'm going to distract Carlos. When he comes over here, I need you to go to the table and pull the cord. Gently. Just a tug. The cord will come loose. Can you do that?"

"I, I think so."

"Good. After you do that, I want you to turn tail and run back to the cars. Understand?"

"I didn't think it was real. I didn't think you were lying but it's not supposed to be real."

"Em, will you run back to the car?" Carlos turned toward her. "Em, I need you to promise."

"Yes, yes I will."

Pulling in a breath, he braced the gun against his side, and called out, "Carlos! Lover boy! I'm over here, you freak. Come to Bill." And Carlos was there, leaning in again, arctic air gusting through his hair.

"Em! Now—pull the cord. Then RUN." For his part, he pulled the trigger, salt dispersing the spirit and falling back, pattering on his jeans, but it was the ladle vibrating in his chest that stole his breath.


"Dean? Oh, god, Dean! Can you hear me?"

"Mmmm."

"Oh, thank … called 911. I don't know … how long … I can call?"

That didn't make any sense. His eyes weren't working. "Use m'cell." He jerked his arm up and it fell back on his pocket. His fingers weren't working too well, felt more like sausages.

"Dean, are you back?"

"Where'd I go?"

"Your phone. Who ... call?"

"Caleb?"

"Got it."

He drifted, jerking to attention when he heard her talking. Her. Em.

"Ah, hello, um, Caleb? I'm a friend of Dean Winchester's. Em. Em Anderson. I… yes, I'll talk to him. Hello, Mr. Winchester? I'm… he's right here but he's not… Stockton. Dean's been…ah, hold on."

There was a hand on his shoulder. "Dean, your Dad wants to talk to you."

"Dad? Where is he?" He rolled his head. "Dad?"

"On the phone. Here."

"What, Dad?"

"Hold on, Mr., okay, John, I need to put it to his ear. No, he's not alright! I tried to tell you. Yes, I called 911, they should have been here by now. The hospital's just a few blocks away, for God's sake. No, I can't get him there by myself and it's the middle of the night… Its' been, I don't know, but I called you to tell you to come to Stockton. Dean's hurt, I don't know how badly, and he'll be in the…"

"Where's Dad?" He tried to move his hand but was pretty sure nothing happened.

Something on his ear. "Dean, damnit, Dean, can you hear me?" That was Dad.

"Hey, Dad. Get m'message?"

"Dean, report. Are you alright? Can you walk to the hospital?"

"Walk? No, been working. Lots. Got, um, got paying gig." Oh, shit, his chest hurt. "Dad, where are you? Something's wrong."

"Dean. I'm on my way."

"Tell me where. Meet up."

"I'm coming to you. I'm already on the road. I'll be there in thirty hours. You wait for me."

His eyes were too heavy to keep open. "S'pose to be, um, Alabama. Pretty sure. Dad would know. Think I'm in trouble."

"Don't worry about that. Can you tell Em that I want to talk to her?"

"Em?"

"Dean? Dean!"

He couldn't answer. There was a hole under him and he fell right into it.


"So, he looked good." John had picked up the ladle a few minutes before and was pulling it through his fingers rhythmically. It was kind of hypnotic. The hospital room was white on white. But it was quiet. And he had on-demand morphine.

"Yeah. Relaxed, you know. Not like with us. Over in the Free Democracy of Sam."

John cocked an eyebrow at him. "He still with that long-legged blonde?"

"Jessica. Yeah. She's tall, too. Almost up to his shoulder. Over his shoulder when she wears heels."

John started to laugh. "That's got to be a relief. What was the name of his prom date? Remember? He went up six inches that year. She came up to his elbow."

"Mary Ellen Hoffstader. I thought he would trip over her before the night was over."

"How did they dance? The boy was all feet."

"All hands, too. Not sure how much dancing was going on, there, Dad."

"TMI, dude. How far did he go?"

"My lips are sealed." He aimed a full on smirk at his father. It was the first time in years they'd been able to talk about Sam.

John stopped twisting the ladle and looked up. "You were fifteen, weren't you, Ace? When you lost it?"

His cheeks felt warm. Damn. He was blushing in front of Dad. Had to be the morphine. "Are you going to check on him before you go?"

"No, I'll swing by in a couple of months. I'm leaving for Detroit tonight."

"What about Tuskegee? I can leave…"

"Too late. I took care of it."

"Dad, I..."

John pushed himself up from the chair. He twitched the privacy curtain open. Dean knew he was giving himself a view of the room and the hall. "Don't apologize, Dean. You had a 'paying gig'." He made air quotes with his fingers. "You wanted to see Sam. I needed you in Alabama."

"But, I don't… Dad, I was going to go. I'm sorry you had to take care of it."

"Another hunter got wind of it." John scrubbed his face. "Newbie. Thought he was prepared. He wasn't."

"Who? What hunter?"

"You wouldn't know him. Never will now. He died on Tuesday."

"Shit, Dad, what was it?"

"It doesn't really matter, does it? If you had gone when you were supposed to, that hunter would still be alive."

Dean opened his mouth, stopped, tried again. "You think it's my fault?"

"You were supposed to take care of it."

"So, it would be alright if the fugly killed me, but not 'Newbie'?"

"That's not what I said. And you wouldn't have died. I trained you. You would have made it."

"So you are blaming me for him dying? Fine. You know, I can only be in one place at a time. Plenty of hunters die. Are you going to blame me for all of them?

"No, Dean. Just the ones you could have prevented."

"I almost died here, Dad. Internal bleeding, nicked lung. If Em hadn't driven to the ER and shanghai'd a doctor, I would have died. Who would you blamed for that?" He checked his breathing. Too hard. Too painful. "Would you have blamed Sam?"

John thumbed the morphine drip. "I wouldn't have blamed anyone. Don't work yourself up. Just do better next time. You can't let your brother distract you." He sat down again and sighed, tapping the cup of the ladle on Dean's thigh. "I don't have insurance under your real name. Do you?"

"Don't worry about it. Vickie's going to help."

"I thought her name was Em?"

"Victoria Barkley." He yawned, warmth spreading up his arm. "Sorry. Curator at the museum. She called in the job. My fee is probably going toward my hospital bill now." He looked toward the window, anywhere but at his father. "So, thanks for coming. Appreciate you staying a couple of days."

"Dean, I…"

"What do you have in Detroit? Em's going to pick me up tomorrow to get the car. I can be there in three days, four days tops."

"No. I don't need help. And I've got an assignment for you here. Something you can do to recoup some of the money you lost from your fee due to," John looked around the room, "this."

"Do something? What—hold a bake sale? Knit chain mail? Build a scale model of Mount Rushmore?" Dean reached out and caught the ladle before it could hit is leg again. "And would you put that ladle down?"

John flipped the ladle and pointed it at him. "Make this into silver bullets."

"That's it? Make bullets?" Dean took the ladle and set it on the bedside table. "And I have to make them with, what, Twinkies?"

John dropped his head but Dean could see him smiling. "You get to use regular tools and a fire. Nothing fancy this time." He stood. "You stay here until you're better. Just call if you need something."

Dean looked back out the window. "Sure, Dad. No problem." He yawned again. "Be careful."

John smiled, teeth flashing white. "That the drugs talking?"

"Nah. Just the country's getting smaller all the time."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Dean sucked on his teeth. "Winchesterland." John handed him a glass of water. "Thank you, Sire."

"Still no idea, but morphine always makes you goofy. Go to sleep. I'll see you in a few weeks." He headed for the door.

"Dad! Wait."

John turned and looked back over his shoulder, eyebrows up. "What?"

"The space isn't too small. I can fit."

"Good to know, Son. Now go to sleep." And he was gone.

Dean knew an order when he heard it. Closing his eyes, he drifted, thinking about parking spaces and expatriates. And for just a minute, he wondered if there was room for another citizen in Sam's democracy. His mouth quirked up. Never going to happen. They'd never agree on anything. Maybe he just needed to move to DeanWorld for a while. Quit remaking himself to fit in John's space. Or Sam's.

There was a knock on the door. He rolled his head to the door. "Come in."

Em breezed in, smiling broadly. She was wearing a white sundress and high heeled sandals. She looked good enough to eat. But what held his attention was the bag in her hand. The smell of grease and hamburger meat was awesome.

He made a gimme gesture. "You get extra onions?"

She sat on the side of the bed, and set out the food. "And bacon. I didn't forget. Oh, and I got you nacho fries. They're really good."

DeanWorld was looking better and better. "You are officially my first citizen."

She looked puzzled, but batted her eyelashes. "Is that a codeword for something kinky? 'Cause I'm really looking forward to having you all to myself for a couple of days."

DeanWorld was fantastic.


My thanks again to wave obscura and LiaFromBrazil for their invaluable language skills. Spanish translation:
No te preocupes, mi amor. No voy a permitir que ella se acerca a ti = Don't worry, my love. I won't let her near you.