SUMMARY: What seemed like a routine hunt, leaves Dean fighting for his life and Sam frantically trying to figure out what happened. And when he does, it's a big shock to both brothers. Set late in Season 2, but before the deal. Hurt/comfort-Mystery, playing with a loose thread from canon.

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Sam & Dean Winchester belong to Eric Kripke who entertains us each week and graciously lets us play in his sandbox when he turns out the lights and goes home for the night. (Or we sneak in when he's not looking, I'm not sure which. *g*) Definitely for fun not profit.

RATING: T, for some language. Set late in Season 2, but before the deal.



Sam carded his fingers through his hair as he paced beside Dean's gurney. He shook his head incredulously. "So it is poison?"

Dr. Peters nodded. "We believe so."

Sam looked down at his brother. Dean was unconscious now, his labored breathing still audible behind the oxygen mask, the bedside monitor showing his heart still beating much too fast. "How? How the hell was he poisoned?"

The doctor glanced from Sam to his patient. "We've ruled out inhalation or contact poisoning. All your brother's symptoms lead us to believe he's ingested something toxic. We've pumped his stomach, to make sure no more of it is absorbed by his system. The labs are running tests now on the stomach contents, and a sample of vomit from your car, to try to identify the specific toxin. Once we know what it is, we'll know how to treat him."

Sam's knuckles whitened as they gripped the gurney rail. "You can't give him something now, something to help him breathe better?"

Dr. Peters face was sympathetic. "One of the downsides of antidotes is they're designed to work with a specific poison. We give Dean something without knowing what the toxic substance is, the antidote would be, at best, ineffective, and at worst, equally toxic."

"I don't get it." Sam banged his fist in frustration on the safety rail of Dean's bed. "We ate the same things. Why is he sick and I'm not?"

Dr. Peters' eyes narrowed. "This may be difficult to hear, but is there anyone who might intentionally want to hurt Dean?"

"What?" Sam had considered the possibility briefly but dismissed it just as fast. Oh, Dean had plenty of enemies with motive, but poisoning wasn't the weapon of choice for demons, fuglies, or the FBI. "No. This doesn't make sense."

Amy, the nurse, appeared at the entrance to the exam room, then walked over to hand Sam a set of keys. "We moved your car around to the parking lot, locked it up tight like you asked." She held up a pair of sneakers then placed them on the floor in front of him. "And found these in the backseat, right where you said."

Sam closed his fist around the keys, forced his bare feet into the sneakers and nodded at Amy, then quickly turned back to Dean. "He doesn't sound good."

Dr. Peters smiled softly. "I know it's hard to see him like this, but we're doing everything we can to make him more comfortable until we can determine a course of treatment. If that means putting him on a ventilator, a machine to breathe for him, we will."

Sam tightened his grip on the Impala keys. "I've seen him on a vent before. After a car accident. It's something I hoped I'd never have to see again."

The doctor's reassuring smile faded. "Hopefully it won't come to that. Right now the oxygen by mask is doing its job—he's holding his own."

Amy rolled a stool beside Dean's gurney. "Why don't you sit down? You can stay here with your brother, at least until we get the lab results back."

Sam nodded, sinking slowly onto the stool, his fist clenching and unclenching around the keys as if hanging on tightly to that little piece of his brother could will Dean to hang on, too.

Dr. Peters checked Dean's vitals one more time, then glanced up at Amy. "I'm going down to the lab, see what they can tell me. Page me if there's any change."

Amy nodded, and the doctor disappeared down the hall. The nurse glanced from Sam to Dean. "You two are pretty close, huh?"

"Yeah." Sam smiled. "We're pretty good at pushing each other's buttons, driving each other crazy…" There was a barely noticeable catch in his voice. "But he's my big brother."

Amy nodded. "We'll do everything we can, Sam."

The phone on the wall in the cubicle rang, and the nurse moved across the exam room to answer it. "Yes." She turned to look at Sam, a puzzled expression on her face. "Yes, he is… No… I don't know, but I'll pass that along. Thanks, Heather."

She hung up the phone and turned to Sam. "That was reception. Apparently your uncle is there, asking how you are."

Sam frowned. He hadn't had a chance yet to call Bobby. How the hell had he found out Dean was sick?

Amy walked to Sam's side. "Look, privacy laws mean we're not allowed to give out patient information to anyone but immediate family. I think you should go out there and fill in your uncle. Somehow he's under the impression you're the one who's ill, that Dean brought you in here."

"What? How would he—?" Now Sam was even more confused. Torn, he glanced from Dean to the hallway leading to the ER waiting room.

Amy offered a reassuring smile. "Dean's in good hands. If anything changes, I'll page the doctor, then have someone come find you right away."

Sam stood slowly, reaching over the railing to gently squeeze Dean's arm. "Just keep fighting this, okay? You can beat this."

Sam smiled tightly at Amy, then walked down the hallway, turned the corner, and scanned the waiting room. It was still busy, but there was no sign of Bobby. Puzzled, he walked over to the reception desk. "I'm Sam Young. I was told my uncle was looking for me, but I don't see him."

The receptionist looked confused. "He's right there, Mr. Young." She pointed toward the glass doors.

Sam turned and his chest tightened, the same chill that had traveled up his spine in the restaurant returning with vengeance. It sure as hell wasn't Bobby. It was the man from the diner, the one whom Eve the waitress had driven away with. He was standing beside the ER doors, talking on his phone and subtly scanning the faces in the waiting room, looking for someone. Sam didn't need two guesses to figure out whom.

It had been pure fluke he hadn't seen Sam enter, but Sam had no intention of hiding. As the man turned around, Sam stepped out into the open.

The movement caught the man's eye, and he looked up, jolting visibly when he realized it was Sam—and that Sam was staring right back at him.

He slammed shut his phone and darted for the doors all in one smooth movement. Sam sprinted across the waiting room after him, startling the patients but quickly gaining ground on the man. The stranger turned to the right the minute he was clear of the entrance.

The doors had just started to close again when Sam ran up to them, forcing him to turn sideways to squeeze through even as they began opening again. He swung to the right, following the path of the stranger, but quickly skidded to a halt. A large pickup truck, engine running, was directly in front of him. The man was now in the passenger seat, just slamming the door as Sam made eye contact.

With a squeal of tires, the truck lurched forward, directly toward Sam, high beams flaring and momentarily blinding him. Instinctively, he threw himself sideways but the truck had size and speed on its side. The left front bumper caught Sam's hip, hitting him with enough force to lift him off the ground and send him flying six feet through the air and straight into the glass ER door just as it was closing.

The glass shattered on impact. Momentum carried Sam through the door and into the ER waiting room. He hit the ground in a shower of safety glass, the screams of patients drowning out the squealing tires of the truck as it roared away. As consciousness faded, one image was burned clearly in Sam's mind: right before the headlights had flared, he had seen the face of the driver, pure hatred robbing it of all attractiveness.

It was Eve.


Sam startled awake, a jabbing pain in his hip causing him to inhale sharply.

"Hey, hey. Relax. You're safe now."

He blinked to bring his eyes into focus. He was back in the ER exam room, lying on a gurney now, Amy on one side of him, Dr. Chow on the other. Amy was wiping a cool cloth across his face; he frowned when she moved it away and he realized it was bloody. Sam swallowed, fighting nausea fueled by a vicious headache. "What's going on?"

"What do you remember, Sam?" This time it was Dr. Chow speaking.

He rolled his head toward the doctor, wincing at the stiffness in his neck and shoulder. He closed his eyes and got a vivid image of a pickup truck, headlights flaring, slamming into him. It was followed by fuzzier memories of being thrown through the air and breaking glass raining down on him. He groaned. "A truck hit me."

"I'll say it did." Sam felt Dr. Chow gently pull open his eyelids and use a penlight to check his pupil reaction.

Sam scowled at the intrusive light. "Do you have to do that?"

Dr. Chow nodded. "'Fraid so. Okay, now I want you to follow my finger." Sam peeled open his eyes and followed along as she moved her finger up, down, then from side to side. "Good. Now, just for the record, what's your name?"

"Sam. Sam…Young." He shuffled on the gurney, wincing as pain once more spiked through his hip. His head rolled to the left, and he caught sight on Dean, still lying on the gurney in the adjacent exam room. "Dean. How is he?"

"Better. We identified the poison." The voice this time was masculine. Dr. Peters looked over at Sam from the far side of Dean's bed. "We've just started treatment. He's responding well. He's not out of the woods just yet, but his breathing has definitely improved." The doctor smiled.

Sam's brain was not quite firing on all cylinders but the meaning behind the doctor's words suddenly hit home. Treatment? "What— Ow." He scowled as Dr. Chow pulled aside the blanket and his hospital gown to examine his hip.

"Sorry." She smiled apologetically. "But first things first, Sam. X-rays show there are no broken bones, but the muscle bruising on your hip is deep. You're going to be uncomfortable for a while."

Sam glanced up at Dr. Chow as she tucked the blanket back in place. "X-rays? How long was I out?"

The doctor checked her watch. "Almost three hours. You can blame that on the concussion. We also put some stitches in your neck and in your shoulder to take care of some of the deeper gashes from the broken glass." She shook her head. "All things considered, for someone who was hit by a truck and thrown through a glass door, you're incredibly lucky."

Sam was only half listening. Even as his vision slid in and out of focus, he was concentrating on his brother in the adjacent cubicle.

Dean, now wearing a hospital gown, was still unconscious. An oxygen mask remained strapped to his face, but he seemed less flushed than before and his breathing was definitely less labored. A bag of blood now joined the saline solution hanging from the IV pole at the side of his bed. Both lines were taped to his left arm, the transfusion needle inserted just below his elbow, the saline solution into a catheter in the back of his hand.

Sam swallowed. "He looks…better."

Dr. Peters checked the readings on the monitor at Dean's bedside and nodded. "Like I said, identifying the poison was half the battle. Once we knew what it was, we were able to administer the antidote."

Sam's eyes snapped toward the doctor. "What was it?"

Dr. Peters' face was grave. "Cyanide."

Sam's eyes widened, a chill running through him. "Cya— How?"

Dr. Peters adjusted Dean's IV flow, then walked around the gurney to Sam. "Given the concentration of the dose, and the fact it was pharmaceutical grade, it seems certain he was poisoned intentionally. And, given somebody just tried to run you over in our parking lot, I'd say he's not the only one with enemies." He tapped his fist on the safety rail of Sam's gurney. "We've notified the police. They'll be here shortly."

Sam's eyes stayed glued to his brother, ignoring both his own injuries and the upcoming need to tap dance with local law enforcement. An image of Eve behind the wheel of the truck flashed suddenly through his head. She had driven the truck that hit him. But why? Why did she want to see him dead? And, if Dean was deliberately poisoned, did she have anything to do with that? He glanced up at the doctor. "Can you tell how my brother was poisoned?"

Dr. Peters reached for Dean's chart, flipped through the pages, then ran his finger down one of them. "The cyanide was heavily concentrated in peaches."

Sam's heart hammered against his chest. "We had peach cobbler for dessert." His eyes shot back to Dean. "We both did."

Dr. Peters' eyebrows arched. "If the poison was only in Dean's food, it seems to suggest it was a deliberate attempt to harm him."

Sam could see a hint of suspicion mingling with Dr. Peters' genuine concern, and he couldn't blame him for it. A poisoning and a hit and run within the space of hours raised all kinds of red flags.

Dr. Peters folded his arms across his chest. "The witnesses in the waiting room said that truck deliberately tried to run you down. Could the same person be responsible for both attacks?"

Sam's jaw clenched. "I don't know." He was damn sure Eve was behind both attempts on their lives but he needed to figure out why before he gave up that information to anyone.

Dr. Peters nodded slowly. "Well, hopefully the police will get you some answers. In the meantime, our job is to get the two of you well."

Dr. Chow closed the chart she had been filling out. "I'd like to admit you for the night, Sam, just to make sure there are no complications."

Sam glanced at the doctor, then turned back to watch the slow rise and fall of Dean's chest. "What about Dean? You're keeping him overnight, right?"

Dr Peters nodded. "At the very least. Cyanide is nothing to take lightly. It messes with you heart and your brain, stops your blood from being able to absorb oxygen…"

Sam's eyes widened.

Dr. Peters shook his head. "I'm not trying to scare you. From all the tests we've run, Dean is responding well. There's no reason to believe he won't recover fully. But his body's been through the wringer. It's going to take him a while to get his strength back. We just want to keep an eye on him while that happens."

"Thanks." Sam nodded at the doctor, then at Amy, his eyes glassy. "My brother…he's, um…" He laughed in an attempt to rein in his emotions. "He's the only family I've got."

Dr. Chow moved round to stand next to her colleague. "We'd like to get you up and moving around so you don't stiffen up completely. I'll send an orderly in to help you. Once we're sure you're steady on your feet, we'll also show you where the showers are; warm water will help relax you and get rid of any glass slivers from your fall through the doors."

Sam nodded, turning to Dr. Peters. "What about Dean?"

"We're gonna keep him under observation a little while longer, just until we're sure his vital signs are all near where they should be. Then we'll move him upstairs." Dr. Peters smiled. "In the meantime, I'm going to see if I can arrange a room for the two of you."

Sam smiled tightly as the two doctors left the room and walked down the hall. He rolled his head to stare again at Dean, grimacing as pain in his hip flared. His knuckles whitened as he clenched the safety railing on the gurney and tried to sort out everything that had happened. Who the hell was Eve? The strange hate vibes he'd picked up off her in the diner now seemed well-founded but she'd genuinely seemed to like Dean. Why would she want to poison him?

He turned suddenly toward the nurse. "Amy, is there someplace I can get an Internet connection?"

Amy nodded. "The cafeteria on the top floor is a wi-fi zone. And there are some patient-use computers in the sixth floor lounge."

Sam's focus stayed on Dean. "Good. I need to, um, I need to send some e-mails. Let my uncle know what happened. Let him know we're all right."

Amy smiled. "Okay. Once you're showered and changed, I'll take you up to the lounge. It'll be in a wheelchair, I'm afraid. The computer chairs will do your hip no favors…and a half-hour, tops. You need to rest."

Sam nodded. "Half-hour's good." He turned to face her. "My dirty clothes, where are they?"

Amy frowned. "Down at the lab, I think. They don't need them any more, I'm just not sure what kind of shape they'll be in."

Sam's voice was hard. "I don't give a damn what they do with the clothes, but there's a piece of paper in the pocket of my jeans. I need it back."


Sam limped across the hospital room as Dean played with his oatmeal, repeatedly picking up a spoonful of the thick cereal, then allowing it to plop back into the bowl.

"Dean, stop it."

Dean looked up. "What else am I supposed to do with it? They sure as hell can't expect me to eat it."

It was now day three of Dean's hospital stay. He was weak and cranky but well on the road to recovery. If all went according to plan, he would be released later in the day.

Sam had been released after one night in the hospital with a prescription for muscle relaxants, an appointment with the physical therapist, and the address of the local police station where he was to file a statement on both his hit-and-run and Dean's poisoning. The first two he kept; the latter he surreptitiously dropped into a hallway trash can.

He'd been co-operative but vague when the cops had visited him in his hospital room. Bobby, role-playing as an FBI agent interested in the case because the MO was similar to an attack in California, had helped divert suspicion from the brothers. The officers had pledged to investigate thoroughly, but Sam had every intention of taking care of things himself.

After his release papers were signed, he'd alternated between sitting in a sleeper chair at Dean's bedside, pacing around the room to ease the muscle spasms in his hip and, now that he had his own computer, sitting in the cafeteria wearing out its keys and the buttons on his phone, until Dean regained consciousness.

The first time Dean woke up, he had been less than coherent. Dr. Peters had assured Sam it was to be expected, and that the next time he would see a big improvement.

Later that first day, Sam had been walking down the corridor toward Dean's room, returning from another Internet research session, when he'd heard his brother loudly demanding to know where Sam was.

He'd limped quickly into the room to find Dean struggling to sit up, the nasal canula that had replaced the oxygen mask abandoned on top of the blanket, and a petite blonde nurse trying her best to corral his angry brother.

"Dean, chill. I'm fine."

Dean looked up, relaxing visibly as Sam walked into the room, then tensing again as he took in his brother's battered face and obvious limp. "What the hell happened to you?"

Sam smiled apologetically at the nurse. "Just making some phone calls. Letting Bobby know you're doing better, for one."

Dean sank back against his pillow, but his eyes stayed glued to Sam. "I meant why do you look like road kill?"

Sam sighed. "I'm okay. You're the one we're worried about."

Dean shot a glance at the nurse as she efficiently checked his vitals, then turned back to Sam. "The, um, renovations didn't go quite like we planned, huh?"

"You could say that."

Dean's jaw clenched. "We finish the job?"

Sam nodded. "Elliot was surprised, to say the least, by the, um, unexpected problems we encountered." He frowned as Dean batted away the nurse's attempt to replace the oxygen canula. "But he'll take care of the clean up…and, I know you'll like this part, a bank draft arrived by courier this morning. We're paid in full."

Dean smiled tiredly. "Now that's the kind of news I like to wake up to."

The nurse, Shelly according to her nametag, straightened Dean's blankets. "The doctor will be in to see you shortly. Please try not to get yourself too worked up. You've been through a lot. You're doing great, but you just need to take things slow."

Dean nodded but said nothing until she left the room. Then he turned to Sam, eyes wide. "You wanna fill me in on how the hell I ended up in here?" He scrubbed a hand over his face. "I've got next to nothing between filling my car up with gas and right now."

Sam swallowed, limping stiffly to Dean's bedside. "You were poisoned."

"Right." Dean snorted, waiting for the punchline. He frowned when none came. "Poisoned?"

Sam nodded. "At the restaurant. Your food was spiked."

Dean considered the information for a moment, then looked up at Sam. "It was the broccoli, wasn't it?"

"Dean!" Sam's eyes blazed, guilt quickly turning to fear-fuelled anger. "You got dosed with cyanide. Someone tried to kill you." Sam turned away, fighting to keep his emotions under control. His voice was barely audible. "Almost succeeded, too."

Dean's eyes stayed on his brother. "Cyanide?"

Sam nodded, moving back to the side of Dean's bed. He sighed. "In your pie, if you must know."

Dean stiffened, his knuckles whitening as his hand fisted in the blue blanket. "The peach cobbler?"

"Yeah." Sam nodded, frowning at the sudden shift in Dean's body language. His brother had quickly moved from surprise to anger, and was now well on his way to fury. "The poison was in the peaches."

Dean's eyes locked on Sam. "What about you? Your food spiked, too?"

Sam shook his head. "No. Just yours"

Dean's eyes stayed on Sam, his fist clenching and unclenching in the blanket. "Who did it?"

Sam shoved his hands in his pockets, turning to glance out the window on the far wall. "Everything points to Eve, the waitress."

"Eve?" Dean's eyebrows peaked in surprise. "Why the hell would Eve want to poison…me? She some run-of-the-mill whack job, or is there something more?"

Sam exhaled loudly, raked his fingers through his hair, then turned to limp over to the window. He pulled down the slats of the blind, staring unseeingly at the hospital grounds beyond. "Oh, definitely something more."

Dean frowned as he followed his brother's actions. "Okay. Since you obviously know something, spit it out."

Sam swallowed. "Remember the weird vibe I was picking up on when we were in the diner?"

Dean nodded.

"It happened again at the gas station." Sam turned to face Dean. "Eve left the restaurant with an older guy I'd seen earlier. They were arguing about something. I thought he was causing trouble, but then he gave her a hug, they got into his truck and left."

Dean frowned. "Not exactly highly suspicious behavior."

Sam shrugged. "I know. The guy seemed familiar, but I couldn't place him. I wrote down his license plate number anyway."

Dean nodded slowly, thinking back to Sam's unease at the diner and later at the gas station. "This is the 'might be something, might be nothing' you were talking about in the car?"

Sam nodded.

Dean shook his head. "Damn it, Sammy. You really gotta start trusting your spidey senses. Who is he?"

Sam shuffled uncomfortably, guilt again clearly painted across his face. He blew out a breath, squared his shoulders, and met Dean's questioning stare. "His name is Frank Wandell."

Dean's voice was cold. "Wandell. As in…"

Sam nodded. "Steve Wandell. He's the older brother of the hunter I killed."

"Sam." There was a warning growl in Dean's voice. "We're not doin' this again. You did not kill Steve Wandell."

Sam's jaw clenched. "As far as his family is concerned, I did. Mine is the only face they've got."

Dean's eyes narrowed. "Family? So Eve…"

Sam nodded. "Yeah. Eve is Steve Wandell's daughter. .." He blew out a breath, carding his fingers through his hair as he paced the room. "From what I've been able to dig up, she started hunting with her uncle shortly after her father was killed." He turned to face Dean. "Looks like they've been tracking us, too. Over the past month, our paths have crossed too often for it to be a coincidence. They've always been just a day or two behind us."

"Until this job." Dean mentally sifted through all the new information. He shook his head. "You pegged it, Sammy. You said we're not exactly on the top of most people's 'Who You Gonna Call' list."

Sam nodded. "Instead of taking the Barnstable job themselves, they told Elliot to contact Joe Sullivan, knowing he had a broken leg and would throw the gig to Bobby, who'd toss it our way. Then they just set up shop to wait for us to take the bait." Sam's eyes were glassy. "God, Dean. I'm sorry."

Dean scowled. "What the hell for?"

Sam looked at the wall. "They came after you to get to me. Eve lost someone close to her, so she wanted me to watch you die."

"You give her too much credit, Sam," Dean said quietly, his eyes flashing. "She was after you, not me. It was revenge—plain, simple and ugly."

Sam frowned. "It wasn't my food that was poisoned."

Dean scrubbed a hand over his face. "Yeah, it was. You said it was the peaches, right?"

Sam nodded.

Dean sighed. "Eve brought the dessert over while you went to get pills from the car." He shrugged. "She gave you a bigger helping—I swapped 'em when she moved on to the next table."

Sam froze. "What?"

Dean shrugged. "Did it all the time when we were kids. Hard habit to break." He flashed a sardonic smile. "Guess I learned my lesson, huh?"

Sam failed to see the humor. "You almost died, and you're joking about?"

"Well, I didn't die. And, if it comes down to that, I'm glad it was me, not you." Dean leaned forward. "But those bastards are gonna keep trying, Sammy. They gotta know by now they failed."

Sam nodded, guilt taking an even tighter hold now he knew that Dean had, figuratively, taken a bullet meant for him. "Frank Wandell showed up at the hospital, tried to bluff his way into getting medical infor— Damn it."

Dean frowned. "What?"

"Wandell asked how I was, not how you were." Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. "You didn't get sick until after we left the diner, so he had no way of knowing they'd poisoned you, not me…not 'til I came walking 'round the corner of that waiting room, anyway."

Dean scowled. "When was this?"

"Yesterday, few hours after I brought you here."

"And?" Dean pressed for more details. "You get him?"

Sam blew out a breath and shook his head. This was the part he was dreading. "There was a pickup waiting outside. Frank jumped into it, Eve was behind the wheel, and…she drove it right at me."

Dean's eyes flashed angrily as he took in Sam's limp and the cuts on his face with a fresh perspective. "So the mess you are now, that was her, not our tangle with Reggie?"

Sam nodded.

"Son of a bitch…" Dean threw back the covers and began ripping off the tape holding his IV lines in place as he swung his legs over the side.

Sam moved in quickly. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Dean glared at Sam. "I'm goin' after the Wandells. Teach 'em you don't mess with my brother and walk away un-bloodied."

"Dean, stop!" Sam grabbed his brother by the shoulders and pushed his back onto the bed, amazed at how easy a task that was. "You're in no shape to go after them yet. I know we can't just let this go, that'll they'll just keep coming after us, coming after me, if we do, but we've gotta be smart about this."

Sam could feel Dean shaking with rage. "They're hunters. They know the world we live in, how things operate. Hell, they even knew the alias we were using when we checked in here. You barge in without a plan, and they're not the only ones who are gonna get bloody."

Dean glowered at Sam but said nothing. The muscle along his jaw clenched visibly.

Sam could handle Dean's anger, but he couldn't handle his silence. "Say something."

Dean continued staring at his brother. "You track 'em down?"

Sam nodded. "Yeah…then they moved on again. They'll be harder to find now, knowing they're in our sights, but I can find 'em."

"I know." Dean pulled himself back into bed with a groan. "Okay, here's the deal. I'll stay put 'til the docs spring me or you find the Wandells, whichever comes first." He glared at his brother. "And no stall tactics—I know just how good your Google-fu is."

Sam nodded. It was a reprieve, and he took it.

But a day and a half later, as he watched Dean play with his oatmeal, Sam knew he'd delayed as long as he could. "I found the Wandells."

Dean dropped the spoon in the dish and pushed the tray table out of the way. "Where?"

Sam limped up beside him. "A small town two states over. Just checked in—paid for two nights."

Dean nodded and threw back the covers. "Good. Pass me my clothes and let's hit the road."

Sam shook his head. "The doctor's coming in a few minutes. Just let him give you the okay, make sure—"

"No." Dean moved slowly toward the closet where he knew Sam had stashed clean clothes, and winced as he pulled the IV catheter out of the back of his hand. "No more stalling." He pulled out the small duffel and threw it on the bed. Yanking off the hospital issue shirt, he pulled on a plain black t-shirt. Jeans then replaced scrub pants, and he slipped his feet into thick socks and his boots.

As he dressed, he looked up at Sam. "Speaking of stalling, why'd you think it took four visits to the diner before Eve poisoned the food? She could have done it any of those other times."

Sam shook his head. "She was waiting for Frank, I think. He didn't show up until the day you were poisoned. Maybe he had the cyanide, maybe she needed a push from him to actually go through with it—"

Dean scoffed. "Come on, she didn't need a push to try to mow you down with that truck." He scowled as he looked from his duffel around the room. "Where's my stuff?"

Sam knew exactly what he meant. "Coat pocket."

Dean reached for the coat, stuck his hand in the pocket, and pulled out a small plastic bag containing his ring, his watch, and his amulet. The amulet went on first, his fist closing around it briefly before he slipped it inside his shirt. With ring and watch in place, he grabbed his bag and turned to Sam. "Let's go."

Sam swallowed. "Dean—"

Dean shook his head. "No, Sam. I'm putting an end to this. Lying in that bed gave me time to think. Now I know exactly what I need to do."


Sam checked his watch. Dean had been gone all night.

He limped across the room, thumb sliding reflexively across the keypad of his phone and pausing repeatedly over the redial key. He crossed to the window and pulled back the drapes, scanning the parking lot and the road beyond. It was early morning, and there was still no sign of Dean or the Impala.

Sam released the drapes, turned back to the room, and sat down on the edge of the bed, wincing at the pull on his injured hip. He dropped the phone beside him and leaned forward, elbows on knees, head in hands, fingers raking through his hair.

Sam knew Dean had a plan, knew Dean was angry, and those two things were a dangerous combination. Despite what they did for a living, Sam knew Dean wouldn't kill humans unprovoked. But he also knew the Wandells were more than capable of provoking his brother.

They'd driven all day after leaving the hospital and checked into a small motel one town over from where the Wandells were staying. After throwing their stuff into the room, Sam had tried to break through the walls Dean had put up since leaving the hospital.

"We have to talk to her."

Dean scowled. "What?"

Sam exhaled audibly. "Eve. Despite what she's done, she's just as much a victim in this as we are."

Dean shook his head. "No. She crossed the line from victim to fair game when she poisoned your food and tried to run you down. I can't let that go. I won't."

Sam sat down on the bed, facing Dean. His voice was quiet but steady. "You can't ignore what started this. I killed her father."

Dean jabbed a finger at Sam. "I'm getting tired of saying this, Sam. You didn't kill anyone."

Sam scrubbed a hand over his face. "That's not how she sees it. Her dad is dead, and my face is on tape killing him."

"We destroyed that tape."

Sam shook his head. "Not irreparably."

Dean stalked across the room until he was standing right in front of his brother. "She's a hunter, Sam. Her father was a hunter. Her uncle's a hunter—she knows about demons and possession, she knows about shapeshifters."

Dean's anger was barely contained. "Say she did see the tape. Sam Winchester, a guy who spends his life hunting evil, suddenly kills a good guy and that doesn't send up any red flags? They just decide to take you out?"

Sam shifted uncomfortably, staring at his hands. "You didn't even wanna tell Bobby what happened, and he knows me. All the Wandells know is I killed someone they care about."

Dean sat on the edge of bed, opposite Sam. "Why are we having the conversation? Huh? Because you see Eve as a victim. Well, you're a victim too. But they don't wanna see that. They don't even wanna acknowledge the possibility. They just want revenge."

Sam's voice was quiet, hazel eyes clearly reflecting tormented emotions. "I hate what she did to you, but we don't kill people."

"Exactly." Dean stood up. "That's the difference between hunters and killers—and the Wandells crossed that line. And they're gonna keep tryin', Sam. I'm sure as hell not gonna stand around and do nothing 'til they succeed." He turned, grabbed his keys from the dresser and headed for the door.

Sam stood up. "Dean, wait—"

"No." Dean paused, his back to Sam, hand on the doorknob of the motel room door. "I've gotta take care of this. You took care of me, made sure I pulled through—now it's my turn." He pulled open the door, paused for a moment but didn't look back. "You trust me, Sam?"

Sam didn't hesitate. "You know I do."

Dean lowered his head, exhaling audibly. "I'll be back…but don't wait up for me." He pulled the door closed after him.

The sound of the Impala's throaty rumble jolted Sam into action. He crossed the room and yanked open the door in time to see the Impala drive across the parking lot, turn left, and disappear down the road.

That had been almost 14 hours ago.

Sam hadn't slept since Dean left. He'd surfed the net, tracking the Wandells' movements, and called Dean's cell repeatedly, each time the call going straight to voicemail. Numerous times, he'd had the door open, ready to hotwire a car and follow Dean but, each time, his brother's simple question stopped him: "Do you trust me?" He did, with his life, and Sam was placing his trust in him now.

As he sat on the edge of the bed, Sam glanced down at the scar on his right arm. The binding link that had locked Meg inside him had faded, but the burn that had broken the lock was still clearly visible. He ran his thumb over the raised scar tissue, swallowing against rising nausea as the pain and confusion of his possession flooded back.

The memory of killing Steve Wandell was razor sharp, the image of a knife in his hands slicing open the hunter's neck still fueling nightmares.

He was a little fuzzier on Meg's torture of Dean. The bruises to his brother's face and the bullet wound were obvious, but there were other injuries, too, that Dean had tried to hide.

When Dean had been felled by a dizzy spell shortly after leaving Bobby's and Sam had worriedly checked him over, he found a welt under Dean's hair on the right side of his head. It was older than the facial bruises but still large enough to tell Sam he'd been hit hard, and by something heavier than a fist. And he knew he was the cause.

Dean had tried to dismiss it but, when Sam persisted, his brother had grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him close, eyes flashing with anger, pain, and frustration. "Drop it, Sam. None of this is your fault. None of it."

Part of him knew Dean was right, that Meg had been at the controls. But, despite their conversation before Dean left, Sam couldn't help but be racked by guilt, couldn't help but see things from Eve's perspective. His was the only face she had for her father's killer; if the positions were reversed and a possessed Eve had killed his dad or Dean, Sam honestly didn't know if he could separate logic from emotion.

The motel room door opened suddenly and Dean walked in. Sam stood quickly, scanning his brother from head to toe in search of any new cuts or bruises, any blood or injuries that suggested his brother had been in a fight or confrontation. There were none. Dean looked tired, but no more so than he had when he'd left fourteen hours earlier. "You okay?"

"Fine." Dean nodded curtly, walking across the room to grab his duffel which he'd never really unpacked. "You ready to go?"

"What? But—"

Dean was already moving toward the door.

Sam grabbed his stuff—also never unpacked—and limped after him. His curiosity was getting the better of him. "What did—?"

"Not now, Sammy. Let's get the car loaded." Dean headed back to the parking lot, leaving the door open behind him.

Part of Sam wanted to grab his brother and shake the answers out of him, find out what he'd done, but he knew the more he pressed, the less likely Dean was to open up. Not now was Dean-speak for he would talk about it, but in his own time and under his own terms. Sam would just have to be patient.

He picked up his phone and shoved it into his pocket before giving the room a cursory glance to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything. Then, satisfied, Sam shouldered his duffel and computer bag and headed for the car.

Dean already had the trunk open when Sam got there. Sam tossed in his duffel beside his brother's, then limped around to the passenger side and folded himself carefully into the front seat as Dean slammed the trunk shut.

Sam was reaching over to place his computer bag on the back seat as the hinges of the driver's side door groaned loudly and Dean slid behind the wheel. He reached forward to put the key in the ignition, then thought better of it and sat back.

Sam shifted in his seat to face Dean. "What's going on?"

Dean said nothing but reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone. Sam frowned. It wasn't Dean's phone; in fact, he'd never seen it before.

Dean scrolled through the directory, found the number he wanted, and hit Send. He also pressed speaker so Sam could hear both ends of the conversation, holding the phone between the two of them.

"Uncle Frank? You're late." The voice on the other end was Eve.

Sam's heart started racing as he stared wide-eyed at his brother.

Dean's falsely cheery tone was downright scary. "I'm afraid Uncle Frank might be a while. He's a little, um, tied up."

There was a pause as Eve tried to cover her surprise. "Dean."

"The one and only. You and I were getting along so well—why'd you run off?"

Eve's voice quickly became cool and calculated, with no trace of the bubbly personality she'd employed while posing as a waitress. "I heard you were under the weather."

Dean's voice was icy now. "Yeah. I ate something that disagreed with me."

"Yes, I heard you were collateral damage. But you're feeling better now?" Eve made no attempt to hide her disappointment.


"And Sam?"

Dean glanced at his brother. "Sam's just fine…and he's gonna stay that way, if you know what's good for you."

Eve laughed. "Tough talk for a guy almost taken out by a bowl of peach cobbler. I'd be careful what you ate from here on in."

Dean leaned closer to the phone. "Oh, it's not me who needs to be careful. I've got Sam watching my back. He's pretty damn good at it, too. Can you say the same about dear ol' Uncle Frank? Oh, wait, he's trying to pick his way out of his own handcuffs right now." The silence at the other end of the phone widened Dean's smile. "Course, if he did something about that snoring, it might be a little trickier for someone to sneak up on him."

The silence continued as the implications of Dean's jibe set in. When she spoke, Eve's voice was still cool, but her bravado was fraying a little at the edges. "Thanks for the head's up—I'll pass that along."

Dean's eyes glinted coldly. "Now don't be too hard on him. Snoring seems to run in the family. Really not an attractive trait, Eve. Maybe you should try those nasal strips—I hear they work wonders."

Sam's eyebrows disappeared under his bangs at that one, and Eve gave up all pretenses at civility. "You pervert. You get off on watching a girl sleep? They arrest people for that, you know."

Dean snorted. "Give it your best shot, sweetheart. I just hope they don't put you in the cell next to mine when they toss your ass in jail for poisoning me and running down Sam. Your snoring's really somethin', and I need my beauty sleep."

"Cops like proof," Eve spat out. "You have—"

"…some right here." Dean tapped a paper bag sticking out of his jacket pocket. "A little vial of cyanide you used to poison me, one that has your fingerprints all over it." He shook his head, offering an exaggerated tut-tut. "Uncle Frank may have burned your waitress uniform, tossed the ashes in the dumpster, but, surprise, surprise, the glass vial in the pocket of your apron survived. Rookie move, Eve."

Eve's voice was venomous. "Picking through trash, Dean? I think you've found your true calling."

Dean's eyes flashed. "Ouch. No need to get nasty. You really don't want me as an enemy. Oh, wait—too late."

For the first time, there was vulnerability in Eve's voice. "That line was drawn when your brother killed my father."

Dean saw Sam blanch. He leaned in closer to the phone, his voice deadly. "Now let's get this straight, once and for all. Sam did not kill your father. A demon did. My brother was possessed. He's as much a victim in this as you are."

Once again there was silence on the other end of the phone as that new information hit home.

Dean swallowed, fighting to keep his cool. "I wish to hell it hadn't happened, for both our sakes, but it did, and I can't change that. What I can change is your future. You go about your business, leave my brother alone, and this little piece of evidence stays locked up, nice and safe. I find out you're tracking us again, or trying to hurt Sam in any way, and the Edgeport police are gonna get an anonymous delivery that's gonna put you on the FBI's Most Wanted list. Trust me, it's not a fun place to be."

Eve's voice was cold. "You're bluffing. You have far more reason to stay clear of the cops than I do."

Dean shrugged. "Cops would never know it came from me. But, hey, I don't need the cops to take care of this. We tracked you down once—I got close enough to know you didn't finish your glass of water last night, you're on chapter fourteen of the book you're reading, and the pink tank top of your PJs says 'Naughty is nice.'" His voice hardened. "Trust me, the next time I get that close, I'm gonna go way past 'naughty.' Are we clear?"

There was silence, then a dial tone as Eve hung up.

Dean looked at Sam and smiled. "I'll take that as a yes."

Sam shook his head, his eyes wide. "You were busy last night."

Dean snapped shut Frank Wandell's phone, turned it over, and pulled out the chip. He rolled down the window, tossing the chip into the bed of the pickup truck parked beside them, then shrugged as he wound up the window. "After lying around in the hospital all that time, I had a lot of energy to burn off."

Sam's eyebrows arched incredulously. "I can't believe you found the cyanide vial. That was…"

"…a Vegas-caliber bluff." Dean smiled as he turned the ignition and backed the car out of its parking space. "I eavesdropped on Eve and Frank for most of last night. At one point, he told her to quit worrying, he'd taken care of everything, disposed of all the evidence. I checked out the dumpsters he'd used, but trash collection was yesterday morning. If there was anything useable, it's buried somewhere in the county landfill." His smile widened as he turned out of the parking lot onto the road and reached down to turn up the music. "But Frank and Eve don't know what time I rolled into town. If they choose to believe I found something, I'm not gonna set 'em straight."

Sam shook his head at his brother's con. "If your endgame was to rattle her, it worked."

"Like marbles in a can." Dean glanced at Sam. "And, by the way, they really do snore like chainsaws—both of 'em."

Sam's eyes stayed fixed on Dean. "You took a big risk. I wish you'd told me what you were doing. I could've watched your back." He smiled softly. "I hear I'm pretty good at it."

Dean returned his smile. "You are." His knuckles whitened as he tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "But it's my job to keep you safe. When she came after you…" His jaw clenched as he fought to swallow his rising anger.

Sam studied his brother carefully. "It's a two-way street, Dean. We look out for each other."

Dean was quiet for a moment. Sam was no longer the little boy their father had charged him with protecting. He was a grown man, a skilled hunter and Dean's equal in almost every way, his better in some. But the instinctive need to watch over his brother, avenge any threat against him, was hard-wired into him, and that wouldn't change no matter how big or how old Sam was.

"I had to do this, Sammy, for me and for us." Dean glanced at his brother. "I've given Eve her chance. She needs to move on, let this go."

Sam stared out the window at the road rushing by them. "And if she doesn't?"

Dean shrugged. "We'll blow up that bridge when we come to it."

Sam nodded, then glanced at the paper bag sticking out of Dean's jacket pocket. He grabbed the bag and pulled it open. "So if this isn't evidence…" His eyebrows arched incredulously when he pulled out a shiny red apple. "Seriously?"

Dean smiled. "I left one on her nightstand."

"An apple for Eve?" Sam shook his head. "How…biblical."

Dean shrugged. "She started it, with this whole eye-for-an-eye vengeance thing. I just wanted to let her know if she's tempted again, there are…consequences."

Sam bit back a smile. "I'm impressed. You're usually not so…subtle."

Dean feigned hurt as he reached over and snatched the apple from Sam. "I can be subtle…when I want to." He took a big bite of the apple, then grinned. "I just usually don't want to." He looked down at the apple. "I like these better when they're baked inside a pie." He grinned over at Sam. "What say we find ourselves a diner and get ourselves some apple pie?"

Sam's eyes widened. "I'd have thought the last few days would have turned you off pie—at least for a while."

"Bite your tongue, Sammy." Dean took another big bite of the apple as he put his foot down on the accelerator. "Don't think I'll be ordering cobbler any time soon, but I'm always gonna love me some pie."


A/N: I was always intrigued by Bobby's warning at the end of Born Under a Bad Sign that Steve Wandel's hunting buddies might be out for revenge. When the show didn't pick up that thread, I decided I would. Hope you enjoyed.

For those unfamiliar with the term Counting Coup, it's a native American custom where a warrior either sneaks into his enemy's camp and simply touches him while he's sleeping before leaving a trinket to prove he was there and sneaking out again, or touches him on the battlefield before escaping alive. It proves that if he wanted to kill his enemy, he could – even if he chose not to. It sounded to me like something Dean Winchester would do if Sam was threatened by humans. Thanks so much for reading and I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers.