Episode 9 – Part 1

'Toy Story

x-x-x

Windham County, Vermont

October 27th 2011

By the flicker of candlelight, the ritual commenced.

Robes swirled across the dirty tiled floor, making soft swishing sounds that barely competed against the crackling of flames emanating from the hastily constructed fire in the centre of the room.

The symbols daubed on each of the four walls in a crimson liquid that was perhaps blood, or perhaps merely paint, were thrown partially into the obscurity of shadow as the five figures completed their macabre dance around the pyre. Their hands intertwined, and their hooded faces raised towards the ceiling as their leader took up the first of the necessary incantations.

Raising a torn piece of paper, one of the figures began to chant slowly and steadily, their tone darkening as they stumbled through the ancient Latin scrawled in cursive on the parchment.

The fire sparked and crackled as their chants increased in vigour, and one cowled participant eyed the hissing fire with building excitement.

Three lines remained unspoken; the final words that would beckon the spirits to walk and speak amongst the living once again. The ritual was almost complete.

Lips twisting into a smirk, the figure sucked in a breath and prepared to rain pain and destruction down upon humanity.

"You damn kids again?!"

The group simultaneously turned toward the beam of bright light that cut through their circle, and their eyes collectively met the angry glare of Joel Maddeson, the long suffering night guard.

With a unanimous groan, the five teenagers lowered their hoods, some rolling their eyes as Joel began to stamp out the flames of their fire.

"Hey!" Ross, the self-appointed leader of the group, squeaked in protest, "you're ruining it!"

"Ruining what?" Joel scoffed, kicking out the last of the embers and affixing the kids with a stern look that successfully succeeded in masking his amusement, "this piss poor attempt at invoking Ozzy Osbourne?"

"You'll be sorry," spat Jessica, the only girl amongst the group of budding Satanists. She pushed her spectacles back up the bridge of her upturned nose, and glowered at Joel to the best of her abilities. The old guard chuckled, shaking his head as Jessica huffed her annoyance and crossed her arms in front of her ample chest. The girl was ample in most respects, and Joel would have felt sorry for her had it not been for the unfortunate company she chose to keep. However, he assumed that her choice of companions was more a result of desperation than actual fondness for the four geeky, somewhat ridiculous boys, who had been chased away from the same sight no less than five times in as many weeks. They were nothing if not persistent, Joel supposed.

"Now, get the hell out of here before I call the cops," Joel growled, taking a thermos of coffee from his pocket, which he proceeded to pour liberally over the residual embers.

"Just wait, you'll see the spirits are gathering," Jessica insisted, trying to shrug Joel off as he frogmarched her toward the door.

"Yeah, yeah," Joel guffawed, "trust me darlin', I've been working this nightshift longer than you've been alive and the only spirits around here are the ones in my desk drawer. Now, get out of here, all of you, and don't let me catch you back here again."

Joel rolled his eyes as he heard them muttering and cursing at him under their breaths, and he took a moment to retrieve the crackling radio from his hip.

"Hey Mike, the Scooby gang are headed in your direction, can you escort their asses out of the main gates?! Thanks."

Receiving an affirmative response from his colleague, Joel shone his flashlight around the room and sighed at the seemingly endless collection of toys that sat in the corner of the room.

Local legend suggested that the room in the old asylum had once belonged to a young girl named 'Mara', who had been abandoned by her parents at the gates of the hospital at only 7 years old. Mara had lived out the remaining 86 years of her life among the mentally ill and criminally insane. Her spirit was said to roam the building once more in death, appearing in the form of the child she had been at the beginning of her incarceration.

Of course, to Joel, the story was a pile of proverbial bullcrap, and he saw it as little more than an urban legend. After nineteen years working security at the abandoned hospital, he had found little to concern him other than teenagers with over-active imaginations, and rats the size of a St. Bernard.

Nonetheless, Hellingly Asylum continued to play host to a variety of ghost tours and walks throughout the year, alongside numerous visits from those descendants of past patients who often made pilgrimages to the site when their own morbid curiosity consumed them.

Joel found the toys left behind by those who had been entranced by Mara's story to be highly creepy, and for the most part he avoided all dealings with them, save for bagging them up and donating them to Goodwill when they became too many in number. However, as he turned to leave the room, Joel's eyes fell upon a curious sight; two porcelain dolls, perfectly pristine, and standing side by side still in their packaging. The store tags also remained on the plastic windows of the boxes, and Joel almost chuckled as he realised that someone had cared enough to fork out $30 on the trinkets.

"I swear some people have got more freakin' money than sense," he griped, kneeling down to examine the dolls further.

He lifted one of the boxes from the floor, scrutinising the child's toy inside. The thick dark lashes of the doll framed two perfectly blue eyes, and a cascade of chestnut curls tumbled down her shoulders and highlighted the rich ruby red dress she had been clothed in.

Her sister was similarly attired in a royal blue dress, although her hair was blonde and her eyes a dark, rich brown.

Joel glanced around him almost as an afterthought and then hoisted the two boxes up into his arms.

"You got plenty to spare, Mara, don't think you'll be missing these two ladies," he stated, not imagining for a moment that he would receive a response.

However, as a breeze picked up around him, whistling through the room almost eerily, Joel found himself quickening his pace, exiting with the dolls clutched to his chest. He was certain he had simply imagined the peal of childlike laughter that reverberated throughout the corridor, but he didn't stick around to investigate further.

x-x-x

With a weary sigh, Joel Maddeson closed the front door behind him, and twisted his key in the lock. He kicked off his shoes on the mat, mindful of the carpets that had been laid only a few days previously, and then trudged towards the darkened kitchen.

In his arms, he carried both dolls; one still within the packaging, and the other now free from the confines of cardboard and plastic. Joel rested the packaged doll on the kitchen counter, before turning the one he had elected to give to his granddaughter over in his hands. A tired but satisfied smile wound its way across Joel's lips, and he started up the stairs to the guest bedroom where he knew his grandchild would already be tucked up.

The door to Rachel's room was ajar, so Joel stepped quietly inside and placed the blonde haired doll onto the pillow beside the snoring child.

Patting her mane of golden curls, he bent to press a kiss to her cheek and then stole away silently from the room, smiling as he contemplated her reaction upon finding the doll the next morning.

Joel yawned and closed the door with a gentle click. Mere minutes later, he was fast asleep beside his wife.

Down the hall, someone was stirring, and a pair of brown eyes flashed open in the darkness.

Glancing momentarily at the sleeping child, the doll surveyed her new surroundings, and her painted lips were suddenly pulled into a ghastly smile.

It was time to play.

x-x-x

Windham County, Vermont

October 29th 2011

The Impala slowed down to a crawl and, for a few moments, Dean continued to inch the vehicle along the curb side as he searched for the perfect place to park. Finally, he killed the engine with the front bumper mere inches away from the back of a police cruiser, before unclipping his safety belt and shooting a glance in the back to where his brother and girlfriend were busily pouring over a newspaper article.

"Talk to me, Sammy," Dean said, his voice a quiet, low rumble as he pushed a pair of sunglasses onto the bridge of his nose.

"Mrs. Marjorie Maddeson, 58, found dead on Tuesday morning by her husband Joel," Sam recounted, raising his hazel eyed gaze momentarily to his brother.

"And this floats our boats, why?" inquired Dean, arching a dark eyebrow as he surveyed the front of the modest two-storey house that was now crawling with law enforcement officials. The entire front yard had been cordoned off by yellow police tape wrapped around wooden stakes, and uniformed officers milled about the driveway doing their upmost to look both busy and important.

Upon the porch sat three jack o'lanterns, which leered at the officers who went about their business. Halloween stickers adorned most windows and a box of decorations stood abandoned by the front door. Someone had clearly been in the midst of preparing for Halloween before things had taken a decidedly more sinister turn in the quiet neighbourhood.

"Cause of death," Jo said brightly, tapping the newspaper and beaming as she caught Dean's eye. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and Dean found himself smiling in return, although somewhat disturbed by his own pleasure. Since regaining her memories after their case a few weeks prior, Jo appeared to be taking renewed pleasure in hunting.

"Which was?" Dean probed, rubbing at the stubble shadow that had begun to darken his jawline.

"High heel shoe through the right temple," Sam stated, folding the newspaper and tossing it onto the floor of the Impala.

"Like a stiletto?" Dean checked, his tone somewhat dubious. "Someone 'Single White Female'd her?"

"Guess again, Dean-o," Jo chirruped brightly, leaning forwards and grinning as she added with ghoulish delight, "try a child's dress up shoe."

"That even possible?" demanded Dean, his brow furrowed as he contemplated the unlikeliness of such an occurrence.

"Apparently," said Sam sardonically. "I guess if there was enough force behind the blow."

Dean appeared to contemplate this for only a moment before he shrugged and reached for the door handle, "Okay, so, we pulling an MIB or a Mulder and Scully?"

"I'm gonna go talk to the neighbours, see if they can tell us anything about the family," Sam stated, sitting back to allow Jo to clamber out of the back seat.

The blonde hunter paused to smooth the sides of the loose bun she wore, and produced a pair of gold rimmed sunglasses from her pocket. Dean and Jo fell into step beside each other, both reaching for their fake ID badges which they promptly flashed at the slightly unnerved police officers.

Predictably, nobody questioned their appearance or attempted to deny them entry, and Dean smirked as he heard murmurs of 'the Feds are here' from a couple of passing officers.

"Can I help you?" a gruff voiced detective enquired, suddenly appearing in the hallway as the couple loitered and peeked through into the living room, where a team of forensic officers were collecting fingerprints from the mantle and window ledges.

"Agents Bachmann and Turner," Jo stated, pulling off her sunglasses as she offered the man a brief glimpse of her ID and a stoically determined expression that she hoped he would not argue with.

The detective swept his gaze over the pair, before finally nodding and gesturing up to the staircase.

"Hey, boss, can you come out back, the boys think they've found something?" a young officer suddenly interrupted, ushering the glowering detective out toward the back yard and away from the hunters.

Dean smiled in thanks, about to begin to ascend the stairs when the face of a passing CSI officer caught his attention. Blinking twice, Dean squinted as he watched the man clumsily knock a candle stick from the mantle and a sinking feeling suddenly overcame him.

"Son of a bitch," he muttered under his breath, jamming his hands in his pockets as he released an irritated huff of breath.

"What?" Jo queried, her brow furrowed as she caught the tight lipped grimace that had now settled on Dean's lips.

"Garth," Dean snarled. He wondered whether or not trying to get through the hunt without crossing their counterpart's path was a viable option.

"Garth?" Jo repeated, her expression conveying her confusion as she shook her head, "what's a Garth?"

Dean tipped his head and smiled briefly, "Jury's still out on that one."

Too late. Garth turned to fumble in the open kit box beside him and, as he raised his gaze to smile inanely at a passing colleague, his eyes travelled to Dean's face.

"Aww crap." Dean leaned closer to his girlfriend, his breath catching the shell of her ear as he whispered, "Brace yourself, sweetheart."

The wiry, weasel faced man sauntered across the room with one hand dangling from the pocket of his beige chinos, and the other hovering at the knot of his dark blue tie. He nodded his head at Dean, his expression comically serious, and his lips formed a smile that Dean could not bring himself to return.

"Garth, my man," Dean muttered in greeting, extending one hand to Garth, which the man ignored in favour of seizing the other hunter in a bear hug.

"Hey, mind letting go," Dean growled under his breath, struggling to escape Garth's surprising grip. "I doubt the actual Feds rock a bromance in the middle of a crime scene."

"Sorry, sorry," Garth said hastily, pulling away from Dean and grinning, "just real good to see you, dude."

Jo watched the scene unfold with amused interest, her thumbnail hooked in her mouth.

"Maybe we should…" she suggested, gesturing with a slight inclination of her head to the staircase. From the hallway above, the persistent flashing of a camera could be seen.

"So…" Garth smiled, arching an eyebrow at Jo, "who might you be, little lady?"

"Oh my God," Jo muttered, folding her arms across her chest as she regarded the man with unbridled disdain.

Dean snickered, wondering how far Garth would have to push his girlfriend before she had his arm behind his back and his face pressed into the floral wallpaper. Clearing his throat to stifle further amusement, Dean gestured to the blonde beside him.

"Garth, this is Jo Harvelle," he stated, sighing as Garth ran his eyes over Jo in a manner that was blatantly lascivious.

"Charmed, I'm sure," Garth leered, attempting to snatch Jo's hand, but her reflexes were too quick for him and she slipped easily out of his reach.

Tossing a brief glance over her shoulder, Jo curled her fingers around Dean's arm and nodded towards the bedroom.

"I'm going to check out the crime scene," she stated, pausing to glare in disapproval at their new colleague, who visibly shrank back.

Garth watched Jo disappear down the hallway and he nodded his head in approval at her retreating form.

"Very nice," he nodded, rewarding his fellow hunter with a round of quiet, slow applause, "very nice, Dean. Well played, my friend."

"Hey," Dean held up his finger in warning mere millimetres away from the tip of Garth's nose, "you keep your eyes and your filthy little paws off, okay?!"

Garth mouthed an 'oh' of sudden understanding, and he added hastily, "My apologies, dude, I didn't realise she was your special lady. Anyway, The uh… The Garth is out of action right now."

Dean's brows knit together and he peered at Garth in evident uncertainty.

"You got… issues?" he fished, curiosity overcoming him against his better judgement.

Garth snorted in amusement, "Me? Please, man, be serious."

Dean watched as the hunter's countenance slipped, and a thoroughly forlorn expression clouded his features.

"Me and Monique, we're kind of on a break right now," he admitted, glancing down at his shoes, "I mean, I can't really blame her. Hunting ain't exactly relationship friendly, right?"

Dean winced, absently scratching the side of his head, "She uh… she cheated?"

Garth swallowed hard, "The hot tub repair guy."

"Ouch," Dean replied sympathetically.

As the faintest traces of tears begin to shimmer in Garth's already puppy-dog eyes, Dean began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. He cleared his throat and searched the milling mass of bodies for Jo's familiar form.

"Shall we?" he said, wasting little time in hooking Garth's arm and practically frog marching him into the bedroom in Jo's wake.

Jo was already well into the throes of hunter mode, and had slapped on a pair of latex gloves with which to pour over the body of Mrs. Maddeson. The corpse remained in the bed where Dean presumed it had been discovered, obscured from view only by a thin, white cotton sheet. However, the top of the blanket did not quite reach the top of the woman's head, and from beneath the hem Dean could just about make out a pink sequined child's shoe poking out. He swallowed hard, thoroughly unnerved, before joining Jo, who was nodding politely as the town deputy filled her in on the finer details of the case.

"And Mr. Maddeson didn't hear anything at all?" Jo queried, frowning as the deputy examined the notepad he clutched before shaking his head.

"Nope," he replied, running his tongue over his top front teeth in a gesture that inexplicably irritated Dean. "Didn't discover Marge 'til 8:30 am when he woke up to take a pi… Leak."

Ignoring the almost use of profanity, which would not have offended her anyway, Jo nodded and continued to peer analytically at the covered body, as though sheer will alone would crack the case.

"How's that possible?" Garth cut in, suddenly appearing at Dean's elbow and causing him to jump several inches. Dean shot his fellow hunter a murderous look which Garth was undoubtedly oblivious to.

"Excuse me?" the deputy questioned, his upper lip curling as he leaned closer to Garth.

"Well, to crack through this here lady's skull with a dress up shoe, the perp. had to take more than one swing at her," Garth stated, folding his gangly arms across his chest, "surely she'd have woke up… maybe screamed a little, right after she was hit on the noggin' the first time?"

Jo's lips drew into a tight smile and she glared pointedly at their new side-kick, "That's what we're here to find out, right, Officer... Cane?"

Garth nodded emphatically, jamming his hands into the pockets of his CSI windbreaker as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.

Ignoring him, Jo continued on, running through their usual list of questions. Sometimes, her late mother's penchant for 'Law & Order' came in handy.

"Was there anybody else in the house at the time of the murder?" Jo asked, her pen poised against her own notepad.

The sheriff nodded, sighing sadly as he relayed, "Yeah, little Rachel, their grand-daughter. Terrible thing for a 6 year old to go through, huh?"

"Yeah," Jo agreed sympathetically, glancing up at Dean, who perhaps best understood the lifelong effects of childhood trauma.

"Anybody spoken to the kid?" Dean enquired, still scanning the crime scene intently.

"No, not yet. Figured we'd wait for her parents to get here first. They were vacationing out of state, should be back in town this afternoon."

"Well, I think we're done here for now, thank you Deputy," Jo stated, glancing up at Dean who bobbed his head in agreement.

"We'll be in touch," Dean said with a polite smile before jarring Garth's shoulder as he indicated for him to leave.

"Ouch, don't push!" Garth protested, wincing and rubbing at the tender spot on his bicep yielded by Dean's heavy handed persistence.

"Hey, Jo, why don't you escort our buddy Garth here back to the Impala and I'll go see if I can track down a contact number for Cinderella," Dean said softly, releasing Garth's arm only for Jo to close her fingers determinedly around it.

"On it," she replied, flashing her boyfriend a smile before spinning in the direction of the front door and beginning to weave through the crowd of officers whilst hauling a mildly protesting Garth behind her.

Dean shook his head, momentarily contemplating the idea of abandoning the case altogether and allowing it to land in Garth's lap. He was certain that the guy had flown solo plenty of times, and was still around to tell the tale. However, as Dean's narrowed eyes fell upon an object apparently discarded on the floor, all such thoughts were dismissed.

After first glancing around to ensure nobody in the near vicinity was watching, Dean stooped down and retrieved the pale blue length of ribbon. The thick piece of material was stained with suspicious looking splashes of a crimson goo, and Dean frowned as he dropped the evidence into his trouser pocket before making for the front door.

As stealthily as he had arrived on the crime scene, the hunter departed, worryingly oblivious to the pair of glassy eyes that watched him all the while from an upstairs window.

Sam stole a final glance at the house behind him and raised his hand stiffly in a wave as the neighbour he had been interviewing peeked out from behind her curtains. Sam reached blindly for the door handle of the car and slid into the back seat of the Impala, immediately loosening the knot on his tie even as he slid across the leather upholstery.

"So, I..." he began, pausing abruptly as he found himself nose to nose with Garth, who bestowed a weak smile upon his fellow hunter.

"S'up?! Sam, my man!" Garth began, holding up his hand and waiting for the 'high five' that failed to materialise. Embarrassment absent, Garth simply scratched his head.

"Dean?" Sam queried, his smile tight and forced as he glared at his brother and awaited an explanation as to why one of the most irritating people he had ever met was now sharing the back seat with him.

"I'll explain later," Dean promised, silencing further queries as he held up his hand. He gunned the engine as he peered momentarily in the rear-view mirror and the car began to move slowly from the kerb side.

Managing to contain his annoyance, Sam decided to focus on the case at hand.

"You guys find anything?" he asked, smiling gratefully at Jo as she handed him her phone, where a plethora of gory crime scene photographs awaited him.

Garth watched intently, his eyes narrowing as he spied the glittering diamond band on Jo's finger. He elbowed Sam in the ribs with an expression of utter disbelief present on his face.

"Seriously, dude," Sam groused, catching the direction of Garth's gaze as the man snickered and began to mime throwing a fishing line.

Sam's eyebrows rose in confusion as Garth continued his performance, clutching at his throat as his eyes bugged and he fought with the pretend hook he had swallowed that was reeling him in to shore.

Shaking his head at both Garth's immature behaviour and his inference, Sam returned his gaze to the phone screen, and squinted as he struggled to make out the grisly images that greeted him.

Jo's eyes narrowed as she watched Garth in the mirror and, moments later, an empty soda can hit the sniggering man right between the eyes.

"Ow!" Garth complained, rubbing the red spot now forming on his forehead as he frowned sulkily at the back of Jo's head.

"Don't make me come back there," Dean warned, craning his neck as they drew to a halt at a set of traffic lights.

"So any idea what we're dealing with here? I drew a blank with the neighbours. From what everyone was saying, the Maddesons were the model family," Sam stated, trying to ignore the bug-eyed stare that was shifting curiously between the brothers.

"Well, the murder weapon was a child's shoe all right," Dean said, his brow furrowing and his lips twisting into a grimace of distaste as he gestured to the right side of his head, "it was just… wedged on in there."

"Ok, well," Sam blustered, eyebrows raised as he regarded his brother, "maybe a poltergeist? A pretty pissed off spirit could conjure up enough energy to do something like…"

"How'd you guys go with that, uhm, Me-…Meme monster thing?" Garth suddenly demanded, leaning both elbows on the headrests of the front seats and poking his head between Jo and Dean. Jo tutted and turned away in disgust.

Dean pulled back sharply, glaring at Garth through narrowed eyes.

"Memoladro?" he supplied, his tone scathing. Oblivious, Garth simply nodded.

"Stabbed it in the head and moved on with our day, thanks for asking," replied Dean, returning his attention to Sam, who bit back a smirk. Garth nodded, glancing from one brother to the other again as he awaited some further direction.

"Sit back," Dean commanded, leaving no room for argument. Hastily, Garth complied, shooting Jo what he hoped was a come-hither smile as she glared at him from across the confined space. Carefully, she pressed herself against the passenger side door of the Impala, mentally rejoicing at the fact that she had called shotgun before Sam had a chance to.

The remainder of the journey back to the motel passed without event, allowing each of the hunters time to reflect on the perplexing case that lay ahead of them.

x-x-x

Pressing his nose against the cool glass of the window pane, Garth stared out gloomily at the equally depressing weather conditions and heaved a heartfelt sigh.

"Okay, so... we got a dead grandma... clubbed to death by a plastic dress-up shoe?" Sam said with a wince, sitting back in his chair and folding his arms across his head.

"Husband sleeps through it, wakes up the next morning to... brain soup," Dean grimaced, recalling the splattered patterns of blood and brain matter that decorated the wall behind Mrs. Maddeson's corpse. Suddenly rummaging in his pocket, Dean tossed the ribbon he had earlier collected onto the table, and the three hunters peered at it with equal measures of confusion and apprehension.

"So, what? Barbie got tired of life in the dream house and went postal with a mini Louis Vuitton?" Jo ran her hands through her hair, sighing as both Winchester brothers shrugged, secretly hoping there was no truth behind her quip.

"Maybe she found out about Ken's double life with GI Joe," Dean snickered, his smile widening as Jo snorted in amusement.

"Hey, Garth... got anything you want to share with the class?" Dean asked, attempting to shake their colleague form his reverie, "you were the first of us there. How'd you find out about the case anyway?"

Garth blinked, seeming momentarily stunned by the query, before he straightened up and began to saunter across the room towards Dean. Looking highly uncomfortable, Dean cleared his throat and backed up against Jo's chair. With an amused grin, Jo turned her attention to the crime scene photos spread across the tabletop.

"Was passing through Maine, stopped off at a diner for a milkshake, and Chatty Kathy the burger flipper couldn't stop talking about the grisly murder a few towns over," Garth said, arching a brow at Dean and adopting his best 'serious Hunter' expression.

"When was that?" Sam inquired, frowning as he realised that Garth had more than likely heard of the case after them and yet arrived on the scene before them.

"This morning," Garth replied quickly, settling himself onto the edge of the bed and beginning to kick off his shoes.

"Hey, hey, hey," Dean cut in hastily, shaking his head and gesturing to Garth's feet, which were clad in odd socks, both of which had large holes in the soles. Garth frowned, but obediently slid his feet back inside his beat up track shoes.

"Great… Bobby handed us this case yesterday afternoon, and you still beat us here?" Dean demanded, shaking his head and gritting his teeth in evident annoyance.

"What's the problem, man?" Garth demanded, tone betraying his slight hurt. "I thought… I thought we were… y'know… buds?"

Dean sighed, about to reply in a characteristically snarky fashion, when he noticed Garth's eyes were focused on the hot tub in the corner of the room. After Sam had been happily checked into the last vacant room the motel had to offer, a chagrinned Dean and Jo had been forced to take up residence in the impossibly cerise honeymoon suite.

A heart shaped tub was positioned in the far right corner of the room, sunk low into the deep red carpet that clashed noisily with the pink drapes and bed linens.

The mini bar was stocked with all manner of heart shaped confectionaries and tiny bottles of noxious fizzy wines, but the hot tub hidden away under a canopy of voile had been the final insult to the couple's senses.

Jo refused to go anywhere near either the hot tub or the bath in the en-suite, trying her best not to imagine the exploits that had occurred within their watery confines.

"Earth to Garth?" Dean raised an eyebrow, following the man's gaze and blinking in confusion at the melancholy expression that had now descended upon Garth's face.
Sam cleared his throat and nodded pointedly over toward the offending piece of plumbing, his eyes widening as Dean finally mouthed an 'oh' of understanding.

"Don't dwell, dude... it's... it's time to move on," Dean clapped Garth on the back in an attempt at a friendly gesture, causing his painfully skinny counterpart to stumble.

"You ever have your heart broken?" Garth's lower lip trembled as he relayed his tale of woe, "like... just... ripped out of your chest?"

"She a werewolf?" Jo mumbled under her breath, clearly already growing bored of Garth's overly dramatic display before it had truly begun. Appearing not to hear the snide remark, Garth stepped towards the hot tub and carefully ran his fingertip along the rim. Dean grimaced, hardly daring to contemplate the disgusting substances that may now be smeared across Garth's skin.

"Ten months we'd been… close…" Garth gulped, becoming misty eyed as he peered across the room into space.

"Well, ain't that just… tragic…" Dean replied, affixing a bright grin on his face as he turned to Sam, appealing for help with a discreet glance at Garth. The spindly hunter dissolved into noisy sobs, and Jo and Dean both exchanged horrified looks. Sam's mouth dropped open, and he glared in warning at his brother, who had begun to sidle towards the door in an attempt at escape.

"Don't you dare," Sam mouthed, glowering at Dean, who froze in his tracks as he found Garth's eyes upon him.

"C'mon man, show some dignity," Dean almost pleaded, cocking his head at Garth, "it can't be that bad."

Garth wiped his nose with the back of his hand, his eyes glistening with further tears as he turned his watery gaze to Jo.

"Hey, a little thing called empathy," Garth swallowed hard, "you just imagine that pretty little blonde thing of yours just picks up and leaves one night. How'd you feel, huh?"
Dean blinked, mouth open poised to reply, when Jo stood up, hand on hip.
"Pretty little blonde thing?" Jo repeated, her eyes narrowed dangerously as she cocked her head and stared at the wallowing hunter.

"Well I- I mean..." Garth stumbled, catching the snicker that Dean unsuccessfully hid behind his balled up fist.

"Man up!" Jo demanded, her finger jabbing at the startled man and silencing him rather impressively. "You think she's getting all watery eyed and snotty over you? Huh?! Get your shit together, Garth, and quit feeling sorry for yourself!"

Garth nodded his head, his eyes wide as he uttered his compliance, "Yes ma'am."

"Girls hate sissies, dude," Dean agreed, leaning against the dresser behind him which creaked under his weight. He didn't want to contemplate the cause of the furniture's apparent instability, but the scuff marks along the edge left little to the imagination.

Jo folded her arms across her chest and moved to stand in front of Dean, who grinned in approval and swung his arm around her waist to draw her against him.

"Okay, so can we please get on with the hunt now? Or do you guys want to talk about your feelings some more then maybe we can braid each other's hair and watch Reece Witherspoon movies?"

"Isn't she awesome?" Dean enthused, his grin wide and genuine. Jo peered over her shoulder at Dean and beamed.

"Thanks, sweetie."

Sam rolled his eyes as the couple exchanged a brief and yet impressively hungry kiss, before breaking apart and directing their collective attentions upon Garth. The hunter nodded, sniffed, then straightened up- Jo's wrath having apparently served as the verbal slap he had needed.

"Good, that's the spirit," Jo said approvingly. Garth managed a somewhat watery smile as he jammed his hands into his pockets.

"Ok then," he agreed, still nodding and doing his best to stretch his lips into a something that did not resemble a frown, "let's blow this baby wide open."