K Hanna Korossy
"Thank you, sir, that's exactly the data I need for my paper." Dean clicked off his phone and set it down. "Okay, that weird weather pattern when Ava went missing? Happened about the same time three other places: Cripple Creek, Colorado; Round Rock, Texas; and Glen Burnie, Maryland. Wanna bet we find some gory crime scene and a missing person each place?" He tilted his head encouragingly.
Across the motel table from him, Sam didn't even look up from his laptop. "Uh-uh."
Dean's eyebrows sank. "Well, don't get too excited about the first lead we've had in five days."
"What?" Sam blinked up at him like an owl in sunlight. "No, I mean, that's great, but…I think I got something."
"I already had something," Dean muttered, but he got up and went around the table to peer over Sam's shoulder. "What?"
"I've been running a national search on psychiatric records: people reporting weird abilities or dreams about a man with yellow eyes."
"Records, like doctor's records? Dude, how'd you get—?" At Sam's frown, he backed out gracefully. "Never mind. And? Paydirt?"
"Maybe." Sam's furrowed brow didn't ease as he looked at the computer again. "Hospital in Macon has a report of a patient claiming 'a golden-eyed man' keeps invading her dreams and telling her what to do."
"Huh." Dean rocked back on his heels. "Could be something. Or, could just be your garden-variety nutjob."
"Teresa's twenty-three," Sam added pointedly, craning back to look at Dean.
"Oh." Same age as Sam, and Andy and Ava and every other "special kid" they'd come across. Dean wasn't sure he wanted to meet one who was loony-bin material, but if it could help them find that Ava girl and relieve Sam's fears, it wasn't like he could say no. "Peoria to Macon, figure about…a day's drive. Head out in the morning?"
Sam's pinched look finally eased. "Yeah, sounds good." There was more in his expression, a painful gratitude that Dean was willing to do this with him. As if the last time he hadn't, Sam hadn't snuck out on him and gone looking anyway.
"I'll go pick up some dinner then. We should turn in soon, get an early start."
Sam nodded, already on his feet and starting to pack up the research scattered across the table.
Dean watched him a few seconds more before hefting his keys and going out the door, face darkening as soon as he pulled the door shut behind him.
He wasn't sure if he was grateful for every bit of extra information they could get about what was happening with Sam, or if he was scared of every new revelation. But if it kept Sam from being the next vanishing act in the middle of a blood-soaked crime scene, Dean would track down the deepest, darkest secret of that yellow-eyed son of a bitch.
He just hoped to God that, in the end, he would also find a way to save Sam from it.
They drove the twelve-hour trip straight through with only a stop for lunch at a roadside barbeque joint. Dean stayed behind the wheel the whole time, even though Sam had offered to spell him since he wasn't sleeping.
That was part of the reason Dean didn't accept the offer, however. Sam hadn't been sleeping much, period, not in the car nor in motel beds nor while reading dust-dry records that Dean nodded over. He hadn't been sleeping well since Dean had shared the burden of their dad's last orders. Or, no, before that, when he'd turned out immune to a demonic virus that had wiped out a whole town. Actually, if Dean was honest with himself, the first time he'd realized Sam was tossing and turning again like the old days was after they'd saved Oliver Hudson from his crossroads deal, and Dean had been tempted to sell his soul for their dad. He knew that had rattled Sam more than the kid would ever admit, but Sam's body betrayed his disturbed spirit, reviving the nightmares Dean thought had passed with the worst of his grief for Jessica. Then to learn on top of that that something was wrong with him, something that was bad enough that their dad thought Dean might have to kill him…
"That made it all worse, didn't it?"
The words were so quiet, and spoken to the side window, that Dean wasn't sure he'd heard right. "Come again?"
Sam turned to him, weary with more than physical fatigue. "It was bad enough Dad died, but then with what he told you on top of it…" Sam shook his head. "Son of a bitch."
Dean couldn't quite bring himself to defend their father, swallowing heavily at the mental replay of John's final words.
"I'm just saying, I don't know how you carried that for months, man. I don't think I could've done it."
"That's 'cause you were always lousy at lying to me," Dean tried to play it off, throat sticking.
"Yeah, that must be it," was Sam's dry response. "I'm just glad you told me, all right? I know you didn't have to."
"And look how well that turned out." The bitterness was nearer the surface than he'd realized. "You took off the first chance you got."
"To find answers, Dean, not because I was mad at you. I had to find out what was going on, and you didn't want to know."
Sam was trying to play nice and Dean knew it. He should've just accepted the olive branch for what it was…but he couldn't. "I didn't say I didn't want to know," he argued, "I said I just needed a little time."
Sam raised and dropped a hand. "What if we don't have any time? For all we know, the same thing that happened to Ava, and those others, could happen to me any min—"
"It's not," Dean barked back, hands wringing the steering wheel. "It's not gonna happen to you, all right?"
Sam opened his mouth, closed it. When he spoke again, the fight was gone from his voice, nothing but quiet misery. "Maybe we should separate. Everyone around the others who disappeared ended up dead."
Dean took a breath, quelling his anger. Sam wasn't rejecting him; he was just scared. "You talked to Andy the other day, right?"
Sam blinked. "Yeah…"
"He's fine, isn't he? And his evil twin and Max and Scott died normal ways. Well," Dean conceded with a cock of the head, "okay, not exactly normal deaths, but not supernatural. Point is, there's no set pattern here, Sam, no one destiny. Maybe Ava did something that got her taken. Maybe…maybe those other disappearances had nothing to do with Yellow Eyes. Fact is, we don't know anything yet, so just…let's look into this Teresa girl and take it one step at a time, okay? We'll figure it out."
"You sure about that?"
"Yeah," Dean said without hesitation. "I am."
"Okay." Sam took a breath. "Okay."
Weirdly, having to make Sam believe it made it easier for Dean to believe as well. Then again, Sam's needs had always been the best thing to take his mind off his own troubles.
Dean had a sneaky suspicion the same was true for his brother and that had been the reason Sam had spoken up to begin with.
Dean shook his head at the windshield, torn between exasperation and fondness.
The rest of the trip was quiet. Dusk was just starting to fall as they pulled up into the hospital parking lot. They hadn't even needed to discuss the decision to come here first, before they found a room or spent the night. Dean kinda doubted they would've gotten much sleep, anyway.
They changed in the car, cursing at the tight quarters as if they hadn't had to do this a hundred times before, but finally emerged rumpled but formal in suits and ties. Classic FBI look, Dean figured, and pulled out two IDs to match. Sam glanced at his, nodded, and stashed it in his breast pocket. They locked up the car and went in.
And came back out five minutes later.
"I thought you said she was admitted," Dean sniped as he charged back to the car. "Psychiatric observation?"
"She was," Sam insisted, trailing a step behind him. "But it was voluntary admission—she had the right to check herself out, too."
Dean arched an eyebrow. "Even if she's got a yellow-eyed Freddie Krueger pulling her strings?"
Sam shrugged. "If she's not delusional and doesn't seem dangerous, they can't hold her just for bad dreams. Dreams she voluntarily shared."
Dean's jaw clenched, but he didn't have much grounds to argue. There'd been times when doctors had wanted to put him or Sam in the loony bin thanks to weird injuries or lips loosened by drugs and pain. Thank God for powers of attorney and AMA discharge rights. Reaching the car, he unlocked his side, then leaned against it to look over the roof at Sam. "Okay, now what?" he asked a little more calmly.
Sam smiled a little. "I've got a home address."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Why didn't you say so in the first place?" He slid inside, unlocked Sam's door, and slammed his own shut.
Sam got in more sedately. "That little intake nurse you were flirting with know about your temper?"
"What temper?" Dean growled over the roar of the engine as he turned her over. "I'm sweetness and light."
Sam laughed at that, and the tension in Dean's shoulders magically vanished at the sound. "Sure you are."
"I am," Dean said petulantly. But his mouth tugged up on the side Sam couldn't see.
He didn't feel that way so much when the townhouse turned out to be a bust. Teresa lived alone, no family left that Sam could find—her parents had died two months after she'd been born, so no help there—and her home had obviously been locked up for days. The leaf litter on the front walk was undisturbed, and there was several days' worth of mail just inside the door when they broke in. No clues as to where the girl might have gone, either, just a jumble of pill bottles in the bathroom. Sam had quietly commented that it reminded him of Scott Carey's house, and that was a connection Dean hadn't needed to make.
They finally gave up for the night, finding a small inn on the edge of town that allowed for both privacy and convenience. The pair of strike-outs and lack of obvious next step had taken a toll on them both, and they were silent as they dragged their stuff into the room and settled in. Dean flicked the TV on and ordered a pizza, while Sam went to take a shower.
A knock announced the arrival of food shortly after the water in the bathroom turned off. "Pizza," Dean called out in case Sam didn't hear, and climbed creakily off the bed to get the door. His wrists still ached from Gordon's restraints and all the desperation Dean had fought them with, and he flexed one absently as he dug his wallet out.
The girl waiting outside was pretty in a hometown girl kind of way, if a little ragged, and Dean threw her a smile before he realized she wasn't holding a pizza. He raised an eyebrow. "You keepin' it warm in the car?"
"What?" She blinked, then, "Oh, no. I mean, I'm not the pizza guy. Is Sam here?"
Dean casually traded his wallet for a grip on the Colt tucked into the back of his jeans, mouth still lazily turned up. "Who's asking?"
She bit her lip and peered tentatively around him. "He doesn't know me but—"
"Teresa?" Sam was just smoothing his t-shirt into place as he came out of the bathroom, but at the sight of their visitor, he froze. "What're you—?"
Dean's eyes narrowed, hand flexing on the gun. "Teresa-Teresa? Dream girl Teresa?"
"Come in," Sam was already saying, one long arm reaching effortlessly past Dean to usher the girl in. "How'd you find us?"
Dean rolled his eyes, letting go of the gun and shutting the door instead. Not that Sam always had the best judgment when it came to who to trust, but Dean would give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment. Not to mention the fact he wasn't keen on shooting a girl who didn't even come up to Sam's shoulder.
"I'm sorry, I don't mean to just show up, but…I know who you are and just… Are you really like me?"
The question was so plaintive, so hopeful, that even Dean felt his defenses lower a little. Sam, of course, puddled like the giant marshmallow he was, empathy eyes out in full force while he guided her to a chair. He sat down opposite Teresa, leaning in until their knees almost brushed, and said carefully, "I have…visions, I guess. Dreams about people before they're going to die. What can you do?"
She glanced over at Dean, who looked coolly back at her, then studied Sam. Finally she said, "I can hear what people are thinking. Mind-reading, I guess?"
Dean straightened, brain automatically flipping through his darkest secrets—Mom!; You'll have to kill him; I could give you ten years; God works in mysterious ways—before, chagrined, he forced them behind a wall. And started reciting lyrics in his head to keep them from getting out.
If Teresa picked up on any of that, she didn't show it. She was completely intent on Sam, and in the next moment, a frown puckered her forehead. "Except you. I can't read you."
Sam gave her a small smile. "Doesn't seem to work on others like us. We met a guy who could force people to…do things, but he couldn't do it to me." He slid forward in his seat a little more. "You've been having dreams?"
Dean should have expected the question; they'd come to Macon exactly because of her dreams. But the way Sam asked drew Dean's eyes to his younger brother. Sam wasn't having yellow-eyed dreams, too, was he? He still had nightmares, sure, about Jessica or the crash or Dad dying. But he hadn't mentioned the demon, and Dean hadn't thought to ask. That was changing ASAP.
"Yeah. How'd you—?" She glanced at Dean, then shook her head as she looked back at Sam. "Yes, for a few months now, I've been dreaming about this man with golden eyes."
Sam inched forward, crowding her in her chair. "What did he say?"
Her face puckered with confusion and what seemed to be distaste. "A lot of weird stuff about needing a leader for his army and having a job for me. Not really sure, you know? But he also told me to come find you."
Sam startled back. "Me?"
Dean seconded the motion, but drifted forward a step instead of shying back. His fingers itched for his gun.
"Yeah. He said you would have some answers, that you would tell me what to do."
Sam's mouth sagged open.
Dean wasn't sure his wasn't already there. A second later, he shook himself. "And you just believed him?"
Teresa turned to him, her gaze oddly piercing. "He knew a lot of things, about me, about my parents. He knew you were here. So far he hasn't been wrong."
Dean's face clouded over. "He's a demon, sweetheart—they're pretty clever. And not getting the facts wrong isn't the same as being right."
"Well, I don't see anyone else stepping up to help," Teresa said hotly, rising out of her chair. It should've felt a little like a Chihuahua yapping at his heels, but something about the darkness in her eyes made Dean recoil. "What do you know about it, anyway, Dean? Chasing Sam around the country like some pathetic puppy, trying to make up for getting your dad and countless other people killed?"
Dean felt the blood drain from his face, a prickle of cold sweeping over his skin almost making him lightheaded.
"You just don't want your brother to leave because you can't bear to be alone," she kept on, cherry-picking each poisoned barb out of his mind. "You're holding him back, too scared to let him move on to bigger things, but what do you know about being special?"
He'd held up against demons gutting his soul and exposing it to the world, but they were evil liars. This was just a girl, and what Dean knew was the truth. He forced lips around a feeble defense.
"The things you did that you never told your—"
"Shut up." That was Sam, his voice cracking like a whip through the charged air. He was on his feet, too, and as Dean's eyes flickered over to him, he saw Sammy draw himself up to his full considerable height. He pushed his way in between Teresa and Dean and loomed over her like the shadow of wrath. "Don't say another word to him."
Teresa blanched, her neck tilted way back to look up into Sam's face. Her mouth moved soundlessly a second before pinching together.
"Sit down," Sam ordered.
Teresa sank back into her chair even as Dean groped for the bed behind him.
Sam paused to give him a look so pained, Dean felt himself flush. He was supposed to be the protector, not Sam, and Dean was certainly no damsel in distress. But her words had bit deep, cut his legs out from beneath him, and Dean was grateful for the moment's reprieve to get his game face back on.
"I'm sorry," Teresa said, small and choked. "I didn't— I'm sorry. I just…I don't know what to do, I feel like I'm going crazy, and he said you could help me…"
Sam didn't sit next to her again; the empathy they'd forged had vanished with her attack on Dean. But his voice did soften. Dean knew he could still empathize with where she was coming from. "You're not crazy. The man, he's a demon—we've seen him, too. But he's not trying to help you. He's trying to use you, us, for some kind of…I don't know, evil plan. I'm not sure why he sent you here, but I'm not gonna do what he says, and you shouldn't either."
She looked anxiously at Sam's face, then over at Dean's. Checking his mind for the truth of Sam's words, Dean realized, but before he could react, the Great Wall of Sam had moved between him and the girl again. He wasn't sure Sam could physically block her powers, but his little brother seemed to have every intention of trying.
"A demon." Her voice was tiny, with it's sudden drop and the barrier of his brother in the way. "Right. Figures. I think I'd rather be crazy—at least there's a cure for that."
Sam's shoulders, already tight, winced even closer together. His back would be hurting that night for sure, Dean thought idly. He stood and moved a step to the left. Sam gave him a sideways look but didn't move to block him again. Which was good, because Dean didn't feel like taking his brother down just then.
"Whatever." Teresa's tone had flattened, empty of both hope and malice. "I'm sorry I bothered y'all. I should go now."
"Wait." Sam touched her arm, pulling away as she flinched. "You don't have to do this alone. I don't know the demon's endgame, but I do know he can't make you be something you're not."
Unless he possesses you, Dean's mind unhelpfully provided. Or kills everybody you love when he takes you. Or uses the people you love to blackmail you— He suddenly noticed Teresa was watching him, her expression grim, and he immediately took a mental jump back to Metallica lyrics.
"Just…don't let him get to you, okay?" Sam went on. "You're still you, abilities or not."
Wishful thinking, Sammy?
"Still me. Got it," Teresa parroted. But Dean could see the fight had gone out of her. Sam wasn't reaching her anymore, no matter how badly he wanted to.
"I really do have to go," she interrupted. Her eyes darted over to Dean, then down. "Sorry." He thought maybe she was apologizing to him this time.
"Here." Sam had found a piece of paper and was scribbling something on it before he thrust it at her. "Call me if you need to talk. Or just…someone who understands. All right?"
She took it slowly and shoved it into her jeans pocket. A little emotion filtered back into her face now, sadness, and an unexpected loss. "Thanks," she said, and hurried out of the room before Sam could make another move to stop her.
He still took a few steps toward the door. Then he turned back to Dean, looking lost. It wasn't exactly what Sam had hoped from this trip, Dean knew, and the lack of answers had to be eating at him as much as the failure to help her.
"Sam…" Sam's shoulders were still pulled in, though, and Dean didn't think anything he'd say would help at that moment. He switched gears. "Well, at least we know she hasn't disappeared, right? No bloody corpses left behind?" How sad a commentary on their lives was it that that was the good news?
Sam's frame sagged. "Sorry, man," he said quietly.
Dean would have asked for what, but he already knew, not that he had any intention of discussing Teresa's little mind rape or Sam's resulting protectiveness. "De nada," he said with a shrug, turning back to the bed. "Hey, what do you think—?"
Another knock at the door. Sam pulled himself back to his full height before going to answer it. "What?" Dean heard him bark.
"Uh…pizza?" came a meek, and male, voice from beyond the door.
Dean couldn't even muster a laugh.
Neither of them slept well that night. Sam had unequivocally denied that the yellow-eyed bastard was paying him visits in his sleep—thank God for small favors, anyway—but there was still plenty else to haunt their dreams. When Dean finally gave up and flipped on the Late Night Creature Feature, Sam didn't even pretend he wasn't watching. But his lips didn't so much as twitch at the sight of the guy in the stupid furry costume.
Dean packed the car in the morning while Sam checked their room to make sure nothing was left behind. It would be a vending machine breakfast, honey buns and coffee for Dean, peanuts and a bottle of OJ for Sam. If he wanted coffee, he'd have to get it himself; Dean was kinda hoping the kid would sleep most of the way back to Peoria.
They hadn't had to discuss that either. Not that Dean had high hopes of their finding any more leads on Ava. But Sam had to exhaust every possibility and Dean got that.
The rack of newspapers by the snack machine caught his eye, and Dean slowed, then stopped to read. Grimacing, he juggled his armload so he could lift the paper to keep reading below the fold.
"Anything?" Sam asked from behind him, startling Dean back a step.
"What? No. Usual small-town news—you know, Farmer Brown's Pig Caught with Farmer Jones' Cow, that kinda thing."
Sam snorted, reaching past him for a paper. "Sounds like good trip reading."
But Sam had already seen the article. His face closed off as he scanned the lines, learning what Dean had already gleaned, that local girl Teresa Maloney had killed herself the night before, going to sit on the train tracks outside town. The 10:20 to Macon hadn't been able to stop in time. Which put her time of death…about an hour after she'd left their room.
Sam let the paper flutter back onto the stand and turned toward the car, face still expressionless, which in itself told Dean so much.
"She didn't have anyone, Sam."
Sam stopped by his door. Didn't turn, didn't react, but he was listening.
"This was all new to her, and instead of asking for help, she tried to force it and ended up alone. That's not you, man."
There was a long pause. Sam turned his face to profile. "I'm gonna call Andy, see how he's doing."
"And then we're going to find Ava."
Sam twisted all the way back to look at him, quiet fear in his eyes. "I just…I need to save somebody, Dean."
…so you can believe you'll be able to save yourself, Dean finished silently, no mind-reader around to force the truth into the open. All he said out loud was, "We'll figure it out, Sam, I promise."
Sam would need no supernatural gift to know he really meant I'm looking out for you, and I'm not going anywhere.