A/N: Thanks again for all of the alerts, favorites and reviews. There was supposed to be one more chapter after this, but I've decided to post the last two chapters as one. Thanks for reading you all are awesome! :)
Dean chanced another surreptitious glance at Sam while they waited outside Amy Shannon's apartment for Bobby to pick them up. Despite Sam's regular and somewhat peeved assurances than he was 'fine,' his brother still looked like he'd been used as a punching bag and the goose egg on his forehead was no smaller than it had been in the hospital. A mottled mess of reds and purples peeked out from under the bright, white bandage that covered the six stiches he had needed and given the way his eyes squinted under the light of the overcast day, Dean figured that he must have one monster of a headache. Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and Dean couldn't hold back the, "You sure you're up to this?" question he needed to ask.
"I told you already … I'm fine." Sam sighed wearily, "We need to find this Nathan kid before anyone else gets hurt. I … we need to know why he's doing this … If he has some kind of psychic power, and what he might know about yellow-eyes."
"I don't like this …" Dean muttered.
Sam snapped back, rubbing his forehead and squeezing his eyes shut. "You think I do?"
"No, I just think we need to go back to the motel, let you get some rest before we go knocking this kid's door down. You look like crap and I don't want you to pass out on us."
Sam dropped his hands, exasperated. "Dean …" He sighed, rolling his eyes.
"No … It's bad enough that I let you leave the hospital …"
Sam scoffed then winced again, his headache clearly getting worse. "Oh you letme, huh?"
"You know … if you didn't already have a head injury …" Dean's rant was cut off when Sam's wince turned into a grimace and his hands flew to his head , grabbing fistfuls of shaggy hair with an intense groan of pain. There was barely enough time for Dean to grab his brother's arm in order to save Sam from making out with the sidewalk as his knees buckled under him, his weight collapsing into Dean.
"Shit! Sam?" Dean hung on, easing Sam to the ground. Fear blossomed in Dean's chest.
"Sammy?" he asked again, getting no response from Sam. He had to bend down to get a look at Sam's face hidden underneath dark bangs and was worried and relieved at the same time to see Sam's eyes staring blankly ahead, tracking something only he could see.
Dean had been afraid that his brother'd had some kind of stroke or seizure thanks to his concussion, but now he knew that this was completely unrelated to Sam's head injury. This was a vision, and by the looks of it, it was a doozy.
Dean sat there on the sidewalk for what felt like an eternity though it may have only been a few moments, ignoring the stares of curious pedestrians. When Sam gasped suddenly and grabbed hold of Dean's jacket, gripping his arm in a way that spoke of pain and urgency, Dean knew that the vision had finally passed and his brother was back in the real world with him.
"Dean …" Sam wheezed, breathing heavily as if he had just run a marathon. "H-he's there … he's at her house … waiting for her." He stuttered then moaned again, grabbing his head, "Gahhh."
"No … It's okay … I'm okay …"
"No you're not!"
Sam shook his head tentatively, his eyes squeezed tightly shut. "We don't have time to argue, Dean. Call Bobby, we need to get to Sara Haven's apartment right now!"
Dean would have argued further, but Bobby was already pulling up to the curb.
"Dean? What happened?" Bobby asked, jumping out of the truck and joining them on the sidewalk.
Sam opened his eyes and hit Dean with a plaintive look. "Please." He practically begged.
"Fine, but I'm not letting you outta my sight, ya hear?"
Once Dean and Bobby managed to get Sam on his feet and into the truck, Bobby broke almost every traffic law while Sam explained what was going on and what he'd seen in this latest vision. After finding the address for Sara Haven's apartment with Dean's phone, Sam sat wedged in the middle of the bench seat with his head in his hands while his Dean chewed his lip in anticipation. None of them knew what to expect once they got there, but they all knew that they were running out of time.
The pain was unrelenting. Visions on their own felt like getting a hammer to the head, but getting one on top of a fractured skull was unquestionably the worst pain he had ever experienced. Sam gingerly cradled his head in his hands while splotches of color obscured his vision and danced before his eyes. All the while he warred with the gut-churning nausea attacking him, refusing to allow his stomach to expel the meager contents he had managed thus far to keep down that day.
If the pain wasn't enough to remind of the urgent nature of their mission, then the running replay of the vision that had swamped his brain was. He could still see it clear as day in his mind:
Juggling several plastic grocery bags, the woman propped her purse between the door frame and her hip while maneuvering her keys, opening first the top deadbolt and then the doorknob lock. Once inside, she dropped the bags while turning around to relock the door. She flipped on the light and carried her groceries into the small kitchen, efficiently putting the milk and yogurt into the refrigerator and placing the rest of her purchases on the cabinet shelves.
She walked into the living room and flopped down on the flowered couch. Bending over, she unlaced her shoes and kicked them aside before she settled back against the couch with a tired and resigned sigh.
"You can see me." A harsh voice spoke into her ear and simultaneously a hooded man appeared sitting next to the woman who jolted up, wide-eyed with shock. He clamped a hand firmly over her mouth before she could scream, smiling when he saw the fear that flared in her eyes.
"Remember me?" He asked her. Recognition flashed in her eyes. "You can't hurt me now. They remembered too, you know. Amy and Bridget … with their last breaths, they saw who I was."
He leaned forward and took a deep whiff of her hair, smelling the shampoo that still lingered in it. "Would it have hurt you to say hello to me once or twice? To have spoken my name, not what you called me as a joke? The three of you, so pretty, so perfect … He was right, this is what you deserve." The metal blade of the butcher knife reflected the overhead light as it arced up and then plunged into her chest … The woman's body convulsed in spasms as the hooded man stabbed again and again …
Although he wished he could just push away the gruesome image, Sam replayed it to search for clues about Nathan's physic power. His statement, "You can see me" had to signify something, and suddenly Sam realized Nathan was using his psychic powers – or whatever he had – to make himself invisible.
The ambient light in the vision indicated late afternoon, and it was 3:40 pm already. Sam knew he had only a limited amount of time before this vision too came to its ghastly fruition.
Bobby's driving did little to relieve the pressure and pain throbbing in his head and each bump and swerve sent a burning stab through his brain. It wasn't until the vehicle came to an abrupt stop and Sam felt a touch on his back that he ventured to lift his head from his hands and look up.
"We're here." Bobby announced gruffly.
"Stay here," Dean ordered Sam as he checked his handgun, making sure it was loaded properly.
"What?" Sam asked his voice raising even as his head signaled that making such a noise would only exacerbate the pain. "No … I'm going."
"I'll just follow, and you know it.." Sam countered. Dean might be worried for him, but Sam didn't have the luxury of catering to his brother's anxiety over his health. He had to put an end to this … He hadn't been able to stop the other two murders, but he could stop this. If he didn't, what was the point of the visions?
Dean rolled his eyes. "God … I swear you are the most stubborn, son of a-"
"You girls done chit-chatting yet or can we just get this over with already?" Bobby interrupted the heated exchange for which Sam was eternally grateful, Sam and Dean both nodded, trading pointed glares even as they each hid a weapon in their waistbands and exited the truck, following Bobby to the apartment building.
He walked up to the door, running his hand over the number, satisfied that he had the right place. It wasn't difficult for him to break in, his job at the locksmith's shop made it a simple task and he was inside in moments. It was the waiting that was the hard part.
He studied the orderly apartment, deciding where he should wait. When he walked into the kitchen, he was pleased to see the butcher block full of knives sitting next to the sink. He pulled one slowly from the block and admired the silvery shine as it reflected in the low light of the afternoon streaming in through the window.
Cradling his newly acquired weapon in his hand he strolled into the living room, his eyes skimming over the photos that lined the wall, his gaze landing on a picture that transported him back. Three best friends smiled at him, their arms wrapped around each other. He felt his soul darken as the picture reminded him of the pain that those girls had caused him.
But finally Amy and Bridget had gotten what they deserved … and his face was the last image they would ever see. And it would be the same for Sara. The anticipation was almost unbearable. Turning the knife over in his hand, he tested it against his thumb, one drop of his blood sliding along the honed edge, thrillingly beautiful, and he imagined what it would look like sticking out of the chest of that bitch, Sara.
Finally, after tonight it would be over, the girls that had made his life a living hell in high school would all be gone, and the yellow-eyed man that came in his dreams and convinced him that he should do this had been right, it felt good to get back at them and they deserved what they got.
He still wasn't sure if the yellow-eyed man was real or just a dream, but Nathan believed in him. He had explained to Nathan how to use his invisibility purposefully, use it to get his revenge on those who had never considered that there was another human being behind his loathsome exterior. Nathan couldn't believe his good fortune the first time he tried his gift, whispering the words "You can't see me," and walking down the street without people staring at him, without seeing the fear and pity on their faces. That was amazing and wonderful. He started walking around town without his hood on, his scarred and pitted skin only visible to himself.
He had known all his life that his appearance was dreadful – how could he not? But it hadn't been his fault, he was just a baby when that fire tore through his home and killed his parents, leaving him grotesquely disfigured for life. So many times he had wished that their neighbor hadn't saved him from the inferno, that he had died along with his mother and father, but the yellow-eyed man had given him a new lease on life and he wasn't about to let that go.
Seeing Amy Shannon standing on the subway platform had brought back vivid memories of his first days at Lane Tech. She had been the ringleader of that petty little clique of three, giggling with her friends Bridget and Sara as she whispered the nickname 'Scarface' just loud enough for him to hear. Even though Amy had been the leader of their pack, it was Sara who had spread that awful moniker throughout the school and he would never forgive her for the four years of torment that nickname had brought him. He could still hear their taunts in his head:
"Hey ,Scarface … what happened? Did you fall face-first into a meat grinder?"
"I heard that Scarface's parents set him on fire because he was born so ugly."
"That's not what I heard! Amy, Bridget and Sara say that he was the one that set the fire …"
Pushing Amy onto the train tracks had been a catharsis, a release the likes of which he had never known before, and when that knife went into Bridget it had been equally as satisfying.
And now he would feel that rush again as soon as Sara came home. He would enjoy this, he would savor the look of fear and dread in her eyes. She would know how much she had hurt him when she had given him the 'Scarface' nickname. Maybe she would remember that his real name was Nathan.
His hearing had always been excellent and when he heard the sounds of the lock being opened, he perked up, tightening his grip on the knife handle and struggling to keep his nervous heartbeat under control. Sweat glistened on his forehead as the door slowly creaked open.
"You can't see me." Nathan whispered, raising the hood of his jacket over his head and waiting for Sara to walk in.
But when an older, scruffy-looking man with a beard entered followed by a younger man in a leather jacket and a taller guy with dark, shaggy hair, he froze in fear.
This wasn't supposed to happen.
His only hope was to stay as still and silent as possible. They wouldn't be able to see him, but they could still hear him if he made any noise. He held his breath as the older man turned to the tall guy with a shrug.
The tall man with the scruffy hair scanned the room and immediately his eyes landed on Nathan. For a moment their eyes connected and he was unable to move, too shocked that the man could see him.
That shouldn't have happened – the other two men clearly couldn't see him, how could this guy?
It wasn't until the tall one pointed and shouted, "There!" that the paralysis released Nathan and he darted down the narrow hallway of the apartment.
How did they know who he was?
He ducked into a small office room and slammed and locked the door behind him. The only window opened up to a fire escape leading down to the alleyway below, but the window was incredibly difficult to open and his heart raced at a frenzied pace while he attempted to pry it up as the strange men pounded on the door. It finally rose high enough for him to squeeze through just as the door to the bedroom smashed open, the tall man's boot still raised after kicking it.
In a panic now, Nathan dove out the window, landing hard on the metal grating. He rolled onto his feet and flew down the steps, pivoting so fast at each switchback that his feet barely touched the stairs. Heavy steps echoed on the metal close behind him. He jumped, skipping the last three steps, jarring his knees as he landed, but that didn't stop him from sprinting down the shadowed alley.
Nathan heard a voice shout, "Sam! Wait!" but he dare not look back as he ran. Half-way down the alley, he could feel the guy's breath on his neck and knew his shorter legs were no match for the impossibly long strides of his pursuer.
Suddenly hands grabbed his coat and he felt his body being tugged backwards while his feet lost contact with the pavement. He fell to the ground, the wind rushing from his lungs when his back made a painful connection with the cement. Before Nathan could recover, the man was lifting him bodily from the ground, hands grabbing fistfuls of his coat as he was hauled up and shoved backwards against the front of a dumpster.
"Why did you do it?" the long-haired man demanded, "Why did you kill those girls?" Wild and angry eyes bored into him as he slammed Nathan harder into unyielding metal.
How did he know about the girls? No one had seen him … this was impossible. Nathan could only gape, unable to answer.
If it hadn't been for the man ripping back Nathan's hood and startling at his disfigured appearance, Nathan might have never have remembered that he still had the knife in his pocket.
Sam hadn't been expecting the rough, scarred skin, the missing patches of hair, the thin, disfigured nose, missing eyebrows, and skin stretched too tight across his bones … Clearly the man had been burned badly at some point in his life. Nathan took quick advantage of Sam's shock at seeing the face that had been hidden under the hood and swung out with the blade, slashing through Sam's coat and shirt and piercing skin.
Despite the stinging sensation, Sam knew it was more of a scratch than anything else, but it was enough for him to stumble off-balance in surprise. Nathan immediately tackled Sam to the ground. The back of his head smacking the concrete plus the aftereffects of both his fractured skull and the vision-induced headache whited out the world for a moment.
Nathan raised the knife in one smooth motion and Sam had no adrenaline left to push Nathan off. It was reflex – survival instinct alone that sent Sam's hands up, his fingers wrapping around the blade and stopping it a mere hair's-breadth away from entering his chest.
Nathan struggled with all of his strength to press the knife down further. Underneath him, Sam grunted in pain, his hands refusing to let go of the knife's blade even as it sliced into his fingers and blood dripped onto his shirt.
Using every last ounce of energy left in his arms, Sam pushed back. His muscles were shaking, on the verge of failure as he battled to keep the knife from his chest, but it wasn't enough – Nathan had the better leverage and Sam's body was giving in to exhaustion.
The blade pierced his shirt over his right pectoral muscle. Surreally, Sam watched it pop through the outer layer of skin and slide into muscle. Sam groaned at the searing pain, but he refused to let go of the blade, he hadn't given up … not yet.
Nathan's mouth curled up into a contorted grin, killing Sam may not be have been what he had come for, but he was clearly enjoying it, delighting in the sight of the bright, red blood expanding around the end of the blade.
Sam dimly registered the sound of the gunshot echoing loudly against the walls in the alley. He shouldn't have been surprised by what happened next, but his field of view turned to horror as, in slow-motion, blood erupted outward from his attacker's head, pieces of bone, skin, and brains hitting Sam in the face. He felt Nathan's body jerk back violently with the impact and land on the pavement beside him, dead before he hit the ground.
A familiar voice was shouting his name, but his thoughts were too muddled and confused with shock for him to react. In the back of his mind he knew it was Dean that had fired the shot, but Nathan's dying momentum had pushed the knife deeper into his chest.
His slickly bloody hands stung but that didn't stop him from pulling the blade up and out. His first aid training told him that he shouldn't have done that – that it would only make the bleeding worse, but he didn't care, he wasn't about to leave it sticking out of his chest.
Sam breathed heavily through the growing pain as he attempted to disengage trembling fingers that had become embedded in the cutting edge of the blade. Finally getting his grasp to release it, he let his hands fall and heard the knife clatter to the ground.
He turned his throbbing head to the side, trying to focus his vision, and made out Nathan's blurry and scar-ravaged face. Naked, open eyes stared back at him lifelessly, a trail of blood snaking its way from the gaping wound in his temple and down the side of his uneven and mottled cheek. Sam shut his eyes, closing out the image of those eyes glaring at him accusingly as his body was overcome with pain and merciless exhaustion.
Someone was talking to him and he felt hands on his chest, applying a searing and lancing pressure over the wet spot spreading across his shirt. He heard barked commands and he knew it was Dean who was ordering him to open his eyes, but sleep was the more welcome option, he was so tired and Sam liked that idea better than Dean's so he let himself drift away.
Dean woke to the sound of the door opening and shutting just before a fresh cup of coffee was thrust under his nose. He glanced up and gratefully gave Bobby a brief nod before taking the warm cup in his hands and sipping the bitter brew. It certainly smelled better than it tasted, but it was caffeine and it would suffice to meet Dean's need to wake up fully.
"How is he?" Bobby asked, pointing towards the bed at the other end of the room.
"Still sleeping," Dean replied, wiping a hand across his stubbly face before he stretched, working out the kinks that had formed in his back after dozing off in the uncomfortable chair. He glanced across the room and studied Sam, drugged out of his gourd with painkillers. "I think he was more exhausted from exerting himself with that cracked skull of his than anything else."
Bobby walked across the room and carefully peeled back the bandage taped to Sam's bare chest and made a grunt of satisfaction, "Well … looks like the stitches I put in are holding and there's no sign of infection. Kid's damned lucky it wasn't very deep."
"Were you able to take care of things?" Dean asked, since Bobby had just returned from tasking himself with cleaning up the scene and the body left behind.
"Yeah …" Bobby said solemnly without offering any further explanation. Not that Dean really needed to know – he knew Bobby would make sure there was no evidence left behind that could be traced back to them.
Dean nodded and drank more coffee. Sam was going to be fine physically. What worried him now was how Sam was going to react when he woke up. He hadn't had a choice when he killed Nathan – he would have killed Sam.
But would his brother see it that way?
Dean pushed aside his darkening thoughts and watched as Bobby grabbed one of Sam's limp hands and inspected it as well. "His hands and fingers are gonna hurt like hell, but I think they should heal okay too."
"That Sara girl … I talked to her," Bobby changed subjects. "I told her I was a cop investigating the break-in at her apartment and that Nathan had been killed while fleeing the scene. She remembered him from high school. He was apparently badly burned in a fire that killed his parents when he was six months old. Sound familiar to you?"
"Unfortunately," Dean agreed, trying to hide the gnawing anxiety and guilt over killing the guy. In many ways Nathan was like him and Sam – they had lost so much to that demon, yet Nathan had had it much worse, not only losing both parents in the fire, but enduring the pain of his injuries alone after that."
Dean was pretty shaken by the whole thing himself. It didn't take a genius to know that Sam would see himself mirrored in that psycho, even if Sam was as far from becoming a killer as Dean was from earning a PhD. But with Dad's words still rattling around in his head about the possibility of killing his brother one day, taking Nathan out felt one step closer to a reality that he didn't want to approach.
"What'd she have to say about him?" Dean pressed.
"Well … she regrets it now, but admitted that she and her two friends, Amy and Bridget, had been pretty crappy to him back then and had given him grief about his scars. Guess we can see now what his motivation for killing was."
"A little overboard for getting picked on, don't ya think? Like Carrie at the prom ..."
Bobby grunted in agreement, but added with a pointed and knowing expression, "Sometimes words can hurt more than punches, Dean."
Dean hid his eyes from Bobby. Yeah, he knew he had said some pretty awful things to his brother the last couple of weeks and he wasn't too proud of himself for being such a dickhead.
Dean looked up when a groan issued from Sam's bed and he was on his feet a second later. Sam mumbled something incoherently then flung an arm over his face before Dean could get to him.
"You say something, Sam?"
Sam shook his head which caused another deep throated moan to come forth. Dean reached for the bottle of Vicodin and shook out a couple of pills before grabbing the bottle of water sitting on the nightstand next to him.
He put a hand on his brother's shoulder, "Think you can sit up?" he asked and Sam mumbled a 'yes.' Dean helped him up, one hand on an elbow guiding him until he was propped up enough on the pillows to take the offered pills and swallow a few mouthfuls of water.
Sam leaned back after that, his head sinking into the pillow again, but awake enough to keep his eyes at half-mast.
"How you feeling?" Dean asked, even though it was a stupid a question and Sam was obviously in a lot of pain.
"I'll live," Sam muttered.
"I guess you heard what Bobby said about Nathan?" Dean asked, taking a seat beside Sam on the bed.
Sam nodded, "Yeah … I wish we could have helped him or at least tried to talk to him."
"I know …" Dean wanted nothing more than to avoid this subject, but he knew Sam would bring it up if he didn't and it was better to just get it over, like ripping off a band-aid. "I couldn't see him, Sam. I would have just winged him if I had … but, all I saw was that knife and … "
"I know, Dean … it's okay."
"It doesn't feel okay …" Dean swallowed hard, "He was a human and he was …"
"Like me?" Sam softly finished for him.
"You're not like him, Sam." Dean shot back forcefully before reining in his temper and softening his tone. "Look … I know you wanted to find some answers from this kid …"
Sam cut Dean off short, "I don't think I would have gotten anything from him anyway. I saw the look in his eyes …" Sam blinked sluggishly, his voice low and husky. "He was too far gone – too filled with hate to ever listen to anything I might have had a chance to say to him."
"All the same … m'sorry …" Thinking about how he'd let himself get so wrapped up in his own misery that he lost himself in a bottle of Jack every night and how he had been too drunk to be there for his brother when Sam needed him made him add quietly, "I'm sorry about a lot of things."
Dean ducked his head down, not daring to make eye contact with his brother and he silently vowed to never let himself lose control and get so wasted again. He didn't expect Sam to forgive him but, when he felt a hand land on his knee, he knew Sam understood.
Dean looked up and met Sam's glistening eyes.
His little brother nodded, "I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have taken off without you."
A ghost of a grin began to creep up on Dean's face and he was glad that the sharing and caring time was coming to an end, he wasn't overly comfortable with the stinging sensation he felt in his eyes. He cleared his throat in order to push down the lump that threatened to expand in it, "So … we're good then?"
"Yeah." Sam sighed with a yawn.
"Good … then why don't you go back to sleep, Sammy?"
" 'Kay," Sam replied, already closing his eyes and drifting off, but before he was completely taken under by the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals, Sam spoke one last time, "Dean?"
"At least we saved the girl … We made it in time to keep Sara from getting hurt," Sam pointed out quietly, "I guess being a psychic freak can come in handy sometimes."
"You're not a freak, Sam …" Dean countered, carefully ruffling his brother's hair, "You're a dork, yes … and a stubborn ass … but not a freak."