This is the second story in my series.

Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Supernatural world. I'm just playing in their sandbox.

"Hey there, Hot Shot! Long time, no hear!" Lizzy smiles as she pulls out her ear buds and looks up from the hefty book she is skimming through. She hasn't heard from Dean in a few days so when his name pops up on her cellphone display she feels an excited jump in her chest.

"L," Dean starts to respond but doesn't finish. He contemplated calling her for the last half hour but he wasn't sure what to tell her. His mind is cluttered with all he wants to say but it falls short of assembling the right words properly. Really, he isn't even sure how to begin.

"Dean? You ok?" she asks after waiting for him to continue with no avail. Their conversations are usually easy and effortless so she grows concerned with his hesitation. Lou makes eyes contact with her from the small table in their motel room she's sitting at doing research.

"No." He really isn't. After what he just went through, he's shaken to the core.

"What's going on?" Lou asks Lizzy in a whisper. Lizzy holds up her index finger to hold Lou off for now. She needs to focus on Dean and figure out what's wrong.

"Where are you?" Lizzy questions, the slight concern in her voice changing quickly to full-blown uneasiness after his negative answer. She stands up from her place on the old, worn carpet, compelled to move as her nerves get the better of her. Dean is normally unflappable and the man on the other end of the phone sounds nothing like him.

"Illinois. Joliette," he states plainly.

"What are you doing there?"

"Ah," he sighs out, "guess you could say getting mind fucked by a djinn."

"Oh shit," she commiserates, running a hand through her hair. She isn't even sure what that means, but it can't be good. "Are you ok?"

"Been better." That's an understatement, Dean thinks to himself.

"No, I mean are you hurt?"

"Physically, no." Just a little blood loss. Nothing big enough to mention right now.

"What about Sam?" Lizzy asks Dean as she sees Lou's face knot up with concern.

"He's fine."

He hears Lizzy tell someone in a hushed voice that Sam is alright, which is followed by someone letting out a sigh small relief. It must be Lou, he thinks to himself.

"Ok, well whatever happened, at least you two aren't going to die," Lizzy says with relief.

"Yeah, we'll live." The sarcasm drips from his words.

"Good. Then the two of you need to drive your asses to Nebraska City. Now, preferably."

"What's in Nebraska City?" Dean wonders.

"We are dumb-dumb."

The corners of his mouth stretch slightly. Dean finally lets himself relax a little, his shoulders dropping from their previously tensed position and his weight leaning harder into the side of his car with her invite. It's comforting to know she wants to help and though he'd never outright ask for it, it's exactly what he needs right now.

"We're staying just outside the city in a town called Percival. We're looking into some missing guys. Shit's getting pretty weird the more we find. It's turning out to be bigger than we'd expected and we could certainly use some help…." Going right into another hunt isn't exactly appealing to Dean at the moment, but he knows Lizzy is doing what she can to support him and if he is being honest, having her nearby right now would really alleviate some of the anxiety of his very recent ordeal.

"You two really need help, or are you just trying to get me there?" Dean wonders to her half-seriously.

"Honestly, both," she laughs lightly. "We planned on calling you and Sam tomorrow to run this whole case by you anyways. We're crazy stumped. And if I can lend an ear or whatever to help you out while you're here, then perfect." She pauses. "Plus, I haven't seen you in, like, two months. It'd be really good to see you again, Dean."

Smiling involuntarily, he didn't need to be invited twice.

"Text Sam the address?"

"Will do," she says cheerfully.

Dean snaps his phone shut and pushes off of the Impala. "Sam! Pack it up!" he shouts as he heads toward the motel office to check them out of their room.

"What? Why?" Sam whips his head up with surprise from the old, familiar leather journal resting in his lap. Sitting against a tree by the motel, he started adding the new information they'd gained to the already existing djinn entry their Dad had started. Dean thinks Sam is just being his nerdy self but Sam was really using his studious nature as a disguise. When Dean had walked out of their motel room earlier to get some fresh air after the talk they'd had, Sam used the journal as an excuse to keep an eye on his brother. He chose a spot under a tree and settled in, keenly watching Dean pace the parking lot and play with his phone for nearly thirty minutes before making a call. Dean rarely gets this freaked out over anything and leaving his booze loving brother to his own devices didn't seem like the best idea. Sam is just glad Dean never made the short walk across the street to the mom-and-pop liquor store.

"We're leaving. Got something in Nebraska," he explains while continuing his trek.

"How?" Sam wrinkles his brow in disbelief. "How could we possibly have something else already?" They barely finished up this last case and Dean wants to dive right into another one? This doesn't sound like a good idea to Sam, especially with the shape Dean is currently in.

"Lizzy and Lou need help. Said it was big." A simple explanation that Dean knows will work.

"Oh," is all Sam returns. His expression softens when he hears the girls' names.

"Yeah, oh," Dean mirrors. "So pack your crap and get in. You can finish your schoolwork on the ride."

"Schoolwork? I wasn't aware that you ever knew what schoolwork was," Sam fires back while he scrambles to his feet and gathers his things.

"Oh, I'm sorry I never got off on reading text books like you, Sammy," Dean insults over his shoulder while opening the office door.

"Jerk," Sam mumbles.

"Bitch!" Dean yells back.

"What the hell was that all about?" Lou questions the second Lizzy hangs up. She looks away from her laptop screen and turns her full attention to her friend.

"Sounds like Dean's had a pretty fucked up day," Lizzy responds looking down at the cell phone in her hand. "He said he ran into a djinn. Any idea what that is?"

"Not really," Lou answers while returning to her computer, Google search already started. After a few short minutes she's gathered just enough information to get a picture of what Dean had dealt with. "Genies."

"Genies?" Lizzy questions with surprise.

"Yeah, that's what they are, genies."

"Like a genie in a lamp kinda genie? Like a blue colored Robin Williams?"

"Kind of, but not really," Lou tries to explain. "They have the ability to put a person into a trance in which they experience their one true wish. While in this state the victim is helpless. The djinn takes advantage of this and feeds off of its victim without the them ever knowing what's really happening. So the wish doesn't really come true."

Lizzy walks over and stands behind Lou to read along with her. "And that means if Dean said he got mind-fucked by a djinn…"

"Oh, he meant it Lizard. He got a first class ass kicking of the brain."

"Whoa, that's insane amounts of fucked up." Lizzy responds heavily.

"Oh man, can you imagine the kind of wish a dude like Dean came up with?" Lou giggles. "Twenty-four hour drunken orgy party? Or maybe just an endless supply of pie, cheeseburgers, whiskey, and tits?" Lou laughs loudly, but Lizzy doesn't join.

"Damn dude, you really have a very specific picture of who Dean is, don't you?" She asks her friend while retaking her seat on the floor. Lizzy is saddened by her best friend's inability to see Dean the way she does. He's much more than the gluttonous womanizer that he at first appears to be. That's just the mask he wears to fool people. Lizzy considers herself lucky to have been able to get a glimpse underneath his cover. Lou however is not as open-minded. "You really have to give him a chance when he gets here."

"Don't have to do shit, Lizzy," Lou informs her. "You know what we've been told about him. And you know how that chick at the Roadhouse talked about him. I mean, there could be tons of girls out there thinking the same way you do. The same way that little blondie does too."

Lizzy drops her head to avoid Lou for a moment. She's right. They'd met Jo when Bobby had sent them to the Roadhouse just a few weeks back. She talked about him with such love and admiration, even if she had tried to hide it.

"So what," Lizzy finally says. "One young chick has a crush on him. That means nothing. And I don't listen to gossip so those random hunters you've talked to can suck it. I know him, Louie. I know what he's actually about and I know what I feel. You gotta look at him in a different light for once." She's had to be extremely defensive with this subject for a while now and she's growing tired of it. "Even if you don't want to, you could at least try for me."

Lou can see how upset Lizzy is getting with her comments. She feels bad, but she's very concerned for Lizzy. Her friend deserves the best, and Dean doesn't appear to be the best. He has many good qualities, sure. He's devoted his life to saving others and no one does that unless they are a good person deep down. But Lou's priority is her sister, and no one is going to hurt Lizzy on her watch.

"Alright. I'll give him a chance," Lou gives in. "I'll try to get to know him because you asked me to. Just don't expect me to pull some kinda one-eighty here, ok?"

"That's all I ask, Louie." Lizzy smiles widely with Lou's promise. "Now let's get some shit done. They'll be here in about eight hours so we have plenty of time to read through all this crap." She gestures to the many books, stacks of maps, and many manila files on the table. Putting her ear buds back into place, she reaches for her trusty other best friend. Her IPod.

"We should probably try to look through what we already have one more time before they get here, too. I want to have it all organized before we try and present this to them. Give them as solid a picture as we can."

"Nerd," Lizzy name calls before glancing at the ever growing pile of work in front of them. "Sometimes I fucking hate this job," Lizzy whines as she pushes play on her playlist entitled Dean. 'Traveling Riverside Blues' fills her ears and she picks up the research where she'd left off in a much better mood than she'd been in before Dean called.

"So what's this big thing that we're supposed to help the girls with?" Sam asks as he reaches to the stereo. He turns the volume down so he and Dean can actually hear each other's voices over 'Back in Black'.

"Not sure. Lizzy said they went to Nebraska City to look into some missing dudes and the more they find out the bigger the whole thing seems. They're at a dead end and need our expertise." Dean grins at Sam with an eyebrow lifted.

"And?" Sam asks impatiently, waiting to hear the rest.

"And nothing, that's it," Dean shrugs out.

"That's it? That's all you know?" Sam looks at Dean unbelieving.

"Yeah, that's everything she told me."

Sam huffs in disbelief. As much as he's more than happy to help out Lou and Lizzy, and as much as he's glad for the chance to see them again, he's surprised Dean would agree to another hunt with so little to go on.

"You ok, man?" Sam questions.

"Fine. Why?" Dean's eyes remain trained on the road ahead and he does his best to keep in place the poker face he believes he's wearing. It isn't working and Sam knows he's definitely not fine. Dean's never been very good at lying, or at least not to his little brother. And Sam's pretty sure that every time Dean has ever claimed to be fine, he wasn't.

"Uh, let's see; for starters, you lost a lot of blood back there. You're still pretty pale. You sure you're feeling well enough to jump right into something else?"

"I'll rest once we get there. Get a good night's sleep." Dean's just trying to assuage Sam by telling him what he wants to hear, though Dean thinks Sam might not buy it since he hasn't slept well for nearly a year.

"Ok," Sam draws out. "You also just tripped balls pretty hard and went through some seriously messed up stuff."

"Yeah, but we already talked about that, Sam. I'll be ok, stop worrying."

Stubborn ass, Sam thinks. When Dean gets like this, there's not much Sam can do to get through to him. Dean's made up his mind, they were going to Nebraska. And once he has his mind set, there's never any way of changing it. Sam decides for now to leave things as they are and reaches to turn the volume back up, knowing that the louder the music is, the easier it is for Dean to ignore his own thoughts. Anytime the storm in his head gets too heavy, the music in the car is deafening.

"Hey. Sammy," Dean starts before Sam can get his hand to the stereo nob. "Thanks." He needed to get his gratitude out before the music drowns his voice again.

"What for?"

"For what you said back at the motel. Reality still sucks, but it sucks a lot less after hearing you say that stuff." Thank God for Sam by his side.

Sam simply shrugs. "It's the truth."

Dean nods while still looking straight ahead and Sam turns the volume up again, just not quite as loud as before.

Dean really is thankful for Sam's words. They make it so much easier to accept the real world now that he is back in it. It had been so cozy inside the false existence the djinn had him in that it physically hurt to abandon it. It feels like there is a hole that's been torn into his chest from the emotional toll the whole thing took and, the worst part of it all, he misses being back there.

He's always done his best to convince others around him that the life of a hunter suited him just perfectly, but now Dean thinks that really he's been trying to convince himself of this all along. The life he could have had, complete with an actual home and family, is most definitely appealing. His mother was alive and well, enjoying a quiet and happy life in Kansas. Sam was well on his way to the career he'd previously been striving towards and was about to get married to the woman of his dreams, who just happened to also still be alive. Even Dean himself had managed to straighten up somewhat. He had a regular job and a respectably awesome woman. Carmen was something else.

It's then that Dean comes to the one thing he hasn't been able to figure out since coming to. Why did his mind create Carmen? He'd seen the model in the magazine ad the day before and had stopped on the page to check her out a little before moving on. But that's all he knew of her. He's met plenty of women who would have fit into his life easily. Lisa, Cassie, Lizzy…

Why hadn't Lizzy been a part of his perfect life? They have something, he knows that for sure. The guilt he'd felt after hooking up with Tara Benchley was enough to prove it. Granted, he'd totally do Tara again if he had the chance. He's been more than a little obsessed with her ever since the first horror flick he saw her in and opportunities like that don't come around every day. However, he never expected to feel any kind of remorse afterwards. He'd just met Lizzy the week before and had only spent a few days with her. That wasn't nearly enough time to get so hooked on a girl, yet that's where he now finds himself.

The only reason he can come up with is that he would never have met Lizzy if not for hunting. Their job is what made their paths cross and without it they would have never have come together. That has to be it. He cautiously accepts the excuse he makes for his own sanity's sake. Maybe it is a good thing she wasn't in his mind-fuck. He barely found the strength to leave as it was. Add Lizzy into the mix and he'd most likely be a drooling, blood-drained mess strung up in a warehouse right now.

That must be why he was so compelled to call her after everything calmed back down. He just knew at the time that he needed to at least hear her voice. Sam made him feel better, but this time only she could repair him fully. The meaning behind that scares him. He's gotten in way over his head with this chick.

His thoughts begin to feel overwhelming and they still have at least six hours left before getting to Nebraska. Dean turns up the volume to drown out his rambling brain and lets 'Have a Drink on Me' take over while pretending not to see the disapproving face Sam instinctively sends his way.