Dean woke up in a cold sweat, his heart racing. "Sam!" The name spilled from his mouth as he struggled to calm himself. Sam had been gone a few weeks, and the nightmares hadn't relented.

"What was it this time?" John asked from the other bed.

"Werewolf," Dean replied quietly. "Sorry I woke you up. Again."

John grunted. "I need to get up anyway. When's the last time you got a full night's sleep? Or even a few hours?"

"A few nights ago."

"Don't lie to me, Dean."

Dean sighed. "Not since he left."

"Well, you're staying here."

"No. No way in hell I'm gonna let you go hunt that thing on your own."

John sat up. "Dean, last time we saw the shifter you almost got both of us killed because it took Sam's form. Besides, you're not gonna be much help, what with you being sleep deprived."

"Dad, I'm fine! Really. The other day was just a slip-up. I'll be fine."

John picked up one of his shoes and threw it at Dean. "Heads up!" It hit him square in the forehead.

"Ow! What the hell was that for?" Dean cried.

"Your reaction time is slow. You're off. Sleep deprivation does that to you. There's no way I'm letting you come with me."

Dean opened his mouth to protest but John cut him off. "Uh-uh. Dean. You're staying here. If that means I have to hog tie you and lock you in a closet, then I will. Do you understand me? You'll be more of a hindrance than a help."

"Fine! You know what? Fine. I'll stay here and –what? What am I supposed to do? Read magazines, watch afternoon soaps?"

"Bye, Dean. You know the drill. I should be back by Tuesday. If not, do NOT come looking, call Bobby," John said, a hint of amusement in his voice at Dean's obvious sense of indignity.

"Bye," Dean mumbled. He sat pouting as he heard John drive away. He heaved a sigh and locked the hotel room door, then flopped in a chair and closed his eyes. He had been asleep a few minutes when a voice stirred him from his sleep.

"Hello, Dean."

Dean's eyes snapped open, and his hand went to the gun beside him.

"Uh, uh, uh. That won't do. Hands off," the man said. He had a pistol aimed at Dean's head.

Reluctantly, Dean set the gun back down and put his hands up. "Who the hell are you? And how did you get in?"

"Just an old acquaintance of your father's. And the salt lines on your window sill don't keep out people," the man answered, approaching him. Dean's jaw set, and he sprang up, grabbing the man's wrist, forcing the gun from his hand and kicking him in the groin. The man doubled over, a grin on his face. "You've got your old man's fighting spirit, I see."

Dean went to pistol-whip him, but he grabbed Dean's wrist in a death grip and started twisting. Dean dropped the gun, but the man didn't pick it up. Instead, he elbowed Dean in the face, making a crunching noise. Blood poured from Dean's nose, and he stumbled back. The man caught the front of his shirt and pulled him forward, punching him in the ribs. Dean punched the guy in the face, but it was sloppy and he did little more than flinch. With a smile, he threw Dean to the ground. Before Dean could get up, the man kicked him in the side of the head and everything went dark.

XXX

"Hello?" John said with a frown. He didn't recognize the number.

"Hey, John."

John stiffened. "Wilson."

"Yep, it's me. I've got your boy Dean here. We're spending some quality time together, the two of us. Ya know, he's not as good of a fighter as you. He's slow. And clumsy. You should really get on that."

"Don't you dare touch him Wilson, or I swear I will tear you limb from limb," John growled, his voice low and dangerous.

"If I were you, I wouldn't be making threats. You have something of mine, John, and I want it back. You give me what's mine, and I'll return what's yours."

John didn't attempt to keep the anger out of his voice. "Where?"

"We're in a warehouse, about 20 miles out of town. Northeast. It's pretty hard to miss."

"I'm coming, Wilson. And I am bringing all of hell with me."

"I look forward to seeing you too, John."

XXX

"Dean. Dean, wake up."

Dean opened his eyes groggily. "Dad?" he groaned.

"No, Dean. Sorry. Not dad. Just me," Wilson said, giving him a little pat on the cheek.

"Son of a bitch," Dean muttered as he came to, only to discover that he was handcuffed in a chair. "Son of a bitch! I'm gonna kill you!"

"My name's Wilson. Your dad and I aren't really the best of friends. See, he took something of mine, Dean. Something very valuable. And that pissed me off. For the past 15 years, your daddy has been hiding from me like the coward he is, and I've been waiting patiently for him to resurface, to poke his worthless head up for air. And all that waiting, it's finally paid off, Dean! Because now I have you. And your old man, he'll do anything to get you back. Anything." He leaned forward so his nose was almost touching Dean's. "At least, you better hope so, because I will get retribution."

Dean took this opportunity to spit in Wilson's face. Wilson smiled and wiped his face with his sleeve, then punched Dean in the face, hard enough to knock him (chair and all) to the ground. Dean coughed and spit blood onto the floor.

"Sorry about that. I have a short temper," Wilson explained, setting Dean and the chair back upright. "You know, Dean? John failed to teach you something very important."

"Oh, yeah? And what is that, Einstein?" Dean said, his snarkiness apparently unaffected by his situation.

Wilson smiled. "I like you, kid. You have…spirit. Anyway, you've grown up fighting monsters and demons and ghosts and witches and all the bad things in the world that go bump in the night. You know better than most the truth about what's really out there. But the truthis, Dean, some of the scariest monsters aren't really monsters at all. They're people. So even if you killed every bad thing out there, the world would still be a crappy place. Because of people like me. Thieves and murderers are always going to be out there. You can't just salt and burn bad people, Dean. You can't magic them away with Latin chants. They will always be there, like that scratch you just can't itch. Why do you even bother, Dean? What's the point?"

"Well, the way I see it, if I can make the world even a little better, if I can save lives, why not?" Dean answered with a little shrug.

"Is that really it, Dean? Is it really to help other people?"

Dean frowned. "What else would it be?"

"You're angry, Dean. Your mother was brutally slaughtered when you were only four. And now, your little brother has abandoned you and John. Now, what better way to get out that anger than to kill some evil sons of bitches? You like killing things, Dean. It gives you a savage pleasure. You have a desire that only blood can fill. Blood and revenge."

"You're insane," Dean said. "That's it. You're crazy."

"Maybe so. But aren't we all a little crazy?" Wilson said. He was pacing now, his hand folded behind his back and a thoughtful expression on his face.

"What is it you're after, Wilson? What did my dad take from you that you want back so badly?" Dean asked. The question had been burning in his mind for the past while.

Wilson paused in his pacing and turned to Dean. "He stole my amulet."

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me! Seriously? All of this crap over a stupid little good luck charm? What the hell, man!" Dean cried. He winced. Obviously yelling didn't help when you had a splitting headache.

"Hey, none of that! It's not just a good luck charm, Dean. It's the key to my immortality. At least, it was until your do-good daddy confiscated it and locked it up somewhere. Look at me! I haven't aged so well these last 15 years. The stress has really ruined my complexion. Believe me, I haven't always looked this way."

Dean just stared at him. There was nothing else he could do. "You're off your rocker! Entirely! I can understand why Dad wouldn't want you to be around forever. This world could do with less crazies."

Wilson picked up his phone. "It's been a while. I'm starting to wonder if John's going to show up after all. It's not like him to run away from a fight." He dialed the number and put the phone to his ear.

A faint ringing sounded outside the warehouse. Dean cursed. Wilson smiled and hung up.

"Hello, John!" he shouted. "I know you're there! Now, I want you to come in here, unarmed. You hear me? If I think I maybe catch a whiff of a weapon on you, I will shoot your boy in the face!" He pointed the gun at Dean. Dean glared at him venomously.

The warehouse door opened and John stepped inside. "Dean! Are you okay?"

"Ya know, I've been better, actually," Dean called back, grimacing.

"John! Good to see you again! It's been a while. How about giving me back my amulet?" Wilson said. "Come on, now. Don't be shy. It' not as though we haven't met."

John walked forward, his jaw tight, his eyes ablaze. He reached inside his coat and brought out a string of beads with a large amulet on it. "It's here."

"Toss it to me, John."

John took another step, and Wilson shoved the gun against Dean's temple. "Not another step! I said toss it!" he shouted, spit flying from his mouth.

John threw the amulet and Wilson caught it with a smile. "Thank you very much," he said. "Now I'm going to leave. And you will not follow me." He walked backwards toward the warehouse door, his gun aimed at Dean's head the entire time. And then he was gone.

"Dean!"John cried, rushing forward. He took a lock pick from his pocket and took off the handcuffs. He hauled Dean to his feet. "Are you alright?"

Dean swayed, and had to support himself on John's shoulder. "Nope. Not really." He reached up and wiped blood from his head, then gingerly fingered his nose, which was swollen. "Nope."

"Oh, you'll be fine. Come on. We have to leave before he-"

The warehouse door burst open.

"-finds out."

"You think I'm an idiot? You think you can pull the wool over my eyes, John? Huh? Is that it? Do you think I'm stupid?" Wilson screamed, waving his gun around. "You think I wouldn't notice this is a fake?" he threw the amulet to the ground. It shattered. "I'm going to kill you!"

"You're not really unarmed, are you?" Dean whispered.

"Of course not!" John hissed back, reaching into his boot. He whipped out his gun and fired, at the exact same moment Wilson did. Wilson staggered back a few steps, his hand clutching his chest. He looked down at the blood coating his hand, then looked up and locked eyes with Dean, a bemused look on his face, before collapsing.

John shoved his gun into his belt. "Let's go, Dean. Before the cops get here," he said, walking toward the door.

Dean nodded. "Yeah. I think maybe I should stay behind on this one."

John stopped and turned. "What are you talking about, Dean?"

Dean was looking down, his hand clamped to his stomach. "Son of a bitch," he muttered. He fell to his knees. He could see John running to him, kneeling, catching him. He could see John's mouth moving, his frantic face as he pulled out his cell phone. But he couldn't make out the words, couldn't feel John's hands holding him. He struggled to keep his eyes open, but there was nothing he could do as coldness seeped through his body, numbed his mind, and turned his world to black.

XXX

John sat anxiously in the ambulance, bouncing his legs, wringing his hands. "How long until we're there?" he asked for the millionth time.

"Just a few minutes, sir. The best thing you can do for your son is stay calm, okay?" one of the paramedics said patiently.

John nodded. Suddenly, Dean's eyes snapped open and he pulled off his oxygen mask. The paramedics started scrambling, but John grabbed one by the arm. "Let him talk!" he barked.

"Dad," Dean croaked.

"I'm here, Dean. What is it?"

"Don't tell Sammy," Dean murmured. His eyes fluttered shut, and the paramedics flew into a flurry of activity.

Someone pulled John away to the back of the ambulance, as far away from Dean as possible, and told him to sit. He opened his mouth to argue, but closed it as he realized that truly, the best thing he could do was stay out of the way. He closed his eyes and put his head between his hands.

XXX

Dean's awoke suddenly and blinked in the bright lights of the hospital room. He sat up, ignoring the pain, and pulled the I.V. out of his arm with a grunt. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and crossed the room to the closet. He opened it to discover his pants and coat hanging up and his shoes sitting on the bottom, although his shirt was nowhere to be found. Probably because it had a bullet hole in it and was covered with blood.

Dean examined the bandage wrapped around his midsection. There was no blood, which was a good sign. He gingerly pulled on his pants and coat and finally his shoes, and by the time he was dressed a small film of sweat had collected on his lip and forehead from the exertion. He heaved a sigh and went to the door of his room. He peeked out into the hallway. It was empty.

After only a few dozen feet, however, he had to pause and lean against the wall, panting from the effort. He shook his head and kept going until he heard footsteps coming from around the corner. He turned to a hand-washingstation and turned it on, keeping his head down as he washed his hands.

"Dean? What the hell are you doing?"

Dean looked up. "Dad! Hey! I'm getting the hell out of here what does it look like I'm doing?"

"Dean, you shouldn't be up. You got gut-shot. It's not like a shot in the shoulder where you just dig out the bullet, stitch it up, and you're fine. You should be resting. Especially considering how little sleep you've been getting lately. That can't be helping."

"I don't wanna be here. The nurses aren't even hot!"

"You obviously haven't met Hannah..."
"Come on, this is serious! The cops are gonna be sniffing around asking questions about that Wilson guy. Look, we should really just pack up and go! I'll be fine! We'll just drive a few towns over and find somewhere to lay low for a while until I'm back in shape."

"No. Dean, we're not leaving. Not until I finish the job."

"That's what this is about? The hunt? Screw the job, Dad! We need to leave!"

"I am going to finish this hunt! Just stay here a few more days and I'll get it done and we'll get out of here!"

"I'm not a kid any more! You can't just dump me somewhere while you go out and fight these things on your own! Either we leave, or I'm going with you."

"Dean, this is non-negotiable," John growled.

"I'm an adult! I'll make my own decisions. And that's my decision. You take me with you on this hunt or we go."

"You'll get us both killed!"

"Then let's go!"

"I'm not letting this shifter get away, Dean. So if you wanna come along, suit yourself! Just know if anything happens, or if that thing gets away, it's on your head. You hear me? If you screw this up, I'll likely kill you myself."

"Fine. I'm glad we've reached an agreement. Now how do we get out of this place?"

XXX

Dean unzipped his coat and let out a small groan. John glanced over. His bandage was soaked through with fresh blood.

"I told you, Dean. You should've stayed behind."

"Not a chance. I'm okay. Where is this son of a bitch hiding out?"

"Well, so far it looks like it's been going after all the local hot-shots. Taking on their forms and killing their families. I did some research, and I think I know who it might be now."

"Who?"

"His name's Cobb. He's a cop, but he became the town hero last summer after he pulled some kids from a burning building."

"Ah. It's a shame. This town's not gonna be the same. All the people they idolize butchering their families. It's no good."

John didn't say anything, just put in a tape of Led Zeppelin. Dean smiled and closed his eyes, falling asleep to Ramble On.

John looked over and shook his head, a small smile on his face. "This always was your favorite," he said quietly. He slowed down as he turned onto a suburban street, studying the house numbers until he came to address he was looking for. He reached over and opened the glove compartment and took out a camcorder. Dean didn't stir. John shook his head and got out of the car.

He rang the doorbell of the small house, the camcorder already recording and mostly hidden in his jacket. A young man- Cobb- Opened the door.

"Um...hi. Can I help you?" Cobb said uncertainly.

"Oh, uh...No. Sorry. I think I got the wrong address. Sorry," John said apologetically.

"Okay. Is there something I can help you find?"

John smiled goodnaturedly. "Oh you know men, Never ask for directions. Have a good night, sorry to interrupt."

"No biggie," Cobb said, closing the door. John walked back to the Impala and played back the recording. Sure enough, there was a retinal flare.

"I'm coming, you son of a bitch," John muttered under his breath. He checked his gun to make sure it was loaded, then looked in at Dean one more time. He was out.

John walked up to the house again and rang the doorbell. Cobb-the shapeshifter- opened the door and frowned.

"What's going on here? I thought you just said-"

"Relax," John said. "I just wanted to have a quick word."

Shifter Cobb came out onto the porch, closing the door behind him. "Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on here?"

"Cut it out. You know who I am, and I know what you are. You can stop pretending."

The shifter smiled. "Hello, again John. I was wondering if you'd be stupid enough to come after me a third time. Looks like you were. Where's your son?"

"Not here. Do you still happen to have my wallet? The one you stole that picture of Sam out of?" John asked.

"Oh, no. I threw that away as soon as I saw what I needed. Sorry. I hope that wasn't important to you."

John shrugged. "No big deal." He reached behind him and unsheathed the silver knife, taking it out slowly. "There wasn't much in there. Outdated photos, a few fake I.D's, and a little cash. It's probably best I got rid of it anyway. So, thanks. It was clever, what you did, disguising yourself in my son's meat suit the second time. You're a pretty fast one. I even thought you were an Alpha. Then I shot you in the shoulder with that silver bullet and you seemed pretty upset. And since Alpha's are only prone to iridium and decapitation, I figured you must just be another run-of-the-mill shapeshifter."

Shifter Cobb rubbed his shoulder. "Yeah, that one was a bit ppainful. I'm glad you came back, John. Now I can get revenge. And not just for the shoulder. For all of my fallen brothers that you and your hunter friends have butchered."

John pulled the knife from behind his back and struck. The thing smiled and grabbed John's wrist with his left hand and punched him in the face with his right. John stumbled back and the shifter took the knife from his hand, a wicked smile on its face.

"This it your reckoning, Winchester. And you know what? After I kill you, I am going to put on your meat-suit and kill your boys. Huh? Poetic justice."

Before John could stand Shifter Cobb kicked him in the chest. John landed on his back and coughed, the wind knocked from his lungs. The shifter knelt on the ground next to him, the knife in it's hand. "You hunters never learn. You think you're invincible, but you re not. You can get beaten and broken just like the rest of the people on this floating rock."

"Hey!"

The shifter looked up. Dean was standing, his face dark, a revolver in his hand, and pointed at it's chest. The shifter closed its eyes as Dean fired, the silver penetrating its heart. It fell to the ground beside John, who sat up.

"Good timing, Dean," he said, picking himself up off the ground. Dean gave him a weak half smile. John put an arm under Dean's and helped him back to the car.

The bandage was mostly red now.

"Whaddya say we go bunker down somewhere, wait for that to heal up?" John said.

"Sounds good," Dean answered tiredly, wincing slightly. He let out a sigh and closed his eyes. "Wake me up when we get there."

XXX