grianchloch: (victor)
[personal profile] grianchloch


Back to Master Post

Attending a seminar called “The Evil that Men Do” was something Victor Henriksen would later look back on and recognize it as a turning point in his life.

“Evil wears many masks.” Professor Nolan pointed at the screen and let the presentation scroll through head shots of several well known serial killers.

“And not all those masks are evil. It’s your job to look behind the mask, to see what’s kept hidden.”

Another face appeared on the screen, then another.

“It’s not an easy job, and we all know that in some cases, lives could have been spared if these people had been brought to justice earlier. So remember these masks when you interview suspects.”

Victor liked the professor’s lectures. He’d studied psychology at college and the need to know how people ticked had stayed with him and led him to join the FBI.

“What motivates these people to live above the law? To live by philosophies that allow them to mutilate and murder their fellow human beings? Traumatic events in childhood, witnessing violence, rejection by their peers. All are cited as reasons, yet not everyone who goes through similar events ends up a serial killer. It’s not always possible to identify the true motivations, to see behind the mask, but that’s what we must continue to strive for. To gain insights into the minds of these individuals.”

After the seminar, Victor hung back, waiting for the other agents who wanted to talk to the professor to finish so he could talk to him alone.

“I enjoyed your lecture, Professor.” Victor stuck out his hand and was rewarded with a firm handshake and a smile of pleasure from the older man.

“Thank you, Agent Henriksen.” The professor replied after a quick glance at Victor’s name badge and then the folder under his arm. “Now, what can I help you with?”

“A case came across my desk last week, credit card fraud, with possible links to organized crime. I’ve ruled out that connection, but I did some digging on the name, and it’s led me to some unusual places. I’d appreciate it if you could take a look at the file?”

The professor nodded and held out his hand. Now that it came down to it, Victor felt a strange reluctance to let it go, as if he was holding something unique in his hands that wasn’t to be shared. He coughed, inwardly rolling his eyes at himself, and passed the file over. Professor Nolan’s eyes lit up when he saw the name on the folder, and he smiled again.

“Victor. May I call you Victor?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Well then, Victor, I believe this conversation calls for decent coffee and something sweet to go with it. If you foot the bill, I’ll tell you what little I know about John Winchester.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~




Seconds after the bell rang, kids began pouring out of the high school in Albion. Sam was caught up in the stampede, hefting his backpack further onto his shoulder as he ran down the steps.

“Sam! Wait up!”

Sam pivoted around. A small red haired whirlwind was barreling her way towards him through the masses of escaping kids.

“Mom says I can come to your party on Saturday.”

“Hey Suzy. That’s cool.” Sam nodded, forcing his shoulders to relax as he smiled at her, struggling to keep a shit eating grin from bursting onto his face. He was still having a hard time believing that he was having a real birthday party. They were what normal kids had, yet the handful of his classmates that he’d invited had all said yes. He was walking in someone else’s shoes, someone who had friends and a normal life, and it felt good.

They fell into step as they walked towards the centre of the small town. Albion wasn’t the kind of place Sam and his family usually fitted in. It was bright and clean, it’s small marina bristling with a forest of gleaming white masts and the town had begun to fill up with tourists that flocked to the place every summer.

“Have you started your history assignment?” Suzy asked as they rounded the corner onto Main Street.

“It’s almost done. I’m gonna finish it off tonight.”

“Fast worker! Oh, there’s Marla.” Suzy waved to her older sister who was standing across the road. “Guess I’d better go. See you at lunch tomorrow?”

“Sure,” Sam grinned and waved as she trotted off.

Another couple of steps and he was at The Bean. He opened the door and the rich aroma of coffee enveloped him, mixed in with the tempting scent of freshly baked pastries and muffins and other sweet treats. He glanced around until he found Dean, busy serving coffee from behind the counter.

Dean grinned at him, and nodded in the direction of a small table in the far corner by the window that overlooked the marina. Sam made his way over to it and sat down, unloading the books he needed to do his homework. He was already deep into a chapter on the Civil War when Dean wandered over with a mango smoothie in one hand and a chocolate chip muffin on a plate in the other.

“Was that Suzy you were talking to outside?” Dean smirked. “That’s the third time this week, Sammy. I think she’s sweet on you.”

“Shut up, Dean.” Sam blushed and grabbed the muffin as Dean set his smoothie down on the table. Suzy was his friend, and sure, he’d seen her looking at him sometimes out of the corner of her eye, but he didn’t know enough about girls to know what that meant. And he wasn’t about to tell Dean that, because he didn’t want any more highly embarrassing instructional talks from him.

“I’ll be done in an hour. You got plenty to keep you busy?” Dean asked, smoothing down the smart black apron he was wearing. It had the name of the coffee house across the chest in yellow. Sam had teased him about having to wear it for the first few days after Dean got the job, but it didn’t bother his brother. Dean adapted to working in the coffee shop as easily as he adapted to every other change in their lives. Sam wished he could be that chameleon, but never settling, always having to move on and not look back, it wasn’t as easy for him. Four months in the same town was a luxury, and for once, Sam had been able to loosen up enough to make friends, knowing he’d be there for the rest of the school year.

“Yeah, plenty of homework.”

“Only you could sound happy about that, squirt.” Dean ruffled Sam’s hair and wove his way through tables back to the counter, picking up empty plates and mugs as he went.

Sam scowled and patted his hair flat again. He munched on his muffin, slurped down his smoothie and watched Dean work. Dean could talk to anyone or flirt with anyone, Sam supposed as he watched a table of girls giggling as Dean served them. No wonder he was taking more time in the bathroom every morning and wearing tighter jeans and t shirts than usual under his apron. Dean easily turned on the charm with the tourists that filled the place. It wasn’t just the girls he flirted with. He had an easy smile for the group of older women in the corner, and for the two guys sitting close together at the counter.

Sam wondered if he would be the same when he got older, be able to talk to people with such ease, or if it was something Dean had been born with that Sam would never grow into. He sighed, finished his muffin and concentrated on his homework. He only looked up when the harbor bell sounded to signal sunset. The Bean was almost empty, and he could see Dean chatting with Darcy, one of the other baristas. There was a small pile of cartons already sitting on the counter by the cash register, so Sam packed his books away, and waited for Dean to put his jacket on.

The biggest advantage of Dean working there, as far as Sam was concerned, was the food. Staff got a generous discount, and when that was added to the leftovers that they could take home every night, it meant that the Winchesters no longer existed on pizza and lucky charms. There were always salads left at the end of the day too, so Dean made sure he got enough to go with dinner and also for Sam’s lunches. It didn’t matter how much Dean teased him about liking rabbit food, as soon as he found out Sam liked something, he made a point of getting it for him again. The salad that came with avocado was Sam’s current favorite, and he eyed the cartons hopefully as he waited.

“You ready, Sam?” Dean picked up the cartons one by one and put them into a bag with the store’s logo on the side.

Sam grabbed up his book bag and gave Darcy a wave as he followed Dean to the door. Outside, they didn’t have long to wait. The Impala pulled onto Main Street, the low purr of her engine unmistakable. Sam glanced at his brother, smiling at the open appreciation on his face. She was soon going to be Dean’s, or so John had promised back in January on the day Dean had turned eighteen.

“Two more weeks,” Dean muttered almost to himself.

“Huh?”

“Two more weeks and she’ll be mine. Soon as this hunt’s over …” Dean trailed off, biting back the words Sam was trying not to think on.

”As soon as we leave town.”

Sam scowled as John pulled up beside them. If no-one said the words, he could pretend that this was their life now. That he could hang out with the friends he’d made over the summer and go back to the same school in the fall. That Dean would stay working at The Bean, that John would pick up handyman jobs and they could stay in the small house that Sam had come to think of as home.

He knew it was futile, knew that they’d be on their way within weeks, and everything he’d found in Albion would be left behind. Resentment twisted in his gut. He wrenched open the back door of the car and slung his book bag onto the seat, pushing it out of the way so he could climb in beside it.

“Sam,” John greeted him, short and to the point.

“Hey.” Sam’s reply was the same, and he stared out of the window as Dean got in and John pulled away.

“Hey Dad,” Dean was more cheerful. “Did the supplies arrive for the porch?”

Sam tuned out the conversation, and watched the town go by as they headed out, further on to where the houses thinned out and the trees thickened. Theirs was one of the smaller homes set back into the woods, the third one along the curve of road that disappeared deeper into the trees.

It didn’t matter how much Sam pretended it was theirs, in reality it belonged to Mrs Amanda Curtis, who’d lost her son fourteen years earlier to whatever it was that kept emerging to take victims. Sam had been fascinated that it’s hibernation time halved after each time it emerged, like it was on a countdown to something. He’d worked out the dates, doubling the figure every time. Dean had pointed out that they had no way of knowing how early it had started taking victims, but Sam continued to list the years. 1983, 1955, 1899. John had gotten a copy of an account in a diary dated 1787 and Sam had shivered at the thought of some ancient evil lurking in or around the small town.

Mrs Curtis and John had met through Caleb, and she’d given them the house to live in while John made preparations to hunt and kill the monster that had killed her son.

“No-one else. Promise me, John, no-one else will go through what I went through.” Mrs Curtis had taken John’s hand and held it tight.

Sam saw a rare moment of compassion when his father had nodded, and sworn that he would make sure no-one else would lose a son to it. He’d glanced over at Sam and Dean as he said it. Fierce protectiveness shone in his eyes, a reminder to Sam of how much John had already lost when he’d lost Mary.

The house hadn’t been lived in for several years, so a deal had been struck. Mrs Curtis would provide the basics so they could live in it if John and Dean would do the repairs that were necessary. It was something that fitted between Dean’s shifts at the Bean and John’s research. In fact it had helped with his research, as he didn’t have to come up with an excuse to talk to the locals. Mrs Curtis was happy to make sure that the neighbors got to know him, and that the store owners in town recognized him so he could get the supplies he needed for the house.

This time, they were posing as regular people, and it was working surprisingly well. Maybe that was why Sam couldn’t help feeling settled in the small town.

John pulled onto the driveway, and Sam clambered out.

“John!” Julie from the house next door hurried towards them, and Sam tensed.

Maybe she had found out that they were frauds, or maybe something terrible had happened before they’d expected it to. But she was smiling, and waving, so Sam relaxed a little.

“We’re having a get together for all the neighbors tonight and we’d love it if you’d join us.”

“Thanks Julie, but me and Dean were going to get some prep work done, now the boards have arrived.”

“Now John, you and your boys have got to eat, right? We’ve fired the barbecue up, and there’s beer chilling.” Julie grinned at both men, her gaze lingering on Dean.

“You’re right, Mrs M, we’ve gotta eat.” He held the bag in his hand up. “I’ve got chicken and salads from the Bean to go with whatever you’re cooking up.”

Sam rolled his eyes. Behind closed doors he’d heard Dean refer to her as the neighborhood cougar.

“Bring them on over.” She beamed. “And Dean, haven’t I told you to call me Julie?”

“That you have, Julie,” Dean winked.

“Okay, we’ll be over soon.” John gave in.

“Good, I’ll be waiting.” Her eyes raked over Dean again as she left.

“We could have done without that tonight,” John grumbled as they walked into the house.

“It’s all in the name of research,” Dean grinned, sobering when John scowled at him. “Darcy told me that Julie’s husband is rumored to have seen one of the abductions take place fourteen years ago. He was just a kid and he doesn’t like to talk about it unless he has a belly full of beer.”

“Huh. Good work. I’ll see if I can get him talking tonight.”

Dean beamed, basking in John’s praise. Not for the first time, Sam wondered if Dean would have been different if Mom had lived. Sam loved his Dad, but rebelling against the way of life that John had brought them up in was something that Sam couldn’t help doing. It itched under his skin, the need to question every decision, the need to force a reaction from John. He didn’t know where it came from, this craving to provoke his father into snapping at him, but he couldn’t help himself.

Dean had never done that. Sam couldn’t remember Dean ever asking John why they were doing something, or questioning his methods and Sam wondered why they were so different. The only time he could remember Dean talking back to John had been the previous summer, when Sam had stumbled during a hunt and ended up getting a deep wound the length of his forearm. John had begun lecturing him on where he’d gone wrong even before they’d gotten him back to the Impala. Once they were there, Dean had crawled into the back seat with Sam, and when John had chided him again, Dean had rounded on his father, growling that it could wait, that Sam was bleeding all over the seat, and John needed to drive.

The only time Dean had stood up to John had been when Sam was in danger.

Sam sighed and wondered if he could get out of going with them if he faked a headache, but he knew Dean would fuss, so he changed into his jeans and a clean t shirt as Dean and John went over strategy for the evening in the kitchen. The low rumble of their voices was somehow soothing, and Sam picked up his history book and read quietly until they were ready to go.

“Just don’t do anything stupid, okay?”

Sam looked up to see John staring pointedly at Dean.

“When I say keep Julie occupied, try and make sure she keeps her hands off you.”

Dean just grinned and grabbed the bag full of food. Sam had a pang of regret that he wouldn’t get to eat his favorite salad in peace.

“C’mon, Sammy, time to get us some barbecue.” Dean wiggled his eyebrows.

“It’s Sam,” Sam grumbled, and followed them out of the door.


Sam made sure he got the lion’s share of the avocado salad, then made his way over to the swing set at the back of the yard. It gave him the perfect spot to experience something he’d never thought he would. A neighborhood cook off. He sat on the swing, watching the younger kids playing, and watching Dean and John sharing beers and talking with the other guys as if they did it all the time. Sam wondered if he’d woken up in an alternate universe that morning, but grudgingly admitted that both Dean and John had to be good to pull this off.

He watched as they cut the herd, John corralling Julie’s husband with the offer of a decent whiskey, and Dean lassoing Julie, turning on the charm, flirting and flattering to keep her attention as John got the information he wanted.

Sam made a strategic strike at the cheesecake as the sun dipped low and the lights came on in the yard. He slunk back to the safety of the swings, with dessert and a beer that no-one had seen him take. Julie’s cheesecake wasn’t as good as the one he’d had at The Bean, but Sam ate it anyway, then raised the bottle to his lips. He’d tasted beer before, and wasn’t really keen on it, but he felt as if he were getting away with something he shouldn’t as he gulped down a few mouthfuls.

“If Dad sees you drinking, he’s gonna be pissed.”

Sam jumped as Dean’s hand landed on his shoulder. He pulled away and glared at Dean, but his brother reached out and took the bottle out of his hand.

“I swear, you do whatever it takes to piss him off.” Dean shook his head.

“I thought you were keeping Julie busy.”

“Dad gave me the nod. He must have what he needed.”

They both glanced around and saw Julie talking to another neighbor who’s name Sam couldn’t remember.

“So what’s with the beer?”

“Felt like it.” Sam shrugged.

“Look, I know you’re into this whole teenage rebellion thing ...”

“You’re still only eighteen, Dean!”

“Yeah, but I’m over it.”

“You never rebelled.”

“Course I did!”

“No, you didn’t.” Sam scuffed his shoe into the dirt under the swing, watching the little puffs of dust that eddied around his toe. He startled when the bottle appeared in front of him. When he didn’t take it, it jiggled until he did.

“There. I’m rebelling. I’ll get it in the neck if Dad knows I let you drink.”

Sam took the beer and drank down another couple of mouthfuls.

“Julie likes you.” Sam observed, a pleasant mellow feeling spreading outwards from his chest.

“Yeah, but she’s married, and she lives next door. This gig isn’t like any of the others.” Dean shook his head.

“I like it here,” Sam admitted, keeping his voice down in case the gods of hunters heard him and demanded they leave right now for the crime of getting attached to a town.

“I know you do.” Dean wiggled his swing closer, and bumped Sam. “I wish we could stay.”

“But we can’t. I know, it’s okay,” Sam tried to rationalize the situation. He didn’t want Dean to feel bad because they had to leave. He’d lay that blame firmly at John’s feet every time. Sam knew that there were so many things out there in the dark that could rip families apart. It had become their job to stop as many as possible from doing just that, and the sacrifices they made were worth it, even if it was hard for him to accept that he had to sacrifice his happiness for that right now.

“No, it’s not.” Dean shook his head. “You should be able to have a normal life, Sammy.”

For once, Sam didn’t correct him. There was so much longing in Dean’s voice that Sam almost choked up. He blamed the beer. As it got darker, they sat in silence, Sam half heartedly swinging backwards and forwards as Dean sat sentinel.


“Happy birthday dear Sammy, happy birthday to you!”

Sam blushed and squirmed in his seat.

“Candles, Sammy,” Dean reminded him with a grin.

Sam took a deep breath and let it out, extinguishing all fourteen candles. He smiled as his classmates cheered and fell on the cake as Dean doled out slices.

“Happy birthday, Sam.” Suzy appeared at his side, and before he knew what was happening, she kissed him on the cheek. Sam’s blush deepened and the small party hat on his head slipped forward. He fumbled at it to keep it from falling all the way off and smiled at Suzy.

Sam tried to duck out of the way when Dean pulled out his phone and took pictures, but Tom and Martin, who were fast becoming his best friends, held him fast.


John was back home by the time Dean and Sam got there. He hugged Sam and gave him his present. Sam’s eyes widened at the sight of the pile of old books, and he dug into them straight away. He was impressed that John had remembered which books he’d been looking at the last time they visited the bookstore. Now he’d be able to add a local flavor to his history report.

He carefully turned the pages of a book bound in worn red leather, stopping to study faded sketches of places that he was familiar with. But as engrossed as he was, he couldn’t help overhear the conversation in the kitchen.

“I messed up,” John sighed. “I thought I’d be able to stop it before it started. Fuck.”

“So we go back, go over everything, and make sure it doesn’t take anyone else.”

Sam peered around the corner, watching as John and Dean spread maps over the table and poured over them.

“Kirby Woods.” John got up and fetched two beers from the fridge.

“Looks like.” Dean sat back, rubbing a hand over his face.

“It’s a lot of ground to cover. They’re old and deep. I’ve asked Caleb to help out and he’s bringing a couple of hunters with him, but they won’t be here until the day after tomorrow.”

Sam edged into the kitchen, a book in his hand. “Look what I found.”

“Later, Sam, we’re in the middle of something.” Dean’s look said it all Don’t disturb him, not now.

“Yeah, I know. I heard you talking about Kirby Woods.” Sam laid his book on the table on top of the maps.

“Sam,” John warned, but Sam ignored his father and pointed at the open pages.

“There were mines in Kirby Woods.”

“No, there weren’t. Even old mines would be marked on the maps,” Dean explained.

“Not these. There’s no mention of them anywhere but here. Back in the early 1800s, there was a small mining operation out in the woods, but it was abandoned after a year because of the low yield. After all this time, there wouldn’t be any sign of mine workings left above ground. The forest would have reclaimed the land.”

John reached for the book, and read the entry. There was a small map that looked to be hand drawn, and John compared it to the more detailed modern map they’d been using, slowly nodding his head. Finally he looked up at Sam and smiled.

“You did good, son.”

Sam beamed at his Father’s praise.

“Okay boys, early night. I want to be ready to leave at 4am.”

“Yes sir,” they answered together and Sam headed to the small bedroom they shared. Sam was still awake when Dean followed him half an hour later.

“How was your birthday?”

“The best!” Sam enthused.

Dean smiled. “Okay, well, try and get some sleep,” he paused. “And tomorrow, on the hunt, stick close. We don’t know what we’re dealing with yet.”

“I will, Dean. I always do.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Sam stood, watching the scene in front of him with a detachment that didn’t make sense. He could see himself, his body broken and bleeding, limbs bent at impossible angles, lying in a clearing in the woods. Sharp flashes of memory cut across his line of sight making him start and step back.

Arms closed around him, lifting him off his feet as easily as if he’d been made of paper, then he was flying through the air, screaming as wicked talons slashed open his belly as he arced towards a tree which he hit so hard and so fast he heard the sickening crunch of bones breaking …

Then everything was quiet, a movie playing out in front of him without a sound track. John threw a flare at the monster, and scrambled to pick up the fallen homemade flame thrower, but it was gone by the time his fingers closed around it.

John let out a wail as he ran to his fallen sons. It set the hairs on the back of Sam’s neck prickling to hear such a broken sound come from a man he’d always thought of as indestructible.

Sam patted at his stomach and chest, but there wasn’t any pain. His fingers came away clean, and when he investigated further, he didn’t find any wounds. There was nothing that linked back to the scene he was watching unfold, and he began to feel lightheaded.

"Sammy! You okay?" Dean was suddenly there beside him, his hands settling on Sam’s shoulders. Then he pulled Sam closer, wrapping him up in his arms as if he were trying to keep him safe from further harm.

"Dean?" Sam looked up and Dean’s dazed and confused eyes looked back at him. "Yeah, I'm fine, but what happened, how are we … okay?"

Dean let Sam go, but kept a hand on his shoulder. "I dunno, something's not right. It's too quiet. Where the hell are we?" Dean’s attention was drawn to the grisly tableau under the trees and he watched, fascinated, as John worked on his body.

Sam glanced around. Something was walking towards them, out of what looked like the dawn, but that couldn't be right. The sun had already risen as they’d walked into the woods. A vague figure walked out of the light, solidifying as it got closer, until Sam could see it was a woman walking towards them.

"Dean," Sam hissed, digging his brother in the ribs to get his attention, and tugging him around so he could see the stranger.

Automatically, Dean pushed Sam behind him and glared at her.

"Who are you?"

"I've come for Sam," she smiled and Sam was struck for a second at how beautiful she was, but then her words permeated his brain and he gripped Dean’s arm tight.

"He's staying here with me," Dean growled.

“It’s his time.”

“Like hell it is, lady. Back off!” Dean yelled.

“It’s the way of things,” she tried to explain gently.

Sam glared at her from behind his brother, but Dean doubled over, clutching his stomach. He turned to Sam, panic on his face, and reached for him.

“Dean? What’s happening?”

“I don’t know! Hold on to my hand. Something’s pulling me away.”

Sam grasped his hand tightly, but he could feel Dean being taken away from him.

“No! Dean! Don’t leave me!”

“Never! Never gonna leave you!” As Dean fought against the pull, he tried desperately to hold on to Sam. “Stay with me, Sammy, promise me!”

“I swear!! Together, forever, right?”

“Forever! I swear!” Dean yelled, then his hand was wrenched away. “Sammy ……”

Sam was left standing on his own. In the clearing, he could see John pull Dean into his arms.

“Sammy, I’m Tessa, and it’s time to go,” she smiled and held out her hand.

“No.” Sam stood firm. “He’ll come back for me, he wouldn’t leave me.”

“You and Dean were hurt,” Tessa explained. “You died, but Dean didn’t. He can’t come back for you, Sam. He’ll live out the rest of his life, and perhaps you’ll see him again when it’s his time to die. But it’s time for you to move on.”

“No.” Sam wrapped his arms around himself as he shook his head. He looked over at his family. John wrapped a shirt around Dean’s torso, and carefully picked him up.

“You don’t have a choice, Sam.”

“Wanna bet? I know I can choose to stay, and that’s what I’m doing. I promised Dean I wouldn’t leave him.”

“It won’t be the same if you stay. You’ll be a ghost and eventually, you’ll turn into one of the things that you hunt. A vengeful spirit. Come with me. In time, Dean will understand.”

“NO!” Sam yelled, and threw himself backwards, out of the quiet place, back into a world full of blood and pain. It was his world, his and Dean’s, and he wasn’t about to let his brother down.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Sam sat curled up in the corner of the hospital room, knees pulled up to his chest. He’d tried sitting on the chair by Dean’s bed, but nurses would move it when they came to check on Dean and the last time John had visited, Sam had to jump out of the way, forgetting for a moment that his father couldn’t see him. And if he hung around in the room, busy nurses walked through him, which, although it didn’t cause him any pain, was a really disturbing experience. So the corner was safest. He could watch over Dean, watch the rise and fall of his chest, study his profile and try to wish away the bruises that marred his features.

Getting to the hospital had been the stuff of nightmares, not that Sam dreamed or even slept anymore. John had moved as fast as he could through the trees, abandoning the flare gun and other weapons they’d all carried into the woods, even leaving Sam’s body behind. He’d cradled his wounded son to his chest as if Dean were small again. Sam followed, unable to help, fretting until John had laid Dean down on the back seat of the Impala and Sam could see that Dean was at least still breathing.

The drive to the hospital had been frantic. When John took the road away from Albion, Sam screamed, holding onto Dean and cursing his father. He thought for long minutes that John was taking Dean away from medical help, but understood when the Impala hit the freeway and roared off in the direction of the city.

Dean shuddered, not quite gaining consciousness, but Sam saw John look in the rear view mirror and mutter under his breath.

“Hang in there, Dean, you gotta hang on in there, son.”

As soon as they pulled up in the emergency bay in front of the hospital, John was out of the car and shouting for help. A blur of nurses pulled Dean onto a gurney, gentle despite the urgency of the situation, and wheeled him away. Sam paused, seeing John sag as Dean was taken away from him. He should stay with his father, offer comfort, but John didn’t know he was there. Dean might, and Dean needed him too. Sam took off after the gurney, dodging between nurses and orderlies until he caught up with it just as it was being pushed into an operating room. Dean’s clothes were cut and pulled away, leaving him bared to the bright lights of the operating room. The three deep wounds across his stomach looked worse under the harsh lighting, gaping so dark that they were almost black, seeping blood and revealing things that should never see the light of day. Sam could have looked away, but he kept watching, making sure that Dean was put back together again.

And now Dean lay in recovery. Sam stayed by his side for the longest time before retreating to his corner. Sam didn’t feel tired. He knew that if he’d still been alive, he would be aching to sleep, but fighting it to watch over Dean. In this new state, he guessed he didn’t need sleep, so he watched, and waited for Dean to wake up.

Four hours later, Dean’s eyes moved beneath his lids. So intent was Sam’s scrutiny that he noticed it immediately. It was as if Dean were dreaming, and Sam wondered what he was seeing, if he was tracking monsters, or if he was reliving the attack. Then they stilled, and Sam could see the growing tension in his muscles. Dean’s eyes cracked open, no more than slits at first as he fought the drugs that had knocked him out.

Sam unfurled himself and walked towards the bed. There was another second of peace in the room before Dean shot upright, his injuries ignored as he looked around frantically.

“Sam! Sammy!” Dean screamed, dark memories dancing in his eyes.

“I’m here, Dean, right here. Please see me, please!” Sam pleaded, but Dean couldn’t hear him.

“Sammy!” Dean pulled the drip out of his arm, the pain not even registering, then he ripped the heart monitor from his chest, causing it to flat line and begin beeping loudly. “Sammy! Where are you?”

Sam reached for him, but his hands slipped through Dean’s shoulders. He wondered if Dean could remember everything, or if he thought that Sam was somewhere in the hospital, in another room being cared for and recovering.

Dean swung his legs over the side of the bed, wincing at the heavy cast dragging his left wrist down.

“Sammy!” Dean’s voice was hoarse and Sam realized that he hadn’t had anything to drink for a day or so. His throat must be sore on top of everything else, but he didn’t stop, he screamed at the top of his lungs as nursing staff poured through the door, easing him back into bed despite his struggles.

Sam retreated to his corner, sliding down the wall as Dean lashed out, his damaged arm hitting someone, his cry of pain mingled with their grunt. Sam saw one of the nurses slip a needle slip into Dean’s skin, and felt guilty relief that seconds later, Dean stopped screaming and lost the battle to stay awake.

Sam stayed in his corner until eventually, Dean was alone in the room again. He made his way to the bed, and climbed onto it to lie beside his brother. He reached out to touch Dean’s arm, steeling himself against the sickening lurch that had come last time he’d tried and failed to touch Dean. He concentrated hard, insisted to himself that his hand was solid, that he could do it, and let his hand rest on Dean’s arm.

Sam let out a sob when it worked, when he could feel Dean’s warm, dry skin beneath his fingers. It was a comfort, but also a lesson. If he could do that, then he could learn to do other things and maybe he could learn how to make Dean see him.

Sam didn’t know how long he lay there before he heard the low rumble of John’s voice out in the corridor in slivers of conversation with a nurse.

“... yelling for Sam.”

“... died recently, Dean’s not over it yet.”

“It won’t be long before he wakes up.”

The door opened and Sam raised his head to look at John. There was a fragility in the man, something he’d never seen before, and John’s hand trembled as he reached out and touched Dean’s face. He sat down in the chair next to the bed with a heavy thump, and took Dean’s hand.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” John repeated over and over. “I want him back too.” John’s voice cracked and Sam threw himself off the bed, and ran around it, throwing himself at John. When he impacted with a solid shoulder, Sam held on, hoping that in some way, his presence would help.

A nurse came in to check on Dean an hour after John arrived, and Dean began to wake up as she checked his dressings. Again, it took him a minute to remember where he was.

“Sammy?” Dean struggled to sit up, but John pushed him gently back down to the bed.

“Could I have a moment alone with my son?” John asked the nurse.

“Sure, I’ll be at the nurse’s station if you need me.” She left, closing the door behind her.

“Dad? Where’s Sam? Is he okay?” Dean croaked out.

John pressed a glass of water to Dean’s lips and helped him drink down enough to ease his throat.

“Dean, son ...” John looked at Dean, his eyes full of pain.

“No.” The scant color drained from Dean’s face and Sam thought he was going to pass out. Dean shook his head, refusing to accept what John was trying to tell him. His hand flew out, knocking the glass from John’s hand. It fell onto the bed, water splashing onto the blankets. “No, where is he? Where’s Sammy?” Dean began to yell, struggling as John pulled him into his arms.

“No, no, no ...” Dean chanted against John’s shoulder, hitting his father’s back with his good hand, raging at the world.

“I’m sorry, Dean.” John’s tears soaked into Dean’s hair as he held him tight. “He died in the woods.”

Dean sagged in John’s arms, sobbing against his shoulder, and Sam watched from the outside of his family as grief tore his brother apart more thoroughly than any monster ever could have.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Dean lay in the hospital bed, curled up on his side. He was facing the window, looking past the chair where Sam was sitting, but despite Sam’s best efforts, Dean still couldn’t see him. He just stared straight ahead as if his mind was blank, and Sam wondered if that was deliberate. The more animated Dean was, the more it seemed as If insanity threatened to tip him over the edge. Sam had crowded against him as he’d cried until he couldn’t any more, as he’d yelled and raged at John until he’d needed to be sedated again.

John had held Dean tight, and whispered to him that he had to stay quiet, not to talk about Sam’s death. It would have been too hard to explain away to the authorities, and Sam could see that Dean got that by the set of his jaw, but it was hard for him to stick to the cover story.

Sam knew that John had spun the nurses a tale to explain Dean’s outbursts but Sam had pushed down his natural curiosity and stayed with Dean while John talked quietly to the nurses outside the room. He didn’t care what John had told them. He couldn’t bring himself to care about anything but Dean anymore.

“Dean, sweetie, you haven’t eaten anything,” Lesley, one of the nurses that had been taking care of Dean chided. “You need to keep your strength up.”

“Not hungry.” Dean didn’t move, and he didn’t react when she squeezed his shoulder.

“I’ll leave the fruit in case you get hungry later.”

“Thanks.” It was an automatic response.

Lesley cleared away the now cold food, and left the door open behind her. The nurses had all taken to looking in on Dean on their way past. Sam was grateful for their concern about Dean’s lack of responsiveness. He’d done his best to make Dean see him, to make his brother understand that he was still around, but nothing worked. Sam had concentrated so hard he’d given himself a headache he logically knew he couldn’t have, and still nothing. Sam sighed, bending forward and wiggling his fingers in front of Dean’s face.

“Back in black!” Sam sang, but there was still no reaction. He got up and strode towards the door, peeking out into the corridor. He didn’t know yet how it worked. Most spirits were tied to something, but Sam hadn’t worked out what he was tied to. If he didn’t know better, he’d have said he was tied to Dean. Sam took a couple of steps outside the small room that had become Dean’s world, then froze. Down at the nurse’s station were two men in suits and being the hunter’s brat that he was, Sam recognised them instantly.

“Feds!” Sam slunk back into Dean’s room.

He jumped on the end of Dean’s bed, trying a different tactic to get his attention.

“Dean, man, there’s Feds in the hall,” Sam hissed, then rolled his eyes at himself, and started yelling. It wasn’t like anyone could hear him anyway.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


At the nurse’s station, Lesley smiled at the two men who flashed IDs at her.

“I’m Special Agent Victor Henriksen, this is Special Agent Calvin Reidy. We’d like to ask a patient of yours some questions.”

“Who is it you want to speak to?”

“Dean Armstrong. It’s in connection with the disappearances in Albion.”

“I’ll go and see if he’s awake.”

Victor watched Lesley heading for Dean’s room, and hung back.

“What are the chances that this kid knows anything?” Reidy asked his partner.

“Slim, but the timeframe fits. He was attacked after the first abduction. Could be he was the intended second victim.”

“Could be,” Reidy speculated. “So what do you make of the similarities between these abductions and the ones fourteen years ago?”

“It’s a long time for a serial killer to stay dormant. The stranger thing is that there were three abductions twenty eight years before that in 1955 in the same town. There’s something weird about Albion.”

Nurse Lesley emerged from Dean’s room, and they walked towards her.

“He doesn’t want to talk to anyone.”

“Is there any medical reason he shouldn’t talk to us?” Henriksen asked. “It’s important to see if he can remember any details of his attacker. It might help us find the missing men.”

“Under the circumstances, you can see him for five minutes, but don’t expect much. He lost his brother a few months back. He’s still pretty traumatised about the loss and then there’s been the attack for him to deal with.”

“Thank you, we’ll keep it brief,” Victor smiled and turned to head down to Dean’s room, but he paused. “Do you know how his brother died?”

“No,” Lesley answered. “But he wakes up in the night screaming for his Sammy. It’s heartbreaking. So I’d appreciate it if you kept it brief?”

“Sure thing.” Henriksen smiled at her and waited until she walked away before turning to Reidy. “Sammy. Dean Armstrong’s brother was called Sammy.”

A shiver crawled its way down Victor’s spine. Two brothers, Dean and Sam. He knew it had to be a coincidence, that the Winchesters couldn’t have been the only ones to call their kids Dean and Sam, but the possibility that he was going to find something more than a possible witness lying in the hospital bed made him almost giddy with anticipation. He took a deep breath to steady himself, glancing at Reidy who was eyeing him with concern.

“So?”

“So what if his last name isn’t really Armstrong. What if it’s Winchester?”

“Vic,” Reidy started, but paused, then reluctantly nodded.

“Let me do the talking.”

“Don’t I always?” Reidy grumbled.

Victor walked into the room first. He immediately took in the handful of cards and a vase of tired flowers that stood on the nightstand. Who would send Dean Armstrong flowers, he wondered? And would anyone send Dean Winchester flowers?

“I’m sorry to disturb you. I’m Special Agent Henriksen, this is Special Agent Reidy. We’re investigating the disappearances of three men in the last few weeks.”

His introduction was greeted with silence, but Victor gave the young man in the bed a moment more, and was rewarded with little more than a whisper.

“What do you want?”

“Can you confirm your name for me? It’s Dean, right? Dean ...”

“Armstrong.”

It would have been too easy for the kid to mess up on something so simple, but Victor knew how to play the game. At the same time, he had to keep in mind that he might be wrong, although his well honed instincts were screaming at him that he was right.

“And you were attacked in Kirby woods, to the north of Albion?”

“Yes.”

Victor pursed his lips. Was he being made to work for every answer or was this an innocent kid who got caught in the woods by a predator?

“What can you tell me about your attacker?”

Dean sighed, and uncurled enough to sit on the bed. When he looked up, Victor was surprised by Dean’s eyes. Dull and listless, they were empty, devoid of all emotion.

“Like I told the cops, he came at me from behind, knocked me out. The next thing I know, I’m waking up in here. Broken wrist, slashed stomach and one hell of a concussion.”

“Who found you?”

“My Dad. I’d gone for a walk and when I was late back, he came looking for me.”

Which was what the police report said, but Victor couldn’t help reading between the lines. He wondered if knowing that Dean had a brother called Sam was making him project his hopes onto the case. His hopes that John Winchester was in some way involved with the abductions, and that Victor would finally be able to bring him in. But he knew he had to be one hundred percent certain that his hunch was correct before making a move.

“He’s got you on a tight curfew,” Reidy observed.

“Yeah, well,” Dean hesitated. “I’m all he’s got left.”

“Sorry about your brother.” Henriksen noted the way Dean’s eyes flickered downwards, the clench of his jaw and the way his mouth tensed. He could press the kid further, but he could see he was too close to the edge. Victor had dealt with his fair share of grief stricken relatives over the years, and Dean was reacting like he’d just lost Sam, not like he’d died months earlier. Henriksen wondered if the attack was to blame, or if there was more to the whole situation than appeared on the surface.

“How long have you lived in Albion?”

“Four months, and like I told the cops, I didn’t know the men who went missing,” Dean sighed. “I don’t know what else you want me to say.” He scrubbed a weary hand over his face.

Victor watched the movement. He took in everything he could about the kid; the slump of his shoulders, the amulet around his neck, the way he cradled his injured arm, and the way those dead eyes still scanned the room as if checking out escape routes. That was what sealed the deal. Whatever he’d been through, however his brother had died, there were deep survival instincts working in Dean. For the moment, Victor was the hunter, the one with all the advantages, but he had no doubt that the kid would prove to be as elusive as his father, given the chance. The interview was over, they both knew that.

“Well, if you think of anything else, give me a call.” Victor slipped a card out of his pocket and held it out to Dean. Dean looked up at him, but didn’t take the card from his fingers so Victor laid it down on the table across the bed and nodded to Dean. “Thanks for your help.”

Reidy opened the door, and Victor followed him out but paused in the doorway.

“Just one more thing. Do you know a John Winchester?”

Dean shook his head. “Never heard of him.”

Not a flicker of reaction or emotion, nothing. Victor wanted badly to believe that it was because Dean was too well schooled in deception to let anything slip and not because he was wrong about who Dean was.

“Okay, thanks.” Victor nodded and walked back up the corridor towards the nurse’s station, followed by Reidy, who caught hold of his arm.

“You really think that’s Winchester’s kid?”

“I don’t believe in coincidences, Cal. There was activity on one of Winchester’s known credit cards four months ago on the other side of the state, a state we’ve had no activity in before. Get someone to the address that’s on file for him. I want that town shaken until John Winchester falls out of it.”

Reidy pulled out his cell as they reached the nurse’s station on the way out. Nurse Lesley looked up as Victor approached.

“Thanks for letting us see Dean. Now, his father. What’s his full name?”

“John Armstrong.”

“And what’s he look like? We just need to rule him out of our enquiries.” Victor smiled.

“I’ve only seen him once, he’s not visited much.” The disapproval was plain in her voice. “He’s tall, dark hair, beard. Dark eyes, I think. Sorry, as I say, I only saw him the once.”

“No, that’s very useful. Thanks.”

He joined Reidy and as they left, he arranged for the hospital to be watched.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Before Henriksen got as far as the nurse’s station, Sam was peeking out of the door again. Dean needed to stay, to finish healing, but he was vulnerable on his own in the hospital. Sam yelped as the door to the room closed through him, and he jumped back inside, patting himself down to make sure he was still in one piece. Dean was leaning back against the now shut door hugging his stomach. He was obviously in pain, and Sam’s feeling of helplessness cranked up another notch. He should be able to help Dean, slip under his shoulder and help him back to the bed, or ask Nurse Lesley to give him more painkillers. But he guessed that right now Dean couldn’t afford to take anything that might dull his senses. Sam watched as Dean stumbled back to the bed, picked up his phone, and hit speed dial. He sat down to catch his breath as it rang.

“Feds. They know who Dad is. Is he gone?”

Sam guessed Dean was talking to Bobby or maybe Caleb. There was a pause, then Dean nodded.

“Okay, thanks, I’ll be there in ten.” Dean rang off, closing his eyes for a moment while he tried to focus on what he had to do.

“Dean, quick, before they come back,” Sam urged, ready to tear his hair out with frustration.

Dean snorted with laughter edged in hysteria, swallowing it down and composing himself.

“’kay Sammy,” Dean whispered and pulled his clothes out of the locker beside the bed, pulling them on and wincing when he fastened his jeans over the thick dressing around his middle.

“You ... you can hear me?” Sam stared at his brother, but Dean didn’t answer. “Dean!”

But Dean was engrossed in tying the laces on his boots and finding his jacket. Sam followed closely as Dean slipped into the corridor, heading in the opposite direction to the nurse’s station. An escape route from his room had been the first thing that John had made sure Dean knew, after Dean had finished crying over the news of Sam’s death. Sam had watched as his father gave Dean instructions, understanding that it was how John coped. He threw himself into the practicalities of hunting, of living like they did, always aware of danger, always preparing ways to counter it. John hadn’t visited Dean much in case he was recognised, and what may have sounded paranoia, had proven to be necessary caution.

Once he was outside, Dean pulled his jacket tighter around himself. It was a warm enough day, but Sam could see shivers running through him. Sam hadn’t been able to hear the other side of the conversation on the phone, so he didn’t know where Dean was headed. Sam ran ahead, looping back to check on Dean, watching out for any car or truck that he recognised or that looked like it might belong to a hunter. He was so busy looking for Caleb’s truck that seeing the Impala parked up on a side street came as a shock. He ran back to Dean, urging him on.

“It’s not far, Dean. Dad’s waiting for you.”

“Yeah, right,” Dean muttered under his breath.

Sam skidded to a halt.

“You can hear me!”

“Dunno who’s coming to pick me up, but it won’t be Dad,” Dean muttered. “He’ll be miles away by now. He wouldn’t risk getting picked up by the Feds.”

Dean rounded the corner and huffed out a sob at the sight of the Impala sitting waiting for him. He looked around as if the Agents from the hospital were waiting to jump out of the bushes as soon as John showed his face, but the door opened, and John stepped out, putting a hand on Dean’s shoulder as he reached him, and pulling him into a brief hug. Sam envied Dean the contact, and saw what John didn’t. The way Dean’s face softened during the short embrace, the way his eyes closed as he soaked up every ounce of comfort he could. John eased Dean away and helped him onto the back seat of the car.

“You shouldn’t have come, you should have sent someone else,” Dean chided as he slid along the seat.

“I wasn’t going to let anyone else pick you up. You’re my son, Dean.” There was a catch in his voice that he cleared away with a cough. “You hurting?”

“Yes sir.”

“Take two of these. They’ll help until we get to the safe house.” John passed a bottle of pills and a bottle of water to Dean.

Dean dutifully took them as ordered, and lay down, stretching out as best he could and pulling a blanket around himself. Sam curled up beside him, burrowing against his side, wishing he still had body heat to help keep Dean warm. Dean sighed and seemed to lean into Sam.

“Dean,” Sam whispered, but Dean was already asleep.

Sam hoped John had managed to grab all their stuff from the house before he’d left. Left their home. It had been the first place Sam had felt settled for a long time, and he knew that Dean had felt the same. In one way he was glad that he didn’t have to go back. It held so many memories from the four short months they’d lived there. But in another way, he wished he could have said goodbye to it, lingered for a while within the rooms he and Dean had laughed in together.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Victor strode into the small house in Albion, taking in the handful of forensics people going over every surface, opening every cupboard and drawer.

“What have we got?”

“Well, sir …” one of the techs stammered out.

Henriksen held up a finger in warning. “Don’t tell me there’s nothing here.”

The tall wiry man took a breath, bit his lip and tried to figure out a way to let Henriksen down gently, but there wasn’t one. He sighed as his shoulders slumped. “We’ve got nothing. Not a single print. There were a few hairs in one of the bedrooms, and we’re sending them for analysis, but that’s it. Looks like the place was cleaned. Professionally.”

Henriksen gritted his teeth, and looked around. The place was an empty shell. He stormed out onto the porch as Reidy came up the steps.

“Tell me you’ve got something. Anything.” Victor growled.

“Nothing that’s going to lead you to find Winchester any time soon, and I don’t know if he’s involved in the disappearances or not, but something doesn’t add up.”

Victor made an impatient ‘continue’ gesture with his hand.

“Dean said his brother died four months ago, right? Well, according to the neighbors, Sam Armstrong was alive and well and going to school here in town until the day before Dean was attacked.”

“What?” Henriksen thought back to how Dean had looked and acted, as if the loss of his brother had been very recent.

“No-one’s seen him since. According to Mrs Julie Brownlee across the way, John Armstrong told her that Sam’s gone to stay with relatives while Dean is in hospital. She said Armstrong seemed devastated, and withdrawn, and that they’d been such a nice family. They were living here and fixing the place up for the owner and Dean worked as a barista in a coffee house in town. I think we should go check it out.”

But Victor was already pulling his phone out of his pocket, cursing under his breath.

“The team watching the hospital? Get them inside. If anyone tries to get close to Dean Armstrong, arrest them, and he doesn’t go anywhere until I say so. Got it?”

When he got a call back ten minutes later, he knew it couldn’t be good news.

“Sir? Armstrong was gone when we got there. I’ve got a team out searching the immediate area, and I’ll let you know when we find him.”

“If he got out, you won’t find him.” Victor rang off and looked heavenward. “Damn it!”

“Let’s go talk to the owner of the coffee shop.” Reidy tried to placate Victor. “I’ll buy you a latte.” He slapped Victor on the back and headed off to the car. Victor turned to look at the house. John Winchester had lived there for months. He’d socialized with the neighbors, and acted like an ordinary man bringing up a family on his own.

Why? Why had he been in Albion. Victor doubted he was the person responsible for the abductions, it wasn’t his usual MO, but that meant there was something else going on in the town. Victor couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a connection, but he just couldn’t put his finger on it. And then there was Dean. Little more than a kid, he must have pulled himself out of his hospital bed soon after Victor had spoken to him, and disappeared.

The sound of Reidy turning the car’s engine up stirred Victor from his thoughts. He got in and slammed the door, wondering what other revelations waited for them in the town.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


The safe house that John drove them to turned out to be an apartment that Caleb had arranged for them through a friend of a friend.

John helped Dean out of the Impala and up the stairs, going back to get their stuff once he’d gotten Dean set up in the bedroom. Dean slept for hours, so Sam wandered round the apartment, and outside to lean over the railings and peer down into the yard below. He followed John as he set up a TV for Dean in the bedroom and then sat at the table in the small kitchen to eat a bowl of soup. Sam noted the dark circles under John’s eyes, the way his shoulders, usually strong and sturdy, hunched as he sat. His father looked exhausted, and Sam wished he could do something to make him feel better. Even just a hug, something that Sam wished he’d demanded more of now that he’d never be swept up in John’s arms again.

Sam wandered away, leaving John alone with his grief. He trailed his hand along the patterned wallpaper in the hall as he went back to Dean’s room and then walked through the door. He was getting a better grip on how to switch from being solid enough to touch some things to being able to pass through others. It was a while before Dean began to stir, and by that time, Sam had explored every corner of the bedroom, jumping in and out of the closet , seeing how quickly he could go from corporal to not and back again, occasionally slamming into the door so hard, it rattled on its hinges.

Behind him, Dean sighed and shifted on the bed. Sam raced over and jumped onto it, staring into Dean’s face, but Dean looked straight through him at the TV that hadn’t been there when he arrived. He reached out for the remote that John had left on the bed, and turned it on, flicking through the channels until he found some action movie that Sam didn’t recognise.

The sound of the bedroom door opening caught both their attentions, and Dean gingerly sat up, an arm protectively draped over his stomach. John carried a bowl of soup with him which he set down on the nightstand.

“I thought you might be hungry,” John said.

Sam found that his ghostly status gave him a vantage point that he’d never had before. He could really study what was going on with his family. The way John was standing, and the way he was alternately looking at Dean, then over at the TV spoke volumes. He was uncomfortable, unsure what to say. Sam wanted to take his hand, and tug him forward, make him sit down and talk to Dean. But even if he hadn’t been a ghost, he doubted he could have pulled off that particular miracle. Talking about feelings wasn’t something Winchesters did.

“Thanks.” Dean eyed the soup, but didn’t make a move to pick up the bowl.

“How’s your stomach?”

“Okay. Pain pills are wearing off.”

“Eat your soup and I’ll bring you more. I’ve called doctor Bob, he should be here tomorrow to check you over.”

John had his hand on the door handle when Dean spoke again.

“Why did you tell the nurses Sam died months ago?”

“I couldn’t risk them looking into his death. Explaining how you were injured was stretching things enough as it was.”

“So why tell them he died at all?”

John walked slowly back to the bed and this time, he sat down. Sam moved closer to them.

“I didn’t, Dean. Every time you woke up, you were screaming for him, wanting to know if he was okay, where he was, how bad he was. I had to come up with something that would explain why you were so distraught.”

Dean nodded.

“What did happen?”

“I told you Dean, he died in the woods.”

“Look, Dad, I can’t remember much, all I’ve got is a head full of broken memories. I need to know.”

John sighed and took a breath. For a moment, Sam thought he was going to refuse to answer Dean, but then he seemed to deflate and he looked down at his hands.

“It wasn’t a Wendigo, truth is I still don’t know what it was. It came out of nowhere. I saw Sam dance ahead, and you ran to catch up with him. Next thing I know … it picked him up and threw him against a tree, but it clawed him … clawed him open with its other hand and he was dead by the time he hit the ground. You ran straight for it, damn you Dean, I thought I’d lost the both of you,” John paused, visibly shaken. “It slashed you open and went in for the kill, but I had the machete in my hand, and forced it back. Then it disappeared as quickly as it arrived.”

“We were an hour in? You … carried me all that way out of the woods?”

“I patched you up as best I could and took you back to the car. I had to leave him behind.” A tear rolled down John’s cheek. “I called Caleb with co-ordinates and he went in and brought Sammy out. We … we gave him a hunter’s send off.”

Sam watched as Dean reached out and slipped his fingers under John’s hand, just like Sam used to do when he saw that Dean was upset about something. John’s fingers tightened, and they sat there together, nothing left to say.

Sam thought he would have felt something when they burned him, but he hadn’t even thought about what happened to what was left of him. He was too caught up in making sure that Dean was okay. Now Sam shuddered, the reality of his situation beginning to dawn on him. He snuggled up against Dean, and felt his brother relax a little, as if he could feel Sam was there with them. When Dean looked up at John, he gave him a sad smile.

“Okay kiddo, you must be hungry, and you need to keep your strength up. Eat your soup.”

“People keep telling me that,” Dean grumbled.

John nodded and got to his feet. He bent down, and kissed Dean on the forehead before he left the room. Dean closed his eyes, letting the tears that that had filled his eyes leak from the corners and run down his cheeks. Sam moved closer, miserable and frustrated at not being able to do anything to help Dean or John feel better.

Part Two

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