Dean groaned in disgust
when the mysterious stickiness plastered onto the cheap
mica table top clung mercilessly to his prized leather
jacket. A rolling broken sound close to that of removing
day old duct tape was heard as he jerked his arm away
from the offending substance only to discover the grime
had formed a filmy layer on the sleeve anyway. With
a miserable sigh, the sandy-haired Winchester sat further
up in the seat knowing full well that the booth's slimy
crust had to be ten times worse.
Averting his attention
lest he call Health Services, Dean garnered a look over
at his brother. The last string of hunts had left behind
slightly sunken features for the both of them, but that
didn’t mean he was used to seeing them on Sam;
because little brother’s were always ten times
worse than his own.
It seemed the more they
found out, the more confusion came into play. And Dean
was beginning to find out that it took a lot more manipulation
and coercion than he was willing to give to pry Sam
off the laptop during “free time” after
everything that had happened. All his brother wanted
to do was research until he was blue in the face. As
if Google held the magical answer to 'what to do when
ancient demons are on your ass' he was looking for.
the current moment, Sam's insanely long brown locks
were nearly touching the luminescent screen and Dean
had to smirk at his intense rapture in whatever the
hell he was reading, although all that searching made
his younger brother a horrible roommate. Sam wasn’t
giving him any material whatsoever and Dean was running
out of geek jokes faster than he could piece new ones
together. Not to mention the silence and steady click
clack of the computer keys were about to drive him damn
Normally, he'd find the
uber-wannabe librarian routine humorous but he couldn’t
help worry a bit at the constant vigil Sam was holding
in Wikipedia's honor. The dark circles under Sam's eyes
and the paled features were only the beginning of the
list. It was unnatural for anyone to have such an undying
love for search engines, plus Sam hadn’t even
commented on the resident deep coating of filth covering
every inch of Dave's Truck Stop Diner, something he
was more than ready to do whenever they usually entered
equally fine establishments. His brother was simply
zoned out, had been for days, clearly enamored with
the hunt for a change.
Dean was about to comment
on the shift too, until a greasy plate was shoved with
a loud thud in front of him, the smell combined with
the presentation causing him to slam his open trap shut.
He couldn’t help but wonder if the plate weighed
more due to the small yellow-brown pool of indeterminate
liquid encircling his meal. His face clouded with a
grimace and he looked helplessly back towards Sam who
returned the look after seeing his own wilted salad.
“You gonna eat that?”
Sam asked curiously and eyed the lumpy potatoes and
what had to be beef reheated ten times over.
Dean let his eyes linger
on the swollen reddish brown littering Sam’s salad
and offered his challenge. “Only if you eat yours,
Sam stabbed his fork into
one of the reddish circles spearing it and bringing
it up to Dean’s eye level. “No way in hell
that’s a tomato.”
this is supposed to be a steak.” Dean laughed,
pointing accusingly at the shriveled meat. “I
say we stick to places that have the words Burger and
King in the name from now on.”
“Right, cause who
needs arteries.” Sam scoffed and pushed his plate
further off to the side to resituate the laptop, turning
it towards Dean. “Okay, I think I got something.”
“You mean all this
time you haven’t been scouring for porn? I’m
disappointed, Sammy. I thought I taught you better than
that.” Dean appeared chagrined, but a smirk broke
on his face when Sam huffed in irritation.
two windows on the screen, Sam almost pushed the laptop
into his brother. “You know, not everything is
about sex, Dean. Some people actually think of, oh hell,
I don’t know, work maybe…”
“But do those people
get laid?” Dean shot back, as close to serious
as he could muster, cocking his head as if daring Sam
to defy his reasoning. “Probably not.”
rolled his eyes at his older brother’s insistence,
and tapped the keyboard to redirect Dean’s attention.
Dean snarked, but he acquiesced anyway, albeit grudgingly.
“Couldn’t you just tell me?”
deprive you of that big successful feeling knowing Hooked
on Phonics worked for you?” Sam mocked, acting
nothing short of appalled by the suggestion.
mad ‘cause they failed you the first time, O king
of the reading circle,” Dean retorted without
peeling his eyes away from the screen.
can’t fail Hooked on Phonics, Dean.”
Sam protested unnecessarily.
Dean’s eyes shone
mischievously as he flicked his sight toward his brother
quickly. “Well, that says something about you,
don’t it, Sammy?”
Sam sighed heavily, “God
now. I’m busy…reading.”
The silver fork slammed
into a wrinkled cucumber this time as Sam tried to ignore
the fact that his brother had just likened himself to
God and shook his head in disbelieving bewilderment.
He noticed Dean’s cooling lunch had acquired a
putrid smell as the minutes ticked on, and Sam waited
rather impatiently for his brother to finish the articles
he’d pulled up just so they could leave. Dean,
however, was dragging out the process, he was sure,
and his steady stream of ‘huhs’ and ‘okays’
were becoming more and more grating by the second.
“Are you done yet?”
Sam crossed his arms over his chest, and offered a ‘you’d
better be’ look for added measure.
drawled, his boredom with the articles more than evident.
“Dude, what are you smoking? This is so not our
kind of thing.”
Sam’s hands gripped
the edge of the table. “Well, I think it is.”
“Want to know what
I think?” Dean chirped but didn’t wait for
an answer, “I think that you’re focusing
too much on those “personal” calls. All
that heavy breathing is messing up your brain, dude.”
“No thanks to you,”
Sam muttered bitterly, spinning the laptop back to face
him and reviewing his find.
that Risa chick sounded pretty cool,” Dean joked
and began to saw into the stiff meat prepared on his
Sam’s eyes widened
and his stomach lurched at what his older brother seemed
ready to attempt. “Ugh, don’t, Dean. Just
“I can’t get
her number if it doesn’t look like I actually
ate the damn thing,” Dean replied smugly and proceeded
to spread the gooey white mess over the chipped plate.
you when you were a baby didn’t they?” Sam
asked with mock concern as he watched Dean’s apparently
mastered process of looking like he’d eaten a
full meal. “Would it kill you to focus for a second
and actually concentrate on our next job?”
Dean snapped his head
up, his eyes lit with resistance. “I already told
you, Sam, that’s not our kind of thing.”
a deep breath, Sam chose to blatantly ignore Dean and
began reading aloud. “Dr. Larry Mills, a professor
of Microbiology at Britannia College in Dale, Pennsylvania,
was found paralyzed in his bed after attending a staff
party the night before.”
sandy-haired Winchester interrupted, his hands gesturing
for Sam to fall silent. “Paralysis sucks, but
that’s more like Dr. Quinn’s thing right?”
“Yeah, but how many
5K runners in perfect health just wake up paralyzed?”
Sam asked incredulously, his forehead creased in thought.
Dean shrugged. “I
don’t know. But it’s probably some freak
“Or some freak supernatural
thing,” Sam offered with a grunt as he reached
across the table and snatched their father’s journal.
“It’s been almost three days and, according
to this, the doctors have nothing.”
Dean surveyed his brother’s
quick flipping of the journal’s well worn pages.
“I’ve never heard of anything that could
do something like that though.”
Sam agreed absently, and damn if he didn’t sound
intrigued when he brought his head up from the binding.
“All the more reason to go, Dean. Dad hasn’t
called or left a message in a while, and it’s
either this or a rumored-to-be-haunted chicken farm
“I like chicken,”
Dean assuaged with a smirk.
Sam closed the journal
and gathered his stuff. “You never eat it.”
“Why would I eat
something I like, Sammy?” Dean questioned openly,
refusing to move from his seat.
logic for you,” Sam rolled his eyes and heaved
an exasperated breath causing the long bangs adorning
his forehead to lift slightly. “C’mon, you
have to admit this is a little bit interesting.”
“Okay, maybe. But
if this turns out to be an episode of Quincy M.D. you
have to detail the Impala,” Dean bargained but
it was to empty air because Sam was already halfway
out the door before he even finished. Annoyed, Dean
pursed his lips and dragged himself out of the booth’s
bench, grumbling under his breath. “Paralysis.
Yep, you officially lost it psychic boy.”
* * * *
sunlight bathed the Impala in a harsh glow, turning
the back of Sam’s eyelids from darkest black to
deep, bright red as his head lay propped against the
car door. With a slow yawn, the dark haired passenger
blinked his eyes open, chancing a glance at the dash
clock, the time shone by the dim numbers making him
jolt up quickly in the seat.
“Good morning, princess,”
Dean quipped, finishing off the rest of his coffee and
setting the empty cup in the holder.
Sam stared dumbly at the
blur of green outside the car window dotted with the
occasional road sign. “Where are we?”
“Just entering good
Sam rubbed the grit out
of his eyes and groaned when Dean turned the volume
on the stereo as high as it would go. “Do you
have to do that?” he rasped, his voice thick with
Zeppelin, Sammy.” Dean replied, beginning his
rendition of the Immigrant
Song complete with drawn out scream. “I already
have to turn it down when you sleep.”
And for that Sam was incredibly
grateful, because in his mind good sleep consisted of
minimum noise and no visions. If he couldn’t have
one, at least he could get the other.
Leaning forward awkwardly
in the front seat, Sam twisted his back and arched it
until the desired trailing series of pops could be heard.
With the lingering feeling of shifting bone along his
spine, the younger man brought a hand to his jaw line
and pushed, smiling when the same satisfying pop could
Dean muttered, his features furled in distaste, which
Sam merely ignored.
Long legs curled up onto
the seat, Sam maneuvered his body to rest against the
passenger door frame to accommodate his gangly limbs.
Fire burned in his knee joints, a reminder that he’d
slept most of the way in what had to be the worse position
imaginable, and he winced as he tried to situate himself
“So how much longer
we got?” Sam inquired, his long arms outstretched
as he worked out his shoulders. “You want me to
“Close to two hours,
I think,” Dean offered, shifting in the driver’s
seat as if evaluating his condition. “Nope, I’m
good for now. Maybe when we stop in Chesterfield.”
Sam raised an eyebrow
in question. “What’s in Chesterfield?”
Emporium,” Dean replied with a mocking laugh,
but the expression shifted a little more to the serious
side when he turned his sight to Sam. “You still
got your student ID right?”
Sam asked, sounding more around thirteen than twenty-three.
Dean nodded shortly. “Good.”
“What do you need
that for?” The question held his nervousness.
That ID was it, the last small piece of school he had,
and Dean wasn’t going to cut it up. He just wasn’t
ready to see that yet.
need it.” Dean shrugged, ignoring his brother’s
scrunched look of disbelief and turning the volume up
to what big brother jokingly referred to as ‘eleven’
which nearly destroyed any chance of Sam hearing his
last comment. “It’s a small school, they’ll
know if we’re not in the professor’s class.”
* * * *
Johnson? Are you crazy?” Sam whispered heatedly,
glancing back at the innocent gray-haired receptionist
his idiotic brother had conned and fingering his old
school ID, adamantly refusing to look at the forged
copy in Dean’s possession. “You don’t
know the first thing about Micro. Did you even take
a science class? No way this is going to work.”
The fact that his concerns
went completely unnoticed furthered Sam’s irritation.
For starters, Dean looked nothing like a science professor.
His tattered jeans and tight tee gave off the frat-boy
grunge air, not the educated, lost within one’s
own mind and benzene ring structure element that all
science lovers conveyed.
At least the long car
ride had succeeded in making his older brother’s
hair slightly askew in the back, a staple of every professor
in college science departments. They had that going
for them. As well as the interrogation Dean had instigated
about what Stanford’s rules and requirements for
student TA’s were.
Sam had lots of things
he wanted to confide about his college experience to
his brother, but TA jobs weren’t even on the list,
and had he not been born into the family Winchester,
he’d have been disappointed in the strictly business,
no fun time stories rundown.
Dean was fearless, he’d
give him that. The cocky swagger that usually checked
itself out at the door in any overtly educational setting
was in full swing, and Sam couldn’t help but shuffle
behind it. He had been a law student, not a science
major and there was no way he could help his brother
should the questions of legitimacy arise.
In fact, he could barely
recall the one required Biology class he had been forced
to take, and that was as general as a class could come.
If Dean’s posture was due to little brother’s
college experience, he was in for the let down of the
But the reality of the
situation was that Dean had been right. The campus was
nothing more than six buildings encircling a huge lawn
littered by a few small study circles and text books.
If Sam had to guess, he’d estimate that the student
population couldn’t be more than a couple thousand
seeing as they only had one dorm building, probably
co-ed, and it stood all of about three stories.
Small campuses were notorious
for that ‘everyone knows your name’ advertising
and it’d be stupid to doubt it, especially in
a case like this considering the amount of digging they
had coming their way. Sam was beginning to wonder if
he’d bitten off more than he could chew by bringing
up this particular case, and Dean’s gung ho attitude
wasn’t doing anything to quell the nervous churning
in the pit of his stomach. This was so going to backfire.
“This is it,”
Dean announced, halting his conquering pace in front
of a small door leading into the department offices,
and Sam had to lean back to avoid ramming into him.
“And its student professor, okay?”
Sam muttered, and scanned the office numbers grinning
when he found their guy. “Dr. Mills. 205.”
Their entrance to the
office area was signaled by the old door’s creak
and a flood of chirping birds, why people couldn’t
stick with the damn jingle bells, Dean would never know.
Neither brother could escape the thick recycled air
that reeked of stale cologne and the aesthetically displeasing
aroma of formaldehyde due to the office’s great
location next to the biology labs.
brothers were relived to find nothing but wide space
where a secretary usually lurked, and took off down
the first hall they came to, Sam directing their path.
Halfway down, Dean was cursing under his breath at the
campus numbering system as the brothers were forced
to turn around and choose another avenue. What idiot
puts all the even numbers on the same damn hallway?
“Way to lead, Sammy,”
Dean drawled, smacking his brother lightly on the back
of the head as they proceeded in the opposite direction.
“There. On the right. It should be empty, yeah?”
Sam agreed but took a long precautionary look down the
Dean fumbled through his
jacket pockets, smirking coyly when he found the object
he was searching for and crouched down in front of the
lock. He hadn’t even inserted the metal before
Sam was hitting his shoulder, a panicked look on his
face. “Dean, get up.”
Older brother was about
to inform Sam of how many ways he could lose that hand
when a firm, sultry voice rang in his ears. “Can
I help you, gentlemen?”
“In more ways than
one,” Dean quipped, the corners of his mouth creeping
up in Cheshire fashion.
“I bet,” The
girl replied with an equally suggestive smile. Dean
took a good long look at as he took her outstretched
hand in greeting, loving every inch of the fit body,
every curve accentuated beautifully by her tight jeans
and golden colored, skin-hugging sweater that complemented
her assets in the best possible way. “I’m
Kinsey Martin, by the way. And you are?”
of Dr. Mills’ TA’s?” Sam inquired,
avoiding the question for the moment, and stepping forward.
The motion officially startled Dean because hell if
he knew the boy was still in the room.
Kinsey’s blue eyes
flickered akin with amusement. “In case you haven’t
noticed, this school isn’t that big. I’m
more of a--oh…abused intern.”
that bad, huh?” Dean questioned, taking to leaning
against the wall in a position close enough to feel
Kinsey’s body heat as the girl fumbled for the
Kinsey shook her head. “Just, well, science guys
can get kind of testy when you deal with the research
side of things.”
Dean smirked, pushing
off the wall smoothly. “Well, not all of us.”
Kinsey laughed, finally shoving the correct key into
the lock, and Sam had to bite his lip to fight the urge
to join her.
Kinsey cracked the door
open and took a step into the office. The brothers moved
to follow, but as soon as she’d crossed the threshold,
the blonde turned back around to face Sam and Dean,
her thin frame resting slightly against the jamb. Sam
and Dean instantly halted their steps. “I can’t
let you in. Not until you tell me who you are.”
Sam’s lips parted
and he fumbled slightly before beginning the introduction--well,
lie-- they were using this time. However, a deep-baritone
interrupted the exchange before he had even revealed
their aliases. Three sets of eyes immediately turned
towards the source of the interruption. They were met
with a muscled, had to be a former lineman figure approaching
with hurried, long strides.
The man looked less than
happy to see a crowd outside Dr. Mills’ door,
and more than furious about Kinsey’s fraternizing
with the brothers. “Who the hell are you? If you’re
reporters get the hell out.”
Kinsey hummed a sigh,
turning a hard glare towards the man. “We were
just getting to that part.” She shifted her attention
to Sam and Dean, raising an eyebrow in waiting. They
got the hint.
Sam outstretched his hand
in greeting towards the lineman, a tight smile on his
face, “I’m Sam Walker. I’m a student
in the Micro. Program at Stanford, and this is Dean
Johnson. He’s the TA for my upper level class.”
Kinsey breathed, clearly impressed. “I spent a
summer there working at Baxter Labs there working on
the immunology project. It was amaz--”
Kins, really. We’re all happy for you.”
The recent addition to their discussion interrupted
tersely, his teeth grit tightly. “But that doesn’t
explain why these guys are here.”
read about Dr. Mills’ condition,” Dean offered,
doing his absolute best to maintain eye contact with
his newly formed enemy. “I thought this would
be an interesting case study seeing as I’ve done
some work with sleep attributed disorders. Thought maybe
I could help or be another set of eyes.”
Sam tried not to look
shocked at the fact his brother sounded completely legitimate
a brief instant ago, but he got the feeling he was failing
miserably when scrutinizing brown eyes latched onto
him. “Don’t look at me, man. He’s
the professor. I’m here for the ride.”
“Actually, he has
a term paper overdue,” Dean quipped, a classic
annoyed authoritative tone every teacher in the world
could convey with ease clouding his voice. And if Sam
had to guess, he’d assume Dean did it so well
because big brother had heard it more times than he
“You should see
my stack.” The brothers watched in slight amazement
as the red fury faded from the man’s face, replaced
by a calm, approachable smile, “I’m Nick.
Sorry, ‘bout before. Just with all this…whatever
it is, we’ve got a lot of people asking questions
The boys nodded sympathetically
and Kinsey gestured for them to come into the office
space, “We don’t have much.”
The statement could have
been construed as true had it not been for the mass
of papers, medical journals and articles sprawled haphazardly
over every inch of the office. Dean whistled under his
breath as he drew near the far wall, unable to help
the instant connection his brain made between Nick and
Kinsey’s idea of research and his father’s.
“So all this?”
Sam mumbled, waving a hand around.
“Everything I could
find on sleep disorders, deprivation…just everything.
But they either don’t cover all the symptoms or
don’t explain why the rest of his body is just
shutting down. Initially we thought sleep paralysis,
you know?” Nick rambled, wide fingers shifting
absently through the mounds.
shutting down?” Sam questioned, cocking his head
weird,” Nick mumbled. “I mean, when I found
him, it mimicked sleep paralysis in every way. But then,
he never came out of it, and now, well…His organ
systems are just shutting down one right after the other
and he’s completely unresponsive. No talking,
blinking—just almost, well, dead.”
Dean raised his eyebrows
in thought. “And the doctors don’t have
any idea what this is?”
a virus, or bacterial infection,” Kinsey chimed
in, shrugging her shoulders, “They don’t
have a text book answer for this one. Unless it’s
all in his head, which I don’t think it is.”
“Was he sick or
anything before this happened?” Sam asked, taking
a seat at the small side table and riffling through
the documents there.
replied, “We were at a staff party the night before.
Everyone seemed fine. Basic party stuff—small
talk, alcohol. Dr. Mills seemed good. Hell, I don’t
think the man was even buzzed when he left which was
why it was so strange that he didn’t show up to
work in the morning. And when I went to check on him…well,
Sam nodded and sighed.
This was turning out to be a ‘maybe Dean was right’
kind of job, and by the way his brother kept glancing
at him with eyes screaming ‘what I’d tell
you’, they both knew it. “Right.”
Kinsey noted, coming over to stand along side Nick,
struggling to balance the stack of folders she’d
accumulated, “is that you would think the doctors
would have some clue, seeing as this has happened before.”
Dean’s smug look
crumpled. “There are more?”
sighed, “I guess the doctor said he had a couple
cases similar to this a few months back. They didn’t
make it. But still, I mean, those guys, we looked them
up, and didn’t even know them. Dr. Mills definitely
didn’t know them.”
can you be sure?” Sam leaned forward in the chair,
confusion written all over his face. This whole thing
was weird—no other word for it.
“One of the guys
didn’t even go to this school, and the one that
did, wasn’t in any of Dr. Mills’ classes,”
Nick informed and wiped a splayed hand over his face
before his eyes flicked to the wall clock. “Dammit!
Kins, we got class in ten.”
Instead of following a
bolting Nick out the door, Kinsey lingered in front
of the work table, her focus entirely on Dean. “I’m
doing the lecture today. It’s on the organism
groupings and Nick always thinks I do well. But I’d
really love an outside opinion. If you wouldn’t
Dean’s eyes widened
and he cleared his throat a few times. “Uh…well,
okay,” Kinsey interrupted quickly. “You
said you were here to help with the research, so he
can stay here and do that. The computer lab is downstairs,
and well, you see all the stuff we have all over.”
with that,” Sam spoke up, eyes sparkling with
laughter, his mouth shut tightly to prevent indulging
exclaimed with a Crest-worthy smile plastered on her
face, “The class is an hour and a half so it’ll
be a while.”
Sam could barely contain
himself when a small audible groan from Dean met his
ears but managed a response. “That’s fine.”
The blonde turned sharply
back to Dean. “So, you ready?”
replied. “Just give me a minute with Sam, here,
and I’ll be right there.”
“I’ll be in
the office lobby,” Kinsey informed them before
exiting the room, and Dean heaved a relived sigh once
she’d cleared the door.
“An hour and a half?”
The sandy haired brother whined, although it was smothered
by Sam’s roar of laughter at his expense. “Shut
“Hey, you wanted
to be the professor, Lussac,” Sam shot back, regaining
some sense of composure. “You might learn something.”
Dean mumbled grumpily. “You better figure out
what this thing is ‘cause I ain’t sitting
through days’ worth of this geek crap.”
Sam chewed his bottom
lip and darted a glance at the piles of loose papers.
“It’s not going to be easy. I’ve never
heard of something like this.”
“Yeah, me either,”
Dean conceded, dropping his head in defeat but lifted
it quickly with feigned resolve. “Okay, I’m
going to go try to stay awake through Boring 101. You
think maybe if I behave in class, the teacher will reward
Sam groaned, shaking his
head, and stretched out a gangly arm to give his brother
a not so gentle push towards the office door. Dean feigned
a stumble and begrudgingly left to follow Kinsey into
the torture that was a lecture class leaving Sam alone
with the mountain of inconclusive research.
* * * *
Thirty minutes into Kinsey’s exhilarating lecture
on risk grouping systems, Dean was convinced that the
rambling spew of scientific facts was directly proportional
to the amount of sleep one would acquire during class
no matter how hot the professor. As it was, the sandy-haired
Winchester was struggling to keep his eyes open even
after determining that Kinsey was smoking.
out a small puff of air, Dean leaned forward in his
small desk, resting his elbows against the faux wooden
desktop, and allowed his bored eyes to wander around
the small room. The classroom itself held about thirty
people, most of whom looked vaguely interested in the
topic, save the dark haired Nike wearing guy in the
far back corner who at the moment was out cold, head
resting against the back wall.
Dean considered chucking
the outline Kinsey had so graciously passed out at the
beginning of class at the kid simply because he could,
and dammit if he wouldn’t give anything to be
that guy right about now. But no way in hell he could
with the rate Kinsey kept glancing his way, making eye
contact before turning back to her notes.
At first, he’d offered
a small smile and affirming nod, but now the constant
attention was bordering on annoying, the wall offering
a more intriguing game of count the painted cinderblocks.
Dean reached a grand total of forty when the muffled
notes of Back in Black rang out.
The sound was unmistakable
and every head in the place began looking around for
the source, laughing because Kinsey had stressed the
cell phone rule at the beginning of lecture. As irony
would have it, it was the TA’s blushing face and
frantic search for the singing phone that brought the
class into moderate hysterics.
A quick order for silence
and a sharp look later, and everyone in class fell eerily
silent as Kinsey flipped her phone open and took the
call. While the class fidgeted in their seats, Dean
studied the way Kinsey’s face looked all but drained
of color, her eyes wide, and lips parted in muted horror.