Season Two

Episode Twenty-two: Dance With The Devil

By Kittsbud & Tree

Part One

“So, we melt the amulet down into a bullet to kill Haris with. Sam is safe forever?” he asked. “It’s that simple?”

John looked at him starkly. He was always amazed at how black and white things could be for Dean. But then again, hadn’t he made him that way?

“Not that simple, Dean. Don’t you remember what happened the last time you lost the amulet? Don’t you remember what Mann told you would happen if you were ever separated from the amulet for any length of time?”

“Yeah, I’m toast.”

John was taken aback by the bluntness of Dean’s reply. He expected, no, wanted his oldest son to refuse, or at the very least have some sort of reservation.

“We kill Haris, Sammy is safe from that bastard forever. Game over, we win!”

“Dean, you have to know, I checked everywhere, with everyone. I even went back to visit Mann twice, hoping, praying that there was some other way, some way to break the binding between you and the amulet,” John explained, his voice cracking with emotion.

“Dad, stop! Do you know so little about me that you think I’d have to consider this for even one minute? Do you think that if it was within my power to kill the evil sonofabitch that I’d pass it up no matter what the cost to me?”

John shook his head, a lone tear falling free of his eye and cutting a path down his blood-stained and bruised face.

“No, I’ve always known that there isn’t anything that you wouldn’t do to save your brother, to save this family. I remember that night at the cabin in Missouri, Dean. As painful as it was to be a prisoner in my own body, it was nothing compared to watching you sacrifice yourself for Sammy and me,” John admitted. “Son, I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to lose either of you. I don’t think I can bear it after your mother. But every day that Haris continues to exist, I know the odds of me losing both of you grow higher and higher…


Moose Lake, Minnesota

John watched as Dean walked slowly away back towards the motel room. He swiped angrily at the tears that gathered at his eyes, furious at what he perceived to be a sign of weakness in himself. Weakness when he needed to be strong, strong for Dean. He never knew his heart could have broken again, not after the night that Mary died, but he felt it breaking now. Bit by tiny bit, it was crumbling apart. Step by fateful step, as Dean moved further away, what was left of John’s hardened heart fractured into pieces.

He watched his faithful soldier walk off, accepting his suicide mission with resignation, with acceptance born of sacrifice for his fellow man, or in this case, for his brother.

No greater love…

John wished, no, wanted desperately to be able to rush to Dean and pull him back, to place the amulet back around his neck and tell him that they would find some other way to defeat the demon. He wanted to pull Dean to him, to be able to tell his oldest son how proud he was of him, how much he admired the man he had become, how much he loved him. Yet, like always, John couldn’t manage the words, couldn’t force the muscles into movement.

Still, with his son nearly to the doorway, John knew he had to do something. He couldn’t bear the thought that Dean would simply walk away, or that he could even let him.

“Dean, wait!”

Hesitating, one hand nearly reaching for the doorknob, the cropped haired head dropped down.

“Dad, we’ve been through this. Please,” Dean implored.

“Dean, look at me,” John softly commanded.

Reluctantly, the elder son turned around, but his head remained down, his eyes turned away, unable to make contact with his father. His hands remained jammed tightly into the pockets of his jacket, his shoulders hunched inward as though he was trying to stay warm.

“Son, I’m not going to try to talk you out of this. I won’t. But I want you to come with us.”

“Dad, I can’t. You know that. Sam will never let us go through with this if he finds out. We have to do this now and he can’t find out until after it’s all done,” Dean insisted. “I’ll deal with Sammy later. He’ll be pissed, but he’ll get over it.”

But you won’t Dean, you won’t be getting over it, John added silently. “I’ll be right back. Okay. I swear, just as soon as Bobby and I take care of Haris, I’ll come right back to you.”

“Dad, it's okay. I’ll be okay. Just go and do this. For Sam, for me,” Dean pleaded, finally looking up, green eyes seeking out his father’s brown.

“Dean…”

“Dammit, Dad! I can’t pull this shit off if I’m tied up in knots. It’s gonna be hard enough keeping my ass together in front of Sam without you looking at me like I’m dying! Now buck the hell up and let’s do this thing!” Dean shouted, reaching out and pushing off from his father’s chest.

John recoiled from Dean’s attack, shocked at the abrupt vehemence that poured off his son. As fast as it started, Dean relented, his anger drained as he collected himself. He rubbed a shaking hand across his face then stuffed both back into his pockets once more.

I’ll come right back.

His father’s words echoed in his head.

Come back for what, Dad? To watch me die? What for? You didn’t care enough to come around when I got electrocuted and was dying. You didn’t care enough to come around when I begged you to help us in Lawrence. You left me in the hospital after Missouri, not knowing if I was gonna live or die. You couldn’t wait to ditch Sammy and me back in Oxford. Really, Dad, why bust your ass to come back to watch me kick the bucket now?

The venomous dialogue rambled through Dean’s head, chewing at his psyche like a ravenous wolf. Yet as he looked at his father, he only saw pain and regret, sadness and heartache.

No, I’ve always known that there isn’t anything that you wouldn’t do to save your brother, to save this family. Son, I don’t want to lose you. I don’t think I can bear it after your mother.

And in that, Dean knew.

His father wasn’t a hard-assed, uncaring bastard. He was simply a man that was trying to save what family he had left. Save a family that had been torn apart by something that average people had no concept even existed. Demons and spirits, hunters and creatures, evil and death, surrounded them every day, came after them like hungry dogs after a meaty bone. All John Winchester was guilty of was being overzealous in his attempts to prepare his sons to fight that evil, to keep them safe, to protect them from the same demon that had stolen their mother from them, and to spare them the heartache and pain that he had suffered over the past two decades.

Had John Winchester meant to be harsh? Not really. Did Dean really hate the life he had been forced to lead, the man he had become? Did he even regret the decision he had just made? Was that decision ultimately even his Dad’s fault? Had Dean found out the truth about the amulet instead of his dad, would that have changed anything?

Do you think that if it was within my power to kill the evil sonofabitch that I’d pass it up no matter what the cost to me?

“I’m sorry,” Dean mumbled, looking up into his father’s eyes, apologizing as best he could by offering out his hand.

John smiled meekly, ignored the proffered hand and instead pulled Dean into a rough embrace. He felt the young man tense up briefly, then relax as he allowed his hands to find purchase on the back of his dad’s brown jacket, grabbing fistfuls of material with an almost desperate grasp.

For a moment, Dean was a scared six-year-old and his father’s arms felt strong, safe and secure. Six-year-old Dean wanted to cry out, to tell his dad that he was afraid. Six-year-old Dean wanted to ask his dad if it would hurt a lot being without the amulet there at the end. Six-year-old Dean wanted Dad to be sure to come back, swear to be back before the end came. Six-year-old Dean didn’t want to die and even more, didn’t want to die alone.

But in a flash it was gone, and tough, hardened, always vigilant Dean returned. Fears were pushed back, weaknesses were buried, insecurities were hidden away underneath the impenetrable exterior and he pulled away from his dad. A cocky smile spread across his face that both men knew was a poor attempt to cover the underlying fears, but John didn’t comment on it.

“We’d better get back in there before Sammy sends out a search party. You know how paranoid Samantha can get,” Dean joked. “Besides, we should rescue Bobby from him. Not fair to Bobby to leave him in there with Sam when he’s all hot and bothered by somethin’.”

John smiled, nodding in agreement as they headed toward the motel room.

“So, we got this under control, right?” Dean asked, turning back quickly before he opened the door.

“Yeah, Dean,” John replied, his voice still tinged with sadness. “We’ve got this under control.”

***

Sam looked up from the computer as his father and brother walked back into the motel room. Dean smiled as soon as he made eye contact with Sam, suspicious in its own right, but when Sam spotted his father purposely look away, he knew something was up between the two of them.

“So, since when does it take the two of you a half hour to check out an alternator?” he asked warily.

“Ah, Sam, when are you ever gonna learn that you can’t rush things when it comes to a classic?” Dean quickly threw back. “Tell him, Dad.”

John twisted around, managing a sly grin. “Stick to your computers geek boy, leave the automotive repairs to us,” he teased.

Dean raised his eyebrows in surprise, a soft chuckle formed in his throat as he covered his mouth with his hand.

Sam opened his mouth but nothing came out. He couldn’t believe that his father had just called him a geek. Looking around the room, even Bobby was now trying to contain a soft snicker.

“Face it, Sammy. That whole Geek Squad thing they advertise on T.V., they’re talking about you dude,” Dean added, bursting into laughter.

“Being mechanically inclined isn’t your strong suit, son,” John reminded him.

“Yeah, and let's not forget, you aren’t exactly handy in the kitchen either. I remember that whole deal with the Mac & Cheese that time back at my place,” Bobby put in.

“Geek, dude. Certifiable, card-carrying, geek,” Dean announced.

Sam abided the teasing, shaking his head as they ganged up on him.

“Okay, okay, laugh it up. But let’s talk about how technologically challenged all of you are. Considering that you,” he began, pointing at Bobby. “can’t even turn on a computer without someone spotting you the power button. “Or you,” now looking at John. “still ask me on the sly to program your cell phone with everyone’s phone numbers. And Dean…”

Sam now turned to focus on his brother. Dean stopped laughing abruptly and had taken to slinking back on the bed.

“…shall I enlighten Dad and Bobby about the time that you had the old laptop, you remember the one that used to get so hot, on your lap, in bed, with nothing but your boxers on, and um, you sorta burned…”

“No! No, no, no, no, no. Really, Sam, no need to go there,” Dean stammered.

Sam now smiled smugly, leaning back, arms crossed about his chest.

“So, are you all ready to hear what the 'great geek' has dug up?” Sam asked sarcastically.

“We bow to your infinite geekitude. Speak on oh great Sir Geekalot, wise king of Geekovia, land of large-brained…”

“Enough, Dean,” John's voice silenced his older son in much the same way he had when his boys were younger.

He looked between Sam and Dean, and for a brief second, he didn’t see tough, experienced hunters. Memory flooded him and instead, he found himself recalling two brothers, seated around a similar motel room, one diligently doing homework while the other just as meticulously disassembled and cleaned a weapon. The banter was similar then, Dean chiding Sam for having his head buried in books while Sam sniped at Dean for the ever present smear of grease or gun oil on his hands and clothes.

But underneath the teasing, they were intricate parts of a puzzle. Neither one lacking in either the intelligence or skills department, yet both complementing the other like a right and left hand.

John tried to hide the sadness that thought brought him. Could the right hand function without the left?

“So, I’ve been digging into Alyssa’s disappearance, reading the police reports, the reports from the facility. It’s all pretty suspicious,” Sam began.

“Suspicious how?” John asked.

“Well, like I told you earlier. We left her pretty much catatonic in this mental institution down in Phoenix after she tried putting the whammy on Dean. Yet, according to all the reports, she just vanished into thin air. There’s not a sign of her on the security tapes and not a single record of anyone coming to see her.”

“What about someone on staff?” Bobby interjected.

“Nope. Everyone was accounted for when she disappeared. It was during the third shift, so there isn’t as much staff there then. Every single staff member is accounted for and shows up on the security tapes according to Phoenix PD reports,” Sam refuted.

“So, what if she did get better somehow? Maybe if she’s back to her memory-erasing tricks, she coulda just waltzed right outta there and made everyone forget,” Dean suggested.

“Hmmm, maybe. Scary thought, but maybe,” Sam agreed. “I think we need to get down there and check it out for ourselves though. I mean, if Alyssa is back to normal, then we need to be worried that she might be after you again Dean.”

“Yeah, well, bring her on. I’m ready for the bitch this time,” Dean snapped back defiantly. “Still, maybe you’re right. We oughta find out if she’s roaming loose. Don’t need her out there scrambling anybody else’s melon.” Not to mention, it gives me something to distract you with, bro!

"We can head out in the morning then, be in Phoenix by tomorrow night,” Sam announced.

“Uh, Sam, Dean, maybe you should be lying low right now. At least till we know for sure where Sid and Rennie sulked off to,” John suggested, casting a fearful glance at Dean.

In return, Dean glared back at his father. Don’t do this! Don’t act like something’s wrong. Sam will get suspicious!

“We can take care of ourselves. Just don’t you go to any midnight meetings with any former friends. Besides, I don’t think Rennie will chase us to Phoenix; I mean really, black leather in that heat?” Dean covered, hoping the humor would divert attention away from his father’s seriousness that was threatening to suffocate him once again.

“Okay, it’s settled then. We’ll take off in the morning. Where are you and Bobby headed then?” Sam asked.

John fumbled, his prepared exterior cracking slightly by the suddenness of the question.

“Uh, well, we have some work to do,” he answered vaguely.

“We do?” Bobby asked. “I got a home to rebuild last time I checked.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what I was talking about. We got our work cut out for us building you a new house. Course, not that it matters much what it looks like considering it’ll be standing in the middle of a junkyard,” John joked.

“Junkyard? I prefer to think of it as a place of rest for automobiles that have served their country well. Kinda like a retirement home. They deserve to sit back and relax now,” the older hunter said defensively. “And the way I figure it, the Winchester family owes me a nice new house.”

“How do you figure that, Bobby?” Dean exclaimed. “We didn’t blow it up. Rennie’s crew did.”

“Yeah, well, they were after you all.”

“Ha! Well, I guess it not only sucks to have Winchester for a name, but also to have Winchesters for friends, Bobby,” Sam replied, slapping the hunter on the back as he walked past.

“Ain’t that the truth, son. Ain’t that the truth.”


Next Morning

Dean stood at the driver’s side of the Impala, one foot already perched halfway inside while he leaned on the open door. By all appearances, he merely leaned out of impatience to leave, but if anyone had looked closer, they might have noticed the way the weight of his upper body was supported by the frame of the car.

But that was the magic of Dean Winchester: Allowing people to see only what he wanted them to, when he wanted them to, was a skill he had perfected and was now coming in very handy. Just this morning, Sam hadn’t noticed when Dean had nearly stumbled out of bed, room spinning, and staggered into the bathroom grumbling about the early hour and his brother’s incessant need to get up with the birds.

Even now, Sam was so eager to get to Phoenix that he hadn’t seen Dean strain with the simple effort of tossing his gear bag into the trunk of the car. Sam hadn’t seen it, but Bobby had.

So as they prepared to part ways, John going first to Sam and pulling his youngest to him in a quick hug, Bobby quietly approached Dean.

“Thanks for everything, Bobby,” Dean said appreciatively, offering out his hand.

Bobby shook the young man’s hand, maintaining the grasp long after Dean was ready to let go and suspiciously eyeing him.

“Not a problem,” he replied, finally letting go but continuing to watch him.

Shying away nervously from the scrutiny, Dean looked over toward his father and brother.

“So, keep my old man out of trouble will ya?” he asked.

“Sure, and I’ll work on peace in the Middle East while I’m at it,” the older man sniped back, chuckling. “And you’ll watch your backside too? Keep it in one piece. It’d be nice to see the Winchester family together for once without one of you filled with holes or beat to hell.”

Dean remained silent, able only to smile grimly at his old friend. Bobby was about to probe further when John drew up beside them.

“You’ll let me know what you find out in Phoenix?” John asked. “’Specially if it involves Haris.”

“Yessir,” Dean replied dutifully.

“And I’ll stay in touch with you too. Let you know what’s going on, okay?” John continued.

Dean flashed him a look of concern and Bobby noticed the exchange between father and son.

“We’ll be okay, Dad. I’ll keep Sammy safe,” Dean firmly reiterated.

John placed his hand on Dean’s shoulder, his eyes softening.

“I know you will, son. I know you will,” he answered gently.

John quickly hugged Dean goodbye, neither of them belaboring the farewell, feeling both Bobby’s and Sam’s eyes watching them intently. Dean turned away, sliding into the Impala and firing the engine to life.

“I’m waiting on you, princess,” he snarked out the window to Sam.

He threw the car into drive, glancing out the window at his father, nodding slightly, saying goodbye silently, as he pulled out of the motel parking lot.

John watched as his sons pulled away, knowing that it might be the last time he’d ever see Dean alive again. He felt the emotion threaten to overtake him, but he pushed it back down and strode purposefully over to his waiting truck. Tossing his own bag into the bed, he then jumped up into the cab and the waiting glare of Bobby Singer.

“What?” he asked hotly.

“Nothing,”

“My ass. I know that look, Bobby. What’s up your craw?” John demanded.

“Oh, I’m just making observations,” Bobby replied.

“Observations on what?”

“Ah, just little things. Like, how you had a bullet in your shoulder and another graze your chest, yet you managed to throw that bag of yours in the back of the truck easier than Dean could haul his out of the motel room and toss it into the Impala.”

“Yeah, well Sid’s men worked Dean over pretty good. He was pretty beat up,” John covered, starting the truck and pulling out onto the highway, moving off in the opposite direction to his sons.

“Oh really? 'Cause I’ve seen that boy of yours half dead and looking better than he did this morning. And of course, there’s that whole emotional thing you got going on between the two of you. And don’t try to tell me there ain’t nothing there. I’ve known you and them boys nearly all their lives and I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen you act like that around that son of yours. So what gives John?”

When John didn’t immediately reply, Bobby grew more worried. Putting it all together, Dean’s weakness, John’s sudden display of unabashed emotion, the strange farewell, and the calloused hunter suddenly grew fearful.

“Oh my God, John. What’s wrong with Dean?”

“It’s all my fault Bobby. I wish to hell I would have never found out about that goddamn amulet,” John replied.

“The amulet? What are you talking about?”

John stared blankly out the windshield, but his jaw clenched tightly, and Bobby didn’t miss the white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel.

“I found out a while back that Dean’s amulet will kill Haris. It was once a part of King Solomon’s sword, but the original sword was broken apart, reformed and scattered across the world for safekeeping. A long while back, when Dean was young, I got a call from a Shadrack Mann. I didn’t know it then, but he was Mary’s uncle. He’d been holding the amulet, waiting for Dean to be old enough to assume his role as the amulet’s Guardian,” John explained.

“Guardian? Are you talking about Dean being some sort of Freemason or something?”

“Not exactly, I don’t know much about what the Guardians did or do, other than in Dean’s case, just keep the amulet. I don’t even know how many others are out there. The rest might not even be amulets, they could be anything. But what I do know is that Solomon’s sword was a demon killer and so are any of the other pieces,” the elder Winchester continued on.

“Okay, so I get it…”

“No, no you don’t!” John shouted back, turning to glare at his friend with so much intensity that it startled the older man.

“John?” Bobby started tentatively, his body recoiled to the farthest corner of the passenger’s side as he stared at the angry man. As he continued watching, he saw John’s face soften, his body nearly slump and for a moment Bobby worried that he might lose control of the truck.

“The Guardian is bound to the amulet, Bobby. Once Dean took possession of the amulet, it was tied to him body and soul. I s'pose that’s why Haris couldn’t get it off him back in Tennessee, why it kept him from being completely possessed and well, why we couldn’t exorcise the demon either.”

“John, what aren’t you telling me?”

“I found that I can melt the amulet into a bullet, summon that yellow-eyed bastard and destroy him forever. The only problem is…” John paused, sucking in a deep breath before continuing. “The problem is that if Dean loses the amulet, he dies. The Guardian cannot be separated from the amulet for any prolonged length of time. It happened to Dean once before. He lost the amulet and he nearly died.”

Bobby shook his head in disbelief, one hand absently rubbing at the dark scruff of beard as he tried to process what he was hearing.

“Okay, I understand that you’ve spent your whole life chasing that bastard, but John, you’d actually risk Dean’s life just for your friggin' quest?” Bobby questioned.

“I’m doin’ it for Sammy,” John blurted out, quieting Bobby once again.

Stunned, mouth agape, the older hunter found himself clenching a fist silently.

“For Sam?” he finally shouted. “How the hell do you justify sacrificing Dean for Sam?”

“Because I’m gonna lose them both. Haris is after Sam, always has been. He’s relentless and he’s been upping the ante lately. That deal with possessing Dean to get to Sam was just the tip of the iceberg, he nearly killed them both back in New Jersey a few months back. Bobby, don’t you understand, Haris won’t stop till he has Sammy and Dean will never stand by and let that happen. Haris will kill him the next time he gets in the way.”

“So you’re just willing to serve up Dean to save Sam? What the hell, gonna lose him anyway, so you just toss him aside now? You’re as much a bastard as that demon, John Winchester.” Bobby replied disgustedly.

“Don’t you dare judge me! You can’t even begin to know what I’ve gone through, how much this has eaten away at me. How long I’ve carried this around with me even before I said anything to Dean about it. It was his decision, he begged me to let him do it once he knew about the amulet,” John refuted.

“Of course he did, John. What else did you expect that boy to do? What else does he have in this world besides you and Sam? Did you think for one second that once you told him about that amulet, about the fact that it could be used to kill Haris and save his brother, to kill your mortal enemy, that Dean was gonna tell you, 'no thanks, Dad, I’d rather just sit back and see how things work out'?” Bobby snapped back sarcastically. He calmed down slightly adding, “Don’t you know your boys at all, John?”

John shook his head sadly. “I just feel like I’m gonna lose them both, Bobby. I can’t bear the thought of losing either one of them, much less both of them. I’d rather put a bullet in my own head first. But that sonofabitch is coming after them and it’s the only way to stop him. God knows I’ve hunted high and low for any other answer. But it’s too late now,” he said regrettably.

“Too late? He’s already given you amulet hasn’t he? That’s why he looked so bad? It’s already started for Dean? How long has he got John?”

The elder Winchester nodded quietly. “He gave it to me last night. I don’t know how long it will take, but I promised him I would come right back after I took care of Haris. I promised I would be there with him at the end. I know I haven’t been a good father, Bobby. I know you’re right, I have been a bastard, but I’m gonna be there for Dean. I will keep that promise to him.”

Bobby pretended not to see the stray tear trickle down John’s cheek, or the casual way he wiped it away, acting as though he was scratching at his beard. Bobby didn’t comment when John swallowed hard, several times, trying to hide the way his chest was threatening to hitch with pent up emotion.

Instead, Bobby recognized that this man, for better or worse, had made a decision and was now bound by it. Maybe Bobby wouldn’t have made the same decision, but then, Bobby had never watched his wife being burned alive on a ceiling. Nor had Bobby had his sons harried by a demon all their lives.

Who knows what decision Bobby Singer might have made if the tables would have been turned. In the end, John Winchester was his friend and Bobby was nothing if not loyal to his friends.

“What do you need me to do, John?” he asked quietly. “I’ll do whatever, for you, for Sam, and for Dean.”

 

Arizona State Psychiatric Institute
Chronic Care Ward
Next Day

The hospital’s stark walls somehow reminded Dean of the bleak, unwelcoming aura that had surrounded Roosevelt Asylum. Even though this place was supposed to be far more modern, it still oozed the unnerving atmosphere that he’d felt in abundance back in Rockford.

Death.

That was something he could relate to a little too well right now. His head was buzzing with what he guessed normal people called a migraine – except this wasn’t something he could just pop a pill for. The disorientated feeling and nausea had steadily been growing worse ever since he’d removed the amulet, until he was sure Sam would soon notice the bauble was gone.

Hiding his fatigue the previous evening had been easy, there were excuses to be had after his ordeal at the hands of the hunters, but each hour that he grew worse instead of better meant Sam had to realize, and soon.

Maybe if I just keep him focused on Alyssa? Maybe he won’t see my hands shaking and my friggin’ skin oozing sweat as I try to keep my balance even though my ears are hearing Quasimodo’s finest.

“Dean?” Sam paused mid-step, noticing his brother was somehow distracted. “We’re not here to do a survey on Arizona’s hottest nurses, dude!”

“Huh?” Dean shook himself, realizing he’d already slipped up."Distracted Dean" was only normally evident in the presence of women, beer, or fast classic cars. Recovering as quickly as his befuddled brain would allow, he shrugged. “I’m looking, Sasquatch, but I ain’t seeing. This place wouldn’t know a sexy nurse if one jumped up and…” He eyed the nearest burly porter with distaste and headed for the small reception desk without finishing the crude comment whirling through his brain.

“We’re here to see Nurse Russo,” Sam offered warmly as they came to a halt in front of a short, beady-eyed man in uniform who had obviously seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest a few too many times. “We’re Alyssa Medina’s cousins-”

“Of course you are,” The man whose nametag read "Walt" sniffed sarcastically, somewhat unimpressed with the brothers’ announcement. He began to search down a list on the clipboard in front of him with his forefinger and after a short pause, his moustache twitched and he looked up. “Nancy’s on her coffee break in the staff room. Straight down that corridor, first door on your right.” He stared pointedly at Dean. “And no straying anywhere else." He tapped a monochrome computer monitor. “I can see your every move on the security cameras…”

Dean smiled broadly even though he already hated the security guy. In fact, after his little trip to a very non-existent "Sherwood Falls" one time, he hated all security guys with a vengeance. “You sure your name wasn’t Howie in another life?” He mumbled as he turned to walk towards the staff room. “’Cause he sure had a camera fetish too-”

Sam inhaled deeply and shook his head but followed as Dean took a slow amble down the passageway. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that his brother was doing everything a little slower since he’d taken a beating at the hands of Rennie and her hunter buddies, but Sam was trying to be coy and not mention it – at least for a few days.

Dean could be stubborn when he was hurt, and if he’d gotten bruised badly or even a couple of broken ribs, Sam knew he’d try to breeze over it and mask the pain. As long as he started to get better, not worse, Sam would keep his mouth shut, even if his eyes were keeping a close watch on his sibling.

“Nancy?” Sam rapped his knuckles lightly on the staff room door and then stuffed both hands in his tan jacket pockets while he waited for an answer.

Two seconds ticked by and then the same nurse they’d spoken to about Alyssa before appeared, coffee cup in hand. She scrunched her brow in confusion, momentarily unsure where she’d seen the two handsome young men before. “You’re Alyssa’s cousins!” She eventually blurted, quickly ushering them into the meager staff quarters. “I’m so sorry about what happened…”

“Exactly what did happen?” Sam pulled out a chair, noting Dean flop onto a second seat as if his knees had suddenly decided to give way. “We were informed that Alyssa is missing. Did she recover enough to escape?”

Nancy shook her head, her face once more a mask of mystification as she refilled her cup and then gestured for the boys to grab a mug if they wanted a drink. “That’s the thing,” she explained, slipping a cookie from a packet on the table and taking a bite. “Alyssa was just as catatonic the day she vanished as she was when you boys brought her in. The doctors say there’s no way she could have just upped and walked out of here, even if we didn’t have great security.”

“You think maybe Alyssa could have been faking? You know, fooling the docs somehow so she could up and out?” Dean tried to keep his gaze focused on the nurse, but the room was swimming like he’d been at Liberace’s infamous tequila bottle all night.

The hunter blinked and put a hand on the table to stop his body swaying. Can’t let Sammy see…

“I really don’t think Alyssa was faking. I’ve worked with patients like her for a long time, trust me.” Nancy picked up the packet of cookies and stuffed it under the elder hunter’s nose.

Dean waved her off with an unsteady hand. His usually huge appetite was suffering just as much as the rest of him. “Could we see the video footage from Alyssa’s room? I mean, she’s practically the only family Sammy and I have left…” He batted the long lashes Nancy had been so intrigued with on his last visit for good measure, knowing it was usually enough to gain control of anyone of the female persuasion. Who needs freakin’ mind control?

“Well…I really shouldn’t…”

“We’d be discreet,” Sam promised. “We really do owe it to Alyssa to find her – especially if she’s in no state to be on the outside-” He smiled wanly, knowing exactly the right buttons to push to make the nurse feel guilty and sympathetic at the same time.

“Okay,” Nancy acquiesced, setting her drink down. “But we can’t be too long. Walt has a thing about people messing with his footage.”

Dean’s eyes rolled to his brother, silently conveying the message that "Walt" was indeed the jerk he’d already pegged him as.. “I’ll bet he does.” The hunter pushed up from his chair stiffly, the mockery in his tone proving his body may be waning, but his mind had far from dulled.

After a brief teeter, he regained his composure, falling in behind as the nurse led them through two security gates into a small CCTV room. A row of monitors lined one wall, but no one appeared to be manning them.

“Walt has everything on a main feed down to his desk,” Nancy explained, ushering the brothers to the opposite side of the room. “All the archived footage is over here.” She slid lithely onto a wheeled desk chair and pushed herself up to a keyboard. The hospital’s logo appeared as she touched a key, and the nurse quickly tapped in a password that gave her full access to the recordings.

Sam leaned forward as the screen came to life with footage from the night Alyssa has disappeared. Watching the girl’s room was like viewing a still image. Nothing moved, nothing changed – it was simply Alyssa sitting in a chair, her eyes staring blankly at the wall, the glimmer in her pupils that should have been present blatantly absent, like her mind was a deep void of nothingness.

“Hell, this movie is friggin’ Oscar material.” Dean scrutinized the time stamp in the corner, watching as seconds ticked by even though the image never changed. “Hey wait. Can we take it back a few seconds?” He raised a brow and Nancy nodded.

“I saw it too.” Sam fidgeted, moving slightly until he was overly close to the nurse without even noticing it.

Nancy didn’t complain.

She wasn’t really sure whether it was his unruly mass of hair, height, or just plain cute looks, but her stomach got a myriad of batting butterflies in it every time he spoke. Not that the shorter brother was hard on her eyes, either.

“There.” Dean pointed to the monitor, bringing the nurse back from her guilty thoughts. “Do you see that?”

Nancy paused the feed as the screen seemed to flashover with an opaline glare for what the time stamp said lasted no more than half a second. When the whiteout dissipated, Alyssa was gone from her chair.

“It must be a camera glitch,” The nurse offered, not really believing the coincidence herself. “I mean, no one can vanish in half a second, right?”

“Not unless you got a Star Trek transporter stuffed up your ass.” Dean stepped back from the desk area and folded his arms. “Or your name is Jimmy Hoffa…”

Sam pouted but refused to shift his gaze from the anomaly on the screen. Something was very wrong here – and not just because it was an ex-psycho psychic kid they were dealing with.

He’d long since learned that he could trust his senses, even when they were telling him something was impossible. Those unwelcome feelings were screaming at him right now like an air raid warning.

“We’re missing something…”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Yeah, one catatonic chick who likes to fry memories instead of bacon.”

Nancy glanced from one brother to the next but thought better of asking just what the last comment had meant. She liked Alyssa’s cousins A LOT, but there was no question that, like the girl, they were a little strange.

“Can we see Alyssa’s room?” Sam took his eyes from the monitor as Nancy logged off. “There might be clues…maybe we can tell if someone tampered with the camera…”

The nurse bit her bottom lip but shrugged. “I guess it’s okay, you being family and all. Not that I think you boys will find anything. The police already scoured that place with a fine tooth comb.” She pushed up from the chair and pulled a swipe card from her pocket. Two corridors and three electronic locks later, they were outside Alyssa’s room.

Sam looked inside from the open doorway, realizing just how sparse the quarters really were. There was very little inside save for a chair and bed – but then, in Alyssa’s condition she really had need for little else. The meager trappings also meant there was really nothing much to search through for clues to the girl’s whereabouts, and that worried Sam.

If Alyssa had recovered and fooled her doctors, she could already be up to her old tricks. Sam looked over his shoulder at his brother as they walked into the cell-like area. Dean had been a target before, what if he was again?

“Has anyone moved or touched anything?” Dean kneeled, letting a hand probe under the chair Alyssa had been seated in on the video footage.

“Like I said, only the police have been in here-”

The hunter pulled a cynical face and continued his examination of the seat. “Yeah, I bet they were real thorough.” He shifted his gaze to Sam. “You know, I’m thinking Alyssa just might’ve whammied Walt and his buddies with her memory magic and walked on right outta here. It’s the easiest explanation.”

“I don’t know, Dean. Why now?” Alyssa can’t have gotten her powers back. She just can’t. Not now, it’s too…too damn convenient.

“Memory magic?” Nancy’s brow furrowed and she fumbled with the card key in her hand nervously. It was one thing to be worried about a missing cousin, but the conversation between the two brothers was getting alarmingly weird.

“Yeah, well, maybe you’ll change your mind, when you see this.” Dean had moved over to Alyssa’s bed, and ignoring the nurse’s query had begun to examine it as if there was a cache of diamonds hidden within it somewhere. He’d come to a halt just short of where Alyssa’s chair had been resting when she’d vanished from the CCTV frame.

The sulfur wasn’t exactly easy to spot, just the tiniest trace smeared on the metalwork where the mattress rested on the frame.

Dean rubbed the substance between his fingers knowing what is was without even smelling the tell-tale odor from hell. He looked up to Sam, new concern mingling with the fatigue that contorted his features. “It’s sulfur, Sammy-”

“You think Haris decided to break Alyssa out for some reason?” Sam hunkered down, his boyish looks changing to show a different side – a hardened, and yet deeply disturbed countenance that could easily have been worn by a much older hunter. “Dean, this could be bad…” He raised a brow, suggesting rather than saying that their nemesis was up to something new.

“Okay, guys, just who is this Harry, and what has he been doing on my watch?” The nice side of Nancy – the side that had to deal with patients and their families had vanished - succumbing to the real woman beneath.

And suddenly, she was pissed.

Dean pushed up from his stooped pose, unconcerned with her newfound bravado. “Sister, let’s just say you wouldn’t wanna meet this freak down a dark alley. Hell, you wouldn’t wanna meet him period. Just be thankful you weren’t around when he broke our dear cousin out of this joint.”

“I‘m calling the police…”

Dean shrugged. “Be my guest. Oh, and be sure to mention the sulfur.”

“Dean! We don’t have time for this. C’mon, Alyssa could be out there with Haris right now, plotting their next victim.” Sam grabbed his brother’s arm and tried to guide him towards the door. Remarkably, Dean yielded all-too easily, as if he hadn’t the strength to fight back. “In case you hadn’t noticed, dude, you’re kinda the top of both their hate lists.”

Dean huffed but allowed Sam to push him down the hospital passageway towards the nearest exit sign. Thankfully, Nancy had been kind enough, or maybe slightly too scared to think, and had left the security gates open.

“Sammy, I’m telling you, I don’t think we need to worry about Haris and his right-hand bitch.” Once Dad’s finished with the amulet, we won’t have to worry about Harry and his crew ever again… Dean slowed, finally pushing Sam’s hand from his arm as they scooted through the last exit and made a beeline for the Impala.

“After all we’ve been through how can you say that so easily?” Sam placed a hand on the Chevy’s roof, clearly not intending to climb inside until he had an answer.

Dean shrugged his shoulders. “I just can, Sammy. Trust me on this one. Whatever those two are planning, it isn’t gonna work.” Without further enlightenment he dropped behind the car’s wheel and cranked its engine to life, making it blatantly obvious he had no intention of explaining further.


Motel

The drive back to the motel room had been pretty silent. Dean had simply cranked up the music and stared at the blacktop as if his eyes were mesmerized by it. The silence and the bravado weren’t fooling Sam one bit.

As far as the younger hunter was concerned he was sure he already knew what was going on.

Dean was faking it.

Big brother was scared that Haris was going after Sammy again. He was scared of a replay of the events in New Jersey when Sam had nearly died, and yet he didn’t want Sam to see that fear. So, instead, he was pretending Alyssa’s disappearance wasn’t significant.

Sam bounced down onto the end of his bed and considered confronting Dean with the truth. He wasn’t a kid anymore after all, and he didn’t need to be watched over and hidden away – even if he was a freak.

One look across the room made him change his mind.

Dean had flopped onto his own disheveled bed and was now stretched out on it, flicking through TV channels with a battered remote. He didn’t look scared – he didn’t look anything – except maybe dog tired.

Seeing Dean that way made Sam wonder just what was really going on. His brother wasn’t acting normal, hell, if Dean even had a normal bone in his body.

“Hey, Samantha, quit staring at me. You’re creeping me out here…” Dean pulled a face. "I know I’m friggin’ cute, but dude…”

Sam cleared his throat and considered telling Dean he was actually looking at the huge bags under his brother’s slightly bloodshot eyes. Or that he was worried about the fact that said brother hadn’t appeared to eat for hours, even though he was usually a human trashcan.

After a second, he thought better of both and pulled over the laptop that had been balancing precariously on the edge of his duvet. If he couldn’t get answers from Dean, then maybe he could get some from the internet.

The sleek silver machine beeped and gurgled as it booted, only surpassed by the abrupt throaty ringing of Dean’s cell phone as it blasted out AC/DC’s Big Gun a little too loudly.

Sam pouted, looking quickly across to see just who would be calling. Knowing Dean it’s some hot chick he’s already hooked up with out here.

Dean didn’t notice his brother’s attention, but seemed to sit just that little bit straighter on the bed as he responded to the caller. “Dad-”

“Dean, Bobby and me are going to melt down the amulet today and then head on out to Big Horn to summon Haris. We’re about ready to finish that bastard, son…” John’s tone was deep as ever, but somehow clipped.

It was hard to talk to Dean, hard to tell him the events as they were about to transpire given the consequences that would surely follow. How did a father really choose between two sons? But then, there really had been no choice, no chance but this one.

“Sounds good, Dad.” Dean’s gaze flicked to Sam, knowing his sibling was hooked on every word. Hell, he was psychic boy, maybe he knew what they were saying anyway.

“We should be done in a couple of days…” John’s voice wavered and the sentence hung unfinished for a few seconds. Did Dean even have a few days? “How are you holding out, son?” I could bring the amulet back, before it’s too late? The grizzled hunter thought the latter part of his sentence, but didn’t offer the option to his eldest. It wasn’t the Winchester way.

And even if he had, John knew what Dean’s reply would have been.

Dean wanted Haris dead. Dean wanted Sam to live. This was his gift to his brother. A last parting offering that no father could deny his child from brother to brother.

Dean didn’t miss the inflection in his father’s voice but he couldn’t respond to it. Sam was watching and listening too closely. Instead, he pushed away the bleak topic, evading his brother’s probing glances. “We’re doing okay here, Dad. We’re following some leads on the missing psychic chick. Yeah…” He glanced over to Sam. “Yeah…Sammy’s looking some stuff up right now. I’ll keep you posted if we find anything more on Haris…”

Sam waited as his brother hung up and then raised a brow. “What did Dad Want? He never calls, it had to be important?”

Dean tossed the cell down next to him on the bed and stretched back out. It wasn’t hard to lie to Sam, but it hurt that it was necessary. “Dad and Bobby think the hunters might regroup. They’re checking out some stuff they heard…” He clasped his hands behind his head and sighed, feeling the pounding in his temple getting more and more intense as the hours wore on. Can’t take anything, Sammy might see me.

“Hunters, huh?” Sam’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t press the issue. There was something going on – something between John and Dean that he wasn’t being allowed to be part of. It wasn’t the first time, and he guessed it wouldn’t be the last.

There was a time when the exclusion would have angered him, but he’d become so used to the foibles of the Winchester clan that it now became second nature. No doubt they were trying to protect him once again, and he was just going to have to show them he didn’t always need a chaperone.

“Whatever,” Sam finally mouthed. “While you were plotting with the old man I think I found something important-”

“Important as in directions to the local bar?” Dean smiled, thinking if he was going to have a headache, he may as well have a good reason.

“Listen to this,” Sam continued unabashed. “I found an article from Oxford, Nebraska…”

Dean stopped fiddling with the TV remote and looked up. “Oxford as in the town with a platoon’s worth of spooks?”

Sam bobbed his head, reading more from the screen without voicing what he saw. “Dude!” His eyes widened. “David Mitchum was reported missing over a week ago. This can’t be a coincidence. Two special kids vanishing without trace is no accident.”

“Maybe they went to Disneyland together…”

“Or maybe Haris is finally playing his cards,” Sam countered. “Dean, I think we should go to Nebraska and check this out.”

Dean blinked, keeping his eyelids closed for a prolonged period while he took in the idea. Going to Oxford, going anywhere wasn’t going to do a damn thing. Haris would soon be dead at the hands of John and Bobby, and all he had to do was stay alive long enough for Sam not to suspect anything.

But then again, if going to Oxford and chasing their tails meant Sam wasn’t scrutinizing his every labored move, then maybe, just maybe the trip was worth it.


Motel
Next Morning

Sam rolled over, squinting as the morning light filtered through the crack in the motel room curtains. It was early, he could tell, and yet the familiar whoosh of a steaming shower was buzzing in his ears.

The young hunter groaned and checked his watch just to be sure. Dean couldn’t be up before him, could he? It was always Sam’s job to be the early riser - the guy who fetched the coffee and food while big bro snoozed, one hand under his pillow for at least an hour longer.

“Dean?” Sam pushed up on his elbows and glanced at the nearby empty bed.

Apparently, Dean was up and showering, even though it was only just past 6 a.m. The last time that had happened... Well barring during a hunt, it had never happened.

Sam ran a hand through his unruly mop, tousling the already tangled mane. Maybe Dean had rested too long, slept too long, and now he was feeling better he was getting ready for an early start on the hunt for Alyssa. It made sense.

“Guess if Dean is gonna spend half the day in the bathroom preening himself, I could be working…” Speaking to no one in particular, Sam grabbed his laptop from the bedside table and quickly booted it.

The hunter wasn’t sure what else he could find before they started out for Oxford, but it was always better to check and then check again rather than be caught with your pants down.

As the laptop used the motel’s slightly sporadic wireless connection, it pinged, signaling the brothers had mail. Well, specifically, Sam had mail. Dean’s "friend's" tended to be technologically impaired, for the most part.

With a second ping, Outlook opened to reveal one solitary message – a message with the subject line "Time to say goodbye."

Sam instantly clicked on the ominous sounding mail, swallowing hard without thinking as the message opened up on screen. It was short, and very much to the point.

Hello, Sammy

You didn’t really think I’d let your brother get away so easily, did you? I’ll be seeing you around. Who knows, I may even let you say goodbye.

Alyssa

The e-mail seemed to blink at him, even though it was really quite static on the small screen. Sam forgot to breathe for a second, his attention fully focused on what he’d read over and over twenty times already.

When his small PDA began to warble, the hunter finally inhaled, sucking down a long breath before putting it to his ear.

“Hello?” It was a simple greeting, but in his line of work he could rarely afford to offer his real name unless he recognized the caller I.D. first.

“Well hello right back at you, Samuel…” The voice was quite clearly Alyssa’s, but somehow, the way she used his full name reminded him of Haris – of how he might actually belong to the thing that stalked him somehow. Alea iacta est…Samuel…

“What do you want?”

“Why, you know what I want. I want Dean, or should I say, I want to finish what I started with him.” Alyssa paused, letting her plan sink into Sam’s thoughts. “I’m free now, Sam, free to kill your brother. Maybe you should go say goodbye now…”

The line clicked ominously and then began to buzz with static but Sam didn’t register that Alyssa had hung up for several seconds. She was pissed at him, and she was going to channel that anger into hurting Dean even more than she had originally. And this time, maybe she’d have Haris’ direct help.

Sam flipped his PDA over in his hand and looked at the caller I.D. again. It was a local landline number that seemed strangely familiar. Luckily, unlike Dean, he tended to keep records of each and every one of their gigs on the laptop’s hard drive. Sam liked to think of it as a more advanced version of his father’s journal.

Closing Outlook, he clicked into "My documents" and pulled up the notes he’d made and any contact numbers during the Medina case. Glaring at him almost right away was the phone number listed for the Medina house where Dean had lost his memory.

“Why go back to the very place I’d look for her?” Sam bit into his lip. Criminals sometimes returned to the scene of their crimes, but demons and their minions? Hell, they only ever did that kind of thing when it was a trap.

But Dean?

Sam made a quick, conscious choice and closed the laptop without even powering it down. He had to find Alyssa and put a stop to this before she even got the chance to get to Dean.

If that meant he was the one taking the wild risks for a change, then he was quite willing to do it. Grabbing a clean t-shirt from his bag he slipped it on, followed by the jeans resting on the bottom of his bed. He had no time to shave, shower or even try to tidy up his windswept hair, but that was the least of his worries.

Rapping his knuckles on the bathroom door he felt his heart begin to thrum faster in his chest. It was hard to lie to Dean – far harder than his brother actually realized. “Dude, seeing as you’ve decided to groom like a girl for an hour, I’m gonna go grab some coffee and donuts, okay?”

A muffled reply of, “Bring me a burger” made Sam wince. Dean rarely ate well, but this was a new breakfast low, even for him. Still, it gave the younger brother more credence to his excuse to leave the motel before Dean finally exited the shower.

“Man, you’re so gonna harden your arteries eating that crap,” Sam chided as he deftly tossed his Glock, holy water, and a selection of other items into his backpack. “How the hell do you eat a burger at this time of day anyway?”

The hissing of the shower stopped, even if the steam venting from under the door did not. “Trust me, Sammy, it won’t be any greasy burger that kills this hunter.”

Sam smiled and tossed his bag over his shoulder, scooting out of the motel little realizing the truth behind his brother’s words.

Dean could eat what he wanted; drink what he wanted, because he could probably pinpoint the day, time, and maybe even hour of his death with alarming accuracy. If anything, Louisiana and a certain Shadrack Mann had taught him that much.


* * * *

Sam spun the wheel of the Ford he’d stolen as if the car had been his for a lifetime. He looked perfectly at ease in the driving seat, even though not five minutes previously he’d been furiously picking the driver’s door lock with one of his special tools.

Lying to Dean was one thing, but there was no way he could walk to the old Medina house in the time it would supposedly take him to grab coffee and food. No, he had needed transport to facilitate his lie, and that transport had been sitting outside the motel manager’s office calling to him like a beacon.

The little white car wasn’t exactly easy on his overlarge frame, but it did the job. In fact, its battered bodywork and off-white paintwork reminded Sam of Kyle Williams' beat up little vehicle. What he’d give to have Kyle’s help now – hell, anybody’s help except Dean’s.

I don’t want Dean near this bitch. What if I can’t use her gifts against her this time? Did I really reflect Alyssa’s powers, and Max Miller’s too, like some freaky mirror?

Maybe only Haris had the answers Sam sought. Maybe he’d find the yellow-eyed sonofabitch right along with Alyssa. Maybe, just maybe he would finally be able to get to the truth and end it all.

The Ford shuddered as Sam accidentally asked too much of it, his mind so lost in thought he didn’t even realize he was accelerating too harshly on the rough road surface of the back alley that led to the Medina home. He slowed, tapping the brakes a little as he swerved the wheel to avoid a pothole.

What if I can only pick up on the powers of the other kids when I’m stressed? Maybe the fact that Dean’s life was on the line both times it happened somehow amped up my gifts?

Sam recalled how he’d turned Alyssa’s "mindwiped" against her to save his brother.

Dean…

A memory etched into his subconscious burned into his brain as if it were permanently implanted on the back of his eyeballs. Somehow, these last few days, Dean wasn’t Dean – not in the sense that he really wasn’t Sam’s brother – but he wasn’t himself. He wasn’t the sibling who had fought being possessed by a demon and won. He looked tired, fatigued, all the fight drained out of him somehow.

And then there was John.

Dad’s seemed sad since he returned – like he’s shouldering more than just finding Haris…

Sam hit the car’s brakes again, this time bringing it to a stop at the rear of the Medina home. The alleyway was empty, devoid of even the usual fluttering litter or stray cat that normally frequented such places.

Warily clambering from the battered Ford, Sam dragged his backpack out with him and took out his Glock. Checking the clip, he glanced over to the house he’d come to search. Part of him hoped Alyssa and Haris were inside, part hoped that he would never have to set eyes upon either ever again.

Against Haris, his handgun would be useless, so Sam stuffed a flask of holy water into his jacket pocket as a backup along with the weapon. Not that the liquid would have any effect on the demon – but it at least gave him some mental comfort.

Taking long strides, Sam left the Ford behind in favor of the rear of the Medina home. Once at the door, he carefully withdrew the Glock and felt at the handle. He’d expected it to be locked, but the door swung inwards, allowing a gloomy view of the house’s interior.

Sam took a long breath and stepped inside, stretching out his arms to scan the passageway with his gun.

There was nothing, not even the skitter of a rogue mouse.

Sam moved on, keeping the "ready for action" pose until he’d scoured both stories of the building and come up empty. If Alyssa or her demon boss had been here, they were long gone.

Have they lured me away from Dean?

Sam suddenly felt the urge to sprint back to the car he’d stolen and floor the gas back to the motel, only the warbling and vibration of his PDA stopping him in his tracks.

Sam dared to pull out the overly-large phone, some part of him expecting the leering voice of Alyssa to taunt him once again. When the caller I.D. read "Dean" he exhaled and felt his heart rate slow considerably.

Dean was okay.

In fact, Dean was probably pissed that he wasn’t back already with a huge greasy burger.

Sam took a second to conceal his gun back under his jacket and then exited the Medina house without answering the telephone call. Dean would ask questions – hell, he’d ask where Sam was, and that was one query he didn’t want to lie about.

No, it would be better to grab food and coffee before returning. Dean would forget all about how long Sam had been once his nostrils smelled the fresh aroma of a caffeine overload and his beloved burger, extra onions et al.

Sam smiled to himself as he crossed over the sidewalk to a small café he’d spotted. The place wasn’t exactly gourmet cuisine, but it was a typical Dean-style establishment.

You really shouldn’t worry about Dean…

The words popped into Sam’s head as if he’d thought them, and yet he knew the sentence’s origin was not his own mind. It was like he’d been privy to another’s thoughts – another that felt close.

Sam stopped dead, spinning so fast he had a brief loss of equilibrium as his senses caught up with his body’s rapid move.

Someone was watching him, following him so closely his intuitive gifts had picked up on them when common sense hade failed.

Sam peered around the empty sidewalk, eyes latching onto every detail around him that could give some clue to his invisible stalker. They were here somewhere, he just couldn’t see them.

The dreary, un-yielding street glowered back at him in all its stark morning glory. There was no one to confront. Was he just getting jittery because of Alyssa and her mystery phone call?

Sam moved on again, quickening his stride until he was stepping through the glass door of the café. A bell jingled somewhere above him as he pushed through the entrance, and he was momentarily distracted by its innocent chime.

When he looked back where he was going, he realized his mistake.

Someone was in front of him, and he’d almost walked headlong into them. Worse still, even without getting a look at them, Sam felt the same tingle he had on the sidewalk.

This was the person who had been watching, waiting – not outside, as he’d thought – but from within the very café he’d chosen to get food from.

Hello, Sam…

The voice stealing its way inside his brain wasn’t Haris, it wasn’t Alyssa, but as Sam was engulfed in a blinding mountain of pain, he realized that maybe the voice was something far worse…

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The Winchester Chronicles

 

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