Lisa was more than willing to play along for the time being and when Dean suggested they find a quiet place to 'talk', she agreed willingly and hauled him off with her to one of the last barracks, which turned out to be hers alone.

She closed the door behind her and leaned back against it, a vague smile playing around her lips. Dean eyed her appreciatively, looking forward to a night of brainless fun, but when he moved in for the kill, she pressed her hands against his chest, keeping him at bay. "Dean," she said. "Calm down."

"I'm calm," he whispered and pushed her hands away to get closer to her.

"I can read your mind," she whispered back.

Dean pulled back and stared at her. "What?" he asked.

She continued to smile vaguely. "That's my ability," she said quietly. "I can read your mind. I know exactly what you're thinking."

Whatever hope he'd had for a relaxing night was right out the window. He let his arms drop and took another step back. "You sure know how to kill the mood," he said, then turned his back on her and glanced around the room. It looked like so many motel rooms in his life had, aster and devoid of comfort, and somehow it ticked him off.

"I'm not out to kill the mood, Dean. I just think you should know up front that you can't hide anything from me. It's not something I do on purpose. When I get close enough to someone, their thoughts are like a radio playing in the back of my head. I know about that deal of yours." She sounded sad. "You must love your brother very much to do that for him."

Oh, she just had to go there, didn't she? He almost groaned, but suppressed it. "Look, I get that you probably can't switch it off, but I don't appreciate having my thoughts invaded," he said and turned back to face her. "And, no offence, Lis, but this is none of your business."

"I was just thinking that maybe we could ask George for help. He's got a lot of experience with demons and what they do. Maybe he'll know how to break this deal," Lisa said.

"How can I make it clear to you that we don't want outside help?" Dean countered. "This is trickier than you know and I don't want anyone else involved. I want to find a place where Sam will feel at home so I don't have to feel bad about leaving him alone ... because, quite honestly, I don't believe for even one second that there's a way out of this for me. I knew that going in and there's nothing in this world that will change it. Not in ten months. Not if I had two years left. This demon is never going to let me go and no matter what, there's not enough time to find a way out. There's never enough time."

"How can you know that George doesn't know what to do if you haven't talked to him about it? You don't know George yet. He's done a lot of things I thought were impossible," Lisa countered, pushed away from the door and eased closer. "He's very good at what he does," she added and eased up against him.

This time it was Dean's turn to push her back. "Look, Lisa, I appreciate the concern, okay? But no. We deal with this the same way we deal with everything else."

"By giving up?" she asked and pulled back, her tone annoyed now. "You have ten months left of your life and after that, it's downhill all the way. You wanna give up right now and just sit down and wait for it? Aren't you even going to fight it?"

"It's not so much a question of giving up," Dean said and sank down on the edge of her bed. For a moment he just sat there and stared ahead of himself while thoughts tumbled through his head and he started wishing desperately that he could drink himself into oblivion and lose himself in the embrace of a girl for one night without having to worry about her reading his mind. Then he glanced up at Lisa and noted her expression, which revealed that she indeed did know what was going through his head right now. She didn't look pleased, but he didn't really care. "If I do anything to get out of this deal, anything at all, Sam dies. That's the condition of this deal and I'm not going to risk that. So, if you see that as giving up, fine. Then I've given up. I didn't sell my damned soul to the devil to have Sam drop dead at the end of this."

Lisa hunkered down in front of him, slipping her hands onto his knees, and eyed him seriously. "Then let us help. Let George find a way to handle this. Please, Dean. Don't give up already. And Sam is going to be safe here. No demon has ever entered these grounds and none ever will."

"And how is that going to help in the end?" he asked and took her right hand in his left. "Look, Lisa. I know you mean well, but this ..." He shook his head lightly. "I know it sounds like a big freaking cliché, but I've made my peace with this. I know what comes next and that's more than most people can say."

She stared at him, her eyes wide and sad. "There's always a way out, Dean. Please. Let George help you. I'm sure he can come up with something."

Dean eyed her for a moment, and then smirked helplessly. "You're not going to let this go, are you?" he asked.

"Not if I can help it," she agreed.

She was pretty and cute and he liked her a lot, but she was also a mind reader and he hated having his privacy invaded. His thoughts mirrored in her eyes and he saw how it affected her, but he couldn't force himself to care. With a sigh he pushed her hands off his knees and got up. "Do what you want. I know enough of people in general to know that they always do what they want," he said. "Just don't expect me to be happy about it."

That said, he left her and wandered out across the grounds in search of his brother. He figured Sam had to be around here somewhere and the most likely place to find him right now would be away from the others.

Sam was sitting on the steps leading up the door of the last barrack, which was withdrawn from the others and surrounded by trees. Dean stopped a few steps from him, his hands in the pockets of his jacket, and eyed Sam for a moment. Sam eyed him back and Dean realized that their silent communication skills had suffered of late, because he had no idea what was going through Sam's head right now.

Instead of guessing what he had the feeling Sam wouldn't reveal right now, he nodded at the building. "You wanna stay here?" he asked.

"Yeah," Sam replied.

Dean nodded. "I'll go get our stuff," he said and turned to leave.

"Dean." There was something in Sam's voice that made him stop and turn back to face his little brother. Sam looked sad. "I'm sorry," Sam nearly whispered.

Dean blinked. "About what?" he asked.

"Everything. About dad. About you." He paused and the right corner of his lips twitched. "I'm just sorry, okay?"

For a moment, Dean just stood there and eyed his brother, his mind a total blank. Then he walked over to Sam and sat down next to him. "Yeah," he agreed quietly. "Me too."

They sat side by side for a while, staring ahead of themselves, while the sun crawled toward the horizon and darkness began to settle in.

Dean sighed lightly. "This could be an okay place to stay," he said after a while.

"I guess," Sam countered.

"The people are nice," Dean added.

"I guess," Sam agreed.

Dean glanced at him. "You wanna leave?" he asked.

For a moment Sam just continued to stare ahead of himself. Then he glanced at Dean. "No," he said. "I wanna stay."

This time around, he sounded like he meant it and that made Dean feel better about the whole deal than he had in a bit. "So we stay," he said and nodded once before returning his attention to the ground in front of his feet.

"Yeah, we should," Sam agreed and fell silent again.

Dean glanced up at the sky, which had turned dark in the meantime, then at his watch. He considered going for their stuff, but left it at the thought.

"Dean?" Sam asked after a bit.

"Yup," Dean countered.

"What about that Lisa-chick?" Sam asked.

Dean glanced at him. "What about her?" he countered.

"Weren't you going to ..." Sam trailed off, a slight frown creasing his brow.

"Yeah, but it fell through," Dean replied with a light sigh.

Sam shifted a little and reached up to scratch the back of his head. "How come?" he asked.

Dean smirked, couldn't help it. He could imagine what Sam might be thinking. "She's a mind reader of all things. I can't get down with a girl who knows me before the get-go."

Sam arched an eyebrow, glanced sideways at him, and pursed his lips. "A mind reader, huh?" he asked.

"Yup. Damned uncomfortable if you ask me," Dean agreed with a tired sigh.

Sam glanced at him again. "Might be easier, though," he suggested.

Now it was Dean's time to frown. "What do you mean?" he asked and glanced back at Sam.

The look in Sam's eyes made Dean have hope for the future. There was that glint of evil humor he had come to appreciate so much over the years. "Well, for one she would know exactly what you like," he countered and a vague smirk slipped over his lips.

Dean made a face. "Yeah, but ... dude ..."

The vague smirk turned into a full-fledged one. "You just can't stand the thought of someone knowing you that well, can you?" Sam asked and jabbed an elbow into Dean's ribs.

"That's putting it mildly," Dean agreed and couldn't help a smirk himself. But it vanished almost instantly. "She knows about the deal," he added.

Sam tensed. "You told her? After that sermon you gave me?" he asked, a little stunned.

"No, dude, I didn't. She read my freaking mind," Dean countered. "She's most likely gonna go to George with it," he added and sighed. "Hell, maybe it's for the best. Maybe you're right. Maybe he can help."

Sam relaxed again. "Yeah, maybe he can," he agreed and fell silent again. "So, she read your mind, huh?" he asked after a bit.

Dean glanced at him. "Yeah. Damned uncomfortable," he said and considered meeting up with Lisa again. Sam had a point, after all. "You hungry?" he asked.

Sam shook his head lightly.

"Me neither. I'll just go get our stuff. I want a shower and a bed," Dean said and got up.

"Hey Dean?"

He glanced back down at Sam, who remained seated on the steps. "Yeah?"

"You think we'll live through this?" Sam asked, an almost wounded look in his eyes.

Dean held his gaze for a moment, and then glanced off toward the main building visible through the trees. "Who the hell knows?" he said with a light shrug. "Time will tell, won't it?" With that, he walked away to get their things.


That night

Dean shifted, turned his head a little and burrowed his face into the pillow. Then he shifted his head again while awareness tugged at the edges of his mind. Something was hauling him out of sleep and he really resented that. At least until he vaguely realized that this something was Sam muttering in his sleep.

He let out a light groan and pushed his face into the pillow again, briefly considering the option of ignoring Sam's obvious nightmare and dealing with the side-effects in the morning.

Sam kept muttering, though, and eventually Dean pushed himself up on his elbows, still keeping his eyes closed. "Man," he muttered, then cracked an eyelid. Sam groaned. Dean turned his head toward his restless sibling and squinted tiredly. "Sam?" he tried, which of course yielded no result. He reached out and switched the lamp on, then quickly shut his lids once more. "Damn," he muttered and waited a second before opening his lids again. Sam groaned again and shifted restlessly.

The sight of Sam, however, got Dean out of bed faster than anything else would have. His baby brother was completely tangled in his sheets and sweating like a damned race hoarse. His hair was soaked, one hand clawed into the offending sheet and pulling at it, the other clawed into the mattress beneath him, pushing helplessly at it as if he was trying to keep something at bay. And all the while he groaned and muttered under his breath, turning his head from side to side, obviously unable to break out of the dream that was causing him this much distress.

"Hey Sammy. Wake up," Dean croaked and stepped closer. "Sam?"

All Sam did was shift and groan and pull helplessly at the sheet wrapped around him.

"Shit," Dean muttered and settled down on the edge of Sam's bed. "Hey Sam, come on, man. Wake up," he insisted, but still Sam didn't wake up.

With a heartfelt sigh, Dean reached out, grabbing Sam's left shoulder with his right hand and cupped his left hand against his brother's sweat-slick right cheek, prepared for a violent awakening. But he realized that nothing he ever did could prepare him for Sam's deeper-lying abilities. The response Sam issued to Dean touching him was out-of-this-world violent. Dean generally felt like he was hit in the chest by a wrecking ball and the psychic push threw him clear across the room and slammed him hard into the opposite wall at the same instant as Sam reared up in bed, eyes wide.

Dean hit the floor when Sam lunged off the bed, intent on helping his brother, and despite the breath-stealing impact with the wall, Dean took in Sam's rather disgraceful fall off the bed because the kid hadn't been aware of the sheet tangled around his body and legs. He hit the wooden floor face first with a startled grunt and Dean flinched in sympathy.

The first attempt to get off the floor to help Sam yielded no result. Dean could barely move. The shock at being thrown across the room by an unseen force had nearly paralyzed him and at first he was convinced that his entire rib cage had caved in under the immense impact of that invisible wrecking ball. But when he finally regained some mobility and was able to prod his chest, he realized that his chest was unharmed and that the excruciating pain came from his back instead. Carefully, he filled his lungs with air, wincing in the process at the stinging agony rippling through his back. Then he slowly started to move and realized that the impact had the same effect as hitting the water on your stomach from the high cliff. Every single nerve in the skin on his back had been slapped at once, but apparently nothing was broken.

He got up on his hands and knees, considered his options of maintaining an upright position and crawled over to Sam. "Sammy," he croaked.

Sam rolled over on his back, both hands covering an obviously bleeding nose, and he squinted up at Dean. "Sowwy," he rasped, his voice very nasal.

"No sweat. I don't mind being slapped against the wall in the middle of the night," Dean countered and gingerly arched his back. "How bad is it? Is it broken?" he added.

"Don' know," Sam countered and slowly sat up, groaning under his breath. "Fee's like it."

"Turn around. Let me see," Dean said and settled onto the floor. Getting up on his feet was not an option right now.

Sam shifted around, still struggling to get out of the sheet, and lowered his hands. Blood dripped slowly from his nose. Dean reached up to pull the sheet of his own bed and used that to stem the flow and wipe most of the blood off Sam's face before he examined Sam's nose more closely. "Nah, not broken," he determined. "Just busted to hell. You'll have one hell of a bruise covering your face tomorrow. Maybe Tony can remove it."

"Ma'be," Sam agreed and finally managed to untangle himself. "Wha' happen'?"

Dean arched an eyebrow. "You blew me across the room because I was trying to wake you up, dude," he countered.

Sam glanced over at the place where Dean had hit the wall and his face fell. "Dam'," he rasped.

"Yeah. If that's not telekinetic energy, I don't know what is," Dean said and carefully arched his back again.

Sam arched both brows. "Fan'y wor'," he lisped.

Dean frowned. "What?" he asked, then realized what Sam had said. "Oh ... yeah ... well ... I'm not as dumb as I look," he added, grabbed a hold of the edge of his bed and slowly hauled himself up. "Aw man," he groaned and slowly straightened himself up.

Sam got to his feet on his own, still keeping the sheet pressed firmly against his still bleeding nose. "I' go f'eshen up," he announced and disappeared into the bathroom.

Dean eyed the door for a moment, and then grinned. Sam sounded pretty much like he had when he'd first started talking as a little kid. Careful not to aggravate his sore back any more than he had to, he eased down on the edge of his own bed, one hand pressed against the small of his back. "Damn," he muttered.

A moment later Sam came back out. The bleeding had stopped, but his nose had started to swell and the discoloring of his skin was already obvious. "Man," he rasped and sat down on the edge of his bed. "It huwts."

"I can imagine," Dean said. "Sam, I think it's kinda important that you learn to control your abilities here. No offence, but you could have broken my damn back with that stunt."

The look in Sam's eyes was despondent. "I kno'. Sowwy," he countered.

"No sweat. Just promise me you'll do whatever you can to learn to control this, okay?" Dean said, purposely keeping his tone mellow and a tad amused for the benefit of keeping Sam from launching into another severe guilt-trip.

Sam nodded, but said nothing. The look in his eyes hadn't changed and Dean only barely prevented himself from sighing out loud. Before he could come up with anything to say to that, though, there was a knock on the door. With a frown, Dean got off his bed and couldn't help feeling like a damned retirement home with arthritis. He grunted, but got up just the same and opened the door, finding a bleary-eyed Tony standing outside.

Dean eyed him for a second, then stepped aside to let him in. "What are you, tuned into injuries?" he asked as Tony stepped past him, his eyes on Sam instantly.

"Something like that," Tony agreed, sat down across from Sam and eyed him for a moment. "What is it with you two? You seem to attract injuries," he added, reached out and placed a hand carefully over Sam's busted nose.

Sam flinched, then closed his eyes and let it happen. Dean just watched the event unfolding for a moment, then closed the door and waited until Tony was done. When he removed his hand again, Sam's nose was back to normal, no sign of the bruising. Then Tony turned his attention to Dean. "You too," he said. It wasn't a question.

Dean raised a hand and took a hesitant step back. "It's not that bad," he said.

"Bull," Tony countered and rose. "I do not get hauled out of bed in the middle of the night for nothing. Let me have a look."

That tone was a familiar one to Dean. It sounded suspiciously like dad. "I'm just saying," he countered.

"Yeah, you're just saying. Cut out the macho-crap. It doesn't fly here," Tony said. He was cranky because he was tired and Dean figured they had to stay in his good graces, all things considered.

With a sigh and a roll of the eyes, he turned around and pulled his t-shirt up.

"Holy crap," Tony muttered. Apparently Dean's back looked about as bad as it felt. "You're lucky you didn't break anything. I can do a lot, but I can't bring back the dead," he said and placed both hands on Dean's back.

"Still, you're pretty handy to have around," Dean said, then jerked when Tony's touch jabbed him with what felt much like an electric charge. "Ow!" he snapped.

"Don't get cute this time of the night, Dean. I'm not in the mood," Tony growled and finished healing his back. "Next time, I'll send Sarah down here. Her giggling will drive you nuts."

Dean pulled his t-shirt down again, feeling a little awkward. Sam looked guilt-ridden for a change and it made Dean decide to make light of the situation. "Giggling is a hell of a lot better than grumpiness at this time of day," he countered.

Tony gave him a dark look, and then turned his attention toward Sam. "I take it you two didn't get into a fist fight?" he asked and Sam shook his head. "Well, in that case I think it's very important that you get some lessons in how to control your abilities. Talk to George in the morning. He'll help you out." Then he glanced at Dean. "You may wanna steer clear of Sam until he has a grip on his abilities," he said.

"Fat chance," Dean countered flatly.

"Tony's right," Sam said.

Dean gave him a look that shut him up, and then he folded his arms over his chest and eyed Tony. "There's no way I'm leaving him to his own devices. He'll blow up the damned barrack if I do," he said.

Tony arched an eyebrow. "That's what I mean," he said.

"Yeah, forget it. I'm not going anywhere," Dean stated. "Thanks for the help. You may wanna go back to bed. It's late," he added.

Tony took the hint, but he didn't look pleased. He left without another word, but Dean knew that words would be had about this. One glance at Sam proved that abundantly.

"He's right. You should move to another barrack," Sam said.

"Not gonna happen," Dean countered curtly, opened the built-in closet and retrieved another sheet, which he dropped on his bed. Then he walked into the bathroom, filled water in the sink and soaked the blood-stained sheet, which Sam had left there, in cold water, before returning to the room, where he dropped down on his bed, spread out the sheet and finally glanced at Sam. "Get back to sleep, Sam," he said, rearranged the sheet and the blanket and pulled both up over his head.

Sam sat on the edge of his bed for a moment longer, then followed Dean's example and turned off the light. Dean's best way of fighting Sam on a topic like that was to ignore it. Sam always got the point and left well enough alone.


Despite all intentions not to fall asleep and wallow in self-pity all night, Sam woke up the following morning and felt fairly rested. A little disoriented at first, he pushed up on his elbows and blinked at the wood-paneled wall behind the head of his bed. Then he glanced over at the other bed and settled down instantly. It was odd to him at times when he realized that no matter where he woke up, it didn't matter as long as Dean was there.

It didn't take long before the reality of their present dilemma settled heavily on him again, though, and he dropped his head and tried not to think about it for a moment. But he knew it was futile. Once his mind had caught on to something, he couldn't let it go.

The dream ... he remembered fragments of the dream that had caused the trouble last night, but it wasn't something he could ever share with anyone. With a quick glance over at Dean, he slipped out of bed and locked himself in the bathroom. He felt vaguely nauseous about that dream, a little light-headed, and very, very afraid.

He grabbed the edges of the sink and tried hard to keep his breathing at bay, to not start hyper-ventilating out of sheer fear. This wasn't happening, couldn't be happening. It had just been a bad dream. Nothing more. "That's all. Just a bad dream," he whispered to himself while staring down into the sink. "It's not real. No way," he repeated, then slowly raised his head and met his own eyes in the mirror. "Oh god," he rasped fearfully, his grip on the sides of the porcelain sink tightening painfully. "Oh god, no."

He straightened up, took a step back and glanced down himself. He hadn't changed the t-shirt from last night. There were still bloodstains on it. As if the thought of his own blood offended him, he tore the t-shirt off and hurled it into the furthest corner of the small bathroom. It snagged on the tab of the shower stall and just dangled there, almost taunting him.

He rubbed a hand over his chest where the stains had been while staring at the t-shirt. The anger welled up in him, suffocating and cold, and all he could think of doing was to get out; out of this room, away from any potential hurt he could inflict on his still sleeping brother. And while those thoughts rippled through his head, he kept rubbing his chest, creating a band of red going from his left shoulder to the middle of his chest.

Then he swirled around, pulled the door open and searched through his duffle for a new t-shirt and a pair of jeans, which he pulled on. He stuck his bare feet into his sneakers, glanced briefly at Dean who was still asleep, and then left the room. He needed air, needed space, solitude.

On shaky legs, he strode away from the barrack and away from the main building, further into the patch of forest, his mind working overtime. A gut feeling told him not to leave the compound, but that didn't mean he had to share his newfound knowledge with others either. So he walked the other way, assuming there would be a fence somewhere stopping his progress.


Dean woke up because Sam's phone was ringing. "Sam, get that," he muttered and burrowed back down into the pillow. But the phone kept ringing. "For pity's sake," he growled, pushed himself up on his elbows and sleepily grabbed for the phone.

"Sam, it's Bobby."

"Well, this isn't Sam," Dean countered and glanced over at his brother's bed. His gaze trailed on to the open bathroom door and he sat up. "What's up, Bobby?"

"Dean. Good to hear your voice. How are you feeling?" Bobby asked, concern in his tone.

"Good as new. Why? What'd you hear?" he asked and got off the bed, sending a brief look into the bathroom. "Where the hell is he?" he added.

"Who?" Bobby asked.

"Oh, Sam. He seems to have gone for a walk or something," he said. "So, what's new?"

"I might ask you the same thing. Sam called me yesterday, asked me to look into a guy name George. I got some information for him. Well, for both of you, I guess," Bobby replied.

"Sounds good. Lay it on me," Dean countered, opened the door to the outside and stepped out, sending a look in either direction.

"If I'm not entirely mistaken, this guy's full name is George Chesterfield. He was born in January 1945 and lost his mom in a nursery-fire when he was six months old."

Dean froze in place, his attention snapping to what Bobby was saying. "Same as Sammy," he stated.

"Yeah, it would seem so. He grew up with his father, went to school, the whole jazz. Nothing spectacular up until about thirty years ago when he suddenly vanished from the face of the Earth."

Dean frowned. "Vanished?" he asked.

"Yeah. According to the official and ... less official records, he was gone for about five years. Then he suddenly popped up again. He tried to buy a piece of property out in Big Bend National Park, but was told he couldn't buy something that wasn't for sale. He disappeared again, and then started turning up regularly," Bobby continued.

Dean's frown deepened. "Any idea what he was doing?"

"Nope. Nobody knows. There are no records. There's a fuel company in the area that has received regular payments from him, but they claim never to have delivered anything to the guy. After a while he got himself a wife, got hitched, and then they both disappeared for a few years, then turned up again and have been in and out of the system ever since. There's no known address for either of them."

Another quick glance around told Dean that Sam was nowhere in sight, so he returned to the room, grabbed his jeans and shimmied into them. "So, what are you saying?"

"Dean, there's an area in Big Bend National Park that's been free of any type of demonic activity for the past two hundred and fifty years if the old documents are anything to go by," Bobby said.

Dean, who had been rooting through his duffle in search of a clean t-shirt, stopped. "What?"

"If you thought the area around that blasted graveyard was big, this is about ten times as big. And according to all the references I've been able to find so far, it has been this way for at least two hundred and fifty years," Bobby confirmed.

"Holy crap. Are you telling me this is one big devil's trap?" he asked, a bit stunned.

"Not exactly, because there's more to it than it just repelling demons, Dean. No people have reportedly lived in that area for the same amount of time, but that seems to be where this George Chesterfield has set up shop," Bobby countered. "People go there and when they leave, they forget about it again. It's the only explanation for why that fuel company doesn't remember delivering fuel to that place."

"But that doesn't make any sense. If they forget about it, how can they come back?" Dean asked.

"I don't know. All I know is that something odd is going on out there and until you boys know more, I'd suggest you watch your backs."

"You got it, Bobby," Dean promised. "Listen, Bobby, I need to go find Sam. He's been gone for too long already. I'll call you later, okay?"

"You better. I want to know that you're okay," Bobby countered seriously.

"I will. Promise," Dean said and couldn't help a vague smile. Then he hung up, pulled the t-shirt over his head, stuck his feet into his boots and left the room to go in search of Sam. Where ever his brother was, he had the distinct sensation that he needed to find him immediately.