Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: Dean's last year is crawling along and Sam is still desperately trying to find a way to get him out of that deal. On a hunt for yet more demons, Sam runs into someone familiar who offers him a whole lot of money for an anonymous box from his father's stash. What's in it and why is it worth so much?

Silver Rapids Lodge
Silver Rapids

Yet another sighting of what looked like demon activity had brought them to the edge of the United States and landed them in a small town called Silver Rapids. Hell, Sam wouldn't even call it a town. It was more like a cluster of houses and that was it. And that wasn't even the location. The actual town where the sightings had been reported was called Winton and was roughly four miles away from Silver Rapids, where the motel was located. Winton itself was just too small to have a motel.

The demon had been real, solitary and tougher than hell to kill. Mostly because it had possessed a fifteen year old girl. For the first time for as far back as Sam could remember, Dean had hesitated when it came to making the kill and Sam had only barely prevented the obviously ravenous creature from attacking and killing his brother with its bare hands.

A part of Sam was disconcerted by this change in himself, that he was now much more willing to pull the trigger and less likely to stop and ask questions. At times it felt as if their roles had reversed, as if Dean had become the sensible one and he the reckless one. The thought made him smirk. Dean was duly excused from any character changes. He had a Damocles sword hanging over his head and with every passing day, it's imminent fall came closer.

So what excuses did Sam have? That he'd died? That Dean had sold his soul to the damned devil to bring him back? Every time he thought about it, it sent a shudder through him. He tried not to think about it, but that was almost impossible while he was trying to find a solution for the problem as well.

He brushed all ten fingers through his hair while eying the latest entries he had added to his own growing journal on their jobs, trying to put everything into order in his head, then sighed, saved the file and shut the laptop down before getting up. "Dean?" he called.

The bathroom door opened a crack and steam billowed out into the room. "What?" Dean called back.

"I'm going out to get us some breakfast," Sam announced. "You want anything special?" He almost cringed, well aware by now what came next. "And don't say as long as it floats in fat," he begged.

He could imagine Dean's grin. "Well, you know the drill," Dean countered and slammed the door shut again.

Sam sighed. Okay, so maybe his brother had a death sentence hanging over his head, but that didn't mean he had to stuff himself with all that crap. "Yeah, well, we'll see about that," he muttered, grabbed his jacket and shrugged into it. He briefly checked that he had his wallet, sent another quick look around the room and left. There was a diner nearby that had a good selection of breakfast items to go, so he headed in that direction. This early in the year, it was pretty nippy even at ten a.m. and he pulled his jacket tighter around him and buried his hands in his pockets.

The diner was no more than a two minute walk from the motel, but Sam was feeling pretty chilled by the time he stepped into the relative warmth of the diner. The smell of things frying and coffee brewing for too long hit him in the face and he barely prevented himself from recoiling. What Dean considered a mouth-watering aroma was something Sam considered borderline nauseating. He assumed his dislike for anything fastfood had sprung from the fact that he'd had decent cuisine for almost four years while being at Stanford. Hell, even the cafeteria food at Stanford had been miles better than the junk he'd been raised on.

"Morning sweety," the burly waitress said, giving him a bright smile.

"Morning, Mrs. Cranberry," he countered and gave her a smile for good measure. The woman reminded him of pie with her bright red cheeks and twinkling eyes. She was very sweet.

"The same as yesterday?" she asked.

Sam considered it briefly, then nodded. "Yeah, that'll be fine," he said and could barely hide a grin. Dean had nearly raised hell over the bran muffins and carrot rolls he'd brought back the day before, but had been unable to rectify the situation since they'd had to leave for Winton quickly. Today it might be a different deal, but Sam didn't care. He would do his share of keeping Dean on the straight and narrow until a solution presented itself.

"It'll take a bit. We're a bit swamped right now," Mrs. Cranberry said.

"No problem. I'll wait," Sam said.

"Have a cup of coffee on the house," she said and bustled on.

Sam abstained from the coffee and had more or less decided to just stand around and wait when he suddenly had the feeling that someone was watching him.

"Well, isn't that a surprise."

For all intents and purposes, that voice made his skin crawl as much as the sight of a clown did. And to hear it here of all places didn't make him feel a whole lot better. He turned around and eyed the petit brunette for a moment, doing absolutely nothing to hide his dislike for her. "What the hell are you doing here?" he finally managed.

"Oh, nice welcome, Sammy," Bela said and smiled what was undoubtably supposed to be either inviting or flirtatious. It was neither for Sam, though. "Still holding a grudge, are we?"

He made a face and instinctively pulled back a step. "You shot me," he countered.

She sighed. "Can't we just let bygones be bygones? If I'd really wanted to shoot you, love, I would have," she said.

"Yeah, well, whatever," Sam countered, at a loss for words right now.

"Eloquent as always, I see," she said and smirked. "Listen, Sam, I know you must realize that our ... meeting here is not pure coincidence, of course. I'd like to have a word with you if you have the time for it. I'll make it worth your while."

He stared at her, unsure of how to respond to her. His initial reaction had been to shoot her, but fortunately he hadn't brought a gun with him to the diner. "Why would I care about anything you have to say?" he countered and eyed her up and down, hoping it somehow translated into how much he despised her.

"Oh, come now. We can all be friends, can't we?" she asked, then glanced around, a sudden air of caution about her. "Your brother's not here, is he?" she asked.

The fact that she displayed openly that she actually feared Dean at this point made Sam smirk and it restored the confidence she had stripped away by turning up so suddenly. "No, lucky for you, he isn't," he said. "Although he isn't far away," he added and pulled his phone from one pocket. "I can call him if you'd rather talk to him," he suggested.

Bela raised both hands, palms out. "No, I really don't think that would be such a good idea. Let's sit down and have a cup of coffee like civilized people and talk."

Sam glanced briefly around at the other customers and decided not to make a scene right now. "Okay, fine. I've got nothing better to do right now anyway," he consented and grabbed that complimentary cup of coffee after all, then followed Bela to a booth where she'd obviously been sitting before he came in.

He slid onto the seat opposite of her and then just eyed her. "So, what do you want?"

"Right to the case," she countered. "I like that about you."

"Whatever," Sam countered, a little irritated by her attitude already. He had never in his life had the urge to slap a girl, but he did have that urge now. Actually, he could envision himself smothering the life out of her. The impulse to do that was so strong that he balled his hands into fists and looked away to not actually give in to it.

Apparently she could sense that he wasn't going to fall for her doubtful charm. "Alright, fine then," she said. "Here's the deal," she added, pulled a slip of paper out of her bag and slid it across the table toward him. "Do you know what this is?"

Sam glanced at it, noting only what it was, not what it said. "A cashier's check," he stated, eyed her indifferently for a second and then took a sip of his coffee.

Bela arched an eyebrow. "You are the smarter one after all," she said, sounding surprised. "But yes, you are correct. This is a cashier's check. I will give this to you, for the full amount, no questions asked, but ... I want something in return," she added.

Sam frowned lightly, then glanced down at the check again, this time taking in the amount written in a very neat handwriting on it. Then he looked up at her, once more uncertain of how to respond. "Why?" was all he could think of saying. "What could I possibly have that's worth that much?"

She smiled and he had the impression of a big, fat cat basking in the sun after gorging itself on every defenseless little mammal around. "I find it so endearing that neither of you have any clue what you've got hidden away in that stash your father left behind," she said and eyed him closely for a moment.

"Like you do?" Sam countered. Despite how he felt about her, he was still vaguely intrigued by what she might have to tell him.

"Oh, I do know of one or two items that are part of that collection that could make you filthy rich overnight," Bela said and idly stirred the coffee in her cup for a moment before looking up again to meet his eyes. "But right now, I'm only after one thing. It's worth a great deal of money to the right people and I'm offering you a share if you'll let me have it."

Sam leaned back and folded his arms over his chest while watching her with slight bemusement. She had no idea where their stash was right now and the fact that she had to come to them to retrieve whatever she was after ... well, it was a bit funny. "Well, you've got the wrong brother," he said after a moment. "I don't care about the cash. I wouldn't sell you a pin for that amount if it was the last thing that could save your sorry behind from Hell."

Her smile faltered a little. "It's not a big thing, but it's certainly no pin. And it's not for me. A potential buyer contacted me, told me about this ... item and where it might be. But, of course, you boys have moved your daddy's things from that warehouse. So I have no other option right now than to come to you with a peace offering."

Sam glanced down at the cashier's check. "That's a peace offering?" he asked and couldn't help a snort. "Do you really think that everything's for sale? What makes you think I would sell you anything at all?"

"It's a great deal of money and ... correct me if I'm wrong, but ... your brother seemed rather eager to keep that money you boys won when we first met," she said and smiled sweetly.

"The first time I met you, you managed to nearly get me killed with that stupid rabbit foot and then you shot me. You are deluding yourself if you think I'd do anything to help you," he countered and glanced toward the counter to check how far along his order was. He made a face when the waitress gave him an apologetic smile and hurried on to keep up with all her customers.

"It's not so much a question of helping me, Sam. I'm ... hiring you to bring me that item. That's all. And I'm paying you handsomely for it," Bela said. She was beginning to sound a little strained now.

He pursed his lips and just eyed her for a moment. "How much are you getting for it?" he asked.

She held his gaze, then glanced down at her cup and chewed on her lower lip for a moment. "An eight figured amount," she said and shrugged lightly.

It was stunning what some people did for money, he thought. "Someone is willing to pay you over ten million dollars for something my father had in storage?" he asked, wanting to verify what she had just indicated.

"Pretty much," she agreed with a snide grin. "And it's more than that," she added.

"What is it?" he asked. "What is worth that much money?"

She grimaced and glanced out the window for a moment. "A box," she finally said and focused on him again. "Presumably it's a curse-box. Your father had quite a few of those."

"You would know, wouldn't you?" Sam asked and shook his head lightly, then glanced back down at the check. "And you're willing to offer me two million dollars for handing over a curse-box to you so you can score big time on it?"

"Pretty much," she agreed.

"What does it look like? What's in it?" he asked.

"My buyer says it's a plain box. Cedar wood. No inscriptions. And the lid is sealed shut," she said. "As to what it contains ... well, I was hired to get the box, not care what is in it."

Sam eyed her, then picked up the check and eyed the tantalizing amount scribbled on it. It was a cashier's check. It was almost as good as holding the money in his hand. But as long as he didn't know what was in the box, he was not likely to hand it over to her. For all he knew, it could be something like a Pandora's box and it would plummet the world into eternal misery if it was opened.

He folded the check a couple of times, then dropped it in her cup of coffee. "Sorry. No deal," he said. Just then the waitress beckoned for his attention and he got up. He didn't acknowledge Bela's insistent "Sam!", nor did he looked back at her when he picked up his order, paid with the credit card and walked out the door. All this he did with a vague smile on his lips.

Although he left with the air of indifference, he knew that speed was of the essence. He needed to drop by the new storage place and find that box before Bela did; or before she hired someone to do it for her. The only thing he didn't want to do right now was tell Dean about running into her. Dean really didn't like her and finding out she was in the same tiny place as them might not really go down well right now. At this point in time, Sam regretted not having gotten Dean the greasiest to-go breakfast available on the menu. It might have soothed him a little.

Instead, Sam decided not to tell him and to come up with some harebrained reason for going to the storage place. It took him all of two minutes to come up with a way that Dean might not immediately see through, even though he'd always had a majorly hard time with the lying-business. He could keep secrets fairly well, but he couldn't lie to Dean. So now was the time to test if he'd gotten any better at it.


Dean glared a the contents of the bags for a moment, then grabbed one of the coffees and pried the lid off the cup to make sure it wasn't filled with some froofroo crap like foam or vanilla or some such thing.

Sam acted shifty and Dean gave him a glare. "What's up?" he asked.

Sam glanced at him, shrugged and shook his head at the same time. Sure sign that he was hiding something. "Nothing," he lied.

Dean made a face and sipped the coffee. It tasted like regular coffee, which did settle his annoyance a little. "Well, at least you got the coffee right," he growled.

"I got it right yesterday too. Besides, what's wrong with a little healthy food for a change? You don't need to stuff your face with artery-busters every damned day," Sam countered a little grumpily while he rummaged around in his duffle for a moment. "Do you have any more shells?"

Dean inspected the contents of one of the bags again, then sighed and grabbed one of the bran muffins. At least it was a muffin, if by nothing other than name. Then he focused on Sam. "What?

Sam gave him a look he was becoming familiar with. "Am I talking to myself here? I asked if you have any more shells, because I'm out," he said and held up an empty box of shotgun shells.

"Anymore shells?" It wasn't so much the words that baffled him right now as the relevancy of them. "We already took care of the demon and we don't need shells for that anyway," he said.

Sam sat up straight and frowned at him. "So what? We're only hunting demons now?" he asked.

Dean sank his teeth into the muffin and realized there was chocolate in the damned thing, which brightened his mood another notch. "No, of course not," he said around the mouthful, which instantly activated that prim look on Sam's face. "Check my duffle," he added and proceeded to stuff the rest of the muffin into his mouth if for nothing other than to get a rise out of his brother.

Sam grimaced, grabbed Dean's duffle and searched through that. "Jeez, man, can't you put your dirty clothes in a different bag?" he suddenly snapped and ripped his hand out of the duffle as if he'd been stung by a scorpion.

Dean eyed him for a moment, then shook his head and washed the muffin down with a big gulp of coffee. "Prude," he muttered and snatched the second muffin as well.

"Just for your information, dude, you don't have any shells in there either," Sam said and wiped his palm on his jeans.

"Aw crap," Dean growled. "What's closest? The stash or Bobby's place?" he asked.

Sam considered it for a moment. "The stash," he said, looking a little doubtful.

Dean sighed. "Well, let's hit the road. Our work here is done and we need to stock up again. Sometimes I get the feeling that you're eating those damned shells or something. We go through them faster than a blonde goes through white-out."

That earned him a somewhat bewildered look from his brother. "What?" he asked. "What does that even mean? And you're using just as many shells as I am, if not more. I'm not the one with the jumpy trigger finger here."

Dean glared at him. "Oh yeah? I seem to recall that you're the one who blew away the last three demons we've come across. And that one last night. That wasn't kosher, dude. She was just a little girl."

Sam sighed. "She was coming at you with eighty miles an hour, Dean. What would you have wanted me to do? Ask her out on a date?" he asked, his tone full of exasperation.

Dean arched an eyebrow. "Hell, that might have stopped her dead in her tracks long enough for us to pin her down so we could have frigging exorcized her instead. We're supposed to save the innocent, not blow them away because we get lazy."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine. Next time a demon-possessed teenager, who's hyped up on hormones as well, comes at you like that, I'll just try to talk her down. Let's see how much skin you have left on your face after an encounter like that."

"Gross, dude," Dean said, but he figured Sam had a point. That kid had come at him with everything she'd had and then some. That she hadn't managed to rip his face off had been solely because Sam had responded quickly enough to stop it. "Okay, fine, I'll give you this one. But next time we're gonna plan this out a little better."

"Fine with me," Sam said and zipped his duffle shut. "Weren't we leaving?" he then asked.

"Yeah. I'm just waiting for you to finish, twinkle toes," Dean countered and smirked at the annoyed grunt this pulled from his brother.


Sometimes standing up for Dean just wasn't worth it, Sam thought to himself. His brother had the annoying habit of not appreciating what Sam did and it got under his skin big time these days. That his plan so far had worked was a small consolation, though. They were heading toward the storage place and hopefully in time.

Trying to keep it as casual as possible, Sam glanced toward the back, hoping they weren't being followed. But, as always, Dean noticed.

"What?" he asked. "You forget something?"

"No," Sam countered. "Why?"

"What do you mean, why? Why are you looking over your shoulder all the time? Are we being followed?" Dean demanded.

"I'm not looking over my shoulder all the time. And how should I know if we're being followed? Do you think we're being followed?" he countered, trying to turn it around so Dean would drop it.

Dean gave him a dark glance. "What the hell was in that coffee you had?" he asked.

"I didn't have any coffee," Sam countered, folded his arms over his chest and settled for staring out the windshield.

"Maybe that's the problem," Dean countered, shoved a tape into the cassette player and cranked up the volume.

Sam glanced at him from the corner of his eyes. That was such a dad-thing to do. When the time for talking had been over, dad had always cranked up the volume to drown out anything either of them might have had to say and Sam hadn't been very old when it had started to really bug him. There had been that one time ...


"I said no!" Dad's tone of voice left nothing to discuss and to punctuate that the discussion was over, he cranked up the volume on the Impala's radio, then grabbed the steering wheel hard with both hands and kept his eyes on the road ahead.

Sam, who for the first time in his life had been allowed to ride shotgun, folded his arms over his chest and moped around for a bit. He could not understand why it was so impossible for them to stop over and get some ice cream. It wasn't like he was asking for it a lot. Dean asked for it way more than he did. "But, I want ..." he tried, but trailed off because he could barely hear his own words over the music pounding out of the bad speakers.

For a moment he considered what to do, then glanced back at Dean, who was sitting behind Dad, his feet on the seat, a comic book open in his hands. Dean met his eyes for a moment and shook his head.

Sam considered what to do some more, then reached out and turned the volume down on the radio. "I don't see why we can't just stop and get some ice cream. It's not like it's going to take that long," he persisted.

Dean called this his suicide-acts, mainly because of how dad always responded to obstinance like this. Sam generally expected to be yelled at or even the very rare and usually light slap over the back of the head, but neither came. Instead dad pulled the Impala over to the side of the road, then turned a little to better face him.

"What have I told you about touching that dial, Sam?" he asked. His tone was odd, tense and angry like it was a lot, but there was something else underneath that made Sam a little nervous.

He pursed his lips in contemplation, wrecking his brain for a moment. Then he glanced at dad. "Not to?" he asked, unable to keep the timid tone out of his voice. Dad was scary when he yelled, but he was a hell of a lot scarier when he got all quiet and tense.

"And what did you just do?" dad asked on.

Sam eyed the radio, briefly considered turning the volume up again to maybe remedy the situation, but decided not to push his luck. "I ... touched it?" he tried and glanced at dad from the corner of his eyes.

Dad eyed him darkly for a moment. "Get in the back. Dean, you're riding shotgun," he finally said.

Sam made a face. "I don't want to," he said, having decided on being stubborn. Sometimes dad gave in to that. Not very often, but sometimes Sam could pull it off.

"Get – in – the – back!" dad said, pronouncing each word really clearly as if he were talking to a stupid little kid.

Sam folded his arms over his chest. "No!" he countered, attempting to use the same tone. He wasn't entirely sure he pulled it off, though. And he didn't dare glance back at Dean for his support. He wouldn't get it. When it came to dad, there was no help to be had from Dean.

"Samuel Winchester!" Dad said, his tone almost icy now. "Get out of the damned car! Right now!"

Sam blinked. He was having a distinct uh-oh moment here. Dad wasn't just angry now, he was pissed and that was never good news. "But ..."

"SAM!" dad snapped.

And that put him in gear. He opened the door and slipped out of the car, convinced he was going to get smacked for this. To his great surprise, dad didn't follow him out at once. He just sat there for a moment. Whether Dean said something to him was beyond Sam. He was too scared of what the outcome of this would be right now to listen. Instead he paced away from the car and kicked at a small rock, which skitter along the edge of the road until it rolled off into the ditch a bit further on.

Then the driver side door creaked open and Sam hunched his shoulders. Again it took longer than he would have thought for dad to come around the car and have a word with him. When he finally did, Sam didn't dare look up at him.

"Sam, look at me," dad said.

His tone was different now, softer somehow, and Sam dared to glance up at him. The look in dad's eyes was hard, but he didn't look like he was going to hit. Not that he did that a lot. Actually, Sam could barely remember the last time it had happened.

Dad hunkered down in front of him. "This isn't about ice cream, Sam. You know that, don't you?"

Sam made a face. A big part of him wanted to push it, wanted to disagree and insist on that ice cream, but truth be told, he wasn't so keen on it any more. Instead, he nodded.

"And you know that if I tell you to do something, you should do it without asking questions, right?" dad went on.

Sam was beginning to see this in a different light. 'Don't be stubborn, Sam,' Dean always said. 'Dad knows what he's doing.' But Sam sometimes just had the feeling that dad didn't know what he was doing and Sam was just trying to find out when those times came around. Sometimes, it just felt like dad was just as much at a loss as they were and it scared Sam. And when he got scared, he got stubborn. "Why?" He couldn't stop himself. He had to know why. He was tired of being told to shut up and stay in line. He wanted to know why he was supposed to shut up and stay in line. None of the other kids he met around the country and went to school with for short periods of time seemed to have it the same way. None of them were ever told to shut up and stay in line without an explanation. He was sure of that.

Dad's expression tensed for a moment and Sam ducked his head. As stubborn as he was, that was how intimidated he felt when dad looked at him like that. "Because I said so," dad said, using a by now very worn phrase.

"You always say that, but I don't even know what that means," Sam said, hoping in part to explain why he wanted to know.

For a brief second, Sam almost thought he saw a smile tugging at the corners of dad's lips. Then dad sighed deeply. "Look, whatever I tell you to do, I do because it's important. You don't need to know why. You just need to do what I say. And that goes for pestering me about ice cream when we're in a hurry too. You got that?" he demanded. His tone didn't sound as harsh as Sam had expected it to.

"But ..." Sam started again, but this time dad pressed a finger unto his lips.

"I said no, Sam. No more buts. Don't push this any further. Do you hear me?" dad said.

Sam met his eyes, then nodded and kept his mouth shut. He knew it would be stupid to persist right now. Dad was not in the mood and that meant he wouldn't get any answers, not matter what he said or did.

"Dean, get in front," dad said.

Dean obeyed without a word and Sam climbed onto the backseat and settled into the corner between seat and door after dad had closed the door behind him. He folded his arms over his chest and just stared ahead of himself. One of these days, he would find out why he was supposed to do what dad said without question.