After making sure the waiter stayed with Sam, who suddenly seemed incapable of not throwing up, Dean left the restaurant to get the Impala and drove around to the back. There was a fire exit in the bathroom and the waiter had figured it might be a good idea if Sam didn't go out through the restaurant if even the mention of pizza made him throw up. Which of course had done just that yet again.

To say that Dean was worried about this turn of events was the understatement of the year. He figured it was this particular demon that affected Sam more than demons in general, which made him wonder which one they were up against. "Plague and pestilence, maybe," he muttered under his breath as he got out of the car and hurried over to the now unlocked fire exit.

Sam was sitting on the floor of the stall and he generally looked like death warmed over. "Jeez man. I can't take you anywhere," Dean complained with a smile on his lips. "Thanks for looking after him. We'll get out of your hair now," he added to the waiter, who nodded and continued to look anxious. He was probably scared that they would sue the restaurant or something.

After the waiter had left, Dean hauled his now decidedly unsteady brother to his feet and got him out into the car. On the way, he snatched a plastic waste basket just in case, which he handed to Sam after sliding in behind the wheel. "You okay for now?" he asked.

Sam nodded vaguely, but clutched the waste basket to his chest in an alarming way. His face was pasty white and covered with a sheen of sweat and Dean just hoped he didn't pass out in the middle of everything too.

"Let's get you the hell out of this town," he said and put the car in gear.

He got them out of Whitefish as fast as he could, but even when they rolled up in front of the cabin twenty minutes later, Sam still looked like death incarnate.

Dean had to support him into the cabin and dropped him on the bed, where Sam curled up with a moan. Whatever was going on, it was still affecting him. "Sammy?" he asked.

Sam grimaced and turned his head a little, his lids half closed.

"Do you need anything?" Dean asked.

"No," Sam muttered, then turned his face into the pillow. He had his arms wrapped around his stomach and his knees pulled up.

Dean grabbed a blanket from his bed and spread it out over Sam. "Are you gonna be okay on your own if I go back into town?" he asked.

Sam nodded, but said nothing.

"Okay. I'm gonna head back into town after dark to take a look around. You just ... rest."

Again Sam merely nodded.

Dean settled down at the small table to go over a few details until the sun had set and he spent most of that time occasionally glancing at his brother with growing concern. What the hell was affecting Sam so much that it made him sick? He could understand the visions. He'd had a taste of what they felt like and that had been no frigging joke. But this? He had heard of people getting sick from sound, deep base sounds that were almost too low for the human ear to pick up, or high frequency noise. But this? Obviously, Sam was much more in tune with the supernatural around them than Dean had ever suspected, which in turn added weight to his growing concern for his brother's potential destiny.

"Shit," he muttered and studied the map of Whitefish. All five locations were on 2nd Street East and they had seen three of them so far, two from the outside and one from the inside. Sam had started being antsy the second they'd entered town, but he'd really lost it when they'd gone inside the restaurant. "I don't get this," he whispered and again glanced over at Sam, who was either sleeping or just resting. He hadn't moved in over an hour.

A quick glance out the window showed Dean that it was time to go. Another glance at his watch supported that notion. It was seven thirty. In a town that size, all the shops would be closed or closing down now and it would take him about half an hour to get into town and find a parking space anyway. By that time, most of the stores would be closed and that might give him the opportunity to check out that department store.

He grabbed the things he thought he might need if he ran into trouble, among others the colt, and then hunkered down next to Sam's bed. "Hey, Sammy?"

It took a second for Sam to respond, proving that he hadn't been entirely out, but eventually he opened his eyes and blinked sluggishly at Dean.

"I'm gonna head into town again. You gonna be okay on your own?" Dean asked.

Sam's response was predictable because he tried to get up. "Hang on. I'll go with you," he muttered, but Dean grabbed his shoulder and pushed him back down.

"The hell you are. You just tried to upchuck your insides, dude. Get some sleep. I'll be back soon. I just wanna check out that department store," he said.

Sam swallowed hard, then nodded and dropped back down on the bed, giving in to the light pressure Dean was putting on his shoulder. "'mkay'," he muttered and closed his eyes again.

Dean rose and watched him for a moment. He had to be feeling really lousy, considering how easily he'd given in. "If you need anything, call me," he said, grabbed the things he was taking with him and left the cabin.


Back in Whitefish, Dean tried to determine what Sam might have been feeling, but he couldn't sense anything. The town felt completely normal to him. "Just the same," he muttered under his breath. "It's enough with one freak in the family."

With that thought burning a hole in his brain, he made his way back to the shopping street and hitched a little at the extreme change the incoming night had made to the life of the town. The street was almost dead, a few cars cruising by, a few pedestrians hurrying to wherever they were going. The pulse of this town was gone, had trudged off to bed to wait for the break of day. It was like the town was holding its breath while darkness lingered.

"Easier for me to do my job," Dean muttered under his breath and headed toward the tall brick building. As inconspicuously as possible, he slipped down along the side street, searching for a way in that wouldn't be immediately visible from the street. To his luck, the gate to the back entrance, where the loading docks were, was ajar and after a quick glance in either direction, he slipped inside, unseen, unheard.

He smirked lightly, pulled out the pen flashlight and examined the only door with a lock on it to make sure there were no alarms. Of course, even if there were, they probably wouldn't be on. Clamping the penlight between his teeth, he pulled out his lock pick kit and made short work of the lock, besting his own record by two seconds. "Can't keep a good man down," he praised himself quietly, pushed the door open and stepped into a dark corridor.

It took him less than an hour to trail through the entire department store, which was a husk of its former self. It generally looked like it was just being built. There were tools everywhere, lots of half finished walls, a few holes in the floors that he had to avoid and that was it. The EMF-meter gave off no indication that anything even vaguely supernatural had happened in this place until he hit a dark stain on the floor of the third storey.

He hunkered down and examined the spot, only to realize that it was dried blood. Someone had tried to paint over it with white paint, but the blood had come through. Dean wondered about that and made a mental note to ask Sam what he thought of that when the kid was back on his feet. "Bad blood will out," he muttered and rose, shone the light around the area and wondered what exactly had happened here. According to the papers, one of the construction workers – at least Dean assumed that was what the paper had meant by 'workers' – had had his brain bashed in by a blunt instrument. The same had happened to a banker's assistant in the bank across the street and one of the employees of that pizza place they'd been at earlier. Always the same M.O. Brain bashed in with a blunt instrument.

"Where do they get that stuff?" he muttered and shook his head. Why didn't they just say that the victim's heads had been bashed in? Why did they always have to specify that it was with a blunt instrument? That was the same as admitting that they had no frigging clue. "Amateurs," he grumbled and headed back to the stairs to check out the two remaining storeys.

Fourth and fifth offered no clues worthwhile and he eventually decided to call it a night and maybe check the outside of the bank before heading back to the motel. He wasn't entirely happy about leaving Sam alone when he was that out of it.

With a sigh, he returned to the ground floor and took another brief look around before letting himself back out of the rear entrance, which he made sure was locked securely behind him.

Back on 2nd Street East, he glanced either way, noting that there was even less traffic than before, then jogged over the street and approached the bank. Keeping the EMF-meter inside his jacket to avoid undue attention, he scanned the front of the building and got a halfhearted reading. The department store had not shown anything on the front end and that made him frown.

"The bank won't open until nine tomorrow," a voice said behind him.

Dean hadn't heard anyone approaching and nearly jumped out of his skin. "Jeez, lady, don't ..." he started and turned at the same time. The voice was distinctly female and it belonged to none other than his old teacher.

"Sorry," she said with a smile. "I didn't mean to scare you." Then she frowned and narrowed her eyes a little. "Don't I know you?" she asked.

For the first time in a good long while, Dean found himself dumbstruck. Sam hadn't been kidding. The woman looked exactly like he remembered her, which was a bit of an achievement since he hadn't seen her since he'd been eight. "Uh ... Ms. St. Clair?" he finally managed.

That stunned her in turn. "Uh ..." she countered, looking a little out of sorts right then.

Dean quickly wrecked his mind for what name they had gone by back then, but then figured that the name changing business had come later. "It's Dean Winchester," he tried, hoping it rang a bell.

And apparently it did. Her eyes widened. "Dean Winchester? Goodness gracious me," she exclaimed and the smile slipped back onto her lips. "Were on Earth did you come from?"

Dean was more than a little pleased that she remembered him. On top of that, she was still a knockout and he suddenly got why his father had been so flustered the first and only time he had met her. "Uh ... just passing through. I'm on a road trip with my brother," he was quick to say and made the EMF-meter disappear into his pocket unseen by her.

"Well, isn't that special?" she said and her smile turned into a wide grin. "It's been ... what? Twenty years or something?"

Dean nodded. "Yeah, something like that," he agreed and eyed her appreciatively. "Wow! I mean ... wow! You look great."

To his delight, she blushed at the obviously unexpected praise. "Well ... thank you. And may I say that you've grown into a very handsome young man," she countered. "Not that I ever thought you wouldn't," she added. "You were an adorable kid."

Her words were what he considered character building. "Well, I'm just happy you remember me. I mean, we weren't in town for more than a few weeks if I remember right," he countered.

"Who could forget you?" she asked. "Are you in town for long?"

"Well ... we just arrived this morning, so we'll probably be here for a few days," Dean countered.

"Oh, we must get together while you're in town. I'm dying to hear what you've done with your life," Ms. St. Clair said.

Now that was always a sore spot. He couldn't exactly tell her what he did for a living, now could he? "Yeah, well, it's nothing big, you know," he said and rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously.

"Oh, whatever you're doing, I'm sure you're good at it," she countered, brushing over the subject.

"I try," he agreed.

She glanced down the street and raised her shoulders a little, indicating that she was chilled. "How about a cup of coffee? My treat?" she asked.

Dean eyed her for a moment. "Sure. Why not?" he agreed. Granted, he felt he had to get back to Sam soon, but he really did want to touch base with her right now. In his mind, she had been the one who had started his insatiable love of women, and meeting her again just added to that belief in spades.

They found a coffee shop further down the road and started talking about everything and nothing. It never occurred to him until later that she at no point asked any incriminating questions he couldn't answer. He lied through his teeth about most of the things she did ask about, but apparently he did it so convincingly that she didn't catch on.

It was only when his phone suddenly went off that his mind snapped back to his ailing sibling. "Hold that thought," he said, pulled the phone from his pocket and grimaced when he saw the caller id. "Sam? You okay?" he answered the phone.

"I've been better. Where the hell are you? You've been gone for four hours, man," Sam countered. He sounded grumpy, like he'd just woken up with a hangover.

"I got a little side-tracked. I ran into my old teacher," Dean countered and gave Ms. St. Clair a wink, which she answered with a smirk.

Sam was silent for a moment. "Okay, fine. So, you're not coming back tonight then?" he finally asked.

What Sam was generally suggesting was something Dean had done a million times, but the idea alone in this situation nearly shocked him. "Of course I am," Dean countered and glanced at his watch. "I'll be there in half an hour," he added. "Go back to bed. You sound like you need it." With that, he hung up. "My brother," he said as ways of explanation.

"Everything alright?" Ms. St. Clair asked, a bit concerned.

"Yeah. He has a stomach bug. I'd better get back there before he ... you know," he said.

"Probably a wise idea," she agreed with a nod, then pulled a small silver box out of one pocket and opened it. "Here's my card. Give me a call before you leave again. Maybe we can get together one evening? You and your brother could come over for dinner or something?"

The idea of a home cooked meal made his mouth water instantly and before he had given it any closer thought, he nodded almost eagerly. "Sounds like an idea," he said and tugged the card into his pocket without looking at it. "Are you still working as a teacher here?" he suddenly asked.

"No, those days are over," she said with a smile. "I was only a temp back then anyway. Didn't really need the job for financial reasons. I just loved working with kids," she added.

"Well, it showed," Dean countered and got up. "Thanks for the coffee. And ... I'll call."

"Make sure you do," she said and rose too. "It's been great seeing you again, Dean."

"Likewise, Ms. St. Clair," he countered.

"Oh, call me Lucy. I'm not your teacher anymore," she said, leaned in and pecked him on the cheek. "I hope your brother feels better soon."

"Thanks. I'm sure he will. See you around," he said and left the coffee shop to head back to the Impala. Meeting her had really made his day. He felt better about everything right now.


Sam settled down on one chair and dropped the phone on the table. He had a headache, probably brought on by dehydration, and his throat felt raw from all the throwing up he'd done in that damned restaurant. He wasn't nauseous any more, just tired and a little weak-kneed right now.

"Half an hour my ass," he muttered, scrubbed both hands over his face and brushed his fingers through his hair, pulling it back from his face. He no more believed that Dean would come running back here to be with him than he believed the Earth was flat. His brother's inability to withstand the female of the species had bothered him before and it was bothering him twice as much right now.

He sighed, folded his arms on the tabletop and rested his aching head on top of them and time started to drift. What seemed like moments later, but could have been hours for all he knew, the sound of the door opening made him raise his head and squint at Dean when he stepped into the cabin.

Dean stopped just inside the door. "Hey," he said. "How are you feeling?" He closed the door, shrugged out of his jacket and threw it on his bed.

"Better," Sam countered and cleared his throat. "So, you decided not to stay?"

"Dude, get your mind out of the gutter. She's twenty years older than me," Dean countered, managing to sound just a bit disgusted by the idea. "What the hell do you take me for?"

Sam grimaced and slumped back in the chair. "Desperate?" he asked and managed a half-hearted smirk.

"Yeah, right," Dean huffed. "You are feeling better, aren't you," he added. "Besides, Lucy isn't that kind of woman, okay? She's ... different."

"Looking very young for fifty," Sam agreed.

Dean eyed him for a moment. "Are you hungry? Cause I could go out and get us some big greasy burgers with lots of soggy fries."

With a sudden tightening in his stomach, Sam glared at him. "Shut up," he muttered and made a face.

"Then stop badmouthing Lucy," Dean countered and dropped down on the other chair. "But, seriously, dude. You should eat something."

"Who are you? My mother?" Sam countered grumpily. "Just leave me alone and stop talking about food," he added and shifted uncomfortably. Dean could be such an ass sometimes.

"You mean ..." Dean started, but Sam looked up sharply, stopping him in his tracks.

"I'm warning you, Dean. One more word and I won't bother trying to reach the bathroom," he said and meant it.

Dean raised both hands in surrender. "Easy, tiger," he said. "Why don't you go back to bed if you're still feeling crappy?"

"I'm not feeling crappy," Sam muttered.

"Okay, I get where this is going," Dean said, mostly to himself, since Sam had stopped paying attention to him right now. He just sat there and stared ahead of himself while feeling miserable again. "Go back to bed, Sam," Dean added in a mellower tone of voice.

Sam glanced at him for a moment, then grimaced, pushed himself to his feet and did as he was told for once in his life. Mainly because he still did feel borderline crappy and most of all wanted to sleep.

"You'll feel better tomorrow," Dean said.

"Yeah, whatever," Sam muttered into his pillow, pulled the sheets up over his head and started to drift off almost at once.


Dean sighed lightly and realized he hadn't eaten since their failed lunch earlier in the day. The thought made his stomach rumble and brought to mind that this motel had nothing to offer apart from a vending machine with candy, which wouldn't tide him over until morning.

Since Sam had been pretty adamant about him not mentioning food, he figured it would really be cruel to order takeout. But on the other hand, Dean knew himself well enough to know what not eating would do to him. He hated going without food. It reminded him of too many incidents during their childhood where he'd had to forego anything edible to make sure Sam had enough.

"Shit," he muttered. "Sammy?"

Sam grumbled, obviously still awake enough to hear him.

"I'm just gonna go out and get something to eat," he said. "As opposed to you, I'm starving."

"Whatever," Sam muttered into his pillow.

"Okay. I'll be back in a bit," Dean said, rose, grabbed his jacket and paused. Truth be told, he still wasn't happy about leaving Sam alone when he wasn't feeling good. "You sure you don't want anything?"

Sam pulled the sheets away from his head and rolled over on his back to squint at Dean. "Go already," he said. "And yeah, I'm sure."

"Fine. Suit yourself," Dean countered and left the cabin.

Since there really weren't any shops or anything in the immediate vicinity, Dean got in the car and drove back to town to find a place to get something to eat that he could bring back. He was conscious of his brother's upset stomach in such a way that he made sure the food he bought didn't smell too much, so he settled for cold sandwiches rather than anything warm. He also grabbed a couple of bottles of coke before paying for the whole thing and heading back toward the motel again.

He had been gone less than an hour by the time he pulled to a stop in front of the cabin and as such did not expect any trouble. But when he got out of the car, the first thing he noticed was that all the lights in the cabin were off. That in and off itself probably shouldn't have been such a surprise, considering how Sam was feeling at the moment. But the door to the cabin stood slightly ajar and that was something he knew Sam would never do.

A shudder of concern rippled through him. What if Sam's previous illness had been a forerunner of something more sinister? Dean glanced around, checking for any other vehicles in the area, but there were none that he could immediately see. He pulled his gun and cautiously approached the door, ready for trouble but unsure of what he would find inside.

Slowly, he eased up the steps, avoiding the one that creaked a little, and stopped at the door to listen. There was definitely someone inside if the rustling sounds were anything to go by. What had him up in arms was that if someone else was in there apart from Sam, why hadn't Sam responded?

Clenching his teeth together, he placed the palm of his right hand against the heavy wood of the door and slowly pushed it open. The room beyond was wrapped in darkness, but he could vaguely make out a darker shadow standing at the foot of his bed and that was where the rustling sounds came from. He squinted, trying to make out more, then decided to take the chance. He shifted the gun from his left to his right hand and aimed it at the intruder while reaching for the light switch with the left. He shifted his grip a little on the gun, his aim steady, then flipped the overhead lights on.

The intruder froze when the lights came on and that was probably a good thing. Dean knew who it was even before she turned around and the fact that she didn't swirl around with her own gun drawn was probably what saved her from having her brains blown out. Dean found himself very, very close to pulling the trigger while righteous anger rose in him. "Bela," he snarled.

Still keeping her back turned, she raised both hands, letting off from her search through Sam's duffle. "Dean," she countered, her tone displaying that she wasn't all too sure he wouldn't shoot her. Obviously, the threat he had uttered the last time they had spoken was something she had taken to heart. "Can I turn around?"

"Go ahead," he said, making sure his anger at finding her here translated through every word he said. "Make one wrong move and I'll make good on my promise," he added.

Keeping her hands raised and visible, she slowly turned around. He saw the brief twitch when she saw the gun and the slight widening of her eyes when she met his. "I can explain," she tried.

"Save it," he snarled. "Sam?" Even though it was very unlike Sam to sleep through something like this, Dean was hoping for Bela's sake that that was all he was doing.

Sam groaned, pulled the sheet away from his head and rolled over on his back. If Dean hadn't been so pissed off at finding Bela in their cabin, he would have been able to grin at the instant shift in Sam's expression. Sam sat bolt upright, going from half asleep to stunned and pissed in one second flat. "What the hell is she doing here?" he asked, then his gaze shifted to his duffle which lay open on Dean's bed.

"That's what I would like to know," Dean said. "So, why don't you try to explain to me why the hell you're in here, rooting through Sam's stuff."

Bela's expression tightened a little. "I'm in a bit of a pinch right now, Dean. And I know Sam has the box," she said.

Dean pretended not to know what she was talking about. "What box?" he demanded, hoping that she might let slip what the box really was.

She looked a bit taken aback by his question, then sent a quick glance over one shoulder. "You didn't tell him? I'm surprised at you, Sammy," she said with a vague smirk.

Sam made a face, grabbed his pillow and hurled it at her, hitting her in the back of the head, which made her stumble forward one step. "Nobody calls me that but him," he said grumpily.

That in turn did pull a wry smile from Dean. "Give me an excuse to shoot you. Please!" he said.

Bela was careful to keep her hands up. "I need that box. I promised this buyer I would get it and I need it," she persisted.

"Tough," Dean countered. "You're not getting squat from us."

"Not even for two million dollars on a cashier's check?" she tried, obviously intent on tempting him to hand it over.

"If it's worth that much to you, you must either be pretty desperate or pretty stupid. Now, I thought you weren't stupid, Bela, but sneaking in here, going through our stuff like that ... that's pretty stupid." Dean's attention shifted to Sam, who looked better albeit a tad tired. "Where's the box, Sam?"

"Your duffle," Sam countered, got off the bed and grabbed Dean's duffle to root through it until he found what he was looking for. He held it up, then returned to his bed and sat down on it.

Dean kept his eyes on Bela, giving her no opportunity of making a move against Sam and the box. "What's so important about that box, Bela?" he asked.

"Believe it or not, I don't know," she countered. "All I know, all I need to know, is that someone is willing to pay me a lot of money for it. Now, the fact is, the money has changed hands, so I need to hand over the box. Just ... give it to me and I'll give you that check in return. Two million is more than you'll ever see in your whole life."

"Zip it," Dean growled. "I'm not gonna hand over a curse-box to you just because you screwed up and sold it before you had it. That's not our problem."

"This buyer is ... slightly psychotic," she said. "It's the same one who wanted the rabbit's foot. He's given me another chance to prove myself and ..."

"The one you shot my brother for?" Dean asked and sneered. "You know, I don't really think Sam's forgiven you for that. And, to be honest, neither have I. Why don't you give me one good reason for why we should do anything to save your ass?"

"Because I'll make it worth your while?" Bela tried. She sounded a tad nervous now. "Name your price. I'll pay it if I can. But I need that box. Without it ..."

"What? He'll break your legs? Bust your kneecaps? Kill you?" Dean offered dispassionately. "You know, come to think of it, I don't really give a shit if he drops you off the Empire State Building. Why don't you do yourself a favor and get the hell out of here before I change my mind and cap you after all? If it wasn't for the fact that we're not quite done in this town and I really don't want to have to explain to the manager of this motel why there's blood on the floor, I'd do it now. So consider yourself lucky. And stay the hell away from us from now on. Because the next time I see you I am going to shoot you."

She stared at him for a moment, obviously reading nothing but pure intent in his eyes, and then she nodded once. "I'm sorry you see it that way, Dean," she said and started to lower her hands.

"Uh-uh, don't do that," Dean warned and began to circle her to get between her and Sam. "Get out. Now!"

She sighed, sent one long lingering look at the box that Sam was still holding onto and then left the cabin.

Dean lowered the gun and listened until he heard a car engine spring to life and the car drive away with screeching tires. "Bitch," he growled, then turned his attention to his brother. "How the hell can you sleep through something like that?" he demanded, waving the gun toward the duffle on his bed.

Sam grimaced. "I don't know," he confessed.

At realizing that he was still holding the gun, Dean put it away. "I honestly mean it, dude. The next time I see that bitch, I'm shooting her. No way am I gonna put up with more of her crap," he said angrily, strode out to the car to get the food he had bought, and upon returning to the cabin, closed and locked the door. "Are you hungry now? Cause I'm starving and I'm not in a good mood on account of it."

Sam eyed him for a moment, then sighed and got up. "I could eat. As long as it's not greasy," he countered and made a face.

"Sandwiches, dude. I'm paying attention to your sensitive nature here," Dean countered and smirked. "By the way, that box? If you have to glue it to your damned chest, you're keeping it with you at all times. I'm not letting Bela have it. If we're lucky, her buyer will take her out before she gets around to trying again."

"Dean, she's not above putting a bullet in either of us. You know that," Sam said. "Letting her get away again might not be the best idea."

"What do you suggest I do? Hunt her down?" Dean countered and eyed the sandwich he had just pulled out of the bag. Then he looked up to meet Sam's eyes and had to admit that he was a little disconcerted by the look his brother gave him. "Dude, you can't be serious."

"She's dangerous, Dean. Her greedy nature is gonna get someone killed one of these days. It's very likely it'll be either of us and I really don't think she cares one way or another," Sam pointed out.

"Probably not, but that doesn't mean we get to be like her, Sam," Dean countered. "I'm getting a little worried about how many times I have to point out to you that we don't kill people, Sam. What the hell is up with you? Why the hell are you all gung-ho on blowing everybody away these days?"

Sam eyed him for a moment, then slumped a little in his chair. "I have to change, don't I?" he asked and eyed the selection of sandwiches on the table for a moment. "I mean ... you're leaving in a little over six months. And then what? I can't do this on my own if I don't toughen up."

"Sam ..." Dean trailed off, unsure of what to say to that. His previously raging hunger had diminished enough that he could actually claim to not be hungry any more. Every time that topic came up – and in Dean's opinion it was coming up way too often these days – he didn't feel like eating. He didn't want to think about it, didn't want to get into it, but he figured he would have to at some point. Sam was right, after all.

"I just hate what's going to happen, Dean. You know? I just can't ..." Sam trailed off and self-consciously scratched the back of his head.

"I know," Dean agreed and leaned back on his chair. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry, okay? I never ... I didn't consider the consequences when I made that deal, Sam. All I knew was that I just ... couldn't do this without you."

"And now I'm gonna have to do it without you?" Sam countered. There was no bitterness in his tone this time, just sadness. And it cut Dean deeper than the bitterness would have.

"We are so not having a chick-flick moment over this, Sam," he said in an attempt at deflecting the somber mood with a bit of humor, but it fell flat.

"So not funny, Dean," Sam said.

"I know," he agreed. "I would never have taken that deal if I hadn't been so ..." He sighed deeply and wiped a hand over his lips, "... desperate," he finished and looked up to meet Sam's eyes. "I just ... can't do this alone. I didn't think ..." He shrugged. "I didn't think. Period."

"Well, as I said before, Dean. I'm gonna get you out of this deal, no matter how," Sam countered, grabbed a bottle of coke and unscrewed the top. "No matter how," he repeated.

"Just promise me one thing, Sam. Whatever you come up with ... don't put yourself on the line," Dean said.

Sam eyed the bottle in his hand for a moment, then glanced at the door with a slight frown furrowing his brow. But he said nothing.

"Sam, promise me," Dean insisted.

"I'm not going to make any promises I can't keep," Sam countered and met Dean's gaze dead on. "But I'll do what I can to avoid it. Good enough?"

"Not by a long shot, but I guess it'll have to do for now," Dean said, then shifted his gaze to the box that was now sitting on the table next to the sandwiches. "I would love to know what's so important about that damned box. What does it contain? The key to happiness?"

"Wouldn't that be a treat?" Sam countered and eyed the box too. "The thing is ... Bobby doesn't know what it is. So, my guess is that it's not a curse-box. I just don't know what the hell it is if it isn't. And why would dad have kept it if it wasn't a curse-box?" He arched an eyebrow and took a swig of the coke. "Then again, why would he have kept any of those damned boxes?"

"Maybe he didn't have time to destroy them and then forgot about them?" Dean suggested.

Sam eyed him critically. "When has dad ever forgotten about anything connected to a hunt?" he asked.

Dean grimaced. "Point taken," he said, reached over and picked the box up. "I'd still like to know what it contains, though. I mean ... Bela is making a lot of fuzz about it. She seems less cocky and more anxious this time around. I would also like to know who the hell has offered her over ten million dollars for this."

"Well, if you hadn't let her go, maybe we could have beaten it out of her," Sam said and smirked halfheartedly when Dean gave him a sharp look. "Just kidding," he added, but Dean wasn't so sure he was kidding.

"Well, she's out of our hair for now," Dean said and picked up the previously abandoned sandwich. "Are you up for a trip into town tomorrow or would you rather stay the hell away from Whitefish?"

"I'll give it a try," Sam said and made a face. "But if I feel the same way I did earlier ..."

Dean nodded. "Okay, so we get an early start, take a look around, and ... oh, by the way, Lucy invited us to dinner," he said and smirked.

Sam just stared at him. "Dean ... what the hell is it with you and that woman? The thought alone that she's supposed to be fifty creeps me out. Her youthful appearance is not natural and I don't mean she's been under the knife too many times. Why can't you see that?"

Dean made a face. "Look, Sam, I realize that it's a bit weird that she still looks so damned good, but ... there was nothing about her, apart from that, that made me feel even vaguely ill at ease. She's the same she was twenty years ago. And if it makes you feel any better, she's not a teacher any more. Besides, what better way is there to find out if there's something weird going on with her than if we visit her in her own home?"

Sam frowned. "Okay, fine. But I'm just telling you, there's something off about her. She's not ... natural."

Dean couldn't help a snort. "You are really hung up about her, aren't you?" he asked, to which Sam merely made a face. "Okay, fine. We'll take her up on the dinner invitation to check out if there's anything off about her. If there isn't, you drop it, okay?"

For a moment, all Sam did was just stare at the table top, then he shrugged lightly. "Fine," he agreed.

"Good," Dean countered. "Now shut up. I'm trying to eat here," he added.

Sam rolled his eyes and took another swig of the bottle before grabbing one of the sandwiches. "Are you on a health trip or something?" he asked after studying the sandwich closely for a moment.

"There's no pleasing you, is there?" Dean countered between mouthfuls. "First you bitch about my unhealthy diet, now you're bitching because I buy something that's good for me? What does it take, dude?"

Sam just wrinkled his nose and refrained from commenting and for a little while, things felt normal again. Dean knew the illusion wouldn't last, that Sam would lapse back into whatever melancholy had overtaken him, and that he himself would once again wallow in a pit of despair. But for now, he allowed himself to enjoy the silent togetherness he so liked spending with his brother.