Motel 6
San Angelo
Texas

By the time they had returned to Motel 6 on Bryant Boulevard, Sam seemed to have calmed down a bit and Dean wondered what this mood swing was about. Sam wasn't usually the one to go overboard on the emotional front.

Sam dropped down on the bed furthest from the door and just sat there and frowned ahead of himself for a moment. Then he looked up at Dean, who kicked the door shut and looked around the room for a moment before turning to face him.

"So? What's up with you? Why so sulky?" Dean asked.

"I'm not ..." Sam ground his teeth together, "... sulky," he finished.

"Then what's the matter?" Dean asked and eyed him closely.

"Nothing," Sam said and it was clearly a lie.

"Fine. Until you tell me the frigging truth, you get to do research in an old, dusty historical society while I get to hang out with Angelina and her son and make friends. Does that motivate you to tell me what's going on or do I need to get tough with you?" Dean countered, stuffed his hands into his pockets and just glared at Sam.

Sam made a face, but didn't move. He just continued to sit there and look annoyed. It lasted all of two minutes, though. Then he suddenly looked up at Dean. "Sorry," he said quietly and sighed. "I ... don't know what that was."

Dean wasn't too happy about the fact that Sam didn't know what had brought that on, but for now he let it slide. "Aw, never mind. We've got more important things to tend to," he said and glanced at the connecting door to the next room before stepping up to it. He knocked twice. "Angie? You in there?"

The door opened. "You're back," Angelina stated needlessly. "Is that ... it?"

Dean smirked. "Nope, we're just getting started. Sam's gonna handle the research. He's best at that," he said.

Angelina eyed him for a moment. "And what are you going to do?" she asked.

"Uh ... I'm kinda on the backburner right now, so to speak. In other words, got nothing to do. What have you got planned?" he countered.

Angelina glanced at Sam, who once again looked slightly annoyed, then back at Dean. "Well ... Sean is asleep, so I can't leave. Whatever you have in mind, you'll have to do it alone," she said.

With the distinct impression that she thought he had indicated something more than just hanging out and getting to know one another, Dean took a step back. "Well, if you'd rather be alone ... I don't want to impose," he said and raised both hands in a deprecating gesture while giving her a disarming smile.

For some reason that was completely beyond Dean, his charm didn't seem to work on her. She just eyed him, then shrugged lightly. "Up to you," she said and returned to the next room, leaving the door ajar.

For a moment all Dean could think of doing was to just stand there and stare. Then he glanced at Sam again, who now looked like he was amused. "You having fun over there?" he asked, his tone derisive. "Go find that historical society so we can get this thing over with," he added.

"Just don't trip over yourself with boredom," Sam said, grabbed his jacket and was out the door before Dean could come up with an appropriate comeback.

"Son of a ..." he started, then glanced at the door to the next room and sighed. Leaving Angelina and Sean behind wasn't in the books. He hadn't felt right about leaving them to go check on that damned factory and it felt even more wrong to leave if he had nothing specific to do. Instead he pulled the door open and stepped through to the next room.

Sean was asleep on the bed closest to the window and Angelina was sitting at the small table close by, watching him. She glanced at Dean when he stepped in, but said nothing.

"You okay?" Dean asked quietly.

She nodded, her eyes still on her sleeping son. "If you want to talk, we should do that next door. Sean is a light sleeper," she said just as quietly and got up.

Dean was about to disagree, he wasn't the one who needed to talk, but then figured it might be the best way for her to tell him a little more about herself and about Sean. "Sure," he said and retreated back into the other room.

Angelina followed him and closed the door behind her. She glanced at him, then trailed over to the window and looked out while folding her arms over her chest. "It's a hell of a life you two are living," she said after a moment.

Dean settled down on his bed after shrugging out of his jacket. "Yeah, I guess," he agreed. "I don't really remember any other life, though. It's pretty much routine, all of this."

"Hunting ghosts?" she asked and turned back to face him.

"Yeah, among other things," he said. "We grew up doing this. I can't really imagine anything else. What about you?"

She sighed lightly and settled down on one of the chairs. Almost languidly, she traced a fingertip over the closed lid of Sam's laptop. "I can imagine so much more," she finally said. "A better life for Sean, first and foremost. An enchanted land where his father is still alive and my life hasn't been ripped apart by monsters. It's not even two years yet and it feels like a distant dream."

Dean almost felt sorry that he had asked. It seemed to rip open barely healed wounds in her. Her tone was even, quiet, but her eyes were a little misty. "I'm ... sorry," he said, not entirely sure how to handle this situation.

"Yeah, well, there's no sense in crying over spilt milk, as my mother used to say," Angelina replied and smiled ruefully. "I don't think it would be so bad, this life, if it wasn't for ... those men."

Sam had indicated that someone was hunting her and she hadn't denied it, but she hadn't spoken about it either. Dean remained silent, waiting for her to go on in her own time. He didn't want her to clam up again or withdraw. But when she didn't say anything else and made no move to speak again, he felt the need to prompt her. "What men?"

"The ones that are after Sean. Sam mentioned that you knew about them," Angelina said and eyed him closely for a moment. "You don't?"

"No, we do, but we don't know which ones. What makes you think someone's after Sean?" he asked.

"I shot one of them," she said and made a face. "I had fancy ideas when I was younger. About living in tune with nature and never hurting anything or anyone. I've tried to live by those rules my entire life, but ever since Jordan ..." Again she sighed. "Well, let's just say that my priorities have changed somewhat. Sean is the one most important thing in my life and I will kill to protect him," she added and met Dean's gaze across the room.

"Yeah, I feel the same way about Sam," Dean said before he had a chance to consider what he was about to say.

Angelina's expression told him clearly that she was confused by that statement. "How much older are you?" she asked.

Dean smirked. "Four years. Sam's basically been my responsibility since he was six months old, so I kinda know where you're coming from," he said and figured the best way to make her open up would be to reveal things about his own past. "Who did you shoot?"

"You were alone?" she asked, ignoring his question for now.

"No, we had our dad. But he was hunting the thing that killed our mom, so he wasn't around much. And ... well ... me being the oldest ... someone had to take care of the squirt, so that was sorta my job," he said.

"But ... you weren't older than Sean is now," Angelina said. "How could your father expect you to take care of your brother at that age?"

Dean shrugged lightly. "He was my responsibility. There wasn't any other way," he said, brushing it off.

She blinked, then glanced away, obviously getting the point that Dean wasn't too keen on talking about that. Then she snorted halfheartedly. "I can't even imagine Sean taking care of anyone at this age. He's too young," she said almost to herself, then focused on Dean again. "What happened to your mom?"

"She was killed by a demon," Dean said. "I didn't see it, but ..." He made a face, remembering his father's expression when he had told Dean about that night the first time and it made him grimace painfully. "I was almost five years old when I found out that there are monsters in the world. I did everything I could to keep it from Sam for as long as possible." He smirked helplessly. "There are times now that I wish he didn't know, you know?"

"I can imagine," Angelina said sadly.

Dean glanced at the connecting door. "So, what about Sean?" he asked after a moment. "Has he always been able to ... heal?"

Angelina just sat there for a moment, lost in thought. Then she shifted a little and glanced at the door too.

"You can trust us, you know. I'm deadly serious about wanting to help you. But we need to know who we're up against to do that effectively. So, why don't you tell me who these men are that are hunting you and Sean and I'll see what I can do about it, okay?" he tried.

Her expression was a bit tense right now, telling him that she was unsure about what to do, what to say. She folded her arms over her chest again, her body language speaking volumes. "I don't know who they are," she finally said. "But I do know they're after Sean. I've met three so far. One of them is dead because I shot him." She paused. "It was self-defense. He was aiming a rifle at Sean, intending to shoot him in the head. How could I allow that?"

"You couldn't," Dean said. "I would have done the same."

She scrutinized him for a second, searching for the truth behind his words, then nodded. "I guess you would," she said. "The first one I met at a bar. It was adjacent to the motel we were staying at and Sean was in bed. I went out to grab a beer, to just ... not be alone right then. And this guy starts asking me about Sean. I didn't think he was dangerous, didn't really see it coming, until he started asking about Sean's special abilities. And he had this ... look in his eyes. Like he was a hunter trying to trace an injured buck or something, all manic and ... frightening. I took off, threw Sean in the car and left there right away. After that I didn't use the credit card to pay for motels anymore and I didn't use my real name either." She rubbed a hand over her brow, looking deadly tired all of a sudden. "I ran into another one sometime later. He saw Sean and tried to talk to him, to win his trust or something. The third one did that too, even managed to lure Sean with him to a deserted place before he raised his damned rifle and nearly shot my son. I had no other choice than to shoot him first." She met Dean's gaze again. "That's why it freaked me out that you approached Sean. I was afraid you were going to ..."

Dean nodded. "Don't blame you. You've shown them that you can defend yourself. That counts for a lot, makes them more cautious in approaching you."

A shiver rippled through her. "That won't stop them from coming though, will it?" she asked without looking at him.

"No, but that's what we're here for," Dean countered.

She focused on him, the look in her eyes one of caution and disbelief. "Why?" she asked quietly.

"Why what?" he asked back.

"Why are you helping me? What do you get out of it?"

It was a question he actually hadn't expected from her. But when push came to shove, there really was only one reason that he could think of. "It's what we do," he said with a light shrug. "It's ... hard to explain, really. The more we help people with these specific kinds of problems, the less evil things are walking the Earth and the less likely it is that someone else will have to go through the same loss we did."

Angelina just sat there for a moment and looked at him. "That's almost poetic," she said after a moment and smiled halfheartedly.

Dean couldn't help a smirk. "I've been called a lot of things in my time," he confessed. "But poetic wouldn't be one of them."

They fell silent for a bit and Dean just watched her in the meantime. Almost two years on the run had left her tattered and torn, both mentally and physically, but he had the feeling that she was a pretty woman. A little more sleep and a lot less worrying would do miracles for her. "Why don't you go take a nap or something? I'll keep watch," he said after a bit.

She chewed on her lower lip and looked like she was about to say something, but then her gaze suddenly snapped toward the door between the rooms. She rose abruptly.

"Angie? What's wrong?" Dean asked and rose too.

Before he could even make a guess at what was going on, she pulled the gun from her waistband, a Glock he noticed, and holding it like a pro, she approached the door, her whole body tense.

Instead of asking any further questions, he pulled his own gun and followed her. She had obviously heard something. Carefully, she pushed the door open and stepped into the room, the gun aimed at the floor. She stopped briefly to take in the scene, then rushed out of the open door to the hallway beyond.

Dean paused for a second, noting that Sean was gone and that the room's door was open. The safety chain had been cut, thereby making it impossible for Sean to have left on his own.

Without hesitation, he hurried after Angelina, who didn't seem to give a damn if anyone saw her with a gun. There were sounds up ahead, around the corner toward the reception area, some kind of shuffle, and Dean overtook Angelina, putting himself between her and any possible attacker.

What he saw when he edged around the corner made him smirk lightly. There was Sam, with Sean behind him, his own gun drawn and aimed at the guy now standing against the wall of the corridor.

"Sam," Dean said.

Sam didn't take his eyes off the man and he looked pretty tense. "I saw this bastard trying to take Sean out of here," he countered.

Dean glanced at Sean, who looked a little nervous, then back at Angelina who looked about ready to kill the guy, and decided to take the road less traveled.

He grabbed the front of the guy's t-shirt and pushed the muzzle of his gun against the underside of his chin. "I'm gonna release you in a second and when I do, you're gonna walk out of here and you won't come back. Do I make myself clear?" he snarled. "If I ever see your ugly mug again, I'm going to shoot you."

The guy, a man twice his age and twice as heavy, nodded vaguely. The look in his eyes was dangerous though.

Dean released him and stepped back and the guy did exactly what Dean had told him to do. That didn't mean they wouldn't run into him again.

"Keep walking," he advised the guy, then reached up, put a hand on top of Sam's hands still holding the gun trained on the guy and gently pushed them down. "Easy, Sammy," he said quietly and watched Sam until he began to relax a little.

Then Dean turned his attention to Sean, who was still standing behind Sam, one hand clawed into Sam's jeans. "You okay, kiddo?" he asked.

Sean looked up at him and nodded vaguely, then glanced at his mother. A second later he was in her arms.

"Why did you let him go?" Angelina asked, her tone almost dead.

"Because it's not doing us any favors if we blow some guy away in the corridor of a motel," Dean countered. "What happened?" he asked and glanced up at Sam.

"I was on my way back when I ran into that bastard," Sam said, his tone tight. "He's a hunter, Dean."

"I figured as much. He has the look," Dean agreed. "Let's pack up. We need to find a different place to hole up for now. Somewhere away from the mainstream."

***

The new place wasn't a motel and it sure as hell wasn't comfortable, but it would do. It was out of the way and there were no other people around. Angelina glanced around the old, rickety cottage and frowned. She would never have thought of finding a place like this herself. She was still too stuck in the old ways to think too much outside the box and in a sense, meeting up with these two guys was teaching her new ways.

"Do you have a sleeping bag or something?" Sam asked. "These beds aren't exactly clean." He sounded apologetic, like it was his fault that they had been forced to leave the relative comfort of the motel and hide out here in the sticks. "I need to go back into town anyway. I'll pick you up a sleeping bag on the way," he added.

Angelina eyed him for a moment. Of the two she trusted Sam more than Dean, but that was mainly because Dean generally acted like those guys at school she had always avoided with a vengeance; the jocks, the quarterbacks. That there was so much more under that surface of the hapless jock attitude he displayed most of the time was a given. His concern for his brother's well being along with the fact that he went out of his way to help a complete stranger proved that abundantly. "Thanks," she said in reply to Sam's suggestion.

Sean stood in the middle of the room and looked around with a slight frown furrowing his brow. Then he glanced at Angelina. "Are we staying here?" he asked.

"Yeah," Angelina replied and gave him a tentative smile. The shock of realizing someone had stolen her son right out from under her was still sending vibrations of deep concern through her and she fought the need to just take Sean and run like hell. But where would she go? On foot she wouldn't get far, not when these damned hunters were on their trail.

"Why don't you come with me to town?" Sam suddenly asked.

Angelina turned her attention back to him. "Thanks, but I don't think so. I'm not taking Sean back to San Angelo and I really don't want to leave him alone," she countered.

"Well ... he wouldn't be alone, would he? Dean's here," Sam said and smiled lightly. "I just thought you might want a break or something. I just need to pick up some material that lady at the local historical society found for me and we need some supplies as well."

The thought of leaving Sean behind with a stranger ... and despite all their good intentions, both the boys was still strangers to them ... made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on edge. "No, I don't think that's a good idea," she said.

Sean made a face. "I can hang out with Dean," he said hopefully.

"I said no, Sean," Angelina persisted and folded her arms over her chest, then glanced back at Sam. "Thanks for offering, but ..."

"That's okay," Sam said quickly. "I'll handle it myself." He grabbed his backpack and left the cottage.

Angelina sank down on the edge of one of the rickety-looking beds that occupied the one room of the cottage and fought hard against the rising tide of emotions. The near miss had her tingling with fear and apprehension and she was grateful to Sam for saving Sean, but she still could not stop herself from being all jittery at the thought of leaving her son alone with anyone other than herself.

The rumble of the car's engine told her that Sam was taking off alone and she felt a little bad about turning him down. She knew why he had offered for her to come along, but the thought of leaving Sean, even in the care of Sam's brother, made her pull back instantly.

A moment after the sound of the engine had died away, Dean stepped back inside and briefly glanced around. "Well, this isn't the Ritz," he said and there was some regret in his voice.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly, which drew his attention to her instantly.

"For what?" he asked and made a sweeping gesture at the room. "For this?" He smirked. "Aw, don't be. It's okay. We've had worse. Besides, right now our noblest duty is to protect you and the little guy."

"Sean should be your main priority," she said and glanced at her son, who was fiddling around with something in her backpack.

"Mom, can I go outside?" Sean asked and rose. He had a baseball in one hand. It had belonged to his father and he liked to play with it.

Angelina glanced at Dean, who nodded. "The area's secure. Nobody's gonna come after him here," he said.

Keeping the incident at the motel in mind, Angelina sighed lightly before returning her attention to her son. "Okay, but I'll be on the porch, and you don't go anywhere where I can't see you, okay?"

Sean nodded and raced out the door.

Angelina rose and followed him, but stopped next to Dean. "No offense. I know what happened at the motel wasn't your fault, but ..."

Dean grinned. "No problem. I get that you're nervous," he said and followed her outside.

They settled on some rickety old crates on the porch and watched Sean toss the ball around by himself for a bit.

"When did you know that Sean was ... special?" Dean asked after a moment of silence had passed between them.

Angelina kept watching Sean and considered that question. "Since before he was born," she said and couldn't help a vague smile at the memory. "While I was pregnant, I was invulnerable. I would cut myself on a can or something, and the cut would heal up instantly. I thought I'd ... I don't know. I thought my husband's god was trying to teach me a lesson or something. It's the closest thing I've ever come to any true faith."

Dean watched Sean too and Angelina got the feeling that he felt responsible for the motel incident and wouldn't let down his guard again. "So, you believe in God now?" he asked after a moment and glanced at her.

Angelina met his eyes briefly. "No, I can't say that I do. Even if there is a god out there somewhere ... well, I don't really see that he's worth worshiping in any way. You don't let your kids run out into traffic to play and then just turn your back on them and expect them to handle it themselves," she said. "I don't believe in God. But I do believe in evil. Because I've seen it," she added and shook her head sadly. "How anyone can think that Sean is evil ..." She grimaced, unhappy about the mere notion.

Dean sighed. "Yeah, I know what you mean. There's no one more righteous in this world than Sam. He'd rather risk getting attacked by something evil just to make sure it really is evil, than take the chance of killing an innocent. I must admit, I have no frigging clue where he gets that from. He's ... a hell of a lot more mellow than the rest of the family."

"Your father is a hunter?" Angelina asked.

"Was," Dean corrected her. "He's ... dead."

His tone hitched briefly on that and Angelina got the distinct impression that Dean was the type of person who carried around guilt that wasn't his to carry. He probably blamed himself for his father's death as well as everything else. "I'm sorry," she said.

He half shrugged, brushing it off. "He's a pretty active kid, huh?" he asked after a moment of watching Sean speed around the area in front of the cottage with his baseball.

"Yeah, he can be a handful at times," Angelina agreed. "But I wouldn't trade him for anything."

Dean smirked, then rose and stepped over toward Sean. "Hey, I'm open," he yelled.

Sean stopped briefly and eyed him, then grinned and threw him the ball, which Dean caught with frightening ease.

Angelina watched them toss the ball around for a while and started feeling a little more at ease. Over the two years of being on the move to get away from the darkness that had killed her husband, Angelina had learned the hard way to read others. And despite her initial apprehension, she was beginning to see that neither of the brothers meant them any harm. And Dean just seemed to attract Sean's attention like nobody ever had before.

She smiled and settled herself more comfortably, feeling some of the strain of the last two years ooze out of her.

***

San Angelo
Texas

Sam had picked up the papers about the old factory and had spent some time feeling vaguely normal again while he was out shopping for the things they needed. He picked up two sleeping bags for Angelina and Sean and grabbed a few more necessities while he was there anyway, when a conversation taking place the next isle over caught his attention.

"Stop twitching. What are you so upset about?"

"It's those damned Winchesters. I had a run-in with the dad once and he was just as mean as those two punks."

Sam froze to the spot at the sound of those voices. It would seem that the guy from the motel had called backup. He glanced up toward the ceiling of the department store and saw the signs dangling there, indicating what section he was in. Sporting Goods was right next to the Camping Gear where he was right now.

"I heard from Walker that the younger of them is damned near the Anti-Christ," the first man said.

"Anti-Christ?" the second one snorted. "Yeah, right. He's just a kid. Good with a gun, but still just a kid. Can't be a day over twenty-five either."

"If he's so innocent, how come you let him get away with that little freak?" the first one asked.

"Cause he's a freak too. And his damned brother turned up and pulled a frigging gun on me too," the second one countered. "I need a few more knives," he added.

"Do you know where they are now?" the first one asked.

"Nope. I tried to track them, but they disappeared out of town. But that car ... that'll be easy to find."

Sam swallowed. The Impala was parked a bit further down the road and these guys were right; the car was easy to track.

"Screw the car. Do you know how many Impalas there are in this damned country?" the first one said. "Just keep an eye on the papers. That little freak is bound to heal someone else soon. All we gotta do is keep an ear to the ground. We'll find them. And when we do, make sure you cap the mom first. She's dangerous, that one. She took out Barrister without so much as a twitch."

The voices faded away down the aisle toward the checkout and Sam let out a slow breath. He was beginning to think that the haunted factory had to wait, that they needed to get the hell out of Dodge while they still could. "Shit," he whispered and glanced down at the array of stuff he had picked up. If it wasn't for the fact that they needed it, he would have dropped it all and made a run for it.

Instead he opted to loiter around the department store for a bit longer and hoped those goons hadn't made the Impala before he could get out of town again. With a bit of luck, both of them would leave town in search of them, but Sam wasn't counting on it. He wouldn't do it and he wasn't half as much a hunter as those two guys seemed to be.

He stayed for another half hour, then finally moved toward the checkout line, paid with one of the countless credit cards Dean kept procuring from somewhere, and cautiously stepped out of the store. He inspected the street and saw no sign of the two men. At least he knew what one of them looked like.

Keeping it as casual as he could, he hurried over to where the Impala was parked, tossed everything onto the backseat and got behind the wheel. He wouldn't be happy until he was back with Dean again and he needed to make Dean aware of the problems the Impala might create for them. He knew that Dean would rather cut off his arm than get rid of the Impala, though.

A quick glance in either direction showed him nothing out of the ordinary and all he could hope for was that those two weren't hanging around somewhere, watching the car. In general, he knew he couldn't guarantee that those two morons weren't watching somewhere and would track him.

Instead of driving straight back to the old cottage, he took a pretty long detour and ended up on a three hour trip rather than the twenty minutes it would actually have taken to reach the cottage. And all the while he kept a close eye on the rearview mirror to hopefully spot any pursuers. There was a lot of traffic, though, so spotting anyone was nearly impossible. Once he turned down the dirt road that lead to the cottage, he kept glancing in the rearview mirror, but nobody was following him.

***