Sam opened his eyes briefly, grimaced and closed them again. The room was swaying whenever he even thought of moving and his stomach lurched lazily in response.

Keeping his eyes firmly closed, he carefully rolled his head to the left and then opened his eyes again. Dean was sitting on his bed, the laptop open on his lap, an array of papers strewn out around him, while he stared at whatever he was doing on the laptop with single-minded determination.

He frowned briefly, then took the pen he had clenched between his teeth and dotted something down on the one of the many sheets of paper. In the process, he shifted his attention and became aware that Sam was watching him. That made him smirk. "Hey, slugger," he said. "How're you feeling?"

Sam blinked heavily once. "I'll tell you when the room stops spinning," he rasped and closed his eyes again. Damn, but didn't he feel ...

He trailed off in his own mind and opened his eyes again, met Dean's briefly scrutinizing gaze and then groaned and closed his eyes again so he could roll his head to the other side. How the hell was he ever going to face Dean again?

"You okay?" Dean asked and he sounded genuinely concerned.

The thought of what he had told Dean, of how many details he'd delved into, made him feel sicker than the booze did and it could result in only one thing. He rolled off the bed and hit the floor on his knees.

Dean was off his bed in a flash and grabbed the trash can and held it out to Sam, who barely managed to grab onto it before he started retching violently into it.

When he finally stopped again, Dean grabbed him, hoisted him back to his feet and got him back on the bed. Then he grabbed the trash can and the washcloth and disappeared into the bathroom for a few seconds before he came back with both, the trash can now empty and the washcloth cold and moist. He placed the latter over Sam's eyes and sat down next to him. "You feeling any better?" he asked.

"No," Sam rasped. Truth be told, he felt like shit and he wanted to pass out to get away from how downright awful he felt, but he couldn't. At least he didn't think he could, but the chill of the washcloth did more than he realized and he began to drift off again.

***

Dean just watched his brother for a moment, then reached out and rubbed his arm lightly. "Aw shit, Sammy," he sighed. "I'm sorry about the booze, but ... man ... it was the only way to get you to talk."

Sam didn't answer, but Dean had spent enough nights in the same room with him to know that he wasn't sleeping either.

Instead of pushing Sam into talking when he so obviously wasn't in the mood for it, Dean grabbed the blanket and draped it over him, then grabbed his phone and stepped outside. He closed the door behind him, pulled his wallet out of his pocket and retrieved Jodie's business card before dialing her number.

"Talk to me. If you're selling anything, scoot," came the reply.

Dean smirked. "Hey, it's Dean," he said.

"Deano. How's the witless wonder doing?" Jodie replied. She sounded a bit tired.

"Not so hot. I filled him up with booze last night to get him to talk," Dean countered. "You actually don't sound much better than him."

Jodie chuckled. "I'm taking the day off here. Got a little too philosophical last night, if you catch my drift," she countered. "So ... he told you everything then?"

"Yup, he did," Dean agreed. "Listen, Jodie, I need a favor. He's kinda coming around right now and ... I really don't wanna leave him alone. I kinda left Kate in a ... uhm ... compromising position back at her place this morning and I was wondering if I could convince you to drop by and check up on her. Just in case. I don't want her getting any funny ideas, you know," he said.

"Compromising position? What'd you do to her?" Jodie asked, her tone more curious than anything.

"Oh, I threatened her a little, tied her down to that bed of hers and ... well ... let's just say that the poltergeist haunting her was pretty adamant about getting back at her," Dean said. "I looked it up. Turns out some guy named Bill Connolly drove his car off a cliff about a year ago after having been kicked out of Stanford for drug abuse, which apparently got him kicked out from home and he lost his girlfriend too. They said he took his life in a fit of depression. I say he did it because of what Kate Mayor did to him."

"Nasty! Yeah, I read about that. Think I even knew the guy. I'm just not so sure I wanna go over there and meet that bitch. I'm likely to kick her head in just for what she did to Sam. I may not be into boys, but I sure as hell love that knucklehead like a brother," Jodie replied, then sighed audibly. "But since it's you asking ... I'll drop by a bit later. You want me to give you a call?"

"That would be great. We'll be sticking around town for a few days until Sam's up to facing the world again. I have a feeling he'll be moping around for a bit," Dean countered.

"And you can't blame him either, Dean. He's been through hell. That kinda crap sticks to you like ... well, crap." She cleared her throat. "Maybe you can tell I'm not at the top of my game? I just need a few more hours of sleep before I head over to the lair of the bitch and check her out."

Dean smirked. "Don't get any funny ideas just because she's tied up."

"And now you're putting ideas in my head. Bad boy," she countered with a chuckle. "I'll call you when I know how she's faring."

"Thanks, Jodie. I owe you," he said and hung up. He eyed the area for a moment, the parking lot and all the cars, while the sounds of the main street on the other side of the motel were subdued yet audible. He was really beginning to like Jodie and he totally got why Sam had considered her to be one of the guys. She sure behaved like it and she was safe to be around for his geeky little brother. "Not so geeky anymore," he muttered and shook his head, the bitter taste of disgust still lingering on his tongue. Man, what he wouldn't have given to be the one to strangle the life out of that bitch. But Jodie was right. The last thing he needed right now was the cops breathing down his neck for one more murder.

With that on his mind, he opened the door and stepped back inside, then came to an abrupt stop. Sam was no longer on the bed. He did a cursory check of the room, then focused on the now closed bathroom door and exhaled slowly. "Sam?" he called and stepped up to the door.

There was not a sound coming from inside.

"Sammy?" he tried again and knocked on the door, which showed him that the door wasn't closed. It swung open and revealed his brother sitting on the closed lid of the can, his elbows on his knees, his hands covering his face.

Dean leaned against the doorframe and watched him for a moment. "Sammy?" he tried once more.

It took a moment, but Sam finally lowered his hands and just sat there, looking tired and pale and so utterly depressed, it made Dean feel bad. And he wasn't looking at Dean at all.

"Sorry about last night," Dean finally said and shoved his hands into his pockets.

Sam glanced in his direction and pursed his lips in contemplation, then let his head drop. "I feel really shitty," he almost whispered.

"Yeah, I can tell," Dean agreed. "Did you eat anything at all yesterday?"

With a groan, Sam covered his face with his hands again. "Don't even go there," he moaned into his hands.

"Sorry, man. I know you're feeling this bad because of the booze, but ... you wouldn't have talked without it," Dean said.

"No, and I wish I hadn't," Sam muttered.

"Look, why don't you go back to bed, get a little more sleep. You'll feel better when you wake up again," Dean tried.

"There's nothing in this world that can make me feel better right now," Sam claimed quietly.

Dean made a face, then stepped into the bathroom, grabbed a hold of Sam's arm and hauled him to his feet, which extracted a suffering groan from his unsteady sibling. "Come on, Sasquatch," he said affectionately and dragged Sam back to bed. "Lie down, sleep."

"We're here to do a job," Sam muttered.

"Job's done. Don't worry about it anymore," Dean countered. "You'll never have to lay eyes on Kate Mayor again. She's out of your life for good."

Sam squinted up at him, then his expression changed slightly. He looked worried. "Dean, you didn't ..."

"No, Sam, of course not," Dean countered. "What do you take me for? We don't kill humans, remember?" He smirked lightly. "I did teach her a lesson, though," he added and pulled the blanket back over Sam, who eyed him with that worried look he knew so well.

"Like how?" he asked.

"Well," Dean said and shifted a little, "the poltergeist ... turns out it was the ghost of one of her former ... victims. The guy offed himself because she generally ruined his life and then he came back to haunt her. He was pretty miffed when I left and she was ... kinda tied up at the time."

"Tied up?" Sam asked.

"Yup. As I like to say, payback's a bitch," Dean countered with a smile. "Get some more rest, Sammy. You look like death incarnate."

Sam eyed him for a moment, then slowly began to relax again and finally closed his eyes. After a moment, his breathing evened out and that was when Dean began to relax a little. Somehow he had started to fear that Sam would insist they go over there and check on Kate and Dean could barely imagine what that might do to this brother right now. It would be best if he could get back on top first. Then, if he still wanted to deal with this, Dean would probably go along with it. But he hoped that Sam had had his fill of Kate Mayor for now.

***

Under normal circumstances, Dean would have been bored stiff half an hour after Sam had fallen asleep again, but with all that had happened and the fact that he hadn't actually slept at all over the last forty-eight hours, he decided to take a time-out himself and he was out cold moments after stretching out on his own bed.

When his phone went off some time later, it took him longer than normal to respond to it. He grabbed for it, missed it and tried again before actually managing to get a hold of it and press it to one ear. "Yeah?" he muttered.

"Dean? Jodie here. What motel are you guys at? I need to come over." Jodie sounded odd, which was generally what woke him up completely.

"Something wrong?" he asked.

"I'll tell you when I get there," she countered.

"The Days Inn. Room 25," Dean said and sat up.

"I'll be there in a bit. Don't go anywhere," she replied and hung up.

Dean pulled his phone away from his ear and stared at it for a moment, then switched it off and put it back on the bedside table before glancing over at Sam, who was still out cold.

Scrubbing both hands over his face, Dean sighed and got up, arched his back and then brushed his fingers through his hair. Jodie's tone had him worried. Something was up and it made him antsy.

A moment later, there was a knock on the door and he went over to answer it. Jodie gave him a somewhat pale imitation of a smile, glanced back at the parking lot, then stepped inside and closed the door behind her. "Start packing," she said.

"Why?" Dean asked.

"Because you guys need to leave town as in yesterday," she countered and glanced over at Sam. "I just checked up on the hellbitch," she added and returned her attention to Dean. "She's dead. As in all over the place dead."

Dean paled. "What?"

"The ghost shredded her. They'll need a damned bucket to mop her up in. There was blood everywhere. Every single wall on the ground floor was covered in gunk, the stairs into the basement were slippery with blood and that room ..." She shuddered. "I'm not normally the squeamish sort, Dean, but ... man ... you should have seen it. I wish nothing but bad things for Kate Mayor, but this was ..."

Dean sent a glance over at Sam as well and almost flinched when he realized Sam was quite awake and had heard what they were talking about. "She's dead?" he asked and propped himself up on one elbow.

"Yeah," Jodie agreed. "The police arrived about five minutes after I left. I guess someone saw or heard something."

"Are you sure you're not getting in trouble over this?" Dean asked.

"Me? No, hon. I'm not the one getting in trouble," she said and raised her hands and wiggled her black-clad fingers. "I always wear gloves. But, tell me, Dean. Did you?"

He stared at her for a second, then made a face. "Dammit," he growled. "Okay, we gotta get out of here. As in right now," he added.

Jodie nodded. "That's what I was thinking. Thought I'd give you guys a head start."

Sam struggled to get up and groaned. He looked a bit better, but was still fighting the after-effects of what was undoubtedly alcohol poisoning in a mild degree.

While Dean packed up, Jodie got Sam to his feet. "You look about ready to double over, Sammy," she commented.

"I'm not feeling so good," he admitted and tried a weak smile, which came out more like a grimace.

Dean lugged their duffels out into the trunk of the Impala while Jodie helped Sam over to the passenger side door and got him seated. "You stay in touch, you hear me?" she said and hunkered down next to him.

Sam leaned back, for all intents and purposes looking like he was about to pass out, but somehow managed to nod. "Yeah, I will. You've got my number," he countered. "So that goes both ways."

She smiled, then leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "You've always been a knucklehead, Sammy," she said. "You're the only guy who's ever made me want to try straight," she added with smirk.

"Yeah, right," Sam huffed weakly.

"We'd better get going," Dean said from behind her.

Jodie rose and turned around to face him. "You take good care of Sam, you hear? And yourself too," she said, hugged him fiercely and then planted a kiss on his cheek too. "And, you know, Sammy's right. You are an awesome brother."

Dean hugged her back and glanced at Sam over her shoulder. His brother wasn't looking at him and he looked a little flushed right now. "You take care of yourself, Jodie," he said. "And stay in touch. We need to know how bad this gets."

"You bet," she agreed, then slapped his butt with a grin. "Drive safely," she added, released him and stepped back.

Dean smirked, got in the car and revved the engine before pulling out of the parking lot.

They headed north out of town toward Oregon and Dean drove without stopping for the next many hours. Sam fell asleep again shortly after they'd left Palo Alto and woke up when they breezed through Redding some four hours later.

Dean glanced at him briefly. "You're looking better," he said.

Sam made a face and sat up a little straighter. "I feel like I've been punched in the guts," he admitted, then glanced at Dean. "Dean, you said you didn't ..." he began, but trailed off again.

"And I didn't. The damned spook did. You heard Jodie. I tied her up to that damned bed of hers, but that's all. I didn't know the spook would go this far," Dean countered. "But I can't say that I'm sorry it did. The world's a better place without people like Kate Mayor in it."

Sam pulled his shirt tighter around him to keep a shudder at bay, which made Dean frown.

"Don't you go feeling sorry for that bitch, Sammy. She got what was coming to her," he said.

Sam glanced at him and hunched his shoulders. "She must have been sick, Dean," he tried.

Dean almost stomped on the break, but reconsidered and pulled over to the side of the road instead. Then he turned a little to face Sam better while eying him darkly. "Are you nuts?" he asked. "What she did to you was only the tip of the iceberg and I don't give a flying shit whether she was sick or not, Sam. If her parents couldn't tell that she was a menace to society, someone else should have put a stop to her. She was a sadistic bitch with no sympathy for others or the hell she put them through and everything that happened to her was something she's been asking for for a very long time." Aggressively, Dean reached in the back and retrieved a blanket, which he tossed into Sam's lap. "Stop being such a bleeding heart, Sam. It's gonna get you killed some day," he added tightly. "We're gonna get out of California and hole up somewhere in Oregon for a day or two. Then I say we go see Bobby. I think it's best if we stay under the radar for a bit."

Sam ducked his head a little, unfolded the blanket and wrapped it around himself.

Dean drew in a deep breath and let it out again slowly. "Look, Sam, I get that you're not a hundred percent right now, but you have to stop being such a sucker for a sad story. I spoke to Kate a bit before and ... sure, she must have been sick No normal person behaves that way and gets off on it too. But that's no excuse. She put you through hell, she drove that guy Bill to commit suicide, and there she was, living in that big cushy house of hers, not a worry in the world except how she was gonna satisfied her kinks next. She's gone and good riddance. All we can hope for now is that my prints don't show up anywhere. That'll only add more fuel to the fire that's already burning under that Fed's ass," he added and rubbed a hand over his face.

Still Sam said nothing, just sat there, cowering under the blanket, while he stared at a spot beyond the glove compartment.

The silence stretched out long and thin between them, threatening to snap at any moment, and Dean decided that they needed to move, so he pulled them back out into the traffic while the sun crept toward the horizon and finally set in the west in a spectacular display of orange fading to black. "We should have taken the scenic road," he muttered.

Sam shifted into the corner between seat and door and leaned his head against the glass, but he didn't fall asleep again.

At the point where they passed the four-hour-mark of driving, Dean was really beginning to feel the lack of sleep of the past few days and had to force himself to stay awake long enough for them to find a motel somewhere. That it took nearly another hour wasn't good news, but he did manage to stay alert enough to avoid any accidents until he pulled into the parking lot of a Motel 6 in Weed an hour later.

Dean checked them in and forced himself through the motions until he had gotten Sam safely inside. He dropped their duffels just inside the door, kicked it shut and glanced around the room for a moment. Then he sighed. "Okay, we sleep here tonight and then we haul ass out of Cali tomorrow," he said.

Sam nodded and stretched out on the bed.

"Dude, at least get under the covers," Dean admonished him. "Man, we should get something to eat before we sleep," he added as if on second thought and realized how tired he really was. He hadn't even had breakfast or lunch and it was getting close to midnight.

"'m not hungry," Sam muttered and made no effort to get up again.

Dean eyed him for a moment, then hauled the bedspread off his bed and draped it over Sam. Then he shrugged out of his jacket, kicked his boots off, dropped his jeans and crawled into bed himself. He was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.

***