Rating: PG-13


Chapter 4

There's more to the truth than just the facts.

Author Unknown

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Words spoken in unison died between them as the morning sun turned his brother's pale skin translucent.

"Dean?"

Sam was on his feet, his stomach a block of ice, crossing the room just before Dean's knees buckled. He caught Dean's elbow with his good hand and turned him smoothly, sitting him on the edge of the bed as if the moment had been choreographed.

"Whoa…" Dean's voice was weak; his still-wet body shuddered once beneath Sam's fingertips. His hands sought the edge of the bed in a clumsy grip of balance. "Think I, uh… stood up too fast…"

Sam pressed his hand on the back of Dean's clammy neck, easing his brother's head forward, encouraging him with touch to keep it low. Watching the blood drain from Dean's face had momentarily erased his epiphany-like flash of discovery. His brother had had concussions before, but had always been able to ride out the pain, shoving it smoothly behind that indestructible wall he'd built around everything real.

The loss of hearing, though, seemed to add a vulnerability to this injury that even Dean was unsure how to deal with. With a frustrated groan that seeped up from deep in his throat, Dean braced his skull with the heel of his hand, his eyes clenched tight, drawing crevasses at the edges of his lashes.

"Son of a bitch," he uttered on a shaky exhale.

Patting Dean's neck to signal that he was moving away, Sam crossed the room and grabbed the Tylenol and a bottle of water. He returned to Dean, crouching in front of him, and tried to push two pills into his brother's tight fist.

"Dammit, Sam, I said no!" The protest was weedy, ragged with simmering anger.

"You idiot; it's Tylenol," Sam muttered, shoving at Dean's shoulder to get him to open his eyes. "If you'd stop being so damn stubborn you might realize that I listen to you once in awhile."

Dean blinked at the pills in Sam's hand, realization dawning slowly. He sighed with obvious relief, grabbed them and dry-swallowed both before Sam could twist the cap off of the bottle of water.

"Guh, Sam…" Dean wrinkled his nose as he took the bottle and swallowed noisily. "You smell like a grave."

Sam blinked in surprise, taking the bottle back before Dean dropped it. Dean had returned to holding his head and his eyes were directed at the floor in an unfocused gaze that spiked Sam's worry to a cresting point.

"I… I can actually smell… the dirt on you. And… dude, I think I smell… blood."

Sam automatically glanced at his bandaged hand, seeing the pinkish tinge on the white gauze as the sutures seeped through.

"It… it smells like… metal," Dean continued. "And salt. You think I could smell blood?"

Dean looked up and Sam was struck by the defenseless expression ghosting his brother's too-big eyes. Sam swallowed. Dean's eyes never revealed this much, were never this exposed. He wasn't sure how to deflect that, how to balance in the wake of raw need from the one person who was supposed to be his anchor. He stood shakily, reaching out for the wall and leaned one shoulder against the edge by the bathroom door, the sunlight streaming through the empty window heating his bare back and tossing his shadow across his brother's pale face.

"What the hell is happening to me?" Dean dropped his head into the palm of his hand and carefully rubbed his fingers through his wet hair, standing the dark strands up in spikes.

"You're just human, man," Sam said softly to his brother's bowed head, aware that Dean took in none of his words, of his worry. "That's all. You're…" Breakable. Fragile. Real. "You're gonna be okay."

Dean rubbed his forehead against his palm, addressing the floor. "It's like what Dad said, y'know? About taking one sense away and using the others?"

Sam frowned. "Dad said that?"

"I just always figured… I don't know… I'd hear something more… close my eyes and listen harder, but…" Dean groaned again, tightening his fingers in his hair and curling his stomach muscles until his nose practically touched his kneecaps.

"Dean?" Sam leaned forward, reaching out and gripping Dean's bare shoulder, his fingers sliding over the droplets of water that still clung to his skin. "What is it?"

Dean didn't speak, and Sam felt the muscles beneath his fingers quaking as he rode out the tide of pain, rocking a bit with the beat of his own heart. Sam grimaced helplessly. Dr. Wilde had told him that the pain could be severe, and it seemed that the wave of sound that hit Dean at intermittent intervals might be more than his soldier of a brother could handle.

"Easy," he found himself whispering, not caring that Dean couldn't hear him. Needing to say it. Needing to do something. "Just take it easy, Dean."

"Dude," Dean finally gasped, relaxing a fraction. "This sucks on so many different levels."

Sam nodded, feeling weak with relief as the grip of pain seemed to ebb and Dean slumped sideways into his bracing hand.

"You need to shower, man," Dean whispered, letting gravity's power pull him the rest of the way down to the bed, his feet resting on the floor, towel twisted around his waist.

"What about you?" Sam asked, unthinking. The idea of leaving Dean alone had the block of ice that was his stomach twisting until his insides felt like mush.

"Lemme 'lone a minute," Dean slurred, drawing in air shallowly, puffing it out between pursed lips. He rolled carefully to his back and draped his forearm across his eyes. "Jus' wanna… wanna lay here a minute."

Sam frowned, peering closer at his brother's profile. A thin line of crimson spilled slowly from his left ear and trickled down his neck. Sam grabbed a towel from the bathroom rack, dampened it with lukewarm water and returned to his brother's side. Carefully, lower lip trapped between his teeth, Sam started to clear the blood away.

"Dude!" Dean clumsily slapped his hand away, wincing as he tried to peer up at Sam. "What the hell?"

Wordlessly, Sam held up the pinked towel for Dean to see.

"Shit," Dean cursed, reaching for his ear and smearing at the blood.

"Don't do tha—argh! Jeeze, man, just hang on a minute," Sam muttered, reaching for Dean's hand and holding it away as he finished cleaning off the blood. Sighing, he speared the bed with his knee, leaning his weight there and watched as Dean let his body shift sideways into the resulting valley.

For a moment, they looked at each other, thoughts shielded by cautious eyes, need masked by uncertainty, pain buried gut-deep where it couldn't betray them. In the silence between them, Sam heard the tick of the air conditioning unit, doors opening and closing in the hallway, muffled voices calling to each other, his breath expanding the balloon-like elasticity of his lungs, his heart rushing his blood through his veins.

Watching Dean, he knew. He could see. He felt Dean hear…nothing.

"Lie still," Sam enunciated carefully.

"Why?" Dean replied, his green eyes pinned to Sam's mouth, hungry for communication, for a connection to the only normal he'd ever cared about.

"Just lay here and take it easy for a minute," Sam shifted free of the bed, turning away. "I gotta figure out how to finish this hunt without you," he said to himself.

He wasn't clear on what was going on, but they had been through too much—Dean had been through too much—to let the ghost of an old man's wife be the thing that took what little they had left away from them.

"Sam," Dean called after him.

Sam was halted by the ragged edge in Dean's tired voice. He looked over his shoulder, catching his brother's eyes with a question.

"I think… I think the… ala is back," Dean said slowly.

Sam rotated quickly. "What?"

"I remembered," Dean shifted clumsily to his elbows, propping himself up, the muscles in his stomach rucked up in ridges above the top of the white towel. "I remembered what I saw in the back of the house—just before everything blew up."

Sam stepped forward, tilting his head to the side in an unconscious gesture of encouragement. "What did you see, Dean?"

"I remembered… birds."

Sam felt his eyebrows meet over the bridge of his nose. "Birds," he repeated.

Dean sat up, the towel gaping open at his knees as he pulled one leg in to tuck it under the other. He leaned forward, elbows on his legs, one hand captured in the other, the pad of his thumb worrying the callous beneath his ring. His eyes were on the bedspread and Sam realized he had no intention of trying to focus on anything Sam had to say. His own words were slamming against each other in their rush to escape.

"I kept remembering birds… and it didn't make sense… I mean… what the hell, right?"

Sam watched a subtle shiver slide through Dean as the cooler air of the room left a path of gooseflesh across his shoulders. He stepped out of the direct path of the sun, letting the balm-like rays hit Dean's skin as his brother continued to talk.

"But just now—well, earlier… in the shower… I kept seeing these flashes… talons, and wings and… it was just like… just like back in that water, back in South Carolina."

Sam sat heavily on the edge of the bed, the shift in weight drawing Dean's attention. He ducked his head, making sure Dean was looking at him when he said, "You lost me."

Dean sighed, rolling his neck in a motion Sam had learned to recognize as an attempt to release tension. Reaching up, Dean pulled at the knotted muscles at the juncture of his neck and shoulder, then regarded Sam through his lashes, his chin lowered.

"You remember I told you Dad hunted an ala before?"

Sam nodded. "I don't remember it, though."

Dean looked down. "Yeah, well. There's a reason for that. I made you forget it."

"Huh?" When Dean didn't react to his incredulity, Sam smacked the bed, snapping Dean's eyes up. "What are you talking about?"

"When Dad fought the ala back then, you and I fell in the water. I… I couldn't get to you right away," Dean looked away, an unreadable expression washing over his face and tightening his lips. "And when I did, I saw… I saw the thing reaching for you. The real form of that ala."

"A bird?" Sam wondered aloud. "I thought it was a storm demon…"

Dean shrugged as if he'd heard him. "I didn't really bother to look into it after we left Pastor Jim's, but the ala looked like a bird under the water, and it was reaching for you… I grabbed you, but I don't know, man. If Dad hadn't killed it… I don't know."

Sam rubbed his top lip, thinking. It didn't make sense. The ala was a storm demon—true form or not. There hadn't been any reports of storms, no lightening for the ala to travel, not even an overly-cloudy day. There was something else going on—something that Dean in his addled state related to that hunt so many years ago. Something that made him think of birds.

He felt Dean quietly berating himself and he rode the tide of his memory, but the comfort he knew how to offer came in a form Dean wouldn't be able to absorb. He watched Dean cup his head in his palms once more, breathing deeply.

"Dean," he said, softly, touching the back of his brother's hand. "Dean, look at me."

Dean lifted his face, his eyes luminous and blood-shot. He waited.

"Listen, I don't know about the ala, okay? I don't know, but we'll figure it out…somehow…" Sam promised, making sure to speak clearly.

Dean didn't move. Sam couldn't even tell if he was breathing. His eyes were fastened to Sam's mouth, ready for more.

"I found something out about the house," Sam revealed. "The Cooper's house. George said it had a history, so I thought…"

"What did you find, Sam?" Dean snapped, a shadow of his usual get to the point already self emerging.

"Well, the last two former owners died under mysterious circumstances. One drowned in the kitchen sink, the other fell down the basement stairs… uh… hang on…" Sam jumped up from the bed and went to his laptop, turning the monitor away from the sun's glare so that he could better read the last page he'd pulled up. "Let's see, there was an electrocution and another fire."

"Dude!"

Sam jerked his head over in Dean's direction. "Oh, right sorry. I said electrocution and fire."

"Fire, huh?"

Sam nodded.

"Could all be just unlucky accidents."

"Yeah, but…" Sam crossed the room again to stand nearer to Dean, the sun slicing a warm beam across his face. He marveled at how aware he was of his own lips, the movement, motion, feel of them as they wrapped around thoughts to form words that brought his brother back into the now.

"You add Camilla dying of a heart attack when she was perfectly healthy, and the gas leak…"

"Camilla died at the house?" Dean asked, confusion drawing a line between his brows.

"No—church picnic, but it was her house."

Dean nodded sagely, squinting against the glare of the sun as he glanced out through the window. Sam buried an internal smile at the observation that neither of them had bothered to re-hang the curtains.

"Well, this could be something," Dean allowed. "We'll go back to the house, check it out."

Sam looked down, his hands on his hips. He had no intention of taking Dean back to that house. The bed creaked and Sam looked up to see Dean lying back with a soft groan, once again draping his arm across his eyes. His right leg was angled to the side, his knee sticking out of the gap in the towel. Sam saw total exhaustion in the cuts and lines that formed his brother's body.

"You shower," Dean mumbled. "Lemme lay here a minute."

Sam didn't bother to reply. He turned to the opened door of the bathroom, stepping carefully on the damp tiles and lifting his forearm to his nose and inhaling.

"I don't smell that bad," he muttered, dropping his boxers and pulling the shower curtain back. "Was digging a grave for God's—"

He froze with his hand on the shower faucet. He'd forgotten to tell Dean about Camilla.

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He could count beats of his heart if he pressed his hand to his chest.

He could feel himself breathing. Feel his ribs expand. Feel his blood rush with the intake of oxygen. Feel his head pound with the flow of life.

Eyes closed against the sunlight, he could see images against the black of hunts, demons, ghosts, beings spat up from Hell, determined to prey on mankind, forcing his family to take action.

This is it… this is what I know.

Dropping his arm to his side and bearing his eyes to the elements, Dean took a deep breath. Lying flat teased him with an edge of vertigo enough that he wanted to hold onto the bed and keep it from spinning. He knew from countless "mornings after" that he needed to move and he needed to eat.

Rolling to his side, he felt his legs sluice across the bedspread, knowing the sound that should accompany it… the shush of skin on polyester. He worked his jaw; the pressure in his ears increased for a moment and his gut tightened with the anticipation of the flood of sound, but nothing hit him. For a moment, aside from sitting in the middle of a muted world, he was free of pain.

He stood up, and the moment shattered. Slices of pain like broken glass beneath his skin shimmied up the sides of his face, framing his jaw and making a home behind his ears. Sighing, Dean moved to his duffel, dragging out boxers, jeans, and a gray T-shirt. Dressing quickly, he dug deeper for a long-sleeved shirt. His fingers brushed the leather sheath of his Bowie.

Frowning, Dean drew out the knife, turning its silver blade in the sunlight, watching it glint and glimmer, dazzling his eyes. The knife was generally considered a silent weapon. He could take out a bad guy without alerting others to his presence. He used it when stealth was essential.

If I can see… I can hunt. If I never leave my back exposed… If I'm always on guard… I can still protect him. I can still do my job. I don't… have to hear danger. Right?

Moving over to their weapons bag, Dean pulled out his .45. Closing his eyes, he ran his hand down the barrel, letting the tips of his fingers find the grooves and lines as familiar to him as his own body. He ejected the magazine, setting it on the table, then calmly began to break down the gun.

When he had it in pieces, he took a breath, kept his eyes closed, ignored the stifling quiet that wrapped around him, and reassembled his weapon. His fingers moved confidently, gracefully. He lost himself in the motion, the repetition, the confidence that he could do this, he knew this, that this was as natural to him as hearing.

The scent of Ivory soap hit him a second before the hand brushed his shoulder. His body responded before his brain could catch up and calm him. Whirling, his eyes popping open, Dean pointed his loaded weapon at Sam's face, trigger finger spasming. Sam blinked in complete surprise, hands flying up as he staggered back a step.

Dean took a quick breath as he saw his name on his brother's lips, flicked the safety back on and lowered the gun.

"Don't sneak up on me like that, man," he growled, irritated at himself for reacting without thinking. You gotta be better, faster, sharper.

Sam shook his head, running a hand through his hair and as he turned away, Dean saw him say something. His chest tightened as he lost the meaning, but he didn't call Sam back. Puffing out a breath, he slid the gun in the hollow of his back, feeling better, normal, with its familiar weight there.

"Get dressed," he ordered, tempering his volume when he saw Sam flinch and duck his head. "We need food."

Sam looked over at him with a how can you think of your stomach at a time like this expression, but obediently dug into his duffel. Dean watched him carefully. He knew his brother better than anyone, and he could tell from the stilted motion of his hands as he tugged on his jeans, the indecisive way he rolled through the last three clean T-shirts in his bag, the frustrated way he kept blowing his bangs away from his eyes that Sam was hiding something.

And he was willing to bet he knew what it was.

"You can quit worrying, Sammy," he said, feeling the words slip between his lips, purposefully soft. "You don't have to figure out how to leave me behind."

Sam drew his head up sharply, a dark blue T-shirt with a non-descript design ghosting the front clutched in his unbandaged hand. Dean saw the question form on his lips, the irrational hope in his eyes.

"No, I'm not staying here. I'm just saying you don't have to figure it out. 'Cause I'm not going to let you leave me."

Sam sighed, his shoulders bowing, and pulled his shirt over his head, shaking the wet strands of hair away from his face. When on edge, Sam used his hands to speak. Spread them wide to encompass all the worries he carried on his broad shoulders, clenched them tight to illustrate his frustration—or his desire to strangle his brother—with the situation, shook them loose when he was searching for balance.

Dean watched him do all these things as a torrent of words spilled in rapid-fire descent from Sam's lips. The effort of pulling meaning from them was too much for Dean on an empty stomach, with nothing but pain pills and eardrops to sustain him. He looked away, not even bothering to watch Sam's mouth.

Sam stomped over, grabbing his arm in a rough grip and rotated him. Dean wavered slightly on his feet, the world tilting violently on its axis with the swiftness of that movement. Angry lines drew Dean's brows low, pursing his lips.

"Let go of me, man!"

Sam simply tightened his grip, drawing Dean's eyes up. This time he did focus.

You need to be rational about this.

"I am, Sam. I'm going."

No, Dean, please, just… please… think about this, okay?

"I have thought about it! I can't think about anything else." He wrenched his arm free from Sam's hand and turned away slowly, reaching up to press his palms against his burning eyes for a moment. Turning back to face Sam, he said, "I'm not just your brother, Sammy. This is not just about… about watching out for you. I'm a hunter, man. This is what I know. This is all I know."

Sam looked down, pinching the bridge of his nose. Dean watched him filter those words, watched him absorb. He picked up traces of stale cigarette smoke and sweat in the semi-filtered air, surmising that the air conditioner had kicked on in the silence. He swallowed. He had to get out of this room.

"Sam, c'mon, let's just… let's just check out the house, okay? I mean, you'll be right there. I can't get hurt if you're watching out for me, right?"

Sam looked up, eyebrow raised.

I was there when you were blown up, remember?

"Oh. Right." Dean felt the familiar sensation of nervous energy build up inside of him, pressing against his sternum, racing his heart. He started to pace slightly—four steps one way, four steps back—rolling his fingers into fists.

He knew Sam's eyes were on him, but the ache resting behind his ears wouldn't let him turn his head too quickly, so he worked to content himself with eyes front, feet moving.

Sam waved at him from his periphery and called a halt to his sojourn. He tilted his head.

"What?"

There's more.

"More what?"

Sam waved him over and sat down facing his laptop. Dean frowned, confused. Sam pointed at the blank screen and began typing. Dean grinned.

"Nice, Sammy."

He watched as Sam's fingers flew over the keyboard, the story of digging up Camilla's body coming to life before his eyes in clear, Times New Roman font.

Easier to read than lips, that's for damn sure, he thought.

When Sam reached the part about rolling her over, Dean straightened.

"Hold up, you're saying she was buried face-down?"

Sam shook his head, typing, 'I don't think so. I think she rolled over in her grave.'

"Well, let's think about this a sec," Dean rubbed his upper lip. "Some practices believe that if a witch is buried face-down, she'll go to Hell."

'Camilla wasn't a witch,' Sam typed.

"You sure about that?"

'Positive.'

"Why?"

'Spend some time around George and you'll believe me.'

"So, what, you think she was maybe… buried alive and… ugh, tried to claw out?"

Sam simply looked at him.

"Man," Dean shuddered. "I can't think of a worse fate… waking up in a box, trying to get out… I mean, sure, it worked for Buffy, but she had super Slayer strength."

Sam smirked. Dean narrowed his eyes.

"Don't even. I know you watched it, too."

For research purposes, Sam said.

"Research my ass. Oh, wait… research Buffy's ass…"

Can we focus?

"Right, sorry, okay so either buried alive, or… what? Someone did something…shocking enough that she literally… rolled over in her grave? Like that old saying?"

Sam turned back to the computer, pulling up a few sites he'd found that morning. He pointed to a paragraph that spoke of restless spirits and the manifestations of their need to communicate showing up in the decimation of their bodies. Broken bones post-mortem as if they'd been twisted, mouths opened in silent screams, backs arched in tortured positions.

"Dude… this is…" Dean shook his head, rubbing distractedly at his left ear. It had started to pulse in time with his heart. "I've never heard of that before, have you?"

Sam shrugged, typing, 'I was going to look it up in Dad's journal.'

"Good idea," Dean nodded, wincing. He drew his hand away, noticing the smeared blood on his fingertips. Turning from Sam he grabbed the stained towel he'd used earlier from the foot of the bed and wiped at his ear. "Let's look at it together, over breakfast…" he glanced at the clock, "or lunch."

Sam grabbed the towel from him, frowning. Dean stared back, a silent challenge.

"I'm fine, Sam," he said after a moment. "It doesn't hurt… much."

Sam's eyes were fierce when he looked up, almost sending Dean back a step with their emotion.

You're lying.

"Does it matter?"

Yes, it matters!

"I've been hurt before and still did the job. How is this different?" Dean felt the volume build in his chest. Sam didn't say anything and Dean growled low in his throat, pushing at his brother lightly. "Huh? Tell me. How is this different?"

Because, I…

"Because, why? Talk to me, dammit!"

Because I don't know how to protect you!

Dean stopped pushing. Stopped moving. Stopped breathing.

"You don't have to protect me, Sam."

Sam looked at him and Dean felt as though he could crack beneath the weight in his brother's eyes.

"This time… we watch out for each other."

Sam's chest heaved as he worked to quiet his emotions, pulling his liquid eyes away from Dean. After a moment, he looked back, nodding.

Okay, he said clearly. But only if you wait in the car.

"What?"

Don't go back in that house, Dean.

"Dude… there's probably something in the house that's after George and Wren. Hell, the house could be after George and Wren."

I know.

"Then why—"

Dean stopped, realization freezing his words in his throat. This was Sam's protection. This was his last line, his stronghold. This was where he'd been left for so many years, forced to watch his father and brother run off whole and return broken. This was the only thing he knew.

"Okay, Sam."

Sam blinked. Okay?

"You win," Dean nodded. "I'll behave. Now… can we please get some freakin' food?"

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Minnesota, 1994

I know it is him before he says my name.

His footsteps give him away. He rolls his feet in a heel-toe manner, making his gait as soft as possible. It's a habit I had at one time thought he'd picked up in the Marines, until I realized that Jim walked just like everyone else.

Only Dad can approach so silently, yet still put my entire body on alert.

"Dean?"

"I'm awake."

"How you doing, Son?"

I feel my body relax at the name. He's back. Dad's back. For the first time in weeks I feel sleepy and safe.

"'M okay."

"Sam doing better?"

"Sorta," I confess. Sam's dreams haven't eased in their intensity, but they have become less frequent. "I been working on something for him, though."

"Good," Dad says, sitting on the edge of my bed and tipping me toward him with his weight. He doesn't ask me what I am working on. He doesn't say anything. Just sits. And breathes.

"Dad?"

"Hm?"

"You, uh… you get what you were after?" I want to ask him if he's okay, if he's hurt, if I can help. But there is something in the way he holds himself close that tells me without words that he wouldn't answer me.

"Not yet," Dad sighs. "But I got closer. I got real close that time."

I lay in the dark and listen to my family breathe. Sam's open-mouth oblivion wars with Dad's controlled puffs. I can feel him working up to something, so I decide to spare him.

"We're leaving again, aren't we?"

"Don't you think you've been here long enough?"

My mind replies with an instant yes while my heart wails a silent no. I haven't finished the dream catcher. I don't know how to fasten the three stones. And I'm not leaving without that protection for Sam. He has to be able to put fear behind him. He has to be able to keep it together. Or…

"'Cause, if you don't want to come, I—"

"No, Dad," I sit up hurriedly, appalled that my hesitation to answer brings him to that conclusion. "No, we want to come. I just, uh… I got something I gotta do."

I see Dad's dark eyes glint at me in the pale starlight seeping through the window between our beds. He's let his beard grow in during the weeks away from us and his mouth is shadowed by it. I can't see if he's frowning, but I feel it.

"It's for Sam," I continue, trying not to sound too desperate. I had to balance this carefully if I was going to get Dad to agree to stay here for just a little while longer.

Dad tips his head, asking a silent question. I look over at Sam and realize suddenly that he's awake. I don't know how much he's heard, but he's watching us, frozen, as if he isn't quite sure if what he's seeing is real.

"Hey," I say to him. "You okay?"

He nods, then his eyes shift to Dad.

"Dad?"

Dad gets up and I slide my foot into the warm area his body left behind on my bed. He crosses to Sam and sits down.

"Hey, kiddo," he says softly, gathering Sam up in a soft hug.

My skin aches in reaction to seeing something I want but cannot have. Rolling my neck, I banish the rebellious thoughts that swim up at the sight of my father holding my brother.

"Are we gonna go now?" Sam asks, his voice muffled against Dad's shoulder.

Dad glances in my direction, but his eyes don't hit me. I wait, holding my breath.

"Soon," Dad answers. "I think I need a day or two to… regroup."

"But we'll go with you when you leave, right?" Sam asks, pulling away and looking up at Dad.

Dad nods, his eyes smiling. I see the folds along the sides of his face that give him away. And something inside of me breaks.

"You're coming with me. I need you two."

"You got a hunt?"

"Maybe," Dad answers me. "Go back to sleep. We'll talk more in the morning."

"Jim know you're here?" I ask.

"He knows," Dad asserts.

"Okay," I settle back against the pillows, watching Dad rise from Sam's bed, cross to the door and look back at us. "Dad?"

He shakes his head at my encompassing question. "You did good, boys," he says. "You did real good."

He steps from the room, and I look over at Sam. He's watching me quietly. I wonder what he's thinking. His face is just enough shadowed that I can't see the usual tells. Sighing, feeling warm, yet oddly empty, I pull the flannel sheet over my shoulder and burrow into my pillow.

"Dean?"

"Hmm?"

"I don't hate him," Sam whispers.

"I know."

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There was one greasy spoon in Lynch Heights and Sam drove for it as if caught in a tractor beam.

They moved to the back booth, against the wall, and Dean slid into the side that faced the restaurant. Sam knew Dean needed to have his back to the wall, needed to be able to see, but he wished the end result didn't leave him feeling so exposed. He watched his brother with amusement as he quietly charmed the waitress, ordering his usual cheeseburger, fries, soda and pie.

Sam felt his own dimples digging into his cheeks in a reply as the waitress retreated from their table with a decidedly lighter step than she had approached.

"You're unbelievable," he said softly as Dean watched her walk away. "Didn't hear a word she said, but it didn't matter, did it?"

"Something about those short skirts does funny things to me," Dean said, loud enough that the man at the counter to Sam's left looked over at him. Sam kicked him under the table. Dean flinched and turned an automatic scowl toward Sam until he saw the finger covering Sam's lips. "Oh, right," he flipped his hands up on the table in surrender and rolled his eyes. "My bad."

Sam heard the bell over the door clang, but he didn't turn until he saw the shadow of distrust cross Dean's face. Looking over his shoulder, he smiled in greeting to see Mike approaching their booth. He held out a hand to shake as Mike slid into his side of the booth.

"Hey, man," he said.

"How's your hand?" Mike asked him, then nodded in Dean's direction.

"Good," Sam replied, immediately on-edge with Dean's defensive posture.

"What's he doing here?" Dean asked sullenly.

"I called him," Sam said carefully.

"When?"

"Earlier."

"Why?"

Sam looked down, licking his lip, searching for the words to answer his brother that wouldn't etch more cracks in his already bruised ego. He heard the weight of Dean's slow sigh and lifted his eyes to meet his brother's. The green of Dean's irises caught him with shame and he leveled his chin in retaliation.

"Forget it," Dean replied. "Do what you have to do, Sam."

Sam heard what he didn't say. He heard the quiet declaration of I'll show you I can still do my job…

"Dean—"

Dean held up a hand, masking a charming smile over cold eyes as the waitress appeared and delivered their food, then took Mike's order.

"Just a salad, thanks," Mike requested. "And a Coke."

Sam looked over at him, taking a quick measure of the man who had put him back together and discovered him in a rather compromising position, yet still hadn't cried uncle—or worse yet, cops.

"Thanks for coming," Sam said, resolutely ignoring the dark clouds growing in Dean's eyes as his brother watched the exchange. He knew that if he wasn't facing Dean, there was little chance he'd follow the conversation.

"You said you needed help," Mike replied, also not looking at Dean.

"Yeah, uh, listen," Sam dug into his salad. "We think there's something going on at the house. Last couple of owners have—" Motion from Dean caught his attention. "—uh, have…"

Dean pulled out John's journal, flipping through it casually, looking, Sam knew, for something about being buried face-down or rolling over in a grave. Looking for what they'd agreed to talk about before Sam surprised his brother with a stand-in hunter.

"Have?" Mike prompted.

Sam cleared his throat, turning back to Mike. "Have died under strange circumstances."

"So… what?" Mike frowned. "The house is after George and Wren?"

"Maybe," Sam shrugged. "It's not the first time."

"Your lives are weird, man," Mike shook his head, watching Dean inhale his cheeseburger while reading through the journal. "What's he reading?"

"Our Dad's hunting journal. Looking for clues," Sam said around a mouthful of salad.

"Clues about… the house?"

Sam shook his head. "About why Camilla rolled over in her grave."

They stopped talking when the waitress brought Mike's lunch. Dean glanced up as she walked away, then back to the journal. Sam frowned. Dean's silence felt like a weapon wielded by an expert slicing through his conscience. No one knew better how to use quiet as the one who usually made the most noise.

"Find anything?" Mike asked, drawing Sam back into the conversation.

Sam chewed his lunch, watching his brother stare at the same page in the journal, his eyes not moving, his body tight.

"Yeah," he said softly. But he's not gonna give it up with you here.

"So, you wanna go to the house, then," Mike stated, spearing a hunk of lettuce with his fork, his tone clearly conveying that he wasn't interested in getting in the middle of whatever struggle was twisting between the brothers.

"Yeah, what's left of it," Sam nodded. "Need to check into a few things… didn't know if George would be up for it."

"He's there now, actually," Mike said.

"He is?" Sam replied, surprised. "Huh."

"I took them over there this morning to get some of their things."

"Hey, Den—er, uh, Mike," Dean said suddenly, drawing their eyes. "What do you know about how Camilla died?"

Sam looked at Mike, watching as the older man regarded his brother carefully, his dark eyes secretive.

"Well," Mike shrugged. "I only know what George said, really."

Sam felt Dean's eyes, realizing quickly that his brother wasn't able to absorb what Mike said. He held up a finger, trying to convey with his eyes that he got it. He knew what Dean needed.

"I know she had been worried about something, told him she wanted to talk to him, then went to the church picnic, died of a heart attack."

Sam repeated the information, feeling an odd sense of pride at his connection to his brother. The fact that Dean could understand what he said, and didn't follow anyone else made him feel…powerful.

"And she wasn't sick before?" Dean asked, eyes darting between Sam and Mike, looking for translation.

Mike shook his head. "Not that I know of."

Dean's eyes slid to the side. He pulled his lower lip in, working his jaw in a war against the tension that corded the muscles there as a line between his brows deepened.

"Dean?" Sam called, watching closer as Dean's color faded, his eyes seemed to fade a bit in his face, but his brother didn't move. Sam tapped the table twice under Dean's far-away gaze. "Dean."

Dean looked down at Sam's hand, then slowly raised his gaze. Sam felt his gut turn to ice once more at the pain echoed in the hollows of his brother's eyes, the tension in the way he held his body.

"You okay?" Sam asked.

"Fine," Dean answered tightly. "We checking out this house, or what?"

Sam narrowed his eyes, looking at Dean's half-eaten pile of fries and un-touched pie. Dean caught his gaze and pushed his plate away.

"Yeah, sure," Sam nodded, motioning with his head for Mike to slide out. The trio headed to the cash register and Sam and Mike paid, Dean waiting until they were done to step through the door.

He slid without argument, this time, into the passenger seat of the Impala, waiting on Sam to join him.

"What's with him?" Mike asked, folding his receipt and putting it into his wallet.

"You mean besides the fact that he can't hear anything?" Sam snapped.

"That'll go away," Mike said. "Give the eardrums some time to heal, and he'll be fine."

"That's not exactly reassuring when you're in our business," Sam said softly, looking through the windshield at Dean's sullen profile. "Besides… he gets hit with this… pain, and…"

"And what?"

"His ear was bleeding again this morning," Sam dropped his eyes to the ground, drawing loops in the dirt with the toe of his worn boot.

"That can happen," Mike said nonchalantly. "Just make sure you keep using those drops. He sure doesn't like me, does he?"

Sam glanced over at the hard edge to his voice. "It has nothing to do with you, man. It's what you represent to him."

Mike frowned. "What, help?"

"Exactly," Sam nodded. "Dean doesn't ask for help." He looked back at his brother. "He is help."

"Everyone needs something sometime," Mike declared.

"Yeah, well," Sam flipped the Impala's keys around his finger, moving toward the driver side door. "You get him believing that, you're doing better than me."

Mike shook his head. "I'll meet you at the house."

Sam dropped into the driver's seat, pulling the door shut and starting the engine. He paused before shifting into reverse, watching Dean look out the side window.

"You could be nicer to him, you know," he said, aware that Dean wouldn't absorb his words. "He's just trying to help."

Dean didn't move. Sighing, Sam pulled from the lot and headed in the direction of the Cooper house, passing the garage where Sadie worked, the bar she mentioned in passing, the police station, the grocery store, the library. The unnatural quiet of the car felt like water pressing down on him, filling his lungs and making breathing a challenge.

"Y'know, Dean," he said, just to reassure himself that he could still speak, that he could still hear himself, that he wasn't lost. "This doesn't have to be all you have. You could have a different life."

He glanced at his brother, who sat stubbornly leaning against the window, lips tight, body clenched. Bobby's words filtered back to him, about being an old married couple. They spent so much time together they knew the rhythm of each other's breath. He knew of no other siblings that lived such a co-dependent lifestyle.

"You could have a different life," he repeated softly, "but you don't want one. Do you?"

The constant threat of death was a factor, as was the manner in which their father had chosen to raise them. Sam sighed, rubbing at the back of his neck as he'd seen Dean do so often. The burden of responsibility came with a high price to the only lives they were ever going to have. And with that consistent proximity to each other, annoyances were easily shifted away and in their wake came an almost telepathic understanding.

Dean could read him. Better than anyone. And in this moment when Dean was cut off from everyone and everything, their link, their comprehension, their brotherhood could bring him peace.

Sam reached over, gently resting his hand on Dean's shoulder so as not to startle him. Dean jerked slightly, but turned his head to face Sam. His eyes seemed to fill his face, his freckles standing out like markers to the truth, his lips tight and serious, his worry evident.

"I'll be careful," he said.

"You bet your ass you will," Dean replied, his voice like that of an old record, scratchy but solid, the music faded but still present. "And don't think I'm gonna make a habit of waiting in the damn car."

Sam nodded.

"I mean it, Sam."

"I know you do."

"Can't believe I friggin' agreed to this…"

Sam pulled up behind Mike's blue truck; the sight of George's gutted house in the metallic light of mid-day melted the ice of worry into a churning mass of dread in Sam's belly.

"Sam."

"Yeah?" Sam looked at his brother.

"Dad's journal said that the body of a restless spirit can roll over in its grave if its message is… like… not received."

Sam looked back at the burned-out house. "Yeah," he sighed. "That's what I was afraid of."

The brothers stepped out of the car, shutting their doors in unison. Dean moved around the front of the car, leaning against the front quarter panel, tucking his fingers into the front pockets of his pants, and waited. Sam scanned the blackened shards of wood and barely-there walls for any sign of George or Wren.

"Sam?"

He turned at the sound of his name, seeing George leading Wren toward them from the garage that still stood, several feet separate from the house.

"That you?"

"Yeah. Hi, George."

"Bring your brother with you?"

"And Mike," Sam nodded at the other man as he climbed out of his truck.

"Wren and me have been trying to save some of our stuff," George said, leading Wren to the truck until she was able to put her hand out and find her parameter. "Not much left, 'cept my memories, I'm afraid."

"George," Mike said, his deep rumble gentle as he tried to help Sam break the news of their real reason for coming. "We need to take a look around inside the house."

George frowned. "For what?"

"Uh… EMF," Sam said.

"Come again?" George tilted his head, confusion plain in his smoky eyes.

"I've been looking in to your problem, and, well," Sam looked at Dean who simply shrugged. He had no idea what Sam was looking for. "I think there might be something in your house that… wants to… hurt you."

George laughed, then sobered when he saw that Sam was serious. "Something in the… house?"

"It's not any crazier than hearing your song, or thinking your wife is haunting you," Sam protested.

"Camy wasn't haunting," George protested. "Don't make it sound… wrong. She was trying to tell me something. Something she never got to tell me that Sunday."

"I think the thing she might've been trying to tell you had something to do with the house," Sam persisted. "It won't take long, I promise."

George studied him carefully for a moment. Sam licked his lips in anticipation. If George didn't go for this, they'd just have to come back in the night and check it out…or…not.

He looked over at Dean, taking in the unnatural stillness of his brother's stance, the disconcerting quiet coming from his normally garrulous brother. It felt wrong to move through this hunt as if Dean had suddenly reverted back to childhood, incapable of searching out facts, defending himself.

Maybe we just leave… let Dean recover. Maybe we don't have to fix this one, he thought.

"Okay," George said finally. "We'll go, but Wren stays out here with your brother."

"Fine," Sam nodded, turning to get the EMF reader from the trunk. Dean followed him, frowning.

"You're going in?" Dean asked, his voice carefully level.

"Yeah," Sam nodded. He looked up. "Wren's staying with you."

"What?" Dean's hand launched out and gripped his arm. "No, Sam, don't you leave me with her."

Sam pulled his head back in confusion. "What's your problem, Dean? She's just a girl—a blind girl."

"She… no, she's… there's something… she just shows up… and she touched my face…" Dean looked over at where Wren stood, leaning against Mike's truck, her porcelain face serene. "She's… not right."

Sam rolled his eyes, shutting the trunk. "Well, we'll just have to live with that for now. Be good."

"Bite me," Dean growled as Sam walked away.

Sam shot a look back over his shoulder, the image of Dean leaning against the black skin of the Impala, arms crossed, face dark with frustrated anger, seared into the backs of his eyes.

I'm so going to get his ass kicked for this one.

They crossed the lawn three abreast, George between them, stepping over mangled pieces from his house, blackened from the blast, soggy from the attempts to assuage the blaze. Sam recognized picture frames, dishes, pieces of books, lamps, burned remains of Wren's wind chimes. He stepped carefully across the entrance, heeding George's warning about the weak boards, and moved into the skeleton of the home.

The smell of wet ash permeated his nostrils as he made his way through the chaos. With each step, Sam swore he heard odd echoes of voices, memories of times spent in the house. Another smell assaulted him as he reached the back of the house: death and rot. It was an odor he was unfortunately familiar with and would not soon forget.

The back of the house remained oddly intact. The kitchen had been located at the front, blowing out the main room and some of the upper floor, but leaving the back bedrooms, the mudroom, and George's den. Mike and George spoke quietly about the destruction they were seeing; Sam let their voices fall to background noise as he moved the EMF meter through the house, eyes intent on the gauge.

As he reached the den, the meter spiked, its harsh scream drawing the attention of Mike and George.

"What the hell?" Mike hurried over. "Is it… dying?"

"There's some supernatural activity around here," Sam explained, following the strength of the reading to the far, upper corner of the room. "What's above us?"

"Bedrooms," George said in a dreamy voice, the broken body of a carved bird from the wind chimes held delicately in his hands.

"I need to get up there." Sam turned and pushed past Mike to exit the room.

"Sam, wait!" Mike called. "The stairs are gone."

"Then, I'll climb up."

"With that hand?" Mike shook his head, grabbing Sam's shoulder. "I don't want to stitch it again."

Sam rolled his eyes. "My hand is fine. Just… boost me up."

Mike lifted an eyebrow. "Boost you up. You do realize you're about four inches taller than me."

"So?"

"You boost me up," Mike countered.

They both looked up at the bottom of the landing hovering about a foot over Sam's head. Sam sighed. He needed to get up there and check out the rooms—explaining the EMF meter to Mike wasn't a viable option for him right now.

"Listen, I need to see what's causing this reading," Sam explained. "Just help me up, I'll check it out, and we can go."

"I'm coming with you," Mike declared.

"I swear, you're as stubborn as my brother," Sam muttered, joining Mike in looking around for something to stand on.

"Yeah? Well, I think I'll take that as a compliment," Mike grabbed a chair. "George, hold this thing."

George moved over as if in slow motion, his eyes distant. "You hear that?"

Sam and Mike looked at him quickly. "What?" they asked in unison.

"The music. It's her, it's Camy," George looked slowly around the ravaged room, humming.

"George…" Mike stepped up to him, snapping his fingers in front of George's eyes. "Hey, George, you with me?"

"I'm standing right here, aren't I?"

"I don't hear anything, man," Mike said softly, placing a hand on George's shoulder.

George looked at his friend's face, his sadness suddenly so palpable that Sam took a step back. He felt instantly swamped by grief, his limbs pulled low, heavy with loss. His heart slowed, pounding out a tattoo of regret, his skin ached with the need to be touched, the knowledge that it was never going to happen again. A voice in his head wept.

"We are spirits clad in veils…"

Mike shot a look over to him, his black eyes snapping with anger born of confusion. "What was that?"

George, too, blinked, dropping the broken wooden bird, staring at Sam. "What was that?"

Sam felt his knees give way as the room spun in a lazy circle around him, his breath returning in a great rush, sparks dancing at the corners of his eyes. "What. The. Hell?"

He blinked, clearing his vision. His stomach rolled slightly and he clamped his lips tight against the threat of sickness.

"What was that about… veils?" Mike asked, moving toward him.

"You heard it, too?" Sam asked, pushing himself carefully to his feet and resting his back on what was left of the wall.

"Heard it?" George stepped forward, reaching for Sam's arm. "You said it, Son."

"I said it?" Sam squeaked.

Mike nodded. "Right after you went about three shades of gray."

Sam shivered. "We gotta get up there," he declared. He pushed away from the wall, wavering. "In a second."

"What was that you said, though?" Mike persisted.

"How the hell should I know?" Sam shot back.

"It's the inscription on Wren's locket," George revealed.

Sam and Mike looked at him. "Huh?"

"When Wren came to us, she had been staying at a group home since the accident. The only things she brought with her were the clothes on her back and a locket. It was empty inside, except for that inscription."

"What does it mean?" Sam asked, looking down at the broken glass and pieces of charcoaled wood beneath his feet. The knees of his jeans were dusty black from the soot.

"She said she didn't know," George shrugged. "Talking about her family and the accident always upset her, so Camy and I just let it go."

Mike looked at Sam, who returned his look. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"

Sam lifted an eyebrow. If the rich-voiced PA standing in front of him had been a bow-legged, green-eyed hunter with a smirk to match the cocky expression in his eyes, Sam's answer would have been an unequivocal yes. "Well, that depends. You thinking we need to check out those rooms?"

Mike frowned. "Well, yeah, but… I was also thinking that Camilla knew something about Wren's parents—she said she had something to tell George right?"

"Don't jump to conclusions," Sam advised. "Dean's always doing that. We can't just act on gut instinct alone—we need to check stuff out, first."

He climbed up on the chair, releasing his hold on the wooden furniture when he felt George balance the rungs.

"Oh, so you're Scully and he's Mulder, that it?" Mike said, supporting Sam's legs as he reached for the ledge.

"Why is that the first place everyone goes?" Sam wondered aloud, his voice straining as he stretched with his good hand to reach for the ledge and pull himself up.

"You gotta admit," Mike said, working to boost Sam's bulk upward, puffing along with Sam as he leveled his chest on the landing and wiggled up and over. "Your job's just not mainstream."

Sam took a breath, then leaned over to reach down for Mike's hand. "Mainstream like…" he grunted as he worked to pull the solidly built man up next to him. "A black cowboy that works as a PA and a Justin Healer?"

Mike rolled to his back to catch his breath. "Yeah," he panted. "Mainstream like that."

"You ready for this?"

"Dude, only Bill Murray would be ready for this," Mike pushed himself to his feet.

Sam chuckled. "Too bad Dean can't hear you," he commented. "He'd like you."

"He'll be okay, Sam," Mike assured, his caretaker instincts taking over as Sam felt the frown deepen on his face. "Some things just take time."

"Right," Sam breathed, wrinkling his nose against the stench that hit them from all sides as they moved precariously down the tattered hall. "Hey, George!"

"Yeah?"

"You guys have any pets?"

"Pets? No… no pets."

"You smell that?" Sam asked Mike, his answer obvious in the grimace on Mike's face. "Something died up here."

The EMF reader bounced a bit as they moved forward, spiking suddenly in front of the first relatively unmarked door. Sam turned to face the door, watching the needle bury itself in the red. He lifted an eyebrow in Mike's direction.

"You know whose room this is?"

Mike shrugged. "You got me."

Sam tried the handle. Locked. He dug into his coat pocket and brought out a lock-pick kit.

"Why don't you just kick it open?" Mike wondered.

"Okay, now you're starting to scare me," Sam mumbled, pick held tight in his lips. "We don't know what's on the other side of this door—think maybe kicking it in might send the wrong message?" He lifted his eyes to Mike, watching him shrug in response.

The click of the lock triggered Sam's nod of satisfaction. He tucked away the kit, then stood, squaring his shoulders. He glanced sideways at Mike, suddenly wishing desperately that the eyes that met his were green, not dark brown. The family business meant both of them, no matter how much they annoyed each other, no matter what promises they were forced to make, no matter what future might be waiting for either of them.

They had to be in this together, or not at all.

"Here goes nothing," Sam said, turning the handle and opening the door carefully.

The smell of death wafted out and around them like a live thing, causing them to gag and cover their mouths. Sam's eyes watered as he pushed the door all the way open. The room was sparsely decorated: bed with a white eyelet cover, dresser, empty desk. The windows were curtainless, the closet stood open, only a few pairs of pants were hanging on the hangers.

And covering the floor were the bodies of dozens of dead birds.

www

Dean watched Sam disappear into the house, trying to pin his gaze to his brother's blue shirt.

This is wrong. All of it. I need to be in there…

He could smell the ash from the extinguished fire, the dirt embedded in the tires of the vehicle beneath him, the distinctive scent of fresh-mown grass from somewhere nearby. When he focused, he realized he could even smell grease, motor oil, the tang of WD-40… and, he swore that the stench of manure wafted from the back of Mike's truck.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Wren slide slowly along the bed of the truck, her hands spread out to feel her way toward him. He felt his body tighten in response—and not in the places he usually found himself responding to women. There was something about her hands, her touch, something about how she'd traced his face that had curled the edges of his heart, collapsing his lungs against his ribs.

He didn't want her to touch him again. Watching her advance, he moved as quietly as possible toward the trunk of the Impala, away from her. He didn't register the stick he cracked until it rolled under his foot. Looking down, he cursed.

Wren's mouth moved, as if she were calling to him. He sighed. The pressure behind his ears grew and he rubbed carefully at his jaw, trying to soothe the ache.

"I'm right here. Let's just… hang out okay?"

Translation, you stay with your truck, I'll stay with my car. We'll… just stay nice and… aw, shit, you're gonna come closer, aren't you?

Wren cautiously crossed the short empty space between the vehicles, her doll-like fingers dancing along the edges of the Impala's black shell in a soft staccato beat, searching for him. Dean forced himself to hold still, to not back away from a slip of a girl who was just searching for a way not to be alone in the darkness that surrounded her.

A small piece of him yearned to reach back to her, to tell her that he was starting to understand what it felt like to have a piece of himself cut off, to feel removed from his life, from his world, from the only things that mattered to him. He wanted to tell her that he, too, knew loss and loneliness.

But the part of him that worked overtime to protect those he loved from the serrated edge of his real feelings refused to back down. He turned guarded eyes to her sightless ones, pulling himself close, drawing in his belly, separating himself without moving.

"Listen, Wren… I, uh, I know this has gotta be hard for you and everything, but," he paused as she stiffened, her mouth moving hesitantly.

He focused on her lips, trying to draw in what she was saying as he seemed to so easily be able to do with Sam. It was simply movement without meaning. He comprehended nothing.

She continued to talk, though, her hands flitting from her sides like faerie wings, conveying something he was sure she found important. He felt a throb in one of the cuts on his forehead as a soft wind picked up, tossing the scent of sweat and death his way. He frowned, looking over at the house at the same time as Wren.

The trio that had disappeared inside the house had yet to reappear. He wanted to call out to his brother, to check on him, but knew it was a wasted effort as anything Sam said back would be lost to him. Tightening his lips against his teeth, he kicked at the ground, digging the toe of his boot into the grass.

Friggin' waste of time… I should be doing something. Anything.

His eyes roamed the outside of the house, following the line of damage from the blast. It was as if the structure had exhaled, blowing bits of itself across the yard like a bad Animal House, John Belushi imitation. Oddly, there were flowers intact along the side of the house that remained standing. White flowers, tall with a lily-like bud.

He tilted his head, frowning. A memory skittered along the back of his mind, teasing him. Images from his father's journal, flashes of voices from his past, teaching him, showing him, warning him. He stared harder and realized belatedly that the voices he thought were memories seemed to be getting louder, echoing in the hollow space inside his ears, reverberating harshly in the damaged acoustics within.

He flinched, looking away from the flowers, leaning on the Impala. The voices grew in strength, blending, twisting, spiking. He groaned, pressing his hands flat against his ears, futilely trying to block out a sound that came from within. The ache grew until his neck cracked from the pressure, until his groan turned into a helpless cry of pain, until he felt the small pebbles of the driveway dig into the knees of his jeans as he collapsed.

A cool hand caressed his forehead.

"We are spirits clad in veils…"

"Son of a bitch!" Dean jerked away from Wren, stumbling, falling to his rear and pushing gravel into tiny piles with the heels of his boots as he moved back.

Wren advanced, her face fisted in what could, to Dean, be either worry or regret. She reached for him, her mouth moving. Dean glanced to the house, his eyes catching on the flowers again, and suddenly, he knew.

"Get back," he panted, swallowing the taste of tin and salt that seemed to flood his mouth. "You just… just get the hell away from me."

Wren stepped closer, a smile quaking at the corner of her small, pink mouth. Desperate, Dean licked the sweat from his upper lip and scrambled back further, reaching with a clumsy grip for his back waistband.

"Get back," he shouted, pulling his gun and aiming it at Wren's chest. She froze as the muzzle touched her, lifting her graceful fingers to the weapon, sliding them along the barrel, then back toward his grip.

"I'll fuckin' do it, I swear to God," Dean said, his voice dangerously low.

Wren's lips tipped down into a frown, and as Dean watched, she shifted her eyes, looking directly at him, all blankness gone. He gasped at the unexpected sensation of being seen.

"Enosis," she said, and Dean felt the word slip from her lips and bury itself in his wounded ears before all sound, all meaning, all balance was lost.

All that was left was pain.

www

He thought the birds were horrifying, until he emerged to see his brother pressing the barrel of his gun against a blind girl's chest.

"Dean!"

His shout went unnoticed—even by Wren. Breaking away from the shocked faces of George and Mike, Sam loped across the yard. He reached the pair just as Wren spoke.

"Enosis," she said.

Sam skidded to a halt, feeling himself reel. He was overwhelmed by a sudden sensation of floating—not unlike the spell in the house—and was smacked with vertigo. One moment he was standing next to Dean and the next he felt himself step aside, riding on the high of the dizzying sensation. He wanted to breathe, knew that was what he should do, but the rush was too much.

A cry of pain shook through him as effectively as if someone had grabbed his shirt and wrenched him free from darkness. He staggered forward, his unbalanced weight hitting his brother and knocking him into the side of the car, the .45 tumbling free of Dean's grasp.

"Dean," Sam gasped, realizing the strangled scream had come from his brother. "Hey, take it easy," he tucked his wounded hand under Dean's bicep, wrapping his other arm around his brother's back, and pulled him away from Wren.

"What the hell is going on?" George demanded, gathering up a now-trembling Wren. "Why was he pointing a gun at you?"

Wren turned to face George, the tracks of her tears reflecting in the dying light of the late afternoon sun.

"I-I don't… I don't know…" she sobbed. "I just wanted him to know… know he wasn't alone…"

Dean struggled out of Sam's grasp. "Get off me," he growled, keeping a hand pressed to his head. "Let me go, Sam!"

Sam fell back, no match for Dean's will. He grabbed the gun quickly and shoved it in his waistband before Dean could, meeting his brother's stone-faced stare squarely.

"I want an explanation for all of this!" George demanded.

Sam sighed, tenting his knees, and dropping his hands in the empty space between his legs. "I know you do," he said. "But I don't have one right now."

"I mean… Camy's song, dead birds in Wren's room, my house is gone…"

George's voice cracked as the weight of his loss began to crush him.

"C'mon, George," Mike spoke up. "Let me get you and Wren back to the hotel, rest up a bit."

"Not until I find out why he," George pointed a shaking, age-spotted finger at Dean, "was pointing a gun at my girl."

Dean was staring at Sam, his back to the Impala's door, unnaturally still. Sam looked from George to Dean, then back. The unanswered questions swirled around them like a miasma of guilt and frustration, secrets slicing through the fog and twisting truth into lies.

"I'll talk to him," Sam promised. "I'll find out."

"When you do," George said, reaching into his pocket. "You come get me." He tossed a key at Sam, who plucked it from the air. "I want a goddamn explanation."

Sam nodded, then pushed slowly to his feet. He met Mike's eyes. There was something lingering in his gaze. "What?" Sam asked.

"He knows something," Mike said softly, not looking at Dean, but it was clear to Sam who he was referring to. "Doesn't he?"

Sam lifted a shoulder, looking back at the house. "I sure hope so."

"You call me if you, uh," he glanced at Dean, then back to Sam. "If you need anything, okay?"

Sam nodded, shaking Mike's hand. He stood still as George and Wren climbed into Mike's truck. As Mike fired up the big diesel engine, George turned in his seat. The look in his eyes was like a knife in Sam's heart.

"I need a beer," Dean said from his perch on the ground next to the Impala.

Sam glanced down, shaking his head. "You need to start talking," he said, making sure Dean 'heard' him.

"First things first, man," Dean sighed, using the Chevy to stand. "Don't argue. Just drive."

He looked at Sam a moment longer, long enough for Sam to sigh tiredly and admit to himself that it had been a helluva day.

"Fine. Where?"

"Sadie's place," Dean replied.

"The garage?"

Dean rolled his eyes slightly. "Don't you ever listen? Judo. That club she works at." He moved around to the passenger side of the car muttering with a shake of his head, "The garage…"

Lifting his lips in a sassy snarl, Sam mimicked Dean's words, then dropped into the driver's seat.

"What do you—" he started, turning to face Dean.

Dean ignored him, looking out of the window.

"Fine," Sam snapped, flipping the car around in a spray of gravel and heading for the bar.

Thoughts pin balled in Sam's head hard and fast, making his eyes ache and his jaw tight. He was tired from what, to him, felt like carrying the hunt and caring for his brother. Glancing at Dean, Sam felt guilty for his thoughts the moment they surfaced, knowing that if the situation was reversed, Dean would shoulder the responsibility without complaint.

It was simply what he did.

The noise of the bar fell around Sam like a blanket of protection, giving them space to talk alone in a crowd of people. He didn't recognize the song blaring loud enough to be heard over the dozens of conversations creating a buzz in the room, but he knew the voice. Someone was an Alice In Chains fan. He was only sorry Dean couldn't hear it. His habit of tapping his fingers against his leg to the beat of a song inside or outside of him as a way to focus his thoughts had always driven Sam crazy.

Until it was gone.

"As of now I bet you've got me wrong, so unsure you run from something strong…"

Sam plucked Dean's sleeve, leading him through the crowd of tattooed bikers with bandanas covering their graying hair, college-aged pool hustlers, business men with loosened ties and unbuttoned collars, and lonely women with too-short skirts and too-low tops.

They settled side-by-side at the bar, leaning their elbows on the edge and curling their shoulders forward in unison. Sam ordered two beers from the white-haired bartender who looked like he'd missed one meal too many. Sam found himself scanning the man's waist for weapons, then glanced at Dean to see he was doing the same.

With pints in hand, the brothers turned to face each other.

"Spill it."

"Wren's not what you think she is."

"She's not a blind girl who lost her parents?" Sam frowned, noting the what not who in Dean's statement.

"No," Dean sipped his beer, looking quickly around the bar as if searching for someone.

Sadie, Sam realized. Wounded or not, Dean was not one to pass up an opportunity like that.

"What do you think enosis means?" Sam asked suddenly, watching Dean's eyes widen.

"You heard that?" Dean asked.

Sam nodded. "Something weird happened in the house, too," he turned back to the bar, lost in thought. He almost began talking again before Dean tugged on his arm, pulling him back around. "Sorry," he sighed, then, careful to speak slowly and clearly, folding his lips around every word, he told Dean about the birds and what he'd apparently said while exploring the house.

"Dude," Dean said, rubbing his forehead. "I've heard that twice now."

"You've… what?"

"Yeah, heard it. Like a… a voice inside my head. Both times when Wren touched me."

"Okay, random."

Dean folded his hands up in a shrug. "There's something else."

"Of course there is."

"Someone planted oleander around the house."

Sam choked on his beer. "What?"

"Oleander—it's a flower, Sam."

"I know what it is," Sam replied, wiping his upper lip with the back of his hand. "Question is, how do you know what it is?"

"What? I can't have layers?" Dean rubbed harder at his head, then rolled his neck. "The friggin' thing's poisonous, Sam. Witches use it. Think Dad wouldn't have taught me how to recognize it?"

Sam had to give him that, frowning as Dean's effort to rub his pain away started to leave red marks on his skin and pulled at the cuts on his face. He wanted to push Dean's hand away.

"So… oleander," Sam dipped his chin to catch Dean's eyes. "What are you thinking?"

"I think someone poisoned the old lady," Dean sighed. "Triggered that heart attack."

"You think it was Wren?"

Dean's eyebrows raised in inverted V's. "Who else, Sam? She just… shows up and four weeks later, Camilla dies? The same day she told George she had something to tell him?"

"That could have been anything, Dean," Sam hissed, turning away again.

"Why are you so hot to defend this girl, man?"

Sam faced him. "Why do you want to crucify her?" He snapped on a heated breath. "She's been traumatized, Dean. She watched her parents die. That does something to you."

Dean's eyes darkened and a wall slammed between them so fast Sam almost gasped.

"No kidding," Dean replied.

Sam began to rub his own head, the direction of the conversation building pressure behind his eyes. "I just don't think it's her, is all. I just… I get a feeling about her."

"Me too," Dean snapped. "And maybe my feeling isn't influenced by her damsel-in-distress act that seems to be doing a pretty good number on you."

"Maybe your feeling is colored by the fact that she's dealing with her issues and you can't," Sam returned, regretting it the moment it was out of his mouth, but unable to pull it back.

Dean stared at him a moment, then turned away. Sam put a hand on his shoulder, but Dean shrugged it off.

"Dean?"

Sam turned at the female voice.

"Hey," Sadie grinned. "I wondered if you two would show up!" She shimmied up to the bar on the other side of Dean, drawing his eyes and an automatic grin.

"Hey there," he said, finally noticing her.

"Damn! What happened to you?" She frowned, her large eyes taking in the cuts and bruises on Dean's face. Sam saw her run her tongue across her bottom lip in an unconscious gesture, as if the sight of his brother's wounds made her mouth dry.

"We were caught in that explosion at the Cooper's," Sam explained.

"Oh, no way!" Sadie shot her eyes to Sam, then back to Dean. "Oh, man, that's awful!"

"Yeah," Sam nodded, sipping his beer. "Dean got a pretty back concussion… can't really hear things all that well right now."

Sadie reached up and traced a finger down the edge of Dean's ear, her lips dipping in an attractive pout. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

Sam was surprised. Part of him expected her to yell. She kept her eyes on Dean and Sam saw his brother's grin turn slightly feral as he watched her.

"I'll, um… go… over, uh, yeah, there," Sam turned on his stool and found the jukebox with his eyes. "Gotta be something other than AIC on that thing, right?"

"Don't bet on it," Sadie said, not taking her eyes from Dean's face.

Sam tugged Dean's sleeve. "You gonna be okay?"

Dean lifted a brow. "Some things don't require words, Sammy."

Sam sighed, then ambled toward the jukebox. Leaning his forearm on the clear glass cover, Sam scanned the CDs in Judo's collection. Sadie had been right. Sighing, Sam continued to click through, searching for something he recognized, something that didn't make him think of Dean behind the wheel of the Impala screaming lyrics at the top of his lungs while he beat time against his legs. Something that gave him some idea how they were going to move forward from this point.

"Curtis, you dick!"

Sadie's infuriated scream grabbed his attention just as he finished selecting the Eagles' Seven Bridges Road. He whirled, scanning the suddenly quiet crowd for the brunette's small frame, and, more importantly, the location of his brother.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Sadie continued.

Where is Dean? Sam's heart cried out. The lack of his brother's commanding voice echoing Sadie's sentiments turned him cold and he began pushing through the crowd to get back to where he had been.

"Yer mine, Sadie," another voice slurred. "E'body knows that."

"Dean?" Sadie said, and Sam broke into a sprint, shoving two large bikers aside.

"Oh, shit," Sam breathed when he broke upon the scene. Dean lay on the ground, face-down, blood covering his right shoulder and neck. "Dean?"

Sam went to his knees next to his brother, avoiding what looked like broken glass and spilled beer, rolling him over carefully. "Oh, man," he breathed. He looked up at Sadie. "What happened?"

Sadie was crying, wiping at her nose with the back of her hand. "Stupid asshole," she looked up at the stocky man weaving unsteadily above them. "Thinks I'm his freakin' girlfriend which I'm not!" She yelled up at Curtis. "Came at Dean with a bottle, broke it across his neck. Dean didn't even hear him coming."

"Dammit," Sam cursed himself. He pressed his hand against the cuts on the back of Dean's neck, staunching the warm spill of blood, trying not to move him too much. Patting his brother's cheek, he called his name, his heart climbing slowly up in his throat at the paleness of Dean's features.

"Wha—"

"Dean?"

"Aw, God," Dean groaned, his face fisting with pain. "What the hell…"

"Take it easy, man," Sam said, though Dean's eyes were closed. "You got some pretty bad cuts here."

"All I did was kiss the girl," Dean muttered weakly, blinking bleary eyes up at Sam. "Did… did she… hit me?"

"No!" Sadie exclaimed.

Sam shook his head, encompassing both Sadie and Dean with the motion. "Forget it. Let's get you out of here."

"You can't move him!" Sadie protested. "I'm going to call an ambulance."

"No!" Sam echoed her earlier vehemence. "I'll, uh, I got him. We know a doctor."

"Sam." Dean's voice was strained. "Feel… sick."

"Hang on, man," Sam whispered, gathering Dean up against his chest and bracing his feet. "Just hang in there." Dean was limp, almost dead weight in his arms.

Rising to an unsteady stance, his brother's blood staining his hand and running down his arm and Dean's back, Sam gripped his brother tightly and moved them forward, Dean's feet dragging sluggishly with every other step.

"Sam?" Sadie called back uncertainly.

"We'll be fine," he replied tightly as they stepped into the cool of the night.

"You jerk," Sam heard Sadie snarl at Curtis.

www

Minnesota, 1994

"The beads represent the Trinity. You know what the Trinity is, Dean?"

I shrug, clueless. "Some witches coven?"

Pastor Jim closes his eyes briefly and I recognize the measured look of patience that Dad often gives to Sam. I frown.

"Don't make me guess," I say.

"It's the Holy Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Three parts of one," Jim replies.

"Huh," I say. "Like Dad, Sammy, and me."

Jim chuckles. "Yeah, kinda like that. These three beads represent three parts of a whole. All are needed to be complete; without one, the other two are weakened, or are forced to change in order to balance."

I nod, waiting. Stringing the beads into the dream catcher is the last step. And Dad is ready to leave. He doesn't know how to stop moving and we've made him wait long enough.

"You got it?" Jim asks me.

"I got it," I reply, tying the knots as he has shown me, breathing a silent hope for peace into the contraption. I wonder if I'll recognize peace. If I'll ever know if the dream catcher is working.

"I'm gonna miss you boys," Jim says softly, his eyes lifting to the car and Dad checking the engine while Sam spins the end of a wrench around his fingers. They don't see us from where they're standing.

"I know," I reply, not returning the sentiment. Not able to. It would betray Dad to admit that somewhere other than the road and the Impala could ever be home to me.

"You're going to be okay, Dean," Jim says, giving in and letting his hand rest on my shoulder this time.

"I know," I say, my lie so white it is almost see through.

www

Heat.

Shivers of heat slammed through him, shaking him against the bed, jarring him to a gasping awareness, light dancing at the corners of his eyes, limbs trembling, fingers searching.

A hand reached back, grasping his, anchoring him. A hand not Sam's. Dean felt strength and calluses where Sam's hands were smooth. He felt a ring. Sam didn't wear a ring. Dean tried to focus on whose touch was holding him in the now, keeping him present, but the heat… the heat threatened to swamp him, pulling him low with a tide of pain and triggering darkness to combat the light around his eyes.

He felt a cool rag on his face and groaned, leaning into it with closed eyes. The weight of the hand holding the rag on his forehead was heavier than Sam's. His brother knew how much pressure to apply to keep him still and offer him comfort. This hand just kept him still and he wanted to move, wanted to roll his neck, wanted to stop the pain in his head.

Just stop. Just make it all stop.

The hand gripping his squeezed and Dean opened his eyes again, this time concentrating on the blurred figure looming over him. A dark face, lines of concern framing a wide mouth, deep-set eyes focused intently on him. He smelled stale sweat and the unfamiliar odor of a stranger's breath.

"Mike?" Dean rasped. "Where's… Sam?"

He lacked the strength to read what Mike said back, and felt himself sink a bit into the bed, closing his eyes against the spinning world, searching for oblivion. The hand released his and he tried not to feel adrift. The bed jostled when Mike returned and Dean opened his eyes once more. A large pad of paper was held before his eyes. For a moment the words swam as he swallowed a groan, trying to focus, wanting not to see what the paper said.

"Gone? Gone where?" Dean felt his voice climb up his chest and launch from his mouth as if his heart had turned to lava and was trying to escape. His neck and shoulder burned, a sharp, slicing pain that curled his lips inward.

Sam left? When he was burning? When he was alone in a foreign world of silence?

Mike wrote something else.

"What do you mean he's with Wren?" Dean snapped, trying in vain to sit up. Mike easily pushed him back down on the bed. Only then did Dean pick up the tang of Mike's skin, the spicy smell of alfalfa mixed with antiseptic. "Guh…" He groaned, trying to move away from the heat, the pain, unable to escape. "Son of a… what… happened?"

He was having trouble piecing together the last moments of consciousness. He remembered Sadie's lips, how she smelled of sugar and cinnamon. How soft she was and how he'd wanted to literally climb inside of her and hide right then.

He remembered Sam holding him, pain, and sickness. Pulling the Impala over to the side of the road as the world spun and his beer made a second appearance, leaving him spinning. He remembered Sam's hands on his back and at his side. He remembered Sam cradling him as he shook.

Mostly, though, he remembered heat.

Mike held up the paper. You were cut in a bar fight and have a fever. I stitched you up and gave you meds.

"How long…?"

About 32 hours.

"Dammit."

You need to rest.

"I need Sam."

Sam is fine—he's with Wren and George.

"You don't get it, man. He's not—" Dean gasped as he tried once more to sit up, only to be brought down once more, this time by his own body. "FUCK."

You should be in a hospital, but Sam wouldn't let me take you.

"Damn straight," Dean forced out not caring how loud, not caring how rough, willing the heat to retreat, willing the pain to subside, willing his strength to be enough. "He…" Dean licked his lips, closing his eyes against the fire. "He needs to come back. Now."

He's following a lead. Said you told him.

"Didn't tell him to go by himself," Dean snarled.

Didn't have a choice.

Dean read the words, saw the shrug, looked away. Mike was right. He'd left Sam defenseless and alone. He'd succumbed to the weakness and allowed himself to be taken out of the game again. He's screwed up.

"Oh, man, I screwed up." He felt his failure like bonds tying his limbs to the bed, anchoring him in a sea of disappointment.

Mike caught Dean's eyes and shook his head. Dean looked away. "I screwed up…" he whispered again.

He had nothing left to fight. Sam was out there, fighting the goddamn good fight. Just like John. Just like he should be. And Dean lay still. Bleeding.

"You got more of those… those meds, man?"

Mike frowned, picking up the pad of paper again.

"No, don't…" Dean grabbed the strong wrist, pulling Mike's hand away from the paper. "Don't give me logic. Just… just make this fuckin' heat go away."

Mike watched him for a moment and Dean thought that he almost saw disenchantment in the gaze. He didn't care. His body burned, his neck was tight and swollen. His head had expanded to twice its normal size and he hurt. He hurt and he was useless to his brother without the benefit of his hearing. Sam was better off without him.

Mike moved away and in moments was back with a syringe. Dean felt a sharp sting in his arm and minutes later, darkness engulfed him.

He dreamt about an ocean. Standing on the edge, his pale, bare feet sinking slowly into the soft sand, water sucking at his ankles, pulling at the hairs on his legs, enticing him with coolness and promises of an eternal embrace. He closed his eyes, breathing in the scent of salt and fish and the complete absence of people.

The lonesome cry of a seagull grabbed his attention and he glanced skyward, watching the white-winged bird flit and soar on the wind gusts pushed up from the water. Before his eyes, the angelic white of the seagull began to turn a dull gray, the bird drifting lower as the color darkened. As the gray turned to black, Dean stepped from the surf, tugging his feet from the sucking pull of the tide and backing up on to the drier surface of the hard-packed sand.

The black bird landed next to him, looking up with yellow eyes, its head tilting to the right in a short, jerky motion.

"Spirits," it said.

"What?" Dean gasped, coming to complete awareness with the act of speaking.

He lay on the bed, panting, sweat slicking his face and plastering his shirt to the curves and planes of his chest. Looking down the length of his body, he realized he'd kicked free of the sheets and blankets that someone—presumably Sam—had taken care to tuck around him. His neck and shoulder throbbed with sickening consistency, but he no longer felt the debilitating heat that he remembered wrapping around him before.

"Sam?" he croaked, momentarily caught by how accustomed he was getting to not hearing his own voice.

When no welcoming face immediately loomed over him, he cautiously rolled to his side, facing Sam's bed. Hissing from the burning pain that movement caused in the cuts on his neck, he pushed himself upright on shaking arms. Sam's bed was empty and unmarred by his brother's long-limbed thrashing in sleep.

"Mike?" Dean tried.

Though no sound greeted his tender ears, the room felt empty. Devoid of human presence. Clearing his throat, Dean looked blearily around. The room was dark, not even starlight shining through the uncovered window.

How long was I asleep? He swallowed, searching for any sign as to why he'd been left alone. His eyes fell to the pad of paper he remembered Mike using to communicate with him resting on the nightstand between the beds. Gingerly reaching over to turn on the wall-mounted lamps, he picked up the pad and looked at Mike's block-like scrawl.

Went to pick up food. Sam hasn't called. Rest. Everything is okay.

"Okay, my ass," Dean growled, noting that Mike had had the presence of mind to write down the time he left. Glance at the clock, Dean realized that he'd been alone for all of fifteen minutes. Instinct told him the lack of companionship coupled with the absence of heat had triggered his self-preservation, bringing him around to taste the stale air and shiver in the unnatural coolness of the room.

"Sam hasn't called…" he muttered aloud. Flipping through the paper he reminded himself of the 'conversation.'

Sam was with Wren and George. Following up on a hunch.

"More than a hunch," Dean said, grunting as he stiffly rose to his feet, registering that he was still clad in jeans, a clean T-shirt covering the bandages on his neck and shoulder. He reached up carefully to finger the wounds, feeling along the puffed edges of skin exposed under the gauze bandages and medical tape. Shrugging his shoulder, he felt the stinging pull of the stitches Mike had used to pull his skin back together. Suddenly acutely aware of other uncomfortable areas, he shuffled his bare feet across the tightly-woven carpet to the bathroom.

As he moved, he tried to slowly process the fact that he was alone. He was wounded and alone. And his brother was out there, doing the job. The thoughts bounced off of each other as if neurons in his head were misfiring, connections unable to be made.

Without turning on the light, he took care of his bladder, grimacing at how slow and stilted his movements were, feeling the shivers of tight pain that radiated down his arm as he zipped his fly, and noticing that his fingers on his wounded arm weren't working quite right. As he moved past the mirror, his reflection caught his eyes.

"God," he muttered, peering closer. "Death warmed over..."

His eyes were hollow and shadowed with purple smudges, looking enormous in his thinned-out face. His skin was sallow, and held an almost waxy appearance. And his hair was no longer sticking up in spikes but was laying flat against his wounded head.

"At least my ears aren't bleeding," he said, watching his own mouth move in the mirror. His lips were full and almost too red for his face.

Turning from his garish appearance, he moved slowly across the room to the table bearing Sam's laptop.

"My gut is never wrong, Sammy," he said, sitting carefully, wounded arm tucked close to his body, and dropping the pad of paper next to the computer. "You should know that."

Staring at the monitor, watching the screen saver of family pictures Sam had loaded long ago swim across the screen, Dean took a breath. Two heartbeats after the phone picture of Sam asleep in the Impala with a plastic spoon in his mouth came a picture of John, ruefully glancing up at the camera, a reluctant smile on his face, creases around his eyes saying you get away with this once; next time I kick your ass.

He had to do something. He could barely breathe without the cuts on his neck poking back at him. Fighting might not be an option at the moment, but he'd be damned if he was going to sit back and rest like a fucking invalid. He had to do something.

"Enosis," Dean whispered, reaching for the keyboard. "Let's see what your distress is, there, damsel."

As he struck the first key, the screen saver vanished and he realized that the last page Sam had searched was still up. It included facts about oleander poisoning. Dean's eyes drifted to the bottom of the page. Two paragraphs were devoted to oleander triggering heart attacks, being extremely deadly, but also tasteless, odorless, and that the powder made from its sap dissolved instantly in liquid.

"Sometimes I hate being right," he muttered.

Sam was out with George and Wren, either of whom could be killer or victim, though Dean's money was on Wren. A sour taste built in the back of his throat, his mouth suddenly dry. Searching through the last several sites Sam had researched jogged his memory of past discussions.

"Dammit, Dean," he cursed himself. "You're better than this." His memory had always been like flypaper, attracting facts with random obscurity and only needing the right combination of events to pull the information from the depths. But since the explosion, even his grip on that reality had shaken loose. "Get a hold of yourself."

He found the report of Camilla and George taking Wren Demeter in after her parents were killed, reading it over for any sign of hinkiness. The only thing off, it seemed, was that Wren's parents were not named.

"That could just be because the article is about George and Camilla," he argued with himself, playing both good cop and bad cop in Sam's absence.

Sighing, he typed in enosis. Several sites were returned to him, giving him the origin of the word, Greek, and the meaning of the word, union.

"Greek, huh?" Dean muttered, looking back at the tab with the report he'd browsed before. Wren Demeter. "Hell, it's Greek to me."

He typed in Wren's name, pulling up a Wikipedia site for Demeter that spoke of the Greek goddess of grain. Bored within minutes, Dean scrolled, thinking that it wasn't too much to hope for something to jump out at him and just plop the answer in his lap.

And then… it did.

"Whoa, wait," he muttered aloud, scrolling back up the web page.

According to Ovid (Metamorphoses V, 551), the sirens were the companions of young Persephone and were given wings by Demeter to search for Persephone when she was abducted.

"Oh, shit," he breathed, typing in the word 'siren.'

In Greek mythology, the Sirens (Greek singular: Σειρήν Seirḗn; Greek plural: Σειρῆνες Seirênes) were dangerous bird-women, portrayed as seductresses…

"Dammit, Sam," Dean said, lifting his eyes to the door, having never felt more helpless in his life.