Rating: PG-13

Chapter 2

"Your memory is a monster; you forget - it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you - and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!"
- John Irving


Kat lived in a bungalow house near the edge of town. Sophie parked the bike at the end of the street against a neighbor's fence. Dean stepped off the bike, putting his back to the fence and looking around. Sophie was moving slow, and had been quiet since they left the alley behind the gun shop.

"You with me?" he looked at her over his shoulder.

She lifted her heavy-lidded eyes, nodding. As he watched she flicked her wrist, a knife dropping from a sleeve holster and into her hand. She glanced at him, and he heard the soft shhfft as the blade shot out of the hilt.

"I'm ready," she said.

"Resourceful," Dean commented, turning back to case the street.

"I do what I can."

Dean smelled the rain as it fell from the heavy clouds behind them, carried forward and washing over them with the force of the wind. The water was cool, running from his hair and stinging the cuts on his forehead. He glanced back at Sophie who had pushed her bangs from her face, leaving her eyes exposed.

"I don't see another car, but he could be around back," Dean said in a low voice, rain skipping and splashing off of his lips. "You follow me. Stay close."

"I know what to do," Sophie snapped.

"Listen to me," Dean rotated, grabbing her arm. "This is about getting your niece out, not killing Rena."

Sophie's eyes flashed and Dean felt his breath stutter in his chest.

"For you, maybe." Her voice was a low growl.

She pulled from his grip and turned her attention back to the house. The force of the storm increased bringing with it a low rumble of thunder and quick flashes of lightning that bisected the unnatural dark. Dean moved in a quick, low jog along the fence line to the back door of Kat's house. Sophie was as close to him as his non-existent shadow.

The house was dark—the entire block was dark. Lightning had stolen the power, giving them a perfect cloak. Dean crept up to the door, cringing when he noted that it was ajar. Easing it open, he pulled the 9mm from his waistband and flicked the safety off. He moved carefully through the darkened kitchen, the house silent except for the beating of the rain against the metal roof.

Reaching the doorway, Dean motioned Sophie to flank him. She obeyed, her knife up and ready, her fingers wrapped tightly around the hilt. Dean ducked his head around the corner, looking quickly in both directions down an empty, dark hallway. He crossed the threshold and moved into a living room.

Immediately, his eyes caught the motion of two figures across the room from him, moving from the opened front door to the stairs at his right.

"Stop," he barked, leveling the 9mm at the front figure. "Don't even think about it."

"Sam—get the girl!"

"What? No! That's—"

"Get the hell up there and get the girl," the first figure barked, shoving the taller figure with one hand, firing at Dean with the other.

Time slowed.

Dean was aware of the deafening pop pop pop of the gun fired in the close quarter of the house, saw the muzzle flash as the bullets exited the barrel, knew they were heading for him, but he was paralyzed. His gun was up, finger frozen on the trigger.


The rolling ache in his head intensified and he stumbled forward into the path of the bullets. He jerked sideways as one tore through the leather jacket, burrowing a deep groove across the top of his left arm. The new pain shocked him into action. He blinked burning eyes and squeezed the trigger of the HK, aiming at the light from the muzzle of the other gun.

"Shit!" He heard a cry after his fourth shot and the figure rotated, ducking behind a far wall.

"Dean!" Sophie yelled.

Time kicked back into its regular motion and Dean shot a look over his shoulder. "Stay there!" he barked, moving after the figure he assumed was Ben Rena. "You stay there!"

"They're getting her!" Sophie practically screeched. She rolled away from the protection of the wall and headed toward the stairs where the lanky figure had gone.

"Sophie, goddammit—"

Dean ducked as more bullets came their way. He tucked in behind a chair, feeling the furniture jerk and stutter as it absorbed the impact of the bullets. He stuck his hand around the chair and fired back, counting down in his head. He had six rounds left.

"You don't know who you're fighting for, kid," Rena yelled at him.

Dean heard the click of metal on metal as Rena reloaded.

"Is that right?" Dean replied, searching the dark room for Sophie, finding her behind a bookcase, her switchblade out and held by the hilt.

"She is a monster," Rena said, and Dean shifted his eyes to the room where the man was hiding.

"Funny," Dean grunted, sliding, moving, working his way over to Sophie. "She says the same thing about you."

Rena barked out a harsh laugh. "I'm getting that girl."

"My ass you are," Dean shot back.

"I'm getting her," Rena repeated, "and then she's gonna give him over to me."


Dean searched for Sophie, catching Rena's movement out of the corner of his eyes. He turned, bringing his gun up. The silver of Sophie's knife caught a timely flash of lightning as it sailed through the air, embedding itself in Rena's right hand.

"Shit!" Rena screamed, and Dean heard the gun clatter to the ground.

He took a step closer, his gun trained on the area he'd last seen Rena. The large man stood, clutching his wounded hand, closer than Dean had realized. Dean blinked. He suddenly knew he'd seen Rena before… he recognized the strangely curly black hair, the sallow face, the thin mustache. Spit collected on Rena's lips as he grasped Sophie's knife and pulled it slowly from his hand, then dropped it with a dull clatter on the floor.

"I am gonna kill that bitch," Rena growled, his right hand curled in a painful-looking claw, blood gathering in his palm and dripping over the edge.

Dean leveled his gun. "'Fraid I can't let you do that."

"Sam's gonna get that girl," Rena spat. "He's got her by now."

Sam… Dean's head split, the pain making him falter, making him hiss, closing his eyes for a fraction of a second too long. He forced his eyes open and saw Rena gripping a smaller, but just as deadly gun in his left hand, pointing it right at Dean's head.

"I don't know why you changed sides. I don't really give a damn. But I'm gonna get him, and you're not getting in my way."

"What?" Dean gasped, confused. Rena talked as though Dean should know who he was after—who Sophie would give up in exchange for her niece.

Rena cocked the gun. "Sam?" he called, lifting his eyes to the stairs.

Dean cried out as the name crashed into him. He clutched his head with his left hand, pressing against the pressure that threatened to split his skull starting between his eyes. Sam didn't answer. It was silent upstairs. It was silent behind him. It was chaos in his mind.

"L-looks like… you're wrong," Dean managed, dropping his hand, his gun faltering.

Rena took a step back. "Sam!"

"He's gone, man," Dean said, steadying his gun. "J-just go… just leave her alone."

"Are you fuckin' kidding me?" Rena growled, taking another step back, closer to the front door. "Leave her alone? I haven't even started to mess with that bitch."

Dean knew Rena was going to fire, but his head echoed with one word, blocking out instinct, blocking out thought, blocking out reaction.


He suddenly caught the unmistakable scent of burning flesh. It came from behind, and he turned as he heard an odd shink shink shink. Sophie had reached across her body, jerking three throwing knives by their cross-shaped hilts and in quick succession had thrown them at Rena, not hitting him, hitting the wall instead, but knocking him off-balance as he stumbled away, his dead-center shot at Dean going wild.


"Move!" She ordered, reaching for Dean, pulling him to her.

Dean heard Rena's hammer click, heard the bullet eject from the chamber, knew it was going to hit him, that he wasn't going to dodge this one. Faster than he thought possible, Sophie rotated her body, moving in front of him. The bullet slammed into her from behind, knocking her into his arms.

"No," he breathed, dropping the gun, going to his knees in the dark living room, Sophie's limp body in his arms. "Oh shit… shit shit shit…"

"This isn't over, Winchester," Rena growled, shocking Dean with his own name. Rena stepped through the front door and into the rain, gripping his bloody hand awkwardly with its mate, leaving behind the girl and… Sam

"Sophie?" Dean grasped the back of her neck, tipping her head back. Please please please… Her eyes fluttered, rolling beneath her closed lids. "Son of a bitch," he breathed as a twisted prayer of thanks. He grabbed the 9mm and tucked it into the pocket of the leather jacket, the barrel still too hot to slide against his skin in his waistband.

He gathered her up against him, grimacing as he felt the stinging pull of the bullet groove on his left shoulder, and shifted from his knees to balance on the balls of his feet. He ducked, tipping her forward and over his right shoulder so that he kept his left arm burden-free, then with a groan of effort, pushed himself to his feet and turned to head out the back door. The rain beat an instant rhythm against his face, filling his eyes, blurring his vision.


"Sophie, hang on," Dean said softly, using the sound of his voice to block out the echo of that name. "Just hang on… I'm pretty sure I know a thing or two about gunshot wounds… don't ask me why… okay, here's your bike… friggin' rain… okay, just, whoa, don't slide off… okay, there you go…"

He set Sophie sideways on the bike, swinging his leg over the back, and held her with the curve of his body and his chin as he turned the key and kick-started the bike. He tipped it upright, pulling the stand up with the heel of his boot, and balanced the machine between his legs. Groaning, he wrapped his wounded arm around the front of Sophie's limp form, gripping the low handle bar of the bike with his right.

"Too bad this thing can't just find its way home," he muttered.


"Stop it… shut up shut up shut up…" He couldn't let the pain win, couldn't let it sweep over him as it threatened. He had to get them out of there, get them back, get her home. It never occurred to him to take her to an ER… his every instinct told him just to get home, get back.

He blinked the rain from his eyes, trying to navigate the path Sophie had taken, bypassing the shady pawn shop, turning down one road, realizing he'd chosen wrong, turning around and heading the other way. After what seemed like hours but in reality was the space of about fifteen minutes, he saw Beckett's Cotton warehouse. He was shivering, his teeth chattering, his hand frozen to the handle bar, blood hot on his shoulder, causing his head to spin in a sickening lurch as he turned down the alley.

He pulled over, shutting off the bike, and forced his hand to open, forced his arm to bend. He could see blood on his jeans.

"Dammit," he growled, holding Sophie against him and swinging his leg over the back of the bike. Tucking low once more, he shifted Sophie over his shoulder, and shoved himself upright on shaky legs.

He struggled for a moment with the door to the building, cursing as his cold, wet fingers slipped on the metal handle and sent him stumbling back. He held Sophie's legs with his right hand, trying to force his left to obey him, even as it rebelled, weak and trembling. Finally gripping the edge of the door, he was able to swing it open wide enough to maneuver them through.

Sam… Easy eyes, a crooked smile, long, shaggy bangs swinging low. The pain in his head was intense.

"Aw, Christ," Dean stumbled against the wall, his left shoulder bouncing and skittering, leaving a smear of blood in his wake. He gripped his head as the pain grew, blinding him, suffocating him as he tried to breathe through it, tried to compel it away.

Sophie shifted on his shoulder and he tightened his grip. He could see her apartment door.

"Just move, Dean," he ground out through clenched teeth. "Do it. Do it, you friggin' pussy."

He continued down the hall, shoulder against the wall, a trail of blood behind him, the fingers of his right hand gripping Sophie's leg hard enough to bruise. He reached her door and tried the handle. Locked.

"You gotta be kiddin' me…"

He knew she had to have the keys somewhere, but he didn't have the balance or patience to look. He took a step back and slammed his foot at the lock, blasting the door open. He would apologize later. He stumbled through, kicking the door somewhat closed behind him, staggering to the bedroom, and unceremoniously dropped Sophie from his shoulder to the bed, falling to his knees on the floor beside the bed. He heard the music from the other room—the rotation still rolling through her series of CDs… keeping the rats away.

"Scared to death, no reason why. Do whatever to get me by. Think about the things I've said. Read the page it's cold and dead…"

He pressed his forehead against her clean-smelling sheets, allowing himself a moment to breathe. He was shaking from the inside out. Rain water soaked through the sheets from Sophie's body and his face. His left arm was heavy with pain; the blood that flowed from the furrow the bullet had cut was the only warmth on his body. Panting, his breath sawing out through his raw throat, Dean pulled a clumsy hand from the ground and pressed it on the edge of her bed, pushing his head up and way.

Sophie lay pale and still. He didn't understand why she'd done that… she'd stepped in front of the bullet… for him. He reached for her, his movements hampered by the wet leather of his jacket. Shrugging out of it, he growled at the pain that coursed up his arm. The bandages wrapped around the burn had been protected from the rain, but blood was soaking into the gauze from his shoulder and starting to sting the tender blisters hidden underneath. He pulled the gun and extra clips from the pocket, setting them on top of the dresser, then dropped the coat in a heap on the floor beside her bed.

Leaning over Sophie, he carefully rolled her first one way, then the other, working with uncooperative fingers to ease her out of the knife-lined coat. Her right hand flopped limply against his leg and he saw a red, cross-shaped burn along the inside of her fingers and teasing the edge of her palm. He frowned, something tickling the back of his mind, but was distracted by the sight of the back of her white T-shirt. It was gory with blood. Dean swallowed.

"Jesus, Sophie," he whispered. "What the hell were you thinking?"

He carefully lifted her T-shirt up, easing her arms from the sleeves, and pulled it over her wet hair. His left arm was trembling badly; he was unable to force his fingers to obey. He dropped the wet T-shirt on the floor, leaving Sophie clad in her jeans and bra. Rolling her to her stomach, he looked at the wound in her back. There's too much blood… I can't

Turning quickly, he reached out to steady himself against the dresser as the world took its sweet time following his movement. He headed to the bathroom, his wet, dark T-shirt clinging to him in patches across the plane of his stomach and against the small of his back. He grabbed a towel, wet it with warm water, then returned to Sophie.

As carefully as he could, he wiped away the blood, exposing an intricate tattoo that covered much of her lower back. There were words woven through a series of Celtic-looking crosses. He continued to clean the blood away when words at the end of the tattoo caught his eye.

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti...

"Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit…" Dean read, softly.

Sophie stirred.

"Shh," he soothed. "Easy, Sophie, I got you…"

He continued to clean away the blood, blinking as he found the wound, staring stupidly at the jagged flesh, unable to comprehend what he was seeing.

The bullet hole was closing up.

Dean pulled his hand back, staring. The wound had destroyed one of the larger crosses on her tattoo, marring the words etched there. As the flesh gathered, sealing, showing no sign of the intrusion of the metal into her body, words fused back together and Dean saw that it was a message. Captus hic , reverto domum…

"Captured here… returned to home…"


Sophie's voice was ragged, her movement slow as she rolled away. Dean knew she shouldn't even be able to move at all. She rolled to her side, pushing away from him, across the bed, pressing her back against the wall.

"What the fu—"

"Don't read it…" she interrupted, swallowing hard.

"What the hell is going on, Sophie?" Dean's voice was hard, his eyes hot.

Sophie's eyes, sharp in their color, slid from his face to his shoulder. "You're bleeding."

"No shit, Sherlock," Dean snapped, pushing away the hand that reached out to him. "What the hell is going on?"

Sophie twisted, looking at her lower back, swiping her hand there. From her motion, Dean could tell that the wound had completed its self-repair. Using the bed for support, he pushed himself to his feet, stepping back and away from her. The room shifted, tilting sideways as his thoughts rushed to beat each other to the front of his brain.

"It's a spell, isn't it?"

Sophie stood, looked down at her bared stomach and turned to her closet to get a shirt.

"Peace depart and evil roam?"

Sophie whipped back around. "I said, don't! Don't read it!"

"What is it, Sophie?" Dean took a step forward, grabbing her arm roughly in his right hand, shaking her hard. "What are you?"

"You won't believe me," she shook her head, her wet bangs fanning across her forehead.

"Try me," he said, dangerous, low.

"I told you the truth… Dean, I promise, I told you the truth about Rena," Sophie hedged.

"I don't give a shit about Rena," Dean snapped, wrenching her up close to him until her chest touched his, his eyes boring into hers. His grip on her arm was almost cruel. "I want to know about you. The truth."

"I—I…" She looked scared, uncertain, and then with a blink, emotion vacated her eyes, leaving in its wake a look of surrender. "I was born in 1917."

Dean stared, not releasing her, not quite comprehending.

"I died in 1942," Sophie continued. "I wandered until 1992, when I found m-my… my great-niece… I made a deal… and got my soul."

"Fuck," Dean whispered as knowing slowly dawned inside of him. He tightened his trembling left hand into a fist, growling out accusingly, "You're a vampire."


"Son of a bitch." He released her arm, turning from her. He literally felt the facts slide into place, heard them click. He should have known… how did he miss it? The strength she displayed, the shift of her eyes, the exhaustion during the day… hell, I smelled her flesh burning when she grabbed the crosses on her knives… "So Rena was right. You are the monster."

"No!" Sophie grabbed his good arm, pulling him around by the edges of his wet T-shirt. "When I got my soul, I lost the monster… Dean, that's what the spell is… it… it keeps it inside."

"A soul doesn't cancel out evil," Dean snapped. "You can't just erase… fifty years of—"

"Don't you think I know that?" Sophie turned from him, her ponytail swinging in a wet swath across her bare back, brushing the top of the tattoo. "I've spent the last fifteen years trying to atone for fifty years of death. I—I have spells and messages that keep me here, keep Kat safe… from me."

Sophie turned and faced him, her eyes flashing to his wounded arm. Dean followed her gaze, seeing the blood from the bullet wound wind down his arm in a twisted, wet trail, soaking through the white bandage that covered his burns, dripping from the tip of his little finger. He looked back at her, watching as her eyes flashed vivid-blue.

"This turning you on?" Dean said, his voice a quiet tease. He lifted his arm, giving her a good look at the blood. "Mouth watering yet?"

"Don't be an idiot," Sophie snapped. "If I wanted you I could have taken you while you slept."

"Why'd you wait, Sophie? Hoping Rena would finish me off… then you could snack on us both?"

"Stop it."

"You're a monster, Sophie."

"You're an asshole, Dean."

"Truth hurts, Sweetheart," Dean lowered his arm, spreading his hands wide.

"Dammit," Sophie turned away, then back quickly as if not trusting him to not read the spell. "I knew I saved the wrong one."

Dean felt himself go cold. His fingertips tingled. His lips were numb. He stared hard at her; around Sophie, the walls shifted, the floor rotated, the world spun.


"What did you say?"

"Forget it. Just… just get the hell out."

"No," Dean stepped up to her, grabbing her by the throat in a quick grip, forcing her back against the wall and holding her there. She didn't fight him. "What did you mean… the wrong one?"

Sophie blinked at him. "At the cabin… I only had time to grab… one of you."

"Me or Rena?"



"Sophie," he warned. "I'll get it out of you one way or another."

She narrowed her eyes at that, anger flashing quick and bright. "Go to hell, Winchester."

He opened his mouth to retort but closed it again quickly when her small, powerful fist bore into his unprotected mid-section. He released her throat, doubling over as the air rushed out of him. His head throbbed and he backed away. He brought his eyes up just in time to see her foot swing for his head.

Pure instinct shot his hand forward, catching her foot and twisting her leg, knocking her off balance. She landed on her back, reaching behind herself to vault to her feet in a crab-like flip. They faced each other, crouched, hands out, knees bent, eyes fierce. Dean knew he was at a distinct disadvantage: his head throbbed, his left arm was nearly useless, he was lightheaded from blood loss... and he was facing a vampire.

"I wish you'd just done what I said," Sophie said softly, crossing her feet as she circled him.

"What, kill a human?" Dean circled in the opposite direction. "Not likely."

"You've done it before," Sophie accused.

This stopped him. He had?

"I know more about you than you know about yourself," she continued. "I've studied you, watched you… always best to know your enemies, don't you think?"

Killing that guy… killing Meg… I didn't hesitate, I didn't even flinch…

"Guuhh!" Dean folded his face in a grimace of pain, reaching up to grab his forehead.

Sophie stopped circling him, straightening, waiting. Dean tried to stand up, but the pain bowed him. He pressed the palm of his hand into his eye.

"W-who…" he tried, swallowing the roll of nausea that enveloped him. "Who is Sam?"

Sophie seemed to deflate. He squinted at her. Aw, God, this hurts…

"Dean…" Her voice was soft, sad. All of her anger seemed to leak out of her on an exhale.

"Sophie, goddammit…" Dean growled. "Who. Is. Sam?"

"He's your brother, Dean."


The pain in his head rocked him, took him to his knees. He wanted to cry out, but the pain stole his breath, scooped out his heart.


Images rushed through him, searing him, burning his eyes. He wasn't aware of Sophie's hands on his shoulders, of her soothing words of comfort. He wasn't aware of the hard surface of the floor as his face slammed against it. He was only aware of a pair of easy eyes, a crooked grin, shaggy hair, and a voice… a constant, familiar voice.

I gotta find Dad… it's all I can think about…

A baby in his arms, cool grass beneath bare feet, fire in a window…

You're my brother… and I'd die for you…

School books, basketball in an empty lot, a five-year-old shadow…

Because… I know who it is… I can see her now…

A letter, a bus ticket, a fight, an empty room…

You and me, we're all that's left… So, if we're going to see this through, we're gonna do it together…

Fighting in rhythm, a partner next to him, an ally, his job, his responsibility…

I wish I could have that kind of innocence…

Pressing his face into the floor, Dean gasped, crying out from the pain, from the loss…


The darkness was cool and sweet as it took him, ending the voices, ending the heat, ending the chaos...


He was lying on the floor. He felt weak, shaky, scared. He blinked, blurred vision distorting his surroundings. His chest ached, and he felt the sticky wetness of blood beneath his folded arms. Dad… Sam…

"I'm right here, Dean," Sam's voice was trembling.

"Where's Dad?" He was dizzy, weak, confused. He'd heard that shot, heard the screaming.

"He's okay," Sam looked over his shoulder. "He will be anyway."

"Who was screaming?"

"It's okay, Dean," Sam said, and Dean heard tears. "I need to get you out of here."

"Did…" his head spun, his chest throbbed. "Did it go? Is it gone?" His voice sounded weak in his ears.

"Yeah," Sam nodded. "It's gone."

Then Dean remembered. The black cloud erupting from his father's mouth. His father's back arching, then sinking to the ground with a whimper. Sam cupped the back of his neck, helping him roll carefully to a sitting position and suddenly he was in a junkyard, under the Impala, a wrench in his hand, sweat on his face, grit on his neck.

Blinking, confused, he dug the heels of his boots in and rolled on the dolly from beneath the car. Sam was standing there, his face serious, his eyes sad. He was telling Dean that he was right… about… something. Dean couldn't hear him, something was in the way, something was beeping, harsh, loud, incessant.

"I'm not alright," Sam was saying. "Not at all… but neither are you, that much I know."

Sam walked away and Dean felt hollowed out, empty, angry, betrayed, heavy. He wanted to scream, he wanted to run. He wanted to hit something, hurt something, break something as thoroughly as he was broken. Before he knew it, he was beating on the Impala's trunk with a tire iron. Beating with everything inside of him, beating until his shoulders burned, his eyes burned, his hands burned.

He swung the tire iron down once more and it became a chainsaw. He watched as the rotating teeth of the blade cut into the neck of a vampire, blood spurting up and splashing his face, hot and satisfying. He pressed until the blade chewed through the vamps neck, severing the spinal cord, decapitating and killing the monster. It felt good, it felt right.

Straightening, he looked over at Sam. His brother's eyes were shocked, scared, and aimed at him. He started to reach out to Sam, to apologize, to comfort when suddenly a gun was in his hand and he was shooting a dark-haired woman dressed in white. Her grip on Sam's head released and she dropped back, only to pop up and rush him; with a slide born from years in the sandlot playing baseball, he followed her into her grave, shoving a spike through her chest.

"What's dead should stay dead," he said, thinking that he should be in there with her. He should be the one who was gone, not… not… looking up, he tried to find Sam, ask him who was gone. But Sam wasn't there.

Instead there was another dark haired woman, her lips twisted into a smile, telling him to think about Evan, to think about his father. He opened his mouth to ask what his father had to do with anything and she reached up, cupping the back of his head and pressed her lips to his, sweeping the inside of his mouth with her tongue, tasting him.

"What was that for?" he asked, his head spinning.

"Sealing the deal."

"You know, I usually like to be warned before I'm violated with demon tongue."

She smirked and Dean blinked. She was a black man, threatening Sam. He wasn't quite sure what was going on, but nobody threatened Sam.

"I'm gonna say this one time. You make a move on him, you'll be dead before you hit the ground. You understand me? Do I make myself clear?"

"Dean!" Sam called and Dean tried to turn, but he was tied to a chair, a gag in his mouth and sudden, intense fear in his heart as the room behind him exploded.

"SAM!" he screamed through his gag. It was silent, and a different black man stood next to him, waiting until the second explosion rocked the small building they were in, sending wooden flack raining down around him.

Minutes stretched and then Sam was there, bleeding, but alive, and untying him. Don't leave me again, Sam… don't you do it… I can't take it…

Sam stood up and pulled Dean with him. Dean turned Sam's face to inspect his wounds, then rotated to go kill Gordon. Sam reached out, grabbing his arm and pushed him back and away.

"No, Dean, don't!"

It was a warning, a plea. It was too late. The cabin was rigged. Rigged for the vamp, and Rena let them walk into it. Let them walk through the front door, let Dean kick in the bedroom door one second before his brother cried out a warning. The force of the blast threw him back, away from Sam, away from the bedroom, toward the front door.

He was burning… his face burned, his arm burned… flames licked his legs, stole his breath. And then she was there. Pulling him away. Saving him.


His eyes were heavy with the weight of memory. With a supreme effort, he forced them open, trying to make sense of the sensations that trickled slowly through the silence, through the black. Soft material beneath his hands, cushioning his aching body, the smell of Ivory soap in his nose, the hot, rolling agony in his arm, the pressure on his chest.

As he pulled his surroundings into focus, he realized that he lay on her bed. Sophie sat next to him, a buttoned-up, short-sleeved black shirt covering her, her wet hair hanging around her face, her eyes on his shoulder. She was wrapping the bullet wound on his shoulder. Music played in the background, but he was too dizzy to concentrate on the words. His shirt was still damp and felt molded to his body.

"Where's Sam?"

Sophie jumped. "Hey," she said softly. "You okay?"

"Where is he?" His voice was barely a whisper, the effort to speak taking its toll. He gripped the bed with his fingers, trying to hold on as it tilted, trying to stay still as the world threatened to throw him off, toss him into space, leave him alone and cold in the dark.

"What just happened, Dean?" Sophie asked. "You looked like you were having some kind of seizure… you wouldn't stop shaking."

"Where is Sam?" he repeated. He needed to see his brother. The holes in his memory were slowly filling up, but without Sam… without his brother he'd never be himself.

Sophie sighed. "I don't know."

"Tell me." He tried to move, but his body refused. The hungry fingers of gravity held him fast.

"Until Ben Rena said his name back at Kat's… I thought he'd been killed in the fire."

Dean groaned slightly, closing his eyes. "I can't believe I forgot him."

"You forgot everything," Sophie argued.

But that hadn't been true. He remembered how he took his coffee, he remembered song lyrics, remembered how to balance a knife, he remembered how to dismantle and reassemble a gun, he remembered making his ring…

"I should have remembered Sam," Dean whispered. He tried again to sit up. Aw, God… "I gotta find him."

"You will," Sophie promised, placing a calming hand on his chest. "Rest first."

"Gotta… find him…" He felt the weight on his chest and wanted to push her hand away. He wanted to breathe… just breathe… why the hell couldn't he breathe?

"Dean," Sophie whispered, leaning close to his face, her eyes a soft gray. "Calm down… Hey, hey, just… just take a breath… that's it… take it easy. Rest… we'll find both of them. Sam and Kat."

"I have to… protect him," Dean managed. His eyes burned. "Dad told me… told me to watch out for him…" The world shifted again, and he felt his heartbeat echo in his head, pound through his arm.

"You will," Sophie said. "You will." She closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his forehead. "Sleep. Just for a little bit."

His eyes fell closed of their own accord at the touch of her mouth on his face. He knew what she was… knew what she'd done… yet her lips felt cool, felt comforting…

"We have to go back," he whispered.


"Back to Kat's."

"But they… they took her…"

"Sam…" Dean rolled his eyes under his heavy lids, forcing them open. God he ached. "Sam knew I was there… knew it was me…"

"Yeah, and…"

"He would have gotten her safe, gotten her out of there."

"And you know where he would have gone?"


Sophie frowned into his eyes.

"But he would have left me something."


"A message."

"You're sure about this?" Sophie straightened.

Dean blinked his eyes shut, surrendering to gravity, giving in to exhaustion.


He heard her, but he couldn't have answered if his life depended on it. I remember you…


"No, no, he's here…"

He was floating.

"I know—I know, okay?"

The voice was clear, the words precise. He listened, curious.

"Don't worry. He needs me. He's not gonna get rid of me until he gets his brother."

The voice started to fade as if the speaker was walking away. He turned to follow it and fire lit up his arm, shocking him awake. His eyes snapped open and he looked around. He was still lying on Sophie's bed, but pale, gray light from the early morning was shimmering through the paper-covered windows in the living room, sifting through the opened door of the bedroom.

Realizing that he'd slept through another night, he rolled to his right arm, slowly leveraging himself up by his elbow to a sitting position.

"I gotta quit doin' that…" He mumbled to himself, rubbing his face, gingerly avoiding the cut above his left eye.

She'd not removed any of his clothes this time. His left arm now sported two clean white bandages, and there were three ibuprofen lying next to a glass of water on the dresser.

He swallowed the pain meds and gulped the water greedily, then turned his attention to the voice in the next room. She was on the phone with someone he realized by the half-spoken sentences, the long pauses of silence. From the rhythm of her speech he surmised it was that contact she'd referred to earlier.

It was only when he heard her sigh into the phone that he realized the constant background noise of music was missing. He sat on the edge of the bed, listening as she muttered "uh-huh" to the person on the other end. An almost metallic sound announced the CD's rotation and soon Dean heard a soulful electric guitar.

"A fugitive soul out on parole. Standing alone, no, where can I go? In a world so cold with no hand to hold, searching through my heart, yeah, but nobody knows…"

Under the cover of music, he bit back a groan and pushed himself to his feet, staggering to the bathroom and closing the door behind him. His left hand felt twice its normal size; unfastening his jeans to take care of business was an effort in coordination. His entire arm pulsed with the unique beat of uninterrupted pain.

"Need coffee…" he groaned. Coffee could fix just about anything. Coffee or whiskey.

He was tired. Weary, but awake. He felt a strange sort of distance to his own body: in it, but not of it. He decided to skip the shower; re-bandaging his arm was not high on his list of priorities at the moment and the salve she'd put on his burn actually took the sharp, stinging pain away. He grabbed a cloth, reached behind his shoulders with his right hand and pulled the now-dry black T-shirt over his head, and scrubbed away the sweat and blood. Using his finger and Sophie's toothpaste, he cleaned the grimy taste from his mouth, then lifted his eyes to meet his own reflection.

"Dean, you've had better days… can't remember them right now, but…"

He looked like death.

His skin was pale, and the freckles that he now remembered hating stood out across his nose. Purple shadows contrasted sharply with wary green eyes and the scruff of beard that had been visible yesterday was prominent today. He scratched at his jaw line with the backs of his fingers, smoothing his hand, finger to thumb, over his mouth and feeling the bristly hair against his palm.

The first time Sam shaved he'd cut himself eight times.

Dean's vision blurred as he recalled coming into the bathroom at Sam's cry of surprised pain and feeling a moment of panic at bloody marks on his little brother's face. He had cleaned him up and two weeks later—because it had taken that long for Sam to grow anything worth shaving—had taught his brother how to use a straight razor.

"Why can't we just use one of those handle razors? Like the guys at school?" Sam had asked, eyeing the straight razor with trepidation.

"Because, Sam," Dean had patiently explained, forced to stand to the side of his sixteen-year-old brother's lanky frame so that he could see his own face in the mirror next to Sam's. "You know how we live. Those aren't always an option. And a straight razor has… multiple uses."

"Dude! Gross—you shave with something you used to…"

"Don't be such a girl, Sammy. A blade's a blade. You just clean it up, keep it sharp, and take care of what you need to take care of."

Sam had met his eyes in the mirror and Dean remembered watching disgust fade to wonder and then meld with his own expression of flat resolve.

He pulled on the same T-shirt and squared his shoulders. The pain meds were kicking in—the bone-deep ache in his arm had dulled to a tolerable throb and he found that he was able to curl his fingers of his left hand into a weak fist. Rubbing his right hand over the top of his hair, he turned and exited the bathroom. The bedroom was still empty. Dean crossed to the dresser, picked up the 9mm and three extra clips, tucked them into his waistband and pockets, then headed to the living room.

Sophie stood facing one of the paper-covered windows, her arms wrapped around herself. The gray light of dawn threw word-shaped shadows across the bare wood floor beneath the window. Paul Rodger's smoky voice mocked him as he stared at her.

"Everyday of her life, she's been living in a fantasy world, chasing her dreams, so close she could scream. Inside she's just a little lost girl…"

"I'm going to find my brother," Dean said over the music.

Sophie jumped, turning to face him, her ponytail swinging over her shoulder.

"I didn't hear you come in," she said, her eyes wide.

Dean said nothing. She was a vampire. One of the hunted. One of the monsters. He should never have trusted her—had he been in his right mind, he would never have made that mistake. She'd lied to him, used him, taken advantage of him.

Although, he had to admit… he probably would have done the same thing in her situation. Desperation digs into the dark side of the soul and pulls out qualities that are better left buried.

"Listen—" Sophie started.

Dean shook his head. "I'm going back to Kat's."

"Not without me, you're not."

"No way. You're lucky I'm letting you stand there." Dean shifted his eyes to the light from the windows behind her. "Besides… you'll just slow me down."

Sophie swallowed. "He's still out there," she protested. "What are you gonna do?"

"About Rena?" Dean shrugged. "Nothing."

"You're just gonna leave him out there?"

"He doesn't matter to me."

"Well, he sure as hell matters to me."

Dean lifted an eyebrow. "Somehow, I can't bring myself to care."

Sophie dropped her arms and Dean saw an empty sheath strapped to her right forearm. For her switchblade, he realized. His mind flashed to her knife in the kitchen. To the knives in her coat. Cross-shaped hilts… She purposely used cross-shaped hilts with her throwing knives, knowing that their touch would burn her. Why?

"Dean," she took a step forward. "I told you the truth."

"Oh really?" Dean scoffed. "I must have missed that part."

"You are an assassin—you do kill for a living."

"Not the same thing," Dean shook his head.

"It is to me," Sophie pointed out. "If I'd told you who…what I was, would you have helped me?"

Dean opened his mouth to reply, then shut it quickly as a throb behind his eye warned a heartbeat before Sam's voice broke like a wave of memory in his head.

I don't think they're like other vampires. I don't think they're killing people.


He turned away from her, heading toward the kitchen.

No, Dean. That is not our job. Our job is hunting evil and if these things aren't killing people, they're not evil.

Dean staggered against the kitchen doorway, catching his breath.

"You okay?"

"Back off, Sophie."

You're tail spinning, man, and you won't let me help you…

"Dean, listen, my contact—"

"Just shut the hell up for a second," Dean panted, gripping his head, his right shoulder against the doorway the only thing that held him upright.

The way he raised us to hate those things, and man, I hate them, I do. When I killed that vampire at the mill, I didn't even think about it. Hell, I even enjoyed it.

He'd hit Sam… hit Sam. He could still feel the frustrated rage, the uneven balance that fueled that punch. It didn't make sense to him; he remembered seeing Sam's self-righteous eyes, hearing Sam's argument, and feeling an anger fueled by one confusing thought: if you only knew what he said

Growling low in his throat, Dean moved over to the counter where Sophie had brewed a pot of coffee and set out two mugs earlier. He poured a cup and breathed in the heady aroma before gulping down one scalding swallow. Something was missing… something was wrong. Something other than forgetting Sam… something… worse.

As if caffeine were whiskey, bracing him for what he needed to do, he belted another mouthful of coffee, then turned to face Sophie, resting the small of his back against the sink.

"Ben Rena is a hunter," Dean said, gripping the hot mug with his right hand and staring with angry eyes at Sophie. "Like me."

Sophie shook her head. "No, not like you."

She leaned against the kitchen door, mirroring his earlier position. Her eyes were gray and pleading, her lower lip trembling slightly. Dean pressed his lips together, gingerly flexing the muscles in his left arm. Had it not been for Sophie, he would be dead, burned alive in a fire set by betrayal.

"You want me to help you?"


"Then you give it to me straight, all of it, right now," Dean pointed his index finger at her. "And if I find out you lied—about anything—no friggin' soul is gonna save you."

Sophie swallowed, then moved slowly to the table in the breakfast nook. Dean's eyes lit on the knife he'd left lying there. Distractedly, Sophie simply slid the weapon back into the sheath beneath the table, then turned to face Dean, her arms resting on her knees, hands folded as if in prayer.

"My h-husband was a Captain in the Army during World War II," she began. Her eyes remained fixed to the floor, her shoulders taunt. As she spoke, she began to twist the slim silver band he'd noticed on her hand when he'd first seen her.

"My father, my two brothers, and one of my brothers-in-law were all in the war. None of them returned. My husband did."

He watched as she pulled in her lower lip.

"Well, his body did… he'd… he'd been in France and… he'd changed."

She tilted her head, her eyes far away, but she still didn't look at him.

"I didn't realize until it was too late—and even then I didn't believe." She laughed a soft, mirthless laugh. "Who believes that things like me exist, really?"

Vampires? I thought there was no such thing… I thought they were extinct. I thought Elkins and others had wiped them out. I was wrong…

Dean swallowed as his father's voice answered his own. His jaw ached as he clenched it against the dull pain that followed the flicker of memory. He resisted the urge to press his hand against his heart, a pang of longing for his father so real, so potent, that it confused him.

"He came home one night, made love to me, slept all day, dressed in that… the jacket you had on… then told me that he'd found a way to defeat death."

She stood up and walked over to stand at the doorway, her back to him. "He said he knew that the death of my father and brothers is what killed my mother—not pneumonia like the doctors had said. He said he knew that my sister would die from the loss of her husband. He said he didn't want us to go through that and then he…"

"Fanged out?" Dean supplied when her voice faltered.

Sophie dropped her head. "Yeah."

Dean finished his coffee, watching, trying not to care, trying not to let her words, the set of her shoulders, the tone of her voice affect him. Daylight shone bright and clear through the filter of words at her windows. In the pause of Sophie's voice and between music tracks, Dean heard the sounds of the people around her, muted voices, banging pipes, footsteps.

"Once upon a time, I was of the mind to lay your burden down. Leave you where you stood, you believed I could, you'd seen it done before…"

"I never even thought to fight him off," she continued when the music started once more. "He was my husband, for Christ's sake. I can still remember dying… everything was… numb and… cold… and I felt my heart stop and felt my lungs freeze… and yet… I was still aware. I tasted his blood… his blood tasted different from any other that I've had since. It was… sweet."

Dean curled his lip in disgust but remained silent.

"H-he… he killed my sister. Her husband. Their children. Told me it was necessary—they hadn't wanted to join us, so they couldn't be allowed to live. He taught me to be discreet, to stay under the radar, to hide and watch."

Sophie turned so that her back was against the door frame, her arms wrapped around her waist, her eyes on the paper-covered windows in the other room.

"He told me we were all that was left—we didn't have any family, and our friends were others like us. I believed him. I followed him. I even… I even loved him. He was my only family, and I was strong with him."

We're stronger as a family, Dad, we just are, you know it.

Dean closed his eyes, rubbing his lids with the tips of his fingers, watching the sparks of orange fly up under the pressure.

"I did horrible, awful things… things I can never atone for. There is no absolution for that kind of evil."

"What about Kat?" Dean asked in a strained voice.

Sophie pushed her bangs from her eyes, trailing her hand down her long hair, and twisting the ends around her fingers like a little girl.

"My familiar found Kat."

"Your… what?"

"My contact," Sophie looked over at him. "He watches out for—"

"I know what a familiar is," Dean snapped. "I just didn't… didn't think they were real."

Sophie lifted an eyebrow. "How do you think I survive without killing?"

"Honestly, I didn't really give it much thought," Dean said, his eyes flat.

Sophie sighed. "Anyway, he found Kat when she was ten. I didn't believe him—told him Wade wouldn't have lied to me. That everyone in my family was dead. But he insisted, and I didn't have reason to doubt him… so I checked it out. Turned out my sister who had been widowed during the war escaped from Wade. She had been pregnant, had a son, who in turn married and had a daughter. My sister and Kat's parents were killed when Kat was a baby and she'd been raised by foster parents."

"So you decided that you had to… what? Become her protector?"

"Something like that."

Dean narrowed his eyes. "Why didn't you turn her?"

Sophie's eyes flashed. "I thought about it, but… then I saw her and I don't know why… but I couldn't bring myself to steal her life from her."

Dean drew his head back at that.

"I found a priest," Sophie continued.

"That must have been a pretty hefty feat—you in a church."

"You'd be surprised the kind of monsters you'd find in a church," Sophie lifted her eyebrow at him.

Dean snorted. "Don't bet on it," he said, shaking his head.

"This priest said that he could return my soul, but that it would come at a price."

"Eternity without forgiveness?"


Dean pulled his brows together. "Your husband?"

"The priest told me I had to… kill my… sire."

Dean tipped his lips down. "Impressive." He turned to the sink, setting his mug down, then turned back around, spreading his hands wide. "Tested your resolve and got rid of an evil all at the same time. Smart guy."

"Two evils."

"If you say so."

Sophie rolled her eyes. "Father Murphy thought so anyway."

Dean froze. "What did you say?"

"The priest… he told me that what he was doing would—"

"What was his name?" Dean felt air stutter in his chest.

"Murphy. Jim Murphy."

"Son of a bitch," Dean breathed, rubbing a hand over his mouth, then up through his hair, rubbing distractedly at the back of his head.


Jim Murphy's dead… Throat was slashed, he bled out. Caleb said they found traces of sulfur at Jim's place…

"Nothing," Dean grumbled.

"What, Dean?"

"W-we didn't call him… FatherMurphy…"

He pushed away from the sink, brushing past Sophie and walked out to the living room. Pastor Jim… He saw a man with soft brown eyes and a forgiving smile, smaller than his dad, but somehow just as powerful. The holes of his memory slowly filled with more images, comforting and painful at the same time.

"Wait, you knew—"

"What the hell does all of this have to do with Rena? With me and… and Sam?" Dean interrupted, addressing Sophie but staring at the Latin written on the windows.

"Rena started tracking Wade and me about twenty years ago," Sophie said. "I don't know why he fixated on us, but he was… well, he was hard to shake. Wade wanted to kill him, but he was also hard to find. After Wade…" Sophie paused, then made her way into the living room, crossing to the couch and sitting down. "After I made the deal, I was able to elude Rena. I found this place, and my familiar and I put charms and spells on it to keep it hidden."

"You said that they kept Kat safe from you," Dean glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes.

"They do—I would never hurt her, but she doesn't need to know about me… doesn't need to know the truth of her past."

Dean chewed on his lower lip. "So… you think Rena wants to hold Kat hostage in exchange for your life."

Sophie sighed. "Yes… and I… I can't protect her anymore. Not from here. Not like this."

Dean shook his head. "Nah… something doesn't fit."

"Huh?" Sophie looked up at him. "I told you everything."

"Rena said that you were gonna give up him back at Kat's house."

"Him? Him who?"

Dean shrugged. "Wade?"

Sophie straightened, looking at Dean. "You think this is about Wade?"

Dean turned to face her. "Makes sense, doesn't it? Your bloodthirsty husband did something to Rena… he's out for revenge."

Sophie frowned, looking away.

"Do you know who all Wade killed?" Dean asked.

"There were too many," Sophie said softly. "I wasn't… I wasn't always with him."

"Well, Sweetheart," Dean said, pushing his lips out in an expression of mock sympathy, "looks like you might have a debt to pay."

"What? My life for Kat's?" Sophie brought her head up.

Dean remained silent. Sophie's eyes sought his.

"Do you… do you think that would work?" she asked softly.

"It might."

Sophie rubbed her face. "I can't hang her life on might."

Dean tilted his head. "But… you'd do it?"

Sophie dropped her hands. "What?"

"Sacrifice yourself."

Her eyes shifted to the vivid-blue. "If it meant keeping Kat safe, hell yeah I'd do it."

It fits, doesn't it? My life for his soul?

Dean stumbled forward, rocked by the sudden memory, grabbing his head. "Sonuvabitch," he whispered through clenched teeth.

The memory shot through him like a hot poker bringing with it a black shadow. The words had been his, but they didn't fit anything, they didn't make sense. Whose soul? Sam's? The pain flared, white-hot, and so bright that he pressed his hands over his eyes.

"Aw, Jesus," he whispered. "What the hell—"


"No," he pushed Sophie's helping hand away. "NO! Stay back… stay away from me."

"I'm just trying to help!"

The razor-sharp edge of pain faded almost as quickly as it hit and he could see again. Panting, he pulled his hands away, blinking bleary-eyed at Sophie.

"I don't need your help," he said, trying to steady his breathing. "I need Sam."

"Well, we'll go—"

"No," Dean shook his head roughly, trying to clear it, trying to quell any flashes of memory. "No, Sophie, you'll just slow me down."

"This is my fight, Dean."

"You made it mine when you dragged me out of that cabin and lied to me."

"You'd rather I let you burn?"

"I'd rather've been told the truth from the start."

Sophie rolled her eyes. "Hi, I'm a vampire with a soul and I need your help to save my niece from a hunter."

"See? Was that so hard?" Dean moved to step past her and hissed as she caught his arm, gripping his burn with fingers of iron.

"You need my help," she growled.

Dean swallowed the bile that rose in his throat in reaction to the pain and straight armed her throat, knocking her back. With a barely-suppressed groan, he cradled his arm, bent over at the waist.

Sophie stumbled, grasping her throat and coughing.

"I don't need your help," Dean rasped. "I need you to stay the hell away from me."

"You can't do everything alone," Sophie gasped, coughing violently.

Dean stepped back and away from her, toward the door. "I won't be alone," he said, shaking his head. "I'll have Sam."

"What if you can't find him?"

"I'll find him," Dean said. I have to. He started to drop his cradled arm, but as the blood flowed back into that extremity it throbbed painfully and he had to bite back a whimper. He held it against his chest.

"You can't keep me here," Sophie challenged stepping toward him.

"I wouldn't be too sure," Dean pulled his 9mm from his waistband and pointed it at her.

"That won't kill me," she reminded him.

"No," Dean shook his head. "But it'll hurt like hell."

"Dean, don't be stupid—"

He interrupted her when his back hit the broken door way. "Huic tractus quod huic vicis… "

"Wait!" Sophie's eyes darted, panicked.

Dean kicked the door open with his heel and stepped back through it, his gun steady on Sophie. "Moenia mos servo vos tutus secundum…"

"How the hell—"

"I know Latin, Sophie," Dean reminded her. "And I know I've been doing this shit for a long time. Si vos licentia lemma vos must teneo, illic est nusquam vobis praecessi."

"Dean!" Sophie charged the open doorway and was thrown backwards, landing solidly on her backside as if tossed there by an invisible hand. "Please!"

"That oughta hold you for awhile," he whispered, pulling the door closed, then turned and made his way down the darkened hall.

He exited into the alley, the bright sun of the day momentarily blinding him. He heard a dim, far-away sound and twisted his head up, looking around behind him. Sophie's silhouette was in the multi-paned window behind him, her hands helplessly beating on the glass. He felt a moment of regret, then shook it off.

Heading to Sophie's motorcycle, he breathed a sigh of relief that the keys were miraculously still present. He hadn't been sure how he was going to go after Sam without wheels. Wishing silently for sunglasses, but grateful for the warmth of the sun on his back as a shiver skittered through him, he swung his leg over the back of the bike, turned the key and kick-started the machine.

He was barely able to grip the handle with his left hand, the throb rolling from his shoulder to his fingertips in regular waves. He shivered again and pulled his arm against his chest for a moment. Taking a deep breath and clenching his jaw, he used his brother's name like a command.