6.30 p.m.
Comfort Suites
Blaine, MN

For the past half hour, Sam had watched his brother move around their motel room like a caged tiger. Not that he was moving aimlessly around, though. He had showered and was getting ready to go out. There was no doubt about that. The question was what made this so different from all the other times Dean had gone out after the conclusion of a job.

"Where are you going?" Sam asked after a moment. He hadn't bothered asking so far because it was obvious that Dean was currently lost to the world. But he figured he had a right to ask.

"Out," Dean grumbled under his breath while he rummaged around his duffle for a moment and came up empty. Whatever he was looking for wasn't there, but Sam got the distinct impression that Dean had no clue what he was actually looking for.

"You don't say," Sam countered a little sarcastically. "Where's out?"

Dean stopped dead and stared ahead of himself for a second, then turned around to face Sam. "I'm going to meet this chick at this bar at eight. You want details?"

Sam had assumed as much, yet he wasn't entirely clear on what Dean's attitude was all about. If Sam hadn't known better, he would have thought that Dean was nervous. "No," he said and grimaced to let his brother know that any and all details on his supposed love life were not the kind of bedtime story Sam wanted to hear. "What are you looking for? You've been pacing around like a tiger in a cage for the past half hour. And why are you ready already? How far away is that place?"

"It's in the heart of the city," Dean said, frowned lightly and then sighed. "Shit," he muttered and dropped down on the foot end of his bed.

It was at times like these that Sam had trouble recognizing his brother. Dean didn't fidget. Well ... he hadn't fidgeted since before dad had died. Now he did it all the time. He couldn't seem to keep his hands still, kept shifting his splinted right hand around while he picked at the bandage repeatedly. "Dean, what's wrong?"

Dean arched an eyebrow, then finally met his gaze dead on. "Nothing," he claimed. "It's been a while since I ..."

"Don't even go there, man. I don't wanna know," Sam said, well aware what came next.

In reply, Dean rolled his eyes, then let himself drop back on the bed. "Dammit, Sammy. I've got the worst case of cabin fever ever."

"Cabin fever? You don't get cabin fever unless you can't go out and we've been out every damned day. We only arrived here two days ago. You've been all over the map since that troll gored your hand. Are you sure you're not infected with something nasty?" Sam was grasping right now. Truth be told, he had actually checked into what possible side-effects a troll attack could have. But there had been none mentioned anywhere. The fact remained, though, that Dean was almost anxious and fidgety most of the time and it didn't fit with his general profile.

"I am not infected with anything," Dean huffed and draped his right arm over his face. "I have no clue what the hell is going on with me right now. I've never felt this way before," he finally admitted.

"Felt what way?" Sam quarried. He was itching to check Dean for a fever, but knew his brother would go through the roof if he got too close to him right now.

"Like I can't sit still. Like ... I've got the worst case of the willies ever without anything around to actually give me the willies. You know?"

"Uh, no, I can't say that I do," Sam said somewhat reluctantly. "Did that nurse give you ..." He stopped short and eyed Dean. "You're going out with her, aren't you?"

"Yeah," Dean said and the tone of his voice staggered Sam. "I don't even know her first name. Man, she's hot."

The thought that hit Sam at that particular intonation in Dean's voice could not possibly be reality. And yet, he had never seen his brother respond this way to a woman before. "Dude ... you've only just met her. Don't go overboard," he tried.

Dean pushed up on his elbows and gave him a look he knew only too well. It said 'butt out' and 'what the hell are you talking about' all in one go. "Overboard?" He sat up. "When have I ever gone overboard with a chick?"

Sam arched an eyebrow, unwilling to get into this discussion on any level. The fact was he had no idea what Dean had been up to in those years he had spent at Stanford and, keeping Cassie in mind, there were things about his brother he didn't know. So maybe Dean did have a habit of falling for any given girl, but he never showed it? "I don't know, really," he admitted.

"Exactly. So shut your piehole. You have no idea what you're talking about," Dean growled, got off the bed and started the whole pacing-thing again.

Sam watched him for a bit, but decided not to get into it any further. Dean was obviously not in the mood and despite his reassurances, Sam had the distinct impression that something was responsible for his brother's weird behavior. He just didn't know what and decided to call Bobby the second Dean was out the door.

"Stop staring holes in my back," Dean said, turned around to face him and gave him a dark look. "What? Do you have something to say? Then say it."

Sam raised both hands. "No, got nothing to say," he claimed. "You wouldn't listen anyway," he added with a small smile.

Dean sneered, shook his head and turned away. "I'm heading out. I need some time alone," he suddenly said, grabbed his jacket, the car keys and was out the door before Sam could even think of something to say.

For a long moment he just sat there at the table and stared at the door. Then he sighed, grabbed his phone and dialed Bobby's number.

"Talk to me."

"Hey, Bobby, it's Sam," he said with a light smile.

"You don't say," Bobby countered. "I've got caller id, you know."

Despite his present worry about Dean's – in his opinion – weird behavior, he couldn't help a smirk at Bobby's tone. "Right, I know that," he agreed. "Listen, Bobby, I've got a question. Dean's been ... a little out of sorts for the past day and ... I was just wondering if trolls are known to use venom or something on their tools."

This was answered by a brief pause. "Trolls, huh?" Bobby asked. "There haven't been any reports on trolls for nearly two hundred years. Someone somewhere suggested they were in hiding because of the demons. Seems like they were right, huh?"

"Yeah, seems like it," Sam agreed. "So ... you don't know much about them, then?"

"Oh, I know enough. They're stupid as boards. Most of them can't even communicate, only grunt. They're too dim-witted to use anything as fancy as poison, so I would say no. Where'd he get hit?"

"The one we went up against cut his palm with a knife," Sam said. "He has been to the hospital, has had all the appropriate shots, so I don't think it's an infection or blood poisoning. He's just ... he claims to suffer from cabin fever."

"Cabin fever? Why? D'you lock him up or something?" Bobby asked.

"Nope. And I wouldn't try. It'd be like holding a tiger by the tail. Too much risk of getting my head torn off," Sam countered, a frown furrowing his brow while he stared at the door for a moment. "He's completely overreacting to everything."

"Well, you know what he's like, Sam. Where is he now?" Bobby countered.

"Out on a date," Sam grumbled and realized he was a little sore about being left behind. Not that he wanted to tag along on a date with his brother, but he wasn't so sure he wanted to spend the rest of the evening just sitting around doing nothing either.

"Well, that oughta calm him down," Bobby said, then paused. "Did you say 'the one' you went up against?"

Sam's attention shifted from feeling sorry for himself to listening intently. There was something about the way Bobby had asked that made him a little cautious. "Yeah, why?"

Bobby sighed audibly. He could hear Grace making some comment in the background. "Yeah, I know," Bobby said, obviously in reply to Grace's comment. "I hope you boys aren't aiming at leaving there just yet. Trolls always travel in packs. There'd be at least three more roaming around out there and they get nasty when you kill one of them."

"In packs?" he asked and Bobby grunted a yes. "Great. Just ... great. Looks like we'll be stuck in Minneapolis for a while longer."

"I'd say you were. Might wanna step it up too. But don't go after them on your own, Sam. They may be dim-witted like nobody's business, but they are good at what they do. From the reports I've read ... mind you, they are over two hundred years old, but still ... more hunters have had their heads bashed in than not because they got cocky. So, be careful."

"You got it," Sam agreed. "I think we'll sit tonight out, though. If I call Dean back now, he's gonna have a fit and I really don't want to deal with him while he's like that."

"Just keep an ear to the ground. It's likely the remaining trolls will stay in the same area. And don't try to find their nest either. The worst place you can go up against trolls is on their own turf," Bobby stressed.

"Got it. No nest-hunting," Sam confirmed.

"Hold on," Bobby said.

Sam frowned.


And smiled. "Hey, Grace."

"Hey, sweety. How are you boys doing?" Grace was her usual cheerful self and he was a bit surprised at how much it raised his spirits just to hear her voice.

"Oh, you know us," he said, opened the lid of his laptop and switched it on. "How are you guys holding up?"

"Well, I don't think I need to tell you that it's a tad quiet around here. Not that I'm complaining," Grace said. "So, trolls, huh?"

He chuckled. "Yeah, who'd have thought, huh?" He watched the display absentmindedly while the computer searched for an available network. "But, we're good. It's nothing after having faced off against demons and gods, you know."

That drew a chuckle from her in turn. "Yeah, you could be right about that," she said. "Just promise me you boys will be careful, okay?"

"You know we will be," he replied.

"Okay, well, I'm gonna let you go. You probably have better things to do than chat with your old aunt," she said and he could hear the sarcasm in her voice.

"You're not old, Grace," he chastised her. "And I don't really have anything planned other than a little research. But if you've got something you need to do, we'll catch up later."

"We will. And you two better stay in touch, you hear?"

It felt good to know that someone worried, that someone out there gave a crap. "We will. Haven't we been in touch every week since we left?" he asked.

"You have. I'm just a worrywart. So sue me," Grace countered with a smile in her voice. "Talk to you soon. Stay safe."

"Likewise," he said and hung up. For a while after he sat there and stared ahead of himself, not entirely sure what to make of this new bit of information. There were more trolls out there and, according to Bobby, they got more vicious if one of their group was killed. "Can't really blame them, can you?" he muttered under his breath, sighed and turned his attention to the laptop. There was some research to do while his brother was out having fun.


Washington Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

He arrived ahead of time, ten minutes early, and found himself floundering around in a place full of people that were not his kind. Posh was an expression he'd use for these snobs. All the men wore suits, all the women wore dresses, and they all looked like they'd paid their souls for the outfits they were wearing.

And here he was, in jeans, t-shirt and leather jacket, and he stood out like a sore thumb among the jetset. And it earned him a few looks. That, of course, was the least of his concerns. He didn't give a damn what these people thought of him. His biggest issue was that this wasn't a place he would normally frequent. He hated places like these where you were judged by your wallet, by your status and by the company you kept. Even Sam wouldn't fit in here.

He wove his way through the throng of people, searching for the elusive Nurse Eden, and felt like kicking himself for the fact that he hadn't asked for her first name. Then again, this was probably going to be a one-time occurrence anyway. If this was the sort of company she kept, he couldn't really imagine that she'd be interested in seeing him again. Hell, if this night wasn't a bust about half an hour after she arrived, he would be very surprised. If she arrived at all.

With a grimace, he leaned against the bar and stuffed his hands deep into his pockets. The idea was beginning to sneak in that this could be some sort of elaborate set-up, that she had told him to meet her here just to get rid of him and ... who knew? ... maybe humiliate him too? It wouldn't be the first time this had happened. Of course, he wouldn't be humiliated because he wasn't trying to impress these morons.

"Can I get you anything?"

The somewhat sour tone drowned out the noise of far too many people talking and music that was far too low to make a difference. He glanced over his shoulder at the bartender, a guy in a white shirt and red vest. "Just waiting for someone," he tried, assuming that this place had some kind of requirement that you had to drink or leave.

"There's a requirement ..." the bartender tried, but Dean cut him off by turning around to face him properly.

"Just give me a beer. Any beer," he said.

The man had no issues with letting his opinion show and grabbed what was probably the cheapest beer on the menu, uncapped it and handed it to him with a glass.

"Keep the glass," Dean suggested with a smirk he didn't feel like handing out and paid for the over-prized bottle, before he leaned against the bar again and watched the masses.

A few women glanced at him with other expressions than most of the men. A very select few of the guys did too. It wasn't an uncommon thing, but the places he usually frequented, lewd looks from guys to guys could turn into a nasty skirmish. In these circles, something like that was obviously okay as long as the guys didn't act on it.

He met the blue eyes of a young man dead on and gave him a lopsided grin, which made the kid drop his eyes and stutter his way through his conversation for the next ten minutes while Dean watched him pointedly.

"Found something interesting to look at there?"

He almost sighed, then glanced at the guy who had turned up next to him and was watching him with an arched eyebrow and the obvious belief that he could bully others into submission.

Dean eyed him back for a moment, then did sigh. "Buzz off. I'm busy," he countered and returned to watching Blue Eyes until the kid actually started squirming.

"Your ... kind is not wanted here."

He almost chuckled. Almost. Except his mood wasn't top notch and that meant he had a lower threshold for bullshit than he normally did. Keeping in mind what Sam would tell him if he was here, he pursed his lips and tried to ignore Mr. Jetset and his band of merry men, because guys like this ... they never traveled alone.

"Did you hear me?" Mr. Jetset insisted.

"What's your problem, buddy? I'm just having a beer and waiting for a friend. How could that possibly bother you?" Dean asked and fixed the guy with a steely stare. Most people were able to pick up the not-so-subtle danger vibes he was giving off when he felt cornered and moody. This guy wasn't among them.

"There are plenty of bars on Washington Avenue that cater to your type, pal. Go have a beer there. It's probably more in your prize-range anyway," Mr. Jetset countered evenly, his tone superior. The guy actually thought he could take Dean in a fight, which made the seasoned hunter in him snort.

A hand settled on Mr. Jetset's arm. "Hank?"

Dean's attention shifted to the lovely Nurse Eden and for a second, he had the impression that she was here to meet this jerk, which again could mean that she had set him up. But then he met her eyes. She looked slightly worried, slightly cautious, not the look he would have expected from a snobbish high-society girl who was having fun at the expense of the guy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Hank, formerly known as Mr. Jetset, glanced at her. "Michelle," he countered, inadvertently giving Dean a piece of information he had hoped to get sooner than later. "Don't worry. We're just about to take out the trash."

Michelle's eyebrows lowered into an annoyed scowl, which she aimed at Hank. "Excuse me?" she asked.

Hank, who seemed about as dense as the troll Dean had fought the day before, didn't pick up on the less-than-subtle annoyance in her tone. "This guy's obviously got the wrong address here," he said and nodded at Dean.

"That so happens to be my date," Michelle said, her tone now decidedly chilly.

Hank stared at her for a second, glanced at Dean, then back at her. "You can't be serious," he blurted out.

Michelle made a face. "Mind your own business, Hank, okay?" That said she stepped past him, took Dean's arm and carefully tugged at it. "Come on. Let's get out of here."

"Nah," Dean countered and smirked at Hank. "I think we're gonna stay. You wanna sit down?"

She eyed him and he could see a multitude of emotions rippling through her. "Are you sure?"

"Yup," he agreed. "I may be a dumb old farmboy, but I know posh when I see it. And I'm likin' it," he drawled.

Michelle's expression changed into bemusement. "Well, if you're sure," she said.

At that, Hank predictably decided to take matters into his own hands, and grabbed Dean's shoulder. Dean generally had a no-touch policy where guys like this were concerned and his reaction to the hand settling heavily on his shoulder was instantaneous. Before anyone had a chance to realize what was happening, Hank had his exfoliated face pressed into the bar while his left arm was shoved so far up his back, it almost popped out of the socket. "When it comes to fighting, dude, I'm better than most and I'm not about to hold back just because you've got your buddies watching your back," Dean said, his tone almost jovial. "Now just do what you do best and scurry back under that rock you're hiding under during the day. I'm not in the mood for your antics and if you try anything else, I'm going to rearrange your face. And I won't even break a sweat. Understood?"

Begrudgingly, Hank nodded.

"Let me hear you say it. Say yes, I understand," Dean pressed and applied a little more pressure to Hank's arm.

"Yes," Hank huffed against the glass-covered counter top.

"That's a good boy," Dean cooed, released his arm, yanked him away from the bar and shoved him away. Hank stumbled halfway through the bar before he came to a stop, his right hand now wrapped around his shoulder. "Don't even think about it," Dean warned with a smile.

For a few heartbeats, Hank thought about it, whether it was calling the cops or trying again himself, but then he dropped it and disappeared into the crowd.

The seconds ticked by while nothing happened. Everybody just stood and stared at him. Then somebody cleared their throat and in no time flat, the bar was back to business and nobody gave him a second glance. And that surprised Dean a little. He would have expected someone to tell him to get lost or the bartender to call the cops. But nobody did anything. They just let it slide.

"That was quite a display," Michelle said. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. So, you wanna go sit down somewhere?" he repeated, nonchalantly brushing the incident off as if nothing had happened.

"Actually ... I'm hungry. Could we find a place to get something to eat?" she asked.

Whether it was a ploy to get him out of this place before something else went wrong or because she was really hungry was beyond him. He considered it for a moment, then shrugged lightly. "Okay, sure. Let's find something to eat," he agreed. Truth was that he was no more interested in staying in this bar than the other patrons were interested in rubbing shoulders with him and leaving would make him feel a lot less tense.

It wasn't until they hit the sidewalk that he started to worry about what sort of place she would choose to go to and he briefly considered just calling this off before it got ugly. But then she stopped and glanced down herself. She was wearing a long dress, a tiny jacket, her hairdo making him wonder if she'd spent the last few hours at a hairdresser and it struck him that maybe she had expected something else from him than what he was presenting.

"Actually ... would you mind if we drop by my place? I would love to change out of this gear. This is so not me," she said and gave him an apologetic smile.

"Sure, fine with me," he replied. "You wanna take a cab?"

"No, it's just one block from here," she said and took his arm. "I should have known better," she added and gave him a somewhat rueful smile.

That made him frown. "Known better? What do you mean?" Was this when she told him this wasn't what she'd had in mind and could they just part ways here?

She sighed while they started walking away from Tony's. "That this wasn't your kind of place," she said. "I don't know why I suggested we should meet there. Some of the people I socialize with like to go there and ... well ... it's not really my deal either, but I go there a lot and ..."

"Hey, don't worry about it," he tried, not sure where she was going with this. One thing he did notice was that she was still holding his arm and was leaning on him. Judging by the height of her heels, he wasn't all that surprised. Those things had to be murder to walk in.

"I'm sorry. I'm so used to all these suits, it never crossed my mind that you might not be wearing one," she said and gave him a very honest, apologetic smile.

He couldn't help the chuckle that escaped him. "You thought I'd turn up looking like them?" he asked and jerked his head back in the direction of the bar. "That's hilarious."

"I guess it is," she agreed, still smiling. "There's a quite different place I like to hang out at on weekends. They've go good food, good beer and darts."

Now that sounded promising. "Sounds like my kind of place," he said with a smirk.

"We'll go there then. It's across the river on Marshall St." That said, she stopped in front of a very posh entrance to what looked like some kind of luxury high rise. "This is my place," she said and looked almost embarrassed.

Dean eyed the entrance, the reception desk beyond the heavy glass doors, the canopy above them, then glanced at her, at the getup she was wearing, and tried to consolidate that with her being a nurse and liking a place where they played darts, and something just fell completely off the rails here. "Oh-kay," he finally managed and steered her toward the glass doors.

"Good evening, Ms. Eden," the receptionist said, a guy in a red jacket.

"Good evening, Earl," she said with a smile.

The man eyed Dean for a second, but there was nothing judgmental about that look. "Having an early night?" he asked, aiming this at Michelle.

"No, I just need to change. I'll break my ankles in these shoes," she said with a nervous little laugh.

"We can't have that," Earl said with an understanding smile and gave Dean a nod before they headed toward the elevators.

The moment the elevator doors had closed behind them, Dean turned to face her. "You actually live here?" he asked, unable to keep the surprise at bay.

"Yes," she agreed. "I know it looks weird with me being a nurse and all, but ... there is actually a very good explanation for this."

For a moment he almost demanded one, then he backed up a step and raised both hands. "You don't owe me any explanations. I'm just ... surprised. That's all," he said. "Didn't take you for a high-society chick. Not that it matters of course."

The look she gave him was equal parts concern and scrutiny. "My parents left me a sizable inheritance when they died. I don't really need to work, but I like to work and ... nursing has always been a bit of a calling for me."

"It's always good to have something to do," he agreed with a smile. Unless she had a side he didn't expect, he really didn't have high hopes of this going any further. But a part of him was insisting that she wasn't some high society chick who was slumming it.

They got off on the 32nd floor and she led the way down the plush-covered corridor to door number 23. Inside, she turned the lights on and headed toward one of the doors on the left side of the apartment. "Grab a drink or something. I won't be long," she promised and disappeared into what he could only assume was her bedroom.

At first he just stood there and took in this place. The short hallway lead past the door to the kitchen, which was small but had all the amenities. The livingroom beyond was big, the rear wall one big glass facade facing the city beyond. Right where the wall to the kitchen ended, there were two steps down. The couch was flush against the kitchen wall with a glass and stainless steel coffee table in front of it and two comfortable-looking high-backed armchairs on the other side. The floor was covered in power-blue plush. A heavy-looking dining table was sitting in front of the window wall. The entertainment system instantly claimed his attention, though. The tv was huge, flatscreen, and she seemed to have an extensive music collection. Before he could take a closer look, she stepped back out.

"Better?" she asked and spread out her arms.

She was now wearing jeans, sneakers, a white blouse and had a tan jacket over one arm. Her hair was down and all he could do was stare at her for a moment. "Way, way, way better," he agreed and grinned. "Let's go get something to eat. I'm starving," he added.

The smile on her lips was a sight for sore eyes. Whatever this night would bring, he was willing to wait for it. This woman was pushing all the right buttons in him and he assumed she wasn't even aware of it yet.