Lakewood Cemetery
Minneapolis, MN

The cemetery was quiet and foggy and for some reason it worried Dean more than it had any other nights they had been here, hunting for trolls. The thought still had a smidgen of hilarity to it even though the trolls themselves were anything but hilarious. According to common belief, trolls didn't like people and would kill them whenever they could. A lesser known variant was that they actually ate people. They were dumb, brutish creatures, yes, but they would also devour you if they caught you. Needless to say they used tools – something the healing gash on Dean's palm was proof of – and although the clubs they were always displayed with in literature had yet to make an appearance, Dean had little doubt that they used all sorts of weapons. What they had seen so far had been crude, and what was cruder than a club after all?

He aimed his brother to the right with a hand gesture and Sam veered off toward the right side of the somewhat open grassy area they had just entered. The cemetery itself wasn't really that plagued by the trolls. It was more the rear of it, the wooded area, which lay behind Sam right now, and which didn't contain any graves. The trolls had to have some kind of burrow or something back there and judging by the amount of them, it had to be pretty damned big.

A sharp whistle brought his attention back to his brother on the other side of the open space and he frowned, not sure Sam could pick up on the subtleties of his expressions in the increasing darkness and fog.

Sam had picked up on something alright. He took a step forward and pointed to one ear, indicating that he had heard something. Dean nodded and took a step toward him when he caught sight of a darker shadow breaking out of the darkened forest behind Sam. It didn't take much for him to realize what it was either. "SAM, WATCH OUT!" he roared and broke into a run.

The last syllable had barely passed his lips before Sam spun around to face the monstrosity baring down on him. Not only was this truck of a troll coming at Sam with enough speed to bring down a brick wall, it was also at least a head taller than his brother and twice as broad.

Sam reacted to something Dean couldn't see at this distance even while he raced toward his brother and the attacking troll. All Dean could see was that Sam tried to dodge something the troll swung at him and then Sam hit the ground a split second later with the troll following him down by bending over. This critter was smarter than the others they'd met so far, because it had stopped in front of Sam instead of trying to run him down.

While running, Dean yanked the machete out of its scabbard on his back and took in his surroundings as well as the eerily silent opponent bearing down on Sam. A boulder lodged in the ground presented an excellent place to gain some leverage and he pounded up on top of it with frightening ease, then launched himself at the troll with equally frightening precision, bringing the machete down in an arch toward the exposed neck of the monstrosity. The troll was too busy eying its potential prey to realize it was about to die and it didn't even manage to turn its ugly head before Dean lopped it off.

He hit the ground on both feet while the troll's head bounded off across the grass, and he had to throw himself sideways to avoid being crushed under the body of the troll when it fell. For some reason he had gotten it in his head that whatever the troll had done might have killed his brother and that idea sent a feverish fear through him.

"Sam," he called while regaining his feet, frantically searching the now nearly complete darkness for his brother.

"Here," he heard Sam croak from somewhere to his left and despite the obvious pain lacing the kid's voice, it was still a welcome sound.

Dean glanced up at the overcast sky and cursed the darkness and the fog, then dug his penlight out and aimed it in the general direction of Sam's voice. The beam sliced through fog banks hugging the ground and it took him a moment to locate his brother. Sam was still down, which wasn't good news. "How bad is it?" he demanded and covered the few feet to where Sam was lying in a few long strides.

"Bad enough," Sam pressed out, his left arm angled over his chest toward his right shoulder. "I'm stuck."

"Stuck?" Dean ran the meager light over his brother until it came to rest on the hilt of a big-assed knife. Said knife was currently sticking out of Sam's right shoulder. "Shit," he muttered and dropped down on his knees next to his brother. The penlight barely gave enough illumination to give him an idea of the extent of the damage. "Lie still," he advised and carefully slipped his fingers under Sam's shoulder. Yup, the knife had penetrated all the way. From what he could tell, the blade wasn't that wide, which was a good thing, but it was long and therefore embedded in the ground beneath, which was a bad thing. "Talk to me, Sammy. Tell me how it feels."

Sam swallowed audibly. "Uhm ... hurts. Badly. My arm's kinda frozen. I think this damned thing nicked something."

"As in what? Nerves?" Dean pressed while continuously inspecting the injury as well as he could. Pulling the knife out of Sam's shoulder and the ground beneath did not strike him as a good idea. But they couldn't wait until the troll body had disintegrated either to call for help and how the hell were they going to explain this one to the authorities anyway? An injury like this was going to get the cops involved and that was not ideal at any time.

"Think so. Could just be the shock. Just pull it out," Sam countered, his tone tight as a bowstring.

"Nope, not gonna happen, Sam. We gotta deal with this differently," Dean said and gave his bloodied fingers a dark look. "You're bleeding bad. I'm not removing this damned knife until I know it hasn't cut through something important." It was a hard truth to come by, but this one wasn't something they could fix on their own. Sam needed medical attention and there was just no way they could get that without getting the cops involved. "Okay, we're gonna have to try and dislodge the knife from the ground without pulling it out of your shoulder."

Sam nodded tightly, his eyes glassy with the pain. "And how are you gonna do that?"

"Simple. I'll pull up and you follow," Dean said, well aware that this wasn't going to work. The second he started fiddling with the handle, Sam was gonna feel it. "Or, better still, I'm going to pull at the handle and your shoulder at the same time. Best scenario."

"Says you," Sam ground out.

"Says I," Dean agreed, wrapped the fingers of his right hand around the handle of the knife and took a hold of Sam's shoulder with his left. "Okay, on three."

Sam grabbed his shoulder with his left hand and pulled up when Dean pulled at his shoulder and the knife handle at the same time. It actually surprised Dean that it worked. Sam's lack of verbal response proved that it hadn't been too painful and he made sure to hold onto his shoulder to prevent any change in that department until Sam was sitting up.

"Easy does it," he soothed, supporting Sam as best he could. He could feel that Sam wanted to curl up, felt the shudder go through him, and he winced in sympathy. This wound had to hurt like a bitch.

"Ow," his brother pressed out through clenched teeth and Dean couldn't help a surprised smirk.

"Ow? You have a big-assed knife sticking out of your shoulder and all you have to say is ow?" With a bit of effort, he got his now decidedly unsteady sibling to his feet. "Has anyone ever told you how badass you are?"

"Shut up, Dean," Sam pressed out and nearly doubled over, telling Dean clearly that he was in serious pain. "What's the plan? ER?" he ground out between clenched teeth.

"Nope, too risky. This can't be explained away as an accident," Dean said and briefly wrecked his brain to come up with a solution. Then he arched an eyebrow. "Man, I'm so stupid," he growled, dug his cellphone out of one pocket and flipped it open. "We've got a nurse within reach."

Sam leaned heavily on him, his breathing restrained. "What? You're gonna tell her?"

"Nope. But I think it's fairly clear that she won't turn us in to the authorities either," Dean countered with a smirk.

"Your faith in your own abilities is overwhelming at times," Sam pressed out and grunted with the effort of staying on his feet. "Could you get a move on? This really hurts."


Mercy Hospital
Minneapolis, MN

Michelle considered herself to be as open-minded as the next gal and her present relationship – if indeed it could be called that after merely six weeks – wasn't really causing her any problems. She found herself thinking about him more often than not, which in her opinion was a good thing, and he seemed invested in this even now that he'd obviously gotten what he was after. She blamed herself for the mishap of the evening before and was only too happy that he hadn't taken offense and left. He had a strong character, that one. There was more hiding underneath that devil-may-care attitude of his, no doubt about it.

"Nurse Eden, are you paying attention?" Dr. Conrad asked and eyed her darkly.

"Yes, of course I am," she said with a smile and a silent vow to one day kick that man's ass. Man, he was annoying.

Dr. Conrad wasn't specialized in anything, which in her book meant that he wasn't very good at his job. He spent most of his time in the ER and he'd gotten more complaints than praise from his patients. The man was currently tending to a broken ankle and the guy at the receiving end of his treatment didn't look happy.

Michelle placed a soothing hand on the man's arm and gave him a warm smile. "It'll be fine," she promised, which earned her an annoyed glance from Dr. Conrad.

Before the man could say anything, Michelle's cellphone went off. She had intended to set it to vibrate, but realized she had forgotten.

To prevent Dr. Conrad from getting his panties in a twist over it, Michelle grabbed the arm of a passing nurse. "Could you take over here for a minute? I'll be right back."

"Sure thing," Liz said with a smile and Michelle hurried away before the good doctor could make comments on her conduct. As if he was one to speak.

A quick glance at the clock out in the hall told her that her shift had been over two hours ago. There was a lot going on right now. "Michelle Eden," she introduced herself without looking at the display.

"Michelle, I need help."

For a moment she had no idea who she was talking to, but then it clicked into place. "Dean," she said and couldn't stop the shiver of delight from rippling up her spine. At least until she consciously registered what he had said. "Help? What's wrong?"

"Sam's hurt. Knife wound," he replied. "Looks bad. He's bleeding. The knife's still stuck in his shoulder and I'm not sure pulling it out is such a good idea."

She blinked, confused by why he would call her instead of doing the obvious. "Uh ... why don't you take him to the ER?"

"Because I don't want the authorities involved. Long story. I'll tell you all about it. But do you know someone we can go to who won't ask questions?"

Michelle mentally ran over the list of doctors she knew and shook her head. "No, nobody who would treat him without using the proper channels. Where are you?"

"Lakewood Cemetery."

She frowned. What the hell were they doing at the cemetery at this hour? "Cemetery?" she asked and thought she heard a dissatisfied grunt at the other end. Of course, the explanation for why they were at the cemetery at this hour could wait until later. "Okay ... uhm ... take him to my place. I'll be there as fast as I can."

He exhaled in a sigh. "You're a doll."

She couldn't help a snort. "Yeah, okay. Just get going," she advised him and glanced self-consciously around. She could feel the heat creeping into her cheeks at that unexpected term of endearment.

The connection cut and she again wondered what was going on. Had they fought and it had gotten ugly? She didn't really think he was that type of guy, though. Set on helping him as well as she could – she wasn't a doctor, after all – she returned to the examination room to let Dr. Conrad know that she was leaving. He wasn't happy about it, but couldn't really do anything about it either.

Then she gathered the supplies she thought she might need, dumped them in her bag, and got out of there.


Lakewood Cemetery
Minneapolis, MN

Getting Sam off the ground proved to be more daunting than Dean had thought. But keeping him on his feet and making him walk back to the car was almost impossible. Sam's legs seemed hellbent on folding up beneath him and every near fall rattled the wound and drew one agonized groan from him after another. It took precious time and, despite being well aware of that Sam couldn't help the situation, Dean felt his patience slip closer and closer to the edge of oblivion.

Compared to the slow and painful trek through the cemetery, the trip from the cemetery to Michelle's apartment should have been easy. But it wasn't. Sam was exhausted by the time they got to the car and only then did Dean realize that Sam wouldn't be able to sit properly with that damned knife sticking out both ways. Sam had to sit sideways, his left arm on the back of the seat while his right arm rested uselessly in his lap. In the wan light of the overhead lamp, Dean inspected the wound from the front for a moment, shook his head and then focused on Sam's face. The kid was pale and sweaty, his breath coming in uneven little puffs.

"We can do this slow and easy or fast and ... not so easy. Your call," he said after a moment.

Sam's tight features spoke a language Dean had long since perfected. "Faster would be better," he bit out between clenched teeth.

"You got it," Dean agreed with an uneasy nod, slid the key into the ignition and revved the engine, then pulled the Impala around and out onto the road.

Every little bump in the road increased Sam's paleness and by the time they reached Washington Avenue, Dean was convinced that Sam would either hurl or pass out. The latter might actually be preferable right now.

Parking lots were thankfully easy to come by, but Dean realized that getting Sam into the apartment building and upstairs without rousing suspicion was equal to zero. "Shit," he hissed. "Stay where you are for a sec," he added when Sam made a move to try and get out of the car after Dean had parked on side road next to the building. He dug his phone out of one pocket and realized that Michelle had called him twice in the meantime, so he called her back. "Hey, we're here, but there's no way I can get him inside without anyone seeing it."

"There's a parking garage under the building. And I know for a fact that the security cameras are busted at the moment," Michelle said. "Are you sure you can't take him to the ER?"

"Can you guarantee me that nobody will call the cops?" he countered.

She was silent for a moment. "Not so much, no," she said. "I'll meet you down there."

"Be there in a few," he agreed, hung up and got back in the car. "There's a parking garage under the building. Best way in, I think."

"Whatever," Sam pressed out.

The garage wasn't secure, but that didn't really matter. Dean parked the Impala as close to the elevators as possible and found Michelle waiting for them.

Dean pulled the passenger side door open, but Michelle, who had joined them at this point, stopped him before he could help Sam out of the car. "No way are you dragging him up to my apartment in that condition," she warned. It had taken her a second flat to estimate the situation.

"What do you have in mind?" he asked, a little surprised by the sternness of her tone.

She pulled a capped syringe from one pocket. "Painkiller," she stated, then hunkered down next to Sam. "You'll thank me later," she added, aiming this at Sam.

"'m thanking you now," Sam ground out. He looked like crap, sweaty, pale, drawn.

Michelle gave him the injection, then waited until he started to relax. "That's better," she said and gently rubbed his arm before pulling back a step to let Dean help Sam out of the car.


Michelle's apartment

Sam could honestly say that he had a newfound respect for Michelle by the time he got settled on the bed of the guest room in her apartment. The shot she'd given him had all but obliterated the pain.

"Okay, let me take a look at this before we do anything," she suggested and eyed the knife for a moment both at the entry and the exit wound, her expression serious. The glance she sent back at Dean made Sam wonder how this would end for his brother's affection for this woman. Right now, Sam could easily understand why Dean found her so damned attractive. She was a go-getter, much like Dean himself. "Are you going to tell me what happened here or don't I want to know?"

"You don't want to know," Dean said firmly. "Can you remove it?"

She took a careful hold of the handle and pulled lightly on it. It shifted easily. "It's not stuck on any bone, so yes, I can," she said and started chewing thoughtfully on her lower lip, her grey eyes locked on the knife. "What I don't like is the amount of bleeding even this little movement causes."

Sam glanced down at the knife handle and the spreading patch of dark red around it. He could feel the wetness on his back as well, which wasn't doing him any favors. And despite the overwhelming effect of the painkiller, he felt a little woozy and on top of that a little nauseous too. He swallowed convulsively. "Could we just get on with it?" Even he could hear how rough his voice was right now.

Michelle met his eyes dead on. "When I'm sure you won't bleed out the second I pull this out, yeah," she agreed sternly. "Does it hurt?"

He considered it for a moment, then shook his head lightly. "Not so much, no. But I feel a little sick," he admitted.

She nodded. "Trauma," she muttered, then dug something out of the bag she had set down next to the bed. She held something out to Dean that looked like a folded-up sheet. "First, I'm going to sterilize the bit of blade sticking out in the back. It's dirty and rusty. I don't want to risk pulling more dirt into the wound than what's undoubtably in there already. Then I'm going to pull the knife back. The second the tip is gone, you press this hard against the exit wound," she instructed him, then pulled out another folded-up sheet and focused on Sam again. "The release of the pressure might make you feel more nauseous. You want something for that before we do this?"

Part of him wanted to tough it out, but the majority was begging for release right now. He nodded once. "Yeah," he agreed. To hell with being tough. He just knew he was going to hurt bad enough once the painkiller wore off. There was no sense in suffering if he could avoid it.

Michelle, it seemed, came prepared. She gave him another injection, which settled his roiling stomach almost at once. With alcohol, she cleaned off the end of the knife, then nodded once to Dean and pulled the knife out a little. Dean put pressure on the wound on the back of Sam's shoulder while Michelle pulled the knife out completely and instantly pressed the folded-up sheet against the entrance wound. Sam felt a surging drop in pressure and he was grateful he'd agreed to the drug now. He knew without question that this surging sensation would have made him hurl. It was a bit like riding a really tough roller coaster while suffering from food poisoning. But despite the drug, he didn't feel good at all. With a restrained gasp, he only barely managed to stop himself from keeling over and that only because Dean had a grip on his left shoulder and steadied him.

"Now what?" Dean asked, his tone tense.

"Keep the pressure on until I tell you otherwise," Michelle said. After a moment, she carefully peeled the sheet back and made a face. "Still bleeding. Not as bad as I expected, though." She dabbed blood away from the wound and eyed it for a moment. "This needs stitches," she added and glanced down at the bag. "And we really need to keep the pressure on this."

"I can do that," Sam said and fumbled for the sheet. It took some doing on his part, but he managed to keep pressure on the wound until Michelle was ready with the remedies needed to patch him up.

"Okay, you can let go now," she said and carefully peeled the sheet away when he let his hand drop. "Better," she muttered. "Much better."

"Not bleeding too badly, I guess?" Dean asked and leaned in to have a look himself.

"No. That means no arteries have been nicked. Doesn't mean it won't hurt like a bitch when the painkiller wears off," Michelle agreed with a sigh. "I think you should stay here tonight. Just so I can keep an eye on this."

Sam glanced at Dean, who was watching Michelle closely. "Sounds like a plan," Dean agreed and Sam felt some of the tension ease out of him. The mere idea of having a professional nurse nearby made this more tolerable. What Sam wasn't a hundred percent on was where her loyalties lay. For now, she seemed very set on helping them, but would she feel that way once she had a chance to think about it?

She cleaned the wound meticulously, then glanced at the knife now lying on the floor. "Okay, I must honestly admit that I'm not happy about closing this up right now," she said and gave Dean a brief glance before fixing her gaze on Sam. "That knife is dirty and rusty. Chances are you'll get an infection and if I close this up, it'll be ten time's worse."

Sam nodded. He had expected as much. "Fine with me," he said and briefly squeeze his eyes shut. The adrenaline from the attack was wearing off and he felt his stamina drop like a damned express elevator to Hell.

Instead of stitching the wounds up right away, she covered them in some sort of translucent gel, then taped heavy gauze pads over both and wrapped the whole thing in more gauze. And all this she did fast and efficiently. "Okay, you're done for now. I'll take a look in the morning and if it's okay, I'll stitch it up then. If not, we leave it until it's cleared up. Deal?"

He nodded again and pressed his lips together. The dizziness was increasing, making it harder by the minute for him to keep his eyes open.

"I'm just going to give you a shot of antibiotics just in case," she added and did so without further ado. "And now you need to rest."

Sweeter words had never been spoken and the bed in her guestroom was a hell of a lot more comfortable than the lumpy old mattress in that motel they were staying at.


Michelle put away the remaining bandages, threw out the used ones and then ushered Dean out of the room and closed the door behind her. "He needs rest," she insisted.

"Yeah, I know that. But ..." Dean tried, but she stopped him by draping a hand over his mouth.

"No buts. Leave him alone for a bit," she said, then eyed him critically. "You look like you could use a shower and a hot meal," she added.

He eyed her for a moment, his expression unreadable to her, then he seemed to deflate a little. "That actually sounds like a good idea," he consented. "Look, Michelle, I'm sorry about barging in on you like this. We had nowhere else to go."

"Don't apologize," she said. "Grab that shower. I'll throw something together in the meantime. Once you've eaten, we can talk."

The look in his eyes at that was very readable and she almost smiled. He didn't look like 'talking' was something he wanted to do or did a lot of. That they had talked as much as they had over the course of the last six weeks had actually surprised her.

Without another word, he disappeared into the bedroom and it took him a good long while to turn up again. Having learned by now that he had a healthy appetite, she had thrown together something light, but had made plenty of it, and he wolfed it down as if he hadn't seen food in the past week. She shared the meal with him, but ate little and slowly, while trying to discreetly observe him. He was an enigma to her. Tough and brash as he was, he had a very soft core. It wasn't something she had seen yet, but she felt it aimed at his brother. Where Sam was concerned, there was no compromise for Dean. Where other brothers might have neglected their siblings for the impending conquest, he had still considered his brother along the way and it made her wonder what it was that had raised that impenetrable wall around him.

"So," she said, "... what the hell happened tonight?" Having picked up on a few smaller details about him, she handed him a bottle of Sol.

He grabbed it and eyed it for a moment, his expression still unreadable, then he sank down on the couch with a sigh. "You think there's any permanent damage to Sam's shoulder?" he countered and looked up at her.

That he didn't answer her question only confirmed that there were things here he didn't want to share, and the fact alone that he didn't even try to make up some bogus story to throw her off the scent made her wonder what this was all about. Whatever had happened tonight, he didn't want to talk about it and it sent her very vivid imagination into overdrive. But she also respected his right to tell her to butt out and so decided not to pursue it right now. "I don't know," she said and settled down next to him. "We'll have to see. The trauma alone is enough to numb his arm. It could just be the shock of the injury. If he still has problems with it tomorrow morning, I suggest we take him to the ER."

He glanced at her and she realized that he was dead tired. It came through in bits and pieces and she compared him to a wounded animal, hellbent on not showing that he hurt, but unable to keep it all under wraps. "Can't do that," he muttered and took a swig of the beer. "If the authorities get involved, we can't stay here. And there's ... work to do."

"What work?" She had the distinct impression that he wouldn't answer that one either and it upped her curiosity. Why was he so opposed to sharing what he did with her? She thought she was enough of a people person to know that he wasn't a criminal. Knocking over banks and robbing people of their hard-earned money just didn't seem like him. So, what was it? Was he a spy? Some type of undercover agent on a mission?

He downed the contents of the bottle while she considered how to approach the topic yet again. "You wouldn't happen to have another one of these in your fridge, would you?" he asked, derailing her thought process.

"Uh, yes, of course," she said and rose while reaching for the bottle he had placed on the coffee table. All the while she could not stop watching him. It was like watching paint crack to reveal what was hiding underneath. The cracks didn't show enough to give her a whole picture, but disclosed enough for her to know that what she saw wasn't what she got.

He smiled at her, that crooked, boyish smile that had won her over in the first place, and it irked her to no end how much of a contradiction he was. He was both young and old wrapped into one, a kid with too much knowledge. "Thanks," he said and slumped back on the couch.

She headed to the kitchen to get another bottle from the fridge while trying to figure him out and she knew up front that without him opening up about it, there was no way she would ever know the real him. She would have to prod a little, would have to push a little too, but now might not be a good time.

With practice, she uncapped the bottle and headed back to the couch, only to find that he'd managed to fall asleep in the minutes she'd been away. She eyed him for a moment, then grabbed the afghan draped over the arm of the couch and covered him with it after setting the bottle down within easy reach. Then she headed off to bed herself, intrigued and unsettled by him.