Bean Stalker by Ophium
FeatureSummary: Chuck’s books mustered a good number of fans. One of them turned out to be the wrong kind of fan. When an obsessed woman finds out that Sam and Dean are real, the consequences for one of them are anything but nice. ‘Misery’ style.
Categories: Season Characters: Dean, OFC, Sam
Genres: Angst, Drama, General
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 50822 Read: 36640 Published: June 01, 2009 Updated: August 05, 2009
Story Notes:
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

1. Chapter 1 by Ophium

2. Chapter 2 by Ophium

3. Chapter 3 by Ophium

4. Chapter 4 by Ophium

5. Chapter 5 by Ophium

6. Chapter 6 by Ophium

7. Chapter 7 by Ophium

Chapter 1 by Ophium
Author's Notes:
Warnings for some bad language... you know, the usual :D

Bean Stalker

“’Dean grabbed his brother’s arms, stilling him in his frantic search of a Hail Mary! out of their situation. In the background, the grandfather clock kept on ticking, seconds that they did not have rushing away to Dean's deadline.

Already, Dean could hear the hell hounds deep growls, calling for him…’

Alice flipped through the pages and moved forward to her favorite part of the book. Bare feet tucked underneath her sweat pants, she took a sip from her ice tea before letting her eyes rest on the familiar words once more.

“’When the blinding white light finally faded, Sam was surprised to find out that he wasn’t dead. It struck him quickly and heavily: for whatever reason that was completely irrelevant for him at the moment, Lilith was powerless to kill him.

It took the hunter only half a second to realize that he was still holding Ruby’s knife and that everything could end now, right in that minute.

The ancient demon, residing now in Ruby’s former vessel, realized that too. Fear consumed her perfect features and she backed away, hand extended in a gesture now devoid of power.

Taking no more than a step, Sam watched in frustration as she threw her head back, a loud, shrill scream tearing through the room as the demon poured out of her mouth, escaping in a cloud of black smoke.

The blond girl’s dead body flopped to floor, landing in a mess of limbs right beside Dean. Unmoving, not-breathing, dead Dean.

Tears filled Sam’s eyes as he realized that he was too late. He had already lost Dean to Hell…’

Alice closed the book and threw it against the wall. The reaction was always the same, no matter how many times she read it. Why would any one write a final book in a series only to finish the story like that? That was not an ending... and that was most certainly not the proper ending for the adventures of Sam and Dean, hunters of the supernatural. They deserved better than that.

Heroes should be rewarded in the end of their adventures; heroes should find peace from their troubles in the end of their journey. Hell was no reward; Sam staying apart from his brother, left to face a cruel world alone, was not peaceful.

“Alice… you were already warned about those anger displays,” the nurse, watching over the patients in the recreation room, reminded her. “Now, are you going to pick that up or do we have to hide those books from you again?”

Alice jumped to her feet. She hated being admonished like some small child, but she hated even more to have those books locked away from her. “I’ll pick it up, Ms. Durst... sorry.” But she wasn’t. Sorry, that is. She couldn’t feel such things - it said so in her file.

Meek and gloom existence, hidden from real life, Alice had nothing but crazy people and cold professionals to deal with in that place, mindless sheep that went through the motions of life like they had no purpose or objective.

The two boxes of second-hand books donation, given to the mental facility the previous year, had brought some color back in to her black and white life. Carver Edlund and his brilliant work had turned her world around in to a new place full of possibilities.

Sighing, her hand passes reverently along the row of Supernatural books lining the top of the metal bookshelves before she puts the last one, 'No rest for the wicked', in its rightful place. From the first black covered title that had introduced a baby Sam and a toddler Dean in to her life, Alice remained marveled at how she could relate to those characters, on levels that she hadn’t been able to relate ever before.

No one that she's ever met, not even her own family, could spark the same kind of emotions and depth of caring that these two characters had. They were the missing piece in her life, the piece that was broken. They were broken too, just like her, but they were also brave and fearless.

Sam and Dean were her alter egos, her heroes, her soul mates. And Carver had destroyed them both… just like that.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Suddenly, they said she was all better. The same 'they' who'd assured her parents, years ago, that she was in for a life of institutionalized living. The same 'they' who'd declared that it wasn’t safe for her outside, were now saying that it was... OK.

Now, they said it was good for her to get out, have a go at living, that it was a 'positive experience' for her to 'assimilate' and 'interact' with society's members and rules.

The fact that her parents were now dead and that she had no financial means with which to maintain the health insurance paying for her stay, was never mentioned. But Alice was crazy, not dumb.

So, without so much as a 'by your leave' she grabbed her meager possessions and left; no note, no good-bye, just gone. Alice had no friends in there; she didn’t want any friends from there. Most of those people were too insane to even know what a friend is supposed to do or how they are supposed to behave.

She didn’t said goodbye to the staff either. The stolen collection of Supernatural books burned like hot coals inside her pack and she didn’t want them finding out about those before she was long gone.

And just like that, Alice left all else behind. It didn't matter. Her best friends were going with her anyway.

0o0o0o0o0o00o0

Alice was crazy, not dumb… and they kept forgetting that. They couldn’t –wouldn’t- keep her in the mental institute, but they wanted her close by, keep an eye on her, see her once a week, check how she was doing.

A week later, Alice Gean had become Alexa Bean and changed states. It was too easy to change the letters in her documents and grab herself a job serving lunch to truckers on the interstate.

Alice had spent most of her adult life in a mental institution; Alexa was a drifter with a penchant for rock music that had left home at the tender age of sixteen because she wanted to be a rock star. Alice was a diagnosed psychopath with a tendency for delusional disorder; Alexa was sane, fun and caring. Alice was the dark past; Alexa was the bright future. The only thing that Alexa Bean had in common with Alice Gean was her collection of Supernatural books.

First cash she made, Alexa tracked down the few books that were missing from her collection, hoping that there would be at least one more after ‘No Rest for the Wicked’. But there wasn’t.

Out here, the same way as it had been in the mental institute, Dean still ended up in Hell with no hope of rescue and no telling of the horrors he was going through.

She had tried to keep the story going on her own, writing paper after paper of 'what if’s' for Dean and Sam. But it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t official. It wasn't their lives.

And she couldn’t keep on living her life knowing that Dean was burning in Hell and Sam was burning on Earth.

She needed the rest of that story. She needed to know what happened next.

Tracking down Carver Edlund hadn’t been all that hard. All she had needed was a computer and a few hours of research.

She wasn’t dumb… the single IQ test that she had taken, back in first grade, when her life was still normal, had downright classified her as a genius. People just kept forgetting that.

One phone call to Carver’s publisher, posing as an IRS fact-checker, and she had both the author’s real name and his address.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Alexa took her time planning her actions. She figured the author, this Carver Edlund that was actually a Chuck Shurley, wouldn’t take lightly to her coming to his house and asking for the next chapter in the lives of Sam and Dean. She would have to convince him. Plus, writing took time, whether it was on a computer or on paper, like she had tried.

She needed time, she needed persuasive methods and she needed undisturbed space.

She needed a cheap car bought in a second hand place that didn't bother to ask for her nonexistent driver's license. She needed a small house, secluded from the rest, where Chuck could work in peace and quiet.

She also needed a gun.

0o0o0o0o0o0o00

“’Dean stood from his perch on the prison cot, dangling chains clanking against each other in a melancholic tune as he shuffled his feet.

-I’ve been waiting for this for a long time- the FBI man said, his hand sneaking inside his jacket, producing a gun at the same time his eyes were filled with the vile blackness of demonic possession.

Sam’s reaction was immediate. Reaching through the bars, he pushed the gun away even as a stream of seamless Latin began pouring out of his mouth.

But it was too late. Seconds before Sam connected, the gun spat one bullet too many and Dean was down for the count. On the grey wall of their cell, the red blood spatter was bright and glistening, accusatory finger of all that went wrong in there.

On the cot, Dean clutched at his bleeding shoulder in stoic countenance…’

The loud purr of a powerful engine distracted Alexa from her reading. She was parked outside Chuck’s place, trying to figure out the best time to catch him outside, but as far as she could tell, the man hardly ever left home.

The noise that had called her attention belonged to a big black car. She didn’t understand much about car brands, but this one had a classic look about it. It was all made of long lines, slick curves and shiny black steel. The silver words imprinted on the side made her sit straighter and focus her attention on it. It was an Impala. An old looking Impala, just like in the books.

It parked right in front of Chuck’s house. From her spot, she couldn’t see much about the guys that came out of it other than the fact that there was two of them and that they both looked tall. Very tall.

With rapt attention she watched as they climbed Chuck’s front steps and rang the bell.

After a few exchanged words between the tall guys and Chuck, and one failed attempt to close the door on his visitors’ faces, the two guys got in. From where she was standing, it didn’t look like Chuck had much saying in the matter.

A feeling that could almost be confused with concern blossomed in Alexa’s chest. But it wasn’t concern, or care, or even worry. She couldn't feel those.

But she needed Chuck alive so that he could finish the story for her and if those two guys harmed the author in any way, or even killed him, she would never know. She would never find out.

Alexa left the safety of her car and raced to Chuck’s house. When the door opened all of sudden and all three men stepped outside, she was caught out in the open. With no other place to hide, Alexa slipped under the big car and hopped that they wouldn’t drive away just yet.

She was lucky. And the fact that her body wasn’t run over by the classic Impala was only the smallest part of it.

Alexa could not believe what she was hearing. The door squeaked as the trunk was opened and one of guys started to make a list of everything they had in there. The guns. The rock salt. The fake IDs. Everything that Sam and Dean had in their car’s trunk. Their Impala's trunk.

When Chuck was still calling them fans, Alexa had already realized who they really were. Sam and Dean. In the flesh.

The characters that she cared for more than her family members, the main players in all of her dreams and fantasies, were real. And they were right there, as if fate had brought them all together. Brought them to her.

The whispered words about angels and demons and seals and the apocalypse floated by her mind, stored for later use. Right now she needed to adapt her plan.

Alexa no longer needed Chuck Shurley. She had the real thing. And she could finally hear, first hand, how come Dean was there, alive and breathing and not rotting in Hell.

It was only a matter of waiting for the perfect opportunity.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Alexa decided early on that she would never be able to catch Sam and Dean at the same time. They were both accomplished hunters, they were bigger than her and they had been trained to fight their whole lives.

Her best chance was to grab one of them alone. The other would shortly follow anyhow, because more than anything they loved each other and one would not be able to stand idle while the other was missing.

Dean had been tireless, moving earth and hell when Sam had been missing, both in ‘The Benders’ and ‘All Hell Breaks Lose’. It didn’t matter if the individuals responsible for his brother's disappearance were human or supernatural, Dean always managed to find him.

Very much in the same way, Sam had been very determined in finding Dean when he’d been captured by Gordon in ‘Hunted’ or imprisoned by a Djinn in ‘What Is and Should Never Be’.

They would always find each other. She only needed one.

Alexa figured that Dean would be easier to capture. Not because he was weaker or more gullible, Alexa had no illusions about that, but because his habits made him a better prey.

Dean liked anonymous female company; he used sex to make up for his lack of social connections, to ease his pain and feelings of abandonment, even if he didn’t realize it and claimed in several books that he just loved to enjoy fun of the female variety.

So, given that she was a woman, Alexa was certain she could make herself in to someone fun, who's company Dean could enjoy for a couple of hours. No compromise, no strings attached. Or at least, the illusion of such.

All she had to do was watch and wait. The odds were on her side and, sooner or later, Dean would walk in to a bar alone and if she remained vigilant, she would know when to make her move.

There were no bar visits while the brothers were in Chuck’s town, their stay very brief, filled with rushed comings and goings.

Alexa had chosen to stay at the Toreador motel instead of following Dean around. Sam hadn’t left their motel room the entire time and she knew that Dean wouldn’t skip town without his brother.

Booking the room next to theirs, Alexa remained alert, waiting, biding her time. Just a few hours later, at night, she briefly entertained the thought that maybe her chance had arrived sooner than she expected when she heard angry shouts and words echoing through the thin motel walls. There was no mistake; it was coming from their room.

The heated discussion ended with a banged door that shook the glass on her windows, followed by a very stiff, very pissed off silhouette of Dean stalking by her room’s window. No duffel bag, no car keys, and a short trip that ended with a muffled bang near the soda machine.

Alexa relaxed back. Dean wasn’t going far.

0o0o00o0o0o0

'Sam paced the motel room’s length. The tiny place with two beds and a bathroom felt too big for him. Everything felt insurmountable big and empty without the presence of his big brother.

The knock on the door was faint, shy. Even so, Sam looked around the room, eyes quickly checking for anything that might give him away. But aside from the medical journals and the notes scattered everywhere, nothing in that room marked him as a hunter. Just a desperate brother.

Sam opened the door and the last face he was expecting to find greeted him. Dean. An unhealthy pale pallor marred his face and he stood slumped against the door’s threshold looking for all the world like it was the only thing keeping him up.

The reaction of reaching out and grabbing his debilitated brother was instinctive on Sam’s part. The arm beneath his grip was trembling, like Dean had used up all of his energy just to reach him. Knowing his stubborn brother, Sam figured he probably had.’

Alexa dropped the book when she realized that the whole room was shaking. While she'd never in her life experienced an earthquake, somehow this struck her as something all together different.

Sliding across the room towards the window, Alexa looked outside. The rest of the world was quiet and undisturbed. Apart from the bright light.

It was the middle of the night, and yet everything was lit as if the sun had decided to rise in the parking lot.

No… not the parking lot. Sam and Dean’s room.

Before she could decide on what to do or realize even what was happening, it was all over. The shaking stopped, the light went away and the world went onward as if nothing had happened.

Maybe nothing had actually happened. It wasn’t the first time that things like this had occurred in Alexa’s world alone. Things that only she could see, things that weren’t real for others. She looked at her medicine bag, wondering if she should actually keep on taking the meds like her doctors had advised.

The door to Sam and Dean’s room banged shut and the tall shadow of one of them walking by her window distracted Alexa. Pushing the curtain panel aside slightly, she watched Dean go into the manager’s office, room key dangling from his hand. They were going away.

Quickly gathering her stuff, taking care to make sure that none of her books were left behind, Alexa packed everything and ran for the car. She didn’t bother to check out. The manager wouldn’t wise up to the fact that she was gone until noon of the next day and by then, if she knew these guys well, they would all be far, far away from there.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Despite the bone tiredness that made every cell in his body ache, Dean could feel this bubbling energy inside him that was threatening to explode in the nastiest of ways if he didn’t do something about it.

They had driven almost nonstop for a whole day before either would admit defeat and stop to rest. Stop for respite from the uncomfortable silence that had taken residence inside the Impala. Just stop long enough to catch a breath and figure out their next move.

Sam wanted to hunt Lilith down, try again and again to kill her until he actually succeeded, or died trying.

Dean wanted to plan ahead, be sure that they wouldn’t need a frickin' archangel to save their asses if they failed again.

They had stopped in Peru, Ohio for no particular reason other than the fact that the motel offered free internet service and the town seemed quiet enough to allow them at least a couple of days of undetected credit card fraud with their current cards.

That had been three days ago.

The impatient energy of Sam’s belief that they were just wasting time was starting to grind on Dean’s nerves and the fact that, on top of everything else, he could still feel every one of the bruises soccer-mom’s car had gifted him with, did not help Dean’s patience.

Instead of staying in the room with Sam one more tense and veiled-commented night and risk the chance of landing a punch on his face, again, Dean figured it would be better for both of them if he took a moment to himself, to cool off.

“Going out,” he announced casually, grabbing his jacket and the car keys. Where once Sam might've offered to keep him company, or at the very least ask where he was going, this time there was silence. This time Sam just nodded and went back to whatever it was he was doing on his computer.

Sam was on his own mission these days, and the presence or absence of his brother didn’t seem to matter much for the outcome of his plans.

The fact that Lilith had played him and that he hadn’t been able to do anything to stop her didn’t matter much to Sam either. Only the fact that she was still alive and he hadn’t killed her yet seemed to matter now.

Dean banged the door shut to avoid speaking his mind to his brother. At this point it would do more harm than good.

Sam believed that he could defeat Lilith and no matter how scary the implications of that were, what had freaked out Dean the most was the fact that he too had started to believe Sam could do it.

Without even realizing it, Dean had started to feel safe in the notion that, if all hell broke loose, Sam could be their secret weapon. Their fail-safe.

Sam had killed Alistair. Where Dean, where the angels had failed, Sam had succeeded. And no matter how terrified Dean was of the price Sam would pay for having the power to do that, it had somehow given him some hope that there was at least one chance of them winning.

That sort of thinking, he realized, was a mistake. The price, whatever it was, would always be too high and Dean would never be able to stand by and watch Sam pay it. And now... now he wasn’t so sure that, price or no price, Sam would actually be able to defeat Lilith.

And Chuck couldn’t tell them nothing about that because Chuck, the prophet, had no frigging clue.

A prophet… assigned to them. The notion alone made Dean want to laugh each and every time he thought about it. Or would’ve, if it weren’t for the fact that, since this whole mess had started, Dean had already read and reread the Bible more times than he cared to and he knew that things rarely ever ended well for either the prophets or the subjects of their gospels.

That part at least Chuck seemed to have understood loud and clear. Trapped with the burden of this knowledge, he knew enough about things to seek solace and drown his misery in booze.

Taking a page from Chuck's book, so to speak, Dean decided to find himself some liquid numbness.

Finding an open bar in the middle of the afternoon was no problem; the green neon sign announcing 'BEER' in giant flashing letters was all Dean needed to turn his car in to that direction. The nightmares were going to be a bitch tonight, he knew that from experience. The usual couple of shots of JD before hitting the hay, just as he'd done every other day, had thus far been his lifebuoy, keeping him barely afloat in a sea of night terrors. Tonight, however, that would simply not suffice.

And how fucked up was it that he actually had experience enough to know which days would bring him the worst nightmares?

Teeth gritted, Dean punched the bar’s door open, immediately soaking in the smoke saturated air and the stale smell of spilled beer.

Spent peanut shells crumbled and crushed under his feet as Dean advanced towards the more or less illuminated central island where all the good bottles hid in plain sight.

The tattooed mountain of a man behind the counter gave him a uninterested glance that probably served only to figure if he was just a bum or an actual paying customer, before moving on to serve someone else.

There was a certain welcomed anonymity that came with low-lit places where background noise could pass as music. In this place, Dean wasn’t the man who had started the apocalypse. In this place, he wasn't a guy whose soul had been -literally- been to Hell and back. In this place, he hadn’t left behind a brother, abandoned for now in their motel room; a brother who could kill demons with his mind and that was quickly slipping away through Dean fingers. Away from his protection.

No, in this place, Dean was just one more guy in the bar before it was even six in the afternoon. A drunk, a loser, some bastard celebrating his promotion, his resignation, his wedding, his divorce. People could choose to believe whatever they wanted about him. No one would even come close to the real deal.

As he made his way towards a bar stool, Dean took in the meager selection of his ‘drinking companions’. Most of them could be slotted in the refugee-from-AA group, from the way they nursed and treated their drinks like old friends, oblivious to the rest of the world around them.

A couple of 'professional' ladies prowled around, rustling and primping their fur, sniffing for any potential prey like hungry hyenas searching for rotting meat.

In a table by the silent jukebox, a group of four tourists from some south-European country, if their looks and the faint wisps of conversation coming from their table were anything to go by. Though what they would be doing in a bar in Peru, Ohio was well beyond Dean’s comprehension. Probably lost, the dumb fucks.

The door opened once more at the edge of his vision and a busty blond came in. Somewhat out of place in this bar, she had probably come to drown her sorrows after some fight with her boyfriend. Or maybe she too had arrived to pick up some customers for the night, get an early start.

Any other day, and she would be just what the doctor ordered to get Dean out of his head. Today, though, today the only frisky blond he wanted for company was his beer.

Dean signaled the bartender to hit him again, same poison: one beer, three shots of tequila. Tonight was a night to get thoroughly shit-faced. Tonight was his day-off from having nightmares. And if he happened to pass out on the ground outside the bar, in a blessed state of alcohol-induced coma, all the better. It would, at least, make for a good excuse to avoid facing Sam before tomorrow.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Alexa knew Sam and Dean better than she knew herself. She knew about the things that had shaped them in to the men that they were now; she knew about their hidden hopes and fears, about their deepest desires and wishes.

She knew what Sam searched for in a woman, knew what had attracted him to Jessica and Madison, knew that Lori -the preacher’s little vanilla daughter from ‘Hookman’- hadn’t really registered in Sam’s attraction radar, despite what Dean and Lori might’ve thought at the time; knew that Sarah Blake, from ‘Provenance’ would never work in long term.

Bela, despite her conniving methods and unethical behavior, stood a better chance of conquering Sam’s heart than either of those two.

Sam liked strong-willed women, women that grounded him, women with roots deep enough to be home for him. Jessica had been that, had been the future that Sam had envisioned for himself, had been the foundation material that Sam had needed to make himself stay.

Madison, as fleeting as their relationship had been, had shown the potential to be that as well. A strong enough anchor to help Sam fight the pull of his brother, the pull of family.

Now Dean, Dean was a different animal.

Dean had given his heart to a woman once. In return, the only thing he received was tiny, tiny broken pieces; he'd learned his lesson and put a stop on long-term relationships. Dean’s list of quick conquests, laid-back anonymous fucks and even quicker goodbyes was something of a recurrent theme in the books.

Alexa could see the deeper meaning behind it. The hidden depths of a little boy who'd lost all connection to normal and steady at the age of four. The hidden depths of a man who'd gotten horribly crushed on the first real attempted that he’d made to reconnect with that world and those notions.

Now sex… sex was Dean’s food for the soul. His greasy burgers for the ego, the ones that tasted wonderful going down but that, in the grand scheme of things, left his notion of self-worth and value clothed with fat and cholesterol.

And Alexa knew exactly the type of women Dean searched for to appease his appetites.

She looked at herself in the rear-view mirror of the car. All the stuffing that she had jammed underneath her breasts had changed her from a C cup in to a double D, amply advertised by the low cut dress that she was wearing.

Alexa knew that she was an attractive woman. She noticed when men look at her, even though the feeling of being desired did nothing for her.

When she enters the smoky bar and attracts the eyes of almost every men inside, Dean, seated by the bar counter, gives her nothing more than a cursory glance.

A thrill runs through her, raising goosebumps on her skin. The close proximity with Dean, she finds, is both exhilarating and intoxicating. Even though she had been watching him and Sam for close to a week now, looking from afar was nothing in comparison to being able to breath the same air as him; to be able to stand close enough to see the tiny nick he has in his chin from shaving too hastily before leaving, to smell that sweet mixture of clean and dirty that seems to surround Dean.

But it won’t do for her plan to catch him if Dean doesn’t bite the bait that she’s laying.

Everything else was ready, all Dean needs to do now is take the bite. When she figured that Sam and Dean were in for a longer stay in this town, Alexa figured that they had found themselves a job there. Finding herself a house that would fit her purposes was the easy part. Getting Dean there…

Alexa watches from the corner of her eye as Dean downs shot after shot after shot. Even if he gets very, very drunk, she knows that he won’t willing follow her or give her his car keys. She looks at the watch in her wrist. They’d been there for more than one hour and Dean has made clear to her and to two other women that actually neared him, that he wasn’t there to pick anyone up, much less to allow himself to be picked up.

Alexa fingers her black purse, a perfect match for her tight black dress. Slipping a hand inside, she searches for the bottle of pills. It was time for plan B, and the overweight guy seating to her left, getting progressively drunk faster than Dean, the one that had been eye-fucking her for the past half an hour, was just tailor-made for what she needed.

Alexa might not feel anything when men’s hungry eyes focus on her skin, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't know how to play them just as well as any other women.

A fleeting glance over to fat-guy, a seemingly absent-minded finger playing with her red-painted full lips and the guy is out of his stool and charging in her direction.

“So… whas’ a honey like yerself ‘s doin’ in a beehive like this?” Fat-guy offers as a greeting. The smell of fermented alcohol on his breath is enough to disinfect the whole bar.

The disgusted look in Alexa’s face is the only thing sincere in her act.

“I’m waiting for someone,” she offers, trying to distance herself from him.

“No need t’wait no more,” he says, the lopsided grin in his face affecting his body’s whole balance in such way that, for a minute, he looks like a felled tree about to fall over her. He grabs her arm to steady himself.

Perfect.

“Let me go!” Alexa shouts, attracting more than her fair share of stares. In the middle of her scared and fragile act, she’s elated to see that Dean’s head is among the turned ones.

“No need t'shout, bitch!” The man said, letting go of her arm and clenching his head instead. He looked as if her voice had actually physically pained him. Given the amount of wobbling that he was doing, it probably had. He charged again, in his drunkenness, sure that he was the man of her dreams. “Wha’ you need ‘s a real man… give that temper a bit of a distar… distrak-“

Dean moved faster than she could follow, momentarily distracted.

“Got an ear problem along with that tongue thing or you just plain dumb?”

It was a brief fight that could barely be classified as one. The guy didn't look like he had much of a fighting-skill bone in him, even if he were sober. Now, drunk as he was, he could barely coordinate his movements to walk, much less aim properly the punch that he tried to land on Dean's face.

Like some choreographed scene from an action movie, Dean had only to duck the man's erratic flying fist, watch as he lost his balance all by himself and see him land face first on the stool that Dean had just vacated. From there, to the floor, to complete lack of consciousness, was as sure as ants on a picnic. Dean didn’t even touched him.

Alexa isn't actually following the 'fight'; she already knows who will win. Instead her attention shifts to Dean's unfinished drink, now left unguarded. After a quick glance around the room, just to be sure all eyes are on the ensuing battle, her hand slips inside her purse fingering the round smooth caplet with practiced ease. All she need do was to side step them, to avoid being caught in the men's struggle, and move her hand a fraction of a second over Dean's beer.

By the time the drunk is on the floor, moaning and bitching about a chipped tooth, the pills she dropped are already half-dissolved.

"Thank you for that," she offers to Dean as he stands over the fallen man, making sure that the fighting is all out of his system. "Some guys just don't get a clue."

The seductive smile that she puts on has little effect on Dean as he slips back on to his stool and grabs his beer, acting like he had just stepped out to take a piss. "You better call your date and tell him to hurry his ass up," he says casually, a free advice that carries no judgment or bite for her attention-calling presence in a bar that would've spelled trouble for any attractive women.

Alexa watches as Dean gulps down the rest of his beer, makes a face at the taste and chases it away with a shot of tequila. All she needs to do now is wait. The pills are fast acting and she used two just to be sure.

Ten minutes later Dean slumps against the counter and she's by his side instantly.

"I think my friend has had enough," she says with a shy smile for the busy bartender. If he remembers her from the scuffle before, he doesn't say a thing. Despite the dinginess of the place, slobbering drunks at the counter is bad for business and if she's willing to take this one off his hands, before they have one more drunken scene to sour the night, and he's more than happy to let her.

"Does he owe you anything?" Alexa asks, slipping on arm around Dean's shoulders, holding his pliant body against hers.

The barkeeper shakes his head and goes back to tend to the other customers, the ones that will actually keep on consuming something, leaving Alexa to struggle to her feet with the combine weight of a barely conscious Dean.

"Who... wh'r we goin'?" Dean slurs, his voice thick as molasses, as if his tongue is twice the normal size.

"We're gonna go meet Sam, remember? Sam's waiting for you in the motel room... he'll get worried if you get behind the wheel in the state you're in," Alexa explains. The pills alone would be enough to get him confused and cooperative, she knew that because that was why they used to give them to her in the institute. Mix with the alcohol, she knows that the only thing that Dean will understand from her speech is Sam's name. She's counting on that to get him inside the Impala and drive him to the place she rented.

"Sam’my... Sam's g'na get 'mself kill'," Dean said earnestly, his eyes crossing when he finally looks at the person leading him away. "Do... d' I k'ow ya?'

Alexa smiles reassuringly at him. "We spend the whole night drinking together and I bet you don't even remember my name do you, Dean?"

The way Dean scrunches his face assures Alexa that he's so far out that he's actually trying to come up with a name for her.

Dean falls asleep leaning against the passenger side door of the Impala and Alexa takes a moment to relax and congratulated herself. The hard part was done and now she could move on with her plan to fix Dean.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Chapter 2 by Ophium
Author's Notes:
Many, many thank yous and hugs to Jackfan2 for her continuously awesome work.

Chapter 2

Dean doesn't come back that night, but that was something that Sam was actually counting on.

Growing up, Sam always felt Dean had been born with two settings for being pissed. One where he'd go off like a nuke on a submarine; blowing in just a moment’s notice, leveling everything in his path. The other, Sam likened it to an angsty, teenage-girlie mood thing; storing every wrong, every woe weighing him down, saving it for later, brewing just below the surface only for, when you least expect it, throw it all back in your face.

Dean had been doing the girlie thing this time.

The warning signs have been evident for the last couple of days, all the quiet rage simmering just below the surface. The whole package of trusty trademarks that something's bothering him and he doesn't want to talk about it. So he leaves.

Because Sam knows his brother and he knows that, when Dean reaches his limit, he doesn't trust himself enough to let it out without leading in to blows. Because it often -almost every goddamn time! – ends that way.

Dean used to do that during Sam's arguments with dad. He wouldn't take sides and he wouldn't open his mouth unless the two of them looked like they were about to turn physical. He would stay quiet and silent, boiling slowly, until he was forced to either explode and fight them both, or run away to spend all that energy someplace else.

In a twisted way, Sam was glad to see a bit of the old Dean surface, even if it is like this.

Lately, the only escape that Dean seems to find is the one that lands him at the bottom of a empty bottle and, as much as Sam hates that, the bottle has become a welcome option. Because the alternative, the one that Dean is forced to choose whenever they're on a job and needs his shit together and sober, is much, much worse.

Since returning from Hell, sobriety offers Dean little in the way of escape from his demons. Physically he escaped them, physically they were supposed to have been left behind in Hell, but mentally Dean was far from free. Mentally, demons followed him everywhere.

Escape from his demons... how fucked up was it that what passes as a common expression for everyone else, in Dean's case, actually involves real demons? And if Alistair was anything to go by, pretty fucking scary demons.

With a sober Dean, Sam has to deal with the jumpy moods, the nightly cold sweats and gasping nightmares. Sober, Sam is forced to remember that Alistair, the demon that took him only thirty seconds to kill, had spent thirty years torturing his brother. Thirty. Years.

No, it’s actually a good thing that Dean hasn't come back yet; means that he found an escape for his pent up energy. It means Sam will spend a night without listening to Dean's silent screams, or worse, face his mute recrimination when he's awake. Means that he's probably found comfort in the arms of some random woman, and that Sam needs not feel guilty for calling Ruby and to find comfort in hers. Means Sam can feel proud of himself when he drops the phone before hitting dial and doesn't call her at all.

There's not a lot that Sam can feel proud about himself these days, so he'll take whatever he can. He'd lost so much. He'd given up so much and still he can’t keep Dean safe. Still Sam could do nothing but watch his brother wither away, little by little, every day.

Alcohol seemed to help Dean more these days than Sam could... how pathetic was it that Sam would allow himself to be sidelined like that by a mere bottle; how pathetic was it to actually enjoy the respite and peace that a drunken and asleep Dean brought him?

He'd given up so much, his future, his pride, his humanity and still Sam found that he hadn't given enough. He still wasn't strong enough to bring Lilith down. He still wasn't strong enough to kill her.

Sam looked at his white knuckles, gripping the edge of the desk’s chair, before forcing himself to let go. The piece of wood wasn’t Lilith’s neck; there was no point in choking it like that. He kicked the chair away in anger.

Castiel had convinced Dean that it was his task to stop the apocalypse. Sam knew that the angel was manipulating his brother, using the guilt that Dean carried around for what he'd done in Hell, to make sure that Dean would follow the angels’ every command and lead.

Since his return from Hell, it was painfully plain for all to see that guilt guided every step that Dean took, its weight heavy and damning on Dean's shoulders. And there was no point in trying to make his brother understand that he'd been in an impossible situation, that the odds of him -or any other soul, for that matter- withstanding torture for that long and not break, were non-existent.

It wasn't a matter of strength or weakness; it wasn't even a matter of right or wrong. It was a goddamn fact that anyone else would realize and understand on their own - the fact that everyone and every thing in this world has a limit and everything breaks.

But not Dean. Dean didn't see the world... better yet, Dean didn't see himself like that. No, in Dean’s world there was only action and reaction; cause and consequence. And Dean’s actions had caused the suffering of others, so he had to pay. Simple as that. No gray, no shadow, no blur.

0o0o0o0o0o0o

When morning comes and Dean still hasn't shown, Sam goes from thankful to pissed off. This isn't just Dean letting out a bit of steam, this is Dean moping and being a retaliating prick, his way of payback for what happened with Lilith. This is Dean not telling him ‘I told you so’ about Sam’s lack of success in killing Lilith, but enjoying Sam’s anxiety, waiting for Sam to speak his mind on the matter and admit to his fault and shortcomings. This is Dean punishing him like he's still a five year old kid with a snotty nose because, naturally, Dean took the car and without it, Sam's stuck in the motel, outside the town, with absolutely nothing around there to do but wait. And stew.

Sam kicked the fallen chair again. He could leave. He could give Dean a taste of his own medicine and let him be the one standing in an empty motel room, not knowing where Sam was.

Only, Sam had done that before. Too often already and Dean, pissed as he was at Sam’s decision earlier to face Lilith, had still managed to stop himself from walking out on Sam. Had managed to swallow his anger and stick around to protect Sam.

Sighing, Sam dropped down to sit on his unmade bed, running a hand through his disheveled hair in frustration.

Maybe it is for the best that Dean is spending some time cooling off somewhere. The way things have been between them lately, in between Dean’s guilt and Hell-memories and Sam’s needs for demon blood and Lilith’s head still attached to her black-smoky ass, it’s best that they cool off in separate locations, or else they might actually come to regret being together.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Alexa parked the Impala inside the garage and turned off the engine. Taking a moment, she tenderly caressed the steering wheel like it was a long lost friend; she took a deep breath, relishing in the moment as she came to realize that she had just driven Dean’s car, that everything was going exactly as she had planned.

The smell of old leather and something stale inside the car, something that breathes lived-in, was not something that the books ever mentioned. Nor did it say anything about the broken spring beneath her right leg that probably wouldn’t bother Dean’s longer legs but was making hers throb painfully.

Still, this was the Impala, the one thing that had been constant in the brothers' troubled lives, the one thing whose reconstruction had helped the most in bringing Dean back to life after their father’s death. And she was holding the key in her hand.

The Impala and Dean were almost the same entity. Reliable, strong and beautiful.

Finally moving to get outside, Alexa closed the door and crossed in front of the classic car's still-warm hood to open the door on the passenger’s side. Dean was slumped against it, eyes not quite closed in sleep but not really aware of what was going on. The loss of the door's support and the following sensation of falling in to emptiness were not even enough to rouse him.

Stealing a wheelchair from the local hospital had been too easy. All Alexa had needed to do was wait for a patient to be released, run to the newly vacated chair and say that she needed it for an incoming patient. Now, popping it open, Alexa maneuvered the wheelchair closer to the door and pulled on the brakes.

Dean offered no protest. Reaching in, she easily slid his slumping frame from the car and in to the chair, straightening Dean's head back to lean against her stomach when it fell down on to his chest.

The room was already prepared.

Alexa had decided on leaving the bed without real sheets. She knew that Dean would not be happy when he realized what she had done; she knew that it would take a while for him to understand that she was there to help him. In the mean time, that meant an unpredictable amount of time during which she could not afford to change the bed sheets, or release Dean from the bed for him to use the bathroom or take a shower.

Alexa trusted Dean’s common sense and knew that eventually he would see her point. However, until such time came, a plastic cover on the mattress would have to do and the restraints on his arms and legs were unfortunate, but necessary.

Before transferring Dean to the bed, she took time to fluff the pillow; the scent, so reminiscent of her childhood, wafted about the room, filling her senses and Alexa smiled. The pillowcase had been washed recently and smelled of the fabric softener that her mother used when she was little.

Dean would like that. Maybe Mary even used the same softener when he was younger. The books hadn’t mentioned that either.

Now that she had time and quietness all for herself, Alexa stood back, embracing every nuance, her eyes gently roving over his slumbering form, memorizing, cataloging, comparing. There were so many differences from the books, so many details that were never even mentioned.

Like Dean's fingers. Long, almost delicate, like those of a musician, with the same freckles that sprinkled playfully over his face, peppering over each slender digit. Or the hair, how it changed from predominantly dark blond on his head into a golden hue on his chin and forearms. Or even the shadows cast by his long eyelashes, magnifying their length to appear almost twice as big.

The smell was never mentioned either, some sort of cologne, because she could smell something faint and sweet and distinctly male when she neared him. She could also smell the leather of the car on him, even long after they had left the car behind, like it was part of his skin.

Attempting to make him as comfortable as possible, she removed Dean’s jacket, belt and boots. Judging by the contented sounds he was making, Alexa figured that it was working.

Dean’s right sock had a hole in it.

Alexa tried to ignore that fact as she busied herself wrapping Dean’s wrists and ankles with a thick cloth before tying the rope over them.

Dean should not have tattered socks. It didn’t fit him. Dean was a hero, and heroes shouldn’t be walking around with their big toe sticking out like that.

Satisfied that he was well secured to the bed, Alexa left the room in search for a solution to her new problem. Dean needed new socks.

0o0o0o0o0o00o0

On the scale of bitch hangovers, this has got to be the worst Dean can remember. Even before opening his eyes, he can feel the thumpthumpthump of his heart beating the shit out of his head and the disgusting dry paper feeling in his tongue.

Dean buried his head deeper in to the soft pillow he could feel underneath. It smelled nice, not at all like the industrial detergents he'd grown accustomed to from the variety of motels he'd stayed in throughout his life. No, this smelled of flowers and sunshine.

Definitely a chick’s house. Dean didn’t remember hooking up with anyone recently, but given the state of his brain, he figured that it would be a feat to even remember which way was up and which way was down.

Dean figured he’d better remember the gal’s name before he opened his eyes, or else he would be in trouble. He'd made that mistake once, one time only... it hadn't been pretty.

He was semi-lying on something soft, a bed Dean hoped, but for the life of him, could not force his arms to move. They felt like they were made of lead, heavy and sore by his sides.

Dean decided to pop on eye open, carefully. A lone scout to make sense of the barren land of his recollections.

When the world swam into view Dean was not the least bit surprised that the soft yellow painted walls and brown drapes were not at all familiar to him. He had obviously followed this woman to her house and this was probably her bedroom. He couldn’t feel the familiar shape of a female body pressed against his, so she had probably let him sleep in.

More surprising than waking up alone in a stranger’s bedroom, was the fact that he still had most of his clothes on. Had he been so drunk that he had passed out before showing this woman a good time? God… he hoped not. That would be too lame.

It took the beginnings of a cramp, that he could feel starting to build up in his right leg, for Dean to realized that something was very, very wrong with this picture. Attempting to shift the limb in question in to a more comfortable position, Dean realized that his movements were restricted, allowing him no more than a few inches of lift. Bounded.

That was way kinkier than what he usually went for.

Raising his pounding head as far as he could bear without white spots of light stabbing his eyes, Dean looked down and confirmed what he had feared. Both his ankles and his wrists were strapped to the bed frame. “T’fuck?!”

Dean tested the strength of the restraints but it was no use. The ropes were tied tightly to someplace underneath him, in the bed frame; the knots at his wrists far enough that his fingers couldn’t reach them.

Dean looked around again, eyes adjusting to the tiny lines of light coming from three narrow slits in the closed window blinds to see the closed door and the barren room. There was a small table and a chair near the window, his jacket and belt carefully laid over the chair.

Dean raised his head again, satisfied that the pain and dizziness of the earlier attempt were wearing off. With a clearer head he was able to see the mattress he was lying on was covered with some kind of plastic sheet cover thing and at the foot of the bed there was something bright green that he couldn't quite make out.

Narrowing his eyes and trying to focus better in the poor light, Dean realized that the green thing was not by his feet… it was his feet. His green-socked feet. “T’fuck?!” he said again, louder this time around.

Somehow, the notion that someone had removed his socks and decided to redress him without his being aware or expressed consent, graded more on Dean’s nerves than the fact that he was trapped.

Because trapped he could handle; trapped meant that someone wanted something, meant that he had some sort of control. Someone taking something from him and then redressing him, in Dean’s world, was just too friggin' disturbing.

The sound of the lock turning in the door wrenched his attention away from the green socks.

Dean had more than his fair share, an unfortunately long share, of previous experiences in being caught by less than friendly entities and waking tied up.

Dean wondered what would come through that door this time around.

Seemed like shady creatures, of the natural and the supernatural kind, had some sort of bondage kink thing going on with him and Dean did not find that one bit entertaining or pleasant.

There were your regular monsters, that wanted to just stow him away for a latter snack, like that wendigo creep in Colorado, or the old couple of buckets-of-crazy pagan gods in Nebraska or even that painted son of bitch Djinn in Illinois.

Shapeshifters were simply a pain in the ass. In between the one from St. Louis, who had dragged him in to the sewers and used Dean’s face to commit all the crimes that he wanted; and the crazy bastard in Pennsylvania, who thought it was funny to dress Dean in lederhosen –something that Sam still laughed at whenever the words shorts, shape or shift came anywhere near their conversations- Dean really, really hoped that this wasn’t the work of yet another skin shedding bastard.

No, if Dean was to bet on anything, his bet was on either humans, because from those he had learned the hard way to just expect the worst, given his wonderful experiences with the Benders creepy-cannibal-stinkers family, and the motherfucking refugees of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village with their motherfucking fertility sacrifices or even from the psycho hunter extraordinaire Gordon, with his half-assed plans to kill Sam. Or just plain demons.

The ceiling light turned on and Dean was forced to close his eyes to protect them from the harsh brightness.

“You’re awake,” a perky female voice announced. “How’re you feeling, Dean?”

Dean looked at the small woman who had entered the room. Short, curly brown locks framed a sullen face with fleshy lips and cat-like eyes. He’d never seen her before, Dean was pretty sure of that, because although she wasn’t what might be called a looker, she certainly would’ve caught his attention.

He watched her wearily as she neared the bed, not bothering to answer. As soon as she was near enough for Dean to see the dark shade of green of her eyes, he spat out a heartfelt 'Christo!' and waited for the result. No black.

“I’m not a demon, Dean,” she said slightly amused, apparently by the fact that he had felt the need to check. “Or a shapeshifter, or a ghoul or any of those other creatures that can mime human beings,” she assured him as her hand reached up to smooth his hair away.

Dean flinched back, sinking deeper in to the fluffy pillow. The woman noticed his reaction and drew her hand back, looking disappointed.

“You a hunter?”

Because in this life there were only two types of people who knew that much about the things that went bump in the night; the things that went bump in the night and the ones who hunted them.

“No Dean, I’m not a hunter,” she said with a determined look in her face. “I’m a fan.”

Dean’s eyes turned in to thin slits in his face. “A fan?” He asked carefully, “A fan of what?”

The woman got up from the bed and moved to the window, pulling up the blinds to allow the sunlight to bathe the small room. Piled on the small table was a stack of black-cover books that looked strangely familiar.

Chuck’s books.

“I’ve read everything there was to read about you and your brother, Dean. I know how Mary, your mother, died, I know about the way your father, John, trained you both. I know about Jessica, and the yellow-eyed demon, and Sam’s death… your deal…”

Dean swallowed the bile flooding the back of his mouth. He was gonna kill Chuck. Just as soon as he got out of here. “I have no idea what you're talking about, lady,” Dean said straight-faced.

The woman by the window just smiled, like she knew he was going to say that. It was down right annoying. "You can call me Alexa."

“Look… Alexa,” Dean said, a theatrical long blink and a deep breath buying him the time he needed to come up with a believable story for the crazy woman. When he opened his eyes again, his mind went back two weeks ago, when Zachariah had created an illusion of a life that was as far from the Winchester life-style as Dean could possibly conceive. “Who ever you think I am, you got it wrong. My name is Dean Smith; I’m a sales director in a company called Sandover, Bridge & Iron. My father’s name is Bob, not John, my mother’s name is Ellen, not Mary, and she owns a bar in Wichita. I don’t have a brother, I have a kid sister named Jo and I know absolutely nothing about demons, yellow or pink!”

Dean tried to judge how much of this the woman was buying. The fact that she was sitting against the sunlight coming from the window, making her little more than a painful silhouette to him, was not helping his case.

“And the car I have parked in my garage with the trunk full of weapons," Alexa challenged. "Is that part of your sales’ pitch?”

Dean ground his teeth, not so much because of the hole in his story but more because of the fact that she had dared to mess with his baby. “They’re props,” he told her. “Plastic and fiber glass replicas… it’s an awesome presentation! So awesome that they’re paying me to go across country and show it in all the other branches.”

The woman crossed her arms and tilted her head, like she was literally trying to see him from a different angle.

"How did you managed to escape Hell, Dean?" She asked, point blank, in such a conversational tone that she might as well have been asking for directions to the nearest payphone.

"Wha... What?"

"Was it Sam?" She went on. "Did Sam make a deal of his own to get you out?" Each question built up the enthusiasm in her voice.

Dean shifted uncomfortably on the mattress, the plastic underneath him making weird squishy noises as he moved.

"I bet it was..." the woman said, leaving the window and nearing Dean. "You know I have a little sister as well?" Her voice seemed to grow more excited. "Her name's Mary and she's studying to be a lawyer, just like Sam was... she would do anything for me too, you know?"

Dean didn't know. And, what was more important, Dean didn't want to know. His head was pounding with the after effects of alcohol and whatever else had been in his drink to cause the blank space in his memory that took him from the drinking at the bar to the here and now. Her chatty, loud voice wasn't helping matters.

"It's ok, Dean," she went on, one hand reaching out to caress his face. "You can tell me all about it. I just want to help you, give you a friendly shoulder... no matter how bad it was, no matter what they did to you down there, I'll make it all better for you."

"T'hell are you talking about?" Dean spluttered as soon as he could get his game face on. He knew that Chuck's books ended with him going to Hell. Chuck himself had told him that all the stuff that happened after had never been published, had never been shown to anyone. So, if Dean could convince her that it was impossible for him to be there if he had in fact been Hell-bound...

"Did you meet Ruby there?" She sat on the bed, next to his right side, her bent leg pressing against his knee. "Did she hurt you? What about Bela, was she there too? What's Hell like? Is it truly hot; all fire and brimstone and screaming souls and bloodthirsty demons?"

Dean pressed himself as far away from her as the ropes securing his wrists would allow, the bindings digging painfully in to his skin as he pushed for a slack of space that wasn't really there. "Look, lady... Alexa - I have no idea of what you're talking about, ok? Think about what you're saying... Hell? Never mind that there is no such place... Do I even look like someone who's been to Hell recently?"

The appraising, judging long look that she gave him was disturbing, at best. Dean tried hard to look as unbothered and unburdened as possible. Could she tell? Could people actually look at him now and see it? Did it show in his eyes, like he was some kind of concentration camp survivor?

"What's that in your arm?" She asked instead, apparently having forgotten his question.

Dean tried playing dumb, looking at his right arm where his grey short-sleeve shirt barely hid the nasty bruise that he must've gained before, when soccer-mom's car hit him. "Car accident...forgot to look both ways."

Alexa reached over to his left arm and raised the sleeve up, her eyes lighting up as the hand shaped burn revealed itself in all its raised, red glory. "Was that from a demon? Did they brand you?" She asked, her hand playing over the burn mark, trying to fit her smaller hand over the red handprint. "Does it hurt?

If Dean had a problem with being tied down and helpless in the hands of a stranger before, spending forty years in Hell hadn’t helped his trust issues in the slightest. Dean shrugged himself away from her touch, wanting nothing more than to have a free hand to grab her and tell to stop fucking touching him.

“Demons..." he spat instead, annoyance showing in his tone. With an effort, he regained control. "Look, like I told you before, my name is Dean Smith and as soon as folks in the Toledo office notice I'm not at my presentation, they'll call the police and you'll be in a world of trouble... so, why don't you just let me go and I promise you that I won't tell anyone… you obviously need help and I-”

The woman's face changed like a storm cloud had just descended on her, turning her eyes in to lightning and her voice in to thunder. Dean felt like kicking himself. He’d committed the cardinal sin: never call a crazy person crazy.

He tried not to flinch when she reached for the front of his shirt and yanked the collar down. The gesture didn’t stopped her from ripping the fabric, the other side of the collar biting in to his neck.

“I’m crazy, I know that…" she leaned in close, sparing a quick glance at his exposed skin, her eyes triumphant and dangerous, "but I also know exactly who you are, same as I know that that," she poked the inked artwork on his chest, "is an anti-possession charm that Bobby found and that both you and Sam tattooed it to your chests as protection after Sam was taken by Meg and tried to kill you!”

Dean swallowed the foul aftertaste of having his life explained to him like that. After having denied all knowledge of the matter, there really wasn’t much that Dean could say. He couldn't even pull the same shit he and Sam had pulled with Chuck's editor and claim that he had the tattoo because he was a fan too. So he said nothing at all.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Dean's still refusing to talk as Alexa goes back in to the kitchen to get him some food. She had expected some kind of play on his part, some kind of con to get away from there and back to Sam.

Alexa had been expecting that, even if it still annoys her the way Dean just assumes that she's dumb enough to fall for his lies. They weren't even good lies.

There's a story behind that burn mark on his shoulder, one that was never mentioned in the books, and Alexa plans to find it out. But first, Dean needs to eat.

She knows from the books that he likes his food greasy and salty, but Alexa figures that that’s only because he and Sam are always eating in those ratty, roadside places and, given the chance, Dean would appreciate a nice, home-cooked meal.

She doesn’t cook much, but the waffles dipped in syrup and the black coffee are easy enough and she knows that they will be welcomed.

When she returns to the room, Alexa finds Dean all twisted in the bed, somehow trying to reach the rope knots with his teeth. The distance is too far, she knows that, but still the surprise at how soon Dean tries to escape startles her.

The clatter of dish and cup in to the floor alerts Dean to her presence and he looks up. The angry look on his face makes him look older, feral. Not at all like the Dean she knows from the books.

“That won’t work, you know?” She says after taking a quiet breath. The coffee and waffles had made a mess on the floor and for an instant Alexa could almost swear that she heard one of the nurses, angry that she'd wasted the food. But there are no nurses around now and, either way, the mess was Dean’s fault, not hers.

“What won’t work?” Dean asks innocently, his mouth drawn in to a smirk but his eyes allowing for all the anger to escape freely.

“I made you breakfast.”

Alexa can feel Dean’s eyes on her back as she bent down to pick up the mostly intact waffles and wipes a bit of hair and dust from the syrup before putting it back on the plate. There’s nothing she can do about the coffee but go get anther cup.

“I told you… I'm not who you think I am! I'm just a sales director, on my way to do a presentation,” Dean tries again, using the same arguments he had before. “I don’t know what crazy axe you have to grind with that guy, but I ain’t it.”

Alexa takes a seat by his side, on the bed, noticing once again the way he flinches from her contact. She would have to read the books again to be sure, but she could swear that Dean didn’t use to be like this. Could it be his Hell experience that had turned him this skittish of human contact?

Alexa could only imagine the horrors Dean had gone through in there, the things that those revengeful demons must’ve put the hunter through. She couldn’t wait for him to tell her everything about it.

But first, breakfast.

“I made you waffles,” she announced, holding one of the broken pieces in her hand.

Dean looked at it disgusted. “I like mine gunk free, thanks.” The finality of his statement was punctuated by turning his head to face away from her.

Alexa was having none of that. She knew Dean liked to eat; in fact, from the way the books described him stuffing his face time and time again, she was slightly surprised to find out that the hunter wasn’t a mountain of a man, chubby and round around the edges. Dean was skinny and she wouldn’t allow him to starve himself to death while in her charge.

Placing the plate on the bedside table, Alexa reached for Dean’s nose and gripped it tight. Two furious green eyes focused on her face as Dean tried to break free from her hold. She knew he couldn’t, not with the remains of the drug in his system and not tied up like that.

After what felt like a too long period of time, Dean was finally forced to open his mouth to breath.

Wasting no time, Alexa shoves the piece of waffle inside his mouth, then she covers his lips, in a finality all her own.

O0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Sometime after lunchtime, Sam had graduated from annoyed as hell in to worried sick. Grabbing his cell to check for missed calls, Sam's stomach twisted when he saw that Dean hadn't even tried to reach him.

Swallowing any prideful thoughts of being the first to cave in, or even of playing the fool and be made to look like the needy younger brother while Dean was probably having some fun with a random skirt, Sam searched Dean's number and hit dial. The phone went straight to voice mail.

While it had become a sort of grim costume with their father's cell to always be answered by John's voicemail, Dean had never even bothered to record one. He had no use for it. Instead, a mechanical voice just spit out Dean's number and instructed the caller to leave a message after the bip tone.

For all the times that Dean had needed their father and had been met with nothing but a gruffly pre-recorded message, Dean always answered his phone. It was the one thing that he prided himself for being polar opposites from John. Because, if anything, Dean knew how much it hurt to need someone and not be able to rely on even the certainty of an answered phone call.

Sam didn't leave a message. The message here was very clear. Dean not answering his phone meant that he was in trouble and Sam had wasted precious time already.

0o0o0o0o0o0o

Alexa placed the empty dish on the kitchen counter, next to an open pill bottle and the faint white dust of the pills she's carefully grinded. Dean had eaten the whole thing, but in between what had been wasted on the spilled coffee and the waffles that Dean spat back, Alexa couldn't be sure just how much of the sedative was actually in him.

She should probably wait until the next day to actually try and talk to the hunter. He seemed angrier that she'd figured he would be, but given the time and willingness to listen to her reasoning, Alexa knew that he would come around.

The rest of her morning was spent entertaining herself by cleaning up the place, playing housewife to the first house that she'd ever owned in her adult life. The house wasn't all that big, with a long corridor that stated in a hall that also served as a living room and kitchen and on a bathroom. The two rooms in between were so small they might as well be closets, but still, in the whole, it was bigger and more colorful than her restrained world of sterile bedroom walls and barred window recreation room at the institute.

There were no bars at the windows here and the only sounds she heard were the joyful chirping of the birds that were nested in the trees outside. Sometimes the birds sounded too much like the quiet, nonsense voices of the other patients and Alexa had to close the window to stop them from reaching her.

The faint sound of snoring reached her from the bedroom and Alexa smiled. At least Dean was resting.

She tiptoed back in to the room, watching from the door the relaxed stance of the man sleeping on the bed. With his eyes closed and his face slack in peaceful repose, Dean looked more like the man that she'd pictured. She liked this far more than the angry, food spitting and loud swearing beast that had reared out its ugly head earlier.

Alexa didn't like it when Dean talked to her like that, but she figured that it was his coping mechanism, making him act like that. Soon, he would realize that she wanted only to help.

Reaching up, Alexa carefully wiped the sweat from Dean’s face, laying a hand on his forehead to check for a fever. The room was pleasantly warm but there was no reason for Dean to be flushed and damp like that. Maybe he was sick?

Following the trail of salty fluid down Dean’s neck, Alexa’s hand rested on the leather cord string hanging from Dean's neck. She pulled it out. In the books, the significant pendant had been described as a golden Egyptian-looking face with horns. The metal was darker looking than gold and its weight was less than it would've been expected from real gold. Felt more like brass or copper. Whichever the metal was, it felt hot from the contact with Dean's skin.

Alexa was about to carefully lay it on top of Dean's shirt when she took notice of the mess.

There were pieces of semi-chewed food all over Dean's grey t-shirt, failed missiles from his firing range every time she had taken her hand out of his mouth.

The vomit-like food looked disgusting and the smell of cold, coagulating syrup was turning Alexa's stomach. That mess had to be clean. As she was getting up to fetch some clean towels from the bathroom, a hand curled around her arm, restraining her with painful grip.

The surprised yelp that escaped Alexa's mouth was more from the unexpected move than the bruising touch. Dean's eyes were open, even if slightly unfocused, and his hands were free.

She had no idea how he'd managed to do that, but before she could figure, Dean's forehead was colliding with hers and everything went black.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Dean was having a really bad trip. Not that he’d had many in his life… well, there had been that one time with that chick from Orange County and the weird frizzly acid strip that he had tried because, lord! the things she had planned for them to do under the influence could not be ignored… but other than that, Dean’s experiences with drugs had been, mostly and sadly, of the medical kind.

This one felt like a mix between those two kinds. His body felt detached from him and vision was wonky, filled with weird colors and strange shapes, but he could remember where he was and what was happening.

Dean remembered the disgusting waffles and being force-fed. The crazy woman that was keeping him prisoner must’ve put something in them other than dust and syrup.

Sam would never let him hear the end of this one. Dean Winchester, Mankind’s final hope for the impending apocalypse… caught and trapped by a fan.

Chuck and his motherfucking full frontal prose. He was going to murder that annoying little man.

As soon as the woman went away, Dean started to work on his freedom. The whole room had the impersonal feeling of a rented house and the mattress he was laying in was an old thing that had probably come with the rest of the furniture in there. Contorting his right thumb, Dean slide the ring from his middle finger. The thing had been with him for more years than he could remember and the number of times he had used it to pull open countless beer bottles had roughed the inner edge of the silver ring.

Dean used it to cut through the plastic cover and the outer layer of the ratty mattress.

Forcing his mind to focus on the task at hand and not give in to the pull of the drugs in his system, Dean meticulously pulled one of the mattress’s strings out and started to work on the rope binding his right wrist. Ignoring the sweat stinging his eyes, Dean lost track of time as he slowly wore the rope thin enough for him to break it.

Fearful of the pull of the drugs in his body, Dean decided that the safest course of action was to lure the woman back in to the room and take care of her before testing the strength of his legs.

Making short work of the rest of the knots, Dean concentrated on fake-snoring, lure her in to a sense of security when she returned.

He was about to start snoring for real and lose his chance of escaping when the sound of the woman entering the room finally reached his ears.

Dean forced himself not to react as she fondled his face, his neck, when he felt her fingers playing with his necklace. Feigning sleep was something that he worked far too much at for these past months and the sad fact was that, because of Sam’s secrets and midnight walks, Dean had become frighteningly good at it.

Dean waited until he could no longer feel her touch, waited until the springs of the mattress announced that she was getting up, and sprang to action.

The head-butt was sloppy, at best, but it was enough to render the woman unconscious.

Jumping to his feet as soon as she was down was not the smartest thing that Dean could’ve done. The room made a crazy spin around him and the pretty colors that he’s been seeing so far, turned in to bright flashes of light that threatened to blind him completely.

Dean struggle on, hands stretched outward, trusting on the wall to both keep him up and to guide him out of there.

He didn’t have his boots on, he didn’t have his jacket or his cell phone, but he wasn’t thinking ahead enough to figure that he might need those. No, Dean’s focus was on finding a door and leaving.

The object of his desires morphed in to existence at the end of the corridor, to the right of the room that he’d just exited.

The distance seemed impossibly long, stretching and wobbling like a weird cinematographic camera trick.

Walking like a blind man… a very drunk blind man, Dean forced his numb body to move in that direction. He was almost at the door when he heard the shout.

"Dean!"

He had no idea why the hell he turned. He knew who had called him, he knew that there was absolutely nothing more that he wanted to hear from that woman's mouth, but still Dean turned. The reason why he had felt compelled to turn became clear immediately as he saw the gun in Alexa's hands. It had been the danger in her voice, the familiar twinge of menace that he could recognize any time, any place. "Alexa... wai-"

In the dark lit corridor, the flare of the gun going off looked almost like an explosion of light, gunpowder erupting in a orange ball of sound and power.

Inside his drug-addled mind, the idea of ducking didn't even crossed Dean's brain. Instead he just stood there, arm still raised, frozen in its pleading stance for reason. Reasonable behavior from the crazy woman...

The bullet took what seemed like an awfully long time to reach him, so long that Dean wondered if he'd finally gotten lucky and she had missed after all.

Then came the white, hot-blinding pain in his right shoulder and Dean looked down, surprised to realize that the bullet had hit home after all and that, from the amount of blood soaking up his shirt, it had been there for awhile.

Somehow that made little sense for him there, the intrinsic physics of light speed-versus sound speed-versus pain speed escaping him as quickly as the blood coming out from his shoulder.

When the floor rushed up to meet his face, Dean thought that that was, somehow, also very wrong, because at least the law of gravity he remembered well and the fact that the floor had fallen up instead of waiting for him to fall down, seemed not fair at all.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Chapter 3 by Ophium

Chapter 3

Alexa's head was throbbing like a persistent hammer and she was sweating like a pig. She hated that feel of sticky skin and ticklish drops running down her back; she hated that rancid smell of sweaty skin; she hated the way her hair glued to the back of her neck. And she hated that Dean had misbehave and forced all of those on her.

Dean was a heavy man to move around. That was never mentioned in the books either. In the book 'Faith', right after Dean electrocutes himself alongside the rawhead, the next chapter starts with him already in the hospital. There's no mention of how Sam got his brother away from that waterlogged basement and into the car, there's no details to let her know the easiest way to pick up a person that size or how to move an unconscious body from one side to the other.

The wheelchair is back at the garage and she didn't wanted to risk leaving Dean alone, even though she knows that he's out for real this time, not faking it like before.

That was another thing that the books never mention, but implied very clearly to anyone reading them with attention enough. Dean is a very resourceful man.

Alexa had read them with more attention than most, and still she had forgotten about that.

She would have to be extra careful now, or else she and Dean would never even get a chance to talk and all of her hard work would be for nothing.

When she had woken from his attack, the first thing that Alexa's eyes managed to focus on were the tattered remains of the hole that Dean had managed to drill in to the mattress, one single metal spring peeking out, like a worm on a apple. She should've known that Dean would find a way out of his bindings, no matter how good and tight she made them.

Dragging Dean's inert body all the way from the front door, back in to his room, had left her drained, exhausted. Before getting him back on the bed, Alexa made quick work of moving the mattress away before pulling Dean's upper body over, to lie on the wooden bed frame. She was taking no more chances with him.

Judging by the trail left behind, the shoulder wound was bleeding heavily, the evidence of it stretching in red all the way from the front door in to the bedroom. That would be a bitch to clean up.

Annoyed by the extra work, Alexa grabs one of Dean's feet from the floor and throws it on top of the bed frame, feeling slightly vindicated when the loud and painful impact of socked feet on hard wood made an unconscious Dean recoil. It was his own damn fault anyway. With a vindictive smirk, she gave the other foot the same treatment, finally setting Dean back on the bed.

If Dean hadn't attacked her and hadn't tried to escape without giving her a chance to explain her reasons, Alexa wouldn't have been forced to shoot him. Now, she was the one who had to clean up the mess he'd made -again- plus the fact that she would have to find a better way to restrain him, other than the rope from which he'd managed to escape so easily.

Treating the wounded shoulder that had resulted from all of that was just about the only thing remotely fun that she would have to deal with.

Remembering that she had Dean's Impala in the garage and knowing that the brothers kept all sorts of useful things in that trunk, Alexa figured that she could probably find a set or two of handcuffs in there too.

Determined, she tied Dean's unresponsive body back to the bed with the rest of the rope. There was no guarantees that, even hurt, he wouldn't try to escape and she didn't want to have to shoot him again.

Alexa would find the cuffs, secure Dean properly this time around and then she was going to have a long, hot bath. She deserved one.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Sam really needed to find a more recent or, at least, a more decent picture of Dean. The only photo he'd found on his cell and had been able to print was one that he'd taken maybe some three years ago, and Dean had lost a bet then.

It was hard to convince people that his brother really was missing and that this was a serious matter, when the missing person in the photo had a pair of socks hanging from his ears and a ‘puppy-dog’ expression in his eyes. The smirks and sniggers that Sam had gotten after showing the picture a couple of times were certainly evidence enough of that.

Sam had started by the bars. He knew that Dean’s ‘going out’ usually translated in to beer, pool, good music and possibly some female company.

It sucked to do it on foot, but with five bars in the same town, all within walking distance of one another, Sam couldn’t just steal a car and drive around in it. It was far too risky.

The first two had been closed the previous night, one being remodeled, the other the staff -all two of them, Sam had been told- had taken the day off. Sam struck pay-dirt when he reached the third one.

“Nice puppy…” the heavily tattooed bartender commented with a smirk, his hands busy around a washcloth and a glass. There was a faint Scottish accent in his voice. "He yours?”

“He’s my brother..." Sam corrected, his face a mask of concern and worry. "He’s missing.”

"Oh." The bartender’s grin vanished quickly after that. “Sorry, man… didn’t know that.”

“Were you working last night? Did you see him here?”

Setting the glass and the washcloth on counter, the bartender picked up the photo that Sam had placed on the bar. This time, he gave it a closer look, his gaze moving past the floppy sock-ears and the goofy expression of the picture's subject. Suddenly his face lit up in recognition. “Ah! It’s the hero guy.”

Sam managed to stop his eyes from rolling. Typical Dean. “Hero guy?”

“Yeah… some douche-bag was harassing this hot lass that was sitting right there where you are,” the bartender gestured to Sam’s barstool. “Too drunk and too stupid to understand 'no', that guy was. Then puppy here… sorry -your brother- sent'im packing without even landing a single punch. Man! T'was a thing of beauty!”

“And after that?”

The look in the bartender’s eyes was all the reply that Sam needed. It was pretty obvious what had happened next. This was Dean they were talking about, after all.

“They left together… the lass was practically carrying your brother out.”

“Wait -He was drunk?” Sam asked, more than a bit surprised. It wasn’t like Dean to hook up when he was too hammered. Or to drive in those conditions. Why hadn’t he just called Sam? Or maybe the woman had offered him a ride? But, even if this woman had drove Dean to someplace else, why wasn't the Impala parked outside?

“Drunk? Kid, that lad was pissed beyond recognition of a straight line… if I'd known he was such a lightweight, I would’ve cut him off sooner.”

Sam ran a hand through his hair. Demons and angels were out to catch their sorry asses and Dean gets himself plastered like that? That didn’t sound like him at all, much less not this new, more pragmatic and wise post-Hell version of Dean.

Doing a mental shake on the weirdness of the fact that Dean even had a post-Hell version, Sam backed up and rewound the bartender's words.

A lightweight? Dean? “How much did he drink?”

“Two beers… a couple of shots too, I think.”

Sam tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. That was no where near what he’s seen Dean drink before, even to get tipsy, never mind unable to walk out by himself. Someone must have slipped something to hurry Dean’s ‘drunkenness’ and Sam had a pretty good idea of whom. “The hot chick… she a regular?”

The bartender shook his head. “Nah… never seen her here before. Said she was waiting for someone… looked like she'd been stood up," he said, smiling lecherously before adding "and decided to hand over the prize ticket to your brother.”

Sam could not join the bartender in his victory smile for the whole of the male-kind. There was nothing prize worthy or good about this whole scenario. Whoever that mysterious woman was, she had Dean and, odds were, Dean was not having a good time.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

“’Jo continued down the boardwalk, swinging her flashlight from side to side, searching. Punching the redial button, she tried Dean's cell once more. The Impala was long gone, but the rust-bucket on wheels in which Dean had arrived in, was still in the bar's parking lot.

The sound of water slapping against the wooden dock poles was all she could hear at first. Then, softly, the faint sounds of rock music drifted on the night’s wind and Jo froze, hope surging in her heart. The music was close, very close and growing louder with each step and then...

The beam of her flashlight caught on the crumpled figure below, lying half in and half out of the cold, murky water.

The heels of her shoes thudded loudly on the planked boat ramp as she dropped to where Dean lay. Grasping his right shoulder, Jo turned him over, overjoyed by the fact that, already, he was coming around.

-Dean,- she breathed out his name as a prayer, sighing in relief.

Dean's pain-filled gaze focused on her face as he grunted and clenched his left shoulder. Even in the faint light, Jo could see the blood, darker than water, soaking up his shirt. Sam had shot him!

For months, Jo had dreamed of her reunion with Dean, and now that she'd met him again, Sam could've killed him while she was just around the corner, doing nothing.

Suppressing the chill that traveled up her spine at the enormity of the 'what ifs', Jo took his uninjured arm and pulled him up, wincing in sympathy as he bit his lips in pain. She barely managed to shoulder his weight as Dean, unsteadily keeping his balance, wobbled up the planks.

Jo’s first aid kit wasn’t supposed to be enough to handle gunshot wounds, but it would have to do. She didn’t wait for Dean to take another swig from the whiskey bottle that she'd lifted from behind the counter, before plunging the tweezers inside his shoulder. Dean's disapproving epithets filled the closed bar.

-Stop being such a baby,- Jo admonished with no bite, knowing how much that had to hurt. The tweezers finally grabbed the foreign object and she pulled it out from his torn flesh. Jo masked her relief as she dropped the ruined bullet into the alcohol-filled glass, watching as it reached the bottom with a clink. The bloody helix trail left behind made her swallow at just how close Dean'd come to bite it. A few inches down and he would've...

Grabbing up the rest of her medical supplies, Jo shook her head to clear those thoughts away, to hide her relief. Glad as she was to see him, there was no way in hell she'd let him see how much she cared; Dean Winchester wasn't the 'stick around' kind of guy anyway.

Dean swore and took another gulp, watching her with fuming eyes as she applied a piece of gauze and tapped it in place…’

Alexa put the book down and looked at the unconscious man. She didn’t have whiskey in the house, but she had found the first aid kit in the Impala, along with the metal cuffs that now secured Dean’s arms and legs to the bed.

Looking at the material that she had gathered on the nightstand, Alexa figured that she was as ready as she would ever be. Picking up the scissors, she cut through Dean's right sleeve up to the neckline.

The rusty-coppery smell that had slowly taken over the whole bedroom was now strong enough to burn her eyes like acid and when she lifted the remains of is soggy shirt to see underneath, Alexa almost gagged. The grey cotton materiel of the shirt clung to her fingers like glue, blood making her fingers slippery and sticky at the same time.

Alexa had never seen a gunshot wound before, but she hadn't imagined them as ugly as this. The skin around the entry wound was red and puffy, rising like the crater of a volcano around the black edged hole. The wound itself was hard to see, pooled as it was with dark blood, the red looking almost black in the weak light coming from the ceiling bulb.

The contrast with the dark-red smudges made the rest of Dean's skin look pasty white, rubbery to the touch, clammy and cold. It was disgusting to touch it and it wasn't attractive at all. It made Alexa want to hurry up and fix it.

Grabbing the plastic bottle marked as antiseptic, Alexa poured it directly on the puckered hole. She wasn't expecting the howl of pain or the way Dean's body arched up from the bed, his back clear off the frame.

Just as quickly as he had sprung upward, Dean's body slumped back on the bed, all strength spent. The pooled blood dissolved and started running down Dean's chest, on to the bed's wood boards and over to the floor.

"Take it easy, Dean... I'll make you all better," she said in a quiet, comforting voice, her bloody fingers leaving dark smudges against Dean's forehead and hair as she petted him down.

"Whe… what?..." Dean's eyes searched the room. He seemed to be looking for something. Or someone. When they finally landed on her, Alexa could see the momentary flash of recognition in his eyes, she could hear the hitch in his breathing. "Get away from me," Dean whispered, his respiration changing in to faster, out of control gasps.

"I'm here to help you," Alexa said, picking up the sterilized gauze and pushing it against the bleeding hole. It was supposed to have dried by now, but blood kept making it dirty all over again.

Squirming under her touch, Dean clenched his jaw, teeth grinding, his hands turning in to fists where they lay cuffed beside him. "STOP!... Just- stop touching me," he hissed, barely opening his mouth to talk.

Alexa knew how bad of a patient Dean was. In the books, Dean didn't get sick all that much, but when he did, it was bad and he could be annoying as hell about it.

In 'Faith', every try on Sam's part to make him more comfortable or to help Dean on their way to LaGrange's tent had been met with grumpiness and shrugs. Dean didn't seemed to like being touch when he was feeling sick, and that was a sentiment that she could easily relate to.

She couldn't, however, leave that gunshot wound untreated. It was making everything dirty and smelly.

Alexa picked up the long, metal tweezers that had been wrapped in sterile paper in the boys’ medical kit. She imagined Sam using those to pull a bullet from his own chest in 'Mystery Spot'. All those months, trapped in the Trickster’s manipulation, when he had been forced to believe Dean was dead and Sam had hunted all alone, with no one to watch his back or patch him up... mourning his lost brother.

Dean's eyes looked huge on his face, like one of those Japanese cartoon characters on TV, when he saw what she had in her hand. "Wha... what do you think you're doing with that?"

Not really sure how she would find the bullet in that black hole of a wound, Alexa got on her knees on the bed beside Dean, one hand pressing his shoulder down so that he wouldn’t bulk away again, while the other pushed the tweezers in.

Dean’s entire body tensed beneath her touch the second the metal probe breached the damaged tissue, his head banging against the wooden frame of the bed in a pace that had started slow but was steadily growing faster and faster. The metal chains from the cuffs danced on the wood, alternating between tensing up and pooling down, like waves, grating against the bed.

The noise that escaped his throat wasn’t exactly a scream, but something more raw, much more thick than a sound. It was like pain had become solid matter and was pushing its way out of Dean, crushing him as it exit.

Alexa concentrated on her task instead. It was a strange feeling, that of probing inside a living thing, a pulsing matter. The muscle around the entry wound offered resistance to the tweezers passage, closing around them like a hungry mouth, blood gushing out like mashed strawberries. She pushed onwards, surprised at how deep the muscle went.

When Alexa was starting to wonder if perhaps she’s punched a hole in through the wrong place, the tip of the tweezers hit something harder than flesh.

Dean’s eyes, which he'd closed shut at some point, sprung open. Two tiny black dots in a sea of green surrounded by angry-looking reddish spider webs. “Please… stop,” he pleaded honestly, the tip of his tongue dragging lazily over his dry lips. “You have no idea what you’re doing… just leave me alone.”

Alexa ignored him. She wasn’t going to quit now that she could already feel the bullet. Opening the tweezers and fighting against the resistance and suction of flesh and blood, Alexa groped around blindly, hoping to grab something –anything- between the metal prongs.

With a satisfied sighed, she felt something catch between them and pulled it out.

It was too heavily covered in reddish gunk for her to be sure, but it didn’t look much like a bullet.

Dean’s scream was loud enough to rattle the window’s glass.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

The first thing that had crossed Sam’s mind, as soon as he realized that a woman was responsible for Dean’s disappearance, was that Lilith had decided to go after Dean and offer him the same deal that she’d offered Sam. Dean's track record with demon-deals was a terrible one.

Sam was frantic with barely contained panic, remembering the look on Dean’s face when he had mentioned that particular demonic offer. Their lives, in exchange for a safe world.

Seemed like a good offer, even Sam had to concede that, but it was the fine print that raised the hair on the back of Sam's neck: the fact that they'd be gone, dead, and Lilith would still be around. Even if demon actually kept her word -and that was a HUGE if- where the 66 seals were concerned, odds were pretty good that she'd find some other way to send everything to hell. Literally.

And they would still be dead.

Sam bit his nail, eyeing his cell phone once more. If Lilith was indeed involved in Dean's disappearance, then surely Ruby would've said something, give him some kind of warning. Then again, Lilith had come for him less than a week ago, and had it not been for Chuck’s warning, they would’ve been caught with their pants down.

If Ruby had done her job, if Sam had had the chance to... charge up... before his confrontation with Lilith- all could’ve been over by now.

But all the calls that he’d made to Ruby had gone unanswered. Wherever Dean was, Sam had to find him on his own because Ruby was ignoring him. And after all the melodrama she had pulled the last time that Sam had asked for her help in finding Dean, Sam want to believe that perhaps her silence was due to something preventing her from answering, rather than the fact that she simply didn’t want to help Dean.

Sam cleaned the sweat from his brow as he typed furiously on his laptop. The bar where Dean had last been seen didn’t have any security cameras but the 7-Eleven in front did.

Hacking in to the mainframe of the central offices and accessing the Peru’s store outside-security cameras wasn’t exactly breaking in to the Pentagon’s vault. A few key commands and Sam had full control of the system.

The Impala was an easy car to spot. Sam didn’t have much trouble finding footage of his brother arriving at five thirty-five. Two hours after that he was being supported out by a short, blonde woman. The two blurry figures stopped near Dean’s car and the woman reached in to his jacket pockets and then his jeans, finally producing what Sam imagined to be the car keys. She got Dean in the car and the two drove off, heading south.

Changing camera angles, Sam went back to the time that he’d spotted that particular blonde going in to the bar, trying to figure from where she’d come from. He didn’t have to look far.

Five minutes after Dean went in, she exited a dark colored, old Honda Civic that was parked in the corner of the supermarket.

Working on a hunch, Sam ran from the room and went straight for the bar. The fifteen-minute walk seemed endless but Sam forced himself not to run all the way there. He needed to keep his cool and think this through. Arriving there out-of-breath and half-cocked would do Dean no favors.

But he’d seen the strange woman get in to Dean’s car and drive away. Which meant that…

Sam sighed in relief when the supermarket came in to view. The woman’s car was still there, right where she’d left it the day before.

0o0o0o0o0o0

Alexa was happy. She turned the mashed up piece of metal that she had pulled from Dean’s shoulder and held it against the light. It looked like a tiny mushroom.

After the first two failed attempts that had produce broken pieces of bone, or at least she figure them to be bone, Alexa had found the bullet she’d been searching for, half buried in Dean’s collarbone.

She had turned to share her victory with the hunter but Dean was out like a light.

Carefully cleaning up the bullet hole, that she had ended up making wider for better access, with the rest of the alcohol, Alexa tapped clean gauze on top of it, an accomplished smile on her face.

She had to change the gauze six more times, because it kept soaking right through with blood and some clear fluid that oozed from the wound. She’d finally given up and stuffed the gauze inside the hole before tapping it shut.

Dean was sweating a lot, his mouth occasionally opening like he was going to say something, but other than running his tongue over his bottom lip, he didn’t speak or wake up.

After cleaning up the mess that Dean’s bleeding shoulder had made on the room and of himself, Alexa sat back and admire her handy work, twirling the extracted bullet in her fingers.

This wasn’t the first time that she’d played the doctor’s part. Back when she was a small kid, she and her sister had a brown beagle named Slice. One day, when their parents were out, Slice got in to a fight with another dog and lost, badly.

One of the bites had been so deep that the poor dog's thigh muscle was barely hanging by a thread. She and Mary had decided that it was up to them to save Slice so, using one of Dad's razors, they' d shaved all the fur from the animal's leg, cleaned up the wound real nice and used one of mom’s sewing needles to stitch him up.

Slice died all the same, but he lasted two whole days more because of her and her sister.

If Dean’s wound wouldn’t stop bleeding soon, she might have to stitch him up too. But Alexa had read the books; she knew how fast Dean healed.

By tomorrow he should be better again, a little sore, but she knew how stoic Dean could be. He would bear the injury, the pain and make a quick recovery. After all, it was just a shoulder hit.

Taking advantage of the empty mattress on the floor, Alexa settled down for the night, mangled bullet held tight in her hand and close to her heart.

0o0o0o0o0oo0

Dean groaned in to existence, his heart racing before he could even understand why. The impending sense of not-safe and unfamiliar surroundings soaked through Dean's senses, warning him that something was wrong even before his brain was coherent enough to make that connection yet.

Things weren’t all that clear and logical inside is head; he remembered his drugged, failed escape down the corridor, he remembered being shot by the lunatic that was keeping him prisoner and then… Oh God! Her clumsy attempts to remove the damn bullet she’d put in his shoulder... he could still feel the touch of metal scrapping against bone-

Bile rose in Dean’s mouth, the phantom pain and the memory of that particular event making his stomach roll. The feeling of the tweezers moving inside him, pushing and tearing at already brutalized muscles... Dean turned his head to the side and upchucked the lining of his empty stomach, or so it seemed. Given the way it hurt and burned his throat, leaving a bloody aftertaste in his mouth, he had his doubts that it wasn’t.

Other details, however, weren’t as clear. Like if she'd actually managed to take the bullet out or if she had just given up on torturing him. He didn’t really care which one was, just as long as she never tried to do that again.

Dean tried to take stock of his condition, the best he could from his restrained position. His collarbone was definitely broken, the evidence clear judging from the swollen flesh and the stab-like pain each time he tried to breathe. And the heat he could feel rising in waves from his body, making in his eyes burn and giving everything a dream like aspect... that could mean only one thing. However bad he was now, though, Dean knew that he was only bound to get worse.

This woman, whoever she was, had no idea of the damage that her gunshot had caused or how to treat a bullet wound. At least that author guy from ‘Misery’ had the decency to have been kidnapped by an actual nurse, who at least knew a thing or two about medical treatment…

“How’re you feeling?”

Dean jolted awake, unsure of when his eyes had drifted shut. He felt like he was burning from the inside out.

The woman was leaning over him, wet cloth wiping the sweat from his face and the spit from his lips. It felt disturbingly good and Dean couldn’t help but to lean in to the cooling touch.

“You’re killing me,” he murmured.

Dean wanted to be sarcastic, wanted to curse and swear at her, wanted to punch her face in to sanity, but in the end the only thing that came to his mind was the fact that he was feeling horribly sick and she was the only one who could do something about it.

No… not the only one. Sam could save him, Sam had saved him before, Sam had his back.

Sam wasn’t there; he knew that, he could feel that. Sam was safe back at the motel where Dean had left him and would eventually come searching for him. If Lilith didn't came around, waggling her demonic tail in front of him...

Castiel could save him… Castiel would know that something was wrong and come to help him, wouldn’t he? “Cas?”

“You’re not dying, Dean, you’re just confused,” the woman answered instead, her gentle touch lulling him back to sleep. “I’m not Cas, but I’ll take good care of you, better than she did, don’t you worry.”

The pull of sleep was too strong to resist. Not even the feeling of intrusion that filled him up when the stranger’s fingers started to comb through his hair, or the sense that he was in danger and should not let his guard down near the enemy, none of them were enough to keep Dean awake.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Dean was burning up. Alexa figured it had something to do with the way the skin around the bullet wound was all red and puffy.

He no longer seemed to know where he was or who she was, mistaking her for Cassie, his former lover from ‘Route 666’. A blush crept up Alexa’s neck and face as she remembered some passages from that book, her eyes wandering over Dean’s body, imagining how accurate the author’s descriptions actually were. That was one curiosity that she could easily quench.

Biting her lower lip, Alexa’s hand hovered near the button of Dean’s jeans. It would be so easy to take just one peek...

Alexa shook her head, forcing herself back to the bigger issue here, her hand picking up the wet cloth instead, the one that she’d been using to clean Dean’s face. She could satisfy her curiosity later.

Dean had made a mess of himself, smelly puke with bits and pieces of never digested waffles and spit dribbling all over his chin and neck.

In between the smelly wet stuff and the dry, stiff blood that had turned cotton in to hard cardboard, Dean’s shirt was useless and too dirty for rescue. Alexa swiftly cut through the remaining rags and threw them on the floor.

The rest of Dean’s torso was as flushed and sweaty as his face, the black ink of his tattoo glistening against the lamp’s light.

There were no scars.

Alexa looked closer, using one finger to wipe clean the beads of sweat away. There should be scars in there.

Two gunshot wounds in Dean’s left shoulder would’ve left a mark but the skin beneath her fingers was smooth and unmarred; there should be thin white lines of scar tissue across Dean’s stomach and his chest, from the yellow-eyed demon's torture in ‘Devil’s trap’, but the only lines she could see where the ridges and soft dips of Dean’s well defined muscles.

There were no scars at all but that strange hand print, burned in to his shoulder.

Whatever had happen to Dean in hell, whatever had brought him back to earth, must’ve purged him of all his scars, wiped the slate clean and taken away all the marks of the stories she read and knew. She needed to know how something like that could happen.

Alexa’s finger touched lightly on the raised flesh surrounding the bloody gauze. Her mark would now be one of the few that Dean would carry with him... she had a right to know how all the others had disappeared.

Dean had been right about one thing though; if she didn’t do something more to treat his shoulder, he wouldn’t be able to get better on his own. And if he died, Alexa could not fix him or get any of her answers.

Searching her brain for the two times Dean had been shot in the books, Alexa tried to remember if Jo or Nancy had done anything more than clean the wound and tape it together because, clearly, she was missing something.

In ‘Jus in Bello’ Nancy had simply tapped a gauze over Dean’s shoulder and he was off fighting an army of demons in the next chapter. In ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ Dean had gotten up from the table and left to search his possessed brother. Jo had just stood there, crushed by the knowledge that his promise of a call was empty and that he would never see her the same way she saw him and... The pill bottle! Jo had thrown a bottle of painkillers to Dean right before he left. That was it!

Alexa rummaged through the first aid kit, amazing herself with its detailed contents every time that she searched it. Dumping every thing on the floor near the mattress, Alexa found herself searching through what looked like, at least, half of the nurses’ station utensils and drugs.

She ignored the capped syringes labeled ‘morphine’ and ‘epinephrine’ and moved on to the different bottles. Couple of aspirin labeled ones, Nurofen, Rifampicin, Amoxicillin, Lidocaine. She had no use for any of those. Alexa grabbed the Tylenol bottle, read the label and smiled. This was exactly what Dean needed.

Squashing three pills with two more of her own medication, Alexa mixed the fine white powder in a glass of water and went back to Dean’s room.

He didn’t look all that good. His cheeks, neck and the top of his chest were all flushed bright red, but his lips looked sickly white, smaller and crusty.

Alexa looked from the glass cup in her hand and those parted, mumbling lips. Dean wouldn’t be able to drink the medicine on his own.

Grabbing one of the empty disposable syringes from the floor, Alexa opened its sterile packing and pulled the barrel up, filling the tube with the white-ish water from the cup.

Thrusting the no-needle opening in to Dean’s mouth, Alexa pressed the barrel back down and dumped the contents inside.

Dean gasped and choked and coughed, medicine dripping from his mouth in to his chin, trapped hands trying to reach up and get away even as his eyes remained shut. Eventually his reflexes took over and Alexa watched in fascination as Dean’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down, swallowing the drugs.

Alexa repeated the process until all the water was gone from the cup, satisfied that most of it had stayed inside. He would be fine now.

She looked outside, realizing that the sun hadn’t even come up.

Exhausted, Alexa lay down on the mattress, grabbing one of her books with every intention of reading for a little bit. Sleep claimed her before she could even reach the second page.

00o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Sam glanced around, making sure that no one was looking as he forced the door to the Honda open. The woman’s abandoned car had a bent out of shape front bumper, a busted taillight and three parking tickets stuck under the windshield wiper. No one would really give a damn if he broke the lock too.

Ducking into the car, Sam went to work. Popping the glove compartment open, he smiled as a small bundle of papers peered back at him. The car’s ownership and sales paperwork.

The old Honda had been bought for half a buck in an auction near Chuck’s town. Searching for the buyer’s name, Sam was taken aback when the name Gordon Walker stared back at him in bold, black letters.

The feeling of Gordon’s blood, running between his fingers as he squeezed tighter and tighter on the barbwire around the crazy-hunter-turned-vampire’s neck was as vivid now as it had been then.

The paper in Sam’s hands was shaking. This was impossible.

Gordon Walker had been dead for more than a year now. Taking a deep breath, Sam smoothed the wrinkles out of the pages in his hand and forced himself to read it properly. The name remained the same, mocking him.

The car had been sold only three weeks ago. And Gordon, no matter how much he hated Sam and would have no quarrels about using Dean to catch the younger brother –heck, he had used Dean before to catch Sam-, Gordon was missing a head and there was no coming back from that.

Sam rubbed his face. He was kidding himself, he knew that. Sam’s spinal cord had been cut in two, stabbed in the back by Jake. No coming back from that either, except that, here he was, alive and breathing; Dean had been shred in to pieces by a hellhound and spent four months decomposing in the ground. Definitely no coming back from that as well, except… well, he hoped that wherever he was, Dean was alive and breathing.

Still, his gut feeling told him that, despite the name on the purchase paper, the late Gordon had nothing to do with this.

For one, if Gordon had Dean, Sam would’ve heard from him by now and then... there was the woman. Gordon was too much of a control freak to let someone else do the job for him… he’d learned that from Kubrick’s mistakes.

The car had been bought from a scrap place near Chuck’s town.

The dreadful feeling that they had been followed here all the way from Chuck’s place started to build up inside Sam’s stomach. There was some small comfort to be taken of something done in the spur of the moment; that much amount of planning, that much time following them around, those spell twice the trouble for Sam.

Sam searched the rest of the car, hoping to find some clue that might lead him to identify the mysterious woman, but other than old food wrappers and empty water bottles, there was no indication as to who she was or where she could be.

The radio was busted and the gas tank was nearly empty. The car had a lot of miles on it, but given the age and condition of the thing, Sam had no way of knowing if that meant anything or not. Popping the trunk’s lock open, Sam got out and walked to the back of the car.

The car trunk was empty except for a pair of jeans, a ratty t-shirt and a used makeup kit. Sam grabbed the jeans. It was easy to see they were cut to fit a woman, and a small woman at that.

Sam sighed, scrubbing at his head, resisting the urge to pull at his own hair. His hopes had gone sky high when he’d found the car and now there was nothing to back up that hope. Nothing at all.

There had to be something in there. This woman wasn’t a ghost, she hadn’t come out from thin air, and he sure as hell hoped that she hadn’t gone out the same way either.

The empty shopping bag, crumpled in the back of the trunk caught his attention. One of the handles of the bag was stuck in the trunk’s bottom lining. Pulling up, Sam’s eyes lit up when he saw the folder hidden underneath.

With the care and gentleness of an archeologist unearthing the Holy Grail from the soil, Sam opened the folder and read the header of the first page.

It was a medical file for one Alice Gean.

0o0o0o0o00o0

The sunlight was bright and warm on Dean’s face and for a grand total of five great seconds he felt content and safe. Then the pain hit him with all the intensity of an elephant's foot right between the nuts and he remembered where he was.

He tested the strength of the cuffs at his wrists, frustrated when he couldn’t even raise his left arm. Dean’s head felt a bit clearer than it had before, but he could still feel the mistreated bullet wound sapping all of his strength. He needed to get out of there before it was to late and he was too weak to do anything about it.

The gentle breaths of someone in deep sleep turned his attention to his right side. The crazy woman was curled up on her side, resting on top of the mattress that had been on his bed before. Her hand was clasped around one of Chuck’s books, the one with a mean looking black truck on its cover.

Dean shuddered. The ‘Route 666’ book. Him and Cassie.

Their intimacy had been displayed for the whole world to read, for the purpose of entertaining a few voyeuristic readers. And if that wasn’t enough to make him sick to his stomach...

When Dean had found out which book dealt with the whole Madison and Sam tragedy, he hadn’t even dared to open it, just tossed it in the garbage, the touch of the thing being enough to give him chills.

It was bad enough to find out that those events had ended up in Chuck’s mind, bad enough that the bastard had used it in his books to be read by thousands of people, but now... now it was also being used as some crazy woman’s bedtime buddy. The fan. The one that kept treating him as if he were nothing more than some book’s character.

Dean dry swallowed, working his tongue inside his mouth to produce moisture enough to at least stop his lips from cracking and bleeding any further when he grimaced.

Trying to convince her that he wasn’t Dean hadn’t worked. She had the damn books memorized, she had his life for the past four years memorized and she knew how he acted and, worst of all, how he reacted.

Dean had to think outside the box here, play on her worshiping of the character that Chuck had built at his expense, maybe gain her trust long enough to get himself out of those cuffs. And all of that before the infection that he could feel already eating up his shoulder, killed him.

Piece of cake.

Oh, God! Food…

The thought alone sent a new wave of bile upstream, forcing its way out his mouth. Dean’s renewed gagging finally woke the sleeping woman.

“Dean? You awake?” She sleepily asked, rubbing her eyes while she sat up. “Feeling better?”

Plastering a look of innocence and fragility, the one with the big round eyes and lips slightly parted, Dean calmly waited for Alexa to focus on him. He'd practiced this false vulnerability his whole life, mastered it even. It had earned him his fair share of confessions from reluctant witnesses, and an equal number of free pies from unsuspecting waitresses.

When Alexa's eyes me his, Dean cleared his scratchy throat, not sure of what would come out when he tried to speak. “Water… please?”

As he had hoped, his change of attitude worked wonders on her.

“Sure… I’ll go get you some,” she said, hopping to her feet and stretching lazily.

The house wasn’t that big, and from what Dean could remember from his previous mad dash to the front door, the kitchen was literally just around the corner. From the time that she was taking to just fill a glass of water and get back to the room, Dean was sure that it wouldn’t be just water in that glass.

But right now he didn’t really care. She could put rat poison in there and he would still be tempted to drink it.

In between the fever and the blood loss, Dean was sure that he had sand and sawdust running around inside his blood vessels, instead of the regular water and... whatever else floated around in blood.

The mere thought of fresh water send his head spinning. His mouth was so dry that he his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth every time he tried to move it around, bloated and coarse as a fat toad.

When the woman walked back in to the room, Dean was almost happy to see her. The tall glass of cold water in her hands, with fat beads of sweaty condensation on the outside, sliding down and looking all fresh and wet...Dean smacked his lips without realizing he had because, right there in that moment, the sight of water was the most tantalizing thing Dean had ever seen in his life.

Eyes closed, he licked his dry lips in anticipation, waiting for her to get close and give him the water.

When too much time passed, more than it would ever take her to cross the distance between the door and the bed, Dean cracked one eye open to find out what was wrong.

The woman was looking at the floor, water sloshing inside the glass from her trembling hand. Dean followed her gaze, twisting as much as his arm and cuffs allowed.

The smell of puke hit him, reminding Dean that he’d turned to that side when he’d been sick before. He remembered the book, clasped in the woman’s arms, like some frigging paper teddy bear and the way she seemed to pilled them around every where she went.

Dean put two and two together and got an ‘ohshit!’ right before the sound of a glass smashing against the wall called his attention away from the woman.

The wall was wet where the glass had hit, the yellow color darker from the water. His water.

When Dean looked back at her all he could see was a face, red with rage, eyes darting from the obviously soiled book in her hands and Dean, the obvious source of the soiling.

“I’m sor-“ Dean tried, but she'd already turned her back. The door closed with a resounding bang.

Dean couldn’t do much more than stare at the water, dripping slowly down the wall and soaking into the floorboards.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

End Notes:
AN: I would like to thank all you wonderful people who have following and reviewing this story! And once more, a big hug to Jackfan2, for her ideas and beta-work!
Chapter 4 by Ophium

~Chapter 4~

Sam had no trouble hot wiring ‘Gordon’s’ car and drive it back to the motel. Except for the file, there wasn’t much that he could get from it, but a car was a car and this one, Sam was pretty sure, no one would be reporting as missing anytime soon.

Sam forced himself to make a stop at the McDonald's drive-through. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd eaten and it wasn't like his stomach was keeping him updated on his missed meals, with all the churning and turning upside down. Still, he needed to keep functioning if he wanted to help Dean.

Without even thinking about it, Sam ordered a chicken sandwich and a double quarter pounder with cheese and large fries. By the time he noticed that he'd just ordered food for Dean as well, the pimple-riddled teen behind the small window was already relaying his order to the kitchen. Sam just let it go.

Arriving back at the motel room and -predictably- finding it empty, was more depressing that Sam had envisioned. He sighed, looking at his phone longingly.

He’d called Ruby some five times already, but the demon was ignoring him. Bobby was off to some place, again, and so far out that his cell didn’t even rate on covered regions. And Castiel... short of doing a heavy duty summoning ritual, Sam had no idea how to get the angel to answer him.

In utter despair, Sam had even tried to reach Chuck, but the writer’s phone number had been disconnected.

Dean's burger was now laying in a soggy mess on the spare bed, grease seeping out from the bag, growing cold and looking all alone and abandoned and deprived of its intended purpose. The chicken sandwich was mostly warm as Sam forced it down, but it still tasted like ash.

Sam's attention, however, was on the file he was reading. It was a psychiatric file, on one of the patients in a mental facility in Baltimore, Maryland.

Sam sat himself at the table, popped his computer on to research the place and opened the file to read it more carefully.

There was nothing odd about the facility, nothing out of the ordinary in its history or recent events. Just one more place where the mentally insane were kept hidden from the rest of society.

The file, however, was starting to get a reaction out of Sam’s fine hairs in the back of his neck.

Alice Gean, Caucasian female, 27 years, presents no previous medical conditions prior to her commitment (…) referenced by Dr. Pascal, the patient has a history of psychotic break at the age of 12, which led to first institutionalization in St. Peter's, Minnesota, court mandated (...) upon further study, patient presents signs of superficial charm, high intelligence, poor judgment and failure to learn from experience, pathological egocentricity and incapacity for love, lack of remorse or shame, impulsivity, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, manipulative behavior and poor self-control (…) later confirmed previous diagnose of severe psychopath disorder with delusional tendencies. The occurrence of violent psychotic breaks has been kept under controlled with the use of Lithium, Devalproex, Pargyline and Alprozolam (...) EEG presents minor, non-significant alterations, leading to believe that the memory loss referred by the patient after each of her psychotic breaks is of psychosomatic and not neurological origin (...)"

Sam rubbed his eyes. Why would this file be in the car? Did it belong to the woman who had taken Dean? He tried typing Alice Gean in the DMV page he’d hacked in to earlier. There were no records.

Searching for a credit card bill gave him nothing either.

Sam tried searching for just Gean as last name instead. She might not have a track record now, but she had to come from somewhere.

There were a few hits in the Baltimore area; two were African-American men, one was a British woman, another was an elderly guy with no other relatives noted and the last was a couple, Peter and Gabrielle Gean, both killed in a car crash early that year.

The car accident itself was mentioned in a couple of local newspaper pages of the time. Sam clicked in one at random.

"The Geans, Peter and Gabrielle, both math professors at Baltimore’s Western High School, were killed in a tragic car incident the past Wednesday night. The circumstances surrounding the crash are still under investigation, but unofficial sources confirm that the police already suspects foul play. The couple was returning from visiting their daughter, when an apparent break malfunction caused their vehicle to loose control and collide with a tree. Reports on the..."

Sam stared at the computer screen, feeling a chill creep down his spine. He could bet that the daughter that the newspaper was referring to was Alice and if she had been the last to see her parents alive... could she? Would she?

Remembering that the medical file mentioned a court mandate institutionalization in Minneapolis, Sam turned his search there, looking for crimes involving small children. It didn’t take him long to find one with the Gean’s name attached.

The newspaper headline jumped right off the page. A black and white picture of two teenage girls with long, curly brown hair headed the top of the article.

Mary Gean, daughter of Peter and Gabrielle Gean, was found dead in her bedroom this Monday morning. Police officers at the scene offered no details about the little girl’s death, but unofficial reports state that the parents, who were too late to prevent the tragic incident, found the girl’s body already lifeless. Cause of death as yet to be released, but head trauma appears to be the most likely cause (...) Neighbors state that the older sister had always been a (quote) ‘... very strange little girl... tried to skin my cat once, that one did...’ (end of quote). The matter is still under investigation...”

Sam skimmed down, searching for the rest of the story. For a crime that had occurred over fifteen years ago in a small town in Minnesota, the fact that the main suspect was only twelve had warranted national attention to the event.

... Minneapolis Court House, presided by Judge Montgomery, ruled today that Alice Gean, twelve, convicted of the murder of Mary Gean, ten, was in fact mentally ill at the time of the crime. The minor is to be institutionalized in a unmentioned medical facility until the age of twenty one, pending on (...)”

Sam closed the computer with more force than was healthy for the laptops survival. This was getting him nowhere. Even if this Alice was responsible for taking Dean, Sam couldn’t figure out why or where because the woman had absolutely no trail. It was like she didn’t existed at all after being committed.

And why was the car in the name of a hunter that had been dead for over a year?

0o0o0o0o0o0o

The book was ruined. Alexa had tried to wash away the sickness from the pages but ended up with a worse result. The paper was too soft and had started to melt away in her hands.

Frantically, Alexa wiped the pages clean, watching in frustration as the black letters disappeared before her eyes. It was one of the oldest books; the one about the ghost in the water and the whole part about Dean talking about his mother and his childhood memories... it was all gone. Vanished.

Alexa threw the washcloth away in frustration, a deep growl, barely perceptible at first, escaping through her throat. There was no chance of her ever finding a replacement for this one book. As it was, it had been hard enough to find the later issues that were missing from her collection...

Methodically, Alexa plucked dishes from the cupboard and threw them, one after another, to the floor. The white ceramic shattered on impact each and every time, and each and every time the sharp pieces that were starting to litter the kitchen floor, did nothing to appease her anger.

Her collection was incomplete and once more, it was all Dean's fault.

Alexa wondered why he was being such a jerk to her, wondered where was the gentle man that had managed to win over the heart of a traumatized Lucas and managed to, not only make him talk again, but start to heal over the trauma of watching his father drown.

It was like Dean was doing it on purpose, egging her to get mad, to lose her temper... she just couldn't understand why.

But then it hit her, and the explanation was actually so simple that Alexa couldn't help but smile to herself. She'd been dumb for not seeing it before. She knew exactly what Dean was doing because he had done it before. It was the very same thing that he'd done for a good portion of the year he spent in between making the deal for Sam’s life and going to Hell.

Sam had taken some time to see through Dean’s careless and devil-may-care attitude, but he’d finally called Dean on his bluff in 'Fresh blood'. Dean acted like a jerk when he was scared.

Dean was scared now too.

Alexa could understand that. She was, after all, a stranger, and he was hurt and feeling weak. She knew how much Dean hated to look weak in front of strangers. She just wished that he hadn't resorted to ruining one of her books to prove his point.

But she got it now. She understood. Still, Dean had no excuse for taking it out on her book, her irreplaceable book. For that one, Dean would have to pay, so that he could learn that you don’t mess with irreplaceable things.

She just had to take from him something irreplaceable too.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Dean was trashing on the bed like a possessed man. His eyes were opened, but Alexa doubted that he was seeing much.

She sat on the bed frame by his left side, as far from the coppery smell as she could. Even without touching, she could feel the heat coming off of him in stale waves. He probably needed more of those pills, but he didn’t deserve them right now.

Grabbing the pair of scissors that she kept on the nightstand, Alexa eyed her goal with a glint in her eyes.

The golden face hanging from Dean’s neck rolled around his chest every time the man rolled his neck around, turning from side to side aimlessly.

That amulet had been there on his neck since the very first book, as much a part of him as the car ever was. It wasn’t until ‘A Very Supernatural Christmas’ that its origins were revealed.

To Dean, that amulet was much more than a trinket or a piece of decoration. It was Sam’s love for him, Sam’s respect for what he did for his younger brother, his connecting link with family. It was Dean’s badge of honor as a big brother.

Irreplaceable.

Alexa cut the black leather string with an audible ‘snap’ and smiled. Now Dean would understand too.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Dean was dreaming of the sea. He knew he was dreaming because Dean had never been on a boat, he’d never been in the high seas, therefore, he had no idea how accurate his dream version was. And the fact that he was coherent enough inside his own dream to realize that, served only as further prove to Dean that he was in fact, dreaming. Or hallucinating.

Hallucinations had a weird way of being mistaken for reality. This wasn’t reality, but it still sucked for real.

Dean was dreaming, but he had no way to wake up or even to tell his body that the thing burning up his skin was not the sun; there was no way to prove to his body that, no matter how surrounded by water that he was, that there was no way to appease the raging thirst inside of him; that the rocking motion making him sick and urging him to throw up was not caused by the rolling sea, up and down, up and down, up and down...

He could taste the salt on his dry lips even though he had no recollection of how he’d come to be there. Maybe he’d been dosed with dream root... or maybe he’d been caught by a Djinn again. A seaman Djinn.

Dean giggled inside his dream, imagining a Donald Duck version of those blue-painted freaks and wondering if instead of dreaming or hallucinating, he wasn’t just high.

The only thing that Dean could figure for sure was that there was no land in sight and that he was dying of thirst. He could see nothing more than a world of cobalt blue that hurt his eyes and made him sick.

He heard a loud snap, too close to his ears for comfort, and then he was falling in the water, his poor excuse for a boat disintegrating beneath his feet.

When a bigger wave flew over him and dragged him under, Dean welcomed the escape of awareness.

0o0oo0oo0o0o0o

Alexa needed to get out. She’d been cooped out inside that house for close to two days and she was starting to go stir crazy. She didn't like being closed off like that.

Dean had been driving her insane with his whimpering and moaning the whole night, until she had finally given up and flushed some more medicine down his throat.

He’d grown quiet for a while after that.

Before, he was having some kind of nightmare, something about the sea, if she had understood his mumblings right. Why would Dean be dreaming about the sea?

As far as she knew, the boys had never even been to the sea, Sam being the one who probably got nearer in his time at the Stanford. But not Dean... or maybe he had, in the years prior to the beginning of the books. There was a twenty-two years gap in the story after all, peppered with small pieces of information like the small reference to Dean hunting alone in New Orleans, back in the first book.

Still, there were too many places and situations that were never mentioned in the books. Maybe Dean did had some experience at sea, or maybe it was a fear of his, like flying... either way, he had quieted down some when she had thrown a glass of water over his face.

Alexa grabbed her keys and went to check on Dean one last time before going out. Quietly, she opened the table's drawer and pulled the tiny camcorder from inside. The battery had died some time ago, but all that she needed had already been taped through the drawer's hole, where the handle was missing.

Alexa smiled, remembering what was in that recording.

The hunter was still out, still asleep with his mouth opened and his head turned away from the light of the window. The rattle of his breathing was the only sound disturbing the otherwise quiet room, along with the occasional whimper, that is. It sounded pathetic and out of character for him and she was not sure how much more of that she could stand.

There was some stuff that she needed to pick up before Dean woke. She had an idea on how to make Dean feel more at home there and he definitely needed a change of clothes. His bag was missing from the Impala’s trunk, so that meant that she had some shopping to do.

Plus, there was Sam to consider. He should be closing in by now.

Making sure that she had the videotape and everything else she needed with her, Alexa closed the door behind her. The trap was mostly set, but she still needed to feed the video and make sure that the motion detector and the gas canister were working as they should.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

The phone call to the mental institute where Alice was supposed to be left a grim satisfied smile on Sam’s face. Part of what they told him, Sam had already guessed. Alice was no longer there, discharged and off their grid, some six months ago. Another part of what they said, Sam really wished he hadn’t heard.

Passing himself off as Alice new psychiatrist, it was somewhat easy to get the rest of the information that he needed to understand that woman and get Sam one step closer to find his brother. The man on the other side of the line was, fortunately, eager to help him.

The fact that Alice spent her days reading came as a surprise. Not that Sam was imagining a psychopath doing little more with her day other than skinning kittens and plotting the end of the world, but the amount of attention span and devotion dedicated to someone else’s work seemed off in Sam’s meager knowledge of the insane mind. Then again, his major had been law, not psychiatry.

The mention of the stolen books had been almost an afterthought on the psychiatrist’s part. It was, apparently, something the man obviously gave little importance to, save for the fact that Alice had showed an attachment to them like she hadn’t ever before shown towards anyone. They had been just books, the other man had said, clearly not counting that connection as progress.

Sam had to wonder why Alice was even out, when her psychiatrist clearly thought that she had gotten nowhere with her therapy, but Sam refrained from asking that. He still had a couple of questions that he needed answered before antagonizing the man.

Sam needed to understand this woman’s reasoning, understand why she was doing this, why Dean. Sam needed to be sure that Alice was not going to hurt Dean while Sam searched aimlessly for his brother.

“What about her violent behaviors, doctor? Should I be concerned?” Sam asked directly, trying to sound as clinical and detached as he could. It was easier on the phone. “I have a public office, you see, and I would like to be sure that my other patients are safe.”

The other man took his time answering, probably weighing his personal morals against the institution’s credibility and reputation from letting out a dangerous patient. In the end, the institution won, but Sam already had his answer.

The younger Winchester could feel his heart pounding inside his chest, hitting his ribs like a hammer trying to get out. It wasn’t a figure of speech anymore. Dean was truly in the hands of a dangerous psychopath.

Sam’s anger at the moment, though, was exclusively directed at the man on the phone, for allowing someone like Alice back on the streets, for whatever reason he had. He’d almost ended the phone call right there and then, disgusted as he was at the doctor’s lying and weasel voice.

Sam would’ve hated himself to no end if he had hung up without asking the weasel-doctor what sort of books Alice had grown attached to. If Sam had given in to his urges, he would’ve missed his biggest clue.

Because Sam could not understand why some random woman, insane as she was, would go to the trouble of kidnapping Dean; because, no matter how big the list of his brother’s conquests were, Dean had his own set of values and Sam was pretty sure that none of those conquests would have felt the need to go all ‘Fatal attraction’ on his brother; because other than demons, angels, pissed off hunters, and evil creatures, Sam could not think of anyone else to have such a dark and invested interest in his brother.

But then the psychiatrist told him about the Supernatural books. Alice’s obsession.

And if Alice had somehow been able to relate Dean with the character from those books... Sam shuddered at the implications.

He needed to find Dean. Fast.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

There was music playing. Dean smiled. He'd recognize that guitar solo introduction any time, anywhere; AC/DC’s Highway to Hell.

There was something missing from the music, though. The low rumble of a car’s engine.

Ever since he could remember, Dean had listened to that song in his car, in his home. He’d listened to it in the back seat, staring at the back of his father’s head, while John drove them through the night, Sam’s soft baby body tucked away against his. He’d listened to it seated at his father’s side, road map unfolded on his lap, feeling like such a grown up for directing his father towards the next turn or exit. He’d listened to it driving, Sam’s too-large-for-comfort frame all folded up like a pretzel by his side, trying to sleep through his nightmares. He’d listened to it and felt safe, head leaning against the cool window and trusting Sam to drive them safely to their destination.

Dad was gone and Sam was no longer baby-size to be safely tucked away beside him. Even confused as he was about everything else, Dean knew those two facts. What he couldn’t figure out was why the engine was silent.

Dean opened his eyes to be face with a pair of moss-green orbs staring right back at him and Dean gasped. Gone was the feeling of home and safety. He was still hurt; he was still trapped and in the hands of the lunatic. Nothing had change but the soundtrack.

“I see you like it,” Alexa’s voice broke through the song’s lyrics, crashing the last remnants of the illusion.

The hand that snuck behind his neck to help him slightly raise his head, felt cool and pleasant. When the glass touched his lips, Dean instinctively opened his mouth, desperate for the liquid relief so long denied.

The cool and soothing effect of fresh water going down his throat, the missed droplets that fell from his lips and raced down his burning neck; those were possibly some of the best things that Dean had felt in his whole life. Or maybe it was the fact that he was feeling so miserable that it only appeared that way. He didn’t really cared which. He didn’t even mind when his throat rebelled against the foreigner and forgotten feeling of cold water and his body shook with the painful coughs and gasps.

“How are you feeling today?”

Dean blinked, pushing the sweat out of his eyes, and looked around. The water stain on the wall, the one that had driven him insane until he'd finally lapsed into a delirious stupor earlier, was long dry. The sun was high in the sky outside. Dean wished that the windows were at least open, so that he could smell something other than the flowery scent of the pillow and the copper and acid stench of his own unwashed and blood covered body.

Dean tried focusing on his objectives first and foremost. It was not an easy task, not with a sluggish mind and thoughts that skittered away as if they were racing on ice. Still, Dean had the best incentive in the whole wide world to keep him focused: he was fighting for his life.

“Better,” he lied. He could play the injured card with her; play the wounded hero that she so seemed to like. But Dean needed to get out of that bed and that would never happen if she thought that he was too sick to move.

Dean wet his lips, forcing himself to relax and talk in a smooth, pleading way. First things first, he needed a way out of those cuffs before anything. “Alexa... I need you to do me a favor.”

The woman looked at him, waiting, suspicious.

Dean paused, trying to judge her countenance. He couldn’t just outright ask her what he really wanted. After all, someone asking to go to the bathroom as a way of escaping was the oldest trick of them all. No... Dean had to come up with something better than that, something she wouldn’t expect from him, something that played with her obsession for the characters in Chuck’s damn books. Dean went for honesty.

“The smell,” Dean said, wrinkling his nose. The rusty smell of congealing blood was making him nauseous enough as it was and the remains of the last time he’d upchucked weren’t helping matters. “I would really love to wash some of this away.”

She was silent for a long time. Time enough for Dean to start sweating all over again at the prospect of his plan back firing and she offering to do the washing for him. “Also... I kind of need to... I need to go,” he hastily added, figuring that there were some things that she couldn’t do for him. He hoped.

Dean hadn’t really given much thought to it until now, occupied as he was with other matters as he had been, but in the whole time that he’d been there –going on one, two days?- this was the first time that his full bladder had even made itself known. And it wasn’t even all that full. Unless the lunatic had been sneaking in to empty his bladder when he was out -which Dean really, really hoped she hadn’t- that would mean that his body was already shutting down on him. Dean really needed to hurry.

Alexa was under no such need for haste. She was still pondering, it would seem. She was pondering his request with enough care to make Dean wonder if, by mistake, he'd asked for world peace instead of a trip to the bathroom.

“Why?”

Dean paused. Why? Why what? Why did he wanted to empty is bladder in some other place other than the bed he was currently strapped to?

“Why does the smell of blood make you uncomfortable? It didn’t before,” she eventually said, catching on the confused look on Dean’s face.

Dean snorted, for a fraction of time allowing his real feelings about the whole situation to surface. How the hell would she know if the smell of blood bothered him or not before? She’d read Chuck’s books, and all of a sudden she figured that she knew every single one of his quirks and whims? Annoyingly enough, she was right about this one though... the smell of blood didn’t really used to bother him that much before.

“Tell you what,” she said in a cheerful tone. “You tell me, in all honesty, why the smell of blood bothers you so much and I’ll let you use the bathroom... all on your own.”

Dean closed his eyes, taking solace in the black privacy of the back of his eyelids. ‘Highway to Hell’ gave way to ‘Back in Black’ and over it Hannibal’s guttural tone of voice whispering Quid pro Quo to Clarice in ‘Silence of Lambs’ wormed itself in to Dean’s mind. He almost laughed out loud. Just his luck, to pick up the psychopath that was all bent on psychoanalyzing him.

The Winchester way: it was either bad luck or no luck at all.

Maybe he could feed her some crap, just to keep her happy for now and give him what he needed. Dean was king of feeding people crap after all. He could do this.

“Well... hum... when you get seriously hurt a couple of too many times, the smell kind of grades agai-“

“The truth, Dean.”

Dean’s mouth opened and closed again. He silently cursed Chuck once more, for robbing him of the chance of easily lying his way out of this.

“The last time I saw my dad... the smell remi-“ Dean tried again, plastering the most honest expression on his face. Painful as it was talking about John, it was still better than giving this stranger the real reason behind it.

Alexa was anything but convinced. How could she even know that he was bull-shitting her?

There was in fact one smell that Dean couldn’t stand anymore after his father’s death, but it was hardly blood. Growing up with John Winchester as a father meant that you learned the smell of your family’s blood even before you learned how to drive... and Dean had learned both pretty young.

Not blood... burned flesh.

It was the smell of burned flesh that made him gag ever since John had died. The smell of human burned flesh never failed to take him back to the day he had lit a fire under his own father’s dead body and had watched him burn. Both parents killed by the same demon, both parents reduced to nothing but a memory by fire. Dean hated that smell.

But how could she know that Dean’s newfound aversion to blood wasn’t from those days, from those memories? He was pretty sure that Chuck had written all about John’s death in gruesome details...

“I know you Dean... give me an honest answer, or you’re staying right where you are.”

In that moment, Dean hated her even more than he hated Chuck. If only he could get but one hand free, wrap it around her neck and squeeze... only, for that he needed to get off the bed, and the trip to the bathroom was his best chance. His only chance.

“It reminds me of Hell,” Dean whispered, knowing that his voice sounded as sincere now as it had before, but his eyes... there was no way of faking or hiding the haunted look that Dean knew took over his eyes when he talked about that, when he remembered that other life, that haunted existence.

“The smell of blood was the only thing that I could recognize down there, it was the only thing human enough to stand out as odd in Hell and there was so... there was so much of it.”

At some point Alexa had sat down by his side, a fact that had escaped Dean’s perception until she opened her mouth to speak. “So you remember all that went on down in there?” She asked, soaking up his misery like it was vanilla ice cream. “Go on,” she urged.

Her eyes were glittering like beetles in the back drop light, lustful of pain and misery. Was his torture that much of an entertainment for her? Was this why people liked Chuck’s books, because they enjoyed reading about all the suffering that he and Sam had endure their whole lives?

Dean swallowed against his dry throat. He’d told Sam some of the stuff that had happened down there, in that place, but what little he had confessed to his brother was just the tip of the iceberg. The things that were done to him, the things he was forced to do...

“I don’t remember all of it,” Dean quickly backtracked. The last thing that he wanted or needed was to be forced in to retelling every single hour of every single day of the 40 years of... living hell that he’d endured. He stuck to the slightly less painful, slightly less gag-inducing memories.

“I remember that there were children in there,” he went on, “not many, but enough for you to them and realize the oddity of their presence. I never thought that there would be children in Hell, but there were, and they were the most blood thirsty of them all. The demon’s children. They play in blood, they bath in it, they worship it... and the souls trapped there have only to supply it, to keep them happy. We’re their milk cartons, we’re their bubble bath and their chewing toys and they always wanted more, they always came back for more...”

Dean couldn’t go on. The fever and pain were eating away at the wall between then and now, reality was becoming a confusing mesh of memories and feelings and already could Dean feel himself being dragged under by the weight of them all. One more word and he would be back in there, unable to free himself.

The sound of a key turning in a lock and sudden absence of tension in his trapped limbs caught him by surprise.

“I’ll help you up,” Alexa said, her eyes glinting with satisfaction. Apparently, he had bared his soul enough to appease her.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Gordon’s name on the papers he'd found in the car finally made sense to Sam. The psycho-hunter had not miraculously returned to life to haunt them again. This woman, this Alice Gean, had picked his name right out of books.

She’d picked the name of a hunter to hunt them down. And if she’d use one, odds were...

Sam grabbed a piece of paper and started to write the names of everyone that he or Dean knew and that could have possibly been mentioned in Chuck’s books.

Sam grabbed his hair in despair when he was done. For an life on the road as they lived, the list was too damn long. In between friends, enemies, contacts and people they’d help, there were just too many names to even get him started.

He decided to try the important, more recent, ones first. Top of his head there was only Ruby, Bobby and Castiel. Remembering that Chuck’s books had stopped right after Dean’s trip to Hell, Sam scratched the angel’s name out. Alice wouldn’t know about him.

Sam didn’t even try to do a search on Ruby’s name for house rentals and recent purchases; he knew the only thing he would get back were porn sites and strip clubs.

Robert Singer, on the other hand, came up with too many valid hits. Seemed like, as a norm, Bobby’s name was associated with respectable men who bought and rented respectable real state in respectable places. Singer’s Salvage Yard was there too, but no other recent rentals or purchases in the area under his name.

Scrunching his eyes shut, Sam squeezed his brain for more names, important names, people that they knew or had known. He looked at the car’s papers again.

She’d pick a hunter to hunt them down... maybe she had picked someone who meant home for them to rent herself a place.

With some trepidation, Sam tried Jessica Moore, sighing in relief when the name brought up only a yacht sell that had nothing to do with his Jessica. Mary Winchester and John Winchester drew blanks too, but Sam had figured as much. If Chuck had never written their last name in any of the books, Alice would have no way of knowing them to use their full names like that.

Sam tried James Murphy’s name, the hunter priest in Blue Earth, the first real house that Sam could remember, but came up with nothing. Same thing for Missouri Mosely, the psychic that had helped their father get started in the hunting business.

It was Ellen’s name that sent Sam’s heart racing with renewed hope. There was an 'Ellen Harvelle' who'd recently rented for a month a house right there in Peru, Ohio, just shy of twenty-four hours after he and Dean arrived. Unless Ellen had decided to open a new Roadhouse in the middle of Peru’s suburbia...

Sam smiled. This had to be the place where Alice was keeping his brother. Dean didn’t have any time for him to be wrong.

0o0o00o0o0o0o0

As soon as he got his life back, Dean was erasing this whole experience from his memories. File it up under the 'stuff that never happened' box. The Dean book of deleted memoirs.

Though it didn’t really rate up there with a faceless demon clawing his eyes out, one at a time, and force feeding them back to him; it was still coming disturbingly close.

Alexa had picked clothes for him. A set of purple pajama bottoms and a –goodLORD!- pink t-shirt to replace his dirty jeans and his missing shirt. Or maybe it was a salmon shirt. He didn’t really give a rat’s ass about it. In the yellow light cast by the ceiling bulb in the bathroom that was making his eyes water, all colors looked like crap anyway.

Dean couldn’t even remember the last time he had even worn actual pajamas. Probably back when he was young enough to still need a bench to reach the top cupboards in their rented apartment’s kitchens. And even then, his thrift store purchased Thunder-Cats pj’s had more class and style than that purple assault against nature.

There was also the weakness; that wet-spaghetti strength to his legs and arms, together with the quivering jell-o party in his stomach and the cotton candy feeling of his head, made Dean feel like a two course meal with extra dessert.

No matter how anxious he had been to get out of that uncomfortable mattress-less bed, the minute Dean had tried a more vertical position he’d felt so sick that he considered giving up on his whole plan in favor of laying still right there where he was, where the walls didn’t move and the floor didn’t wave like the frigging sea.

The fact that he found himself forced to accept Alexa’s support to get to the bathroom, and that she too was eyeing him as extra dessert, wasn’t helping matters.

It had taken some wordy convincing, standing on one leg and almost all of the damn inebriated drunk-driving tests, for her to even leave Dean alone in the bathroom, for her to trust him enough to not keel over in the bathtub and crack his skull open.

Dean had a feeling that even that was more because she didn’t want to deal with the mess of a dead body in the tub than any actual concern for the un-smashed condition of his head.

She wasn’t even that much concerned about him escaping from the bathroom. There was simply no way.

Once the door closed and he was alone, Dean sighed and rubbed a shaking hand over his face. He was sure that she was standing just outside the door, gun still in her hands, listening for any suspicious noises, counting the seconds that someone would normally need to rid himself of puke and bloody clothes, ready to bust in the minute the sand-clock ran out.

He needed to hurry the fuck up.

Opening the right side faucet, Dean hungrily drank more of the fresh cold water that never seemed to be enough and splash some of it on his burning face.

Not bothering to wipe the excess water off, Dean looked around the bathroom and his shoulders sagged in frustration. There was a window there, but the only way he was getting out through that was if he was frigging Umpa-Lumpa size. A very skinny, very tiny, baby Umpa-Lumpa.

The world spun around him one more time and Dean made a quick grab for the white porcelain of the sink, eyes closed and taking deep breaths, anything to keep himself from meeting the black-tiled floor. If he went down, Dean was sure he wouldn’t be able to get back up again, like a turtle on its back.

Swallowing back the bile in his mouth, Dean finally looked up, focusing on the blurry image in the mirror in front of him.

The image reflected back was not encouraging. God, he was a mess!

His mouth was a thin line of disgusting crust and dried spit and the sand dust that he could feel in his eyes was almost visible in the red-rimmed bags and the bloodshot whites. His mouth was colorless, his face was grey... Dean felt like he was looking at a black and white version of himself.

His gaze slid down, at the bloody piece of gauze tapped to his shoulder. Dean entertained the idea of peeling the bandage away and take a peek at the damaged that the woman had done, but there was no time for that now.

There was something missing, Dean noticed then. Without his shirt on, Dean’s chest was a mess of dried blood and pasty white skin that made his freckles looks like sprinkled brown pepper. But that was not what had caught Dean’s attention.

There was no black cord around his neck and no familiar weight of the metal pendant that was suppose to be hanging from it. It was gone.

The old amulet that Sam had given him on Christmas Day, in what seemed like a lifetime ago, wasn’t there anymore.

Dean felt his eyes water. It was a stupid, pointless reaction to losing something that was, for all matters, just a piece of junk, but he couldn’t help it. It wasn’t a piece of junk to him. Dean felt more naked without it than he did without his clothes on. And it was gone.

Dean wasted a good frantic couple of minutes looking around the bathroom floor for the golden piece, cursing every time his eyes unfocused and he had to grab the wall for support. But it was of no use.

He knew he had it before, he was sure of it, same as he was sure that he had not taken it off. It simply wasn’t with him anymore and there was only one person around that could’ve taken it.

Dean cleaned the irrational tears from his eyes and cursed. He was going to kill that woman. There would be no plea of insanity in the Dean’s court of law. She was going down the worst possible way... just as soon as the dizziness went away... and maybe after he’d found a way to get free.

The whole idea of getting himself away from the bed and alone in the bathroom was to find a way out or, if that was impossible, to get something to work those cuffs out as soon as he was strapped back in to that bed.

All he needed was a piece of wire small enough and rigid enough to popped the lock on the cuffs. And possibly stick it in Alexa’s eyes when he was done with it, on the off chance that she refused to give him his amulet back or had –God help her- had damaged or destroyed it.

Deans fevered eyes searched the bathroom. On the sink there was only a bar of soap and the cabinet above it was empty of anything but space and dust bunnies.

The bathtub proved to be just as deserted. There was a bottle of bathing salts, some used shower gel and shampoo and nothing else. The bathtub’s plug’s metal chain was broken, as it was, but the tiny metal balls it was made of were of no use to him. Even the rings in the shower curtain, plastic as they were, could not be of use.

The toilet paper supporter was screwed to the wall and impossible to remove.

Dean gripped the sink tighter and fought the urge to smash the mirror in, just for the sake of ruining Alexa’s perfect, tidy bathroom. His knees didn’t appreciate the idea, threatening to bent out of shape on him if Dean tried anything more strenuous than blinking.

Dean willed his knees not to bend under the weight of despair and took a deep breath, hissing when even that hurt his broken bone. There had to be something in there, anything.

In a moment of desperation, Dean was starting to consider reaching for the ceiling light and strip a live wire, or even take his chances with the gun and fight Alexa off, when his eyes landed on the toilet water-tank.

Dean would’ve slapped his own forehead but he figured he’d probably knock himself out with the action. How could he have forgotten about all the nice and thin wires that usually made up the water’s discharge system? It wasn’t like he hadn’t had to fix a couple hundred of them in some of the seedy motels they’d stayed in before...

Placing the bathtub's plug in its place, Dean opened the cold-water faucet for background noise. Then, carefully taking a seat on the toilet lid, he went to work.

The older Winchester cursed against his trembling hands that forced him to work twice as slow, everything swimming so out of focus on occasion that he was forced to rest his heavy head against the cool ceramic of the water-tank until his vision came back on-line. His mind, however, refused to stay focused on the actions of his hands alone.

Between the drugs and the fever, Dean’s sense of time was a bit askew, but he was pretty sure that more than a day had already gone by since he’d been caught by the crazy. Why hadn’t Sam found him yet? Was he even searching for Dean?

Of course Sam was searching for him!

Sam might have taken to lying to him, treating him like an idiot; Sam might think that Dean was weak and that he was slowing him down, but Sam was still his brother and still loved him. Dean was sure of that.

But in the odd event that Sam would take too long to find him, Dean had to fend for himself. It wasn’t like he hadn’t spent his whole life doing just that.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

When Alexa’s internal clock told her that Dean already had enough time to wash himself and change, she burst in to the bathroom with her gun leveled on his chest.

Dean plastered a quiet smile on his face to hide his startled reaction and finished pulling up the purple pajama bottoms. His hair was dripping wet, from his hasty dip in the, now empty, bathtub’s water, and the piece of wire was safely hidden in a place that, Dean hoped, Alexa would never look.

“All done,” Dean said, looking as innocent as he could muster under the circumstances. There was a new bruise on his forehead, from when he’d made the mistake of looking down when he was taking off his pants and his head had sort of crashed against the sink before he caught himself, but other than that, he looked spit-polish clean.

The woman’s eyes were still judging though, still roving around the tiny room, looking for anything out of place, any clue that Dean was deceiving her.

When she was, apparently satisfied, the tip of the gun moved sideways, beckoning Dean to move out.

Dean was sweating and he knew that most of it wasn’t even the fever’s fault. It was uncomfortable to walk around the hidden wire and if he lost his balance... Dean shuddered to think of the consequences, of where the wire might bury itself. Still, it was a way out, his only way out.

He couldn’t afford to wait for Sam.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Chapter 5 by Ophium

Chapter 5

The pajama bottoms looked kind of short on Dean, with his ankles sticking out far below where the pants ended. Alexa sighed. It made him look like those degenerates at the institute; the creepy old men in ratty pj's who spent their days walking up and down the corridors, dragging their slippers around and smelling of piss. Dean, at least, no longer smelled bad.

After a quick look at the mess Dean had left behind, Alexa huffed and closed the door behind her. The filthy jeans he'd left on the bathroom floor would stink up the small room if she didn’t go back and toss them away later. Right now, she needed to get him back to the bedroom.

It had been a risk to let him up and alone in the bathroom, but it had been worth it. Dean had opened up to her, revealing a tiny bit about his time in Hell, and Alexa was sure that this was just the first of many enlightening conversations between the two of them.

He was starting to come around, she could see that. More gentle talking, polite in his dealings with her, pleading when he had once demanded. A tamer version of Dean.

Maybe he was feeling sorry for ruining her book, or maybe he had finally realized that she only wanted to help. Either way, it was too soon for her to take too many chances. But they were getting there, she could feel that.

A week or so and Dean would be on her side, just in time to welcome Sam when he joined them.

They could make their own story from here on, and she could now be a part of it. Alexa and the missing pieces of her soul, Sam and Dean. Emotion and bravery.

But until that time came... Dean needed to lie back down so the she could better control him.

Her head was still sore from the last time she'd been sloppy around him. Plus, he didn't look like he could stand on his own for much longer.

No matter how hard he tried to hide it, Alexa could see in his careful walk and pained, wobbly steps that Dean was still not well. The cleaning up had helped some, but he still didn't look all that good. All those paragraphs in the books about Dean's 'solid shoulders' and his 'confident stroll', or even his 'golden, shinning skin' were nothing but crap right now because this Dean, grey-looking and wobbling in front of her, had none of those.

He made no protest when she gestured for him to lie back down.

“Same as before, Dean,” Alexa said, standing at a safe distance from him. Truly, he had behaved remarkably well, but she was no dummy.

Alexa watched patiently as Dean clasped shut one cuff around his ankle and then the other. She just wished he’d hurry up. The slow movements were starting to grade on her nerves and the gun was weighing more and more in her hands.

When she moved from securing Dean’s left wrist to do the same to the right one, he broke the silence.

The tape that she had left playing on the recorder had, apparently, ended sometime during their bathroom trip and now only white noise was coming from the small cassette player that she’s bought. Idly, Alexa looked at the box of cassette tapes she'd brought from the Impala and wondered if there was any point in putting another in to play.

“Is that really necessary?”

Alexa paused. Looked down. He was talking about cuffs, not the music, she realized. “You’ll escape if I don’t,” she explained, wondering why that wasn’t obvious to him.

Dean sighed and cleared his throat. Alexa knew those signs. They’d been described countless times in the books. Dean needed to say something that he was uncomfortable with.

Alexa eyed him cautiously, “What?”

Finally, their eyes met. Dean had been avoiding looking at her directly, but he was staring right at her now. The green was bright and glassy, looking like the stained glass in the windows of the institute’s chapel. She had to admit that it looked pretty.

“It hurts too much to keep my arm in that position,” Dean said, resting the injured limb on top of his stomach. “I can barely move it as it is... can’t you just leave it uncuffed?”

Alexa pondered on the request. It wasn’t all together insane and his arm did look bad, looking all bruised and puffy. The skin there resembled a pallet of deep purples and blacks that turned progressively darker as it disappeared under the rim of his shirt's sleeve.

Remembering how willing Dean had been before about making deals, Alexa saw an opportunity in his request. “How do I know that you’re not asking that to somehow find a way to escape? Or hurt me?” She asked, buying her time. The less he thought she was inclined to accept his plea, the more he would be willing to give.

Dean blinked away the sweat that had already gathered in his eyes, but his gaze didn’t stray. “Why would I wanna do that?”

“Because you ran before... you hit me,” Alexa reminded him. The very fact that he had attacked her in the first place hurt more than the bump on her head.

He swallowed in a way that looked painful. “I’m... I feel really bad for hitting you... you known me, you know I don't hit women," he offered apologetically.

Actually, Alexa knew for a fact that he did hit women. Gender had never stopped Dean from doing what was necessary. Only... the only women he'd hit in the books were bad, evil. Like Meg or that vampire chick from 'Dead Mans Blood'.

And he'd hit her, but Alexa wasn't the bad guy here... she wasn't, but he still saw her as one. And that hurt.

"I'm not the bad guy," she said out loud, daring him to tell her otherwise.

He didn't.

"I'm sorry I hit you, Alexa," he said instead, managing to sound almost convincing. "But I was confused, I couldn't understand your reasons..."

"And now you do?"

"You took my amulet," he offered, a hint of recrimination in his voice.

So, he had noticed that. Alexa shrugged, though she found it odd that he'd kept silent for so long. She wasn't going to deny it, him noticing the missing trinket had been, after all, the whole point of taking it away. "I did... you ruined my book."

For just a couple of seconds, confusion covered his face before a carefully constructed, blank expression took over. "I'm sorry for your book... I didn't mean to mess it up." He paused, blinked, tried to read the expression on her face, but her features were as blank as his. "Can I have it back? The amulet?"

"Don't have it anymore," Alexa said. Technically, it was even true. The amulet was no longer in her possession, having moved on to serve a better purpose.

There were some things that the books didn't mention but that Alexa had already figured out by herself in the short time she'd spent with Dean. Things like the way the color of Dean’s eyes drifted around and change according to the shift in his emotions.

Anger made his eyes glow bright green, but pain, loss... those made the color darken so much that they looked almost brown.

Alexa watched in fascination as the idea that he might never have his amulet back sunk in. She had expected him to start yelling, to attack her again, to be rude to her, but instead his eyes just grew dark and he closed the hand that was resting against his chest in to a fist, like he was holding on to a phantom amulet.

"Do you understand now?" She asked him again. Alexa was sure that now... now Dean was ready to see things her way.

Dean forced his free hand to unclench and move up just enough to lightly touch her arm. Alexa could see his teeth grinding every step of the way, not in annoyance or anger as before, but from stopping himself to voice the pain that the gesture was causing him.

"Help me understand," he said earnestly, "because, other than this,” his chin dipped towards his wounded shoulder, “I’m really enjoying our time together and I-”

When Dean's gaze flickered nervously from her face to her hands Alexa realized that she had raised the gun in her hands without really noticing it. She had just reacted to his tone of voice, the tone that he kept using when he talked to her and that was beginning to sound all too familiar to her. And now she could remember from where.

He was talking in that soothing, ‘you're bat-shit crazy, so I'm going to talk to you like the wild animal that you are’ tone of voice that the doctors at the hospital used to use on her. That 'I know better because I'm not insane like you' hidden speech that she could always hear behind every therapy session.

She hated that tone of voice. “Shut up!”

Dean's voice stopped, but in the ensuing silence, all the others remained. The ones whispering to her that he was tricking her, that he didn’t like her, that there was no way to get to him... that she should just kill him and focus on getting Sam instead.

Alexa tossed the gun against the far wall and stuck two fingers in her ears when the loud BANG! pushed through the cacophony of murmured words. “Shut up! Shut up! ShutupShutupShutp!”

When the voices finally quieted, Dean was still lying on the bed, arm resting protectively over himself, looking like he had tried to curl his body away from her but never quite managed. His face was pasty white and his eyes were round and wide. He looked scared.

Perhaps the voices had been louder this time around and he had heard what they were saying. She couldn’t let him believe in what those voices were saying. He couldn’t believe that she was giving heed to the voices’ advices.

“I’m not gonna kill you,” Alexa reassured him. However, judging by the way his shoulders tensed, she soon became annoyed at his obvious disbelief.

The hiss of pain that accompanied his shoulders’ movement was faint but unmistakable.

She was done with his smooth talking and playing on her weaknesses. “Tell me how you got out of Hell,” she demanded.

“Wha... what?”

“Tell me how you got out of Hell,” Alexa repeated, “and I’ll leave your hand free.”

Dean wet his lips again. Alexa couldn’t tell if it was another tick of his or the fact that his lips looked really dry and sore.

"Look," Dean started hesitantly. “I can’t really tell... I don’t know how I-“

Alexa didn’t waste her time calling his bullshit. She just grabbed the last cuff and reached for Dean’s arm.

He recoiled from her, protecting his injury on reflex. “An angel!” He let out, his face pinching like he had just sucked on a lemon. “... It was an angel. An angel brought me back to my body, fixed everything that was rotting away and yahzee! I was breathing again,” Dean said in a tired voice.

Alexa looked at him in disbelief. There had never been any angels in the books before and the only time they'd even come close to one, it had turned out to be nothing more than a priest's misguided soul.

“An angel? Am I supposed to believe that? How do you know it was an angel?”

"I don't," Dean confessed. "I mean, he's got the wings and all, but that doesn't prove much... still, I believe him."

"Why?"

Dean looked her straight in eye again, dry swallowing before answering. "When you meet enough demons and see enough evil, you start getting a feeling of the things that want you dead and the things that don't," he said sincerely. "So, no, I don't know if he's got a harp and bow stashed somewhere, but I do know that he means me no harm."

Dean’s eyes darted to his left shoulder. “You asked me who had made that mark on my shoulder... here is your answer.”

Alexa stopped. She believed him. In fact, she wondered how she hadn't seen it before.

She understood now. The brand on Dean’s shoulder. It was a handprint marking him as special, it was the confirmation of what had always been veiled throughout the books. The clues had always been there and if she hadn’t brought Dean here, she would have never figured it out.

She remembered those passages so well. They stood out from the rest of the story lines like bright neon.

"‘Roy smiled as he heard Dean’s innocent and baffled question. Why him? Of all the sick people there that day, why the one that made fun of faith-healer, the one non-believer in a sea of faithful people? It seemed hardly fair.

Roy had asked himself the same question and the Lord had been kind enough to provide him with an answer

-Well, like I said before, the Lord guides me. I looked into your heart, and you just stood out from all the rest.- he told the young man.

Blind people truly had sharp ears and Roy could hear the distress of the young man seated next to him, barely contained in his restless movements on the couch to his right, in the nervous licking of lips and the constant struggle to swallow around a parched throat. Roy knew exactly what that man wanted -needed- to ask.

When the shy question finally came, the voice behind it was hesitant and slightly fearful of the answer.

- What did you see in my heart?

Roy didn't hesitate. He could remember clearly as if it were happening right now; amidst the throng of faceless, devoted people coming night after night, praying for a miracle, clamoring for a future without pain, without fear, crowding the tent, he ‘saw’ it, as clear as if he still had his eyesight. The bright light radiating from the second row, warm as the Lord’s touch. The light was still there, only now it was clouded with doubt.

- A young man with an important purpose. A job to do. And it isn’t finished.’"

o

"‘Angels are watching over you’"

o

“’Sam was trying to prove a point and he would stop at nothing. Even tricking a priest in to arguing for him.

- Father, that's Michael, right?- he said, gesturing to the painting above them.

The figure of a fierce looking, winged warrior looked down on them, poised midway through the action of killing a helpless looking Lucifer at his feet.

-That's right, - the priest promptly agreed. -The archangel Michael, with the flaming sword. The fighter of demons, holy force against evil.

The minute the words left the clergy man’s mouth, Sam was plastering a winning smile on his face, a smile that said ‘I win’; a smile that said ‘We’re just like him.’’”

o

“‘Angels are watching over you, Dean,’ Mary promised with a smile, repeating to a distraught adult-version of her son, the same words that she used to whisper in his ear when he was but a baby.’

Mary was more right than she would ever know, Alexa thought. The angels had always been watching. But maybe they were just watching over one of their own.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Dean could feel his heart racing inside his chest. He no longer cared what he said or how much he told her. He just wanted her to leave that hand free so that he could escape. He had to escape.

Dean could clearly see the tiny hole on the wall, near the door, where the stray bullet had landed. She hadn't even bothered to engage the safety on the damn gun and she kept waving it around and throwing it against walls like it was a frigging rubber-duck.

The bullet that had been squeezed out of the barrel when it'd impacted with the floor, had flown right bellow his bed and, for a couple of seconds, Dean thought that he was dead.

When she started to scream at him to stop talking and zonked completely out, talking with herself and chasing imaginary flies away, Dean had become truly frightened.

When she fixed her wild look on him and announced that she was not going to kill him, Dean had become terrified. He didn't like where her head was at, delusional conversations or not.

In that moment, it struck him with absolute clarity and fear; he was at the mercy of an unbalanced and unpredictable woman. Those were not odds that Dean was comfortable with.

Except for his father and Sam, Dean had never really managed to rely on others to guarantee his safety, no matter how trust worthy they'd proven to be. He was too much of a control freak to allow anyone, outside from his family, any sort of control or say in his life. With the kind of life that he led, Dean figured that he was entitled to that, at least.

Bobby had some leeway with him, the only outside blood that Dean would listen to. Then again, Bobby had earned his right to be considered one of the family, so he didn't really count.

To have someone, even someone not as batshit crazy as Alexa, steal away his control, rob him of his power to just walk away... Dean had spend thirty years under the sadistic thumb of merciless creatures, forced to do everything that came to their sick minds, with no free will to call his own. Dean would not stand a single second more of the same thing.

“An angel named Castiel went to Hell and got me out,” Dean went on. An angel went to Hell for me, but no one dares to come to the frigging suburbs, he idly thought with an angry pang.

He looked up at Alexa’s face. Her hands had frozen where they were, gripping the metal ring of the handcuff. "An angel got you out because you're special?" She eventually said, eyeing him in a strange way.

"What?... No! They..." Dean didn't really know how to finish that sentence. No, he wasn't special, that much he knew. He'd just been shoved in to a special position because he'd caved under the weight of Alistair's torture and had started the apocalypse. Ironically enough, if he'd been brave, a hero like his father, and endured his sentence like he was supposed to, he would probably still be rotting in Hell, but Mankind at least would be safe. But Alexa didn't -wouldn't- know any of that, and Dean certainly wasn't going to tell her.

"They? There is more than this one who branded your shoulder? Who are they? What's their names?"

Dean bit his lip. He was so far off his game that he was letting information slip away without even noticing. Well, there was one piece of information that he didn't mind sharing. "They're a bunch of dicks, if you ask me... none of the fluffy winged stuff you read about in kids’ books."

She frowned at him and Dean wondered if he'd gone too far. Maybe he should respect her fluffy-winged angel version and not piss her off-

"Of course they're not fluffy winged beings," she said, depreciating tone revealing just how much his preconceptions and assumptions offended her. "They're God's warriors, fighters of evil and demons. They're not chubby, snot-faced little kids with rubber bows and plastic arrows!"

Alexa paused, tilting her head in a way that was disturbingly similar to Castiel's when he was studying something Dean had said or done. She too was studying him. "Are you one of God's warriors now?"

Dean almost laughed at that one, imagining himself in the corporate-slash-financial fashion that the angels seemed to favor. "No, I'm not one of them... I'm-" Dean paused again. What was he? A zombie, spectacularly conserved? A second version of his parents' son? A sad-fuck living on borrowed time? "I'm just me."

"Then why did they go to all the trouble of going in to Hell, just to get a hunter out? Do they do it often? Would they do it for me if I made a deal and went to Hell?"

Dean blinked, resisting the urge to keep his eyes closed. She was talking too fast and he’d already use most of his energy to plan his escape in the bathroom. He did not had the energy to be playing twenty-questions with Alexa.

"No, I don't think they do it often," Dean confessed after awhile. Castiel might've tricked him in to doing something on occasion, but he had never lied to him. Dean believed the angel when he said that his kind had not walked the Earth in over two thousand years.

"So, why you?"

And wasn't that the question that Dean had been asking himself ever since he'd met Castiel. Why him? "They never told me."

"You're lying," she called to his face.

The cold metal of the cuff began circling the wrist that lay on his stomach and Dean resisted the pull of her hands, forcing his arm away from its semi-comfortable position. "They want me to do something for them," Dean let out, hiding the whimper of pain that the movement cost him. "They want me to fight someone."

"Lucifer?" She offered.

This time there was no preventing the gasp that escaped his lips; Dean blamed it on the pain and the fever. He was usually so much better at hiding his cards... Right now, his whole damn deck was on the floor, the game scattered and on display for her to see. "How... why do you say that?" he managed after a while.

Alexa patted his arm distractedly. Dean was too shocked to even flinch. "The clues were always there in the books, Dean. Michael and his flaming sword defeat the devil the first time around... the connection between you and the him and the rest of the angels was made a long time ago."

"That's... that's impossible," Dean let out in disbelief. Granted, Chuck ‘appeared’ to be the real deal, but to write hints of the mess their lives were to become, years before Sam died... before Dean made his deal... before any of the things that later resulted from that even happened? Impossible.

“So it is Lucifer?” Alexa piped in, beaming like he’d announced that Santa Claus was coming to town, just to see her. Then again, for her and for most people, Lucifer was nothing more than an abstract concept, just as real as the chubby red-clad old man. Heck, Lucifer was an abstract concept for most demons, so why would this woman -who's knowledge of the supernatural world had come from a supposedly fictional book- take Lucifer serious at all or even fear him?

Dean knew Lucifer was coming -would come, if they couldn't stop it-, he'd been told that the thing existed for real, and even he had some trouble accepting that reality from time to time.

“No, it’s not Lucifer,” Dean said as convincingly as he could. It was hard to keep the conversation going over the hammering inside his head. His brain hurt.

“I don’t believe you,” she said. The petulant tone of her voice sounded so close to that of Lilith's little girl meat-suit that Dean flinched. The memories of their meeting were so vivid that he could hear the sound of her laughter; grating, childish giggles that had nothing to do with childhood or innocence. And the bed frame upon which he lay, it too bore a similarity he'd rather forget; like the rack in Hell, where he'd spend a whole lifetime in pain, and inflicting pain, it dug painfully against his shoulder blades and ass. Dean couldn't help but shutter and shake his head as the two realities clashed and mingled inside him.

His head didn’t appreciated the action.

Dean blinked in an effort to stop his vision from wavering in front of him. It was making him nauseous and he didn’t wanted to be sick again. He’d paid dearly for the last time he’d puked.

“Look... you asked me who’d taken me out and I gave you the answer,” he said, pausing in part to work some moisture onto his parched lips and to keep his anger in check. Alexa was taking advantage of her position of power over him and if Dean didn't put a stop on it, he would just give and give and she would never leave him alone to work on getting out of there.

It was time to pull the big guns. “I’m... it’s hard to talk about all of this,” he said, closing his eyes for a couple of seconds. Like a professional actor, when he looked up again, his fevered eyes were swimming in tears. “I told you what you wanted to know... and with the trip to bathroom and all... I’m exhausted,” he went on, scared at the fact that he wasn’t so much as lying to her as he was actually baring his weakness wide open.

Like before, she drank his exposure like a thirsty vampire. “Ok, Dean,” she said, leaving the cuff open and empty, dangling from the bed frame. "We can talk more later."

Relieved, Dean closed his eyes, knowing that if she looked in to them, she would see his despair and eagerness to watch her go away. In his head, Dean was already working himself free of the cuffs and walking away. The walking part might come to prove a bit of a problem, but it was a bridge that Dean was prepared to cross when he came to it. Or crawl across.

Dealing with Alexa and her demented mind -and more importantly, her loaded gun- would have to be saved for later, when he wasn't dying from a frigging infected wound and barely able to stand on his own two feet.

Dean was so lost in his plans to get out that he missed when Alexa paused in her retreat and grabbed the edge of his shirt, pulling it up.

Alarmed, Dean barely had time to register her words before she pulled the bloody gauze off in one mighty yank.

“Forgot to clean this... it will be just a minute,” she said, but all that Dean heard was the rush of blood in his ears and the scream that she ripped from his throat as fast as the adhesive tape.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

The house should look evil. The house should at least look like it was falling apart.

Instead, there were yellow roses growing in the front yard and the two trees, whose canopies he could see popping in the back, looked lush and green.

The house where his brother was being kept a prisoner for close to fifty-five hours, should not have a well manicured yard, tended roses and lush trees.

Sam forced himself to study the perimeter and make sure that he wasn’t walking in to a surprise trap.

The Impala wasn’t parked on the street, but then again, Sam doubted that the woman would be stupid enough to leave such a neon sign for him to follow.

This was the address of the house that ‘Ellen’ had rented and there was someone inside. Those were the two things that Sam was certain of.

Making sure that no one was paying attention to his actions, Sam knelt by the front door and made quick work of forcing the lock open.

There was a long corridor in front of him and the lights were all off except for the one in the corridor where he stood.

Sam raised his gun, ready to shot to kill anyone that came between him and Dean, and move forward, silent as death.

Hidden by the surrounding darkness and stuffed inside an electric socket, Sam never saw the motion detector. Nor the red light that started blinking when he walked by it.

A light turned on in the room at the end of the corridor and Sam moved forward.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

The bullet wound smelled nauseously sweet. Alexa decided to drown it in disinfectant until the smell went away. She hated almonds and that pus-oozing hole smelled decisively of exactly that.

After she replaced the gauze and re-taped the wound to cover the ugly hole that was making her gag, Alexa looked at the rest of Dean’s chest and realized that he hadn’t done such a great job cleaning up after all. There were still blood smudges all over his skin.

When she looked up to call Dean on his poor washing skills, Alexa found his face slack, lips partially open and his eyes closed. He was asleep again.

Alexa found herself touching his bottom lip with her thumb. She had expected it to be soft and inviting, but instead it felt coarse and scratchy under her touch. Dean's nose twisted in a funny way, like he'd smelled something that he didn't particularly like, and Alexa pulled away.

There was a darker patch of dried blood that ran from Dean's chest to his navel and Alexa tried to scrapped it out using one of her nails, the dry stuff peeling off like dead skin.

Underneath her touch, Dean’s skin was soft and warm, slightly slippery with sweat even though he’d just stepped out of the bathtub, but still more alluring than his lips. Her fingers slid all the way over to the edge of his pajama bottoms.

Dean hadn’t bothered to fasten them up, the fabric dangling low on his hips, white strings hanging loosely over the purple fabric and bulging slightly over his crotch.

Alexa bit her lip, feeling a strange warmth creeping up her cheeks. There really wasn't much room for sex inside the mental institute and even if there was, Alexa had figured that the same drugs that they kept giving her robbed her of as much of her sex drive as they did of her free will and personality.

Still, she'd seen some pictures and watched some movies... Curious, she'd even tried it with another patient from her floor but he'd been older, his teeth resting inside a water glass by the nightstand. He hadn't done much but roll his eyes back and make funny faces, as he came all over his pants just from watching her undress. Alexa didn't really see the appeal of it then, but now...

Closing her eyes, she allowed touch alone to guide her. The tips of her fingers tingled, gliding from the soft cotton fabric to land on warm flesh, noting with pleasure the contrast between the two as her fingers snuck inside. Her fingers moved easily beneath the pajamas, meeting only the slightest of resistances when she came across the elastic band on the boxers. Hooking a finger around the band, she pulled the elastic away from skin and reached the furnace inside. The ticklish touch of thick, short, male hair leading to the pulse of blood beneath her skin made her twitch, as she guided her fingers further down...

A loud bip, coming from the living room, disrupted Alexa’s exploration. Startled, she yanked her hand out of Dean’s boxers with a movement sharp enough to make the elastic band slap loudly against his skin and causing Dean to moan.

Hesitating another moment, she looked at the unconscious man, vacillating between paying attention to the insistent bipbipbip or continuing her exploration, curious to find out more about that strange pulsing beat that was fluttering inside her stomach.

The bipbipbip grew louder until she couldn't ignore it any more. Sam was inside the house.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Dean came to with the distinct notion that he was wasting time. His whole chest and right arm were on fire and when he tried to open his eyes, they felt like they’d been glued shut.

It took him precious minutes to realize that his arm was actually free and that there was no one else in the room. He could finally start to work.

Dean took a deep breath before beginning to ease his arm the right way, so that he could reach the wire that he’d weaved through the fabric of his boxers. He made sure that the wire was kept away from... the more sensitive areas down there, and that both tips were not sticking out. Or sticking in, for that matter.

Thinking ahead, he'd stored the wire on his right side, figuring that it would be easier on his injured arm. Dean hadn't counted on the latest assault on his wound, which had left his whole right side throbbing and the muscles in his arm completely stiff. Forcing his arm to unbend from its position on his chest was like trying to move a block of cement with nothing more than the power of your mind.

Dean soon found out that it was impossible for him to shrug his shoulder up far enough to slip his hand inside his pajama bottoms. Grunting against the added work, he had to resort to pulling them down until he could reach the wire. When his fingers finally closed around the upper tip of the hidden wire, Dean sighed in relief.

‘Easy part’s over’ Dean thought bitterly, feeling the sweat running down the side of his face. Now he just had to get through the hard part without passing out.

Turning his body as far as it would go to the left, Dean forced his numb and trembling fingers to do what he’d effortlessly done countless times before.

When most kids had been practicing their baseball batting, Dean and Sam had been practicing lock picking with their dad. It was the Winchesters equivalent of puzzle-construction night with the family. By the time he was sixteen, Dean could pick just about any man-made lock that he came across, from any position that he was forced to work in. By eighteen, he could do it with out the proper tools and just use any piece of a sharp, narrow thing that he could get his hands on.

There was nothing to it. Just stick the tip of the wire inside the lock, find the catch and push it aside. Easy cheesy, like popping a girl's bra one handed.

Except for the part where his arm was shaking so much it was like he lying on a magic-fingers bed instead of a wooden frame... or the fact that he was seeing at least five different locks instead of one and the wire was so thin that Dean wasn’t seeing it at all, just working on feeling and faith, hopping that the right part was getting inside the right hole.

True, you didn't actually need to see the lock to pick it open, but steady fingers helped a lot.

Sweat was pooling on the corners of Dean’s eyes, racing down his neck and back, slowly and steadily turning the pink shirt in to something violently violet. When the faint click sounded in the silent room, Dean almost blackout from the relief alone.

One down, two more to go.

00o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Dean wasn’t there. In fact, there wasn’t anyone there.

Sam had kicked open the door to the last room, hoping to catch Alice with his brother. Sam just needed one of her fingers touching Dean... Heck! He just needed her in close vicinity to Dean's air space, so that Sam could have a good excuse to blow her brains out.

Instead, he stumbled upon the set of ‘Poltergeist’. The light coming on in the last room, the light that had foolishly led him to believe that everything was really going to be that easy and that he would find Dean behind that door, was coming from a TV set. An old, crappy one, at that.

The TV sat in the middle of an empty, black room, windows closed and blinders pulled down. It was night time inside that room, and there was static on the TV. Any minute now, Sam was expecting a small, blond child to pop up in the screen.

But when the static stopped, instead of a spirit-hostage little girl, Sam saw his brother.

The whole setting had trap written all over it and Sam knew he’d be doing Dean no favors of he let himself be lured there without, at least, making sure that there was no one else inside the house. It was the hardest thing he’d ever done, but Sam forced himself to turn his back on the screen and search the rest of the house.

But the house was as empty as it felt and on the TV, Dean was screaming.

His heart was hammering against his chest when Sam finally allowed himself to focus his attention on the screen. There was something taped to the side of the TV and it took Sam a couple of seconds to realize that it was Dean's amulet.

Sam grasped the golden piece in his hand and peeled it away, clenching it against his palm until it drew blood. The house was empty, which meant that he was as close to finding Dean as he’d been two days ago and Dean was screaming on the TV. Dean never screamed.

The image on screen was kind of fuzzy, poorly focused, but there was no doubt in Sam’s mind that the person lying on that short bed was in fact his brother. There was a glint of metal on his arm and Sam realized with a growing amount of dread that his brother was, in fact, cuffed to it.

A woman entered the small frame of the scene and sat by Dean’s hip, her back to the camera. Her hands were busy, fumbling around Dean’s right shoulder, causing him to jump off the bed as soon as she touched him.

Sam barely heard the sounds of distress and pain his brother was making, or the grating words of reassurance that the woman -Alice, as far as Sam could guess- kept whispering to him, when he saw the bloody gauze on the woman’s hands.

Dean was hurt.

Sam could not drag his eyes away or turn the TV off, mesmerized as he was with the sight of gauze after gauze being dumped unceremoniously on the floor, his brother’s blood soaked into each and every one of them. Sam could not turn his eyes away because he was sure that he was watching Dean die all over again and the sight was too painful for him to walk away.

Dean was dying and Sam could only watch. Again.

When he figured that things could not get any worse, Dean’s voice reached over the fog of despair inside Sam’s mind.

‘”STOP... stop touching me”

A gasped plea. A bitten sob.

‘“What do you think you’re doin’ with that?”

Fear. A tremor in Dean’s voice that betrayed the helplessness beneath.

Like a moth to a flame, Sam found himself drawn closer to the TV, unable to stop his morbid curiosity over what was happening. But the woman had stepped in between the camera and his brother and Sam had no idea what she had in her hands or what she was doing with it. He could only hear Dean’s reaction to it.

His brother was in pain.

Sam could hear the failed screams, the sucking of air, the banging of his head against hard boards, the clinging of chains as Dean’s hands twisted and struggled against their hold.

The image was growing blurry before Sam’s eyes and he blinked hard when he realized that the faulty image was no longer a camera problem but the tears in his eyes.

And then there it was again, the scream that had called his attention before and Sam was sure that Dean was dead. He grabbed the TV set, gluing his eyes on the screen, hoping, praying that the next image would give him some clue that Dean was still alive.

The video started all over again from the beginning and Sam paced around in rage, kicking the wall to stop himself from attacking the TV. Because kicking the TV was destroying his only link to his brother right then.

And on TV, Dean still gasping, still pleading. Over and over again.

There were a few things in life worse than watching a loved one suffer and not be able to do a damn thing about it. Very few things. And in that particular moment, Sam couldn’t think of a single one of them.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Alexa was in the living room, sitting on a threadbare couch with her feet tucked under her and biting her nail, completely enraptured by something that she was watching on the TV. Whatever it was, the sound was too low for Dean to hear and he found himself holding his breathing so that she wouldn’t hear him walking slowly across the corridor toward the kitchen, trying to be as quiet as a mouse.

The woman seemed distracted enough, but Dean knew that he would never be able to move fast enough to take her out before she could reach her gun. Weak as he felt, it was better to take advantage of her distraction and not push his luck.

He’d already used all of his luck in the bedroom.

As soon as he’d been free from all three pairs of cuffs and gotten off the bed, Dean had promptly fallen on his ass. Luckily for him, his ass landed on the mattress that Alexa had pulled from the bed earlier, so his graceless tumble had been, at least, silent.

Still hurt like a bitch though.

The capped syringes were right there, in front of his face, when Dean managed to open his eyes again.

The Winchesters’ stash of morphine had been hard to get without mixing it up with hardcore drug dealers. Only through one of John’s old contacts in the Marines could Sam and Dean get their hands on any. Occasionally, they would get lucky and hit the odd small town hospital where the heavy-duty drugs were still kept unlocked. That was how they’d managed to get their hands on the epinephrine shots.

Dean figured Sam had started carrying those since the raw-head mess. Apparently, Dean’s heart had actually stopped beating when the zap from the tazer gun hit him. Somewhere in between the time it took for his brother to get him out of that basement and outside, where Sam could actually get a signal on his phone to call for help, Dean’s heart had decided to take a time out.

After that, Dean figured, it must have been some crazy, angsty, hair-pulling time for Sam, waiting for the ambulance to arrive and trying to keep Dean’s heart pumping something out, at least enough to keep him this side of brain damage.

The experience had been so educational to Sam that, as soon as the worst was over, he’d spent his time searching for ways to stop that helpless feeling from slapping him ever again. Geek-boy came across epi-pens and their awesome heart-kick-start powers and he'd come short of screaming Eureka!

After that, Sam just HAD to get a couple of them to add to their first aid kit. Hell, he would add a defibrillator in there too, if he could get his hands on one.

Now, however, looking at those syringes, laying within arms reach, Dean could’ve kissed his brother’s ginormous geek brain. Because he needed to move without blacking out from the pain that kept coming in hot-waves from his infected arm; and he needed that pain to go away without him go out like a light. And if Dean remembered it right, Sam had said something -a couple of hundred times- about energy boosts and epi-shots.

And speaking of happy shots...

Dean had been shot with morphine a couple of times in his life -it sort of came with the territory- so he knew perfectly well how much he usually zonked out in most of those times.

This was not the time or place for him to let himself go out on a morphine-induced bliss. He needed to stay sharp and he needed to stay focused. In the lack of those, he just needed to stay conscious.

With his teeth, Dean pulled the cap off of the morphine-filled syringe and stabbed his thigh. Before the sweet numbness of the drug could lull him away, Dean grabbed the epinephrine syringe and, after eyeballing a bulging vein in his left arm, jammed in half of the container’s clear liquid.

The world turned a faded yellow color and did a weird tilt around Dean, white flashes of light exploding behind his closed eyes. He wasn’t sure if he was going die from the nausea or if he was going to die from the happy ecstasy that was cursing through his body, but Dean was pretty sure that he was going to die.

He didn’t, though.

Instead, his body protested its way in to some kind of balance between the numbness of morphine and the kick of epinephrine, rebelling against the unnatural pull resulting from the opposing drug reactions.

Once he was able to open his eyes without seeing too many pretty lights, Dean had managed to make it all the way to the kitchen without stumbling, much. Invincible as he felt, Dean knew that he had to hurry; the effects of those drugs were short lived and he knew the human heart wasn’t meant to beat that fast. It felt like he had a jackhammer inside his chest, heart beating hummingbird fast. Dean, the awesome hummingbird.

Dean imagined his giant head attached to tiny, almost invisible, flapping wings and covered his mouth with his left hand, stifling the giggle before it got out and did irreparable damage. The few times he hadn't zonked out with morphine in his blood stream, Dean had been too stoned to notice the pain anyway.

He needed to get out of there before the effects of the drugs started to thwart his escape rather than help him. Like him giggling like a fool because his brain was turning in to mush. He needed to call Sam. Or get to a gun. Dean instinctively knew that he would feel a lot better if he had a gun in his hands.

Eyeing the two doors in the kitchen, Dean figured that one was probably to the back yard and the other to the garage that Alexa had mentioned before.

Paddling along the cold kitchen floor, Dean ignored the random shards of broken plates crushing under his socked feet as he headed in an almost-straight line towards the garage. The thought of actually making his way to the street didn't even cross his mind. Even stoned as he was, Dean knew that he wouldn't get more than a couple of feet before kissing the floor.

The garage, on the other hand, held the promise of familiar ground and a trunk full of weapons. He remembered Alexa saying something about having the Impala there.

Looking at his baby, even in the darkness of the garage, was like a cooling balm for a man who’d spend too much time in the sun.

The Impala looked like a black hole in the middle of the general darkness of the small division, trusty and powerful, with a silent promise of escape.

Even with the lights off, Dean could see every one of his baby’s curves; could feel where she ended and where the rest of the world began. Thoughts of getting a gun faded from Dean’s mind when he realized that he only needed to get inside his car and drive away from there.

The lure of freedom was stolen away by the sudden pain in his chest. Dean had to grab the edge of the car’s cool roof to keep himself from sliding to the floor, closing his eyes until the loud thump thump thump was gone from his ears and he could feel his heart beating more closely to normal.

When the lights came on, Dean thought that his eyes were going to explode in to his brain. Amidst the explosions of white, Dean could see a silhouette, cut against the kitchen’s door and his heart twitched inside his chest all over again, threatening to just jump out of his mouth.

“You shouldn’t be here, Dean,” Alexa calmly said.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Chapter 6 by Ophium

Chapter 6

Sam was staring right at her. The TV set she'd left in the second house was one of those really old ones, with the wood box housing the screen and those little peep holes from where the sound came out. Plenty of room inside those things and it wasn't all that hard to get her hands on one of those tiny cameras, pen-cameras, like James Bond stuff and she'd hid it inside the TV.

So, Sam was staring right at her, but he had no idea that she was looking back.

Using the remote in her hand, Alexa zoomed in on Sam's face until his eyes filled the screen.

Chuck's books had never been very specific about the color of Sam's eyes. The author would often go on and on about the 'moss green' and the 'golden flecks' that peppered Dean's eyes, but Sam's were almost always described as 'soulful eyes' or 'puppy' looks or any other euphemism that didn't really define a color. Looking at him now, Alexa could understand why.

The glow of the TV reflected in Sam's eyes, highlighted the blue and the green, but there was also brown in there and some odd mixtures of all three. Sam had beautiful eyes, just like his brother, but they were impossible to describe.

The tears flowing freely from them only added to their beauty.

Sam’s eyelids came down suddenly, covering the rainbow of colors from Alexa’s view, before Sam’s face scrunched up like he was in pain and he disappeared all together from frame. She could hear a retching sound near the TV; zooming out in search for Sam, she caught part of his ass, sticking up in the air as he bent down out of sight, upchucking his guts out.

The halothane gas that she'd set in five canisters all over the room, needed up to fifteen minutes to knock out someone of Sam's size. Alexa had read up on it.

While it seemed like an awfully long time to keep someone rooted in the same place, she had provided enough incentive to keep her target there for hours. All she needed was minutes. The puking was only a side effect.

It had been rather tricky to wire the TV, gas cans and hidden camera to all go off at the exact same moment the motion detector was activated. She was glad she'd managed to do that, though. Now she could watch Sam's reactions, she could see the despair in his face and body as he moved about inside the second house, as close and detailed as if she was standing there with him.

Things hadn’t gone exactly as she’d planned; Sam hadn't stopped in front of the TV, hadn’t stayed put, like she’d hoped. Not at first, that is.

But when he saw the amulet, her peace offering, and finally realized what was being shown on TV, Sam froze. Right where she wanted him.

Alexa watched Sam as he watched the video of her extracting the bullet from Dean's shoulder, the sound of Dean's moans streaming through her spy device as clearly as they sounded in the TV set in front of Sam.

Strangely, though, she didn't really remembered Dean making such pitiful sounds. Dean sounded like her dog, Slice, right before he died.

Alexa grabbed the TV's remote and lowered the sound. She didn't like those moans.

Judging by the way he was grabbing the TV set and from the tears running down his face, Sam seemed to think the same. His reaction didn't really surprise her that much. Sam had always been the more emotional of the two brothers, more open and quick to express his feelings than Dean.

In her TV set, shoulders trembling with pent up emotion, Sam stood stock still, just staring, with no signs of dizziness yet, as Alexa could tell. That was still a few minutes away, so she wasn't overly concerned. She would have to wait until he was completely out before she went to pick him up. Sam was a very big guy and she wouldn't dare risk getting anywhere near him sooner than that.

A noise came from the kitchen, drawing Alexa's attention away from the TV. She had yet to clean up the broken dishes she'd thrown on the floor earlier and now she could hear the remains grinding against the floor, shattering to even tinier pieces as someone stepped on them. Dean was up.

Heart racing, Alexa grabbed her gun and followed the sound, making a quick stop at Dean's room to confirm what she feared. The cuffs were all open and the bed was empty. How the hell had he managed to do that this time around?

One thing was certain: Dean had lied to her, tricked her, made a fool out of her. And Alexa was crazy, but she was neither dumb nor a fool. The voices had been right all along, warning her that he was beyond her help, that he would never be honest with her. He was not going to take advantage of her again.

Besides, she already knew what she wanted, the parts of the story that were missing from before. Sam could continue from here on.

Taking a deep breath, Alexa forced her fists to unclench and went to the kitchen. He wasn’t there anymore.

The front door was locked and she'd broken the back door's lock. Dean had only one place to go. Only one place where she expected him to go.

Maybe it was time for Dean to find out how his story ended. Because Alexa already knew. It was all there in the books, after all.

"’Mary was going to chew his behind off. He'd fallen asleep in front of the TV, again.

A dreadful feeling that something was terribly wrong had grabbed John's heart as soon as he opened his eyes. He knew it would not go away until he'd made sure that his family was safe and protected.

Dean's room was the first one up the stairs. Peeking inside, John could see nothing but a mop of light blond hair, sticking out from the top of the Superman covers and reflecting the softly glowing night-light. The rhythmic rise and fall beneath the covers indicated that his older son slept deeply.

Mary wasn't in their room, which meant that she was probably with little Sammy. At six months old he already slept most of the night, but the occasional cravings for a midnight snack still hit now and then.

Opening the nursery door, John couldn't help but smile, as he always did, when he was met with the toothless smile on his baby boy's round cheeks. Sammy was such a happy child...

Oddly enough, however, the lingering sense of dread and unease refused to go away, even in the sight of his sons safely tucked away in their beds.

And then John saw her. Mary. On the ceiling. Bleeding, soundlessly gasping for help.

Before he could do anything but fall to his knees in shock, the love of his life, the mother of his children, burst in to flames.'"

o

"'Sam was glad to be back home, back to Jess and his normal life. Painful as it had been to turn his back on Dean and say goodbye a second time, the sight of Jessica's freshly baked cookies and her simple note helped smooth his heart. He was lucky to have found her.

Calling out her name, nothing but the sound of a running shower answered Sam as he sunk in to their bed.

He closed his eyes in bliss as his muscles melted against the soft mattress. He'd forgotten how his body ached after a hunt and the five burned marks in his chest, where the woman-in-white had touched him, were not helping. Those would take some time to heal... and some explaining to do, when Jessica saw them. Maybe Dean was right, maybe he should be honest with Jess and finally tell her about who he really was and what his family did. If she loved him like he did, she would understand, he was sure of that.

He never got a chance to find out.

The annoyingly wet drips that kept falling over his face drove Sam away from the lull of sleep that he was sinking in to. He opened his eyes.

And then Sam saw her. Jessica. On the ceiling. Bleeding, soundlessly gasping for help.

Before he could do anything but open his mouth in shock, the love of his life, the future mother of his unborn children, burst in to flames.'"

o

"'Dean couldn't do it. For all of his pyromaniac tendencies, Dean could not set his own father's corpse on fire. But he couldn't let that weight fall on Sam's shoulders either. So, he closed his eyes, bit his lip bloody as he flicked the lighter on and threw it to the piled wood.

Dean blamed the bright, flickering light, he blamed the smoke and the heat for the tears running down his face. Dean wasn't crying. He was too angry and to empty of emotions to be crying. He was one step closer to being all alone now, and his father’s dying words had been nothing but a sword for Dean to hang over his head, mulling over the possibility that he might have to kill the one person he had left on this earth. So, no, Dean wasn't crying, because crying called for feelings that he could no longer muster.

John burned, like the Viking warrior that he'd been his whole life, and behind the flames, stood his orphan sons.' "

Alexa smiled as she grabbed the lighter from the top of the kitchen counter. Yes, Dean's ending would be very fitting.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

“You shouldn’t be here, Dean,” Alexa's voice sounded from behind the explosion of bright light.

Once he could see again, Dean made a clumsy, somewhat fast dash for the Impala’s trunk, cursing at himself. What the hell had he been thinking, not grabbing a gun as soon as he had the chance?

“Stop right there.”

Dean froze. He knew that tone of voice, he'd heard it before, right before she shot him. “Alexa...” Dean tried, both hands raised in a placating manner. Or rather, one hand raised in a placating manner. It was growing harder and harder to move his right arm at all.

“It’s ok, Dean, I understand,” she said in a voice that was far too calm for Dean's liking. The gun in her hand resembled a silver, glistening snake, ready to spit its venom at any moment. "I just wish I didn't have to do this."

Do what?’ Dean asked inside his head. He had no time to actually ask the question because the answer was made painfully clear when Alexa’s fingers coiled around a oil can to draw it close. Never taking her eyes or the gun off him, she worked the red cap off easily; Dean swallowed his building panic, but just barely. “What the hell are you doing?!” Dean finally sputtered out, forgetting about the gun and taking a step towards the woman.

“Stop,” Alexa said quietly, gun in one hand steadily aiming at Dean’s head while the other tipped the can down. A red sea of fuel spread like spilled blood on the concrete floor, immediately filling the room with a pungent chemical smell. “I’m letting you go, Dean.”

Dean stopped in his tracks, watching the progression of the fuel on the floor, frantically searching for a way out of there. He did not like where this conversation was going. But the garage door was bolted shut and the only other out was through Alexa and her gun. “You’re letting me go?” Dean asked, swallowing the nervous giggle that was bursting to blow out of his mouth. Her idea of 'letting go' was slightly different than his. Dean turned his gaze to find something -anything- that he could use to fight.

“Yes... I’m sending you home, Dean.”

Dean gasped when he saw the plastic lighter in her hands. “Stop! Please... please don't do this-”

Alexa flicked the lighter, playing with it rather than sparking a flame. She was looking at him like she was saying goodbye, committing his face to memory. “I’m doing this as a favor to you, Dean. Can’t you see that?”

Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.

Dean shook his head, placing a hand on the Impala’s roof when he stopped but the garage went on spinning. Whatever edge the drugs had given him, it was starting to wear off. The timing couldn't have sucked more. “What I see is you playing with fire,” he said, trying to keep his voice calm and steady. If that lighter slipped from her hands...

“You told me... you asked for my help,” she said, earnest eyes actually pleading with Dean to understand why it was ok to set the garage on fire with them inside it. “Don’t you see? The angels need you to fight Lucifer. That was why they went all the way to Hell to get you. But Lucifer is not a common demon that you can exorcise with some Latin verses. He is an angel too and, in your human form, Dean... you’ll never be able to defeat him.”

Dean was barely listening to her nonsense but he could've sworn that she had just said that she was going to kill him to help him defeat Lucifer. “What the fuck are you talking about?” Dean had meant for that to come out strong-voiced and menacing, see if he could scare her back in to being a tame-crazy person. His throat, however, had different plans and decided to close up on him. Dean's voice ended up coming out strangled and weak.

The trunk of the car was right there, right within reach, at the tip of his fingers on his left hand. If he could just... right at the edge of his left hand's fingers.

Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.

"I don't have a choice."

Dean's hands turned in to fists; flight and fight reactions clashed inside his body at the dizzying speed of atomic fission. Energy and heat poured out of him until he was left exhausted, mentally, physically, molecularly, if that was even possible. "You always have a choice," he whispered, eyes never wavering from the plastic lighter. It was a blue plastic lighter, like the ones you could by for a dollar at the gas station, those with pictures of naked ladies or tropical places. This one had a beach and palm trees pictured on the side. Paradise on Earth. Figures.

The clicking of the lighter stopped and Dean looked at the woman.

"My sister's always saying that. Do you think she's right?"

Dean vaguely remembered her talking about her sister before, when she's introduced herself. Mary... her kid sister's name was Mary, like his mother, and she was in law school. Dean felt a wisp of hope surging inside his heart. Maybe the sister was the way to get through to her; maybe he could connect her somehow to reality through her sister to stop her from doing this. "Your sister sounds like a very smart girl. You should listen to her."

"I do... I listen to her all the time."

The flickering of the lighter was still absent and Dean grabbed on to that. Keep her distracted, keep her from killing them. Now, if only he could get her to turn her back for just one second...

"Why don't you give her a call?" Dean risked. "See what she thinks of this whole... sending me home deal," he said, the words passing as blocks of cement through his throat.

Alexa's eyes suddenly hardened. "I can make my own decisions... don't need Mary's help for that."

Click. Click. Click. Click.

"Alexa, please... you're about to kill a human being. What would your sister think of you then?" Dean asked, rushing through the words. Two exits and he needed time to find a way to get himself through either of them. He needed time to get the trunk open, he needed time to get a weapon, he needed time to either kill Alexa or shoot the garage door open. He just needed time.

"My name is not Alexa," she dropped casually.

"Humm... what?"

It made some kind of sense that she hadn't given him her real name, Dean figured. Seemed pointless though, because if she was worried about him recognize her later and hunt her down -which he would- she would've at least made some sort of effort to hide her face from him. Which she hadn't. Still... Dean didn't know why, but the fact that he couldn't name the person who had shot him, kept him captive and was now threatening to burn him alive, suddenly felt like a rug being pulled from under his feet.

Names carried weight. It was one of the first things Bobby had ever taught him, the first thing that made Dean realize that John Winchester didn't know as much about everything as he liked to think. According to John, the things they hunted were 'sonsofbitches' and 'bloodsuckingbastards' and 'evilmotherfuckers', because they didn’t really rank enough in his give-a-crap scale to know their names. And the Winchesters were Abels Peters and Marks; and Harrys, Davids and James; and Alexs, Freds and Louis, depending on which credit cards they happen to be using at the time, because there was no money under their own name, so why bother using it?

But Dean understood Bobby’s advice. Took it at heart. He stopped being Dean Winchester to strangers by the time he got his high school diploma. Incidentally, that was also the last official document bearing his real name. Somewhere in St. Louis and then again in the FBI archives, there were two death certificates with his name on them, but those didn't really count.

'Give your name freely to your enemies and you've given them power over you', Bobby had said, managing to sound grungy about it instead of a greasier version of Yoda.

Names carry whole identities with them, they can define who you are for your whole life. They can influence the way people judge you based on nothing but the name that you bear, automatically liking and trusting or hating you based on nothing more than the name that you have, because it's their father's name, their pet's name, the name of the guy that lives across the hall and that they can't stand the sight of...

For the past hours -days-, Dean had learned to hate the name Alexa. He had started hundreds of little sentences in his head that started with 'Alexa' and ended with some variation of 'bloody'. It seemed like such a small thing, but if he didn't have her name, what else was he suppose to name his vengeance?

"Besides, you won't really be dead," not-Alexa went on. "You're one of the main characters in those books, Dean. You'll be back on the next one, just like you came back from being ripped to shreds by a hellhound... I'll make sure that Chuck brings you back. Maybe as a angel this time. Would you like that?"

Dean lost it. He took two steps in her direction, intent on getting through to her, gun or no gun. Anything was better than trying to make sense of her demented head and end up burning anyway.

The gunshot was too loud inside the small space to be identified as a single sound. The thunder bounced around the walls until it eventually died away. Dean ducked against the Impala, one hand instinctively covering his left ear, the uncovered left ear one still left to be half-deafened and ringing from the noise. Dean vaguely wondered if there were any new holes in him, as the car offered more comfort than cover, with not-Alexa standing right in front of him.

“Stop moving, Dean,” she warned. “There’s plenty of gas fumes in here, I wouldn’t risk another gunshot if I were you... that is not how you're supposed to die.”

Dean leaned against his car, exhausted. For a couple of seconds he just let his forehead rest on the cool metal, drawing strength from the familiar vehicle.

She was right. This was not how he was supposed to die. The apocalypse was around the corner, Lilith was hunting his brother down, Sam was hiding things from him, angels were haunting his every step and he was suppose to stop Lucifer itself… no, killed in a garage by a lunatic that thought that he was some character from some cheesy novel was not how he was supposed to go.

Dean had too much work to do, too many lives to protect to allow himself to be taken like this. Not pointlessly like this. And not because someone believed that he was not real. "LOOK AT ME!" Dean shouted, shoving a shaky finger in to his wounded shoulder. Even in the fading adrenaline rush, he barely felt the pain as he held two bloody fingers in front of him, like a mocked blessing in red. "I'm a real person, I bleed for real, I AM NOT A GODDAMN CHARACTER!"

Click. Click. Click.

"You're hurt," she said, looking genuinely surprised at the sight of his bloody fingertips. "How did that happen?"

Dean resisted the urge to shake his head again. "You shot me!"

"No, I didn't, I shot the wall," she said, pointing at the fresh hole in the plaster behind Dean's head. "Sam shot you, remember? Though... I thought he'd shot your left sho-"

"You're..." Dean bit his lip. Fucking insane, he wanted to say; off of your meds, he wanted to say.

"Just, please, call your sister and talk to her," he ended up saying, because that was the only way he could get her to go back in the house and give him a chance to escape. He just wanted a chance. Sam wasn't coming and Castiel and his God seemed to believe that he was going to stay alive on trust and faith alone, at least long enough to complete his 'mission'. In the mean time, he was alone, he was hurt and if was going to be honest with himself, he was scared. He deserved a chance.

Click. Click.

"Will you kiss me if I do?"

Dean blinked, turned his head a bit, trying to figure out if she was mocking him.

After all the gut-wrenching memories and painful emotions that he had been forced to lay bare in exchange for simple things like going to the bathroom and having one hand free, a kiss for her walking away now seemed like an infinitely small thing. At this point, if she'd asked him to roll naked on a bed of nails, he would probably say yes. "Yes... yes I will. Anything you want."

She smiled and turned away, walking back inside the house.

Dean wasted no time. The trunk was locked, but this wasn't the first time he'd needed to get something out of his car in a rush. A quick, hard press in the right spot and the truck popped open, like Aladdin's cave at the sound of the magic words.

The feeling of his hands around his trusty sawed-off felt like a shot of cold breeze. Dean could feel himself breathing easier, his heart beating calmer, his legs more steady than they'd ever been since he got there.

Click.

Dean looked up, startled. Not-Alexa was looking at him from behind the flickering blue flame of the ignited blue, plastic lighter. She'd been gone for less than thirty seconds.

"Mary says it's OK," she said, as the sound of the ignited lighter hit the floor, instantly hiding her image behind a wall of fire.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

The door to the kitchen closed behind Alexa’s retreating figure with the loud bang of a tombstone being sealed shut. Over the cracking of the rapidly spreading fire, Dean could hear the sound of something heavy being dragged in front of the door and he instantly knew that there was no getting out through there.

Dean scurried to the garage door, chest wheezing, eyes stinging from the mounting smoke. He would have to shoot the padlock with his left hand, which usually wouldn’t prove to be much trouble. Choking on black smoke and fighting the nausea and building dizziness, it took Dean three tries to actually hit the shinning lock.

Dropping the gun to the floor, Dean grabbed desperately at the latch and shook it frantically. The latch didn’t move.

He would have to pick the lock. He would have to pick the fucking lock!

That realization dawned and with it Dean felt all hope drain from his body. He was truly trapped in there and, given the amount of time it had taken him to unlock his cuffs before, Dean knew that there was no way he could get that door open before he ran out of air. Or burned up. God! He was going to be burned alive!

Panic gripped Dean tight, constricting his chest and freezing his breath on his lungs. Sweat poured from his face as he felt the heat building up at his back. He could hear the fire building up behind his back.

Dean punched the garage door, not even feeling the crack in his knuckles or seeing the red smudge that his anger left behind.

There was no way out and he was going to burn to death. Over his many years of hunting, he'd escaped death too many times by the hair of his teeth, and of all the ways to go that he'd either imagined or barely avoided, drowning and burning alive were the two that had always sent a cold shiver of fear down his spine.

He’d seen too many victims of both to fool himself in to believing that there were worse ways to go. There weren’t. He would rather grab the gun and put a bullet in his head while he could still think rationally.

No matter how many dead bodies he’d burned throughout his life, no matter how much fire was a part of what he did, Dean could never lose sight that fire, more than demons, was his worst enemy.

Dean screamed for help, even though deep down he knew that no one would be coming in time. When the embers settled, they would find his carcass, charred and unrecognizable and no one would know. Sam would never know.

Dean screamed again, his voice nothing more than a raspy string of sound, anger replacing fear. Resolution replacing hopelessness.

Sam had lost a mother and a future wife to fire; Dean would not allow for him to lose a brother as well. He was Dean Winchester. He had been to Hell and back and he would not die in a frigging garage fire. He would not do that to Sam.

Turning around, Dean, could see nothing but flames, climbing up the walls and worming closer to the roof.

The Impala sat in the middle of an orange sea like a drifting ship. The fire, like a hungry beast, had eaten through the pile of boxes inside the garage like they were nothing but appetizers, its greedy fingers already licking the roof of the car. His car.

The first time he'd grabbed its keys and called the 67 Chevy 'his' car, Dean had felt ten feet tall. He could do anything, he could go anywhere. That car was his freedom, his home, it was comfort and reassurance when all else was gone... when all others had left him. It was also a big, mean motherfucker with over three thousand pounds of steel, so solid that, instead of car, it might as well be called a battering rod.

Dean tumbled forward, right arm hanging limply from his side, left curved around his face offering small protection against the unbreathable air. His eyes felt like they were going to melt right off his face.

Without wasting a moment on guilt, Dean grabbed the gun he'd dropped and, using the metal tip of the muzzle and the last of his fading strength, smashed the driver’s side window.

The fire roared, muffling the sound of the shattering glass. Anxious to escape the heat and flames bearing down on him, Dean quickly pushed his hand inside to get at the car's latch. The heated metal burned his skin when he grabbed the door handle, but Dean paid it no mind.

Heart racing, Dean could feel his breaths exiting in harsh gasps and sweat running down his face and back like a tropical downpour. He pushed the thick pieces of broken glass aside and plopped down behind the wheel, noting the leather beneath him already warming at an alarming rate. Its warm touch would slowly cook him, scourging his flesh through the flimsy protection of a t-shirt and pajamas. Even so, he felt safer in there that he had on the outside.

Fingers fumbling, he finally managed to get his hands on the door and pull, the latch sealing with a metallic bang. As soon as it closed, even with the benefit of a broken window, it felt like a rope had been coiled around his neck, air reaching him through a veil of cotton and brimstone. The air inside the car was stale and hot, heat and flame rendering it useless for anything else but to cauterize his skin and lungs. When Dean sucked in a desperate breathe, nothing seemed to coming in.

Dean coughed, the forced movement causing sparkles of pain to surge all over his chest.

He ignored the flames, he ignored the hot air, he ignored the way his body trembled like he was in the middle of blizzard and not that raging hell. His single focus, his single purpose in life, was to get out of there.

Going on feeling alone, Dean reached under the Impala’s steering wheel console and grabbed the bundle of wires underneath. Bending forward on his seat, Dean searched for the two wires that would spur the Impala’s engine to life and get him out of there.

The world tilted like a drunken sailor on shore leave and Dean bit his lips hard enough to draw blood. His body could not –would not- betray him now. Not like this, not this close to getting out.

Dean opened his eyes wide, a curtain of tears veiling his perception of everything. There was a blue and a black wire in his hand, but their colors were fading to grey and white and all around them there were tiny explosions of black that were growing bigger and bigger...

"No..." Dean mumbled, fighting for focus, for consciousness, for life, "no, no... nn..."

It was an unfair fight. Dean’s unconscious body slumped forward, landing with a dry thud on the steering wheel, right on top of the horn. Somewhere in the distance, in the thundering roll of fire and flame, as his world was consumed, he could almost hear his brother calling for him, pounding on the closed doors and urging Dean to save himself.

The Impala screamed for help in a long, mournful sound while the fire laughed in its face. Inside the inferno, inside his car, Dean had already lost this battle.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o00o

The second time that Sam forced himself to sit through the entire video, he didn’t make it to the end. The condemning proof of his weak stomach surrounded him with its deplorable stench; the pile of puke beside the TV looked back at him, accusatory and undeniable.

Sam was left feeling shaky and dizzy, his stomach hurting from the emptiness that has been forced upon it, but still Sam pushed himself to watch it again, to listen to the whole thing again. After all, he argued internally, he only had to watch it, Dean had to actually endured it.

He would not leave and he would not ignore the images on display. Somewhere in that footage, this woman had made a mistake and Sam would find a clue to where his brother was. It was his only shot. It was Dean's only shot.

The walls of the room where Dean was being kept were pale yellow and the floor was made of dark wooden planks. There were no paintings on the wall, no window in sight. All Sam could see in the tiny frame allowed by the camera was a bed stripped of its mattress, a woman's back and Dean's head from his right side. There wasn’t a single thing that set it apart from any of the rooms in the house Sam occupied, or any other house the world over, for that matter. It was just a yellow room with a bed in the center.

Sam tilted his head and closed his eyes, telling himself that it was to sharpen his hearing and listen more intently to back ground noises, and not to escape the images. Yet even without visuals, relying only on audio, there was nothing remarkable, just the occasional faint sound of a dog barking, or a car driving by; no trains, no heavy traffic, not even the odd plane to give him any indicator as to where to start looking.

Sighing but determined not to give up, Sam forced down rising bile and leaned forward, waiting for the tape to loop back to the beginning once again. A muted sound, faint, but easily distinguishable to his trained ear made him sit up straight, eyes open. The muffled report of a gunshot could’ve almost gone unnoticed had Sam not been paying attention to every background noise in that video. Took him a few precious seconds to realize that the sound hadn’t come from the TV at all.

Hope surged and Sam raced outside, trying to figure out just where the gunshot had come from. There was nothing to tell him that the discharge was even related to Dean; there was nothing to guarantee him that the sound had even been real and not some over enthusiastic guy watching a gangster movie too loud. But Sam knew that the gunshot had been the real deal just as he knew, he knew that that gun had been aimed at Dean.

Sam skittered to a stop when he reached the asphalt and found himself out of breath, gulping down mouthfuls of fresh air that flushed through his body in dizzying speeds. He leaned forward, hands on his knees, staving off the sudden rush of clarity. It was as if he'd been underwater for hours. Shaking his head to clear the fog, Sam realized that the oppressive air inside the house hadn't just been inside his head; the hard-to-breath sensation hadn't been just some psychological reaction to what he was seeing on the TV. There really was something in there and he'd been breathing it for lord knows how long.

Sam looked back at the house he’d just vacated, dumbstruck. How could he have not realized that?

He could send demons to Hell –he could kill demons- with the power of his mind alone, and still Sam had failed to notice that he was slowly being poisoned inside that house. It had been gradually slowing him down, sneaking its way in without him even being aware. If Sam had stayed there a couple more minutes...

Two certainties hit the younger Winchester with enough force to turn his legs in to Jell-O: the whole process of finding the house had been an elaborate trap left by Alice for him to follow; and she was close, close enough to know when he bit the last of the cheese and she could come to collect her second mouse. Which meant that Dean had to be close by as well.

There was little doubt in Sam's mind on who had shot that gun he'd just heard, which also meant that Dean's time was running terribly short. But on the other hand, the hand that still carried hope, that gunshot meant that Dean was still alive and still kicking with enough force to piss the woman off to the point that she'd take a shot at him.

In a very odd, very dysfunctional and disturbing Winchester way, this was all good news. Sam just hoped that Alice had a terrible aim.

Sam looked down the street and up the street, looking like a lunatic in the middle of the asphalt trying to pick something –anything- up. The houses were all ridiculously alike, with their manicured front lawns and the trees in the back.

A couple of the houses had cars parked up front, people returning home after a day’s work, not even guessing the kind of person that they had as a neighbor. Sam ignored those; he still had Alice's car and she was certainly keeping the Impala hidden from sight, if she hadn't gotten rid of it altogether.

Picking a direction at random, Sam started down the street, stopping himself short of screaming Dean’s name out loud. His brother was close; Sam could almost feel it in his blood.

He didn’t have to go far. The horn blaring it the distance was almost as familiar to him as his own heartbeat. Sam would recognize the Impala's scream anywhere.

Sam’s heart, who had started beating happily at the notion that he was close to Dean, plunged to his feet when he realized that the sound of the horn was coming from the house on his left. The house with smoke rising from its windows. Black, thick smoke, sneaking up the darkening sky like a grease stain against the clouds.

Swallowing hard, Sam realized that the car's incessant plea for help was reverberating from the other side of that very garage door. This was the right house, he was sure of it. “Dean?” He shouted, hands clasped around his mouth, lips almost pressed against the metal of the door. The smell of smoke was nauseating from that close and Sam hoped to hell that his brother was no where near there.

No one answered him and the door would not bulge, no matter how hard Sam pushed it up. Sam’s fist hit the metal hard, distantly noticing that it was hotter than it should be. “Dean!”

He couldn’t get in through there. Looking around, Sam’s eyes zeroed in on the front door.

Sam didn’t waste his time knocking. Part adrenaline rush, part uncontrollable surge of the dark power that he could feel growing inside with each clear indicator that Dean was in danger, the wood door simply shattered under his foot.

“DEAN?”

The house was filled with black smoke and little else. Sam quickly discarded his jacket and took off his button up to tie it around his face. It was impossible to see three feet in front of his own face.

In an effort to avoid the potentially blinding, stinging black clouds of smoke, Sam cast his gaze downward. The blood trail was right at his feet, going from the front door to the back room. Sam took a step aside, his stomach turning with the realization that he was stepping on his brother's blood.

Sam gulped in near panic as he followed the trail, heart pounding against his chest. The room was pitch dark, but clearly empty. He caught a glimpse of the hard bed frame where his brother had been kept, the glint of metal cuffs and a smoking mattress on the floor. But no Dean. No Alice either. “DEAN?”

No one was answering him and Sam had no other choice but to follow the sound of the Impala. He figured he didn’t have much time before the house became impossible to navigate.

The living room was empty, a TV set eerily similar to the one in the other house, sat in the middle of the room, a ratty couch in front of it.

Across the living room was the kitchen. Sam guessed that, given how old the house was, if there was going to be an inside door to the garage, it would be there. Pieces of broken glass littered the floor, along with faint trails of blood and a cabinet clearly out of place. It stood too close to the stone counter to be in its right place and just behind it, Sam could guess the wooden framing of a door.

The smoke was thicker in there and the cabinet was warm to the touch. Ignoring the discomfort in his palms, Sam gave the empty cabinet a shove that sent it almost crashing against the opposite wall. There was a door behind it and the sound was coming from there.

Sam grabbed the door handle and quickly let it go, hissing in pain. The metal was burning hot.

Despite the sense of rush and danger that was filling every pore of his being, Sam had seen enough movies and TV shows to know what that the searing heat of the handle meant. The fire was right behind that door. And, Sam feared, so was Dean.

There was no way that Sam was waiting around for the fire department to come and do this properly. He could feel Dean's time running out.

Ruby’s words about the fire being their friend came to him out of nowhere.

Dean had been angel-napped and Ruby had performed some spell to pinpoint his brother’s location. Sam had been a bit uneasy about the unguarded fire on the motel room, burning on the tabletop, but Ruby had reassured him. She controlled that fire like it was nothing but a puppy, performing tricks for her entertainment. ‘The fire is our friend’ she’d said.

At the time, Sam had chose to ignore her inclusion of him in her ‘our’, but now, Sam hoped like hell that she had been right in that remark.

Closing his eyes, Sam forced himself to think of nothing but Dean and his need to fight that fire. He imagined the room behind that door, imagined the bright yellow flames licking every surface, dancing around in its path of destruction.

Slowly, Sam pictured the flames dying down and being restrained to a corner of the room. The pain that immediately exploded behind Sam's eyes was worse than any he'd ever experienced, even when he'd first started exorcising demons with his mind. Sam pushed forward, ignoring the slow trickle of warm wetness slowly dripping down his nose and the burst of fire burning inside his brain.

When he felt that he could push no further, Sam took a deep breath, cleaned his nose and forced his eyes to focus as he opened the door. He just hoped that the world wouldn’t explode around him in the next couple of seconds.

The room was pitch black, not from lack of light, because Sam could see the contained flames in the left corner of the room, but because everything was covered in black grime.

Seated in the middle of scourged garage was the Impala, looking slightly ruby-ish with its heated, black metal chassis.

The blare of the horn still emanated, grating against Sam’s nerves, and when he saw the slumped figure over the steering wheel, he realized why the car wouldn’t give up.

“DEAN!”

Sam’s fingers didn’t register the hot flare of pain when he grabbed the driver's side door handle and pulled it open. The only thing that they were capable of dealing with was the feeling of Dean’s skin when Sam curled one hand around his brother’s neck, desperately searching for a sign of life, but his fingertips were too burned and sore to sense anything at all. Sam pushed him away from the steering wheel and back against the seat; it was eerily disturbing the way Dean’s head lolled back, boneless and broken.

Anxiously, Sam placed his palm over Dean's heart, eager to know his brother was alive. Relief flooded him when he felt the presence of a heartbeat, only to have it fade to abject fear; Dean’s heart was racing, wildly. His skin was too hot to the touch, too dry and his eyes sunken deep in to his face. Sam knew his brother was still alive... he just didn’t look the part.

They had to get out of that garage. Sam’s head was starting to pound and the pressure he could feel building up inside his sinuses meant that another nosebleed wasn’t that far away. It was all he could do to keep the fire under control to this point, but even now, Sam could feel his grip on the flames slipping away. They didn’t have much time.

Sam looked at his slumped brother and back at the door from where he'd come, pondering on the effectiveness of just grabbing Dean and hauling ass through the front door. He just wasn't sure if he could keep the fire controlled for that long.

Looking at the hanging wires that peaked out from underneath the Impala’s dashboard, Sam quickly realized what his brother had been doing inside the car in the first place. That would work too.

Too many situations in which the car keys got stolen, lost or otherwise made impossible to use, not to mention all the times when either one of them had been in trouble and in need of the car while the other had the keys, had pushed the Winchesters not only to have a copy of the car keys each other, but also to have several spares spread across their usual hideouts.

Sam fished his spare from his jeans’ pocket and, wasting just one second to pull the door closed and make sure that Dean wouldn’t roll off the car seat, slid the key into the ignition, brought the beast growling to life and stomped on the gas pedal. The car jumped forward like it'd been waiting for that all along.

In Sam's mind, there was not a second of hesitation over the fact that he was speeding a car towards a closed metal door; there was not a second of doubt if he should try and see if he could open the door first; there was never a second thought to whether or not Alice was still somewhere inside the burning house.

Sam had one priority and one certainly only; he had to get Dean out of there and the heavy steal of the Impala would not fail them.

Curling one hand around the fabric of Dean’s clothing and the other on the steering wheel, Sam closed his eyes and braced himself for the impact.

The second the car’s front bumper hit metal, he felt the impact in every bone of his body and for a couple of seconds, as time stood still and the world held its breath, Sam thought that the door wouldn’t bulge at all. Then, as the angry fire denied of its victims, expanded to consume the entire garage, the doors burst open like a can of beer and the Impala was out. The trail of smoke and flames that followed the black car out of the orange-lit garage made it look like Hell itself had spat it out.

Or at least that was how the crowd gathered outside would later describe it to the fire department and police officers that attended the scene. 'Satan’s carriage', they would call it in the newspapers the following day; black as hell and spitting fire from its bowels.

Sam never stopped to watch their surprised faces; he didn’t even stop to catch a breath of the fresh air that was drifting from the Impala’s smashed window.

By the time the first sirens filled the air, Sam and his precious cargo were already long gone.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Sam could not recall a single moment of his drive from the burning house to the motel room where he’d left his stuff earlier.

He couldn’t remember parking the car, taking his brother’s unresponsive body from the passenger seat and carrying him inside; he had no memory of closing the door and beginning the process of removing Dean's singed clothes. The oddity of the clothes didn’t even registered in Sam’s mind. They were mere obstacles between his eyes and the damage that lay beneath.

Time had stopped for Sam, shifted to another room and another time when he’d felt Dean’s dead weight against his chest; another time when he’d been forced to peel the rags off his brother’s body and leave his bare wounds for all to see. Dean had been cold as ice then. He was burning up now.

Time slid back in to its rightful place with the gentleness of a tsunami, crashing over Sam’s wondering mind and in its devastation, leaving nothing behind but the sight of Dean’s battered body. He looked like crap, to be politically correct.

But he was breathing, he was moving, and he was alive this time around. And Sam knew that he had to shag ass to keep it that way.

He had prepared himself for the worst, but still the worst had managed to outwit him.

Sam knew about the wounded shoulder, he’d seen the woman’s clumsy attempts to treat it on the video; it hadn’t crossed his mind that the wound could’ve been caused by a gunshot until Sam looked at the infected skin around the pus oozing from the bullet hole. Sam had been expecting the burns and the fever, after leaving a wound untreated for two days and barely escaping a burning garage; he hadn’t imagined that Dean would look that painfully red everywhere that hadn’t been covered with fabric or that his skin would be so hot that Sam had to take his hands away when he first touched it.

He hadn’t expected the broken hand and bruised knuckles.

He hadn’t expected the pieces of broken glass protruding from Dean’s feet.

He hadn’t expected the whiteness to Dean’s lips or the blackness around his eyes that made him look like some sort of badly painted mime.

“Dammit Dean,” Sam whispered, even though he knew that this wasn’t his brother’s fault.

Sam ran a hand over his hair, trying to figure out what to do first, trying to reason with himself why it wasn’t completely insane to try and treat Dean on his own, in a dingy motel room with no sterile conditions at all, instead of taking him to a hospital, like sane people do.

On one hand, hospital meant blood to replace all the pints that Dean had already lost; it meant surgery for a collarbone that was obviously broken and it meant a never-ending supply of good drugs, like antibiotics and strong painkillers, none of which Sam currently had.

And on the other hand, the slapping hand, there was the fact that, one hour after they walked in to any ER, the cops would be asking questions about gunshot wounds and bruises around wrists and ankles that were clearly caused by some sort of restraints. Two hours after that and the police would be identifying Dean as a man wanted by the FBI, one who was supposed to be dead for over a year.

But the real kick to the gonads, the real deal breaker, was not in the headlines. It was in the spaces in between. The hospital meant Dean’s life hanging in the balance; the hospital was a tube down Dean’s throat and a machine breathing for him; the hospital meant Dean so broken that nothing could make him better, not even after he was discharged by the doctors. The hospital meant Dean slipping away beyond Sam's ability to help him.

Barely a month ago, the question hadn't even been posed. Sam had finished dealing with Alistair for good, in that abandoned meat-packing house where the angels had taken Dean to go all Gestapo on the demon's ass, and when it was finally over, and Sam could finally turn his attention on Dean there had been no doubt in his mind that his brother needed to be in a hospital. Dean's lips had been blue, literally, and what little air was still passing through them, sounded like sour milk going through a leaky straw.

Castiel hadn't said a word as Sam picked his brother's battered and broken body from the cold floor and waited for the angel to do the right thing, the only thing that could save Dean.

To his credit, Castiel neither hesitated nor asked; between one blink and the next, Sam found himself standing outside a hospital's ER. He didn't even know what city he as in anymore, but he was grateful to see the gurney being pushed in their direction and was more than relieved to surrender Dean to the people dressed in white and blue.

From the frantic wave of motion that Dean's condition arose, it took little for Sam to surmise that the angel hadn't really done them any sort of favor or conceded any special grace. It had been just a matter of choosing the path of least resistance; between giving Sam the swift transportation that he had silently demanded or bring Dean back from the dead. Again.

Now, despite it all, they weren't even near that point yet. Dean was breathing on his own, there were no fountains of blood flushing out of him and he had a fever. Just a fever. They had dealt with that before, way too many times before. Sam could deal with a fever.

If Sam could just manage Dean’s temperature, they could hold together long enough to get to Bobby’s. Even if he was still not back from wherever he'd gone to, Bobby's house would have the stuff they needed.

Sam placed a hand over Dean’s forehead, trying to get a sense of how hot his fever raged. While Dean's face was reddish all over, Sam couldn’t tell how much of that was because of the infection and how much was because of the fire.

They had an awesome thermometer, one of those fancy new digital ones that you could stick in the person's ear, one that Dean had managed to steal last time he’d been to a free clinic to get a tetanus shot. The fancy, awesome thermometer that would tell Sam for certain how dangerous Dean temperature was, however, amongst the missing first aid kit, the one that was supposed to be in the Impala’s trunk... along with most of their drugs and medical equipment.

Dean tried to escape the feeling of cold hands touching his forehead and then the back of his neck, like Sam's fingers were icky eels. He was mumbling something that Sam couldn’t really understand, feeble attempts to raise his hands and shoo Sam away dying mere inches above the mattress.

He was definitely burning up, that much Sam could gather from touch alone. Dumping on the free bed the contents of their smaller first aid kit, the one that Dean or Sam usually carried around on hunts in one of their packs, Sam tried not to despair at the meager sight piled before him. Other than a pack or two of sterile gauze, a pressure bandage, some anti-septic cream, a few packages of Quickclot and a bottle of aspirin, there was not much there.

Making do with what he had at hand, Sam collected the plastic cup from the bathroom, filled it with water and crushed a couple of pills in to it. If nothing else, the aspirin would help bring the fever down and the water wouldn't harm either.

When he reached around to grab Dean’s neck and raise his head enough to get some water in to him, Sam was surprised to notice that Dean’s seemed even hotter than just a couple of minutes of ago. How was that even possible?

Pressing the cup to Dean’s cracked lips, Sam urged his brother to open up and drink. Dean’s eyes snapped open, wide and unfocused.

“It’s ok Dean,” Sam coached, noting the building panic in Dean’s eyes and the tense muscles beneath his skin. “You’re safe now... but I need you to drink this, ok?”

Dean clenched his teeth tight and tried to turn his head away. “Don't wan... no waff... no waffles... get... get away!”

Sam sighed, a little scared and frustrated to realize that Dean had no idea who he was with or where he was. And waffles? Dean didn't even liked waffles...

Sam maneuvered his body to sit behind his brother, gently positioning Dean's head to rest on his lap so that both Sam's hands could be free. “Come on, Dean... it’s me... I’m not gonna hurt you man,” he said, one hand holding the sloshing cup and the other trying to keep Dean’s face still by grabbing his chin. “Dean... look at me.”

But Dean wasn’t looking at him or anywhere else. The green of Dean’s eyes had been reduced to a mere halo around the engorged black, right before they rolled back in one sickening, quick movement, only white showing behind.

The bed shook with the strength of the tremors racing through Dean’s body.

“Oh, shit!” Sam dropped the cup and, grabbing Dean’s shoulders, hauled him up to press his brother's back against his own chest, in effort to steady him. It was terrifying as wave after wave of spasms rocked and wracked through Dean's tense frame. “Come on... come on, Dean...” Sam whispered over and over into Dean's ear, mindful of his thrashing, knowing how useless it was to plead with his brother to stop convulsing. “Don’t do this to me, man... come on... not like this...”

The shaking stopped almost as fast as it had started, even if it seemed like hours to Sam. Dean was still and quiet and now it was Sam’s turn to start shaking; adrenaline and fear raced through his body like explosive gas. Something wet ran down his face and Sam couldn’t really tell if it was sweat or tears.

Sam cast one look to his jacket, imagining the cell phone in his pocket and wondered if he wasn’t putting Dean at risk by not calling an ambulance right that second. An idea struck and he raced to the bathroom instead. There was one more thing that he could try before giving up and risking a hospital.

The frigging bathtub in that motel room was practically kiddie size. Dean wouldn’t really fit, but at least the ridiculous size meant that it would fill quickly.

Dean would never forgive him. If he was even the slightest bit aware of the gymnastics Sam had to go through to get them both into the bathroom without further injuring his brother, or himself, he'd be furious. Slipping one arm beneath Dean’s knees and the other across his shoulders, Sam heaved his brother’s weight in one go, ignoring the stab of pain that it caused in his own back.

Sam huffed with the exertion. "God ... Dean... go’ra lay off the cheese."

This was not how you were supposed to carry a grown man of Dean's size and build, but he'd be damned if he was going to throw his brother over his shoulder only to leave Dean's ass sticking up in the air, inches from Sam's face. Not when the older man was wearing nothing but his boxers. That Dean would really never forgive him and Sam would have to live with the trauma for the rest of his life.

Bridal style was the lesser of two evils and from the way Dean’s head just bobbed against Sam’s shoulder and a small sound escape his lips, Dean didn't really give a fuck. Sam just hoped another seizure didn’t hit while they were on the move because it would surely send them both to the ground.

The water was tepid, not as cold as Sam had hoped, but as soon as Dean’s feet touched the surface, he unconsciously recoiled like it was acid. Or ice cold. “I’m sorry, Dean... I really am,” Sam whispered as he lowered Dean in to the tub.

Dean turned in to a wild cat. Well, at least a kitten version of one.

There wasn’t much strength left in Dean’s protests, but he did his best to punch and bite and scratch whatever piece of skin he could come in contact with. He didn’t even bother opening his eyes, the reaction more of a flight and fight thing than anything else. And Dean was fighting with all he had. “Getoff-getoff-getoff!”

Sam struggled to stop Dean’s arms from hitting him and to keep Dean more or less sitting in the tub. He kept slipping down, legs kicking up in the air, slippery wet body sliding against the porcelain side until the only thing above the water level was Dean's spiked hair.

“Dude! Sit still! I’m trying to help you here!” Sam yelled, fear gripping his heart too tightly to keep his voice level and calm. One Dean’s multiple flying fists actually connected with Sam’s face and the resulting sting only served to have to take him out of the water. There was no point in bringing down Dean’s fever if the man was going to exhaust himself to death fighting against it.

"Just, please," Sam panted, pushing one of Dean's flying fists, "for once in your life... just stop fighting. For me."

Dean stilled suddenly. Sam dared to hope that his voice had actually got through to Dean this time around. A slid of green winked up at him from behind barely opened eyes, but Dean was actually seeing him this time. “Sammy?”

Sam choked a laugh. “Yeah, dude, it’s me. Who else would be hugging you in a bathtub?”

Dean seemed to ponder on that for a while, his eyes blinking heavily in exhaustion. “Laura Croft?” He whispered after a while, more asleep than awake.

“Dean?” Sam called out when he saw the other man grow quiet once more, eyes sliding close as his head lolled sideways. "Hey," the water sloshed as he gently jostled him, “You with me man?”

“Humm, yeah... where...” Dean mumbled, his teeth clattering together as the burning furnace of the high fever slowly ebbed away.

“Where are we?” Sam offered, cupping small amounts of water in the palm of the hand that wasn’t keeping Dean upright and spreading the cool liquid over Dean’s chest. “Where’s Alice? Where are we going? Where what, man?”

Dean gulped, tongue darting over his lips to hungrily collect the water that had sprinkled there. “Where... else would I be?”

Sam looked down at both of them and gulped down the sob that was bubbling up his throat. His clothes were already soaking wet and his ass was slowly growing numb from sitting on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor. With his arm wrapped around Dean’s shoulders, supporting his head to keep him above the water line and the other absentmindedly dripping water over his sick brother, the familiarity of the action and the lack of awkwardness surrounding the whole thing hit Sam like a sucker-punch. When was the last time that he'd been like this with Dean? When was the last time that they'd just been there, in the moment, one taking care of the other?

In this moment there was no demon-blood; there was no apocalypse, no demons, no angels. In this moment, Sam was not the baby chosen by Azazel to lead his army; in this moment, Dean was not the hunter chosen by God to fight off the end of days. In this moment they were Sammy and Dee, the two devious brothers that caused mischief and uproar amongst family and friends whenever they were turned loose. Dean was right... where else would he be?

Dean coughed, a raspy sound that shook all his body, including the areas that had bee sweetly numbed by the cold water, making him trembled with pain. Sam instinctively tightened his grip, satisfied to realize that Dean’s skin was beginning to feel colder to the touch. When he looked at his brother again, there was one opened eye staring at him.

“Sam... who the hell... is Alice?”

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0


End Notes:

AN: Just wanted to thank all of you wonderful people that have been following this story, showing your support and leaving so many encouraging reviews. You people are the best.
I’m sorry for the extra delay in delivering this chapter, but sometimes, life’s just like that. Hope the fact that this was one big-assed moffo helped ease a little of my guilt.
Also, I know that I thank her (because she deserves it) for her beta work on every chapter, but Jackfan2 truly went above and beyond on this one. Julie, I would’ve never asked you to finish it, but I’m grateful beyond words that you did.

There’s a small epilogue missing, which will be posted tomorrow. Until then, read, enjoy and share the love!

Chapter 7 by Ophium

Epilogue

The bus drive had taken forever, crammed in a small space with the fat, sweaty man beside her taking more room than should be allowed by law. The fact that he kept crushing peanuts and throwing them in to his mouth for two straight hours hadn't helped matters. In all truthfulness, when she later tazed him in to unconsciousness and had left him slumped in his own filth in the restroom of their last rest-stop, it had been more like a public service act than an actual assault. Plus she needed to properly test the device.

It had also made for a much more pleasant trip for the last three hours before Alexa Bean reached her destination.

When she'd picked up the tazer, along with a couple of fake ID's and a lovely dream-catcher, it had been nothing but a whim. Just a few things that had caught her eye when she had been searching the Impala's trunk for cuffs and a first aid bag. A few trinkets that were part of Sam and Dean's life.

She hadn't exactly planned to use the electrical weapon like this, but now that her initial plans had to be adjusted to Dean's departure and being forced to leave her gun behind in order to board a public transportation, it had suddenly become something very handy to have around.

She booked a room for the night, a foul smelling thing with paintings of fish all over the walls and a couple next door that did nothing but fuck all night long. But the tazer needed to be recharged and she had to make sure that everything was going to work perfectly the next day. She'd learned from her past mistakes, and she had studied hard, planned things better this time around. She had found the perfect way to get to Sam again, and she was not going to screw it up.

The walk to the salvage yard was long enough and hot enough to give her the look that she was hoping for. Alexa adjusted the pillow under her baggy clothes and knocked on the door of the shabby house, ignoring the leashed, barking dog.

A scruffy, bearded man with a baseball hat on his head and a grease-stained shirt, opened the door just enough to get a look at her. The hand that wasn't visible to her was surely carrying some sort of weapon, but Alexa wasn't worried. To anyone looking, she was just another very pregnant woman, red face flushed with exhaustion and sweat pooling in her rumpled clothes.

"Can I help ya?" Bobby asked, suspicion marking every sound coming from his mouth.

Alexa smiled shyly, one hand whipping at the beads of sweat in her forehead. "Oh, I'm so glad there's someone home! My car broke down, and my cell's battery died on me... I thought I was done in," she started, sweet little-town's girl voice, urging the old hunter to buy in to her act. "Could I please use your phone, mister? And possibly a glass of water, if you would be so kind?"

She saw the moment when Bobby's astute eyes traveled down her body and focused on the prominent belly. No matter how untrusting and savvy the hunter was, there was no way he would deny assistance to a woman in distress, she knew that.

"Come on in," Bobby said, an almost-smile stretching his bearded cheeks. "Ya not gonna pop that kid in the next five minutes, r'ya?"

Alexa giggled, closing the door behind her. "Oh, no need to worry yourself... this one wont be born so soon," she said, one hand gently tapping the strapped pillow while the other reached in to her purse to grab the tazer. "I can't tell you how glad I am to have find you, Mr. Singer."

The end

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Chuck looked at the finished page and leaned back. Whatever the point was in writing this stuff, it was lost to him, particularly stories like this one that had absolutely nothing to do with Lilith and the 66 seals.

But the scary angel had told him to write and Chuck, who could never -ever- be accused of fighting the Man, obeyed.

“Is it finished?” The male voice asked, the sound coming from the dark corner of the motel room that Chuck had rented for the month.

After coming face to face with his creations... or rather, after learning that Sam and Dean were real –really scary- guys and that Dean had no trouble in dragging him in to the middle of all the crap that the Winchesters dealt with on a daily basis, Chuck had beat a strategic retreat and abandoned his house in search of some peace and quiet and possibly some alcoholic numbness. One out of three was the best he could get.

The peace and quiet had gone to hell when the same angel that had scared the crap out of him when he'd had his vision of the end, had followed him and had decided to sit around, waiting for Chuck to finish his latest story. Which was, you know, just something that he'd, honestly, seen coming. Literally. Because his life was miserable like that.

He didn’t even bother asking why this particular angel was so invested in making sure that he didn't warn the Winchester about anything or why he'd been ridding Chuck's ass for every hour, of every day, of the last couple of weeks. Didn't angels have other stuff to do... like smite some locusts or something? Maybe kill some first-borns? Flood a village or three?

Snatching the last printed page from the ancient printer that he’d brought with him, Chuck gathered all of them and handed the last part of the story to the waiting angel. “It’s finished,” Chuck announced miserably.

Maybe now he could curl up in his bed and disappear in a haze of alcohol induced stupor. Hopefully one that didn’t evolve in to any sort of prophetic dreams about Sam or Dean. Or Sam and Dean. Or Castiel. He was tired of those guys. Why couldn’t he have prophetic dreams about Scarlett Johansson?

“This is not an appropriate ending,” the angel said, sounding a lot like Chuck’s fifth grade teacher telling him that ‘it was not appropriate to go around lifting girls’ skirts, no matter how curious he was’.

“It... it’s not?” Chuck ventured around the nail that he was biting.

“This Alice woman knocks on Bobby’s door and he lets her in... you say nothing more about her, obviously, ill intentions, you don’t even say anything about what happened to the Winchesters after the cold bath,” the angel pointed out, using his fingers to number the things that he hadn’t like. “That’s no conclusion. Do you not know what happens next?”

“I do... I mean, I sort of dreamt it last night... and there was the flash this morning, in the show-... er... yeah, I know what happens next.”

“Then why is not written?”

Chuck ran a hand over his curly hair, eyeing the scotch bottle like it was a life-vest for his drowning sanity. “I was thinking of maybe giving it a ... you know, open, sort of ending,” he explained. “Author’s sometimes use them because it... it keeps readers guessing, I suppose...”

The angel was openly glaring at him, one brow raised in clear disbelief. “I am aware of what an open ending means,” he explained in turn. “This, however, is not that sort of story.”

“It’s not?”

The angel advanced towards the frightened writer, two steps landing him right inside his personal space. Chuck, being the small guy that he was, leaned back in a feeble attempt to escape. He ended up falling on his ass on top of the couch, which only made the angel look even bigger and more menacing. “How would you have liked if Moses had written the story of the Hebrew’s exodus from Egypt like that? If he'd just gotten to the parting of the Red Sea and figured that it would be 'artistic' to end his story with ‘and the Egyptians defied Him and walked in to the middle of giant walls of water?’”

Chuck wanted to point out that he was not Moses and that he could barely lead a blind old lady across the street, much less thousands across the desert, but given that he was talking to a suite-wearing, fat angel and writing about two very screwed up guys, Chuck figured that was a moot point. Plus, he hadn’t actually read the Bible. He had no idea how Moses had ended his story. The Charlton Heston version, though, was kick-ass. “I guess I could do a short epilogue?” He asked, more than offered.

The angel smiled and pointed to the empty seat in front of the waiting laptop. "I think that would be wise."

qºLºp

"You are the Mr. Singer of the Singer Salvage Yard, right?" Alexa asked matter-of-factly, accepting the glass of cool water from Bobby’s hands with a smile. She knew that he wasn’t offering her just tap water; she knew that he would want to make sure that she was not a demon. She could do that much, keep the old man happy and unsuspicious.

"That would be me alright," he said with a nod. 'But Bobby's just fine."

The water did taste funny to her, but still she drank it to the end. She needed just a few seconds to take the tazer from her purse and zap Bobby, but before that could happen, he needed to trust her enough to turn his back on her. The man had enough white hair in his beard and in the wisps of hair that escaped the dirty cap, but Alexa doubted that he was slow by any means.

I was starting to think that I was gonna die by the side of the road, until I saw your yard's sign up ahead," she said with a properly relieved tone of voice, her eyes turned earnest and trusting. “Not a living soul for mile around these parts.”

Yeah... aren't many folks around here,“ Bobby replied, his eyes never leaving her face. "Not the best place to have car trouble, I tell'ya that... all sorts of folks in this world and not all of them are very nice."

Alexa was starting to feel uncomfortable under his close watch, her fingers itching to get around her weapon and move on with her plan. Dean was gone and Sam had escaped before she could get to him and even Chuck was nowhere to be found. Her only link with the Supernatural’s characters was Bobby and his auto-shop. With Dean dead, he was the only way that she had to make Sam walk right in to her hands.

The sound of heavy footsteps on the stairwell leading to Bobby’s second floor called Alexa’s attention around. She turned to look, the world spinning out of control with her movement. She grabbed the wall beside her to stop from falling flat on the floor, feeling the solid surface undulate under her fingers as the dizziness refused to go away. The water...

Hi, Alexa,” the man coming down the steps greeted her with a smile in his face. “I was looking forward to meet you.”

Alexa forced her eyes to focus on his face. “Sam...” she whispered, looking in confusion between the two men. Sam was smiling... Dean had died less than a week ago, and Sam was smiling? “I don’t understand...”

Oh, don’t you worry your pretty little head, girl” Bobby said, a nasty smile creeping up his face. "You'll never will..."

It was the last thing Alexa ever saw before everything went black and weightless.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

So, the sister was dead all along?” Dean asked, his back against the bed that Bobby had insisted on dragging from the out-shack to settle his ‘sick as a dog' ass on. Bobby’s words, not his.

Sam nodded, holding another piece of printed-paper for his brother to read. It was the first chance that they really had to catch up on what had happened to Dean and what Sam had found out about the woman who’d taken him and both were taking full advantage of it.

After their bathtub chat, or the ultimate sappy and wet chick-flick moment (that Dean alternated between saying never happen and blaming on him being delirious with fever), Sam had just stuffed his brother full of aspirin and driven to Bobby’s like the devil was on his tail.

Dean’s fever had spiked again in the middle of the road but somehow they’d managed to get to the Salvage Yard in more or less one piece, glad to find a recently arrived Bobby back there too.

Later, when they'd read the police report on the fire and learned that no bodies had been found in the house, it had been Sam who had realized that, given Alice’s history, she wouldn’t give up on her obsession so easily and that, since Chuck had apparently dropped from the face of the Earth, Bobby’s scrap-metal yard was the only link that she had left to reach Sam.

Bobby had been waiting for her to haunt his steps for days when she finally showed up, the plan to get rid of her already set and ready to put in to practice. All that they were missing was their main guest.

A shoe-size, carton box replaced Sam’s pile of papers on Dean’s lap.

"What's this?" Dean asked wearily. "Her head?"

"Well... when I didn't see your cassette tapes in the car, I figured she'd taken them and that they were still inside the house when it... you know," Sam said, sheepish look on his face and still managing too look very pleased with himself at the same time.

Dean tore the box open like it was early Christmas, his eyes lighting up when he saw the titles inside. Unlike most of his hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs, the box was filled with originals of all the stuff he loved. "Sam... this is... this is too awesome to be called awesome!"

Sam rubbed his head, his pleased smile opening in to a satisfied grin. It had been nearly impossible to find all of those on such a short notice, but after all that they’d been through, after all that had happened to Dean in the past month, Sam didn’t really want to drive anywhere without Dean having his stuff back. Especially after the reaction his brother had had over finding out that Alice hadn’t destroyed his amulet after all and that it was safely kept in Sam’s pocket.

Did you want her head instead?” Sam asked, when he saw the grin slowly waning from his brother’s face until it was replaced by a preoccupied look.

Dean set the box in the bedside table and closed it with care, like the tapes inside where made of fragile glass instead of plastic and magnetic tape. It was bad enough that Sam already thought he was too weak to do his job; it was bad enough that he’d had the shit beat out of him by a demon that Sam was able to waste all on his own... now he had also failed to get himself away from a simple civilian. It was too embarrassing to put to words.

I can’t believe that I bought half her crap,” Dean eventually said, more out of surprise than self-depreciation, as he picked at the splinter in his left hand fingers.

Quit picking on that,” Sam warned for the hundredth time the last hour. “Besides, the woman was insane. You couldn’t really try to use logic to reason with her or even understand her enough to get one step ahead of her.”

Yeah, well... guess we’ll never know,” Dean offered, resting his head against the stack of pillows that Sam had stuffed behind his back. The weight of his own head made his broken collarbone ache whenever he tried to stay upright for too long and Dean was secretly thankful to his brother for all the fuss that he'd been 'subjected' to for the last couple of days.

What I would love to know,” Bobby’s voice announced from the bedroom door, “is why this kind of crap always happens to you two idjits.”

Because ‘our prophet’ writes trashy novels, Dean thought. “You took care of her?” Dean asked instead, serious eyes searching Bobby’s face.

The older man nodded. “Spell worked like a charm, everything wiped clean like a newborn baby's hide... you won't have to worry about her anymore.”

"And no one suspected a thing?" Dean asked, back to picking on his splinter.

Bobby raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

"Right... it's you we're talking about," Dean translated the look on the older man's face. "Just asking, you know... no need to get all prissy on me," he added with a smile. It was just that he felt bad for dragging Bobby in to cleaning up their mess. Again.

"Glad to help, boy," Bobby said, easily as if he'd heard the young man's thoughts, reading the guilty expression on his face all too well. "That's what family's for, remember?"

She's getting off too easy, if you ask me,” Sam vented. He had left Alice for Bobby to deal with as he saw fit and didn't really questioned the older man when he'd presented his plan, but if Sam ever happened to come across the guy responsible for letting Alice out of that hospital in the first place, he would deal with him in a very different way.

Not really her fault, you know,” Dean reminded his brother. He didn’t like the glint of revenge that he could see in Sam’s eyes. And yes, for the time he’d been her prisoner, Dean had wanted nothing more than to tear Ale- Alice limb from limb. But now that he'd had time to cool off, now that he was properly doped on good painkillers and had nothing more to fear than death by extreme-boredom on daytime TV, he could see that she was only doing what was hardwired in to her brain. She was being who she was.

He couldn’t and would never understand the concept of mental illness, but Dean knew all to well how it felt like to be losing your mind and not being able to deny what you were, no matter how much you hated it.

She tried to burn you alive,” Sam reminded him. Like it was something that Dean was likely to forget.

Not to mention the number she did on ya shoulder,” Bobby pitched in. That hadn’t been fun to fix, he could guarantee them that.

Yeah, well,” Dean said with half a shrug that still managed to raise a sting from his wound. “If you ask me, it’s all Chuck’s fault and his full-frontal descriptions... girls can’t help but go nuts over me,” he added with a sly smile and a wriggle of eyebrows.

Bobby huffed and puffed, clearly finding the whole concept ridiculous. Fans, out there, actually mooning and swooning over these two boys... what would they come up with next? Cuddly white sharks?

You know, this whole thing does raise a scary question,” Sam said, his frown deep enough to hide a truck.

How often does Chuck gets his rocks off with our sex life?” Dean offered.

The shudder in Sam’s and Bobby’s bodies was simultaneous. After some collective brain-bleaching moment, Sam went on. “Well, other than that... we have to wonder, how many more of these fans are out there and just how many of them are just as unbalanced as Alice?”

Dean seemed to pale a bit at that and even Bobby was nervously scratching his head over the ever-present cap.

Sam wouldn’t have even brought the subject up, at least not after what had happen to Dean, but he’d seen the online communities, he’d read some of the things that fans had posted there. It seemed to be an abnormal number of them who really liked to see them bloody in a multitude of ways. And it wasn’t just him and Dean. Bobby seemed to have his own growing legion of followers as well. And that was just the ones with access to computers and Internet. Who was to know whom else was out there, reading Chuck’s books?

They can’t all be crazy, can they?” Bobby ventured. From the way fat beads of sweat were swiftly gathering in the man’s forehead, Sam was sure that he’d done his own research too.

Come on guys… what are the odds?” Dean asked, the smile in his lips not quiet matching the panic in his eyes.

The awkward silence that settled in the room said more than any lengthy speech. Each and everyone one of them knew perfectly well that, with the kind of luck they had, the odds were pretty damn high.

I’m going to kill Chuck,” Dean mumbled, sliding down the bed sheets and giving up on the matter.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

The woman had been brought by a family friend, a good Samaritan soul that had searched for her after her medical release and had found her wondering the streets, two states over. The usual background check had been made, based on her fingerprints and the previous medical records that the man who'd brought her had been able to provide. Alice Gean, as she was later confirmed to be, should have never been released from the institution where she had resided for most of her life, even after her parents’ death. She was a potential danger to others and, as it was proved by the condition she arrived in, she was a danger to herself.

For over 700 years, the Alexian Brothers Foundation had existed to provide health care for those who could not provide for themselves.

They were there to provide help for people like Alice, mentally ill and unable to support or guarantee their own safety. The time that she had spent unattended in the outside world had left its mark. She was violent, she was hostile and she couldn’t remember a thing from the past five years. It would take time, but with care and patience, Alice Gean would be a person again. Or at least, she would gain some peace with herself.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Chuck looked at the angel, seated on the couch, reading the last pages like a vulture of an editor, breathing down his neck over a deadline. The writer gulped the remaining drops of beer from his bottle and tried to read the expression on Zachariah’s face. He was sweating by the time the angel looked up and sneered his approval.

Chuck swallowed the bile in his mouth and gave a relieved sigh, turning to the computer one more time. He typed just two more words.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

The end (for real!)

End Notes:

AN: The Alexian Brothers Foundation, oddly enough, its real. Here's the link for their page: http://alexianbrothershealth.org/services/acmh/ourservices/abcmh-php.aspx

AN2: Well, this is it, people. It’s been a wonderful, lovely ride and I can just hope that it’s been as fun for you as it has been for me. There’s a new story in the oven, but summer time is here and I’m gonna work myself some tan in the mean time. Hugs for all, and I’ll see you all around :o)

This story archived at http://www.deandamage.com/viewstory.php?sid=254