Supernatural: If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Stockholm

If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Stockholm

(23,000 words complete )

AU Story taking place sometime before the end of second season.
Ratings: For adults
Warnings: Mentions of extreme violence and other nasty business

Summary: Sam’s been missing for a year and Dean’s found it hard to survive without his brother, but when a young man is discovered alive matching Sam’s description Dean discovers that although he has his brother back the horrors have only just begun.



Andrew was on fire. That was as far as Hollis’ brain got before she was body-slammed into the hardwood floor. What the hell? An accomplice? Add that to the growing list of intel they should have had before attempting to apprehend Martin Vincent. Like the fact that he could now set people on fire without even flicking a Bic. Yeah, important information like that.

Hollis kneed her assailant in the groin. He crumbled with the pain and she reversed positions pinning him to the floor with relative ease. She allowed herself one fast look at her man down and saw that he was being tended to by her second, Tony Lucas.

Good. Fine. Ow!

Teeth chomped down on her forearm.

“Bastard!” She wrapped her hand around his throat then bore down with all her weight until he let go.

Coughing and sputtering, he managed one clear word, “Bitch!”

And that was when it hit. Recognition. She stared hard at the young man struggling beneath her. Redish-blond hair, trimmed beard and mustache, cheekbones that looked sharp enough to tear through pale, paper-thin skin. It was all wrong and still. . .


He froze. Eyes wide, her blood on his lips. A flash of emotion crossed his face. Fear maybe, then he went wild; kicking, biting, scratching, screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs. It took two of them to contain him and that was two too many. With a man down they were spread too thin. No one left to chase after Vincent who’d fled the house after setting Andrew on fire.

And where was Renee?

Christ on a swing set! One crisis at a time.

Felix Gomez, the new guy on the team, sat on Sam’s legs while Hollis cuffed his hands behind his back, not an easy feat with him struggling and cursing like a man possessed.

“Sam! Calm down.” She leaned closer to his face but stayed out of biting range. “You know me, Sam. It’s Hollis. Let me help you.”
He spit at her.


The adrenaline rush fading, Hollis got to her feet and went to check on her wounded man.

“He needs to get to a hospital,” said Lucas.

But calling an ambulance meant involving the police and that simply wasn’t an option right now. “Felix him in your car. I’ll–”

Hold that thought.

Renee, the only other woman on Hollis’ team, came stumbling in from outside. “I’m sorry. I lost him.”

Old news. “Are you okay?” Hollis asked.

“He put his hands on my head and I thought my brain was going to explode and I guess I passed out.”

“Another power?” Lucas sighed. “We might as well be chasing Superman. We’re never going to stop this guy if he keeps developing.”

“A waste,” Gomez muttered.

But it wasn’t. Sure Vincent had gotten away and she’d almost lost a man, but they’d found Sam and that trumped everything else.

Thirteen months and six days later they’d found Sam and Hollis knew exactly where she’d find Dean to tell him.

Dean threw back the last drop of whiskey then slid the empty glass down the bar to Ellen who was chatting with another woman. She ignored the empty even though it had banged into her arm where she was leaning on the bar and kept on chatting as if it wasn’t even there.

Dean rapped on the bar with his knuckles. “Hello. Little service, please.”

Ellen leaned closer to the woman, whispered something, then the woman laughed as she got up and left. Ellen picked up the glass but instead of filling it she set it in the bin with the other dirty glasses.

“Hey! What am I invisible all of a sudden? Give me another one,” Dean demanded.

“Sorry. You’re done.”

“I’m done?” Dean slipped off the bar stool on to his feet. Leaned to the left. Leaned to the right. “Nope. I can still stand up straight. I’m not done.” He dropped back on to the stool. “I want another whiskey.”

“Finish your beer,” said Ellen as she wiped down the bar. “And go slow, because that’s the last one for the night, too.”

“Huh.” Dean put on his best “perplexed” face. “Funny. You didn’t care how many drinks I had last week. You know, the week where I had so many that I woke up in bed with Ash — which, alone should have put me off drinking forever but you know if I gave up drinking then, well, the alternative would be sobriety and that would be a very. . . bad. . . thing.”

“Wasn’t my decision,” said Ellen as she poured a new beer for a grizzly bear of a man who took it and left. “Someone told me to cut you off and she scares me more than you do, so I’m doing it.”

“Someone TOLD you to cut me off. Who the hell would do that, Ellen? Who in this whole fucked up world hates me enough to stop me from drinking myself into oblivion?”

Ellen’s gaze moved past him. “Her.”

Dean whirled on the stool a bit too fast and ended up having to catch hold of the bar to steady himself. Focus took another few seconds. Tall, leggy, long brown hair, nice rack — ah hell. Hollis.

Dean turned back to the bar then guzzled down the last of his beer in the time it took her to come and sit beside him.

“Should have called two hours ago,” Ellen said then stepped away to ring up a bar tab.

“If this is an intervention–”

“Oh god, Dean,” Hollis complained. “I need you functional.”

“Really?” He slammed her with his most lustful stare, which really wasn’t all that lustful since she was a tad fuzzy around the edges. “Tell you what, sweetheart. I’ll save us both a lot of grief and hand you the twenty bucks so you can buy yourself a decent fuck. Okay?” He swiveled around on the bar stool and addressed the audience of half-drunk hunters. “Who’s interested in earning a fast twenty? Huh? Anyone with a functional tool will do.”

“To fuck you?” Was the reply from a particularly hard-edged old man.

Dean laughed and it was an ugly sound. “Maybe later, Franklin. But right now, this lady needs some lovin’.”

A chorus of hoots and wolf whistles mixed with the smoke in the air.

“Dean. Stop it.” Hollis pulled on his arm to get him to turn back to her but he resisted to the point of nearly yanking her off her own stool. “Dean, listen to me!” she whispered harshly. “Sam is alive.”

Dean swiveled back to face her, dark and ominous coloring his expression. “Way to get my attention.”

“It’s true.”

He glanced at Ellen behind the bar but there was nothing but shock on her face, so no help there. “That’s not funny.”
“We found Martin Vincent.” Hollis reached out and took both of Dean’s hands in hers. “Sam was there, Dean. He’s alive.”

Dean sucked his lips in and his eyelids fluttered as if he were fighting back a fit of some kind. “You’re lying to me. Why are you lying to me?”

“I’m not. Dean. I swear. I would never lie to you about Sam. He’s alive and I want to take you to be with him.”

Dean yanked his hands away from her then dragged them over his face. A trick. It had to be some kind of trick. Sam alive would be such good news but in the hands of that psycho all this time. . . it wasn’t a concept Dean could handle. He’d seen the other victims. The dead ones with the burns and the cuts and the skin expertly peeled away. He’d spent hours reading Vincent’s journal — the one where he detailed all of the filthy and disgusting things he had done to those young men. All about how it made him hard to see the fear in their eyes and how he got off on their pain. And then there were the claims that his victims liked it, wanted it. That they enjoyed being a part of his sexually sadistic games.

And Sam–


Dean ran for the men’s room. He hit the door with both palms and fell forward on to the nearest toilet in time to start vomiting his brains out. Beers and whiskey and greasy fries and an undercooked burger.


All those hours. All those days. Waiting. Praying for his big brother to come and save him. And what was that moment like when he finally realized that help was never going to come? That his brother had given up. That his brother was too busy drowning his sorrows with cheap booze and cheaper women.

Dean pounded his fists against the hard plastic of the toilet seat. Pounded as hard as he could until pain shot up his arm and into his shoulders. Certainly, not near the kind of pain Sammy had endured but it was something. Some small penance for having failed him.


A hand touched his back but his shoved it away.

Hollis stooped down beside him, a nearly impossible fit in the small stall but she made it work. She ran a gentle hand over his curled fist then stroked his forearm where the muscle was taut to the point of shaking.

“Sam needs you,” she said softly. “He needs his big brother. The one who always looked after him and protected him from monsters and bullies and the nightmares. That’s the Dean he needs right now.”

“That Dean is gone.” He slumped down on to one hip, his flushed face contacting with the cold metal of the stall. “Is he all right? I mean of course he’s not all right. How bad is he hurt?”

Hollis hesitated. “He’s a little messed up but nothing he won’t get over.”

Dean sucked in a huge breath then wiped his sleeve across his mouth. “He’s probably scared. I need to be there.” He pushed up to his feet. Shaky, but doable. “This is all so weird. I’m not dreaming, am I? No. I wouldn’t dream that he was alive, that. . . . I mean, did the phrase ‘better off dead’ ever occur to you?”

“No, Dean and I’m surprised it occurred to you. You’re the one who always said where there’s life there’s hope.”

“Yeah, well, that was a long time ago. A lot of things have changed since then.”

He’d changed and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to change back, even for his beloved brother.

Hollis entered the address of the safe house into the car’s GPS system then pulled out of the gravel lot, headlights barely piercing the solid darkness around the backwoods bar.

Dean was in the passenger seat slowly sipping a cup of too hot, too harsh coffee that Ellen had provided. Not that he needed the caffeine to sober up. Adrenaline had that covered.

“I’m sorry I walked out on you,” he said, eyes locked on the blackness outside the window.

“Me or Sphere?”

A pause. “Both, I guess. I thought I could do it. I thought it would help, to be working toward something. I knew I couldn’t do it alone but I couldn’t do it with you either. It was all too close. Too much of a reminder. . . of Sam and all I wanted to do was look for him anyway. Forget the rest. Ghosts, demons. . . you guys had it covered. You didn’t need me.”

“That’s not true.” Hollis reached out but then put her hand back on the steering wheel. “You were a big help.”
“When I wasn’t drunk,” Dean finished. “And that wasn’t very often, was it? And once I decided to give up Sphere, I had to give up you, too. Cause, you are the job. Just like I used to be. Like my dad was.” Dean shifted, turning more of his body into the door. “Sam was the only one who ever had a life. The only one who wasn’t all about the job. He had school and his girl and a future and I took that all away from him.”

Also not true. Cruel fate had done that. The demon with the yellow eyes had done that, but there’d be no convincing Dean. She’d banged her head against that brick wall more times than she could remember. “You have to find a way to get past this, Dean. You can’t help him if you’re sick, yourself.”

“Sick?” He huffed, almost a laugh but not quite. “Yeah.” Then he lapsed into silence. He took two more sips of the coffee then abandoned the cup in the holder between the seats. He squirmed and shifted and eventually turned to face Hollis instead of the window. “How was he when you found him?”

“Confused.” The GPS told her to turn right so she did.

“I don’t mean that. I mean, was he tied up? Was he in a box? Locked in a room? Was Vincent with him? Doing something to him?”

“No, he was fine.”



“I hate when you do that! You like to dole out the information in little chunks like I’m some dog getting a treat for good behavior.” He pounded his fist on the dashboard and she flinched. “He’s my brother, god dammit! Tell me the truth.”

In that second, all the bad came flooding back. Dean drunk and out of control. Violent. Volatile even when he made love to her and that was the reason she’d stayed after the first time he hit her. Took the abuse because she’d become addicted to that kind of intensity in bed.

Now who’s the sick one?

“He wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t restrained and he even went so far as to help Vincent escape.”

Dean slumped back against the seat, the burst of anger gone as fast as it had come. “What?”

Hollis glanced at him then put her eyes back on the road. “I didn’t even recognize him at first.

He’s a different person, and it’s not just the hair color or the beard.”

“He has a beard?”

“Yeah, mustache, sideburns, the whole bit. His hair’s a strawberry blonde color. It’s like Vincent was making him over in his own image. And he’s thin. I mean, really, really thin.”

Dean sighed as he scrubbed his hand over his face. “I can’t even imagine. What do I say to him?”

“You say, I love you and I missed you and I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Is he? Okay?”

“He will be.” One more left turn and Hollis pulled into the drive of a two-story brick house. She threw the car into park but Dean caught her by the arm before she could get out.

“What’s this? I thought we’d be going to an airport or something.”

Again Hollis hesitated, stealing herself for the outburst to come. “The farmhouse where we found him was about ten minutes south of The Roadhouse in an area called Hick’s Orchard.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” She shook off his arm and got out of the car.
Dean tumbled out of the passenger side then slammed the door as a start to his tirade. “More nuggets. More treats for the good boy. What else you got, Hollis? You know I live in Hick’s Orchard. You know I’ve been renting a room there for the past eight months and now you’re telling me that Sam was down the street the entire time?”

“Calm down.”

“Or what?”

She came around the car and stepped as close as she dared when he was in such a mood. “Calm down or start walking,” she said softly. “Because I am not going to let you anywhere near Sam while you’re carrying on like this. He’s scared and he’s confused and he needs his big brother to be calm and rational.”

Dean lowered his tone to match hers but on him it was much more scary. “Don’t you threaten me. That’s my brother in there. MY brother.” He stalked past her and went straight up the porch stairs but before he reached the door it opened and a man stepped out.

“Get out of my way, Lucas.”

Lucas shifted his gaze over Dean’s shoulder and Hollis gave him the go-ahead nod.

“Good to see you, too Dean.” Then he stepped aside.

“Sam!” Dean’s voice bounced around the entryway but no response came back. “Sammy?” He went left into the living room, saw Renee from Sphere sitting on the couch, then almost headed right back out before he realized that the man standing by the fireplace was his baby brother. “Sam, wow. Look at you.”

Dean crossed the room in three long strides. He threw his arms around his brother but Sam got his hands up between them, knotting his fingers in the front of Dean’s shirt.

“Dean.” A thousand tons of fear and anguish and hurt in that single word.

“It’s okay, Sammy. I’m here now. I’m here.” He cupped Sam’s face in his hands as he’d done so many times before. Bloody Mary, Gordon, that near miss in Louisiana after that thing in the swamp. But it only took a half second to realize that this time wasn’t like those times. Where there was usually soft skin, there was now a beard scratching Dean’s palms. While there was usually a touch of relief in Sam’s eyes there was only fear. It wasn’t like looking at Sam at all. “I can’t believe it’s you.”

“Dean. You have to make them take me back.”

“What? Back where?”

“Back to the house! Back to Vincent.” Sam tightened his grip, wadding up more of Dean’s shirt between his fingers, forcibly yanking him forward and up to his toes. “I have to go back. You don’t understand. He’ll be furious. He’ll. . I’m not allowed. . . He won’t. . ” He gave up speaking in favor of shaking and Dean let himself be shook because, hell, what else was there to do? “I have to go back.”

“Sammy. Listen to me. You’re safe now. He’s not going to hurt you anymore.”
“Not me! You!” Sam broke the hold and stepped away. “Them.” He motioned to Hollis and Renee and Lucas with the sweep of his arm. “He’ll punish me by taking them. Hurting them and you. . . ” He sucked in a breath, stumbled, too shaky now to stand on his own two feet. “He’ll get you last and the longest because he knows. . . I can’t. . watch that. I can’t do it. It was hard enough with. . . I can’t. Please.” Sam shot across the room with an unexpected burst of energy. He grabbed Hollis by the shoulders but backed off instantly when he saw Lucas advance. “I won’t. I wasn’t. Please, Hollis! Take me back. I’ll convince Vincent to leave. We’ll go away. Far away. Another state. I’ll do things for him. I’ll make him happy with me so he won’t go after anyone else, I promise–”

“You’re not going back!” Dean snapped, his voice coming from deep in his chest. That same tone that dad had used when there would be no argument about a subject. “And no one else is getting hurt except for that psycho bastard when I get my hands on him.”

“No!” Sam whirled, arms flailing in the air. “You don’t understand! He needs me! And he’s going to be so mad at you for taking his property.”

“Property?” Dean could barely repeat the word; it filled him with such revulsion. “Will you listen to yourself? Sammy.” He moved forward and tried to wrap his arms around his brother but Sam wasn’t having any of it. He wiggled away like a mopey child then dropped into an overstuffed chair, pulling his long limbs in on himself, chin to chest.

“He’ll find me. He always finds me.” It sounded more like a wish than a fear and it made Dean want to grab him and shake the old Sam loose from this broken shell.

Damn, he needed a drink.

Automatically his hand went to his left breast, felt the flask in the inner pocket of his jacket. The emergency rations. Just feeling the shape made him feel better. It would be there for him as soon as he could manage a moment alone.


Dean caught Hollis’ eye then nodded for her to take her crew and leave. He was surprised when she didn’t hesitate. As soon as they were gone, he sat down on the footstool in front of Sam’s chair.

“Look at me.”
Sam lifted his head immediately. Obeying. That came easy, too easy and it made Dean want to puke again. He laid his palms on Sam’s boney knees, which were splayed wide over legs twisted like a pretzel.

“Listen to me. I will not let that man get to you again. I will not let him get to me, or Hollis or anybody else you care about. You are safe and we are together and we’re going to get through this. But you have to work with me here, Sammy. You have to trust me.”

And as soon as those last few words came out of his mouth, Dean realized how laughable they really were. Trust the drunk. Trust the brother who never came to your rescue. The guy who swore to protect you from the day he carried you out of that burning house and has been doing a crappy job ever since.

Tears unshed for the past year welled up in Dean’s eyes then slid down his cheeks like water running from the shower. “I missed you so much, Sammy.” Dean rose off the footstool, he took Sam’s face in his hands then pulled him forward and set a kiss on his forehead. As he moved back he came in line with Sam’s eyes. Not quite as empty as before but there was a new emotion there that Dean couldn’t identify. ” You’re all I thought about from the day you disappeared. Day and night. I retraced our steps and I knocked on doors and called in every favor I could and then some. All I did was look for you, Sammy. So hard, I looked for you.”

“But you didn’t look hard enough.”

A punch in the jaw couldn’t have been more effective. Dean’s hand fell away and he dropped back to sitting on the footstool.

“I saw you, you know,” Sam said, rocking forward and back on his hips. “I saw you driving by. Almost every day for months, I saw you. Going to the roadhouse. Going to drink. To pick up girls.”

“What? How did you–?”

“I saw you. I was there. In the roadhouse, with Vincent. He brought me there to show me. You, drinking and having a good time.”

“You were at the roadhouse?” But even saying it out loud didn’t make it any easier to comprehend.

“You walked right by me. You were drunk and you had a blond on your arm. And you walked right by me.”

“No. That didn’t happen. There’s no way–”

“It did happen.” Sam sucked in a huge breath then let it out on a shudder. “Then we went home and there were lessons, really, really hard lessons but he said I had to, so he could take care of me after. And then he didn’t let me see you again. Just the car. Just the Impala driving by.”

“I swear to God, Sammy. . . ” The rest got caught behind the lump in his throat.

“I really wanted you to find me, Dean. But you just kept on driving by.”

Feeling suddenly so much older than his 28 years, Dean pushed up to his feet then walked away. Out of the living, into the hall, out the front door. A cold wind hit him in the face when he stepped off the porch. It smelled like snow. He kept walking; out to the end of the drive then he sat down on the curb next to cheery, red-painted wooden mailbox that made it look like this was a normal home. The flask came out without any conscious thought.

That first swig, like heaven. The second swig he held the swallow in his mouth for a moment then he closed his eyes and let it flow down his throat. It was warm all the way down and that warmth spread like a fever throughout his body chasing away just a little bit of the pain it found there.

Better. Much better.

He opened his eyes and there was Hollis standing right in front of him.

“That’s the last thing you need right now.”

“Don’t,” he warned, stabbing a finger in her direction.

“I need you sober, Dean. I’m already down a man and Vincent is still out there loose somewhere –”

“He was at the roadhouse!” Dean snapped.

“What?” She sat down on the curb beside him, shoulders barely touching.

“He told me that he was at the roadhouse one night. That he saw me there. But how could he? How could I not know him? Why wouldn’t he have said something? In a room full of hunters, why wouldn’t he speak up? We could easily have taken Vincent out, for fuck’s sake!”

She shushed him with a nod toward the neighboring homes.

Dean lowered his voice but the emotion remained. “Why didn’t he speak to me? I would have known it was him if he had just said something to me! But he didn’t. And now it’s like he actually wants to go back. You know what that psycho did to him! How can he even think about going back?”

“It’s not at all unusual under the circumstances. It’s called Stockholm Syndrome. It’s seen all the time in kidnapping cases and hostage situations. The victims become so dependent on their captor, they actually begin to sympathize with them. It’s a defense mechanism. Think about it. For the past year he’s had to depend on Vincent for his every need. Food, water, warmth, companionship, use of the bathroom, freedom from pain, Sam got nothing if Vincent didn’t give it to him.”

“But he’s not a kid. Or some untrained civilian. Why couldn’t he resist?”

“I’m sure he did, at first. But the will to survive is a hell of a thing. You give a little just to get something back. Food, a drink of water, an end to the pain. You convince yourself that you’re still in control but with everything you give away it’s that much harder. And if there were others involved, you know Sam would have done anything to spare another human being’s suffering. But we have him back now, Dean and all he needs is a little help to put himself back together again. And you’re the only one who can do it.”

Dean held the flask up in line with his eyes. He could smell the whiskey. Wanted so badly to take another sip. “You do realize you’re counting on one broken toy to fix up another.”

She slipped her arm around his shoulders then pulled him closer until they bumped. “Actually, I was kind of hoping it would work both ways.” She held out her hand and after one last longing glance at the flask, he capped it then laid it in her palm. “One step at a time.”

“Yeah. One step at a time.” He felt her start to pull away so he caught her by the back of the neck and pulled her in back. “I’m going to fix this. Do you have a razor I can borrow?”

“Yes, but suicide is not the answer.”

“Ha ha. Very funny. I’m going to start by making Sam look like Sam. I’m going shave off that funky beard and mustache. He looks like Jeff Foxworthy.”

Hollis laughed in agreement. “There’s a safety razor in my cosmetic bag. Should be in the first bathroom at the top of the stairs.”

“We’re going to need stuff,” Dean continued, gears really turning now. “Toothbrush, shampoo, change of clothes. We’ve got nothing.”

“Give me your keys. I’ll send Renee back to your place to grab some of your stuff.”

“And Sam’s,” Dean said, cutting in. “His duffel’s in the closet. Should be everything he needs in there.” He fished his keys out of his pocket then handed them over. “So now we got a plan. Get Sammy fixed up. Get me fixed up.” Twisting awkwardly, he surprised her with a sloppy kiss. “Maybe fix us up, too.”

She sighed. “One step at a time, Dean. One step at a time.”



By 10:12 it was snowing hard. Hollis made herself a cup of tea then sat down on the living room window seat to watch. After so much commotion, the house was oddly quiet and the adrenaline she’d been running on all day was finally tapped out. The last bit of business was to check in with Felix Gomez at the hospital.

He reported that Andrew’s face was burned to the point where he’d need plastic surgery but even with that he’d never look normal again. He was going to live, though. That was something. With nothing left to do at the hospital, she told Gomez to go back to Vincent’s house. Lucas was already on his way there and together they needed to process the crime scene. They needed evidence, clues to help track the man, and information on the other young men who had gone missing. Special children, all of them, just like Sam. Or not. Sam was alive but she didn’t think the others were.

Renee had checked in from Dean’s apartment, asking which things she should pack. Hollis made the decisions; she didn’t want to bother Dean. He was upstairs with Sam in the large master bath, presumably shaving. Neither of them was shouting, so that was a good sign.

Between the calls from Renee and Felix, she thought again about notifying the local police. Their added eyes and ears might help track Vincent, but heaven forbid they try to apprehend the man. You see, sheriff, he has paranormal powers. He can burn you by looking at you. He can control animals with his thoughts. Oh yeah, and we think he can make your brain explode with a simple touch. She’d have to find a way to combat all of those powers without anyone else on her crew getting hurt. It was a tall job and not one she wanted to think about at the moment. Just like she’d told Dean. One step at time.

At 10:34 the lights dimmed in the living room. Dimmed, then flickered, then returned to normal in the space of 30 seconds. When they stabilized, a small but incessant beeping cut through the quiet. The house alarm. It was off line thanks to the power dip. Snow on the lines, no doubt. It was coming down wet and heavy. Like a mom she wished all of her “kids” were home safe, here, in the house. But wishing didn’t make it so. She set her tea on the coffee table then went to reset the alarm.

# # # #

“He isn’t going to like this,” Sam said simply as he examined his own reflection in the bathroom mirror. The left side of his face was clean-shaven and now Dean was working on the right.

“I don’t give a flying fuck if he likes it or not.”

“Language,” said Sam. Another of the automatic responses he’d picked up over the last year.

“He won’t like it because it makes you look like you.” Dean rinsed the safety razor under a stream of water from the sink. “I’m bringing Sammy back.”

“Sammy’s gone.”



“Stop that!”

The bathroom light dimmed then flickered and buzzed as the fluorescents tried to come back to life. Demons. That was the first thought that popped into Dean’s head. It had been a while, but still, flickering lights meant demons.

“Stay put.” Dean ran out of the bathroom and into the bedroom so he could look out the window to the street. It was snowing. Hard. He could see the heavy wet drifts collecting on the tree branches and the telephone wires. Okay, maybe not. He went out into the hall and peered over the railing to see Hollis messing with the alarm pad by the front door. “What’s going on?”

“That power drop knocked the alarm off line.” She turned and looked up at him and immediately a frown crossed her face. “What are you thinking? I’m thinking snow.”

“I’m thinking demons.”
“You always think demons. Remember when that pizza guy delivered a Hawaiian instead of the Chicago style you ordered?”

“Pineapple and pizza sauce is just nasty. Double check the downstairs, will you? I’ll check up here.”

She saluted. “I’ll even pour salt lines on the windowsills if it makes you feel better.” She was probably kidding but now that she mentioned it. . . .

“Good thinking. Let me finish up with Sam and then I’ll do the windows up here.”

“Hopeless,” Hollis muttered as she disappeared from view on her way to the kitchen.
“Love you, too,” Dean called after her and was surprised by how good that felt. Not the ‘love you’ so much as the banter. Having someone to talk to who understood. Someone with a common past.

God, he’d missed Sam.

With a new ache in his chest, Dean returned to the bathroom. He found Sam bent over the sink splashing handfuls of water over his face with unnecessary vigor. Water and excess shaving cream were sloshing everywhere and when he stood his face was clean but his shirt was soaked.

“Much better.” Dean gave Sam’s bare face a soft slap. “Now we just have to wait for that hair color to grow out. Or maybe we could die it back to its normal color.”

Sam started to speak but it turned into a full body shiver that set his teeth chattering.

“Let’s get you into a hot shower and then into bed. Okay?”


Dean turned to start the shower running. When he turned back, the curse word left his mouth before he could stop it. Sam was mid-motion, yanking his t-shirt up and over his head. With his arms stretched up and his torso completely exposed. . . well, thin didn’t begin to cover it. And then there were the bruises and the scars. Some from their hunting days, but many more new ones. Many more.

The shirt cleared his head then Sam met his brother’s gaze and the response was the weirdest thing Dean had ever seen. Sam blushed. Actually blushed. Something he hadn’t done since Dean caught him watching that lesbian porn channel that one time.

“Please don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what? You mean the look of pure horror that’s probably on my face? Geez, Sammy, getting banged up hunting is one thing–”

“Please stop.” Sam shook out his shirt and tried to put it back on but Dean snatched it away.

“You have nothing to be embarrassed about, Sam. You’re the victim here!”

“Please stop.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine what he did to you to make some of those marks–”

“Stop! You’re supposed to stop when I say please! That’s the rule!”

“The rule?” Dean’s voice quivered as he said it. “There are no rules here, Sammy. You’re free of him. You do whatever you want.”

“As long as it’s what you want.” That fell somewhere between a question and a statement and it left Dean completely speechless. Such a rarity, that.

“What’s going on up here?” Hollis stepped into the bathroom, oblivious to what she might be walking into. Dean had to give her credit though. She covered her gasp at the sight of Sam much better than he did.

“Take a shower, Sam,” Dean said as waved for Hollis to step out. On second thought he added, “Or don’t. It’s up to you.” Then he left the bathroom, herding Hollis ahead of him. “Jesus Christ, he’s fucking with my head.”

She rolled her eyes. “Can you go two whole sentences without cursing?”

“Christ! The both of you!” He flopped down to sitting on the bed then fell back, feet still firmly planted on the floor. “Boy did he learn his lessons well.”

“What are you talking about?”

“How he twists everything around! Like I’m the one who’s at fault here! Vincent’s the one he should be mad at! Vincent is the one he should be blaming.”

“Yeah but–”

“Yeah but what!” Dean growled as he dragged his hands over his face.

“But you won’t whip him until he says I’m sorry.” She patted him on the thigh. “You both need to get some rest.” The doorbell startled them. “Oh, that’s Renee with your stuff. Stay put. I’ll bring it up.”

As soon as she was gone, Dean reached into his pocket for the flask that wasn’t there.

# # #

Dean woke when a shaft of pastel light crossed his face. He groaned, stretched, then sat up in bed.

Hmm. Unfamiliar room. That wasn’t all that unusual.

Still in his jeans and Henley. Also, not unusual.

Pounding headache. . . quite normal.


In an instant the prior day came flooding back to him but Sam was nowhere in sight. Could he have dreamed it? Sam, alive? Free of that monster? Oh god, please let it be true. Please don’t tell me it was all in my head.

Dean bounced off the bed then went into the bathroom. The floor was freezing under his bare feet and the air was filled with a misty light — dawn coming through the one small window. No Sam. Taking advantage of the moment, Dean relieved himself and as the roar of the flush died down he heard another sound. Movement. . . from. . . the shower stall?

He slid the frosted glass door open and there was his brother, curled up on the floor of the shower, dressed in the sweatpants and t-shirt that Renee had brought over. He had a towel bunched up under his head and another half draped over his body.

“Sammy.” Dean spoke as softly as he knew how but still Sam bolted upright as if he’d been hit with a cattle prod. His head whipped around as if trying to get his bearings. Probably wondering how much of the past year was only a bad dream. Or maybe this was the dream. Being rescued. Being safe.

Dean stooped down to his eye level. “What are you doing, buddy?” The voice of dad coming out again, how odd was that?


“We’ve got a perfectly good bed in the other room.”

Sam simply nodded. Awkwardly he got up to standing then returned to the bedroom with no further prodding from Dean. They both lay down on the queen-sized bed. Open eyes and staring was the last thing Dean saw before he fell back asleep.

# # #

Hollis peeked in on the boys on her way downstairs the next morning. Dean was sprawled across two thirds of the bed, still in his jeans and shirt from the night before. Sam was sitting on the edge of the bed facing the open doorway. He too was dressed in the clothes they’d found him in but with his clean-shaven face he looked so much more like the man she knew before.

“Good morning,” she whispered. “What are you doing?”
“Waiting.” Then he nodded toward Dean.

“He’s not going to wake up until he smells coffee brewing. Just as well, too. He’s a bear before he gets that first cup.”

A smile ghosted over Sam’s face. Nice.

“I could use a hand with breakfast. Would you mind?”

Again he glanced at Dean. “Okay.” He got up carefully so as not to rock the bed, then followed Hollis downstairs and into the kitchen.

It was a large room with seats around a center island and a table and chairs in a nook that overlooked the backyard. Snow had drifted up a foot high against the sliding glass door and the yard itself sparkled with the bright sunlight hitting the icy crystals.

“Can you make the coffee? I think everything is in the cabinet to your left. I’ll see what’s to eat.”

Sam opened the cupboard as she’d instructed and found gourmet ground coffee and filters. Without question he went about setting up the coffee maker — just another ordinary day.

“Ooh, Farmer John Sausages. Love those.” Hollis grabbed two packs from the four she found in the fridge. “And what else? Eggs?”

“Pancakes,” said Sam.

When she turned to look he was pointing to a box mix on the counter.

“Pancakes it is.” Another look in refrigerator turned up juice and milk, butter and syrup. Whoever had stocked the place had done a good job. A little more searching in the cupboards turned up a bowl and frying pans. And with the coffee brewing, Sam dug out plates and silverware and glasses without being asked. Those items went on the center island. He set four places. Each one eerily precise in the layout of the silverware in relation to the plates.

Hollis had two frying pans going. She put Sam in charge of the sausages while she flipped pancakes. “Tell me about Vincent’s powers,” she began, trying hard to sound casual.

“I can’t,” Sam responded flatly.

“Why not?”

“He’ll know and he’ll be furious when I get back.” Spoken so offhandedly, as if he were talking about a trip to the mall.

“You’re not going back, Sam.”

“I have to. Eventually.” He rolled the sausages over and the grease popped and splattered all over his hand. He didn’t even flinch.

“Why do you have to go back?”

“Because he needs me.”

“I’m certain he does. But you don’t need him. And if comes here, tries to get you back, we’ll stop him. I promise.”

“He won’t come after me. I have to go back on my own.” There was an ‘or else’ at the end of that sentence but he didn’t voice it. Instead he poured all of his concentration into removing the sausages from the pan and carefully draining them on a paper towel. Every movement precise and with purpose. “Please protect Dean.”

He mumbled that last part under his breath and Hollis wasn’t sure she heard it right. “What?” She caught him by the sleeve and nudged him around to face her. There were tears in his eyes and a deep frown on his handsome face.

“He’s going to go after Dean. He promised me he would and he always does what he promises. And I can’t. . .Hollis. . . please, the things he’s going to do to him. Worse than anything he did to the others. He used to tell me that, over and over, he’d take it so far and then he’d stop and say, nope, that last little bit I’m saving for your brother. For my brother, Hollis!”

The kitchen lights dimmed, then flickered back to life while the coffee maker sputtered from the brief loss of power.

Not snow on the lines. Not demons. She shut off the stove.

“Sam, listen to me.” Hollis took him by the arm and led him to one of the kitchen island stools. They were tall, the perfect seat for someone built like Sam and yet he looked like a little child who was about to be scolded, all uncomfortable perched on the edge. “Those were mind games, Sam. He’s an expert at them. All designed to break you, to make you stay with him, that’s all. He was never going to go after Dean. You said yourself that you went to the roadhouse and Dean was drunk, surely Vincent could have overpowered him in the parking lot without any trouble at all if he wanted to. But he didn’t. Do you know why? Because you’re stronger together. And Vincent knows it. He was able to keep you because you were alone. But if he’d ever brought Dean into that house you would have had the strength to fight back. Do you remember how he got to you in the first place, Sam?”

He nodded. “Dean and I had a fight. I wanted to go looking for Kyle Waters. He was one of the special kids, just like me. He disappeared and I wanted to find him and my visions were so strong. They were making me sick. I had to follow them.”

“On your own. And they led you to Martin Vincent and that’s how he got you. Because you were alone.” She gave his leg a pat. “You’re stronger together, Sam. Always will be. You’re unbeatable when you’re together. Remember that.”

Hollis turned back to the counter. She picked up the plates of sausages and pancakes then set them on the kitchen island. She fixed up a plate for herself and one for Sam. Loaded on the butter and syrup. Without comment or instructions, Sam filled two glasses with juice. Again she was struck by how carefully he moved. Not a drop spilled, glasses replaced exactly in the spot he’d picked them up from. It was creepy.

They were both just sitting down to eat when the front door alarm beeped a warning.

“It’s only us!” Lucas’ voice came at them from down the hall. Then there were footsteps and another sound. A quick clickity click, like fingernails on the hardwood floor.

A moment later a fat little pug dog came galloping into the kitchen.

“Hey Cyrus,” Sam crooned as he bent down to scratch the puppy behind the ears.

“Looks like they know each other,” said Tony Lucas as he and Felix Gomez came into the kitchen. Then, in response to Hollis’ disapproving stare he added, “He came in through the dog door while we were searching the place. What were we supposed to do? Leave him there to starve?”

“I guess not. But I hope he’s not all you brought back.”

To that Lucas and Gomez shared an ‘I told you so’ eye-roll. “As a matter of fact, it is. The place was clean, Hollis. We looked under, in and all around. We even tore up half the backyard, but there wasn’t a shred of anything that you wouldn’t find in a normal home.”

“That’s impossible. We know Vincent keeps trophies, diaries at the very least, let alone. . . ” She trailed off unable to find an acceptable word for the instruments of torture she knew Vincent liked to use.

“No cross-contamination,” Sam mumbled as he fed his breakfast sausages to the dog. “Last one, buddy. That’s all I got, sorry.” He leaned in close enough to get licked in the face, then gave the pup a vigorous scrub under the chin. “You want pancakes? I’ve got pancakes.”

Hollis stooped down beside him, her own breakfast plate in her hands. “He can have mine.” She set the plate on the floor allowing Cyrus to help himself to all of it. “What’s cross-contamination?”

“The house is for living. We don’t contaminate it with the bad stuff. It’s only for when you’re good.”

“And when you’re not good?”

Sam shivered then pushed up to standing. “There’s another place.”

Lucas shook his head to answer Hollis’ unasked question. “We checked the basement, all the bedrooms, nothing.”

Sam took a seat on one of the kitchen island stools then began sectioning his pancakes with his fork. Not eating any of it, just sectioning into smaller and smaller pieces. “The studio. Where Vincent does his work.”

“How do we find this place, Sam?” It was as if he didn’t even hear her. Hollis came to stand beside him, then slowly and carefully, she slipped her arm around his waist. “I need to find this place. I know Vincent abducted other young men but I have to have the evidence to prove it. How do I find the studio?”

He turned his head toward her and she saw the first bit of strength, the first bit of the old Sam. “Take me to the house and I’ll show you.”

“God damn, that smells good.” Dean. He stepped in yawning and stretching but stopped mid-motion when he saw the pug. “Dog.”

“He’s mine,” said Sam, as if he was challenging any of them to disagree. “His name is Cyrus.” He scooped the puppy off the floor along with the plate of food.

Dean made a face in the dog’s direction then headed for the coffee maker. “So what’s going on? You guys just getting back?”

“Yeah, the snow was really coming down last night so we figured we might as well stay until morning,” said Gomez then he excused himself to go take a shower.

“No sign of Vincent?” Dean turned around with a steaming cup of black coffee then dropped his hips against the kitchen counter. His eyes fell on Sam and he frowned. “Why did you put those dirty clothes back on? Renee brought you like four other outfits.”

Sam shrugged as twirled the plate of food so Cyrus could have easy access to the stack of syrupy pancakes.

“So what did you find at the house?” Dean asked as he loaded a plate for himself.

“Nothing but old Cyrus here,” Lucas said as he shot Hollis a glance.

“Apparently there’s a separate place,” she said, taking over. “Vincent’s studio. We’re going to go back over there in a bit and Sam’s going to show us where it is.” She said that fast, hoping to gloss over the last part.

“He’s going to draw you a map, is what you’re saying, right? Because he’s not going back there.”

“I have to go back,” Sam said robotically but Hollis stopped any further statement with a hand to his arm.

“Dean, trust me on this.”

“Fuck that.”


“I told you to knock that off!” Dean slammed his palms down on the island his face only inches from Sam’s. There was a moment where it was like time was standing still and then Cyrus bared his teeth and began to growl. “Sorry.” Dean backed off. “Edgy,” he mumbled then sat down with his plate of food. “I just don’t like it.”

“I understand,” said Hollis. “But it’s my decision and Sam’s. If I’m going to nail this guy, I need all the information I can get.”

Dean showed his displeasure by vigorously jabbing his fork into a sausage. “Fine. But I’m going with you.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She glanced at Sam and he was smiling. For some reason she found it oddly disturbing.

# # #

Renee claimed she had a migraine but Hollis suspected it was something deeper that made her want to stay away from Vincent’s house. She was a sensitive, a gift that was often useful in their line of work, but it also meant that she was more susceptible to the evils they encountered. In this case, she couldn’t shake off what ever Vincent had done when he laid his hands on her, which made returning to the house way too much to handle.

Hollis was slightly worried about leaving her alone, but there was nothing to be done about it. She needed Lucas and Gomez with her on the off chance that Vincent might try something — another fact she didn’t want to dwell on.

Lucas broke the tape he’d put on the front door to alert him to intruders. Dean followed with Sam, Hollis and Gomez bringing up the rear. Both Winchester brothers physically tensed when they stepped inside. Dean had never seen the place but he knew what it represented and Hollis watched as his fingers balled instantly into fists.

She came up behind him and set a hand on his lower back. “Take it easy,” she said softly, then her gaze trailed off after Sam as he moved toward the back of the house. He stopped in front of a door under the stairs.


Lucas un-holstered his gun as Hollis opened the door. A closet, empty except for a raincoat hanging on a single hook on the back wall. Sam grabbed the hook and pulled down. It slid like the arm on a dead bolt. He started to push right but Hollis stopped him. She motioned him aside, un-holstered her own gun then shoved the pocket door to the right. She stepped through into a mirror image of the house they’d just left. A duplex with a common wall and a secret doorway connecting them.

So simple, they should have thought of it. She stepped aside for the others to file in behind her.

Where the main house was neat and orderly, the “studio” was cluttered with stuff. Nothing nefarious at first glance, piles of clothing, a couple of backpacks, newspapers, unopened mail, a red bicycle. Kyle Waters was last seen riding a red bicycle.

Again Sam wandered away as if pulled by some magnetic force. He stopped outside of a bedroom door. “It’s sound proof,” he said to no one in particular. “I helped. You put this glue on the walls then sheetrock over that. Absorbs the sound.”

Dean opened the door.




The room smelled lightly of bleach. There were faint brown stains on the walls and the carpet and the examination table that took up a good portion of the room. Just like a doctor’s office, except with restraints and a whole variety of instruments hanging on the wall. Whips, electric wands, spiked objects, round objects, long objects. . . Dean couldn’t even allow himself to think about what most of them were used for.

A sharp slam echoed through the house and that was followed by a string of curses.

“Lucas?” Hollis called as she ran back into the living area. “Where are you?”

“Kitchen,” came his reply and he sounded like he was gasping for breath.

She ran toward his voice with Dean on her heels. Despite her fears for her partner, she hugged the wall like a good cop then swiveled in through the kitchen doorway gun drawn.

Lucas was sitting in a kitchen chair, chest heaving but otherwise unharmed. “Sorry. Freaked the shit out of me is all.” He nodded toward a chest freezer that took up one whole wall of the kitchen.

Tired of taking the backseat, Dean pushed past Hollis, grabbed the lid of the freezer and shoved it open. A frozen head looked up at him. “Son of a bitch.”

He grabbed Hollis as she ran up to see. Slung his arm around her waist and felt the jolt run through her as she took in the grizzly sight. The freezer was loaded with ziplock bags and foil wrapped packages. Probably not pork chops and hamburgers. Dean’s breakfast threatened to come up. He cleared his throat, closed the lid, kept hold of Hollis because. . . god knows. . she was something solid to hold to and then he noticed that Sam wasn’t in the room.


“He’s out here with me,” came the reply. Gomez. He was in the garage.

It was only the thought of getting Sam back into view that allowed Dean to move so fast on rubber legs. But getting there meant one more wave of horror.

It was like a perverted version of a home gym. Metal apparatuses designed to force the human body into positions it wasn’t meant to stay in. Hooks and manacles hanging from the ceiling. Hoses, a welding torch, a fish tank with water but no fish.

“I told you he wouldn’t like it.” Sam. He was staring at an unfolded piece of paper in his hands. A handwritten note.

Dean took it from him and read it out loud for benefit of the others. “Sam. You looked better with the beard.”

“He was here,” said Hollis. “Sometime this morning, probably while we were coming through from the other side, that bastard.”

“Not necessarily,” said Gomez. “It could be old.”

“No it can’t,” Dean snapped. “You looked better with the beard. It says looked. Meaning he knows that Sam shaved. Meaning he had to have seen him this morning! Son-of-a-bitch!” He whirled on Sam ready to stop the admonishment from coming out of his mouth but Sam said nothing. Couldn’t, say anything. He was trembling, chest heaving, eyes blinking. . .

Dean wanted to say something comforting but suddenly all he could think about was how much he wanted a drink. Needed a drink.

“You have to go!” Sam pushed the words out between long drags for breath. “I have to stay here and you have to go. He’s here and he will hurt you. He will hurt you all. Go!”

“We’re all going,” said Hollis. “Now.”

“No. Hollis. Please. Take Dean. Go. You know what he’ll do if I’m not here when he gets back. I have to be here.”

“No way!” Dean shouted as he physically pushed into his brother’s space. “I swear to god, Sammy. You’re coming with us if I have to knock you unconscious and carry you out of here!”

Sam fell back a step as if he’d been punched. “I just don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”

“And they won’t.” Hollis stepped closer, drawing Sam’s eye away from Dean. “But we aren’t going to let you stay here, honey. I made a mistake, bringing you here, I see that now. We need to go. Get everyone back to the safe house where we can control the environment. Then we’ll work out the rest.”

Sam managed to look both defeated and relieved at the same time as he walked with Dean, out of the garage and back the way they had come.

Hollis told Gomez to go with them, to get them safely to the car and be ready to pull out at the first sign of trouble. “Don’t wait for me or Lucas. Anything strikes you as odd, you take off. Your only priority is keeping those two safe. Do you understand?”

“Yes ma’am.” Then he double-timed it to catch up to the Winchesters as Hollis and Lucas continued to lag behind.

Lucas pulled out his phone then dialed a number from the directory. “I’ll call Matt Greenberg at the FBI. He’s got this major forensics expert who’ll know exactly how to deal with these frozen body parts.”

“I like Matt. He knows how to not ask questions. And I guess it’s time I call the locals in. We’re going to need to lock this place up tight–” She stopped speaking when Lucas’ call went through. As he talked on the phone she wandered to the opposite side of the room intending to make a call of her own. Then she saw it. A scrapbook, similar to the ones they had confiscated when they impounded Vincent’s car three months before he abducted Sam. Hollis picked up the book then flipped it open to a random page. Neat handwriting, a diagram of a padded box and a photo of a young man hung from the hook in the garage. Still healthy and muscular. Still resisting. Vincent had made sure to capture that look in his eyes. Still thinking he was going to get out of this alive.

Hollis gasped as something moved in her pocket. Geez. Her phone. She pulled it out. Gomez. “Yeah.”
“What the hell are you doing?” Dean. “We need to get out of here. Now.” Hollis glanced around the area where she’d found the scrapbook but there wasn’t another one in plain sight.

“Look. You guys go. Go to the house. We’re going bring the locals in here to cover the place and I’ll have one of them drive us back later.”

There was a hesitation on the other side. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m sure. We’re fine. Tell Gomez I said go.”

“Okay. Be careful.”
“I will.” She disconnected the call.

Lucas was done, too. He said Greenberg would be there in about two and a half hours with a forensic team. She asked him to call the local sheriff’s department and have them seal off the area until the FBI arrived.

The first squad car showed up fifteen minutes later. By then Hollis had already found what she was looking for.

# # #

“What is wrong with you?”

Dean had held his tongue throughout the ride home, not wanting to start anything in front of Hollis’ man Gomez. This was family stuff. This was between him and Sam, only. No outsiders. So by the time Gomez had his coat hung up and was on his way upstairs, Dean was fairly buzzing with the need to speak his mind. “How could you even suggest going back to that psycho? Seriously? Did you really think I was going to say, sure, fine, why not? Jesus, Sam, what’s gotten into your head, huh?”

Sam, who was on his way down the hall toward the kitchen, whirled forcing Dean to come up short. “Vincent.”

“That’s what’s gotten into my head, Dean. Vincent. He’s in there. He’s still in there rattling around, trying to take control. And I don’t believe that you can’t understand that.” Then he lowered his voice, turned away and mumbled, “you of all people.”

Dean dashed ahead to get in front of him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Sam sighed and he made that face. That face that Dean despised and yet wished over and over again that he could see one more time while Sam was missing. That, ‘I’m sick of you and sick of this world’ face that he wore almost every day for a year before he went off to Stanford.

“I’ve only been free of Vincent for a day,” Sam snapped. “Dad’s been dead for three years and he’s still inside your head. Now tell me which one of us is screwed up.” He put his palms on Dean’s shoulders and shoved. Not hard enough to knock him over but hard enough to cause him to lose his balance.

As he righted himself Dean’s hands went automatically into fists. Years of fight training; years of sparring with his too-tall baby brother had made it so easy. So natural. Sam might be taller, but Dean had the muscle and the control. Of course, that was before. Now his hands were shaking and all he could think about was how good a beer would taste. A six pack, actually, with a bottle of bourbon as a chaser.

“I’m sorry,” Sam said, suddenly sounding very small and timid. There was more but all Dean could hear was Hollis’ voice saying ‘He knows you won’t whip him until he says, I’m sorry.’

“Don’t say that, ever, Sammy. None of this is your fault. I’m the one who’s sorry. I shouldn’t.. . . I only want. . . ” I only want to make it all go away. “I have to go out for a little bit.” He dashed back around Sam then grabbed the car keys off the hall table where Gomez had dropped them.

“Wait. Where are you going?”

“I just have to get something. You stay here. You lock the door after me and get Renee to set the alarm. Have her tell you the code so you can do it yourself. But stay inside and be careful!”

“No. Dean. Don’t go.”

And that was where Dean shut it down. He couldn’t listen. Couldn’t stand that tone in Sam’s voice. “Lock the door,” he ordered, not caring that he sounded like dad this time, then he ran for the SUV before anyone got a mind to stop him.

Hollis was sitting in the ‘examination room’ when her cell phone rang. She’d been reading one of the scrapbooks, not one about Sam though. That one would have to wait until she was alone. So she could break down and cry without her team seeing her so vulnerable. This book was about a young man named Derek. Derek could drain the power out of anything electrical, which he did over and over again every time Vincent used the violet wand on him. Developed as a kinky sex toy, the wand created an electrical field similar to those lightening balls they sold in the novelty shops. Only this one could be pumped up to a much higher voltage, giving the victim either a sweet sex buzz, or a painful jolt. Vincent had written a whole page about Derek’s struggles to concentration so he could drain the wand’s power before it did too much damage. Four hours before Vincent bored of the game and switched to something that ran on human power — a studded strap. But the way the passage was written, it seemed as if the whip was being wielded by someone other than himself.

The horror of that was just sinking in when her phone rang. Renee.

“Hey. What’s up?” She shut the book unwilling to divide her attention. Derek deserved better than that.

“I thought you’d like to know. Dean went out. He took the SUV.”

“And you let him?”

“I didn’t know about it until it was too late. Apparently he and Sam had words and Dean took off. I fired up the GPS tracking on the laptop and he didn’t go far. He’s at a strip mall about five miles from here on Calvert and 2nd. Car hasn’t moved for the last ten minutes.”

“What’s in the strip mall? Do you know?” Hollis had a good idea but she wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“I ran the address and I’m thinking he’s at the Starbucks. Otherwise it’s a hair salon and a dry cleaner and a real estate office. . .”

Hollis could hear the unfinished thought. “What else?”

“There’s a little market, Italian deli kind of place.”

Where they undoubtedly sold alcohol. Hollis couldn’t cover her sigh. “Alright. I’m going to head back your way. Keep an eye on the GPS and let me know if he goes anywhere else before I get there.”

“Will do.”

Hollis flipped her phone shut then dropped it in her pocket. She gathered up the six scrapbooks she’d located then headed back into the main room. The sheriff, who looked like he was going to puke, was talking with Lucas about how they’d never had complaints from the neighbors. Not about noise or smells or anything at all. They all said Vincent was friendly enough to say hi when their paths crossed and two of them mentioned how fond their were of the man’s young nephew who was staying with him.

That would be Sam. Contact with the neighbors. And did he ever once even consider slipping one a note? How awful to have lived so close and yet so far.

Hollis gave Lucas a quick rundown on the call from Renee then asked the sheriff if he had a man who could give her a ride. Lucas would stay. The FBI team was still a good hour out and then there’d be plenty to do.

“But you’re FBI, too,” the sheriff prodded as he walked with her to one of the cars on the street. “But this other team coming in is a special team?”

“Right. They’re experts at dealing with . . . this sort of thing.”

The sheriff made a gassy, burby sound then excused himself. “Can’t believe anybody is an expert in this kind of thing. I mean, being an expert kinda implies you’ve seen it before.”

“Sadly, you’re not wrong.”

He opened the passenger door on an old unmarked Toyota with a bubble light suction cupped to the roof. A young deputy slid in on the other side with orders to take her wherever she needed to go.

Where did she need to go? It was tempting, but in the end she gave him the address of the safe house with instructions to take the long way getting there. Vincent was still in the area, so being followed wasn’t out of the question.

When they pulled up to the house, the deputy got out and ran around to get her door even though she’d already opened it by the time he arrived. The scrapbooks were cumbersome though and with the snow drifts under her feet she did need to take advantage of his good balance a time or two.

“Can you do me one more favor,” she asked, once she was safely on the front porch. “There’s a strip mall at Calvert and 2nd.”

“Calvert’s Corner,” said the young man. “I know it.”

“Can you take a run over there and nose around a little. There’s a guy, 6’1″, 210, buzz cut hair, he’ll be wearing a leather car coat. You’ll know him, he kinda stands out in a crowd.”

“You want me to pick him up?”

Oh, she so wanted to say yes to that. “No. Just make sure he’s okay — from a distance. I don’t want him to know I’m checking up.” She gave the officer her cell phone number and as he walked away she wondered if she should mention that other thing. Like, he might be on his way to getting rip roaring drunk, in which case, you probably shouldn’t let him drive. But in the end she figured the deputy was a smart kid. He’d handle it the right way, whatever the circumstances.

Standing on the porch, Hollis dialed Renee and asked her to come let her in. She also asked where Sam was. Wouldn’t do for him to see what she had in her arms. Turned out he was in the living room watching TV so she was able to get upstairs and hide the books in the closet without him knowing.

She’d go back to read them later when everyone else was asleep in their beds.




“Come here, Cyrus. Come on. Get the pillow. Get it.” Sam lay on his belly on the floor of the living room. Rachael Ray was on the TV but he wasn’t watching her. He was playing tug-of-war with Cyrus. Actually having fun.

Hollis watched from the doorway just out of Sam’s line of vision. The pug dog was attacking the corner of a throw pillow, growling in a way that sounded fake. Trying to sound tough when he really wasn’t.

“Let go.”

Cyrus dropped the pillow.

“Back up.”

Again the dog did as he was told. Sam scooted back, too so there was an equal distance between each of them and the pillow.

“Ready? Can you beat me? One. Two. Three. Go.” Sam made a dive for the pillow just as Cyrus did the same. They each grabbed a corner and the tussle began with Sam letting the dog do most of the work. After a few moments, he let go and little Cyrus went tumbling backward. Sam laughed and it was a beautiful sound. He rolled on to his back and patted his chest and Cyrus jumped on — perfect face licking position. Only now Sam was facing the other way. He spotted Hollis and the smile fell away. He looked like he was going to say something but then he simply rolled over again and resumed his games with Cyrus.

With no reason to remain hidden now, Hollis came into the living room then sat down on the footstool. “He’s very well trained. Is that your doing?”

“I guess.”

“It’s almost like he understands what you’re saying. The way he obeys right away. I’d think it was unusual except that I know Vincent had the ability to control animals. Looks like maybe you have that ability, too.”

Cyrus gave up the pillow war then padded over to nuzzle himself against Sam. Sam sat up then pulled the puppy into his lap for some mutual nuzzling.

“I’ve also been thinking about those electrical dips. That was you, too, wasn’t it?”

“I lost control,” Sam said softly. “It won’t happen again.”

“That was Derek’s power. The ability to drain off energy.”

Sam squirmed and Cyrus began to fuss in his arms.

“I didn’t remember this until now, but Kyle Waters’ sister told me that Kyle had a real way with animals. She thought he could actually communicate with them in a way that most people couldn’t.”

Sam tried to soothe the puppy with whispers and kisses but the dog was becoming more and more agitated.

“So somehow, the powers of each of Vincent’s victims are being transferred to both you and him. How does that work, Sam?”

Sam shook his head, still cuddling the dog. “I can’t tell you. I can’t.” He broke off with a frustrated huff. “I never wanted them. I didn’t want to be like him and I tried to resist. I tried not using the powers but they won’t go away. I don’t know how to make them go away!”

The volume on the TV spiked up to way past loud. Rachael Ray shouting about how fabulous the chicken Panini’s were when you added her special mustard sauce. Then Nancy Grace was yelling at some lawyer in a box, then Will Smith was the Fresh Prince and then monkeys swung on a jungle gym in an Animal Planet special. Then nothing. Silence.

“I’m losing control,” Sam said softly. “I don’t understand that. I had better control when I was with Vincent. These things wouldn’t happen. Only when I was allowed.” He looked up at her and there were tears in his eyes. “Please don’t tell Dean. He freaked out when I started getting visions and then once, when I moved something with my mind, oh my god, he couldn’t handle it. He’ll think I’m a monster.”

“He won’t think that, Sam. He loves you and he gets scared for you, that’s all.” She moved toward him but Cyrus growled deep in his throat. He wasn’t playing this time so she backed off.

Sam petted Cyrus back into a lull and the action seemed to calm him, too. “But I am a monster,” he said, mumbling almost to himself. “I killed Derek.”

It wasn’t an entirely unexpected statement. She had surmised as much from Vincent’s notes but still it was startling to hear Sam say it out loud. “I’m sure you didn’t want to.”

“No! I did want to!” He glanced up at her fast, the eyes of a little boy admitting to breaking his mother’s favorite vase. “I wanted to put him out of his misery. Vincent. . . oh, god, the things he did to him. . . but he wouldn’t die. He kept holding on and I’d listen to the sounds he made at night. These horrible, horrible sounds like begging but without words. And it’s not like he had any chance of surviving. Half his skin was burned or peeled away. He looked like when an animal’s been run over on the road but it’s still breathing. I just wanted to free him from the pain so I put a pillow over his face and I held it there until he stopped. He didn’t even struggle.” Sam squeezed Cyrus tighter to his chest and the dog gave a little yelp. “I think he wanted to die but he needed me to help him.”

Hollis turned away. She took a breath, wiped her eyes then forced the emotion out of her mind the way her Sifu had taught her when she first took control of Sphere. Her calm face. The one she put on when everything was going to hell around her, when people were depending on her to get them through.

She turned back then stooped down to Sam’s eye level. “What you did doesn’t make you a monster, Sam. It makes you human. Even with everything you were going through yourself, you found the strength to do what had to be done.”

“The next night. That’s when Vincent took me to the Roadhouse. Dean was there, at the bar. He was drunk and he had this girl with him. And all these others hunters. They would have come after me if they’d known what I’d done. What I was becoming.”

Hollis reached out but instead of touching him she patted Cyrus who had nestled down to sleep in Sam’s lap. “Is that why you didn’t say anything to Dean? Because you were afraid of what would happen to you? Or was it because you were afraid of what would happen to him?”

Sam shrugged. “Vincent would have killed everyone in the place. All the hunters, Dean, Ellen. It was so weird to see them that close up and they didn’t even know me.”

“Because it wasn’t you. And I don’t mean the beard and the hair color. Vincent had you convinced that you were a monster. And that’s what you were when you were sitting in that bar. There was nothing about you that said Sam Winchester and that’s why they didn’t see you. Look –” She stopped abruptly at the sound of approaching footsteps.

Renee appeared in the doorway. “I’m sorry to interrupt but I thought you’d want to know. Dean’s on the move. I think he’s on his way here.” She started to go then turned back. “And was that the TV I heard a little bit ago?”

“Yeah, you know me,” said Hollis. “I can program a satellite in space but I can’t work a TV remote.”

“Okay, then.” Renee left them alone.

Turning her attention back to Sam, she saw him swipe away the last of his tears with his sleeves.

“I wish I could do something to make you forget everything that happened,” said Hollis. “But I need your help. I need to know what you know if I’m going to catch Vincent. He has to have a weakness.”

“He doesn’t.”

“He does. I’m sure he’s kept it well hidden, but you know him better than anybody. Find that weakness and we’ll get him. Can you try? For me? For the next Derek or Kyle or Sam?”

He nodded. “Hollis? You won’t tell any of this to Dean?”

Dean. Despite her words of assurance to Sam, she wasn’t sure that big brother would react all that well given the same information. He had a way of being unintentionally hurtful. She knew it was his own defense mechanism but she’d been on the receiving end of enough of his cutting comments to know that didn’t lessen the blow.

“I won’t tell Dean.”

# # #

Dean was surprised when Hollis answered the door instead of Renee.

“I didn’t think you’d be back yet, or I would have bought you one, too.” He nodded toward the cardboard Starbucks carrier he had in his hand. Four large cups of coffee. Her eyes continued down to the plastic grocery bag he had slung over his arm. Let her wonder.

“Sam! Come here.” He set the carrier down on the hall table then pulled loose two of the cups. When Sam appeared he handed him the one with H/C S L scribbled on the side. “It’s a half caf, soy milk, extra foamy vanilla spongy girlie latte — just like you like it.”

Sam smiled faintly as he took a tentative sip. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, well, drink it all. It’s probably got like five gazillion calories in it but don’t go thinking that’s all you’re having today. You fed half your breakfast to Frank there.”

“Cyrus,” Sam corrected.

“Whatever. You’re too thin and he’s not. Eat your own food.” Then he turned to Hollis and said, “The other two coffees are for Renee and that other guy, and they can fight over who gets which.” Dean headed for the stairs with his own coffee cup and the plastic bag. “Or you can pull rank and take one of them yourself. Your call.” He charged up the stairs just as he had a million times before but this time he was winded and sweating by the time he hit the top step. Because he was still wearing his coat and the coffee was hot. Surely that was why, wasn’t it?

He went into the bedroom he and Sam were sharing, dumped his coat on the bed, left his coffee on the nightstand then went to the bathroom with the plastic bag.

The first thing he pulled out was a box of Advil. He got the bottle out of the box all right, but the childproof cap and the foil lining were a bit trickier with shaky hands. Two pills. A can from the bag. Pop that open. He threw back the pills and swallowed them dry then followed that with two gulps from the can. When he brought his head down level he saw Hollis in the mirror.

“Headache?” she asked.

“I’ll live.” Dean switched his hold on the can so she could see that it was a Red Bull and not a beer. “Did you want something?”

She came closer, actually pressed up against him then set a kiss to his throbbing temple. Damn. It felt so good, having her near. Feeling her body against his. The gentleness of her touch. It was so sweet he almost didn’t catch it. The real reason she was this close. Smelling his breath.

“And don’t think I didn’t notice that cop you sent to check up on me.” He wiggled out of her grasp and then a cold chill chased away the hot flash he’d had a few minutes ago.

“Hey, I won’t apologize for checking up on you or Renee, or Lucas or anybody on my team. That’s part of my job, to make sure you all stay safe and I’m going to do it the best way I see fit. I’m sorry if that doesn’t sit well with you.”

Dean huffed, gaze dropping to the floor. “I see. So, it’s all about the job.”

“It’s a little about the job.” She moved in again and this time he didn’t push her away. “But mostly it’s because I still love you.” She kissed him on the cheek and as she brushed by his ear she whispered. “I’m proud of you, Dean.”

As she backed off, her hand slid down the length of his back and he was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to have her beneath him in bed again. The way she used to dig her nails into his flesh. The way she took it, harder, deeper and still begged for more. The way she said his name, over and over and over again like it meant something to her. Like he meant something. Not another one night stand but a real connection. Like actual love.

–rustle up some food,” she was saying but he didn’t catch it all. “You’re right about Sam. He needs to eat. Finish up in here and come help.” Then she was gone and the tiny bathroom felt so big and so empty.

Dean pulled the door shut, then locked it. He turned the tap on cold, leaned into the basin and splashed water over his face until the shivers took over his body.

‘I’m proud of you.’

Oh god.

He reached into the plastic grocery bag and took out the last item. A fifth of whiskey. He screwed off the top, sniffed. Just the thing to chase away the chill.

‘I still love you.’

Dean turned the bottle upside down, pouring the contents into the drain. Then he wrapped the bottle back in the bag and buried it in the trashcan under a wad of toilet paper.

He should have felt triumphant, but all he felt was sick.

# # #

Incredibly, the greasy smell of broiling burgers made Dean’s stomach feel better and not worse. Food had always been a good thing. Food on the table meant there was money in their wallets. It meant sitting down together even when it was only him and Sam. Food was comfort and it was only a good metabolism that had kept Dean from getting fat. Burgers, fries, steaks, pasta, chips and beer. Yeah, food was love. And food was obviously something that had been lacking in Sam’s world for the past year. That was why he made Sam’s burger a double with three slices of cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and a slice of bacon. Heaven on a plate.
Sam looked at it and went pale. “I can’t eat this.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too much.” Sam pushed the plate away but Dean pushed it right back.

“So eat half. You need the calories. You turn sideways it’s like looking at a sheet of paper.”

Sam eyed the burger with a dubious frown. Then he nudged the bun aside and picked off the tomato. That went in his mouth but before it even hit his stomach it looked like it was coming back up.

“Jesus!” Dean snapped. “It’s like your five years old again picking the carrots out of the stew. Renee went to a lot of trouble to cook that burger. You eat it.”

“Hey, wait,” Renee protested from her seat to Sam’s left. “Don’t bring me into this. It’s not a big deal. If he doesn’t want to eat it, he doesn’t have to eat it.”

Hollis and Dean were sitting opposite from them at the kitchen island. Dean reached across, then pulled Sam’s plate closer to himself. He cut the burger in half, took half away then pushed the plate back at Sam. “There. Now it’s not too much. You happy?”

Hollis kicked him in the shin. “It’s not a big deal, Dean.”

“It is a big deal. You said yourself that he’s too thin. He needs to eat.”

“You want me to eat!” Sam snapped and Cyrus, who was sitting by Sam’s chair, began to whine. “Let me tell you the secret to getting me to eat. It’s real easy. All you have to do is take away the food, all food, any food for three days, four days, maybe fill the house with the smell of steaks on the grill, then leave a bunch fruits and vegetables right in plain sight but totally out of reach. You might want to even eat some of it in front of me, something juicy that sounds really good when you bite into it.”

“That’s enough,” Dean said softly as he pulled the plate back.

Sam grabbed it and pulled it back hard enough to send the half burger sliding off on to the counter. “Give it about a week and then put this burger in front of me, Dean and watch me eat. Put anything in front of me! Put whatever the hell in front of me and I’ll eat it!” Sam picked up the half burger but it only got as far as his lips. His throat constricted and he made this garbled gagging sound before finally dropping the food back on to his plate in a heap. “It was easier with him!” Sam swiped his arm across the top of the kitchen island sending the plate, the burger and a glass of water flying through the air. The glass shattered, the plate clattered and cracked. Burger, bun, tomatoes and lettuce ended up scattered across the floor.

It took another few seconds for the reverberations to stop; the auditory ones and the emotional ones.

Sam folded his arms on the island then dropped his head and hid his face in the cradle. Renee rubbed circles on his back while Hollis cleaned up the mess.

And then there was Dean. He stroked his hand over his mouth a couple of times as if trying to keep whatever was in there from getting out. In the end he got up and left the room without saying a word.

Hollis was about to chase after him when her cell phone went off.

Hollis walked out of the house, used her own keys to unlock then SUV, then climbed into front seat before getting back on the phone with Lucas. Privacy.
“So what’s up?” she asked.

“You first. You sound tense. Something happen?”

“Sam and Dean got into a fight over dinner, can you believe. Renee made burgers and Sam was having a hard time eating and Dean was all over him about it and Sam went over the edge and then the plate and the burger went over the edge and. . .I don’t know.”

“Hmm. Well, you might have more luck getting Sam to eat if you went all vegetarian.”

Hollis’ stomach lurched a little. “Why?”

“The forensic team did their first sweep of the house and they found a well-used meat grinder in the kitchen and there were some very suspicious packages of meat in the freezer in the main house. Apparently the cross-contamination rule didn’t apply when it came to meals.”

“Oh god, don’t tell me this.”

“And the body parts in the chest freezer, their preliminary guess, and they threatened me if I didn’t emphasis the word preliminary, is that there are parts of at least four different people. There’s not one single, whole person which means. . . ”

“There are parts missing and thus the meat in the freezer. Can I throw up now?”

“Yeah, well, I already did, so knock yourself out.”

Hollis sighed as she dropped her head back against the car seat. The winds were whipping up outside sending the already fallen snow into tiny whirlwinds. She could feel the cold seeping into the car but right now it felt good against her bare arms and face. “You know what. It makes sense.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“Sam has new powers. The same ones that Vincent has apparently. He communicates with animals. And he’s the one that’s been causing the power to fluctuate in the house. The animal thing, that was Kyle Waters’ power. The electrical drain came from a guy named Derek. No last name. We’ll have to run that through missing persons, see if we can ID him.” A huge gust of wind blew up scattering snowflakes over the windshield.

“So Vincent and Sam both got their powers from the other victims likely by ingesting the flesh,” said Lucas, following through on her thoughts. “That fits in with the beliefs held by a lot of ancient civilizations in South America and Africa. By the eating the flesh of another, good or bad, it transfers their powers to you. Not to mention the biblical reference to Jesus saying you have no life unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

“Okay, stop there. I’ve got the visual and I wish I didn’t. Christ, it’s a wonder Sam has any sanity left at all.” Another gust blew through the cracks in the car and this one made her wish she’d brought her coat. “He’s trying so hard to deny the powers and everything that happened to him–”

“Survivor’s guilt,” said Lucas. Then he turned his head away from the phone and said something to someone else in the room. “Sorry. Matt had a question. But Sam, yeah. I mean, he lived and he had to watch the others die. Why? Why did Vincent spare him? A guy like Sam, there’s gotta be a boatload of guilt there.”

“Why did he spare Sam?” It was mostly a rhetorical question and Hollis didn’t even realize she’d asked it out loud until Lucas responded.

“Almighty God, Who hast created man in Thine own image, and made him a living soul that he might seek after Thee, and have dominion over Thy creatures, teach us to study the works of Thy hands, that we may subdue the earth to our use, and strengthen the reason for Thy service.”

And that was Vincent, making Sam over in his own image, a living soul to follow him. A soul that would one day rule over all of the earth’s creatures both the two legged and four legged kind. “Interesting. Old testament?”

“James Clerk Maxwell. He was a physicist in the 1860’s and he was known for his theories on electromagnetic waves.”

“EMF,” said Hollis.

“Maxwell was a creationist and he believed that scientific investigation and the teachings of the Bible were not only compatible but were actually linked.”

Hollis laughed softly. “Like a girl who chases aliens and a guy who chases ghosts.”

“Maxwell would approve. Look, the more I dig around in this place, the more I think Vincent falls into that realm, too. He approached the torture of each of his victims like it was a science experiment with detailed notes and diagrams. I thought it was for pleasure, but now I’m not so sure. I think he had a goal, had being the operative word because you can see in his writings that he’s degraded with time. I think he’s actually going clinically crazy.”

“Yeah, well, eating people will do that to you.”

Silence for a moment, then Lucas said. “He’s not going to let Sam go. He going to come after him.”

“I’m counting on that.”

“And we really have no idea about what he’s capable of.”

“I realize that.”

“But you do have some idea about how we’re going to stop him.”

“I’m working on that.”

“Work fast,” said Lucas. “I don’t think Vincent’s going to last long without the company of his prized student.”

# # # #

Dean couldn’t stop shivering. He was cold down to the bone and 15 minutes under a scalding hot shower only made it worse. He dressed in sweats that were too big because they belonged to Sam, then he convinced himself it was only because he didn’t have anything warm enough in his own wardrobe. He stretched out on the bed and closed his eyes — just a short rest, couldn’t sleep without knowing exactly where Sammy was and when he opened his eyes again, Sam was there. Sitting on the bed, legs pulled in Indian style.

“Geez, I didn’t even hear you come in,” Dean said as he sat up.

Sam nodded. “Dean. I’m sorry about what happened in the kitchen. I don’t want you to be mad at me. I’ll try harder. I will. It’s just. . . there were rules and it’s like the way dad used to teach us, ingrain the stuff in us so we act without thinking. Snap to! Now, boys! What’s your new name and where are you from? Sometimes I forgot which name was the real one. Sometimes I forget that I used to be Sam Winchester. And– ”

“Wait. Used to be? You ARE Sam Winchester. And I don’t care what that psycho did to your head, but inside there, you are still my brother. Nothing will ever change that.”

“I hope you’re right,” Sam mumbled.

“I am.” Dean tried to force a smile but it was hard to focus. Sam was a tad blurry around the edges and suddenly the burger he’d eaten wasn’t sitting so well in his stomach. “Need to get some sleep.” Dean laid back down and the motion made the room spin. Pillow felt good though, cool and soft under his sweaty face. If only the rest of him wasn’t so cold. . . .

Moving slowly, Sam got off the bed then he lifted the comforter up on his side and folded it over Dean. He kicked off his sneakers, set them precisely beside each other in front of the nightstand, then laid down beside his brother.

Dean’s eyes flickered open and he frowned. “Don’t sleep in those dirty clothes,” he mumbled. “Change. Wash them in the morning.” He was fading.

Sam said nothing. Just laid there staring at his brother’s ashen face until Dean’s leveled breathing indicated he was sound asleep.

He was cold, really cold but there was no way to escape it, not with his wrists and ankles firmly secured to the extensions on the examination table. He was dressed only in boxers, nothing else and his bangs were slashing across his eye and he really wanted to brush them away but he couldn’t. . . move. . not one little bit. Couldn’t lift his hand for comfort or defense. . .

“I told you not to wear those clothes.”

An electric shock sent him arching off the table as far as the restraints would allow.

“Filthy, dirty clothes on a filthy, dirty boy. First you disobey me, then you make a mess.”

Another shock.

He screams but the sound is muffled by the thick roll of leather jammed into his mouth.

“I spent hours making those burgers. Fixing them up just right and then you go and do that. Ungrateful little boy.”

Another shock and another.

Forget screaming. Just gasps for breath now. Breaths that don’t come easy. Not with his mouth gagged and his ribs. . . the bruises. . . fist sized bruises. . .

“What do you have to say for yourself, Sammy? Tell me that you’re sorry.”

Hands reach behind his head and yank his hair as the buckles’ undone. The gag is pulled loose and he’s expected to speak even though he can hardly form words because of the pain that’s still coursing through his body.

“Why do you disobey me, Sammy? Why can’t you just do what you’re told?”

He opens his mouth and a sob comes out and his eyes are wide and begging for relief. Praying that the right answer will spare him for the rest of the night. That’s the best he can hope for, relief for one night. Long enough to catch his breath and recover before it all begins again in the morning.

“I’m sorry, Dean. I’ll do what ever you tell me. I promise, Dean. I promise.”



Dean jolted awake to the sound of Cyrus howling nearby. He was shivering and sweating all at the same time and surely there was an ice pick in his temple, because nothing else could possibly make his head hurt so bad.

Nothing? Nothing but the sight of his own baby brother begging for mercy.

Oh fuck.



Cyrus howled again.

Dean got out of bed, then followed the sound into the bathroom. There was Sam curled up in the shower stall, just like the night before. This time, though, Dean didn’t wake him. He simply got the extra quilt from the bed then unfurled it over Sam’s tightly coiled body.

Cyrus settled in at that, just outside the shower door. Dean gave the dog a scrub along his back.

“Look after him for me, will you?”

Even in the darkness, Dean swore he saw Cyrus nod.

# # #

“You look like shit.”

Dean wanted to come up with a witty retort to Tony Lucas’ early morning observation but the best he could do was, ‘so do you,’ and that wasn’t even worth the breath it would take to say it. He settled for a simple, ‘yeah.’ Then decided to forgive Lucas the remark when the man handed him a steaming cup of fresh brewed coffee.

Dean stuck his face in the steam and inhaled. Oh god, orgasm in a cup. His moan said it all.

“Thought you’d like that. It’s my secret blend. No one on the team appreciates it.”

“Oh, I appreciate it.” Dean risked burning his tongue with a long sip and it was worth it. It cut through the chill and toned down the buzz in his brain. “You pull another all-nighter?”

“No. I came in around midnight. We got everything we needed out of the house. This forensics team we had in is top notch. They don’t waste any time.” Lucas retrieved two halves of a crunchy bagel from the toaster oven then sat down at the kitchen island across from Dean. “You want one?”

“I’m good.” Dean lifted his coffee mug then took another sip as Lucas spread cream cheese on his bagel. “So, I guess you found the books.” There. That sounded casual, didn’t it?


“Vincent’s scrapbooks, don’t talk to me like I’m stupid. I was the one who found them the first time, remember? So you have them, right? Scrapbooks on Sam and the others.”

“Talk to Hollis.” Well at least he had the guts to look him straight in the eye when he said it.

“Fuck that, Lucas. Why you lettin’ her run the show? Cut me a break here. Man to man.”

“Hey, she’s my boss and she’ll have my balls on a platter if I go around her.” He took a bite of his bagel.

“You’re scared of her? Of Hollis?”

“Yes I am.”

And it was. Lucas wouldn’t go against Hollis for the same reason Dean never went against dad. It may have looked like fear to an outsider but to a solider it was chain of command. It was obeying orders. And that thought took him back to Sam, doing whatever Vincent told him to do for fear of retribution.

He reached across the counter and took hold of Lucas’ wrist. “I want to see those books.”

“No, you don’t. Believe me, Dean. Those are not images you want stuck in your head.” He shook off Dean’s hand then went back to his bagel.

“You think it’s worse than what I’m already imagining? Cause I don’t think that’s possible.”

“Trust me on this. You don’t want to know.”

Dean had to pull back on his response when Hollis came into the kitchen. She stopped beside Dean’s chair then sniffed the air. “Yuck. You made that secret blend of yours.”

“No taste,” Dean muttered then he gulped down two more swallows.

“That’s the problem. I can’t taste anything but that coffee for the rest of the day if I have even a sip.” She rubbed her hand over Dean’s back and the move surprised him. “Sam sleep okay?”

“Yeah, fine. In the shower stall again.”

“In the shower stall?” Lucas repeated.

“I’m guessing it’s the confines of the small space that makes him feel comfortable.” Hollis went to the refrigerator for juice.

“Which I don’t even want to think about,” Dean grumbled. “Probably locked him up in some kind of box. Like those nutjobs that kept that girl in a crate under their bed every night for god knows how long. Is that what it was, Hollis? Or maybe it was more of a coffin — a reminder about what would happen if he didn’t behave? Huh?”

She ignored him. Poured a glass of juice then cut a bagel for the toaster oven.

“Or maybe it doesn’t have to be that literal,” Dean continued, volume rising and with an added tremor in his voice. “Maybe he’s just used to being bound? Vincent would have had, too, right? At least at the beginning? He had to keep him tied up so he wouldn’t try to escape during the night. The way he sleeps in the shower stall, all curled up in on himself like he can’t stretch out his legs or his arms. Is that it, Hollis? You don’t have to guess. You know. Don’t you? Because you’ve seen the scrapbooks. Haven’t you? You know exactly what the son of a bitch did to him night after night, don’t you!”

She turned around and there wasn’t even a flash of emotion on her face. “You need to calm down.”

“Fuck that!” Dean slammed his palms on the countertop hard enough to send a shooting pain up into his shoulders. Then the room was spinning and damn it, that delicious coffee felt like it was burning a hole in his stomach. And then Sam was calling for him. Not like, ‘hey, where are you,’ calling, but desperate, needy, ‘oh god help me,’ kind of calling. “Sammy?” Dean slid off the counter-high chair, took one step, then his knees gave way. He made a grab for the counter but it was Lucas who kept him from hitting the floor. “I have to go. Sammy. Something’s wrong.”

“Nothing’s wrong. He’s fine,” said Hollis.

“He’s not fine!” Dean fought off Lucas’ attempts to get him back in the chair. “He’s in trouble.”

“He’s upstairs sleeping!”

“He’s not! Listen!” But then Dean listened and he didn’t hear anything at all. “He was calling me. He was scared and he was shouting for me. You heard that, right?” The fight gone out of him, Dean fell back into the chair. “You heard him? Didn’t you?” But a glance at both Lucas and Hollis told him that neither one had. He dropped his head into his hands as another wave of nausea ran through his body. “I’m losing my mind.”

“No, you’re not.” Hollis stroked her hand down his neck and over his back. “It’s the detox, Dean.”

“Detox? What are you talking about?”

“Another couple of days and the alcohol will be out of your system and you’ll feel much better.”

“What? Christ, I’m not a fucking alcoholic. I don’t drink that much!” He looked from Hollis to Lucas and they both had the same, ‘geez you’re pathetic’ look on their faces. “Okay, so I like my booze. So what? It’s not enough to go through DDTS, for god’s sake. I’ve got some kind of bug, you know. That’s all this is!”

“What’s the matter?” Sam.

Dean startled at the unexpected voice and that sent his head spinning again. “Jesus Christ, put a bell around your neck or something.”

“He’s not feeling well,” said Hollis.

Sam eyed his brother suspiciously for a moment then his gaze went to the coffee maker. “May I have some coffee?”

“Absolutely!” Lucas said brightly. “My special blend. You’re going to love it.”

“May I recommend plenty of cream and sugar,” said Hollis.

“Hush you.” Lucas filled a mug to the brim then handed it to Sam. “Enjoy.”

Sam sniffed at it but he didn’t sip. “Smells good.”

“How about something solid to go with that?” Hollis asked.

Dean looked up then looked away as if the very act of glancing at his brother might push him to the wrong answer.

“May I have a bagel?”

“Sure.” Hollis gave him the one she had made for herself as he took the seat opposite Dean at the counter. Her phone rang. She pulled it out of her pocket to check the ID. “Bruce. I gotta take this.” She picked up her glass of juice then walked out of the kitchen as she flipped open the phone.

“Who’s Bruce?” asked Dean.

“Bruce, the shark from Jaws, aka Senator Tolliver. He controls the purse strings for Sphere.”

Dean shivered but it wasn’t from an internal chill this time. “Suits. Hate ’em. I don’t know how Hollis can work with them.”

“Necessary evil.” Lucas chomped down the last of his bagel. “If we want cool toys with which to battle evil, the money has to come from somewhere.”

“Sawed off and a bag of salt. That’s all you need,” said Dean.

“Have you guys seen Cyrus?” Sam asked around a small bite of bagel.

“Yeah, he was in here squeezing his little legs together when I got up this morning so I let him out in the yard to do his thing.” Lucas got up from his seat to refill his coffee cup. “I’m going to go catch the news on TV. See how well we did keeping this mess quiet.” He headed out of the kitchen. “And Dean. You should go lay down. You really do look like shit.”

“Yeah, well you should take up ballroom dancing.”

“Ballroom dancing?” Sam repeated once Lucas was gone.

“I don’t know. It sounded good when it was coming out of my mouth. And–” He hesitated and it turned into a growl. “Can I ask you to eat that whole bagel without you getting all crazy about it?”

Sam smiled. Actually smiled. Then he made a show out of taking a huge bite of the bagel.

One step at a time. Now if only Dean could get his head to stop pounding. He drained his coffee cup and though it tasted good going down, it made him even more queasy.
“Where’s your breakfast?” Sam admonished.

Dean waggled the empty cup in response.

Sam rolled his eyes and in that moment it was a year ago. Dingy motel room, cold pizza washed down with flat soda. Just another day.

Sam pushed the last of the bagel into his mouth and as he chewed he plucked a banana from a basket beside the coffee maker. He laid the piece of fruit in front of Dean and said, “eat.”

Yeah. Just another day.

Sam yanked open the sliding glass door that led to the backyard. Cool, crisp air hit him in the face and for a second he was blinded by the sunlight glaring off the near perfect expanse of snow.

“Cyrus? Come here, boy.” Nothing.

The yard was long and narrow and rimmed with a wooden fence on all sides. There were brick-edged flowerbeds on the north side which, at the moment, held nothing but snow. There was a small tool shed at the back corner, a swing set and a slide. Kids had lived here once. Again, Sam called the dog.

Shielding his eyes from the sun, Sam located a line of small puppy tracks. The tracks led to the left where the snow was deeper from the drifting and Sam’s stomach clenched at the though of the pug stuck or buried in the piles. Then he saw the blood. A drop here. A drop there. Then a bloody mass pinning a note to the ground. A small curl of flesh and fur now matted in still wet blood.

“Oh no! Oh no.” He read the note where it lay.

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Let’s see what my little boy is made of.

He closed his eyes and concentrated, bringing up the image of Cyrus in his mind’s eye. “Where are you, puppy? Help me find you. Please help me find you.”

“Sam, what’s the matter?” Dean.

“Cyrus. He’s hurt. He’s out here somewhere! I have to find him.”

Follow the blood. Follow the trail. Sam started toward the gate on the side of the house but Dean grabbed a hold of his arm and pulled him back.
“Get back in the house!”

“No! I have to find Cyrus! He’s bleeding. He’s dying.”

“It’s a trap! Sam! The note. It’s Vincent and he’s using the dog to lure you out.”

“I don’t care.” Sam tugged but Dean tugged back.

“I care! You’re not risking your life for a dog!”

Sam whirled and shoved but Dean was better at this. He got a hold of Sam’s shirt and pulled him down with the force of the fall. The snow lightened the impact, so Dean didn’t lose any ground. He rolled left, pinning Sam beneath him.

“I need some help out here!” And then a pain radiated up his spine as Sam kneed him in the kidneys. Sam was struggling like a wild man, now. Kicking and twisting, screaming at Dean to let him go and if it was a year ago, Dean could have held him until help arrived but now. . . now. . . A cold sweat drove him to a fit of shivers and his head. . . god. . it was pounding like the Zeppelin amps turned up to eleven.

Where the hell was Lucas? Or Hollis? Or any of those, god damn, agents of hers —

Sam tossed him off. Got to his knees. Dean came up on his and swung. A right cross to Sam’s jaw that never connected. He couldn’t focus. Couldn’t get his muscles to do as they were told.

And then the air was filled with a whining hum and a thousand tiny electrical shocks raced through Dean’s body. Tiny ones, like when you rub your feet on the carpet. The kind they used to make on purpose to shock each other as kids. Like that, times a thousand. Dean fell back into the snow, muscles convulsing as if trying to shake off the waves.

Lucas appeared in his line of vision. Dean wanted to say so much but all he could manage was two words, Vincent and Sam. He hopped it was enough, because right now, even the thought of his brother in mortal danger wasn’t enough to get him back on his feet.

Hollis arrived in time to hear Dean say Vincent and Sam and that was all she had time for. She unholstered her gun then headed for the gate, the only place Sam could have gone. There was time for one deep breath to steady herself, then she used her body to open the gate, gun up, ready to fire.
Sam was kneeling on the ground about six yards away. He had his back to her and the way his shoulders were heaving she was sure he was hurt.

Renee and Gomez appeared in her peripheral vision having come out through the front door. “Vincent may be here somewhere. Look sharp.”

They fanned out in front of her taking opposite sides of the yard. Hollis went straight down the center, eyes constantly scanning the landscape as she dashed up behind Sam.

“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

Trusting her back up, Hollis turned her attention to Sam. She saw blood on his shirt, then realized he was cradling Cyrus in this arms.
“He’s bleeding bad, Hollis. We have to help him.”
“We will. In the house. Come on.” She caught him under the arm and urged him to his feet. Lucas came through the gate, supporting much of Dean’s weight. They all met up on the porch.

“Any sign of Vincent?” Lucas asked.

“No but he left a calling card.” She nodded toward the bleeding puppy, then waved for them all to get inside. Her other two agents followed.

“I’ll get the medic kit,” Rene offered, then she and Gomez broke off as the others went into the living room.

Sam sat down on the couch, cradling the whimpering puppy, whispering calming words as he stroked the dog’s back. It was memorizing, not just for the dog but for Hollis, too. Something about the tone of Sam’s voice, the rhythm, it was so soothing. She honed in on it and felt her heart rate slow, felt the adrenaline drop easily back to normal. Amazing.

And creepy. Hollis had to work to snap herself out of it as Renee came back into the room. The agent spread a towel on the coffee table then opened up the well-stocked field kit.

“I’d like to give him a tranquilizer before I sew him up but I don’t know how much to give him. He’s so little.”

“He won’t need it,” Sam said, voice weary. He laid Cyrus on the towel-covered table and it was as if the pug was asleep. “Just fix him up.”

“I will.” She got to work sewing up the puppy’s tail as Sam stroked the dog over and over but for all the good it was doing Cyrus, it was taking its toll on his master.

And then Dean’s voice cut into the quiet, low and menacing. “You led him here.”

It took Hollis a moment to realize that Dean was accusing Lucas.

“I didn’t,” the agent responded. Then he turned toward Hollis. “We were careful. Took the long way around, kept an eye on who was behind us. We weren’t followed.”

“Then how!” Dean snapped, closing the space between himself and Lucas. “How the hell did he find this place if you didn’t lead him here?”

Lucas’ gaze shifted toward Sam. Maybe he didn’t mean anything by it but Dean grabbed hold and it pushed him even further over the edge.

“Don’t you dare! You screwed up. You were tired and you screwed up when you came home last night! Admit it!”

“Back off!” Lucas put his arm up and gave Dean a shove and then it turned into a match, the both of them pushing and shoving like two kids fighting over a swing on the playground.

Hollis wedged herself between them but was losing the battle until Felix Gomez ran into the room and pulled Lucas off.

“Enough!” Hollis snapped at Dean but it was meant for both of them. Dean got in one last shove, at her this time then he flopped back down into the over-stuffed chair, the fight gone out of him.

“It wasn’t us,” Gomez said softly once everyone was in their separate corners.

“Of course you’d say that,” Dean muttered but Hollis ignored him as she took the plastic baggie Gomez offered.

The note from the yard. Wrinkled and blood smeared, ‘snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Let’s see what my little boy is made of.’

“Turn it over.”

The note had been written on the back of a photo from a home printer. A photo of Dean coming out of the Starbucks with the drink carrier loaded with four cups. A photo that had to have been taken yesterday. She held out the baggie for Dean to see. “Looks like you’re the one he followed.”

Dean frowned, eyes narrowing, thoughts not coming as fast as they used to. “No. How would have known to find me there? He had to have followed me from here to the shopping center. Son of a bitch. We have to move.”

“No. We have to catch him and the only way to do that is– ”

“Stay here and let Sam play decoy?” Dean snapped, cutting her off. “No way.”

“Sssh,” Sam hushed him as Cyrus began to whine and wiggle. “Hurts,” he mumbled then lay back against the couch cushions as if he was going to sleep.

Dean’s anger turned instantly to worry. He crossed to the couch then stooped down in front of his brother. “You okay?”

“It’s draining. When I do all this.”

“Do all what?” Genuinely confused, he looked to Hollis then back to Sam who was slipping easily into sleep. “Am I missing something here?”

“So it would seem.” Hollis nudged Dean to stand then motioned for him to leave the room ahead of her. To her agents she said, “make sure this place is locked down tight. Gomez, take the kitchen keep an eye on the yard and Lucas, watch the front from here.” She started to go then turned back one more time. “And Lucas, reset the code on the alarm and don’t give it to anyone else.”

Despite the curious look on his face, he said he would.


Dean was standing by the window staring out into the backyard. His hands were shoved deep in his pockets and his body was stiff but that didn’t stop the trembling.

“Kinda slow on the uptake, huh?” he said, not turning as he spoke. “I get it now. The blinking lights, the electricity in the air. It’s Sam.”

“Yes. He doesn’t have control over the power though; it’s not one he’s practiced so it gets away from him when he’s upset. Not like the dog thing.”

“The dog thing?”

Hollis stepped closer, touched his back but he didn’t turn. “Cyrus. Sam can talk to him. Control him with his thoughts.”

“Terrific. And how the hell did he get these exciting new powers?”

She put two hands on his back and slid them up to his shoulders, solid as a fireplace mantel. “You know that the other kidnap victims were all special children. These were their powers. Vincent found a way to transfer the powers from them to him and Sam.”

“The thrill, I guess–”

“No. Why Sam? Why did he do this to Sam when he killed the others?”

“I think Vincent wanted a companion. Someone like himself, someone who could understand what it was like to be different. I don’t know why he chose Sam though, maybe because he was more sensitive than the others. Or stronger. . . I don’t know.”

Dean shuttered and it ran the length of his body. He turned to face her and there were tearstains running down his cheeks. “God, Hollis, I want a drink so badly.”

It wasn’t what she was expecting and so it hit her hard. The desperation in his voice. The helplessness. This wasn’t the Dean she’d grown to love.

“Oh honey, I know it’s hard but you have to hold on. You have to be strong.” She slipped her hand behind his neck and pulled his forehead down to meet hers. “For Sam. For me.”

He tried for a laugh but it sounded more like a sob. “If I could just have a shot. Just one shot, it would clear my head and my hands. . . ” He tipped his head to kiss her, quick and sloppy. “Please, Hollis. I can’t function like this, you’ve seen. . . I can’t think straight and I have to. . . ” He kissed her again, drawing hard on her lower lip. “I have to be sharp. With Vincent out there–”

She broke away and buried her face in his neck, hugged him tighter and felt the shakes run from him through her. Maybe he was right. Maybe one drink would be enough to get him back on track. Not enough to get drunk on, just enough to take the edge off the withdrawal. Knowing Vincent was out there — definitely all hands on deck time. . .

She pulled back again and the anguish on his face was crushing. “Dean. You’ll get through this. Another couple of days–”

He growled deep in his chest as he wrenched free of her. Rolling with the motion he slammed himself into the wall just to the side of the window then banged his head back as if he could substitute one pain for another. “He’s out there!”


Fists against the wall now, pounding hard in a tribal rhythm. “He’s not getting Sammy back.”

“No. He’s not.”

“Don’t let me screw up again, Hollis. For fuck’s sake, don’t let me screw up.”

“I won’t.”

“I’ve already let him down once and look what happened.” Back to the wall, Dean slid to the floor. His knees came up tight to his chest. “I was supposed to take care of him, Hollis and I let that sicko get hold of him. Do things to him! And the whole time he was praying for me to come and save him, what was I doing? I was drinking myself in oblivion. Screwing any whore that would have me. He was right in front of me and I didn’t see him. It’s no wonder he thinks that son of a bitch cares more about him than I do!” Dean sucked in a huge trembling breath. “Take care of your brother, dad said. My one job! My one fucking job and I failed at it. Just like he expected me to. Just like everybody expected. Sam was the smart one. The one with a chance and now —” He dropped his head to his knees and crossed his arms over his head. And as hard as he tried, he couldn’t stop the wave of tremors that ran through his body. His back heaved and the gasps for breaths turned into choking sounds.

Hollis reached for him but he shot to his feet then shoved her aside as he dashed to the bathroom.

Coffee was the only thing that was in his stomach but that didn’t stop him trying to bring up more than just that.

Hollis soaked a washcloth in cool water then sat down on the floor with her back to the vanity. When Dean finally sat back he landed between her legs and in her arms. She pressed the cloth to his face and felt his relief at the cool, gentle touch.

“He’s not getting Sammy back.”

“No Dean, he’s not getting Sammy back.”

And they stayed that way until the cool cloth turned warm.

# # # #

Lucas recoded the alarm then settled down on the window seat in the living room where he had a clear view of the front yard.

It was hard to believe that Martin Vincent could be so brazen as to walk right up to a house full of hunters.

Hunters. Funny. Before the Winchesters he’d never thought of himself as anything but an ‘Agent,’ a throwback to his FBI days. But that was before he’d tracked a man who could make himself fluid enough to fit through the heating ducts of the average home. Before he’d met Hollis who taught him that the X-Files were for real. Then Sam and Dean came along and added ghosts and demons to his book of knowledge and suddenly he was a hunter.

They were all hunters. Chasing down those things that normal people didn’t want to believe existed, even when they saw them with their own eyes.

“I think I know how he found this place.”

Sam’s voice was so soft, Lucas thought he was talking in his sleep.

Sam dragged himself up to sitting on the couch. “I think he’s seeing through Renee’s eyes.”

“Renee? How do you figure?”

“The day you guys hit the house, Renee said that Vincent put his hands on her head and she thought her brain was going to explode. I didn’t think anything of it — I didn’t know for sure he could do it, or how. He got it from the last guy he kidnapped, Mark. Mark could do it real easy but Vincent had to work at it and even then he wasn’t very good. But what Renee described. . . and then, she was the only one who knew Dean was at the Starbucks. She was tracking him on the GPS. No one else knew until after he’d come back.” Sam sighed as he ran a gentle hand over the sleeping puppy on the coffee table. “But anything she can see, he can see. That’s how he knew I’d shaved and that we were going to be at the house. It takes a lot of energy, though, cause he hasn’t had that much practice.”
“What about you? Do you have that ability, too?”

Sam shrugged and it made him look younger than his years. “I don’t know. I never tried.”

“Hmm.” Lucas turned back to the window. It was starting to snow again. “Maybe it’s time you did.”

They met up in the living room. Hollis, Lucas, Sam, Dean pacing like a caged animal. Gomez stayed in the kitchen to cover the backyard and Renee was making coffee. Busy work to keep her occupied while the others discussed the plan.

“It makes sense,” Hollis said after listening to Sam explain his reasoning again.

“So we move,” said Dean. “We drop her off somewhere and we go.”

Hollis ignored him, not even worth fighting that fight anymore. “Sam, are you okay with this?”

He nodded yes, but his expression said, ‘not really.’

“You do realize,” said Lucas, “That if she is the leak, he’ll know we’re on to him as soon as Sam tries to turn the tables.”

“That’ll work in our favor. He’s been running this show, but now we’re going to take control.” Hollis went to the doorway and called for Renee to come join them. The young agent brought a coffee tray with her but her instincts kicked in when no one grabbed for a cup.

“What’s going on?” She set the tray on the coffee table then sat down on the couch beside Sam. Cyrus was snoozing like a king on a large pillow to Sam’s right.

“We’ve been wondering how Vincent found us,” said Hollis. “And we think he did it through you.”
“Me? I didn’t. I swear.”

“Not on purpose.” Sam took her hand urging her to face him. “It’s one of his powers, seeing things through someone else’s eyes.”
“When he grabbed me. When he put his hands on my head. . . ” Renee’s gaze whipped around from Hollis to Lucas to Dean. “Is that what happened? I didn’t know. I don’t feel anything–”

“You wouldn’t,” Sam said softly, pulling her back to him once more. “I want to try and reverse it. See if I can use you to see him. Can I?”

Renee shrank back a little but Sam kept her hands tight in his. “What do you have to do?”

“Just put my fingers to your temple like he did. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’ll hurt. I’ve never tried it.”

“I don’t like this,” Dean mumbled.

Renee glanced at him, then moved on to the others as if gauging everyone’s opinion on the matter. “I want to help. Do what you have to do.”

“Okay.” Sam took a deep breath then gently placed his splayed fingers on either side of her head. “Keep your eyes on mine. No matter what happens, just keep them open.”
She nodded as much as his grip on her would allow.

He leaned forward until they were nose-to-nose and for nearly a full minute there wasn’t a single sound in the room.

It hurt to watch Sam using his powers. From that day back in Kansas when Sam announced the fact that his visions were coming true, to the random moving of objects, to the immunities he’d developed to a variety of demonic forces — all signs of a coming storm. Sam said it didn’t have to be that way, but look at Max and Andy and Ava and Jake. Nothing good ever came of demon-given powers. They may start out innocent enough but they always escalate, always turn bad. You couldn’t use those powers and come away unscathed. No one had the strength to fight that pull. And then there were Vincent’s victims, each with powers of their own — ‘better off dead’ flittered through Dean’s mind and he felt disgusted with himself for even thinking it. Those boys were somebody’s sons, brothers just like Sam.

Renee moaned and Sam’s arms were trembling from the tension.

“I see — ” Sam faltered. “I see–”

“What?” Hollis demanded.

“I see Vincent! He’s looking back at me!” Sam tried to let go but it was as if he and Renee were stuck together by unseen hands. They twisted and tugged but the force held tight as convulsions ripped through the two of them.

Dean went for Sam, Lucas for Renee. They both laid hands on and both were jolted by a bolt of electricity. Undaunted by the pain, Dean went back in. He grabbed the fingers of Sam’s right hand, and began physically peeling them off of Renee’s skull one by one. It wasn’t much but it was enough. The contact broken, Sam slammed backwards into Dean, who in turn hit the coffee table mid-calf and went flying backward taking the coffee tray with him.

Renee slammed against the arm of the couch then her muscles liquefied and she melted into an unconscious puddle.

Hollis, who had been going for Dean, changed direction and went for Renee instead.

“She’s breathing, she’s breathing,” said Lucas as he steadied his hand to feel for a pulse. “She’s okay.”

Hollis then turned her attention to Sam who was conscious and panting like an overheated puppy. “Sam. Are you—”

“Fuck!” Dean shouted sharp enough to actually hurt Hollis’ ears. He followed that with a whole minute and a half of incoherent screaming where every second word was Sam and every third another curse. How could you’s and I told you so’s and how dare you’s. . .

Hollis was so close to telling him to shut the hell up, to throwing what was left of the broken coffee table at him in hopes of knocking him unconscious, to beating him into submission with the table leg for every stupid, angry, drunken thing he had ever done over the past year. But then Sam’s hand crawled into hers and squeezed and in that second all of the pain and sadness and terror he’d felt in the past year assaulted her like nothing she’d ever felt before.

The message was clear. Dean’s not the enemy.

Hollis squeezed Sam’s hand as she concentrated on clearing all of the cobwebs from her mind. Nothing but good thoughts, good energy, just the way she’d learn to do it in Master Li’s mediation class. Then she sent that good energy to Sam and he accepted it.

Amazing. He was a human sponge, soaking up knowledge and powers and the emotions of everyone around him. The gift that keeps on giving.

A small whine brought her eyes to the floor and there was Cyrus at her feet having been knocked from his cushion on the couch. Sam broke his connection with Hollis then picked up the puppy and held him close. Renee was coming around now, seemingly no worse for the wear. Dean was still on his ass, still cursing under his breath but she let it go.

There was something else. . . something more urgent.

Hollis turned toward the big picture window on the East wall of the living room. There was a face pressed against the glass so hard that the features were flattened and distorted. It looked like a monster. It was a monster.

It was Vincent.

# # # #

Dean saw him, too.

“Son of a bitch.” He reached out without thinking, his hand finding and curling around the broken wooden leg from the coffee table. Then he was on his feet and flying out of the room like a demon on a mission.

“Dean! Stop!”

Yeah, right. He threw the deadbolt then yanked open the front door. The house alarm sent up an ear piercing whoop and that was followed by a cacophony of voices all shouting orders that he had no intention of following. He had a goal. One purpose and that was to beat Martin Vincent’s head in until it looked like a pumpkin heaved off the roof on to a cement sidewalk.

Vincent was running when Dean tackled him to the ground, shoving him face first into the snow.

“You son of a bitch! You evil, fucking, son of a bitch!” Dean raised the table leg above his head with both hands then brought it down awkwardly on the back of Vincent’s head. It was only a glancing blow. Dean was sitting on the man’s back and that put the head too close to get a good swing at it. Needed some distance. Needed some space to gain momentum. Dean pushed up to standing but his feet sunk unevenly in the snow drifts and he lost his balance.

A furry object flew at his face. Dean threw his arms up in time to knock the beast to the ground. A squirrel. A second one jumped down from the big tree in the front yard but Dean batted that one away as well. And then he saw the dogs. A half dozen of them with more coming. All lined up along the sidewalk as if they’d reached some magical barrier. Big ones, little ones, all growling and drooling and baring their teeth.

He looked back over his shoulder at Lucas, Hollis, and Sam — all to far away from the front door to make it if those dogs came on the run.

Dean grabbed Vincent by the back of the shirt and hauled him to his feet. “Make them go away,” he ordered, low and menacing in the other man’s ear.

“Certainly. When you give me my property back.”

“You fucking –”

The dogs came running. Up the lawn barking and growling — happy family pets twisted into rabid monsters by whatever commands Vincent was shoving into their brains.

Lucas and Hollis both went for their guns but only he got a shot off and it missed.

A black lab knocked Hollis off her feet sending her gun flying as she landed hard on the snow-covered lawn. She threw her arm up to protect her throat and teeth sunk into flesh.

Dean had no choice but to let go of Vincent. He ran to Hollis then swung the table leg club at the dog’s middle.

The animal yelped on contact but didn’t let go. It shook its head, Hollis’ arm in its mouth and blood splattered across the snow. Breathless, Dean tossed another attacking animal aside — a cat this time — then tripped over a terrier that got tangled in his feet. He hit the ground on his stomach and as he rose he saw the gun. Just there, just out of reach. He made a leap for it as teeth caught hold of his pant leg. Just jeans. No skin. Not yet. He got his fingers around the gun, rolled, shot the shaggy bastard that had him caught then put a second bullet in the one that had Hollis pinned.

The dog went flying off her with the force of the hit. Dean scrambled to his feet, then dragged her up, too but there were more animals.

And none of them were going anywhere near Sam.

“Stop it!” Sam yelled over the din.

The transformer box on the telephone pole at the curb buzzed and sparked.

Vincent looked up at it then back at Sam with a smile.

“That’s my boy,” he said like a proud papa. “He tries so hard to keep his light under a bushel, but look at him. He’s got talent. Real talent.”

“Stop the dogs!”

The buzz rose in pitch and the air filled with an electric crackle. The lights in the house burned bright for a moment then snapped off along with the alarm.

“You’re a freak, Sam,” said Vincent. “Just like me. Your brother will never accept that. When he hears the truth about you and what you’ve done, he’ll lock you away. But not me. I’ll worship you, Sam. I will. Come with me and I’ll let them live.”

“Sammy!” Dean growled. “Don’t listen to him. Don’t do it!”

Teeth sunk into his leg and it wasn’t just pants this time. It was skin, flesh — a searing pain but Dean refused to bow down.

“No one understands you like I do, Sam! Come with me!”

Sam swallowed the lump in his throat, eyes darting from his friends to the man who had tortured him for so many months. It was so hard. So hard to do anything but what he was told. And if it meant saving his brother and Hollis and the others. . . .

Sam stumbled forward as if he were being pulled against his will.

“We were so good together, Sammy. You and me. We’re going to do such great things together.” And it was Vincent’s smile of triumph that brought Sam to a halt. Brought the word to his lips.

“No.” So soft, so unsure but then he said, “I won’t go back!”

The smile on Vincent’s lips turned into a snarl. “You know the punishment for disobeying me! You’re going to force me to hurt you. Force me to do something I don’t want to do but you have to learn to do what I tell you!”


The transformer on the telephone pole exploded. The cable snapped then whipped through the air throwing sparks off in all directions. Vincent yelped as one hit him on the hand. But that was nothing compared to the scream he gave out when the live end of the wire wrapped around his neck. Vincent convulsed with the flow of the electricity running through his body.

His heart stopped a second later and a second after that he hit the ground.

The attacking animals all fell away, free now from the urge to kill.

Sam dropped, too. He landed on his butt on the lawn, limbs shaking, tears sliding down his face.

For a moment there was nothing but silence. That unnatural silence that comes from a world blanketed with fresh snow. The smell of burning flesh wafted past but it was quickly swept away by a gust of winter wind.

“Sammy?” Dean crawled over to his brother, leaving a trail of blood against the white snow. “You okay?”

“I didn’t mean to kill him.”

Dean huffed, shook his head then moaned at the pain of that simple move. “You did what you had to. He wasn’t going to stop until we were all dead.”

Zombie-like, Sam reached out and stroked the belly of the nearest dog, a small, black, panting terrier. “He shouldn’t have hurt the dogs.”

“The dogs,” Dean repeated. “Yeah, okay.” He pushed up to his feet then grabbed Sam by the arm and urged him up, too.

Sirens could be heard in the distance, growing louder by the second. Usually that sound activated Dean’s flight response, but not this time. This time he was glad for the help. He slipped his hand behind Sam’s neck then pulled his brother’s forehead down to meet his own.

“You did good, Sammy. You did good. . . . ” There was nothing left. Dean started to fall but Sam caught him and with a surprising amount of strength, guided his brother back to the house.



“Mrs. Waters?”

Not a cop. She had seen plenty of those since her son went missing more than a year ago. This was a tall, young man with a pug dog cradled in his arms.

“I’m Mrs. Waters.”

The young man smiled but it didn’t make him look any less sad.

“I have a message from your son, Kyle.”

Common sense said she should close the door and call the police. He was probably a nut job or worse, a reporter, hoping to get her tears on film. But mother’s intuition said he wasn’t either one of those things so she invited him in.

They talked for two hours over coffee and fresh apple cake and when he left, the dog, Cyrus, stayed behind. It was her son’s dog after all. The one he had been out walking when he disappeared.

She held the dog in her arms as she watched the young man walk away, back to a rental car parked at the curb. He knew things, that boy. Things he hadn’t told her. Things that would weigh heavy on him for the rest of his life.

She’d light a candle for him at church — it was the least she could do for a young man who had held her son’s hand as he died.


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