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Supernatural Gen Fanworks Exchange
Summer 2019
Dim Spirit, 1/2, for ratherastory 
3rd-Sep-2013 11:01 am
Summergen 2013
Title: Dim Spirit
Author: rainylemons
Recipient: ratherastory
Rating: R
Words: 19,728
Warnings: language (always the language)
Summary:
Disclaimer: I have no claims to Supernatural.
Author's Notes: written for the 2013 spn_summergen challenge and for ratherastory's prompt: Teenaged Dean comes down with a wicked case of labyrinthitis while Dad is off on a hunt. Dean and Sam are on their own in a cabin in the woods, and even though Sam is twelve years old and can mostly manage things on his own, it's still up to Dean to take care of him. Except, of course, now Dean can't even stand up, let alone do what he needs to, and Dad isn't responding to his pager. I think there's a fair bit of Dean looking out for Sam and both boys looking out for one another, but there's some bad-ass midget Sam near the end, this much I promise.
Beta/Thanks: Special thanks to my beta embroiderama who is my absolute life-saver and hero. She stepped up and helped tidy up this story even when it wasn't the "oh, you know, 10 or 11k" that I thought it would be. Thank you also to the spn_summergen mods who have been so very accommodating and for putting on this, my favorite fic challenge in all of fandom. You guys rule.
Absolutely mindless stuff: I seriously doubt anyone but me knows or cares, but just in case you're the super nerd who caught it - Mortal Kombat II did not come out until September of the year Dean would have been sixteen. So, yes, I did take a liberty with Nintendo history there. And, yes, again, Super Metroid really does have the most hypnotic soundtrack.



After a week of shivering on the crap, vaguely musty smelling couch in a motel in south Georgia, Dean declared himself better and able to travel. It was late summer, no school to contend with and not much to do other than watch Sam read comic books and try to con Dad into buying an old Nintendo to cart around with them. It was still another three days until their father agreed that the worst of Dean's flu was behind them and they could head out. Which meant that there was a job somewhere in Missouri or Illinois or wherever the hell they were headed - things to kill, people to save, the usual.

Though the fever and chills were finished with him, Dean still slept most of the drive from Georgia to western Illinois. The red dirt became brown, grits dropped off of the diner menus, and the sky opened up to the wide, Midwestern blue that Dean likened to as close to home as he knew. With the sun shining through the open windows and Dad and Sam not bickering for a change, Dean felt more than good - he was suffused with a sleepy feeling of warm contentment. He felt like everything was exactly right in the universe, like he was where he was meant to be and with whom. He leaned back against the headrest, smiling slightly when he was awake, silently wishing that it would always be just like this - the three of them driving on the open road, off to someplace new.

He woke up for what felt like the first time in weeks when the soothing hum of the Impala's tires changed. They slowed and Dean heard and felt the off key clinking of gravel against the car's underbelly. He sat up and surreptitiously wiped the drool from the corner of his mouth as he looked around. There wasn't a lot to see - trees, mostly oak and hickory from the look of them. Now and then he caught the sparkle of the sun reflecting on water.

“Where are we again?” he asked.

“Hour or so outside of Quincy,” Dad answered.

“Illinois,” Sam added helpfully. “We're going to Brenda somebody's place for a few days. Dad says we know her, but…”

“Yeah, you'd have been about four last time you saw her, Sammy.”

“She the one with the kid Sam fought with?” Dean asked, a vague memory of Sam running to him on chubby legs, wailing like the world had ended because some kid - Brenda's he assumed - had run off with his favorite plastic ball. Dean didn't remember the kid at all, other than threatening him with serious bodily harm, but he remembered Sam's scraped bloody knees and the look of pure anguish that came from losing his favorite thing, even if it was just a ninety-nine cent plastic ball from the bin at Wal-Mart.

“Not anymore,” Dad said quietly. “Billy died last year. Boating accident on the lake.”

“Oh. Won't that be kind of awkward?”

Dad shot him a slight glare and Dean barreled on ahead. “I mean, having a little kid around and all. Won't that make her feel kind of, you know, crappy?”

“What little kid?” Sam asked, pissyness clear in his voice.

“Brenda's good people,” Dad replied, ignoring Sam as Dean did. “She's been lonely and it might be good to have you two around to liven things up a bit.”

“Well, sure,” Dean said as diplomatically as he could imagine, “but I wouldn't want to make her feel weird. Sam and I could come…”

“Nope.” Dad didn't even hesitate. “Skinwalker's nasty business. Takes caution…”

“I'm cautious.”

Dad snorted this time and Dean tried not to bitch in a way that would undermine his cause. Dad was a great teacher and he learned a lot, but he still put him on the bench every single time he felt like the job was a little harder than usual and Dean didn't know what he could do to prove to the old man that he was ready, that he could handle anything that any ugly, monstrous son of a bitch could dish out.

“Dad, seriously, I'm ready for this. Like I said, I'm cautious and shit.”

“Yeah,” and he actually laughed a little as he said it, making Dean feel he was no more than Sam's age. “And since you're so cautious, you know that the best plan is to kick back at a lake house for a couple of days and watch out for your brother.”

“Sam can…”

“What little kid?” Sam repeated again.

“Shut up, Sam.”

“Dean…”

“Dad…”

“Such a dick,” Sam muttered and Dad didn't have to look away from the road to reach back with one hand and swat Sam lightly on the head.

“My mind's made up. You two are staying with Brenda while I get the job done. You might even accidentally have a good time. The lake is nice this time of year, plenty of kids your age to hang around with and Brenda said she has some of Billy's games and crap you can play.”

“Because that's not creepy at all,” Sam replied sullenly and Dean agreed though he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut.

*

“You were saying creepy?” Dean asked as he and Sam stood in the doorway of the room they'd be sharing while Dad was away. It was Billy's room and as far as Dean could tell, Brenda hadn't changed one inch of it. The bunk bed was made, the walls were lined with the kid stuff - posters, a couple of baseball pennants, and a few family photos that Brenda had surely hung up there for him. The dead kid's fishing pole leaned against the corner by the closet like she expected him to come home and take it down to the lake. Dean was sure if he opened the closet that he'd find Billy's clothes still hanging and his shoes lined up neatly on the floor.

“Yeah,” Sam said uneasily. “It's like a freaking shrine or something. You think she still feeds that thing?”

Dean looked over to the terrarium where a turtle peered out of its shell, looking at what God only knew. “Well, I don't think it's dead…”

“She's been feeding her dead son's turtle for a year,” Sam stated matter-of-factly. “This is going to suck and be… weird. You think he's, you know, around and stuff?”

“No, Dad wouldn't leave us here alone if he thought there was a haunting.” Because I couldn't get that lucky. “She'll probably just feed us and cry when she thinks we're not looking. And offer you some of Billy's clothes to play in so you don't get yours dirty.”

Sam's expression was so horrified that Dean couldn't help but grinning. “If you're lucky, the kid was a porker and none of it will fit.”

“Man…”

“Hey,” Dean said looking over at the bunk bed, “you think Billy slept on the top or bottom bunk?”

“Top,” Sam said immediately. “Everyone sleeps on the top bunk.”

“Sweet. I'm taking the bottom one,” Dean answered, tossing his duffle bag and back pack on the bed.

“Chickenshit,” Sam said with more than obvious bravado as he followed suit and heaved his bags up on the top bunk. “Then I guess I'll man up and take the top.”

“Your Jedi mind tricks won't work on me, boy,” Dean replied with a wave of his hand. “Nice try, though.”

“Dean…”

“Nope.”

“Please?” Sam wheedled with his most pitiful, hang-dog expression.

“Not a chance.”

“Asshole.”

Because Dean felt better than he had in weeks and because it was his duty to maintain the proper order of things in the world, he put Sam in a headlock and let him bitch, kick, and squirm until they heard Dad calling from the other room. He shoved Sam lightly towards the door, smiling to himself as Sam straightened his t-shirt and smoothed down his hair as if they were up for an inspection. Knowing Dad, it wasn't really that much of a stretch, and Dean did the same while Sam had his back to him.

The lake house was, dead kid's room aside, pretty awesome, Dean had to admit. Unlike the newer properties Dean had spotted on the way in, Brenda's house was older, a bit more like an old farmhouse with huge windows facing the lake. The lake was manmade, plunked down in the middle of the dense woodland. It was serene, pretty, and quite a bit nicer than the usual digs he and Sam wound up waiting in while Dad was out on a job. Brenda had a satellite dish in the corner of the front yard, an older monstrosity that looked like it could maybe do double duty for NASA, which meant cable TV. There was also a boathouse and a dock down on the water, making Dean wonder if he could con Brenda into letting him take the boat out, if there was one. He sincerely hoped it was a speedboat, versus a family pontoon, though if given the chance, he'd captain whatever she had in there - especially if the sign they'd passed on the way in was true and there was a Girl Scout camp somewhere on the other shore. Much as he hated to admit that Dad was right when it came to dropping him off with Sam like he was still a little kid who couldn't handle himself, it was all looking to be pretty damned sweet. Something almost like the summer vacations kids at school took. It all hinged on Brenda - if she was crying, clingy, or weird he and Sam would probably spend as much time down on the lake or holed up on in Billy's room as they could until Dad picked them up. If she was cool, well, a lake, TV, the possibility of girls? Worse things hand happened.

Brenda didn't seem unhinged or weird when Sam and Dean found her and Dad in the kitchen. She looked a little tired, though Dean figured that was normal enough. He had vague memories of Dad looking tired for a long time after Mom had died. Hell even now he looked like he could do with a week off - though Dean didn't suppose finding the monster that murdered your wife was the sort of gig you ever took time away from. She'd made coffee, if the smell was anything to go by, and Dad had one of those giant, plastic gas station travel cups in his hand. Dean approved, man needed fuel for the road, and Brenda scored a point for it as far as Dean was concerned. Testing her a little, he moved to the coffee pot himself. He took one of the owl patterned coffee-mugs from the nearby mug tree and poured himself a full cup.

Dad didn't say anything, coffee was a Winchester standard until it came to Sam who still preferred his caffeine to come from a bottle or can of soda.

“There's cream in the fridge and sugar on the table if you take either,” Brenda said, not launching into the kids don't drink coffee lecture he half expected. “Some Coke and Mountain Dew too, if you like, Sam.”

“Thank you,” Sam said in his most even polite, good-little-boy tone. “I'd like that.”

“I didn't know what you boys preferred, so I just picked up what was on sale.”

Sam shuffled his feet a little and thanked her again while Dean took a sip of the coffee, it was hot and had a weird, but not unpleasant spice to it. “Cinnamon?” he asked, shooting a look over to his father.

“Chicory,” Dad answered.

“Not half bad.”

“No, not too bad at all,” Dad said with a smile. “Do I have to say the usual?”

“No, but you will anyway,” Dean told him. “Be good, stay alert, watch out for Sam, don't fuck around…”

“And try to have a good time,” his father finished. When Dean looked at him with what he hoped wasn't outright shock, Dad smiled a little ruefully. “Believe it or not, I do know that you and Sam are still kids. You're still a kid, much as I expect you to act like a man. It's been a helluva a summer. We covered a lot of ground and you've been sick for the last couple of weeks of it. It wouldn't kill you to have a good time once in a while. Just not too good of a time,” his father emphasized. “You step this much out of line,” he said holding his thumb and index finger together, “and there'll be hell to pay.”

“Yessir,” Dean told him. “Just… wow is all.”

Dad shrugged and it occurred to Dean that he was in a good mood. Dad wasn't as much as a surly bastard as Sam liked to think he was, but the easy moments Dean had to admit were few and far between. It was good to see him like this and he hoped that it would happen more often, that maybe when the skinwalker was toast that Dad himself would agree to a few days on the lake. It would do him, do all of them, some good.

It was on his tongue to suggest that very thing when Sam broke the mood. “No way. Really?”

“Really what, Sammy?” Dad asked.

“Nintendo,” Sam replied with the sort of awe Dean figured was reserved for girls in bikinis and hot cars. “Super Nintendo. And Brenda said we could play it all we wanted - except on Friday when her show's on.”

“Geek paradise,” Dean said to his father. Dad smiled in return and took a sip of his coffee before fishing his keys out of his pocket. He let Sam go with Brenda to the living room while he saw the old man off, not minding for once if the job took a couple of extra days.

*

Dean felt off. It had been a good day, even if the Nintendo had kept them from checking out the lake like he'd wanted. Mortal Kombat II had put Sam in the most agreeable mood Dean could remember since all it had taken to make the kid's day had been the toy surprise from the bottom of a box of Fruit Loops. True enough, he'd had a good time with the game himself. They could both play and had spent enough time trying to beat the holy crap out of each other onscreen that Dean's butt had gone numb hours before. He'd moved to the couch long ago, taking his controller with him, but Sam remained Indian style on the floor, happily punching the shit out of Dean's much larger cartoon warrior and not even pitching a fit when Dean continued to kill his character off round after round.

Despite the easy day on the floor and the couch, he kept feeling plagued creeping sense of dizziness. The room didn't spin, he didn't feel faint or weak, but every now and then he felt as though his body had shifted like he was at sea. He waited for nausea, waited for the ache in his bones to return as it had when the flu had been at its worst almost two weeks ago, but it never came. There was nothing but the here and gone sense that he was not on firm ground.

When the feeling of the earth tilting came again, Dean tossed the Nintendo controller on the carpet and kicked off his shoes so that he could stretch out on the couch without offending Brenda when she came down from her office where she was busy doing whatever it was she did that kept the lights on.

“Quitting?” Sam asked.

“Tired,” Dean lied as he punched one of the decorative pillows on the couch before lying down and resting his head on it. “Kick the computer's butt for a while.”

“Okay. Gonna switch games then. I heard Super Metroid was pretty good.”

“Whatever knocks your socks off, Sammy,” Dean replied and closed his eyes.

Despite the constant chirps and warbles of the game accompanied with Sam swearing and shooting whatever kind of techno-laser rifle his character carried, the game boasted some seriously hypnotic music that lulled Dean to sleep. He had always been an active dreamer, despite the fact that he never admitted to it, and he was lost in a not entirely unpleasant dream of being at sea with spray hitting his face while the boat rolled and creaked through the waves.

When he woke, enough time had passed that the living room lamps had been turned on and Sam, amazingly, wasn't parked in front of the television, though when Dean peaked around Brenda, automatically looking for his brother, he noted that the Nintendo was paused and the weirdly soothing music of the Super Meteor whatever game was still playing in the background.

Brenda removed her hand from his shoulder that she'd been shaking gently and smiled down at him. “Long day, huh?”

“Guess I'm not the marathon game-playing nerd Sam is,” Dean said as he sat up. “Where's…”

“Outside,” Brenda answered and Dean tried not to panic at the thought of Sam running around unsupervised. It wasn't like he was still two and prone to tripping over his own feet every two seconds after all.

“He's sitting at the picnic table. I have burgers on the grill if you're hungry. He's just waiting on you.”

“Food,” Dean replied and was pleased that it actually sounded good to him. The room didn't spin when he stood and that realization alone seemed to bring his hunger acutely to the forefront. “Yeah, I'm kinda hungry.”

“Never met a growing boy who wasn't,” Brenda told him and Dean listened hard for any weirdness or indication that this was going to lead into some horrifyingly awkward talk about her son, but it didn't come. Brenda just ushered him towards the sliding doors off of the kitchen.

He was halfway across the patio when he realized he was in his socks and Dean paused to pull them off. When he stood on one leg, the world took a hard dive to the left and he was sure that he was going to keel over. Brenda, not half as fucked up or weird as he and Sam had feared, caught him with a startled “Whoa, there!”

Dean stood up, humiliated, and toed his socks off. “Thanks.”

“Your dad said you'd been under the weather a while back - you sure you're feeling okay, Dean?” She came at him with a mom's hand like she meant to feel his forehead and Dean ducked away from it, feeling a little bad about doing it, but determined that no one would ever mother him again. He'd had a mother and she was gone. No one else was ever going to be good enough at the job as far as he was concerned.

“Yeah, I'm fine. Just slept funny on the couch. I think my leg's still asleep.”

“If you're sure…”

“Yep, I'm peachy,” Dean told her and walked towards Sam and the picnic table, happy that the dizziness didn't come again, but still vaguely ill at ease for reasons he couldn't explain.

Sam, as usual, was bent over, reading by the light from the citronella candle smoking on the middle of the green picnic table. It was summer, so at least Sam had traded in textbooks and extra credit reading assignments for a Spiderman comic. Dean could relate to that, even if Spidey wasn't quite as funny as Sam seemed to think.

“What, game so tough you had to take a break from it?”

Sam turned the page of his comic with one hand and used the other to flash him the middle finger. “I beat two bosses already while you were asleep. That game is way harder than the other one.”

“But cool?” Dean asked as he sat down next to his brother.

“But cool,” Sam answered with a grin when he looked up from his comic. “You know, this whole thing…”

“Really isn't so bad,” Dean finished for him as he looked out towards the lake. Water lapped against the dock and the retaining wall at the edge of the yard and overhead in the trees, cicadas hummed with their constant in and out sound that had always made Dean feel relaxed, even if he had a hard time not pitching a fit and flailing like a girl when the creepy looking fuckers dove at him. He could see one boat out on the water, a fat pontoon slowly chugging across the black lake while people sat on the deck beneath Chinese lanterns, laughing. It was, all in all, pretty damned idyllic. Which made Dean swallow his unease and try to relax enough to have a good time like Dad had suggested.

“Maybe tomorrow we'll check out the lake if you can tear yourself away from Super Meteor…”

“Metroid. Super Metroid,” Sam corrected.

“Whatever. We'll go swimming or see if Brenda's got a boat we can take out.”

“Uh, that'd be no.” Sam shifted uncomfortably as he said it and Dean looked down at him, raising an eyebrow. “I asked earlier when Brenda was getting the stuff out to barbeque. Since Billy died on the boat, she sold it. Couldn't look at it, I guess.”

“Yikes, how'd that conversation go,” Dean asked, looking over at Brenda who was busy pulling hamburgers from the grill.

“Not fun,” Sam said quietly. “I mean, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but I guess he was caught under the boat. She didn't really go into details, but it sounds like he got caught in the propeller. They pulled him out and did CPR, but…”

“…he was hamburger,” Dean finished with a wince. “Shitty way to go.”

“Yeah,” Sam replied. “So, basically, no boat and she asked that we don't go with any of the other kids on a boat ride. I said we wouldn't.”

“Sam, c'mon!”

“Well, what was I going to say? She said there's a fishing canoe we could take out if we wanted.”

“Yeah, because paddling around with you is going to score me all the hot chicks,” Dean muttered.

“Maybe if we paddle over to the south end of the lake, it might.”

“Girl scouts?” Dean asked.

Sam nodded. “Which means…”

“Girl scout camp counselors,” Dean said with a happy sigh. “Bored girls in their twenties who probably have weed and booze stashed in their bunks, but no guys around to share it with. I'll be a god to them.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “I think I'm going to regret suggesting that.”

*

Dean felt better and worse as the second day turned into the third. True to Sam's prediction, the Girl Scouts and their counselors were out on the lake in full force when they spent most of the morning paddling the canoe to the south side of the lake. It was a bigger body of water than Dean had figured and they were both a little winded by the time they rowed the boat next to the Scout camp dock and talked to a gaggle of girls far too young for Dean, though they at least were at least wise enough to fawn over him like he was the second coming.

Dean had just caught the eye of a couple of older girls in shorts and bikini tops when an older woman started yelling at them and wading purposefully in the water like she meant to swim straight to the dock just so she could take them by the ears. She was still yelling “no boys, no boys!” like they were Vikings hell bent on taking the camp virgins away in their boat when Sam shoved them off the dock.

Dean waved enthusiastically to the girls cheering on the beach, even If he was pretty sure they were shouting encouragements to the older counselor chasing them off. He kept at it until Sam had paddled around them out of sight of the beach. He cackled as he picked up his own paddle to help Sam keep the little boat sluicing through the water.

The dizziness came again when they caught the waves from a passing speedboat and the little boat rocked heavily in the chop. Sam pulled his paddle in and Dean worked on doing the same, but he couldn't quite seem to get his body to function in the onslaught of blue sky and dark water spinning around one another. He lost hold of the oar and couldn't do anything to retrieve it, couldn't do much other than focus on Sam's back and hold onto the side of the canoe, waiting for the dizziness to recede.

“Shit, your paddle,” Sam said, twisting to look at him. “Hey, you look…”

“Shut up, it's fine,” Dean interrupted. “Just a little…”

“Green,” Sam finished. “I'll get it.”

“No, wait, Sam. Don't…” He didn't know how to tell him that it was vital that he stayed right there, a focal point for him to center on, something to keep the world as it should be, but it didn't matter anyway. Sam tucked his paddle in the boat and stood up just enough to dive over the side. The boat rocked harder and Dean squeezed his eyes shut, willing the dizziness to go away. Closing his eyes did no good, nothing seemed to help other than staring at the bench Sam had just quit. He knew he should take Sam's paddle and try to turn the boat around, but it was all he could do stay as he was, as still as he could manage, and try to keep it together. Worse than the sense that he was going to vomit was the rising sense of unease. He held it back as best as he could, told himself that there was nothing to get so worked up over - he just needed to get back to the house and lie down. That's all. Everything was fine, just a little leftover kick from the flu, nothing more. He almost had himself believing it when Sam called out to him.

“Dean, a little help?”

He managed to turn away from the canoe's seat, managed to look behind him to see Sam swimming awkwardly with the paddle he'd lost. Not trusting himself to be able to turn the boat around with the heave and slide of his vision, Dean grabbed the other oar and stretched, holding it out as far as he could.

Sam paddled doggedly, not letting go of the other oar. He caught hold of the one Dean held out to him and pulled himself closer to the boat. He held up the paddle in the water for Dean to take, then grabbed the side of the canoe and flipped himself into it as neatly and as easily as a seal.

“The water's pretty nice. Maybe we can go for a swim when we get back.”

“Maybe,” Dean replied, thinking that nothing sounded like a worse idea.

“Yeah.” Sam took his oar and started paddling, not bitching or commenting on Dean's lack of help like he normally would.

Dean gave it a minute, locked his eyes on the back of Sam's wet t-shirt and then made himself grab the oar and start paddling.

“You know,” Sam said after a moment, “just because you don't say anything about it doesn't mean I didn't notice. You've been weird since we got here. Are you still sick or is something else going on?”

“Something else like what?” Dean didn't dare take his eyes off of Sam's back and trusted that he could and would navigate the boat.

“Dunno. Hormones, drugs, um, dead kid in the house?”

“Oh, Jeez, Sam. Still? I'm telling you, there's no dead kid in Brenda's house, no ghosts, okay?”

It would occur to him much later that there wasn't a lot of victory in being only half right.

*

“I'm telling you she hasn't been here. No. No. I don't think she's going to come. What more can I do?”

Dean stood next to the sliding door of the kitchen, listening as Brenda had an animated discussion with someone on the phone. He'd meant to come in and get towels so that Sam could dry off out on the patio before coming in dripping wet, but had stopped, not sure if he was being rude by interrupting her phone call and not altogether sure how he felt about her tone. Though he'd missed the unfortunate conversation she'd had with Sam about the death of her son, so far Brenda had seemed all right. Cool even, but there was a desperate, aggressive tone he didn't like in her voice now. It did nothing for the low level of panic he'd been fighting since his latest dizzy spell on the boat.

He was set to creep in behind her, slide to the hall to get towels out of the bathroom while listening in to her conversation, but she turned. She looked normal, that was the bitch of it all, that's what made him wonder what exactly was wrong with him and to what extent because there wasn't a single thing on her face that seemed off.

She in fact smiled in that sort of distracted way people did when they were on the phone and held up a finger to indicate that she'd only be another minute.

“Yes. Yes, okay. I'll try that. Thanks, Vera. Really. I'll let you know if she gets in touch. Okay. Gotta go now. Bye. Yes, bye.” She smiled at him again. “Whew. Sorry. Once you get Vera on the phone she just keeps going. Everything okay?”

“Er, yeah. Towels,” Dean told her. “Sam went in the lake and we didn't want to get the carpet wet.”

Brenda raised an eyebrow. “Intentionally or did he have a little help?”

“Nyah,” Dean replied. "We lost one of the oars over the side - someone had to go in and I think Sam's been looking for an excuse to get in the water. Kid's half seal.”

“Mind the boats on the lake if you go in,” Brenda told him, a faint pinch of worry between her brows. “Better to swim in the shallower water, really. There's a good place off of the boathouse dock to swim. Fishing's not bad either, if you boys like that kind of thing.”

“Um…”

“Oh, right. Towels. Hang on.” Brenda went through the kitchen to the room off the back that served as part laundry room, part mudroom and pulled a couple of towels from the dryer. She handed them to Dean with a smile and pushed the graying hair back from her forehead. “I, uh, I hate to ask since you guys are staying with me and I know it's kind of like a vacation for you from what John said, but… I wondered if you and Sam would be okay on your own for a while? Vera and I have been expecting a friend to drop in and since neither of us have heard from her, we're a little worried. I thought I might drive over to her place and make sure she's okay.”

Dean didn't know how well Brenda knew his father or if she had any idea of how often he and Sam fended for themselves, so he couldn't exactly tell her that an afternoon in a place full of luxuries they weren't used to was anything but a hardship. He just nodded. "We'll be fine. The worst thing that might happen is that Sam might go blind playing Nintendo."

Brenda laughed. "I know how that goes. I used to have to work to remind Bill that the outside was still there."

"Sam's easy that way," Dean replied, hoping to avoid any uncomfortable moments. "I can just pick him up and toss him in the yard. Not that I would. Because that would be wrong. And stuff."

"Uh-huh," Brenda said with a wink. "I'm reading you loud and clear, kid. Well, there's leftover burgers in the fridge if you guys want to start dinner without me. Or frozen pizzas, pot pies, that kind of thing in the freezer. Whatever you want to get out is fine. Just make yourselves at home, okay?"

"Thanks. Really, Sam and I are glad to be here."

For a moment something slipped in Brenda's expression. It wasn't the sadness he might have expected given that she had two boys underfoot a year after losing her son. It was something hard, something calculating, but it was gone as soon as he saw it, or thought he did, and she smiled again, as easy going and relaxed as she'd ever been.

"You're welcome. Honestly, Dean, I can't tell you how glad I am to have you and Sam here. It's more than I'd hoped for."

Well, that was a little off, Dean thought to himself as Brenda busied herself with purse and keys. He watched her go and then stood there for a moment with an armful of towels, just thinking.

*

Brenda didn't come back.

Dean figured anyone else, any other pair of kids left alone in someone else's home would have set off alarms after a few hours, but they were so often on their own that it took longer than it might have to really notice. They didn't need to be told to wash the dishes, brush their teeth, or put themselves to bed - they'd been doing that on their own time for years already. It wasn't until they were in bed after hours of video games that Sam spoke of it.

"It's weird, right? I mean, most adults wouldn't just go and not come back with someone else's kids in their house?"

"Not without a phone call or something," Dean agreed. "I don't know how tight she and Dad are, really. It's possible she knows we're used to doing our own thing, but…"

"Yeah," Sam whispered, "it's still weird. What should we do?"

"Hang out. Eat her food, watch her cable and play her dead kid's Nintendo is what. If she's not back tomorrow, well, it's not like we can't hack it for a few days until Dad gets back. This place is paradise compared to some of the dives we've been in. Remember the motel in Jericho where the power went out for two days? Or the one with the fleas in the carpet in Little Rock? Here? Shit, we're better than fine here, Sammy."

"I know, it's just… you know what's weird?"

"I swear to God, if you say anything about the dead kid, I'm leaving you here by yourself and sleeping on the couch."

Sam was wisely silent for a moment and Dean thought maybe, just maybe, he'd chosen to drop it so that they could go to sleep and he didn't have to lay awake waiting to see if he was going to get dizzy again or wonder just what the hell was up with Brenda taking off because, point to Sam, it definitely wasn't normal.

"It's just, okay," Sam said haltingly, "you know that game we've been playing?"

"The one that I keep kicking your ass on?"

"Yeah," Sam replied testily, "that one. It just came out, Dean. I remember a couple of the kids looking at a Nintendo magazine and talking about it last semester. So, um, why would Brenda buy a new game when Billy's been dead for a year? And don't say that she's a secret middle-aged video game fanatic. 'Cause she barely knew how to hook the thing up."

Because she misses her kid, Sam, he thought, but didn't say it for fear that the next thought would come right out after it. And she's hoping he's gonna come back. God dammit, now he's got me thinking it. He sighed. "What do you want me to do, Sammy? I swear, I haven't seen a thing and if anything does come at you, well, it's got to get through me first."

"Unless you get dizzy and pass out," Sam countered.

"Jesus, Sammy, I told you…"

"Yeah, I know. You're fine. Dad's fine. I'm fine. We're all always fine except we never are and we're here all alone and I don't care how awesome this place is, it's just not right that she left and didn't come back. Something's up, Dean. Something's weird and I don't like it. I want…I want…"

"Dad," Dean finished for him quietly when Sam trailed off and remained stubbornly quiet. "Is it so hard to say?"

"What good's it do? It's not like he's here. It's not like he's ever here. It's always just you and me, Dean."

"It's not always just us, but, you know what? We do okay. Don't we?"

"Suppose so." Sam's voice was muffled like he'd turned his face into the pillow, because he was pissed off, because he was trying not to cry, maybe both. Growing up a Winchester was a hard and fast thing, even for Sam who had the easy side of it, but sometimes it just sucked. Dean knew it, he suspected even Dad knew it. What was hard to explain to Sam was that it was just the way things had to be, that sucking it up was about all that they could do to make it better. Most days, that was the only option, but here, now, there was at least one thing that Dean could do for Sam - he could step up. It's what he did, what he always did and when Sam was like this, when he was afraid in the dark and he didn't know why he had to be when other kids weren't, Dean could take care of him. It didn't matter if the old man had made it his job, he'd do it anyway. When the kid was like this, he'd probably jump into a pit of fire for him.

Dean sat up, careful to keep from banging his head on the top bunk and slid out of bed. He stood, waited to see if the room was going to spin, and when it didn't, he reached for Sam's shoulder. He let his hand rest there and when Sam didn't move, he gave it a little shake.

"C'mon, screw the dead kid's room. Why don't you go climb into the guest bed and I'll go check things out, just to make sure, okay?"

Sam turned, no tears evident in the moonlight, but his eyes shone like he'd been doing his damndest to keep them at bay. "If you think so, yeah. I'd like that a lot better. Brenda might get mad, though."

"Yeah, and screw her too," Dean told him. "She split. I'm sure it's all fine, she said she was worried about her friend and all, but like I said, any sane person would call. Hell, even Dad calls." Sometimes.

Dean leaned out of the way so that Sam could jump to the floor and followed him out into the hall, turning on the light as he went. Sam didn't ask for it, would probably die before admitting that he preferred it, but Dean noticed he turned on both the overhead light and the bedside lamp in the guest room before pulling back the covers. He didn't say anything about it, just nodded at him. "Back in ten. I'll just do a quick sweep of the house and the outside, okay?"

"Outside?" Sam asked.

"Not much point in checking the house if I don't take a peek outside. I'll be back before you know it."

"Better be."

The house was quiet. Dean checked each room, taking an extra second to flip on the lights in Brenda's office and bedroom to see if there was anything out of place in either room. Nothing was. Pictures of Billy by her bed and on her desk, but that was normal enough. He flipped through the contents of the desk. Accounting stuff, not surprising given the adding machine on the desk and the diploma on the wall that said she was a CPA. Weird though that she did so much work from home. Handy, he supposed, though with no one here to watch out for, he wondered if it wasn't a little lonely.

The rest of the house was as unremarkable. Towels still in the dryer, the dishes he and Sam had washed earlier still in the dish drainer. Dean eyed the kitchen table as he passed it, focused for a second on the salt shaker. Asset. A tiny one, but better than nothing. He'd have to remember to check the fireplace when he came back through the living room. If the poker, shovel, and even the little cinder broom were cast iron, that'd be a handy thing to know as well. So far, no guns, which wasn't surprising. If Brenda even kept one, he supposed it was habit to keep it out of the way no matter how long old Bill had been dead.

He flipped the lock on the sliding patio doors and stepped outside. The moon was high, but he still stepped carefully as he went around to the front of the house. The gravel drive was empty, no surprise since Brenda had taken off in her Range Rover earlier in the day. Though he wasn't scared like Sam was, Dean admitted that he'd feel pretty good to see the Impala coming down the road towards the house. He'd gotten beyond the age where he spent night after night hoping and wishing that Dad would be home soon, but he wasn't too old to admit that he just felt better having him around. The driveway remained quiet and he couldn't see a single set of headlights from the road at all.

"Guess it really is just you and me tonight, Sam," Dean said quietly.

The front of the house with its high, sloping front yard was a bit trickier to navigate in the dark. He stubbed his bare toes more than once and slipped in the dew wet grass when he moved around the satellite dish towards yard on the far side. It was a steep decline, far more noticeable than the other side of the house because there was no driveway to even things off. He slid in the grass every few feet until he came to a halt by a door on the side of the house that he hadn't previously known of. To anyone else, it would look creepy as fuck - a narrow door tucked down at the bottom of a narrow set of stairs. Dean didn't hesitate, even though he took a second to hope that there was light in whatever room was down beneath the house.

He was lucky. Though something feathery slid over his fingers as he fumbled to the right of the door when he opened it, there was indeed an old, round switch. He almost didn't need to turn it to know what he'd find - a root cellar. The smell of earth was strong when he opened the door. He supposed the house was high enough up the hill, far enough up the lake that it was possible it wasn't completely useless. Then again, he suspected when the house was built, the lake simply hadn't been there. He thought, this is it - if Brenda's keeping anything weird or creepy in this place, this is where it's gonna be.

Dean didn't think he was entirely wrong even though there wasn't anything per say in the root cellar. Another five stairs leading to hard packed earth and damp rock walls dotted here and there with some kind of moss or lichen, but nothing that stood out. Shelves with a few dusty cans of vegetables, canned goods that didn't look horrific or out of date, but there was something in the air, something that didn't feel quite right. He watched for his breath as he descended the steps to the bottom, but didn't see it. There was nothing, a faint swipe on the earthen floor as if someone had recently taken a broom to it, nothing more. But the feel of the room gave him goose bumps, made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and he knew something, something dark and rotten, had gone down in the cellar. There was one small room, little more than an alcove really, off of the main open area. It looked as though the shelves he'd noticed on the way in had maybe used be tucked back into that spot and he supposed, logically, if he was going to use the root cellar, maybe he wouldn't feel like going any further into it than he had to, but a quick glance at the shelf told him that the move had been recent. The canned goods and preserves looked like they'd been put back haphazardly. And the back wall of the alcove was bare, free from dust and cobwebs. Stranger still, the dirt floor here had been swept far more than the larger room. Dean knelt down, putting his hand against one of the cool, damp walls for support in case his unwanted dizzy spells took that moment to return just in time to land him on his ass. When he ran his fingers through the loose dirt on the floor, he felt strange, not quite hard balls. He picked one up and ran it between his fingers. Wax. Wax covered in dirt as if someone had been sitting there with a candle burning.

"No big deal," Dean told himself. "I'm sure she was just down here, with a candle… sitting in the dirt. Doing, you know, nothing. Not like a rite or a spell or anything. Man…"

He backed out of the alcove and left the root cellar, turning the old switch off as he climbed the stairs. He didn't give a fuck about Brenda's light bill, but if she had been up to something, Dean didn't see any reason to let her know he'd been checking things out.

He was tempted to head back in to Sam, but he could hear Dad telling him that a half-assed recon was a quick way to wind up dead, so he headed to the backyard to finish the job. He had to step carefully because there were a few pines that had been dropping needles and the stray pinecone, but he didn't find anything weird he might have missed his first few times out in the yard in the sunlight. No bones, no signs of turned up earth. The only thing out of place was the half-glass of iced tea that either he or Sam had left out on the picnic table earlier. He left it where it was, because again, fuck Brenda already, and walked a little ways down the path towards the dock and the boathouse. Both were empty and silent. The latch was still on the boathouse door and not accessible from the inside, but he wagered that even a poor swimmer could make their way beneath the lakeside doors and into the building.

He walked carefully down the path and peered inside. It was dark, a jumble of shapes that took him a minute to sort out in the darkness - oars, lifejackets, the canoe and a smaller kayak tied up to hooks on the dockside wall. Old bamboo fishing poles, fishing nets, two tackle boxes, but nothing that looked like it could be a person hunkered down against the wall. He turned away, gave the dock a cursory glance and was headed back towards the path leading to the patio and the house when he caught a faint glimmer out of the corner of his eye.

Holding his breath, Dean turned slowly back towards the water. For a moment he saw two pale lights far off on the other shore. He blinked and they were gone. Dean looked up at the moon and then back to the water, considering. He didn't think it was anything, no Winchester Spidey sense kicking him in the ass, but he was unnerved enough to decide to call Dad's pager back at the house. Not because he saw moonlight on the water and got spooked, hell no, but something was definitely off with Brenda, her absence, and the queer feeling that he'd gotten in the root cellar. If nothing else, he wasn't entirely over the flu or whatever new bug had chosen to kick his ass this week. Sam couldn't be properly protected under these conditions and he didn't figure that his dad would disagree. And if he did, fuck it. Better to have him bitching at him while Sam was tucked safely into the back of the car anyway.

Back in the house, he locked the doors and switched off most of the lights. He grabbed the salt shaker from the table, pleased that it was one of the disposable sorts that allowed him to close the top. In the living room, he stopped by the phone. For a moment, he almost didn't do it, but thinking again of his strange dizzy spells and the general strangeness of the root cellar and Brenda, he dialed. He punched in Brenda's phone number when it beeped at him and then 4-1-1, which would signal Dad of two things - one Dean needed more info and two, Dad might need some as well. That way, if he and Sam chose to split in the morning and it seemed like a reasonable idea, really, then their father would start to make the calls to see who the boys had contacted, because, in an emergency it was always Pastor Jim or Bobby that took the call. He'd find out everything he needed to know from one of them.

Leaving the shining, pretty, and entirely useless copper fireplace tools beside the cold, empty hearth, Dean took the salt shaker back towards the bedrooms. He stopped in dead Bill's room first to grab their gear and, more importantly, the gun he had in his duffle bag. Normally it was under his pillow and it should have been this time. It's not like they were spending the weekend at Jim or Bobby's, though Dean really wished they were.

*

Dean's plan of taking the canoe loaded with their gear over to the south side of the lake and begging help from the Girl Scouts was put off the moment he woke to find the world spinning without end. No matter what he did, sitting, lying, eyes open or closed, it would not stop. He meant to go through with it regardless, meant to have Sam help him down to the boat and do what he could to help his little brother get the canoe there, but he fell twice while trying to get dressed and was forced to have Sam help him tie his shoes - which was humiliating to the extreme, but nothing compared to having Sam help him navigate his way to the bathroom. He did put a stop to Sam trying to help him with his jeans, he had some pride left after all. Though apparently not enough to keep him from sitting down to pee because he couldn't stand without rocking from side to side like a drunkard.

"Take the boat, Sammy," Dean told him while Sam stood in the doorway, fretting and chewing on his lip while Dean focused on the toilet paper roll fixed to the wall. Staring at an unmoving object was the only thing that seemed to help. It didn't stop the dizziness or the roll and swirl of his vision, but it created a somewhat stable focal point while everything else heaved maddeningly around him.

"What?"

"Said take the boat," Dean told him. "Put your gear in the boat and paddle over the Scout camp. Tell them your brother is sick. Heh - no lie there, right? And that the lady we're spending the week with while our Dad's traveling for work hasn't come back. They'll believe you because, shit, everyone believes you and it's kind of like the truth. They'll probably cart me off to the hospital and we might run into them wanting to call Social Services if we can't get hold of Bobby or Jim on the phone to do the out of state uncle routine, but, you know? Gets us out of the house and that's what we want, right?"

Honestly, Dean didn't care so much about leaving for himself. He was content to stay and not move, trusting that when the time came he could handle one middle aged chick with a spare tire around the middle, no matter what kind of nuttiness she'd gotten up to in the root cellar. But, Sam hadn't woken up any less worried than he had been the night before, especially upon discovering that his older brother couldn't tie his own shoes or stand to pee. No sense putting the kid through it and some cooing and babying from a pack of scout chicks would do him some good, Dean figured.

"That's the stupidest plan you've ever come up with," Sam said from the doorway. "And that includes the time you tried to fake playing the trumpet so you could score with the first chair flute in band camp."

Dean grinned in spite of himself. "Got in huge trouble with Dad, started the school year with two weeks of in-school suspension, but still scored the flute player. It's all about priorities, Sammy."

"You were so much easier to deal with when you didn't like girls."

"Don't even remember when that was," Dean drawled. He sat up a little on the toilet so he could pull his jeans up part way before standing and had to wave Sam off. "Don't need you to tuck in my junk. I'll freaking fall over first." Which is nearly what happened. He was forced to lean against the wall while he pulled his jeans up over his ass and even then he feared sliding down to the floor because it was so God damned difficult to tell up from down and where he was in relation to it all. "Fuck, this sucks."

"Which is why leaving you is stupid, like I said," Sam told him. He was at Dean's side as soon as he had his jeans zipped. He maneuvered Dean to the sink and he was glad to stop and lean on it a minute, though it took him a second or two to realize that Sam hadn't chose it as a resting point, but because he figured he'd wash his hands. His brother - the fussbudget. It made Dean smile. Though when he looked up in the mirror to see how he was faring, he nearly dropped right then upon seeing the world spin twice as much because of the reflection.

"Get me out of here," Dean told him. "Couch. Chair. Don't care. Just not the bed."

"See, this is why I'm not leaving you here." Sam wrapped an arm around his waist and led him out of the bathroom towards the living room. "You're practically helpless. Either you're coming in the boat with me or I'm staying."

"It's not like I can't sit on the couch without help while you're gone, Sam. Seriously, it'll take you an hour, hour and a half tops to get the canoe to the camp by yourself. I'll be fine."

"And if Brenda comes back?"

"I think I can take her, even like this."

"Bullshit."

"Sam we don't even know…"

"Except you do," Sam countered before he could finish. "You came to bed with a salt shaker. I'm not stupid, Dean. Something's off and you know it, even if you don't know what it is. So, yeah, I'm staying or you're coming with."

"Can't go, Sam," Dean admitted. The hall ended with one step down to the living room and Dean was so off balance that he seriously feared he was going to have to sit down to take the single step. But, Sam got ahead of him and took his hands, walking backwards like he was leading the blind or a toddler. When Dean inevitably pitched forward, Sam put his hands against his belly to steady him, continuing to walk backwards into the living room.

"Even if I get to the boat, like this I could capsize us or fall in and I don't want to put you in that position."

"Then don't," Sam said. "Let's get you on the couch…c'mon, we're almost there."

"Man, don't talk to me like I'm little kid."

"Sucks, doesn't it?"

"Brat." Dean let Sam lead him to the couch and then fell back onto it gracelessly, suddenly an uncoordinated tangle of too long limbs. It felt like puberty all over again coupled with the worst, dizziest high that he could imagine. The position changes and trek from the bathroom had him reeling and he could feel nausea creeping up on him like he was suddenly carsick.

Dean put his head down and breathed slowly, willing it all to go away. It didn't help. He couldn't tell if he was rocking back and forth, if he was actually moving or if it just seemed that way. But he didn't puke and that was, as far as he was concerned, something. "Call Pastor Jim or Bobby, then. Both if you have to. Put out an S.O.S, Sam. Jesus, I feel bad."

"Bad how?"

"I don't know. Just generally shitty and bad. Not right. God damn, this sucks. It wasn't like this yesterday."

Sam put a hand to his forehead. Unlike Brenda, Dean didn't try to duck it, probably couldn't have, but somehow from Sam it didn't seem invasive or unwanted, even if Dean was sure it upset the balance of the universe to have his little brother looking out for him.

"You don't have a fever. Your head hurt?"

"No," Dean breathed. "But my ears are ringing. Started in the bathroom."

"They hurt? Like an ear infection?"

"No," Dean repeated. "No pressure, no water in my ears, nothing. Must still be the flu, I guess."

"Maybe. Does it feel better if you're leaning forward or sitting back?"

"Doesn't matter. Same either way," Dean answered.

"Good. Then sit back. You look like you're gonna fall over."

Dean complied and tried to find something to fix his gaze on. He focused on Sam until he moved and then restrained a groan as the spinning sensation got worse. He settled for staring at the blank TV and for breathing slowly, in through his nose and out through his mouth. It helped, but only marginally.

"Call…"

"I am. Just sit there for a minute."

Sam left his side and Dean held onto the couch cushions. He could just see the warped reflection of himself in the television, which seemed to shift spookily like he was staring at his own disembodied soul. It unsettled him and so he tried to ignore it, tried staring instead at the border of the television set instead of into the screen itself.

He heard Sam running water in the kitchen, felt like telling him not to get him a drink because he honestly didn't want it, wasn't sure he could manage the coordination that it took to get the glass to his lips. He needn't have bothered. Sam came back with a washcloth that he put over Dean's forehead and though it didn't do anything to stop his dizziness or the nausea that came with it, it felt nice so he muttered his thanks and left it there.

Sam tried calling both Bobby and Pastor Jim. Dean heard him talk to the answering machine both times and he hoped that at least one of them would get home soon to check it. Sam didn't say, but Dean figured that he must have dialed Dad's pager as well as the number of the motel he was meant to be staying at because when he got off the phone that time, Dean heard him swear under his breath and call the old man a few things that Dean didn't think he'd dare to do himself.

He convinced Sam to stop pacing after about an hour, pleading that it made him worse, which was true even if only because when he was up and moving, Dean couldn't help but follow him with his eyes as if keeping him in sight was somehow vital. Though he refused to let Sam take his shoes off in case the need to run arose, he convinced him to put in one of the Nintendo games and at least try to take his mind off of it until, if, the phone rang. Dean himself had to look away from the TV while the picture moved after one look at Sam's little space-age robot looking game character had him dry heaving. He put one leg up on the couch, and stared instead at the abstract pastel painting Brenda had by the stairs. After five minutes, he decided he'd find a way to tell her someday just how fucking ugly it was.

Morning became afternoon. Sam gave him soup in a coffee mug and a tuna salad sandwich, which, for not being much more than mayo, tuna, and celery tasted like heaven to Dean. He was only nauseated when he tried to look around, though nothing really kept his vision from swimming, and food was more than welcome. He slurped down the last salty dregs of cream of chicken and would have licked the cup if Sam hadn't brought him another cup of the stuff, not caring, he said, how many of Brenda's dishes he got dirty.

Dean waited to get better, waited for the dizziness to abate, but it didn't happen. He stared at the stupid, ugly God damned painting by the stairs for so long and so hard that his eyes began to burn and water. He was forced to lie back against the couch and close his eyes. It made his head swim. Made him feel like he was on the worst carnival ride imaginable and all he could do was hang on. He wished the ride would stop; he wished he could find a way to get off.

It was one of the longest days that Dean could remember and for a kid that had spent some very long nights alone with his baby brother in a motel room scared to fucking death, that was saying something. It would have been easier if he could sleep, but he only managed short bursts where even his dreams seemed to spin and in every one of them, Sam was left defenseless because Dean was no use to him. He would wake in a panic, worse every single time, and by the time the sun started to slip down towards the lake in a riot of red and smoky purple, he insisted that Sam keep the gun on him. He didn't know why, couldn't fathom what good it would do or what he'd do with it if Brenda burst through the door with a machete and a desire to use it - which didn't seem her style, all things considered. But it made him feel better and, as he reasoned to Sam, no one would think to check him for a gun. He was too small, too cherubic. Dean was pretty sure that Sam was so flabbergasted that he'd actually said 'cherubic' that it took him a full minute before he cussed him out for it.

Dean was in such a state that he was bent over, head in his hands while he muttered over and over again "it's okay, it's all okay, chill the fuck out, Winchester." He knew there was no reason for his inexplicable panic, knew that it just had to be some kind of side-effect of whatever had him feeling so fucked up, but he couldn't quite seem to get a grip. Not even when he told himself repeatedly that he was scaring the crap out of Sam - which was a criminal offense as far as he was concerned.

He nearly came out of his skin when the phone rang. His heart was suddenly hammering in his throat and when he jumped up by instinct, he toppled to the floor, uncertain until the very moment that he hit that he was actually headed downward. It was impossible to tell until he hit the carpet and the side of the Nintendo when he'd felt like he'd been falling for hours.

"Jesus!" Sam was next to him in a second, hands tight around him like a vice and murmuring to him so constantly that Dean thought maybe he was trying to calm himself down. "It's okay, it's just the phone. Just the phone."

"Bobby," Dean got out. "Maybe Jim. Get it, Sammy."

"Don't' move," Sam told him.

He was gone from Dean's side and must have dove for the phone because Dean heard a clatter like he'd impacted with the little table that the cordless sat one. "Hello? Ohmygod, Pastor Jim. Dean's sick and Brenda's gone and there's something weird. Dean's making me carry the gun and he came to bed with salt last night but… wha? I think so, yeah. Dean, can you talk on the phone?"

"Long as I don't have to move," Dean said from the floor. He tried to get off of all fours while he said it, but gave up and went down on his belly, managing to turn to the side. When Sam's worried face came into view, he focused on that like a lifeline, begging him not to move though he didn't realize he'd said it until Sam uncharacteristically patted his head.

"I won't. Here, I'll hold the phone. You just talk, okay?"

"Jim," Dean said when Sam had the phone next to his ear. "Kinda fucked up here, man."

"It's okay, Dean. It'll be just fine." It was weird how Pastor Jim's voice was like a balm. It didn't keep everything from spinning, but it drove the panic down a notch and Dean was able to take a slow breath to steady himself. "Tell me what's going on, kiddo. Sam said you were sick?"

"Dizzy as all get out. Can't make it stop."

"You have a fever or throwing up at all?"

"No. Well, when Sam turned on his video game it made me heave a little from looking at it. But, I just feel… off, man. Bad, but I can't say why or how and I'm so…so God damned dizzy," Dean finished, not remembering until he'd said it that taking the Lord's name in vain was one of Pastor Jim's least favorite infractions.

"All right, that's fine, Dean. Just fine. You have to tell me what's going on. Where's this Brenda? Who's Brenda?"

"Someone Dad knows. I think, maybe he did a job here when Sam was little? I don't remember her, but I think Sam got in a fight with her kid. Kid's dead now, Jim. Died last year."

"Dean, is something in the house?"

"No," Dean answered. "I don't-don't think so. Jim, I'm not real reliable right now. I'm all…I'm so freaked out and I don't know why. There's no reason. Not really. There wasn't anything in the root cellar, but it felt…"

"Felt wrong?"

"Yeah," Dean said, relieved. "Just really wrong. Things had been moved and there was wax in the dirt like someone had been sitting there with a candle. It's nothing, right? I know it's gotta be, but Brenda just took off yesterday afternoon and she was so normal before that. Sam's kinda worried."

"I think Sam's worried about you," Jim told him on the phone. "And he's not wrong. You did good giving him the gun, son. I don't think you should hold onto it right now and I know you feel off, but you have to do something for me, okay? I need you to relax, relax as best as you can and then answer my next question without thinking, okay?"

"Okay."

"You relaxed?"

"Yes," Dean said instantly. "Or as much as I can be. Was that the question?"

"No." Jim laughed a little on the phone. Not in a mean or condescending way, but fond, like he always was, always had been with him and Sam both. "No, kid, that wasn't it."

"'m sorry," Dean told him. He looked at Sam, focused intently on Sam so that he could see every freckle, ever fine blond hair. He watched him chew his lip nervously and tried to smile, tried to tell him that it was fine now.

"Don't be," Jim soothed. "Dean, tell me right now - is something wrong with the house?"

"Yeah." Again Dean didn't hesitate. "Something's wrong. Brenda or the house or both. No cold spots, no noises, but something in the cellar, Jim. Something down there crawled under my skin. I felt it in my gut."

"Then I'm going to page your father until he damn well calls me back. If I have to, I'll see if I can get someone in the area to go after him. I'll call a church deacon I know down there if I have…"

"Paged Dad yesterday and this morning," Dean told him. "Haven't heard from him yet."

"Then he could be on the way," Jim told him. "You know your dad, Dean. Why stop to ask questions when you can just haul ass? It's one of his flaws, but it might work in our favor because right now I think he's the closest person to you and Sam. I don't have anyone else close. Jenny Richfield was in Hannibal a week ago on a cursed object run, but she'd be long gone by now. But, don't worry - one way or another, I'll get hold of your Dad. You have to do something for me now, Dean and it's going to be hard, okay?"

"I'm not leaving Sam," Dean told him, thinking of nothing that could be harder than that.

"No, no I wouldn't think of suggesting it. I think you boys need to stick together. What I need you to do is take Sam and get out of there. I know you don't trust yourself right now, don't trust your instincts, but I do, kid. If there's a car, put Sam behind the wheel. He's a smart kid and he can manage it."

"No car."

"Then on foot. Go to the closest house. Just head for someplace with lights and cars. Can you do that?"

"I think so. Jim, Sam, he wouldn't go. I couldn't make him go without me. I tried…"

"Of course he wouldn't leave you. You're his big - "

(To Part Two)
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