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“You busy?” Hotchner asked as he tapped on the open door.

Gideon responded with no more than a quirk of his lip as he glanced over the tops of his glasses, but it was enough to reveal how amused he was by the question.  “No more than usual.  What’s up?”

“You did a pysch eval on an Agent Henricksen a month or two ago.”

“Yes.  His partner thought he was obsessed with a serial killer, thought he needed help.”

“And was he?  Obsessed?”

“Oh yeah, he was a mess when I saw him.  He was barely lucid, hadn’t been eating or sleeping.  He hadn’t even been home in weeks.  I recommended reassignment but he was relieved of duty when he refused to stand down.”  Gideon set aside the file in his hand and motioned for Hotch to take a seat.  “Why?”

“The perp must have been something to drive him over the edge like that,” Hotchner said with a gleam in his eye, waving away the offered chair.

Gideon merely shrugged. 

“How would you like a crack at him?”

“Who?  The unsub?" 

“Not unknown.  In fact the subject has been on our most wanted list for well over a year.  He was apprehended in West Virginia three days ago on trespassing charges.  The BAU has been requested to determine the guy’s mental state and sort out his crimes.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s a little… muddled.  And Henricksen’s notes aren’t much help.  They have a lot of speculation in them but not a lot of substance.”

“Henricksen was unstable.  Maybe the subject didn’t do anything.”

“Well, we’ve got more than enough to hold him on credit card fraud alone.”

“So we’re off to West Virginia.”

“Nope, that’s the beauty part.  He’s coming here.”

Taking off his glasses, Gideon folded them and placed them in his pocket as he nodded.  “All right, let’s do it." 

“JJ is pulling together the information now and the team is scheduled to meet in an hour.  The subject is already in transit.”

“What’s his name?” Gideon asked as Hotchner turned away.

“Winchester,” Hotchner called back over his shoulder.  “Dean Winchester.”

***

Four months previous 

“Dean…  Dean…  Dean!”

Dean slapped unsuccessfully at the hand on his shoulder, failing that he pulled the nearest pillow over his head.  “Da mit, Samp.  Lemme sle.”

“Come on, Dean.  Wake up.  We need to talk.”  Sam snatched the pillow away and pushed the other one off the bed for good measure. 

“Aw, man,” Dean complained, his face still buried in the rumpled sheet.  “No.  The one thing we do not need to do is talk.  We need to get drunk and get laid.”

“You did that last night.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed happily.  “You’re right.  I did.”  He rolled over and looked around. “Where’d she go?”

“She left hours ago.  I gave her cab fare.”

“Thanks, I owe ya.”  Dean tried to wrap up in the sheet but Sam held it firmly, thwarting his feeble efforts.

“She wanted to go to Reno.”

“Ouch.  That’s far away, right?” Dean gave up the tug of war with the sheet and just lay there.  After a minute he opened his eyes.  “Where are we?”

“We’re still in Vegas.”

“Oh.  Good.  I didn’t try to get married again, did I?”

Sam sat on the bed and let out a weary sigh.  “No.  I caught you before you got that far.  Look, this has got to stop, man.  You’re killing yourself.”

“Dude,” Dean protested as he got up and stumbled naked into the bathroom to pee.

Following him as far as the door, Sam leaned against the en suite sink and crossed his arms over his chest.  “It’s been seven months…”

“And we worked our asses off the first six.  Now I’ve only got five left and I’m gonna make the most of ‘em,” Dean said flushing the toilet and moving to the heart shaped tub.  He turned on the water and dumped a handful of Mr. Bubbles under the tap.  “We are so stupid.  We should have been staying in the good motels all along.  This place is paradise.”

“Being wasted twenty-four/seven is not making the most of anything.”  Sam had to raise his voice to be heard over the running water.

Dean reached into the mini-fridge he’d moved into the bathroom and took out a beer.  He hissed when he stepped into the ankle deep water but didn’t adjust the temperature before carefully settling down in the rapidly filling tub.  “Not twenty-four/seven,” he denied, easing back into the built-in pillow and covering his eyes with a folded washcloth.  “Twenty-one, twenty-two/seven tops.”  He opened the bottle and took a swig.

“I’ve got a lead.”

“Forget it.  As of now I’m officially retired.” 

“I think I know how to stop the crossroads demon but we’re running out of time…”

The beer bottle shattering one of the wall-sized mirrors was the only warning Sam got before his soapy, wet brother had his hands fisted in his shirt.  “No!” Dean shouted in his face.  “Don’t say another word!”

“Dean!” Sam protested in shock and surprise as he reflexively grabbed Dean’s wrists and kept them both from falling.  “I’ve got a plan.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” Dean swore, pushing away, swinging as Sam tried to steady him.  “Do not tell me about it.”

“Why?  Why won’t you let me help you?” Sam yelled back.  “Why won’t you help yourself?”  He stared at Dean’s retreating back for a second before storming into the steamy bathroom to turn off the water.

While Sam paused to survey the damage Dean picked a dirty towel off the bedroom floor and wrapped it around his waist before moving to sit on the red settee.

“I’m tired of this argument,” Sam stated when he came back into the room a few minutes later with two cans of beer.  He held one out in either guilt or apology.

“I want the good stuff,” Dean pouted.

“You threw the last one of those at the wall.”

Dean finally accepted the can but didn’t pop the top.  “Look, I’m tired of fighting, too.  But you can’t do anything to help me, Sammy.  You can’t.”

“Why not?  Just tell me and I’ll quit asking.”

Flopping back onto the cushion Dean moaned and looked at the beer before deciding to use it as an icepack.  “A little early for you, isn’t it?” he asked when Sam stopped pacing and sat down to drink.

“It’s four in the afternoon.”

“Oh.”

Sam polished off his beer in record time and went for another.  Dean followed his progress by the crunch of his boots through the broken glass on the linoleum.  He returned with a whole six pack and sat on the bed across from Dean.  After opening the first can, he raised it in a silent toast; ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ written all over his face.

Dean rolled his eyes and sighed expansively.  “It’s in the fine print,” he finally muttered.

The beer was instantly forgotten. “The fine print,” Sam repeated as sober as a judge. 

“You manipulative little shit,” Dean grumbled.

“Tell me,” Sam threatened, holding up the six pack.  “There’s a whole lot more where this came from.  If you crash and burn, I’m going down with you.”

“Burn?”

Sam winced.  “Poor choice of words.”

Dean glared for minute but the effort was too much.  “It’s part of the deal.   If I do anything to weasel out of deal you drop dead where you stand.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”  Quiet.  Too quiet.

“Come on, Sam.”  Dean sat up and prepared for the coming tempest.

“My brother is going to Hell because of me…”

“Don’t do this…”

“…and I’m supposed to just stand back and watch?”

“Don’t!” Dean warned, raising a finger.  “Just shut up a minute.  If I even try to save myself it’s over.  I don’t regret it.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

They sat in silence while Sam digested the new information.  Dean watched him moodily, rolling the can between his palms.

“I’ll save you,” Sam whispered at last.

“What?”

“I’ll do everything.  The…the planning, the execution.  You’ll just come along for the ride, you won’t know a thing.”

“We can’t take the chance.”

“I didn’t make a deal,” Sam pointed out.  “She has no power over me.”

“I don’t know, Sam.  We shouldn’t risk it.”

“I can’t lose you either.  I won’t.”  Suddenly animated, Sam was off the bed and packing.  “Get dressed.”

Dean didn’t budge.

Sam stopped and looked at him.  “What you don’t know can’t hurt me.”

“I can’t know anything.  Comprende?”

“This’ll work,” Sam insisted.  “I’ll just feed you bullshit and keep you in the dark.”

“Yeah, I’ll be your little mushroom.  But what if I accidentally figure out what you’re up to?  I’m pretty good at this stuff, you know.”

“If it comes to that we’ll split up.”

“I can’t know anything,” Dean reiterated.  “Not a damn thing.”

“We have to go to West Virginia.”

“Why?”

“Nuh uh,” Sam said with a grin.  “Get your stuff and get in the car.  For the next five months I’m in charge.  You do what I say when I say it.”

“Kill me now,” Dean groaned once again falling back on the bench.

***

Present time

“What have we got?” Morgan asked as he fell into step with JJ on the stairs.

“Something a little different,” JJ told him, handing him one of the thick folders she carried.  “We have the perp, we just have to figure out what he’s guilty of.  His rap sheet’s on top.”

“Okay,” Morgan said a little dubiously as he flipped open the folder, never missing a step.  “Dean Winchester:  January 24, 1979, Lawrence, Kansas… yadda…” he read out loud before scanning the rest of the page in silence.   “He’s wanted for everything from kidnapping and murder to grave desecration but he’s never been in custody long enough to be convicted of anything.”

“Yeah, and what we’ve got is sketchy at best so Garcia is joining us to search other sources while we meet.  Hi, Penelope,” she greeted as they entered the conference room.

“Hi, JJ.  Hey there, Gorgeous.”

“Hey yourself,” Morgan flirted as he settled at the table across from Garcia and tossed the dossier down in front of him with a plop.  “So your challenge is to tell us something about our boy that’s not in here, oh wise one.”

Garcia’s fingers flew over the keyboard of her laptop.  “Challenge, huh?  I can already tell you our boy is a smoking hot babe.”  She turned the screen so they could see the mug shot.

“Let me rephrase that… tell us something useful about Mr. Winchester,” Morgan chided playfully.

Garcia wagged a pudgy finger at him.  “Useful is in the eye of the beholder.”

“He is nice looking,” JJ agreed as she began placing the folders around the otherwise empty table.

“See?  Don’t be hatin’.” Garcia pulled her computer back into place to admire the picture again.  

“Uh, hello?  Serial killer?” Morgan objected in exaggerated disbelief.

 “Alleged serial killer, no one this pretty could possibly be evil,” Garcia goaded as she stroked the edge of the screen. 

Morgan covered his heart with his hand.  “Oh, now you’re just trying to hurt me.”

Reid wandered into the room during the exchange and picked up one of the files as he seated himself.  Rapidly turning the pages he read as he distractedly launched into a lecture. 

“Actually many serial killers possess above average physical appearances.  The stereotype of the ugly loner is a misleading perception; thus attractive or gregarious suspects often fly under law enforcement’s radar.  Take Ted Bundy for instance, he was handsome and outgoing.  He sometimes used a prop such as a cast or a sling to lure unsuspecting women into helping him with groceries or boxes…” Reid looked up to see three impassive faces starring back at him, “…but you guys already know all this…” he trailed off.  “I’ll shut up now.”

“Preaching to the choir again, Dr. Reid,” Morgan said.

“Yeah, we were just joking around.”

“Sorry,” Reid murmured, returning JJ’s sympathetic smile with a rueful one of his own.

“Although I am fairly certain the man of my dreams is not a psychotic killer.”

“Five bucks says we find evidence otherwise.”

“You’re on.”  While everyone else studied the hard copies Garcia turned her attention back to her computer.  Within a minute she let out a gasp.  “Here’s a useful tidbit,” she announced.  “Dean Winchester is dead.”

“Dead?” Gideon asked as he and Hotchner joined the group. 

“Yes sir,” Garcia said solemnly.  “I found a death certificate.  He was shot in St. Louis on March 7, 2006 by a woman he was, uh, apparently trying to kill.  Score one for Morgan.”

Morgan grinned smugly and held up five fingers.

“Surely Henricksen knew that?” Gideon asked.  “Do we have his notes?”

JJ pushed one of the folders toward Gideon.  “His case file is the bulk of the dossier.  And I do mean bulk.”

“That’s part of the muddle,” Hotchner informed them.  “Officially, Dean Winchester is deceased.”

“So who are they bringing in?  A doppelganger?”

“Why was Henricksen so sure he had the right man?”

“Mistaken identity?”

“One question at a time,” Hotchner urged.  “Reid?  I assume you’ve read the dossier?  What did Henricksen say about St. Louis?”

“He makes mention of it early in his rather rambling report but never even tries to present a logical explanation for the apparent resurrection,” Reid said.  “Basically he just glossed over the fact that his chief suspect was already dead and buried.”

“There had to be an autopsy,” Gideon reasoned.

“I’m on it,” Garcia assured as she tapped out a quick rhythm.  “Yep.  And… ew, morgue photos.  Up there,” she said nodding towards the large plasma screen mounted on the wall.  “Here’s the guy they’re bringing in.” Garcia split the screen and placed the earlier mug shot next to the autopsy picture. 

“They could be twins,” Hotchner said.

“Single birth.”  Garcia briefly superimposed a birth certificate over the images. 

“Siblings often bear a remarkable likeness,” Reid offered, “Even when they’re several years apart.  Dean has one brother, four years younger.”

“Samuel Winchester,” Garcia reported, putting yet another photo next to the other two. 

Gideon shook his head.  “Not even close.  Any other family?  Cousins?”

“No,” Reid said, winding up.  “Even his parents are deceased, his mother, Mary, in a strange fire when Dean was a small child and his father, John, last year of an apparent heart attack.  This was after a car wreck in which all three remaining Winchesters were injured, Dean seriously.  Interestingly enough, the father’s body disappeared from the hospital morgue rather than being released to a mortuary.  But even this information is mostly conjecture from Henricksen.”

Garcia began to type frantically.

“Traumatic loss of a parent at an early age,” Hotch pondered.  “That could have been the stressor that fractured this boy’s psyche.”

“Plus his father raised both of his sons as some sort of survivalists, again, according to Agent Henricksen,” Reid added.  “Weapons, hand to hand combat, Marine type training from an early age.”

“Is this all we’ve got?” Gideon asked placing a hand on the folder he had taken possession of.  “More importantly, is all of it from Henricksen?”

JJ shook her head.  “I added school and various arrest records for the whole family.  There’s not really much else.  It’s like they lived on the fringe of society.”

“Cross referencing names, birth dates, and social security numbers there are no police records regarding a motor vehicle crash that required hospitalization last year together or individually,” Garcia confirmed.  “I can’t even find a death certificate for any John Winchesters during that time frame.”

“They could have used aliases.”

“Or Henricksen could have been delusional.”

Garcia looked back and forth between Hotchner and Gideon.  “Earlier I found some news footage of Dean Winchester at a bank robbery that turned into a hostage situation.  Henricksen was there.  I’ve got audio from a phone conversation he had with Dean during negotiations.  It’s interesting to say the least.”

“Okay, good.  Let’s examine those first then I want to break this file down.  I want to see what we know the subject did and what is only speculation.”  Gideon put his glasses on.

***

Four days ago

Dean took off his jacket and tossed it into the trunk.  After a second’s hesitation he began to unload weapons as well.  Two guns, three knives, and a length of wire went in and a tire iron came out.

“What are you doing?” Sam asked.  He tossed away the limb he’d been using to wipe their tracks.

“Get out of here,” Dean ordered.  “I’ll stall them.”

“We lost them, let’s just go.”

“You don’t think they know we doubled back?  You can’t afford to get caught right now.”

We can’t afford to get caught.”

“Four months, Sam,” Dean said earnestly.  “We’ve been looking for… whatever the hell it is we’ve been looking for for four months.  And these bumpkins have been breathing down our necks for the last three weeks while we just keep hanging around.”

“It’s here, Dean.  I know it is.  I just need a little more time to find it.”

“Time’s not something I’ve got a lot of, Sammy.  And I’m just slowing you down.  I can’t know what you’re doing and I can’t help.  I’m hanging up my own salvation just by being here.”

“I know,” Sam sighed.  “You take the car and I’ll hook up with you somewhere after I find it.  But don’t give up on me,” he pleaded.

“I’m not giving up.” Dean slammed the trunk shut.  “I’m counting on you.”

“If you let them take you into custody the next stop is prison.”

Dean huffed.  “Prison’s easy, it’s Hell I’m not so sure about.”  In the distance they could hear a dog baying.  “Go.  Save my sorry ass.”  He tossed Sam the keys.  “I’ll meet you at Bobby’s… No?”

Sam was shaking his head furiously.  “Whatever you do, don’t go to Bobby’s.”

“Why?  Is that what all those phone calls you kept sneaking away to make were about?”

“Are you sure you wanna know?”

“No, don’t tell me,” Dean backed down.  “I’ll just lay low.  Somewhere.”  He pulled out his wallet and handed it over along with his cell phone.  After a moment’s hesitation he also removed his watch, bracelet, and ring and gave them to his brother.  Lastly he took off the amulet from around his neck and dropped it over Sam’s head since his hands were full. “I want those back.”

Unhappily stuffing the jewelry into various pockets Sam began to frown.  “Where are you gonna lay low without any money?”

“Where do you think?  I’ll be okay,” Dean promised.  “And you’ll know where to find me.  Now get out of here before I kick your ass.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Too bad.”

Sam glared but slid in behind the wheel anyway.  “I’ll see you soon.”

“Take care of my baby.”

“He’s worried about the damn car,” Sam muttered to himself as he started the Impala.  It roared to life and they shared a long look before he put it in drive.  “Be careful.”

“I’m always careful,” Dean joked, swallowing hard as his brother drove away.  He knew Sam was watching in the rearview so he smiled and waved.  As soon as the dust cleared he set about loosening every lug nut on the cop car and the dog transport. 

***

Present time

Two hours later Hotch watched his team hard at work from the conference room door.  White boards were filled with information in columns and grafts, and photos of Dean Winchester, his family, and his supposed victims were taped to the window in meaningful groupings.  Reid and JJ poured through a copy of the disassembled dossier, while Morgan helped Garcia chase down leads on the computer.  Gideon sat alone in the corner with headphones and a portable CD player.  His eyes were closed but his lips moved ever so slightly as he listened.

“This is one sick puppy,” Morgan said to Hotchner.  “The St. Louis murders are particularly disturbing.  Winchester posed as the husband or boyfriend to get in then literally skinned the women over a period of hours before killing them.”

“Don’t forget, Dean Winchester was also found dead in St. Louis after committing those murders,” Garcia objected.  “The only thing Dean Two did was rob a bank.  And he didn’t actually take anything so technically it wasn’t even a bank robbery, just a hostage situation.  He didn’t even start it.”

“There were murders in the bank, too.  And one of the bodies had been partially skinned.”

“Yeah, but that same woman had already been rescued.  She’s alive and, okay not exactly well I guess, but she’s alive right now.”

“And yet she’s still dead.”

“Like Schrödinger’s cat,” Reid chimed in.

“That’s impossible,” Hotchner said.

Morgan sighed.  “No wonder Henricksen went over the edge.  There is no logical explanation unless this guy’s a magician.”

“Don’t forget the Houdini acts,” Hotchner agreed.  “No one can seem to keep any of the Winchesters in custody for very long.”

“Which begs the question how did the cops in a one horse little West Virginia town capture and keep him until our guys arrived?” Morgan asked pensively.

Gideon clicked off the player.  “Maybe he wanted to be caught.”

“Maybe he got away in route,” Reid speculated.

“Not this time,” Hotchner informed them.  “I just got word of Winchester’s arrival.  They should be pulling into the receiving area any minute now.”

“Good, let’s get him set up in one of the interrogation rooms right away,” Gideon ordered.  “I want everything on tape.”

“Uh… sir?” Garcia lifted a bejeweled hand timidly, the mass of bangle bracelets clinking together as they slid down her arm.  “The system is down.”

“What do you mean the system is down?”

“The video computer for the entire interrogation suite has a glitch.”

“That’s a brand new system,” Hotchner objected reasonably.

“Yes sir, that’s why it has a glitch.  They haven’t worked all the bugs out yet.  In fact it was getting buggier by the day.  They had to shut it down while they recode a huge chunk of the software…”

“Can’t we use the old one?”

“The old hard drives have already been shipped off for destruction.  You know, in case there was anything classified on them.” 

“Oh for heavens sakes,” Gideon sighed.  “Can’t you fix the new system?”

“Of course I could,” Garcia said.  “But the contractor won’t let me anywhere near it.  It’s their baby.  But I could set something up to record manually.”

“Just do it,” Hotchner agreed, checking his watch.  “But make it quick.”

“Come on, Muscles,” Garcia requested as she got up, tugging on Morgan’s sleeve.  “Help me carry some stuff.”

“Your wish is my command.”

“If only,” Garcia muttered with a dirty little laugh.

“Dean Two?” Morgan questioned on the way out of the room.

“Want to get a look at him?” Hotchner invited Gideon, ignoring the banter as it receded down the stairs.

“I do.”  Gideon said.  He got up and turned to the two remaining agents.  “Keep picking this apart.  I want to know how much of this is real and how much is due to Henricksen’s obsession.”

***

As far as Sam could tell there were only four graves in the overgrown plot yet the map clearly indicated the one he wanted was the middle of five.  All the other parameters fit but he and Dean had already been over this and every other old family cemetery within a twenty-five mile radius.  In fact they’d walked practically every inch of the surrounding woods, although Dean hadn’t had a clue what they were looking for.  Sam moved back to the broken-down gate and counted again.  One, two, three, four. 

Kneeling beside the only marked grave he went through his pack and took out a pencil and a sheet of paper which he placed on top of the worn stone.  As he rubbed the lead point over the etching the writing slowly emerged in a readable form.  Willingham, 1890.  This had to be it.  Keeping an eye out for the relentless little sheriff he made his way back to the borrowed jeep for a shovel. 

Two hours and half a ton of dirt later the mystery of the missing grave was solved.  A mother and child had been buried together.  Four graves, five bodies.  He took a moment to catch his breath and drink some water then went back to work with a renewed sense of urgency.  It was here, he was sure of it.  For the first time in months he felt like he might be able to pull this off.

***

Gideon and Hotchner stood just inside the receiving room door and watched as an unmarked van pulled in and the heavy gate slid shut behind it.  Five FBI agents unloaded their orange clad prisoner, mindful of his full set of shackles.

“Dude.” Dean Winchester turned to the young agent next to him and held a fist out horizontally as far as the chains allowed.

“Take care, man,” the agent told him as he tapped the extended fist with his own. 

“Yeah, you, too,” Dean said before a contingent of guards led him towards the search room.  “And get some sleep!” he added over his shoulder.  “New baby,” he told the guard closest to him in a quiet aside as he shuffled along.  “Number four.  Can you believe that?  At his age.”  The guard studiously ignored him.

“See ya, Dean,” another of the agents called out.

Dean acknowledged with a lift of his chin and an almost smile as he twisted around to wave at the group who stood glumly around the open van door.  The guards didn’t slow as they pulled Dean along and the senior field agent from the West Virginia office followed with the paper work.  “Easy fellas,” he scolded with a soft accent.  “He’s moving as fast as he can.”

“Does something seem off about this?” Hotch asked Gideon.

“It was an eight hour trip in a confined space,” Gideon replied.  “Obviously they established some type of rapport.  They may be able to give us some insight.”  He moved towards the van but stopped near the suspect to take in the scene.  Dean glanced at him curiously but then the field agent spoke, drawing his attention.

“They’re gonna take you in here to do a body cavity search now and I want you to behave yourself, tough guy.”

“Oh, man!  The FBI is gonna make me its bitch?” Dean’s voice was heavy with disgust as he swore.

The agent shook his head and ruffled Dean’s hair affectionately.  Dean huffed and pulled away from the old man’s hand but seemed to be touched by the gesture.  “Look, Stew, don’t worry about me, okay?  This’ll all work out one way or the other.  I’m fine.”

“I know, kid.”  Stew patted Dean’s cheek once and let the guards herd him into the other room. 

“I’m Jason Gideon with the BAU,” Gideon introduced himself as the door shut.  “And this is S.S. A. Aaron Hotchner,” he added as Hotch joined them.

The agent shook their hands in turn. “Special Agent Stewart Friedman.” 

“You’ve been doing this a while,” Gideon stated with his usual confidence in such matters.

“Thirty some-odd years,” Stew confirmed.  “I reckon I got a few left in me though.”

“I’m sure you do.  You had this man in your custody for three days.”  Gideon nodded towards the door.  “What’s your take on him?” 

Behind the closed door Dean continued to protest.  “Yeah, I’ll strip but somebody’s gonna owe me dinner.”

Stew snorted.  “Well he’s a handful.  Smart, resourceful.  Real personable.  Good lord, he listened to Simmons go on about his kids long after the rest of us blocked him out.  Winchester even offered up some bizarre ways to entertain bored young’uns, but I’m pretty sure he don’t have any of his own.”

Gideon pursed his lips in thought but didn’t say anything.

“You think he’s innocent?” Hotch asked.

“Hey, be sure and warm that stuff up.  Aw crap.”

“Well, not innocent by any means,” Stew said with a laugh.  “He’s got a whole lotta mischief in him.  But he ain’t no cold blooded killer either.  But that’s just my considered opinion, of course, I ain’t a profiler.”

Hotch and Gideon exchanged glances.

“Easy there.  Do I at least get a reach around?  Sonofabitch!”

******

Victor jumped when the phone rang.  Not that he was asleep.  Never that.  Not if he could help it.  “What?” he growled into the receiver, not even bothering with caller ID.

“Vic?  You okay?”

“Hey, partner,” Victor snarled derisively.  “Call to twist the knife?  Finish what you started?”

“I just called… They got him, Vic.  That’s all.”

He worked hard to swallow the lump in his throat that threatened to strangle him.  “Where?” he asked in a breathy whisper.

“Quantico.”

Victor hung up numbly and watched in horrified familiarity as the ashtray on his nightstand slid around before bouncing off the wall and crashing into the floor, littering the filthy room with butts and ash.  Ducking a flying fork he went into the bathroom for a much needed shower as the shadow in the corner laughed and laughed.

***

Most of the team gathered in the viewing room watching from behind the one-way mirror as Garcia finished setting up the camera. 

“Go ahead and turn it on,” Hotch told her through the speaker.  “Then get out.  They’re bringing him now.”

Garcia clicked in a tape, adjusted the angle for the hundredth time, turned the camera on and then made a speedy exit.  “Call me when the tape is almost up and I’ll show you how to change it,” she said, popping her head into the room.  “The green button starts the recording and the red one stops it but there’s also a pause button …”

“We’re all college graduates here, I think we can manage, Baby Girl,” Morgan cooed back at her.

“Oh, if you weren’t so gorgeous…” Garcia threatened lightly, “… I’d… I’d… I don’t know what I’d do, but I’d do something.  I’ll be in the office of Supreme Genius if you need me.”  She turned to go but had to step back into the room as the prisoner shuffled by, arms and legs still in chains, a guard on each side.  She sucked in a deep breath when he sought out her eyes and smiled at her.  “Wow,” she muttered under her breath.

“I thought you had work to do,” Morgan said, not quite so playfully this time.

“Work.  Right,” Garcia mumbled before heading full steam out of the room without looking back.

“Where’s Gideon?” Morgan asked.  He turned to watch the guards lock the prisoner into the chair, one hand cuffed to each armrest, likewise with his feet to the chair legs.  The chair itself was bolted to the floor.

“He thought it would be useful to interview the agents who were on transport duty,” Hotch explained.  “He wants us to go ahead and get started.”

“How’s my hair?” Dean hammed for the camera, turning his head one way and then the other.  “Which way looks better?  Left?  Right?  Left?”

“Our guest doesn’t seem too concerned,” Reid commented. 

“No, he doesn’t.  But give me a minute alone with him,” Morgan said with a smirk as he went out the door and quickly appeared in the next room. 

***

Dean did a double take when Morgan charged into the room.  “Crap.  For a second there I thought you were someone else.”

Morgan pulled out the chair next to the video set up and straddled it backwards.  “Who?  Agent Henricksen?”

“Yeah,” Dean answered cautiously.  “I guess that’s who I was expecting.  He’s got a thing for me, you know.”

“Well I’m not him,” Morgan sneered, cranking the intimidation factor up.  “But before this is over you’ll wish I was.”

“How is he?” Dean asked quietly, looking down.

“Do you care?”

“I think he might be in trouble,” Dean started before shaking his head.  “I haven’t seen him in awhile.  That’s all.”

“It looks to me like you’re the one in trouble.”

Dean rolled his eyes.  “I won’t talk to you,” he announced.  “Life’s too short and I already don’t like your attitude.”

“You don’t have a choice, my friend.  You and I are going to spend some quality time together.”

“We’re not friends,” Dean corrected, not unpleasantly.  “You can grill me all day but you can’t make me talk to you.  I’m taking the fifth.”

***

As near as Bobby could tell the site was perfect.  He’d already blocked off each end of the rarely used caliche dirt roads with some borrowed signage and was busy unloading the iron pipes when his cell rang.  “Sam?”  There was a triumphant laugh on the other end and Bobby felt his knees go weak with relief.

“Number six,” Sam told him, “Resting between the bottom ribs and the pelvis.”

“Gut shot.  With his own gun by his own wife no less,” Bobby said.  “Hell of a way for a hunter to go out.”

“I don’t think it was her idea, Bobby.  I found an eyewitness account.  He said her eyes appeared ‘black as coal’ right before she shot him.”

“I’ll be damned.  Well is it intact?”

“Remarkably so,” Sam confirmed joyfully.  “I can still read the number.  Do you really think it’ll still work?”

“I don’t see why not,” Bobby assured.  “Robert Willingham was mortal.  The bullet itself isn’t what killed him; it was the blood loss from the hole it left in him.  Let’s just consider his old bones to be nature’s safety deposit box.”

“I’m just glad nobody dug it out of him.  How’s it going on your end?”

Bobby patted the side of his newly acquired ditch witch.  “I’m just about ready to dig.”

“Great.  I’ll see you in a couple of days.”

******

Gideon came into the viewing area and watched quietly while Morgan continued the one-sided interrogation.  Dean appeared nonchalant; managing to slump slightly in the chair in spite of the chains as Morgan slowly circled him using every technique in the book.

“He clammed up before Morgan even got started,” Hotchner reported.  “It doesn’t look like he’s going to talk to us.”

“This boy is frightened.  No, actually he’s terrified,” Gideon stated after only a minute.

“Why do you say that?” Reid asked eagerly, moving in for a better look.  “He just looks bored to me.”

“Watch how he worries the seam at the knee of his jumpsuit, the only place he can reach.  He hides it well but there’s a lot of tension in his shoulders and neck.  Look how extended the jugular is.”

Hotchner also moved nearer to the glass to study Dean a little closer.  “He got caught.  Any sane individual would be a little scared.”

“Morgan scares me,” Reid admitted.

“No,” Gideon shook his head.  “He tuned Morgan out a long time ago.  Whatever he’s afraid of, it’s in his own head.  We’re going about this the wrong way.”

“What do you suggest?”

“I think we should try a parental approach.”

Reid frowned.  “Over ninety percent of all captured serial killers eventually express a deep seated hatred for one or both parents.  And this one doesn’t seem to be all that fond of authority figures either.”

“Authority figures, no,” Gideon said.  “But I listened to the tape when Henricksen called him in the bank.  Dean showed a huge amount of admiration and respect for his father.  He called him a hero.”

“He did seem to respond to Agent Friedman, definitely a father-figure there,” Hotchner agreed reluctantly. 

“I’m the one he’ll talk to,” Gideon replied.  “If he talks at all.”

“Morgan, step out,” Hotchner said into the speaker. 

Morgan dropped his head for a moment then exited the room.  Almost a minute later Dean looked around and noticed he was gone.

***

Victor couldn’t risk flying because he needed his gun.  No longer able to drive he moved through the bus terminal on autopilot.  Faces all around him distorted and morphed into unearthly things.  He held onto his sanity by a thread.  Even hastily packing a bag had been a waking nightmare just like everything else in his life since that night.  He didn’t know what Dean Winchester had done to him, but he did know he was going to pay.

***

“Hungry?” Gideon asked as he came into the room balancing a tray which he set on the table.

Dean quickly eyed Gideon before turning his attention to the food.  “Three hots and a cot, that’s what I’m here for.”

“Sorry, it’s not hot,” Gideon apologized, producing a key and reaching for Dean’s left hand.  “I’m Jason.”

Dean seemed surprised but pleased and didn’t move as Gideon unlocked the cuff.  He looked astonished when he unlocked his right hand as well.  “Thanks.”  Dean slowly flexed his wrists but didn’t begin to rub them until Gideon moved away.

“Eat,” Gideon urged, sitting down just outside the camera’s view.

Without further ado Dean ripped open the potato chips and dumped them on the tray, stuffing a few into his mouth to chew while he unwrapped the sandwich.  He didn’t even look to see what kind it was before taking a huge bite.  “Mmm,” he hummed in appreciation, nodding his head as he ate. 

“Didn’t they feed you?” Gideon asked in real concern.

“Sure.  But I can always eat,” Dean assured him through a mouth full of ham and cheese which he finally swallowed.  “Jason?  Right?”

“That’s right.”

“I saw you earlier.  I figured you were the shrink.  I can save you the trouble -- I’m not crazy.”

“I didn’t say you were crazy.”

“But you are the shrink.”

“Something like that.  Aren’t you going to drink your milk?  Don’t you like chocolate?”

“I love chocolate milk,” Dean said.  He reached for the carton but picked up the other half of the sandwich instead.  “I’ll save it for after.”

Gideon reached over and moved the pile of as yet unused napkins.  “There’s a cookie for desert.”

“Sweet.”  Dean opened the milk and chugged it.

“Can we get some more chocolate milk in here?” Gideon turned to the mirror to ask with a wide smile.

“That would be cool,” Dean agreed as he wolfed down the big cookie.

“Do you need to go to the bathroom or anything before we get started?” Gideon asked when the cookie was gone.

“No, I’m good.  I had a potty break right after they violated me,” Dean said, belying his words by squirming a little in his chair.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I just… Damn.  I think I’m allergic to K-Y jelly.  I guess some guys go for that, though, huh?  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But, you know, I’m not gay or anything.”

Gideon laughed.  “Why did you say that?” 

“I don’t know,” Dean rubbed his face then ran a hand through his hair while his hands were still free.  “I guess I’m nervous.”

“Agent Morgan didn’t seem to make you nervous.”

“Yeah, but, you know… cop.  Same shit, different day.”

“You’re saying you’ve been interrogated before.”

“Yeah, lots.  But I never talked to a shrink.  Except once in junior high my councilor tried to make me go to a ‘child specialist’…” Dean made quotes in the air with his fingers.  “… but we just moved instead.  Oh, and my brother went to a shrink once but it was just because we needed to… never mind.  I’m babbling.”

“So why did you tell me specifically that you aren’t gay?” Gideon pushed gently with a smile and a shrug.

Dean shrugged back at him.  “Don’t shrinks always want to know if you’re gay?  Because I’m not.  I like girls.  I really, really like girls.”

“What do you like about girls?”

“What do you mean?”

“Come on, it’s not a trick question.  What do like about them?”

“I never really thought about it, it’s just sort of instinct.  Everything I guess,” Dean said, starting to grin a little.  “They’re fun.” 

“Okay,” Gideon encouraged, smiling along with him.  “What else?”

Dean blew out a breath and took a moment to think about it.  “I guess I like the way they’re all soft and round in all the right places.”

“That’s a good one.  Go on.”

“Okay, I like the way they move, you know, the way their hips do that side to side sway thing.  Oh!  And the way they talk.  I like that.  Am I doing this right?”

“You’re doing great.”

“I like the way they smell, especially the way they smell.  I even… I even remember my Mom smelled like a girl.”  Dean frowned suddenly and looked away.

Gideon nodded and gave him a minute.  “Smell is a very strong memory stimulus,” he finally told him.

Dean studied the tip of his jailhouse slip-on sneaker.  “Is it?”

“Yes, it is.  You’re doing so well, Dean, stick with me here,” Gideon dipped his head to try to meet Dean’s eyes.  “You were very young when your mother died.  Four?  Five?”

“Four.  I don’t really want to talk about that,” Dean decided. 

“I understand this upsets you, but it’s okay to talk about it.  You don’t have to keep it bottled up inside.”

“It was along time ago.” Dean continued to resist, becoming agitated but fighting hard not to show it.  “It’s over.”

“It’s okay to miss your mom, even now.  I want you to tell me about her.”

“Let’s just leave her out of this.”

“I think it’s important.”

“I barely remember her,” Dean said, his walls going up fast and hard as he made eye contact and held it.  His whole demeanor changed to wary and rigid.  Cold.  The conversation was obviously over.

Gideon kept his own features neutral, understanding.  “Is that why you hurt those women, Dean?” he asked softly, carefully monitoring the response.  “Did that somehow ease the way you miss your mom?”

Dean paled and his pupils contracted.  He looked horrified but didn’t deny anything.  “Where’s that milk?” he managed in a strained voice. 

“It’s coming,” Gideon assured, glancing at the mirror as he chose another less volatile topic.  “So.  Three hots and a cot.  Is that why you turned yourself in?”

With a bitter laugh, Dean leaned back and clasped his hands behind his neck and stared up at the ceiling.  “I didn’t turn myself in.  They caught me fair and square.”

“Two part-time deputies and a sixty-nine year old sheriff caught you in the open woods?”

“They had a dog.”

“An old basset hound from what I’ve heard.”

“Yeah, but he was vicious,” Dean joked, the ice in his voice seeming to melt a little.  “He almost licked me to death after the wheels fell off.”

“That’s right,” Gideon said with a fond smile.  “The wheels fell off two vehicles at the same time.  How did that happen again?”

Dean snickered.  “I don’t know, man.  I guess it’s hard to get good help these days.  Righty tighty, lefty loosy.  Don’t they teach that in tire school?”

“Come on, Dean.  How many times have you escaped custody?  I happen to know you and your brother once eluded an entire SWAT team in a building that was surrounded by police.  And you want me to believe three local yokels put you away even after losing every wheel in the department fleet.”

 “Even I can have an off day.”

“Want to know what I think?”

“Not really.”  The ice was back.

“I think you stalled the cops long enough to let your brother slip away.  Because that was your job, wasn’t it?  Somebody had to look after little Sam after Mommy died.  And Dean my boy, you were it.  You didn’t get to have a childhood because you were busy raising your brother.” 

Dean’s mouth fell open and he stared at Gideon.

“You lost your mother, too.  But your dad was too caught up in his own grief to notice…”

“Don’t talk about my dad,” Dean warned, clenching his fists.

“He raised you to be a hardass and he was the only parent you had left so you did everything you could to please him.  Everything.  But it was never enough, was it?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”  Dean stood abruptly but his legs were still anchored to the chair and he had nowhere to go so he sat back down.  He buried his head in his hands practically vibrating with tension.

“I know everything about you, Dean,” Gideon continued in the same gentle voice.  “I know how you think, I know how you feel.  So I’ll tell you what I think.  I think you’d rather die than lose your baby brother because he’s the only thing you’ve got left.”

Suddenly very still, Dean lifted his head.  “Christo,” he whispered, watching Gideon with frightened eyes. 

Gideon stared back.  Dean held his breath for a moment then let it out with an audible whoosh.  He looked emotionally spent but no longer afraid. 

“Dean?”

“I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”  With that he shut Gideon out completely.

With a sigh and a nod Gideon got to his feet.  He felt Dean’s eyes on him once he reached the door but he didn’t look back for confirmation.  The connection they had established so easily was gone.  He thought he might not get past Dean’s formidable defenses again.

******

“What the hell just happened?” Morgan asked as Gideon stepped back into the viewing area.

“I blew it,” Gideon replied with a sigh.  “I was on the right track but I pushed too hard.”

“He gave you the perfect opening,” Hotch tried to soften the blow.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Gideon said, pointing to the mirror where Dean sat unmoving on the other side.  “That boy didn’t torture those women.”

Morgan harrumphed.

“What do you see?” Gideon pressed him.  “When you look at Dean Winchester what do you see?”

“I see nerves of steel and a hardened heart.  I see a natural born killer.  I say we sweat him ‘til he bleeds.”

“No, no, no,” Gideon shook his head and raised a hand in frustration.  “He already told us that won’t work.  He won’t tell us anything unless he trusts us and I just flushed what little trust he had down the toilet.”

“It’s getting late,” Hotchner decided.  “We’ll try again tomorrow.  Morgan, go home.”

With one last look at Dean, Morgan nodded irritably and left. 

“What do you see?” Reid asked Gideon.  “When you look at him?”

Gideon placed a hand on the inside of the mirror.  “Pain, insecurity, anger.  Fear.  Mostly I see a very emotionally damaged young man.”  He turned to Reid.  “He said Christo?”

“It’s Latin for Christ.  I think he was invoking Christ as a test to check for demonic possession.”

“Why would he do that?”

They all turned to look at Dean who now had his head resting on his arms on the table.

“You did get inside his head,” Hotchner reasoned. 

“That’s what I’m trained to do.”

“And we all know how good you are at it but he has no frame of reference for it,” Hotch agreed.

Reid nodded as he picked up the thread.  “The very fact that he tried to invoke Christ, in Latin no less, to ward off what he perceived as evil means he thinks about things in terms of the preternatural.  Magical thinking if you will.”

“Somebody wanted chocolate milk?” JJ asked as she came through the door with a plastic bag.

“It’s for the perp.  What took you so long?” Hotchner asked.

“The cafeteria was out so I went to the convenience store on the corner.  Do you want me to take it in to him?”

“No,” Gideon objected.  “We just had a conversation about girls that didn’t end very well.  If we send a beautiful woman in now he’ll feel like we’re setting him up again.  Reid can take it in.”

“Me?”

“Sure.  You’re non-authoritative, non-threatening.”

“Non-female,” Reid added wryly.

“There is that,” Hotchner said, patting Reid’s shoulder.

“So what’s my objective?”

“To take him the milk,” Gideon said, “Nothing more.  He’s done with us today.”

“But do I try to talk to him?” Reid asked as he took possession of the bag.  “What do I say?”

“Just be yourself,” Gideon instructed. 

“I was afraid you’d say that,” Reid grumbled and headed for the door.  “Three hots and a cot?” he stopped to ask.  “What exactly does that mean?”

“Three hot meals a day and a place to sleep.  If that’s really all he wants it means he’s not interested in making any deals.  He’ll never tell us what we want to know.  To get to the bottom of this we’ll have to win back his trust.”

“How do we do that?”

“We give him what he wants.  And right now he wants chocolate milk.  Go on in, you’ll do fine.”

***

Reid cleared his throat as he entered the room, smiling nervously when Dean lifted his head to check him out.  “I brought your milk.”  He sidled over to the table to put the bag down then backed away.

“Dude, I’m not gonna hurt you,” Dean said as he looked in the bag.  “Even if I wanted to I’m still chained to the chair.”

“I… I didn’t think you were going to hurt me.”  Reid awkwardly took a seat.  “I’m just not very good at this type of thing.” 

“Delivering milk?”  Dean took one of the small plastic bottles out of the bag and shook it vigorously.  “There’s like six pints in here.  Want some?  It’s the good stuff with the rabbit on it.”

“I don’t usually drink milk.”

“You don’t say,” Dean retorted, twisting off the top and downing nearly half the bottle in a couple of swallows.  “Awww.  Good stuff if you can’t get beer.  And it’s not really milk, its chocolate milk.  That’s totally different.”

“It’s full of fat and sugar.”

“And calcium and vitamin D or whatever.”  Still holding the bottle Dean flexed the muscle of his right arm and tapped his bicep with his left hand.  He gave Reid a knowing look. 

Reid glanced down at his own much smaller arm and changed the subject.  “Christo?  Did you really think Agent Gideon was possessed?”

“Who?” Dean deflected.

“Supervisory Special Agent Gideon.  Oh, uh, Jason Gideon, he gave you his first name to establish rapport.  It’s an interview technique used by… I probably shouldn’t be telling you this.”

“You’re very honest, aren’t you?” Dean asked, smirking at the mirror.

Reid grimaced and sent a sheepish look over his shoulder. “It’s a curse.”

“I’ll look into it for you,” Dean mumbled as he finished his milk.

“What?”

“Private joke.  Believe me; I’m laughing on the inside.”

“Christo?” Reid prompted.

“Persistent little person, aren’t you?”

“Did you really think Gideon was possessed by the devil?”

Dean sniffed and tried not to look embarrassed.  “You caught that, did you?”

“I’m assuming that was the purpose, because of your use of Latin.  I know some people use the name of Christ as an expletive but your use in context seemed more functional than expressive.”

“Huh?”

“Did you really think he was possessed?”

“No, of course not,” Dean scoffed, obviously lying his ass off.  “It was just spooky the way he did that hoo doo thing with my head.  He was totally wrong, by the way, but it was still spooky.  Are you sure you don’t want some milk?” 

Reid reached over and took a bottle to read the label.

“Shake it first.”

“Okay.”  Reid shook the bottle but with little enthusiasm.

“So what are you good at?”

“Pardon me?”

“You said you’re not very good at interrogating prisoners.”

“Oh, I’m not here to interrogate you.  That’s Morgan’s specialty.  I’m just not very good at talking to people one on one.”  Reid opened the bottle and took a tentative sip.

“You’re doing okay.”  Dean eyed him again speculatively.  “What’s your name?”

Reid swallowed and licked his lips.  “That’s not bad.  I’m Dr. Spencer Reid.”

“Doctor, huh?  Like Doogie Howser, M.D.”

“Oh, I’m not a medical doctor.  I have several P.H.D.s.”

“So you were like, what?  Three?  When you started college?”

“Twelve.”

“Oh.” Dean began to fidget.  “My brother’s really smart.  Not, you  know, super genius like you, but smart.”

“Yes he is.  He had a 4.0 GPA at Stanford.  Pre-law.  That’s impressive.  I read your file,” Reid added at Dean’s suddenly unhappy expression.

“Sam’s GPA is in my FBI file?”

“Yes.”

“Huh.  Listen, Little Buddy,” Dean changed the subject.  “Are we gonna have a bathroom break soon?  Or is death by chocolate milk one of those interview techniques?  Oh look, you’re almost out of tape.”

A warning light flashed red on the video camera.  As Reid turned to look at it Hotchner’s voice came through the speaker.  “That’s it for today Mr. Winchester.  The guards are coming to take you to a holding cell for the night.”

“Sure.  Whatever,” Dean sighed, leaning back in his chair.

 

******

 

Victor moved quiet as a mouse up the deserted back road to the car.  He placed a hand on the top and marveled at the cool, smooth metal beneath his fingers.  The car was the key.  It had always been the key.  Every time the trail grew cold it always came back to the car.  He’d chased down every black 1967 Impala that hit his BOLO for well over a year.  News of its destruction had been a blow even if it did eventually lead him to the hospital.  

The injured family fit the Winchesters in every detail except in name but the disappearance of the father from the morgue cinched the deal in Victor’s mind.  But then the boys were in the wind again and with the car rusting in a junk yard somewhere he had no real way to track them.  He wasn’t sure what possessed him to renew the BOLO on the totaled Chevy a few months later but he chalked it up to instincts, not desperation.  And here it sat shining in the moonlight, good as new.  And why not?  Its owner had just as surely been resurrected once if not twice.  

And now said owner was somewhere in the closed campground just waiting to be taken into custody.  Victor checked his weapon and started down the path without waiting for backup.  He’d watched when Dean dropped Sam off at the library and then headed off with an unknown passenger for the boondocks.  It took every last bit of restraint he had but Victor followed at a discreet distance and didn’t give himself away.

A cold wind came out of nowhere and gave him an eerie chill as he approached a small bonfire.  Dean circled the flame, reading aloud from a tattered old book by the beam of a flashlight while a small bald man huddled miserably nearby in the shadows.  On closer inspection Victor realized the man was tied to a tree.  

“Please, oh please,” the man whimpered.

“Hang in there, Walter,” Dean said gently.  “We’re almost there.  If this doesn’t work Sammy will find something that will.”  He went back to reading but the words weren’t English.  They were Latin or Greek or something and Dean’s steady, low voice never stuttered or stammered over them.  The effect was hypnotic.

The wind picked up even more but the flames seemed oddly unaffected even as the tree branches began whipping around.  In the flickering light Victor could make out a rough circle scratched in the bare earth around Dean and the fire.  Sounding intense but never rushed Dean finished his strange monologue and closed the book.  He set it down with the flashlight and picked up a book of matches from a makeshift altar fashioned from a cinder block.  

“This is it,” Dean said as he lit a match.

“Hold it right there.” Victor announced himself and stepped out of the brush.

“Not now,” Dean muttered under his breath.  “We’re a little busy at the moment.  Come back later,” he said a little louder.  “Much later.”

“I said stop!” Victor pointed his gun at Dean and cocked it.

“Henricksen?  Get the hell out of here.”

“Not a chance, Winchester.  Stop what you’re doing”

“I have to finish this.  Ow!” he swore as the match burned his finger.  He shook it out and hastily struck another. “We’re too far in to stop without some pretty dire consequences.  You’re in danger, you need to leave.”

“Drop the match.”

“Believe it or not, I was going to,” Dean said as the lit match fell into a pile of something piled on the cinder block that could have been dried herbs.  There was a small flare-up followed by a few sparks.

“Oh God!” the man shouted before he began to keen and thrash around.

“Henricksen, you need to listen to me,” Dean said in a much less calm voice.  “Some bad shit is about to come out of our little friend over there.”

“Put your hands up or I will shoot you.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Dean argued.  “This is one twisted mother.”

Victor fired a warning shot and was gratified to see Dean duck even if he didn’t hit the ground.

“At least get inside the circle with me because when this thing cuts loose…”

Walter began to scream in earnest as an impossible amount of pitch black smoke erupted from his mouth.

Something he couldn’t see knocked Victor’s feet out from under him and pinned him to the ground.  He could hear Winchester shouting his name in the background but there were horrific faces all around him.  And terrible, terrible sounds inside his head…

Victor woke screaming on the bus halfway to Quantico.

 

******

 

When Garcia got to her office the next morning she found a sticky note from Reid on the door informing her that the camera needed a new tape and he hadn’t been able to find any.  She put away her purse and grabbed a couple tapes from the cabinet where she had stashed them when she’d checked out the equipment.  She greeted a few early birds she passed on the way to the interrogation suites but the halls were still mostly empty.  Humming a little tune to herself she entered the designated room intent on her task; she clicked out the old tape and popped in a new one.

“Hi.”

Startled, Garcia jumped and spun around clutching the used tape to her chest.  The man who allegedly loved to skin women like they were dead deer grinned back at her from less than three feet away. 

“God!”

“Dean,” the subject corrected, laughing to himself.  “Sorry.  That joke never gets old.”

“I… I… I…”

“Are you supposed to be in here alone with me like this?” Dean asked in concern, “Because that sounds like a bad policy even if I am trussed up like a Christmas goose.”

“T… tape… ch…. ch,” Garcia stammered. 

“Come on, spit it out,” Dean encouraged with a flirty little smile.

“Icametochangethetape.”

Dean squinted and shook his head.  “One more time?”

Garcia took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “I came to change the tape.  I didn’t know you were in here.”

“I saw you yesterday.  You had on a bright yellow dress with sunflowers all over it.”

“Too much?” Garcia asked self-consciously.

“I liked it.  Everything else around here is so freakin’ dismal.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“I’ve got a pretty good idea,” Dean sighed, glancing around the grey room.  “I’ve got a theory that the real reason prison jumpsuits are orange is so the prisoners don’t put their own eyes out from the monotony.”

Garcia finally relaxed enough to laugh.

***

“What’s she doing in there?” Morgan asked urgently upon entering the observation area. Gideon intercepted his hand as he reached for the intercom. 

“She’s fine.”

“I left her a note,” Reid said guiltily.  He stood against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest, clearly not happy with the situation either.  “I didn’t realize Gideon had already sent for Dean.”

“Calm down,” Gideon instructed Morgan, never taking his eyes off the interaction in the other room.  “If I thought there was any danger I would have pulled her out immediately.  This is proving to be an invaluable observation.  Unfortunately she didn’t turn the camera on.”

“What are you seeing?  Besides a monster trying to charm a naïve young woman?”

“Trying?” Reid asked.  “He had her at hello.  Jerry McGuire?  It was a movie,” Reid explained at Gideon’s confused if fleeting glance.  “Technically Dean said ‘hi’, though, but it was enough.”

Morgan glared at him before turning to Gideon.  “What do you see?”

“Look at him,” Gideon encouraged.  “He’s rational, he’s funny, and he’s empathetic.  He was troubled that we would allow an obviously untrained woman in the room with him.”

“Yeah,” Morgan complained, “So am I.”

Gideon ignored the cynicism.  “Young Mr. Winchester seems almost hungry for human contact.  What he does not show are signs of the paranoid psychosis evident in the St. Louis murders.  If anything I’d say he’s depressed.”

“Depressed.”

“Oh yes,” Gideon said with a slight nod of his head.  “I’m sure of it.”

***

“So,” Dean wheedled.  “What’s your name?”

“Garcia,” she answered without thinking.

“Your parents didn’t like you or something?”

“That’s my last name,” Garcia said with an amused huff.

“What’s your first name?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“So I know what to call you.”

“Call me Gar-ci-a.”

Dean balked.  “I can’t call you that.”

“Why not?  Everybody else does.  Well almost everybody.”

“I don’t know.  It seems kinda impersonal.  Like boot camp.”

“How can it be impersonal if it’s my name?”

“Fine.  I’ll make up a name.” Dean pursed his lips and pretended to think really hard for a minute.  “I’ll call you Sunny.”

“Sunny?” Garcia laughed again as she leaned against the edge of the table and played with the large charm on a chain around her neck.  “I guess I can live with that.”

Dean narrowed his eyes as he looked at her.  “Can I see that?”

“My necklace?”

“Yeah.”

Garcia carefully moved forward and held the charm in front of his face.

“Death,” he said.

“What?”

“The black standard with a white flower,” Dean explained. “It’s a common part of the Death card.  It signifies the end of a cycle or a coming change.  There’s usually a skeleton on a horse, too.”

“You know Tarot.”

“Some,” Dean said.  “I don’t really believe in divination.  Not like that.”

“I hate to break this up,” Morgan said from the door, giving Garcia a disapproving stare.  “But Gideon would like you to turn the camera on.”

“It’s show time,” Dean declared with a dazzling smile.

“You’re fun,” Garcia told him.  She turned on the camera and moved past Morgan in the doorway.  “My name’s Penelope, by the way,” she said before leaving.

“It was nice to meet you, Penelope,” Dean called after her.  “And I’m still not talking to you, Jackass,” he told Morgan when she was gone.

Gideon appeared in the doorway behind Morgan and dismissed him with a look.  “Will you talk to me?” he asked.  Dean shrugged with apparent indifference so Gideon came in and took a seat.  “Did you sleep well?”

“I guess.”

They sat watching each other, waiting for the other to say something.  Dean, master of the childish game, grinned maddeningly from time to time but never cracked.

“You look good,” Gideon finally gave in twenty-eight minutes later, waving a metaphorical white flag. 

“I always do.”

“Mmm hmm.” Gideon nodded.  “Garcia certainly thought so.”

“She’s nice.”  Once again Dean lapsed happily into silence.

“How was breakfast?” Gideon pressed on in his serenely stubborn way.

“Swell.  I also had a shit, shower, and shave.  The shit was kind of painful and the shower was only lukewarm, but the shave was highly supervised.”

Gideon harrumphed softly to himself.  “I’m sorry,” he apologized.  “Sincerely.  I was out of line yesterday.  I won’t let it happen again.”

Dean growled low in his throat and leaned his head back for a dramatic roll of his eyes.  “Look,” he finally said, sitting back up, “Jason or Gideon or whatever the hell you’re calling yourself today... I’d rather chew off my own arm than talk about my feelings, okay?  And that’s on a good day.  Today?  Is not looking to be a good day.”

“I can see that.  We don’t have to talk about your feelings.”  Gideon paused as Dean looked him over suspiciously.  “We can talk about whatever you want, as long as we’re communicating.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.  Truce?”

“Okay,” Dean agreed reluctantly.  He sank down in the chair and rubbed his cheek against his shoulder.  “Man, I would kill for a cup of coffee.  You know I don’t mean that literally, right?”

“I think coffee can be arraigned without any blood shed,” Gideon said.  “Cream and sugar?”

“Black.”

Gideon nodded and motioned at the mirror.

“Make it so, number one,” Dean said in his best Jon Luc Piccard impression. 

“Sorry?”

“Star Trek.  The second one, not the first one.  Although I will admit I liked the women’s uniforms better in the first one.  Lt. Uhura was hot.”

“I’m not really up on science fiction.”

“I’m not surprised.  Do you even own a TV?”

Reid tapped on the door with a cup of coffee in his hand and a thick manila folder tucked under his arm.

“I was bringing you this, it came in the morning mail,” Reid said to Gideon as he handed him the folder.  “It’s Special Agent Henricksen’s original file.  Hi, Dean. "

“Hey, Doogie,” Dean greeted warmly.  “Sup?”

“Um, nothing?” Reid didn’t seem to know what to do with the coffee since Dean’s hands were still chained.

“Thanks,” Gideon acknowledged absently as he put on his glasses and slipped the paper clip off the folder to rifle through the contents.  “You can go.”

Dean couldn’t help but notice how Reid’s face fell but Gideon was looking down.

“See you later,” Reid told Dean as he set the cup on the table.

“Yeah, we’ll do lunch,” Dean kidded.  When Reid was gone Dean turned angrily to Gideon.  “Why’d you dis Reid like that?”

“Why did I dismiss him?”

“No, why did you disrespect him.”

“I didn’t disrespect him,” Gideon said, glancing over the tops of his glasses.  “Dr. Reid is an integral part of the team and he knows it.”

“You treat him like he’s your coffee boy.”

“It probably appears that way from your perspective,” Gideon granted, “but I assure you I highly respect, and insist that everyone else respects, Dr. Reid.”

“You didn’t see his face, man.  His feelings were hurt.”

“You’re probably right.  As you already know, I can be insensitive when I’m working.  I’ll make it up to him,” Gideon promised.  He followed Dean’s gaze to the paper clip on the table.  Dean quickly looked away.

“That’s why they do body cavity searches,” Gideon warned gently.

“I’m not gonna shove a paper clip up my butt,” Dean denied with an offended glare.

“Not even if it means your freedom?”

“I’ll get where I’m going soon enough,” Dean answered with a weary sigh.

Gideon closed the folder and picked up the paper clip, turning it between his forefinger and thumb.  “I’ll bet you’re pretty good with one of these.”

Dean didn’t confirm or deny.

“Tell you what,” Gideon offered, still holding the clip, “If you can get out of the cuffs I’ll let you stay out.”

“Legs, too?”  Dean dared.

“Sure.”

“Deal.”  Dean turned his right hand palm up and waited for Gideon to hand over the paper clip. 

“Gideon, can I have a word with you,” the usual disembodied voice requested over the intercom.

“I’ve really missed that guy,” Dean deadpanned.  “I guess the deal’s off.”

“Nope.  A deal’s a deal.  But it’s going to have to wait until I get back.”  Gideon laid the paper clip in front of Dean near the edge of the table before leaving. 

Dean sniffed the fresh brew and decided he would rather have it while it was still hot.  It wasn’t even that much of a stretch and he soon had it under his forehead, down to his nose, and in his mouth.  He knew they were watching so he made it quick, bending to his right hand and using his lips and fingers to straighten the thin metal loop.  It was tricky to unlock the first cuff but he slid his hand tight against the ring to hold it in place and then twisted his wrist to let his nimble fingers work their magic. 

******

“That’s impressive,” Reid said as he checked his watch.  “He picked all four locks in less than two minutes.”

“Not bad,” Morgan granted. “Apparently he’s had a lot of experience with cuffs.  And not in the good way.”

Garcia sighed and leaned her forehead against the glass.  “That’s just sad.”

“Is that right,” Morgan paused for affect. “Sunny?”

“Hey, don’t be like that,” Garcia warned, swatting at Morgan’s arm.  “If I didn’t know better I’d think you were jealous.”

“I just can’t believe you let this guy smooth talk you.  It scares me for you.”

“Morgan!  It’s not like I was getting in a car with him or anything.  I was just talking to him.  In a heavily guarded building while he was trussed like a bird… or something.  Besides I knew you guys wouldn’t let anything happen to me.”

“Yeah, okay.  You may have a point.  Still, you seemed to trust him.”

“Yeah, I guess I do.  I’d go back in there, even without the chains.”

“I would, too,” Reid agreed. 

“What?  You’re both nuts.  Why would you do that?”

“Duh,” Garcia said.

“Yeah, you I get.  But Reid, come on.  Don’t tell me you’re attracted to him, too.”

“Not like that, obviously,” Reid countered mildly.  “But we did seem to make some kind of connection.  He reminds me of this one particular jock in high school who wouldn’t let the bullies pick on me when he was around.  And he can be pleasant, affable even.  He calls me Doogie,” he added with a grin.  “And Dude.”

“He calls everybody ‘Dude’,” Morgan scoffed.

Garcia looked away to hide an evil grin.  “Gideon thinks he’s innocent.”

“No, Gideon never said innocent,” Morgan objected instantly and with real heat.  “He said he didn’t believe Winchester tortured those women.  And I’m not convinced of that, but even if he didn’t he’s still plenty guilty.  We just don’t know of what.”

“Credit card fraud?” Garcia asked.  “Please.  That hardly makes him public enemy number one.”

“But it does make him a thief and a liar and he had you eating out of his hand,” Morgan rebuked.  “But let’s push all that aside.  Something shady went down in St. Louis and this guy was right in the middle of it.  And short of a clone machine in his pocket I’ve yet to hear a reasonable explanation for the dead double.”

“Okay, let me think.”  Garcia rubbed the charm on her necklace like a talisman.  “I’ve got it.  Papa Winchester was a rolling stone.”

“Come again?”

“Dean had a half-brother he didn’t know about until he went on a killing spree and Dean tracked him down and put an end to it.  It’s all very soap opera.”

“That… actually, kinda makes sense.”

“I know.  I’m a genius.”

“What about the girl in the bank?” Reid asked, intrigued.

“One miracle at a time,” Garcia said, thinking it over again.  “A look-a-like customer?  A freaky coincidence?  What else could it be?”

“Let’s ask him,” Gideon said appearing briefly in the doorway.

“What’s going on?” Morgan asked Hotchner who came into the room and took a seat with a clear view of the subject.

“Mr. Winchester had a very interesting visitor,” Hotch explained.  “I wanted Gideon to have a word with him.”

“Anyone we know?”

“Yes.  Victor Henricksen.”

***

Even with his welder’s helmet in place Bobby recognized the sound of the Impala.  He finished the seam he was working on then turned off the unit and sat up.  As he raised his face shield Sam was already surveying his work. 

“Great job, Bobby,” Sam approved.

“You must have driven all night.”

“Yeah,” Sam said offhandedly, setting off to walk the perimeter of the pentagram.  “I couldn’t think of anything but getting here.”

Bobby got to his feet and popped his neck first and then his back as he shed gloves and helmet.  “Dean’s in Quantico.”

“I figured the FBI would have him.  That prick Henricksen I’m sure.”

“Ellen headed down there to keep an eye on the local news but so far there hasn’t been anything of interest.”

“You think that’s necessary?”

“No, but it can’t hurt and she really wanted to help,” Bobby said as he pulled a bottle of water out of the cooler in the back of the truck.  “And I’ve seen the woman weld, we’re better off with her in Virginia.”

Sam laughed, finishing his circuit and ending up back at the car.  “Yeah, I’ll be sure and tell her you said that.”

“Don’t threaten me, boy,” Bobby teased gruffly between gulps of water.  He fished out a set of keys and tossed them to Sam who caught them easily with one hand.  “You head on to the house and get some sleep.  It’ll take me the rest of the morning to finish the seams.”

“I need to be doing something.”

“Yeah, sleeping.  You can help me cover the trenches this afternoon.  Right now you’re dead on your feet.”

“I know,” Sam had to agree.  “You don’t think the demon will be able to see the trap.”

“Nah.  We’ll wet it down real good when we’re done.  If that don’t work we’ll steal a grader and scrape the whole road.”

“That sounds like a plan.”

“Come back around three,” Bobby said as he suited back up.  “And bring me a sandwich.”

Sam opened the door but didn’t get in.  “You don’t know how much I appreciate this.”

“Bologna.  White bread, none of that whole wheat crap.  And a beer.”

“Right.”  Sam smiled tiredly to himself and slid behind the wheel.

******

When Gideon entered the room Dean was in the corner looking through Henricksen’s notes, his empty coffee cup on the table.  “Did you leave this here for me to read or did you not think I could actually get out?”

“Let’s just say you’re a lot faster than I anticipated.  Since you have read it I’m curious what you think.”

“It’s good.  Really.  If you like fairy tales,” Dean said, tossing the handful of paper back to the table.  “According to this I’ve been a busy boy.  I’m surprised he didn’t work in a grassy knoll.”

“We concede it’s a bit of a stretch in places.”

Dead huffed.  “A bit.”

“Tell me about your relationship with Agent Henricksen,” Gideon requested as he settled in a chair, apparently unconcerned as Dean moved around the room unimpeded.

“We don’t have a relationship.  He chases me, I lose him.  But he is relentless, I’ll give him that.  It’s like I slept with his sister or something.”

“Did you, Dean?”

 “Not that I know of.” Dean smirked and winked at the mirror. 

Gideon nodded sagely.  “He acted like it was personal,” he suggested.

“Yeah, exactly.  I never could figure that out.”

“Agent Henricksen suffered a major depressive episode while pursuing you.  I spoke with him about a month ago and it was clear then that he wasn’t well.  He was relieved of duty.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“State Police brought him in this morning after he caused some sort of disturbance on a bus last night,” Gideon explained, telling the truth.  “He called in a favor at the Bureau so they brought him here instead of taking him to the nearest emergency room.”

“He really lost it, huh?”

“He wants to see you.”

Chewing on his lip as he paced, Dean seemed to think it over.  “Yeah, okay.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.  I think he’s close to a psychotic break.  It wouldn’t be safe for either of you.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“I have no doubt about that, Dean,” Gideon assured.  “You’re not the one I’m worried about.”

“Why does he want to see me?”

“He says you put a hex on him.”

Dean faltered then glanced at the camera uneasily.  “Do you believe in stuff like that?”

“Hexes?  No.  No, I don’t.”

“So you don’t believe in anything supernatural?  Ghosts, demons, angry spirits?”

“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary.  Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.  Joseph Conrad.”

“Bullshit.  Dean Winchester.”

“So you did put a hex on him,” Gideon ventured, amused.

“No,” Dean spat out in anger but it seemed to melt away as fast as it had come on.  “I didn’t do anything to him.  It…” Dean paused and blew out a breath.  “What happened to him wasn’t my fault,” he finally finished, looking guilty none-the-less.

Gideon raised an eyebrow.  “So do you believe in a supernatural source of evil, Dean?”

“I’ve seen things,” Dean muttered softly. 

“Like seeing yourself shot in the chest in St. Louis.”

“Yeah, like that.”

“What happened in St. Louis, Dean?”

“Why do you do that?” Dean asked as he moved away restlessly.  “Why do you use my name all the time?  I’m right here.  I know who you’re talking to.  Is that another ‘technique’?”

“You got me,” Gideon acknowledged.  “It’s a way of personalizing our contact.  I’ll try not to do it again.”

Dean paced like a trapped animal, frustration and hopelessness radiating from his very being.  Gideon observed him quietly for several minutes.

 “Do you want to talk about St. Louis?”

“You won’t believe me,” Dean challenged, tilting his chin defiantly. 

“Not if it includes a supernatural explanation, probably not.”

“Well there we are then.  You explain it.  Henricksen couldn’t.” Dean swept the papers on the table to the floor before stalking back to his corner.

“There’s a half-brother theory,” Gideon started, pausing at Dean’s subtle flinch at the word brother.  “You do seem rather protective of your family.”

Dean folded his arms over his chest as he leaned against the wall, his face carefully neutral.  Gideon studied him for another moment before beginning to gather the scattered paperwork.  Reid came in to help.

“I’m going to spend some time with Henricksen and his notes,” Gideon said to Dean.  “Would you rather wait here or go to your cell.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Dean sighed dolefully.

“I’ll stay here with you,” Reid offered.  “If Gideon doesn’t mind.”

Gideon watched as Dean seemed to cheer up at the suggestion.  “I think that’s a good idea,” he agreed, noticing how Reid’s demeanor brightened as well.  “I’ll be back later.”

“Don’t rush on my account,” Dean called after him grumpily.  “Who’s Joseph Conrad?” he asked Reid when he was sure Gideon was gone.

“He was a nineteenth century Polish-born novelist.  Some people consider him to be a significant forerunner to Modernist literature.  His stories tended towards the ironic especially in regards to…”

“Okay, okay,” Dean cut him off.  “Not so much an expert as a skeptic then.”

“I suppose.  But you’re something of an expert on the occult, aren’t you?  I’d love to pick your brain about it.”

“Hey, if Joe says it ain’t so…” Dean trailed off.  He uncrossed his arms and propped one foot against the wall, smirking to himself as Reid reflexively mirrored him on the other side of the room.  “Hey, take a load off.  I’m gonna stand while I’ve got the chance.”

“No, I’m good,” Reid assured.  “Do you want some more coffee?”

“Maybe later.”

“Let’s talk about hexes.”

Dean groaned but he couldn’t help but smile a little.  “You really are a persistent little geek,” he muttered.  “You remind me of my brother.”

***

“They took Henricksen to the ER half an hour ago,” Hotch told Gideon as he entered the observation area.

“I know,” Gideon said absently as he set the jumbled file aside.  “Something’s not right about this whole thing.  Garcia, find out everything you can about Samuel Winchester.”

“Yes sir.” Garcia turned to her laptop and started typing.

Morgan frowned. “What are you thinking?”

“The little brother is Dean’s hot button.  He’s been trained his whole life to take care of Sam.”

“You think Dean’s been following him around cleaning up his messes?” Hotch asked.

“I don’t know.  But I’m certain this young man is not our primary killer.”

***

“So salt represents innocence?  Purity?  And it repels evil?”

“You’re killing me, man.  We’ve already gone over iron, silver, crosses, and holy water.  What’d you do?  Read an encyclopedia on the paranormal last night?”

“Um, actually… Yes.  What about garlic?  What does garlic repel?”

“Girls, mostly.  Come on, Reid.  I’m tired of talking, let’s do something else.”

“Like what?”

“Got any cards?”

“No.  I’ve got a chess set.”

“No.  No way.  Even if I knew how to play I wouldn’t play you.  Hey, that was a compliment,” Dean insisted at Reid’s hurt look.  “You’d kick my ass.  Wanna arm wrestle?” he teased.

“I don’t think so,” Reid laughed nervously.  “We don’t have to talk about the occult anymore.  Why don’t you tell me about your childhood?”

Dean hastily waved off that suggestion.  “I’m tired of talking about me.  Let’s talk about you.  So you graduated high school at twelve, huh?  What’d you do at college?”

“I read.  And studied.”

“That figures.  And now you’re an FBI agent.  You are an agent, aren’t you?  Or are you just some kind of psych expert?”

“No, I’m a real agent.”

“Cool.  Do you carry a gun?”

“Not at the moment, weapons aren’t allowed in interrogation for obvious reasons, but yes.  I carry when we’re out in the field.”

“You a good shot?”

“Not really,” Reid admitted self-consciously.  “But I can usually hit the broad side of a barn when called for.”

“Lot of rogue barns out there?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah.  I can probably help.  Show me your stance.”

“My what?”

“Your stance.  Your stance.  You  know, how you hold your gun when you’re shooting at barns.”

“I told you I don’t have my gun,” Reid protested, standing straighter when Dean came around the table towards him.

“Use your finger.  Didn’t you ever play cowboys and Indians when you were a kid?”

“No.  Did you?”

“I didn’t have to pretend.  My dad had me shooting when I was pretty young.  Show me.”

Reid made a half-hearted attempt, pointing his finger at Dean.

“Whoa, hey, safety first.  Point that thing at the wall.”

“Sorry,” Reid immediately adjusted his aim.

“Dude,” Dean laughed.  “I was kidding, you crack me up.  No, no, no, show me,” he encouraged when Reid put his imaginary weapon down.

“I feel silly.”

“You look silly,” Dean agreed.  “That’s no way to hold a gun.  Hold it like this.”  Dean demonstrated a proper stance, ignoring Morgan who now loomed in the doorway.

“Like this?” Reid mimicked Dean’s stance.

“Yeah.  How’s that feel?”

“It’s good.  I’m not sure I can fire this way, though.”

Dean walked around and took in another angle, ending up behind Reid.  Morgan watched like a hawk, moving further into the room.

“Does your hand move up or down when you fire?”

Reid pretended to shoot.  “Um… Up, I think.  Or down.”

“Does the gun feel too heavy for you?”

“He needs his nine mil,” Morgan said.  “Anything smaller isn’t going to cut it.”

“I know, I wasn’t going to suggest a smaller gun,” Dean agreed as he put a hand on Reid’s arm.  “Pull this elbow in towards your chest and drop this one.”

Reid allowed Dean to position his arms.  “Like this?”

“Yeah, try that.  Practice that way and I think you’ll be able to control the recoil better.”

“That shortens his stance too much,” Morgan argued.

“For you and me, yeah, but Reid needs the extra support.  I’m telling you, I’ve been shooting since I was like six.  I never shot no pansy ass pea shooter, either.  Practice with him, okay?”

“Yeah,” Morgan agreed readily.  “I will.”

******

Sandwiches were brought in for lunch but had long since been devoured.  Dean ate most of them.  In spite of Reid’s assurances Morgan refused to leave him alone with the freely wandering ‘perp’ although he kept his distance and his opinions to himself.  For the most part.  They filled another tape with jokes, stories of Dean’s conquests of the female persuasion, and fascinating tidbits and statistics from Reid.  Gideon kept a low profile while doing further research in the observation area with Hotch.  

After watching the news footage from the bank robbery more times than he could count Gideon closed Garcia’s laptop and rubbed his eyes.  “We’re missing something.”

“Maybe we are,” Hotch agreed pointing to the printout from the stack Garcia had given him before disappearing back to her office.  “Henricksen certainly missed a few key details.  For instance Sam Winchester’s live in girlfriend died a few years ago in a mysterious fire.  Sam managed to escape unscathed.”

“That’s interesting.  Many serial killers strike close to home the first time out.  He could have set the fire to cover the murder.  Or maybe losing the girlfriend was the stressor that set him on a rampage.”

“There’s also a link between Sam and the last victim in St. Louis, the one that supposedly killed Dean.  They knew each other from Stanford.  Her brother, also an acquaintance of Sam’s, was originally charged with the first murder.”  

“So why did Henricksen focus on Dean?” Gideon asked, spreading his hands wide.  “Sam was there with him right down the line.” 

Hotch watched as Dean showed Reid how to fold a paper football while Morgan stood like a silent sentry against the wall.  “In a lot of ways he’s like a big kid,” he noted. 

“He and Reid were both cheated out of normal childhoods,” Gideon observed, “Dean by a militant father and a brother who needed him and Reid by a sick mother and an absent father.  It’s no wonder they’re forging a bond.  Dean’s the big brother Reid may have always wanted.”

“And Reid is the surrogate for the little brother Dean cares about more than anything.”

“Bonnie to Dean’s Clyde.  Except Henricksen got it backwards.”

“He’ll never give him up.”

“I don’t know, Dean’s carrying a lot of guilt.  He knows what Sam is doing is wrong but he can’t stop himself from protecting him.  I think he wants it to be over one way or the other.”

“You think he’s suicidal?”

“No.  He’s disheartened and depressed but he has a strong will to survive.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“He could have killed himself at any time but he let them bring him in.”

“Still, he hasn’t told us anything yet.”

“Not intentionally, but you’re right.  It’s time to push.  Give me your gun.”

Hotch hesitated only briefly before unholstering his weapon and removing the clip.  “You know taking this in there is against regulations.”

“Load it,” Gideon insisted.  “Dean’s too smart, has too much weapons knowledge to fall for an empty gun.  I want to shake him up.”

“This is a very dangerous idea.”

“If he wanted to hurt anyone he doesn’t need a gun to do it.  He’s had ample opportunity already.  This will prove Henricksen’s theory wrong once and for all.”

There was a brief commotion on the other side, Dean cheered and Morgan clapped slow and loud as Reid made his first ever field goal.

“At least let Morgan stay,” Hotchner requested as he slid the clip back in and handed the weapon over.

Gideon nodded his agreement and accepted the gun, tucking it securely into his waistband at the small of his back.

“Reid, I need you for a minute,” Hotch said into the intercom.  “Camera on or off?” he asked Gideon.

“On.  We don’t want to miss anything.”

***

Smiling broadly, Reid got up from the table.  “I’ll see you later.”

“Show me some love,” Dean told him, holding a fist out towards him.

Morgan harrumphed, mildly amused as Reid took a moment to puzzle out what Dean wanted him to do.

“Later, Dude.”

“Later,” Reid responded, reaching out to bump Dean’s fist with his own. 

“Go down to Garcia’s office,” Gideon ordered gently as Reid hesitated in the doorway. “See if she needs any help.”    Reid looked suspicious but waved at Dean and did as he was told. 

Gideon held a hand up to Morgan indicating that he should stay.  Surprised but pleased, Morgan settled back against the wall. 

“How’s Henricksen?” Dean asked, managing to sound casual if not bored.

“Loonier than a bedbug,” Gideon said with a good-humored smirk.

This didn’t bring a smile to Dean’s face.  It seemed to agitate him and he got up to pace.  “He was a good agent.  He had to be or he wouldn’t have been able to track me.”

“Why are you defending him?”

“I’m not.  I’m just saying he can’t help what happened to him.”

“What happened to him that was so horrible?”

Dean shook his head, clamming up. 

“I’m sure he was very good, once.  But off the top of my head I know three things he got wrong in this investigation,” Gideon plunged ahead counting on his fingers.  “One, he made it personal.  Two, you’re not the monster he thinks you are.  And three, he was after the wrong brother.”

Dean froze.  “No,” he whispered.  Panic and fear registered across his face before he got his emotions locked down.  “Sam didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Then he’s got nothing to worry about.  But we need to know what happened in St. Louis and so far you’ve been wasting our time…”

“You’re right, I have,” Dean interrupted.  “So why don’t you just write down all the stuff you think I did and I’ll sign it.  It’s a win/win situation.”

“How so?”

“You get what you want and I don’t have to deal with you anymore.”

“You could go to jail for the rest of your life.  Or worse.”

“Please,” Dean scoffed.  “I’ll be gone long before the state can off me.”

Gideon raised an eyebrow but Dean didn’t elaborate.  “I know you didn’t kill those women, Dean,” he said.   “But you know who did.  I’m not trying to make you confess.  I just want to get to the truth.”

“You won’t believe me.”

“Try me.  What’s the worst that can happen?”

“The worst that can happen?  You can try to trap my brother for something he didn’t do.”

“Where is he?”

“How the hell should I know?  I’ve been a guest at the Quantico Hilton.  Not like I can reach out and touch him, now is it?”

Morgan snapped to attention when Gideon brought the gun out from behind his back. 

“Here,” Gideon said simply as he held it out butt first to Dean.  He watched as Dean’s wide eyes automatically tracked to the clip.  “Take it.”

“Why?” Dean backed away and put his hands up.

“Gideon?  What are you doing?” Morgan asked, shooting a confused look at the mirror.

 “Take the gun, Dean.”

“No.” Dean backed up until he had nowhere else to go, plastering himself against the wall. Gideon followed right along with him and stayed in his face.

“You want me to shoot myself?” Dean darted a glance to the still running camera.

“Take it, Dean.  It’s loaded, Morgan’s not armed.  This is your ticket out.”  Gideon pressed the gun flat against Dean’s chest.  “Put it to my head and order a car.  I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere.”

“You don’t like it here.”

Dean swallowed compulsively.  “I’ve been in worse.”

“Henricksen says you’re an animal.  Prove it.”

“Morgan,” Dean implored sounding more like a frightened kid than a serial killer.

“You’re out of line, Gideon,” Morgan said sternly, coming to stand behind him.  “This is screwed up.”

“Take the gun or I swear on your mother’s grave that I will hunt your baby brother like Henricksen hunted you,” Gideon threatened.

“You son of a bitch,” Dean hissed angrily, bowing his chest and pushing back.

“Take it.”

Dean met Morgan’s eyes over Gideon’s shoulder but he took the weapon, hefting the weight and knowing it was loaded.  There was a pregnant pause and everyone seemed to hold their breath until Dean clicked on the safety and lowered the muzzle towards the floor.

“What am I supposed to do with it?” Dean rasped out.

“Whatever you want, I promise.”  They stared at each other for a long moment.  “Have I broken a promise yet?”

Dean pushed away from the wall, purposefully bumping Gideon to hand the gun to Morgan who gladly relieved him of it.  “I want to go to my cell.”

“No,” Gideon denied softly.  “We’re going to sit down and we’re going to talk.  You’re going to tell me everything I want to know.”

“You’ll leave my brother alone.”  It wasn’t a question.

“If he’s innocent then he has nothing to worry about.”

Dean laughed a bitter, broken laugh as he dropped into a chair.  “Turn the camera off.”

“No.”

Hotch appeared at the door but no one but Morgan seemed to notice.  Morgan handed off the weapon then hovered behind Dean.

“You’ll never catch Sam.  He’s too good.”

“He’s been caught before.  With you in Arkansas.”

“That was… intentional.”

“Really?  Why would you want to go to jail?” Gideon asked as he took a seat.

Dean shrugged, getting back into character.  “Gorgeous Public Defender.  Nice legs.”

“We gonna dance all night, Dean?”

“No.  I want my lawyer.”

“It’s too late for that.  You waved your rights, you waved extradition.  You wanted to be here, now you have to deal with me.”

“Must have been out of my freakin’ mind,” Dean muttered under his breath.

“Why did you want to be here?”  Gideon asked in a gentler tone.  “Tell me that, tell me the truth, and I’ll let you go to your cell.”

“I knew my time was running out.  I was getting… scared, being too careful,” Dean admitted, his voice clipped, hard.  “I was going to get us both killed.  I couldn’t risk that.”  He lolled his head to the side to look at Gideon insolently and waited.

But Gideon wasn’t satisfied.  “More.”

Dean picked up the story right where he left off.  “So we were gonna lay low in Vegas, but that didn’t really work out so well either.  I was spending way too much time with the three wise men.”

Morgan grinned but Gideon needed clarification.  “I’m sorry?”

“Jim, Jack, and Jose.  Oh, and I kept trying to get married.  Waitresses, hookers, drunken tourists.  And I really wish someone would explain that one to me because I’ll be damned if I know why.”  Dean stopped and thought about what he’d said.  “I am damned,” he corrected.

After Dean was quiet for a minute Gideon leaned forward and rested his forearms on the table.  “What were you afraid of, son?”

Dean kept his eyes down.  “Hell,” he answered simply.

“You think you’re going to Hell, the literal Lake of Fire?”

“Hell, Hades, the underworld, the ring of fire, whatever you want to call it.  Trust me on this one, Jason; my toes are getting warm.  And that’s as honest as I can be.” Dean looked up to see if Gideon would hold up his end of the bargain.  “Come on, man, you think I don’t know you’re some kind of walking lie detector?”

“He can go back to his cell,” Gideon instructed.  He waited quietly while Morgan chained Dean up and led him away.

“Dean,” Gideon called to him.

Morgan allowed him to stop.  “Yeah?”

“If you hit the wall you’ll only hurt yourself.  Find a better way to decompress.”

“Fucking mind reader,” Dean swore.  “Get me out of here.”

“Come on,” Morgan urged, catching him under the arm more to slow him down than anything.

“Why’d you let him go?” Hotchner asked as he entered the room.

“Because he was telling the truth.” Gideon retrieved the abused paper clip Dean had left in plain sight on the table.  “At least he believed he was.”

***

Sam wiped the sweat from his brow with a dusty sleeve as he straightened up and stretched his back, using the shovel for support.  “Was that Ellen?” he asked.

“Yeah.  No news is good news I suppose.” Bobby closed the phone and tucked it into his breast pocket.  “What do you think?” he asked, sweeping a hand towards their long day’s work.

“I think we need that road grader.”

Bobby kicked at the slightly darker soil that stood in stark contrast to the pale caliche.

“We could wait a week or two and see.  This’ll dry out, mix in better.”

“I don’t want to wait until the last minute.  He’s only got twenty-eight days.”

“No problem.  I’ll take care of it tomorrow.”

“You think it’s big enough?”

“Yep,” Bobby said as he paced the interior of the pattern.  “Bury the box dead center?  You got room to spare on all sides.  Quit your frettin’.”

“Okay,” Sam nodded sheepishly.  “Can you get Ellen back?  I need her help for the backup plan.”

“Would that be plan B or plan C?”

“I think I’m up to plan X by now.”

“How appropriate,” Bobby teased as he fished out his phone.

***

When Gideon tapped on the cell door the next morning Dean looked up and offered a wan smile.  “Come on in.”  He didn’t try to hide the small notebook he was writing in at the one man table.  His breakfast sat uneaten on the tray.

“Where’d you get the pencil?” Gideon asked curiously as the guard let him in.

“I asked Morgan for it.  We’re not friends or anything but I know he’s just doing his job,” Dean explained at Gideon’s doubtful expression.  “He said it was against the rules, but after the gun incident…” Dean shrugged and didn’t finish the thought.

Gideon had the grace to look rueful.  “Can I sit with you for minute?” Dean answered with another shrug so he took a seat on the edge of the small bed. “Was there something wrong with your food?”

“Not hungry.”

“I thought about your question.  About why you kept trying to get married in Las Vegas.”

“Huh.  What’d you come up with?”

“Sometimes when single young men feel their mortality they intuitively try to make a connection with someone.  It’s well documented in soldiers going off to war, or people who’ve survived a devastating accident, even death row inmates to some degree.  Consider it a last minute rush to procreate.  Humans tend to have a strong desire to leave something of themselves behind.  It’s part of who we are.”

“Procreate?” Dean laughed.  “I just thought I wanted to get laid.”

“That, too.  I see you didn’t try to punch any holes in the walls.”

Dean huffed at that and held up the pencil.  “I found another way to, uh, what?  Decompress?  Here.”  He tossed the notebook to Gideon.

“What is it?”

“My confession.  There’s names and dates and places, everything I could remember.”

“Don’t throw your life away, Dean.  You have to think about yourself, too.”

“I got nothing left.”

“If Sam is guilty…”

“He’s not,” Dean interjected forcefully before calming into a more persuasive tone.  “Listen to me, Jason, Sam hasn’t done anything wrong.  He got out of the family business a long time ago.  He was in college.  He was in love, Jess, her name was Jess.  He was happy.  I went and got him and dragged him kicking and screaming away from all that but he never did anything wrong.  It was all me.”

“So you’re saying you’re the one who killed Jessica Moore?” Gideon asked.

Dean’s face was a stone but he didn’t speak right away.  Instead he motioned for the notebook.  Gideon handed it back and watched as Dean carefully added Jessica’s name to the bottom of the list and filled in as many details as he could remember.

“I wish you wouldn’t do this,” Gideon reiterated.  “Once your confession is out there there’s no way to get it back.”

“Good.  It’s the right thing to do.”  Dean handed the notebook back and pulled his breakfast tray closer and began to shovel in the cold eggs.

“A confession won’t save you from Hell.”

“Nothing will,” Dean assured him matter-of-factly through a full mouth.  Hotchner appeared at the bars but Dean didn’t slow down to give him a once over.  “Is this disembodied voice guy?”

“I’m Aaron Hotchner.”

“How’d I know you’d be wearing a suit?”

“You saw me down in receiving.”

“Oh, yeah, right.  I did.”

Gideon finished reading the notebook and collected the pencil as well as he got up.

“Mr. Winchester has another visitor,” Hotch said.  “It’s his wife.”

Dean choked on a dry piece of toast and sputtered crumbs all over the table.

***

Gideon observed the woman on the couch in the private waiting room for a moment before entering.  She sat staring off into space while absently turning the worn wedding band on her finger round and round.  It was obvious she was nervous, but also worried and inexplicably sad.  “Mrs. Winchester?” he finally asked.  Testing.

She looked up at the voice but not necessarily in response to the name.  It took her a second.  “Yes.  I’m Ellen… Winchester.”

“They told me the driver’s license you showed at the desk had Harvelle on it.”

“Never got around to changing it,” Ellen said evenly, tough as nails.

“You couldn’t produce a wedding license.”

“I didn’t happen to have it on me.  You carry yours, do you?”

“You seem a little old for Dean,” Gideon fished, moving on without answering the personal question.

Ellen leveled a malevolent glare at him.  “Watch it, mister.”

“Jason Gideon.”

“I don’t care who you are, I’m not that old.”

“No offense intended, ma’am.  Just making an observation.”

“Mmm hmm.  A rude one.  Can I see him or not?”

Gideon pretended to consider the idea even though he had already made up his mind.  “How did you know he was here?”

“Word gets around.”

“That’s a very vague response for someone who wants something that’s against regulations.”

“Is it in your power to grant?” Ellen clarified before bothering to change her attitude.

“Possibly.”

“That’s a very vague answer.”

Gideon held up a hand for a truce as he took a seat opposite her.  “Would you like some coffee?”

“I’d like to see my husband.”

“The funny thing is,” Gideon laughed softly for emphasis, “Dean doesn’t remember getting married.  Although he does admit it’s a distinct possibility.”

“Dean’s had a problem with the bottle lately,” Ellen explained as she nodded sagely.  “Ask any of the hoochies he tried to marry.”

“So you know him well?”

“Better than the rest of his potential brides did.   Look, he was up for anything and I figured if he was already married to me he couldn’t do anything stupid.”

“So you married him to protect him.”

“I care about Dean.  A lot.”

“I believe you do,” Gideon granted.  “But that’s the only thing you’re telling the truth about.  You’re not really married to Dean Winchester.”  Ellen started to protest but Gideon cut her off.  “It’s easy enough to check.  In fact I’ve got someone working on it right now so I’d advise you to come clean.  Are you married to him?”

“No.”

“Why would you come to the FBI and lie about that?  Did you not realize how much trouble you could get into?”

“I need to see him,” Ellen all but pleaded.  “It’s important.  I didn’t think you would let me if I was just a friend.”

“Did Sam send you?”

Ellen didn’t hesitate.  “I have not spoken to Sam,” she said honestly if a little too purposely.

“That wasn’t really the question.” Gideon watched her for a minute but she remained composed.  “If you’re willing to do a little give and take, I’ll let you see Dean.”

“Sounds fair.”

Gideon nodded to seal the deal.  “How long have you known Dean?”

“Not all that long, really.  I knew his father… not that way,” Ellen corrected at Gideon’s raised eyebrow.  “He and my late husband were sometimes partners.”

“What kind of partners?”

“They hunted on occasion.  They were together when my husband was killed.  I didn’t actually meet the boys until after John died, but he talked about ‘em all the time.”

“John Winchester died of a heart attack last year.  Is that correct?”

“Sure,” Ellen agreed without really agreeing at all.  “That’s what they called it anyway.”

Gideon noted her response but moved on. “Tell me about the boys.”

Ellen sighed and took a second to gather her thoughts.  “Dean’s his daddy’s boy through and through; cocksure, charming, always thinking one move ahead.  Makes him a hell of a pool player.  Sam must be more like his poor dead momma.  He’s quieter, book smart, an extremely sweet, polite boy.”

“Is that right?”

“Oh, yeah.  All please and thank-you, that one.  Where he got it I’ll never know since Dean all but brought him up and Dean has to dig deep sometimes to find his manners.”  Ellen smiled again at that.  “They’re both good boys, especially growing up without a mother.  But John did the best he could with them.  He instilled a sense of honor in them and nobody can dispute that.  But they’ve got one trait in common, all three of ‘em.”

“And what’s that?”

“Let’s just say when God invented stubborn he had the Winchesters in mind.”

Gideon agreed with a soft huff.  “So knowing the boys, do you believe either of them is capable of killing?”

“Of killing?  Yes, of course.  We all are.  But I can tell you right now that they never murdered anyone.”

“And yet people always seem to turn up dead wherever they go.”

“Maybe you better check your facts again, Mister Gideon.  The killings always start before they get there and end by the time they leave.”

“You’re telling me they’re some kind of vigilantes?” Gideon asked, sitting forward in his chair.

“You’d better ask Dean about that one.  I don’t want to tell his business.  Am I under arrest?”

“No,” Gideon answered distractedly, thinking hard.  “Not yet anyway.”

“Can I see him?”

“Yes, you’ve been very forthcoming.  I’ll get you in.”

“Will we be in the same room?” Ellen asked.  “Look, I’m not asking for a conjugal visit, I just want to make sure he’s okay,” she entreated when he wavered.  “I need to be able to touch him.”

“You’ll have to be searched first.  And you’ll have to check your bag.”

“That’s fine,” Ellen agreed readily, handing over her purse.

***

“Apparently what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas,” Reid teased.

“Just tell me if she’s a blond,” Dean begged, adding an extra dose of puppy dog eyes.

“Gideon said not to,” Reid resisted.  Barely.

“I’ll bet she’s a blond, I’m partial to blonds. And brunettes. Oh, and gingers.  But mostly blondes.  Hear that Penelope?” he added to the mirror. “Is she out there?  I’d better stop.  I am a married man.”

“Garcia isn’t out there,” Gideon said from the door.  “And you can relax.  You’re not married after all.”

“I’m not?  You sure?” Dean asked sounding almost disappointed, stopping cold when he spotted the woman behind Gideon.  “Ellen?”  He stood up but Gideon motioned for him to sit back down.

“Hey, Dean,” Ellen greeted as she took the chair Reid pulled out for her.

Dean had to swallow before answering.  “Ellen.  What are you doing here?”

“I came to see about you.”

“Is she in trouble?” Dean asked Gideon.  “She lied to get in, right?”

“A minor infraction.  I think we can overlook it.”

“They’re going to try to use you to get to Sam,” Dean scolded Ellen gently.

“I haven’t seen Sam,” Ellen explained again, settling back into her chair.  “And I’m not leaving town until we find out what they’re going to do with you.  So I won’t be running in to him anywhere.”

***

“She slipped up and told us Sam isn’t in the vicinity,” Hotchner reasoned from the other side of the glass, “Or he’s close by and she’s putting up a smoke screen.”

“Or she really hasn’t seen him,” Garcia pointed out.

“Have you got those numbers yet?” Hotch asked with an edge of annoyance in his voice.

“Yes sir,” Garcia grinned and held up Ellen’s cell phone.  “But it’s a pre-paid and there’s only one number that’s called or been called.”

“Are you ready to trace it?”

“Do one legged ducks swim in a circle?”

“Dial it,” Hotch instructed.  “Ask for Sam.”

Garcia nodded and hit redial.  The number rang three times before a man picked up.

“Yeah?”

“Sam?” Garcia asked and held her breath.  There was a long pause on the other end.

“Who is this?”

Garcia shrugged and looked to Hotchner for guidance.  He motioned for her to keep talking.

“Can I speak to Sam?”  She looked down and shook her head.  “He hung up.”

“And we didn’t get anything.”

“Not even close.  Sometimes I miss the good old days of land lines.”

***

While they talked Ellen began to trace a symbol on the table in front of her.  Gideon noticed immediately but Dean seemed so happy to see a familiar face it took him another minute to catch on.  When he did he nodded subtly, conveying his understanding.  Ellen didn’t miss a beat and kept chatting about recent news and other events but moved her finger to the inside of her right wrist.

“You should have seen the moon last night,” Ellen continued conversationally. “It was almost blood red.”

“No it wasn’t,” Reid argued as everyone turned to look at him, “Although it was a little orange tinged.”

“Ellen was telling me to carve a particular rune on the inside of my wrist tonight for protection,” Dean explained bluntly.  “But I’m not going to do it.”

“Why not?” Ellen asked in exasperation.

Dean snorted, every bit as wound up as she was.  “Because it’s too risky.”

“I don’t understand,” Reid jumped in but just as quickly butted out as Gideon waved him off.

“You are one pig-headed son of a bitch.  I don’t know why I expected any different.”

“I can’t do anything, that’s why I’m here,” Dean softened considerably.  “So I can’t panic and do something stupid at the last minute.  I’m… I’m scared.  But I can’t freak out, okay?  I made the deal, I’m gonna keep it.”  The admission of fear cost him and Dean looked away.

“Oh, Dean.”

“Go home, Ellen.”

Gideon nodded to her and Ellen got up slowly, wiping tears from her eyes before they could fall.

“Can I at least have a hug?” Ellen asked.

Dean seemed suspicious but looked to Gideon for permission.  She came around the table and placed a hand on his face.  “You are loved,” she told him.  He got up and hugged her tight.  Ellen held on for several seconds before pulling back, touching his face again and then his hair, surreptitiously plucking several strands as she brought her hand down.  His eyes widened but he didn’t say anything as she folded the hairs into a fist as if someone might try to take them away from her.

“Ellen,” Dean called her back sounding urgent and frustrated and just short of tears.  “If you see Sammy, you don’t tell him what I said about being…you know.”

“I’m not going to see him.”

“If you do.”

“Shut up, Dean,” Ellen whispered as Reid ushered her out.

***

Morgan handed Garcia a Kleenex as she gave him the purse.  “There’s a GPS chip in the lining of the bag and a bug in the phone.”

“Good girl,” Morgan said, bussing her on top of the head.

“Stay on her,” Hotchner ordered when they heard Ellen and Reid enter the hall.

Morgan nodded and took Ellen the bag.

***

“You want to tell me what that was all about?” Gideon asked.  He sat opposite Dean while Reid looked on apprehensively, the tension in the air palpable.

“No.”  Dean was obviously upset, making no attempt to cover it.

“What ever it is,” Gideon offered with genuine concern, “We can help you.”

Dean laughed until he cried.

***

Ellen knew the good-looking agent who had shown her out of the building was still watching as she attempted to hail a taxi that sped right on by.  She kept her decorum but she really wanted to cry.  In fact she wanted to scream and jump up and down and hit something.  Seeing how far Dean would go to protect his brother left a lump in her throat.  Seeing Dean without his emotional armor, stripped of his bullshit hero pretenses nearly killed her.  Raw was the only word that came to mind.

She needed to take care of the hair still clutched in her white knuckled hand but thought better of it while she still had an audience.  Sam’s instructions to prepare the strands, via Bobby as an extra precaution -“I have not spoken to Sam”, had been very specific.  Odd, but specific.  Too odd to perform in front of the FBI building while waiting for a fucking cab.

Just as she was about to invite the agent out for a drink for spite, because damned if all this cloak and dagger shit didn’t get her moxie up, an empty taxi finally pulled up.  She did turn and wave to let secret agent man know that she knew he was still there as she got in the backseat and slammed the door.  He smiled warmly and held up a hand but let them speed on their way.  So he’d tagged her somehow, better to think about that later.

Only a block away Ellen dug one handed through her purse for the lighter she’d picked up earlier.  She pulled out a small silk handkerchief and draped it over one knee and finally opened her hand.  Arranging the five short hairs in a loose pile on her palm she flicked her Bic and set them on fire. 

“Ow,” she muttered, not letting go as they turned to ash without losing contact with her blood-warm skin.

“You can’t smoke in here,” the driver instantly warned her.

“Sorry, I’ll put it out,” she covered, brushing the scant, almost invisible ashes into the middle of the cloth.  She folded it carefully and placed the whole thing in a plastic bag which went back into her purse.  Mission accomplished, she leaned back in the seat and released the sob that had been building for what seemed like hours.

“Look, lady, if you want a cigarette that bad go ahead.  I won’t tell nobody.”

***

As it turned out, stealing a road grader was no big deal provided you stole a big enough truck to haul it on.  And judging by the ease of which Bobby procured both it was far from his first time making such acquisitions.  If not for the nagging disquiet that plagued him since learning of his own death and what Dean had done to bring him back, Sam would have been having a blast.

In little over an hour he turned the roads into a seamless cross of caliche half a mile in each direction.  The tale-tell dirt covering the iron pentagram blended right in.  When he finished he noticed Bobby sitting on the back of the flatbed talking on the phone.  Sam idled up and switched off the engine.

“You wanna talk to Ellen?” Bobby asked, holding up the phone.

“Not directly.  Tell her I said hi.”

Failing to offer the greeting, Bobby continued his conversation.  “Okay then, we’ll switch over, too.  You got the number?...  That’s it.  Now do what I told ya and be careful.”  He hung up, turned off the phone, and jumped down.  Walking over to the grader he placed it directly under the front wheel guaranteeing it’s destruction at the first forward momentum.  “She left cell number one in a taxi and retrieved cell number two from her hotel.  She wasn’t surprised the FBI called looking for you, they had her pocketbook for over an hour.”

“Big Brother is everywhere,” Sam said, plucking the next pre-paid out of his pocket and tossing it to Bobby who caught it and turned it on.  “How’s Dean?”

“Don’t worry about Dean, son.  He’s one tough little bastard.”

“That’s what he wants everybody to think anyway,” Sam muttered.  “What do we do with this stuff now?”

“We’ll load up the grader and wait ‘til dark to take it a county over.  If we run down a fence or two and abandon it they’ll blame it on the local teenage hoodlums.  We can leave the truck anywhere.”

“Joy riding on a road grader?  People do that?”

Bobby grinned and hacked up some of dust he’d accumulated while Sam had been having all the fun.  “The trouble with you, Sam, is you never got in the good kind of trouble growing up.”

“Yeah, Dean would love doing something stupid like plowing down fences with a road grader.”

“Yeah, he would.”

Sam looked to the crossroad.  “He’s really okay?”

“Ellen says he’s holding his own.  If I know Dean he’s keeping them FBI boys on their toes.”

“Did she pull it off?”

“Hell yes.  I never doubted her for a minute.”

***

“Go away,” Dean sighed when Gideon appeared again at his cell door.  Already prostrate on his bunk he flung an arm over his red rimmed eyes.

“I just came to check on you.”

“Couldn’t you send Reid?  I like talking to Reid.  Hell, send Morgan.  At least I know where I stand with him.”

The guard unlocked the door but Gideon lingered before entering.  “I’m worried about you.”

“You didn’t look too worried when they were jabbing me with that needle,” Dean accused, lifting his arm to glare.  “What the hell was that, anyway?  I got a tequila hangover without ever gettin’ to the worm.  I’ll bet I could spit cotton balls right now.”

“Haldol can do that to you.”

“What’s Haldol?”

“I’m not going to lie, it’s an antipsychotic.”

“Antipsychotic,” Dean grunted.  “So now I’m psychotic.  Again.  That’s just peachy.”

Gideon eased in the door and shooed away the guard.  “It’s also a sedative.  The doctor on staff ordered it because you were severely agitated, not because we think you’re crazy.”

“Well maybe I am crazy.  I can’t explain why I lost it like that.”  Dean rolled to his side to face the wall.

“You want my opinion?”

“Not in a million years.”

“Okay,” Gideon agreed, seating himself on the edge of the bunk behind Dean.  “I’ll spare you this time but it’s not as bad as you think.  It has to do with stress.”

“Stress.  Right.  Sure.  What do I have to be stressed about?" 

“Seeing someone you know seemed to…”

“Ack!” Dean cut him off, raising a finger straight up in the air.

“You did ask.”

“It was rhetorical.”

“Sit up and look at me.”

“Yeah.  Not gonna happen.”

“Why?  Because you cried in front of me?” Gideon challenged gently.

Dean sniffed.  “Pretty much,” he admitted after a few seconds.

“I understand you feel like you’re at the end of your rope.”

“I am.  And the noose is getting tighter with every passing second.”

“Tell me about it.  Please.  I’m not trying to trick you or lead you into anything.  I genuinely feel like it will help if you let go of this big, horrible secret.”

“You won’t believe me.”

“It doesn’t matter what I believe.  Just talk to me.”

“What are you going to do to Ellen?” Dean asked, turning just enough to see Gideon’s face.  “I’m not making any deals, I just want to know.”

“We’re keeping her under surveillance.  She’s not being charged with anything.”

“She played us, you know?  All of us.”

“How?”

“All she wanted was a hunk of hair.  She knew I wouldn’t do the rune thing.  It’s probably not even really for protection.”

“What would she want with your hair?”

“I can’t know that.  I shouldn’t even be thinking about it.”  Without warning Dean changed gears.  “So how’s Henricksen?”

Gideon paused but allowed the conversation to go wherever Dean wanted.  “I believe he was turned over to mental health.”

“All the Haldol in the world’s not gonna help him,” Dean said, not joking.  Not even close.

“He’s not your responsibility.”

“You’re wrong.  They all are.”

“Why do you carry the weight of the world, Dean?”

“I don’t want to.  It just turned out that way.”  Dean yawned and started to drift before shaking himself awake.

A guard appeared at the bars.  “Special Agent Hotchner would like to see you in his office, sir.”

“Get some rest,” Gideon encouraged Dean, patting him on the back as he got up to leave, surprised when he didn’t flinch away.

“Hey Jason,” Dean called.  He made a show of fluffing his pillow.  “I’ll think on it.  Maybe we can talk tomorrow.”

“Sure.”  Gideon stood for another minute to watch Dean pretend to fall asleep.

*** 

“How is he?” Hotchner asked as Gideon slid into the chair in front of his desk.

Gideon rubbed his face before answering.  “He’s close to the edge.  I’m not sure I can keep up the pressure without pushing him off.”

“Do you think he’ll ever talk?”

“He wants to,” Gideon postulated before altering his response slightly.  “He will.  I’m just not sure he’ll come out of it intact.”

“That’s too bad.”

“And we’re out of time, aren’t we?  That’s what you called me in here to tell me.”

Hotch nodded unhappily.  “Legal is ready to move ahead with charges.”

“Based on what?” Gideon asked, infuriated.  “His bogus confession?”

“They think it’s more than enough,” Hotchner kept his own voice low and steady, bringing Gideon down with him.  One of Gideon’s own patented moves.

“That boy no more committed those crimes than I did.  How soon?”

“Tomorrow.  I think we can stall until afternoon.”

Gideon grasped around for any available straws.  “File for a competency hearing.  That should buy us a couple more days.”

“Do we have a basis for a competency hearing?”

“After his breakdown today?  Yes, yes we do.”

“I’ll work on it,” Hotchner promised.  “But you need to work on him, too.  If nothing else get him to retract the confession.”

“I’ll try.  Thank you.”

“Jason, what is it about this kid that has you so involved?” Hotch had to ask.

“I don’t know,” Gideon admitted.  “There’s something about him.  He’s got such a bright soul.  It would be a shame to see it extinguished for no good reason.”

***

Ellen smiled the best she could as she paid for the pizza then pulled the door shut behind her and crossed the street with the box in her hand.  He didn’t look too surprised when she ambled around the front of his big black SUV and climbed into the passenger seat.  Annoyed, but not surprised.

His cell rang at that moment and he hit speaker phone. “Sugar plum, she’s on the move.”

“Yeah, I got her,” he said before hanging up and turning to stare at Ellen.

She settled in and opened the box. “You like anchovies?”

“Not especially.”

“Oh.  I guess it sucks to be you, then.”  Ellen took out a slice, smirking as he reached over to take a piece as well.  “What’s your name, sugar plum?”

He took a huge bite and chewed it experimentally.  “Why?”

Ellen shrugged.  “I figured I deserve to know your name if you’re gonna be following me all over hell and back.  Got any more of that water?”

“Derek Morgan,” he said as he reached behind her seat to pull out another bottle.  “Here ya go, Mrs. Winchester.”

“Ha!  I would have dearly loved to see Dean’s face when he thought he was married.”

“It was… amusing.  Or so I’m told.”

“Hate I missed that.”

They ate in silence for a few minutes and Morgan finally sighed. “You trust this Dean Winchester?” he asked.

“With my life,” Ellen confirmed readily.  “More, with my daughter’s life.   Just not with her virtue.  That boy’s a hound dog.”

Morgan grinned and shook his head.  “Why are you here?”

“I thought I’d save the taxpayers some money instead of flushing this down the toilet,” she told him as she produced the tiny device she’d found embedded in her purse and dropped it into his cup holder.

He took the tech loss in stride and snagged another slice of extra-anchovy.  “I meant why did you come to Quantico?”

“I know what you meant.  There are just some things you do for your family.”

“But you’re not really married to Winchester.”

“You know how they say friends are family you choose?”

“Yeah.”

“Well sometimes you don’t so much choose them as have them thrust upon you,” Ellen declared.  “They’re still family.”

***

The laughter never stopped not even with medication or tiny little white padded rooms.

“Shut up.  Shut up.  Shut up!  SHUT UP!” Victor screamed, beating his forehead repeatedly with his fist.

“That’s enough of that,” the wiry caretaker advised through the screen-covered slit of a window in the door.  “Don’t make us come in there.”

“The security here is laughable,” Victor taunted from his place on the floor.

“Is that right, Mister FBI?”

“That’s right.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“Yeah, we will,” Victor mumbled, rocking back and forth to the new voice in his head.  The one that sounded amazingly like his own.  ‘Get the keys, get the keys, get the keys…’

***

“Don’t you ever go home?” Dean asked without looking as he paced slowly around his cell, still groggy from the drug but fighting sleep with every step.  “I thought Henricksen was the one who was obsessed.”

“And I thought you would be in the arms of Morpheus by now,” Gideon commented from the dimly lit hallway.

“Aw Morpheus, son of Hypnos, the god of dreams.”

“You know your mythology.”

“Not as well as Sam, but some of it rubbed off on me.  Dreams are part of my problem lately so I try not to do too much of the sleep thing.”

“Don’t tell me, you’ll get all the sleep you need when you’re dead.  Isn’t that what young men say these days?”

“Not me,” Dean denied cheerfully.  “I’m going to hell, remember?  No sleeping down there.”

Gideon emerged from the shadows and leaned his elbows on the horizontal bar between them.  “Do you really believe that?”

“It’s true.  I made a deal with the devil,” Dean whispered with a conspiratory wink. “Sold my soul.”

“Would this devil happen to be named Sam Winchester?”

“No.  Get off Sam, would ya,” Dean grumbled.  “He can be a punk but he’s a full on saint compared to me.”

“You don’t literally mean the devil,” Gideon tried to clarify.

“Well, not ‘The’ devil, I’m happy to say I haven’t met him yet.  It was just another run of the mill demon dressed up in a hot chick.  How sick is that?”

“You’re serious.”

“Reid says you’re like some kind of master profiler, all-knowing, all-seeing.  Can’t you tell?” Dean challenged halfheartedly.

Gideon considered him for a long moment.  “I believe that you believe what you’re saying.”

“There are things out there, the stuff nightmares are made of,” Dean started and then abruptly bit his tongue.  “You know what?  I’m still messed up from that shot.  You don’t need to know this.”

“I do need to know.  Moreover, you need to tell it,” Gideon insisted fervently.

“Come on, Jason, I want to tell you but there’s something to be said for innocence.  Don’t laugh,” Dean warned at the beginning of Gideon’s smile.  “I’m trying to protect you.  I want you to be able to sleep at night.”

Incredulous, Gideon could only chuckle.  “What I see in this job every day, what people do to each other… I haven’t been innocent in a very long time.”

“I get that.  I do,” Dean told him seriously.  “I know there are some sick fucks out there and kudos to you for the shit you have to put in your head.  But those people?  They’re just people, no matter how screwed up they are.”  He patted his chest for emphasis.  “I have seen evil, the real deal, up close and personal.  I make it my business to put it down.  So even if I didn’t do all the stuff Henricksen said, I’ve done plenty of things that weren’t pretty or nice.”

“Ellen inferred you may have crossed certain legal lines to prevent people from being killed.”

“I’m not gonna lie, there’s blood on my hands.”

“There’s plenty of blood on my hands, too, Dean.  You can’t shock me.  You won’t frighten me.  That shouldn’t even be a consideration.”

Dean let out a huge breath and leaned against the small table as he stopped to think.  “You ever been scared?  I mean knee shaking, heart in your throat, wet your pants, ‘Oh God I’m gonna die’ scared?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Well I haven’t,” Dean denied, waving off Gideon’s disbelieving look.  “I’m being straight with you, let me finish.  I’ve been worried, concerned, and freaked the fuck out from time to time.  But I’ve never really been scared.  Not for myself, until now.  I’ve known the truth about almost every myth or legend or old wives tale you could possibly name since I was a kid.  So don’t go quoting me Joe Cocker or who-the-fuck-ever about things he obviously knew nothing about.”

“If you’ll tell me your story, I’ll try to keep an open mind,” Gideon promised with nothing less than complete sincerity.

“What the hell, you’re not going to believe me anyway,” Dean decided wearily.  “If you really want to know, I’ll tell you.  Just between you and me.  No camera, no bullshit.  Interested?”

“Tell me.”

“Come on in.  Pull up a bunk,” Dean invited, “This is gonna take awhile.  It only makes sense if we start from the beginning.”

******

Morgan flicked his gaze to the rearview mirror as a sedan pulled in behind him and shut off the lights.  He fished the device out of his cup holder and got out of the SUV to saunter up to the driver’s side.  “Hey, Leon,” he greeted, planting his hands on the open window ledge.  “Who’d you piss off to get the night shift?”

“Don’t ask,” the older agent grumbled.  “What’s going on with our mark?”

“Quiet as a church mouse.  She turned off the lights about an hour ago.  Don’t be surprised if she makes you, though.”

“Why’s that?”

“She’s one smart cookie,” Morgan said with a smile, handing over the locator.

***

Once he found his own inner voice Victor had no trouble taking charge of the others.  Suddenly the things worked with him instead of against him.  Against each other.  It was like having super powers come on line and he welded them with stone cold efficiency.  With a look locked doors opened, cameras crashed to the floor.  And people.  He walked out of the facility in the dead of night, nothing left to bear witness to his passing.  Flames roared from the compound behind him as he effortlessly stole a car from the parking lot and headed out to find the closest pawn shop.

***

Once he began the words poured from Dean in a cathartic flood, a lifetime of secrets.  Gideon sat back and let him talk, speaking only to offer encouragement as Dean sought it or to clarify a point.  Dean used the whole night to tell of monsters and family and how the blood flowed between them, stopping only to take a sip of water or when a guard on rounds got too close.  They changed positions from time to time ending with Gideon at the table and Dean on the bunk with his feet up on the blanket.  At the end of the story Gideon began to ask questions, starting with what happened to Henricksen.

“Why did the thing affect him and not you?”

“I drew a protective circle before I started.”

“Of salt?”

“No, it was scratched into the ground with an ancient chant, something new Sam dug up somewhere.  Or, you know, old.  We’d used it a couple of times already.  It’s quick in a pinch and saves on the salt.  Won’t blow away, either.”

“And it kept you safe.”

“I told Henricksen to get inside with me but he was too busy trying to be The Man.”

“So the thing was a demon?”

Dean sucked on his teeth as he considered his response.  “See?  We don’t know exactly.  We think it was a demon since a garden variety exorcism worked so well, but it wasn’t alone.  There were multiple entities of some kind along for the ride." 

“Entities.”

“Going in Sam thought it might be a congregation of damned souls that had nowhere to go after they escaped Hell so they clung to the thing they knew, the demon.  Whatever they are they’re totally out there.  I guess Hell will do that to you after a while.”

“So these entities…”

“Disembodied spirits.  Probably.”

“All right, disembodied spirits, you believe they escaped when Jake opened the portal in the cowboy cemetery.”

“Yeah.  And this poor sap Walter picked up the whole gang when he was investigating a new ‘haunting’.  Amateur.  At least he had the presence of mind to try to get help.  He contacted a priest we had dealt with on a similar matter a few weeks before who in turn got up with us.”

“So this wasn’t an uncommon event for you.”

“No.   In the months after the gate opened we worked our asses off on variations of this theme.  But no telling who or where or even how long these things had been dead… nothing to salt and burn.  Sam started getting into some pretty dark shit to get rid of them.  That’s when I decided enough was enough.”

Gideon nodded his understanding.  “Then what happened to Agent Henricksen?”

“I tried to help him but he went ape shit.  I finally had to knock his ass out and drop him off at the emergency room.  We planned on going back for him after doing a little more research but he jumped ship as soon as he woke up.”

“Why didn’t you just perform another exorcism?”

“No point in that, the demon was already gone.  These lost souls just attached themselves to the closest warm body I guess.  I don’t know how Henricksen’s kept it together as long as he has.  Walter ended up in jumping in front of a train and he only carried them around for a few weeks.  Sam always says we can’t save them all.”

By mutual, unspoken agreement they both stopped talking as footsteps came down the corridor.  “Jason.  Mr. Winchester,” Hotchner greeted as he stopped outside of the cell.  “I understand you two had an all-nighter.”

“Watch it,” Dean teased as he got up and followed Gideon to the door.  “Don’t go smirching my virtue.”

“There will be a competency hearing this afternoon,” Hotch told them as he motioned for a guard with a key and kept an eye on Dean when Gideon did not.

“Competency hearing?” Dean asked, turning a wounded look to Gideon.  “I’m not crazy.”

“I think we can keep you out of prison,” Gideon said as they waited for the guard to unlock the cell door.  “We can certainly keep you off death row.”

“How?  By reason of insanity?”

“By mental defect, yes.”

Dean ran both hands roughly through his hair leaving it sticking out in every direction.  “Mental defect,” he complained.  “They’re gonna stick me in an institution?”

“It won’t be forever.  This way there’s hope of getting out someday with appropriate treatment.”

“I told you; forever for me is like twenty-six days.  Or twenty-five, I’m not sure.” Dean seemed to think about it as he reached out and held on to the bar.  “Sam would know exactly.  It doesn’t matter, jail or the nut house, it’s all the same to me.”

“I’ll catch up,” Gideon told Hotch, unsmiling when he only stepped out of Dean’s line of sight.  “What’s wrong?” Gideon asked Dean.  “If you really don’t care where you go?”

With a humorless laugh Dean moved back toward his bunk.  “Nothing.  I just,” he paused to chortle again tiredly.  “For a minute there I guess I thought you might actually believe me.”

“I believe…”

“Yeah, I know.  You believe that I believe.  It’s not really the same thing.”

“It’s a lot to take in.”

 “Short of taking you on a hunt, and we both know that’s never gonna happen, I don’t have any way to prove anything to you.”  Dean shrugged and flopped down on the mattress.  “All I have is my word.”

“You can’t prove the unprovable.”

 “Unprovable?”  Dean snorted.  “You’d be singing a different tune if you came face to face with a pissed off poltergeist.”

Gideon smiled wryly.  “Agent Henricksen doesn’t believe.  Mostly he blames you.”

“Good point, but not relevant to this situation,” Dean countered with a smirk of his own.  “After the hell hounds drag me off you’ll believe.”

“Nothing can get to you here.”

“You think prison walls can keep ‘em out?   Dude, check again.”

“Tell me how it will happen,” Gideon encouraged, only slightly patronizing.  “So I can compare notes after the fact.” 

“No problemo.”  Dean swung his feet down and sat up in one fluid motion then moved back toward the door.  “Write this down; I’ll hear ‘em coming but nobody else will.  I’ll flake.  A little.  I won’t scream like a schoolgirl or anything.  The security cameras will probably flicker and go out then suddenly there won’t be anything left but a streak or two of blood in an empty cell.” He grasped the bars and gave them a shake.

Turning completely serious, Gideon placed his hand over Dean’s.  “Nothing is going to hurt you, Dean.  Not in here and not wherever they send you next.”

“Thanks, Jason.  That’s very reassuring.”  Dean tugged his hand out from under Gideon’s.

“Get some rest,” Gideon said as he walked away.

“I’ll prove it to you,” Dean called after him.  “If it’s the last thing I do.”

******

“What was that all about?” Hotchner asked as they exited the detainee area.

“I was wrong,” Gideon said bleakly.  “We have the right brother after all.”

“So you believe his confession now?”

“The confession?  No, no, absolutely not.  That was mostly for the purpose of protecting his brother.  It’s inaccurate at best, but he wasn’t really lying either.”

Hotchner stopped and shook his head.  “I don’t understand.”

Gideon didn’t even slow down as he explained, forcing Hotch to play catch up.  “When these boys were very young they were dragged into their father’s delusions, they were literally raised into them.  Somehow the brother broke free but Dean bought into them unconditionally.”

“His father’s delusions were his reality.”

“Yes.  When Dean murdered those people he believed he was ridding the world of real monsters.”

“And the torture?”

“Possibly part of some misguided lore or ritual he thought he had to perform to destroy the evil.”  Gideon finally stopped near his office and turned to face Hotch.  “We can’t let them kill him for it, there was no malicious intent.  The boy is sick.”

“Did he tell you about his double?” Hotch asked.

Gideon nodded.  “Shape shifter,” he said as if that explained everything.

“Aw.  Shape shifter.  Why didn’t we think of that?”

“Dean answered all of our questions with paranormal elements straight off of late night television; werewolves, vampires, ghosts.  And yet he accounted for every detail as if he actually lived it.”

Hotch digested the information for a minute before releasing a sigh.  “We’re never going to learn the truth then.”

“He told it as well as he is capable.”

“Okay,” Hotchner agreed.  “I guess we’re done here.  You’ve got a few hours before the hearing.  Why don’t you go home and get some rest?”

“I’ll catch a nap on the couch later,” Gideon refused absently.  “First I want to make a few notes for my testimony.” 

***

“Sammy!”  Dean screamed as he held the lifeless body tight in his arms and rocked him back and forth.

“Little brother dead again?  Gee, that’s too bad,” the demon crooned from over Dean’s shoulder.

Dean swung wildly with a fist but missed her by a mile.  “We had a deal,” he growled at her, low and dangerous.  “I held up my end.”

“Did you? Maybe you should have tried a little harder,” she chastised, vanishing into thin air and taking what was left of Sam with her.  Leaving Dean alone…

***

Dean woke with a start but quickly realized where he was and settled back into the thin pillow with an audible sigh of relief.  As he waited for his thundering pulse to calm he heard footsteps coming down the corridor.  He lifted his head as Morgan appeared at the bars.

“You awake?” Morgan asked as the guard let him in.

“Yeah,” Dean answered, rubbing his eyes and sitting up.  “What’s that?”

“Gideon wants you in a suit for the hearing.”

“Son of a bitch,” Dean complained under his breath.  “Why?  He’s just gonna tell them I’m nuts.  What does it matter what I’m wearing?”

“Hey, it’s a nice suit,” Morgan said, evading the question altogether.

Dean rolled off the bunk and fingered the dark material.  “Is it yours?”

Morgan hung the wooden hanger on a high bar then pulled off the jacket and held it out.  “It’s old but it’s a classic.”

“It smells like mothballs.  It must have been in your locker since Hoover was in skirts.”

“I’m not that old.  Besides, the judge is going to look at you not smell you.  Put it on.”

“Seriously, what’s the point?”

“Because Gideon said so.”

“Gideon said so,” Dean repeated unenthusiastically.

“That’s right,” Morgan insisted.  “He’s trying to look out for you so put the damn thing on and at least try to act grateful.”

“He’s wasting his time.”  Dean slid one arm then the other into the jacket and held them out to Morgan.  “It’s too big.”

Morgan tugged on the cuffs and folded them under before pulling on the lapels as well.  “It’s a little long in the arms, but it’s good through the shoulders.  And I have the fix.”  He produced a piece of chalk from his pocket and marked the sleeves at the fold.

“You must have been a tailor in another life,” Dean joked.

“I can’t sew, but I’m hell on wheels with a stapler,” Morgan said with a smirk. “Try on the pants.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Tough.  Do it anyway.  I’ll mark the legs then I’ve got to round up a shirt and a tie.  They’re gonna take you to the showers.  Get a shave, too.  What size shoe do you wear?”

Dean finally laughed.  “You guys are killing me,” he muttered.

******

Gideon thought it improper to ride to the hearing in the same vehicle as Dean since in essence he was there to put him away.  Instead he and JJ planned to follow the prisoner van but an urgent message from Garcia delayed their leaving by a few minutes.  When they arrived Morgan was already half way back from parking the van in the huge lot across the street.  Reid and Hotch waited with Dean near the side entrance of the courthouse so JJ pulled the vehicle up near them to let Gideon out.

Sans shackles, having given his word to behave, Dean was restrained with only handcuffs.  With his hands folded neatly in front of him he had the appearance of a nicely dressed young man.  With somewhat wild looking hair.

“Who’s the blonde?” Dean asked as Gideon got out of the SUV.

“That’s JJ,” Reid told him enthusiastically, his ears turning red as she leaned forward to wave at him.  “She’s our liaison agent.”

“She’s an agent?  That’s hot,” Dean said before turning a flirty grin to J.J. “How you doin’,” he called out to her.  She smiled at him as she pulled away from the curb to go park.  Dean snickered as he noticed Reid’s proximity reaction to JJ.  “You’ve been holding out on me, Reid.  That your girlfriend?”

“We work together,” Reid told him, taking the ribbing good-naturedly.

Hotch moved toward Gideon, shaking his head.  “He’s in rare form today,” he commented, thumbing over his shoulder at Dean.  His demeanor changed when Gideon somberly motioned him closer.  “What’s wrong?”

“There was a fire at Westwood Psychiatric Facility last night,” Gideon explained in a quiet tone.  “Nine patients and three staff members died.  The place burned to the ground.”

“Westwood.  That was that new private hospital.”

“That’s where they sent Agent Henricksen.  Courtesy of his old boss,” Gideon said. “His was the one body they didn’t find.”

“Even if he escaped, do you think he’s capable of killing twelve people?”

“To get to Dean?  Possibly.  Garcia tells me there was a breach in our security this morning.  Someone tried to hack in using Agent Henricksen’s old code.”

“They couldn’t have gotten much, I’m sure his code had been discontinued.”

“Well whoever it was looked at the court calendar.”

Hotch patted his weapon through his suit coat and glanced around the busy sidewalk.  “Let’s get inside.”

“Yeah,” Gideon agreed, following Hotch back to Dean’s side. 

“So I gotta wear a tie and you don’t?” Dean grumbled to Gideon.  “You’re the expert witness, you know.  I’m just the poor defective bastard who’s going down.”

Gideon smiled in spite of himself and fished out his comb as he approached Dean.  “You’re wearing the only tie I had at the office.”

“Yeah, your tie and Agent Hotchner’s shirt and Reid’s shoes, I’m the hand-me-down kid,” Dean rattled off.  “Not to mention Morgan’s old suit.”

“It’s a nice suit,” Reid offered.

“Let’s go.”  Hotch motioned that they were going in to Morgan, who was waiting for J.J. to catch up to cross the street.  Morgan acknowledged him with a nod and a wave. 

Gideon placed a hand on Dean’s back and Hotchner took up a defensive position on the other side with Reid bringing up the rear.  They moved through the bullet-proof side door which put them in queue to get through the security check point in relative safety.

Once inside Gideon turned Dean to face him and got busy with the comb.

“Hey!” Dean protested, smacking Gideon’s hand away.

“Hold still.  You look like a porcupine.”

“Do you know how hard it was to get it like that without any gel?”

“I know how easy it is to fix,” Gideon assured as he combed Dean’s hair anyway.

“You’re not my real mother,” Dean groused, looking towards the bright spot of sun on the floor behind Gideon in resignation.  “But I draw the line at a spit bath…” he trailed off then tensed.  “Who invited Henricksen to this party?”

The explosion was silent, the sound of the shattering door their only warning before they were hit by a blast of air and fractured glass.  A shot rang out before anyone had time to hit the ground.  Dean looked surprised and let out a sharp gasp as Hotchner dove into him and covered him with his own body on the floor as shards rained down on everyone.

Dazed, Gideon peeked up from beneath the arm he’d used to protect his face to see Henricksen, gun in hand, looming on the other side of the empty door frame.  In that instant Morgan hit Henricksen in a flying tackle, hard and high, taking him down and sending the weapon skittering across the sidewalk.  Somehow, even flat on his back, the ex-agent tossed Morgan away like a rag doll, sending him crashing into JJ.  Both of them bounced into the brick wall that sheltered the entrance before collapsing in a heap.

The stunned silence gave way to a cacophony of noise and chaos as people rushed away from the wrecked entrance, crowding through the checkpoint in terror. “That was supposed to be bullet proof,” someone screeched. 

“Dean!” Gideon yelled as Hotch sat up to inspect the damage. 

“The shot came after the glass broke,” Reid muttered uncertainly, stopping to stare at the large dark area spreading across Morgan’s nice old suit.

Outside Henricksen rolled to his feet and dashed out into traffic causing cars to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting him and each other.  His fanatical laughter echoed after him as he disappeared down the street at a dead run.

“And they say… I have a defect…” Dean stammered.

Gideon shushed him as he slid over and gathered Dean into his arms.

Hotch hastily unbuttoned the soggy jacket sending crimson droplets in a cascade to the floor.  “Call an ambulance!” he shouted down the hall.  But the guards were busy trying to prevent anyone from being killed in the crush of bodies fleeing through the metal detector and into the courthouse.

“I’ll call,” Reid volunteered as he fumbled for his phone.

“Good.  And check Morgan and JJ,” Hotchner ordered, not looking up from his task. 

Glass fell from his hair in tiny crumbs as Reid rushed to his fallen comrades after one last glance at Dean, dialing 911 as he went.

The spreading stain stood out in stark contrast against the once pristine white shirt as Hotch peeled it away.  He immediately untucked the hem and wadded it up as a makeshift bandage as he pressed both hands into Dean’s right side.

Dean grunted, coughed, and then tried to sit up. A tiny stream of blood trickled from his between his lips.

“Stay down,” Gideon told him, holding him tighter.

Stubborn as his friend Ellen had said, Dean managed to drag a finger through the stain and bring it up toward his face.  “That’s not good,” he said as he examined the almost black blood.  “Dad said a liver shot is usually fatal.  I hope there’s not a penalty for checking in early.”

“You’re not going to die,” Gideon promised in spite of Hotch adding more pressure to try to stem the ever-increasing flow.

“I guess you believe me now, huh?”

“Sure,” Gideon answered automatically, not knowing what Dean meant but trying to keep him talking.

“So how did he do that?  Break the glass?  He didn’t.  They did,” Dean rattled on breathlessly.  “He thinks they’re with him but they’re not.  They’ll destroy him in the end.”

“Be quiet, Dean.”

Dean’s eyes got wide and he sought out Gideon’s hand.  “Do you hear that?”

“I don’t hear anything.”  Gideon clasped Dean’s hand and held on with all his might, meeting Hotchner’s worried eyes.

“Hell hounds,” Dean announced as tears began to stream down his face.

“That’s just the ambulance.”

“No, they’re coming for me.”  Near panic, Dean tried to get up.  “Don’t let go,” he begged.

Gideon swallowed the lump in his throat.  “I’ve got you.”

Taking great gulps of air Dean managed to get his fear under control.  “If you talk to my brother,” he finally said through his tears, “And I don’t think you’ll ever catch up to him, but if you do, don’t tell him I cried.”

“You’re not going to die,” Gideon insisted again, his voice breaking this time.

Dean started to laugh but then winced and panted through the pain.  “Practice before you talk to Sammy.  You’re a terrible liar.  They’re getting closer.”  Dean squeezed his eyes shut and grabbed Gideon’s arm with both hands.  “I hear ‘em.  They’re getting louder.”

“There’ll be blue birds over,” Gideon bent down to Dean’s ear and started to sing the first song that popped into his head to drown out the auditory hallucination, “The white cliffs of Dover…”

Dean opened his eyes and smiled a little as he stared into Gideon’s face focusing his attention entirely on the older man.  “Yeah, okay.”

“… tomorrow, just you wait and see…”

Morgan knelt down beside them, holding his ribs.  “The ambulance is here.”

“There’ll be light and laughter and peace ever after, tomorrow when the world is free,” Gideon stopped as Dean’s eyes slid shut and his hands went slack.

Paramedics shouldered their way in and Gideon eased out from under Dean’s body as they lay him flat and began resuscitation efforts.  He let Hotchner lead him out into the sun while Morgan held vigil over the scene.  Gideon glanced at the curb where Reid hovered over a shaky and bruised but otherwise healthy JJ but couldn’t keep his eyes off Hotch’s blood stained hands.

******

Having learned about the hearing from a rather eccentric young lady at the FBI building Ellen rushed back to her room to clue Bobby in before taking off for the courthouse.  With a little luck, especially if the proceedings ran late, she would be able to see Dean before they locked him away God only knows where afterward.  As she hung up and gathered her bag to head out there was an insistent knock on the door.  She flung it open to reveal a by now familiar face.

“Well this is different,” she drawled.  “You’ve actually graduated to knocking on doors now instead of following people around?”  Ellen frowned as she studied Morgan’s scraped cheek and what looked like blood along with the dirt stains on his pale blue shirt.

Morgan took a deep breath then let it out. “I didn’t want you hear it on the news.”

***

The look on Bobby’s face told him all he needed to know.  For once Sam took the call from Ellen without putting up a fuss.  He closed his eyes and listened for a minute before handing the phone back to Bobby and storming out the door.

“I’ll call you back,” Bobby told Ellen as he raced out to the porch.  “Sam, wait!” he yelled then ducked the spray of dust and pebbles as the Impala dug into the driveway and sped off.  Bobby ran for the truck knowing it would be over before he got there.

***

Sam drove like a mad man out to the crossroads.  He choked back his tears as he buried the already prepared box.  “Come on, come on,” he chanted as he turned in a frantic circle, counting each second as another his brother spent in Hell.

He froze when he sensed her presence behind him, unsure how he knew she was there but without the desire to examine it too closely.  When he turned to face her he felt like he’d been punched in the gut for the second time since Ellen’s call.

“Didn’t your mother teach you not to play with fire?” the beautiful blonde asked.  She approached him seductively, her tall host the spitting image of Jess.

“My mother didn’t teach me anything,” Sam said coldly.  He dodged her hand as she tried to touch him.  “But you already know that.”

“Dean preferred brunettes,” the demon observed, ignoring the snub.    “Speaking of Dean, you’re too late.  They’re already enjoying his company in the Fireside Lounge.  He’s cried like a baby before he even got there.  Oh wait, he didn’t want you to know that.”

“Shut up, bitch.  I do the talking.”

“How very Dean of you,” she scoffed, turning on her heel.  “Suffer, Sammy.  I won’t make a deal with you.”

Sam let her walk away, biting back his hate and anger to stew in his gut and shine from his eyes even as he kept them out of his voice.  “The only part of my plan I wasn’t sure of,” he taunted in a soft, even tone as she figured out she couldn’t really go anywhere, “I didn’t know if you would be able to detect a devil’s trap this large.  Apparently I was worried for nothing.”

She snarled in frustration when she realized her predicament.  Taking a moment to test the limits of her prison, she glared at Sam spitefully as she went.  “What do you want?” she finally spat out at him, coming to a stop in front of him.

“I need to know the terms of your contract with my brother.”

“Sorry, baby,” she replied.  “It’s against our privacy policy to release that information to anyone but the client,” she stopped cold when Sam stuck the colt into her face.  “Oh.  That is the gun, isn’t it?  Too bad every demon on Earth knows there are no more bullets.”

Sam cocked the weapon.  “Lucky number six, back from the grave.”

Her supreme confidence faltered for a nanosecond.  “You’re bluffing.”

“Am I?”  Sam held his aim steady and his now dry eyes unblinking.  “The original owner of the Colt was buried next to his first wife and the baby she died while giving birth to in a single grave to his right.  His second wife, who was hanged for his murder, and their oldest son are buried to his left.  Is that common knowledge around the demon water cooler?”

She released a breath and her eyes flashed red.

“So you do know about Robert Willingham.  You’re probably on a first name basis with the demon who possessed his second wife when she shot him over a hundred years ago.”

“You would trap me in hell with your brother?” the demon asked, trying to reason with him.  “Oh what I would do to him over time.”

“Hell is hell,” Sam said with a shrug.  “And you’ll be stuck there, too.”

“We could go on like this all night.  What if someone comes along and see the maniac holding a gun on the poor defenseless girl?”

“You’re got three seconds.”

“No.”

“Two.”

“Go ahead you son of a…”

“One.”

“Stop!”  She held up a hand and began to talk fast.  “It was a standard contract except I only gave him a year instead of the usual ten.  Happy now?”

“I need to know the length of the contract on his end.  All he has to do is put in an appearance and his part of the bargain is paid, right?  And don’t even think of lying about this.”

“Nobody gets out of Hell.”

“We both know that’s not true.  Answer the question or I’ll only count to one this time.”  Headlights swept across them but Sam never wavered.

She gaped at him.  “You plan on opening the gate again after what you let out the last time?” she asked skeptically.  “You can’t risk keeping it open for more than a minute and there’s no way to be sure Dean would even get out…”

“One.”

“Yes!  Any time he spends in Hell satisfies the contract.”

Sam pulled the trigger, hitting her right between the wide blue eyes.  She hit the ground and sizzled with tiny bolts of yellow lightning before coming to rest.  Blood dripped into the caliche, looking more like oil stains than blood in the paleness of the moonlight.

“Sam!”  Bobby shouted as he ran up and pried the gun from Sam’s grip.  “That wasn’t the plan.  You were supposed to trade her freedom for Dean’s soul.”

“Dean’s already dead.  That changes everything.”

“You still could’a made a deal.  You could have offered the Colt or…”

“She would have wanted a soul.  My soul,” Sam interrupted waving his arms around, desperate and angry and near tears again.  “And what do you think Dean would have done about that when he got back?  We can’t keep doing this, Bobby.  The deals have to stop.  Now.”

“You’re right,” Bobby backed down wearily, taking off his hat and running a hand through his hair.  “Plan X it is then.”

“I’ve got to get to Quantico.”

“I’ll drive.  You’re in no shape.”

“Somebody’s got to clean up this mess,” Sam argued pointing to the crumpled body.

“Here.”  Bobby tossed him the next pre-paid cell.  “You’ll need that to find Ellen.  Tell her not to let them do an autopsy.  Any bodily damage after death will be permanent.”

“I know.”  Sam tucked the phone into his pocket and got in the Impala.  He wiped his eyes and started the engine.

“Be careful,” Bobby told him then muttered under his breath.  “You damn fool Winchesters are gonna be the death of me.”

******

Just after midnight Ellen sat on the edge of the bed with the third of the four throw-away phones cradled in her hands and waited for the next check-in.  Even in his grief Sam Winchester was doing his best to keep them all under the FBI’s radar as much as possible.  She’d thrown the second phone off an overpass and into the back of a dump truck hours ago, unable to convince Sam it hadn’t been compromised.

Right on schedule the phone rang.  “Where are you?” she asked, hoping it was only sugar and caffeine Sam was hyped up on, ashamed she even thought it could be anything else.  “Already?  You need to slow down before you kill yourself or get thrown in jail.”

The questions came next, none of which she had the answer to.  Then it was her turn to talk. 

“I called in some favors…  No, it wasn’t easy but your Dad wasn’t the only one with shady contacts.  I ran the Roadhouse since before you were in diapers… It doesn’t matter what it cost... No.  I’m leaving for Kinko’s in another hour or two to pick up the fax.”  She sighed and listened to Sam’s doubt and worry pour through the line.  “Real enough, Sam.  Even if they won’t give me the body it’ll stall the autopsy… Yeah, I’ve already got a lawyer working on it.”

***

Gideon sat in his office holding the tie the paramedics had unceremoniously cut from around Dean’s neck.  It was ruined and Gideon had never been particularly fond of it anyway.  Ties were just never his thing.  And yet he couldn’t seem to make himself toss it out like so much garbage.

 “No one took Henricksen for the threat that he was,” Hotchner offered from the doorway. 

“We should have.  That’s what we do.”

Hotch didn’t answer right away but didn’t argue either.  “Reid is…” he paused, waited until Gideon was looking at him, “He’s taking it hard.”

With a soft smile and a sigh Gideon acknowledged the unvoiced plea.  “I’ll talk to him.”  He got up and placed the tie on his desk rather than in the trashcan but Hotch still hadn’t moved.  “Something else?”

“First thing this morning Ellen Harvelle presented the Coroner’s office with a marriage license and a notice that she has filed for a preliminary injunction against an autopsy on Winchester’s body.  Whatever she’s up to, it will only delay the inevitable.”

“She’s stalling,” Gideon said.

“For what purpose?”

“I don’t know specifically, but I’ll bet it’s related to what happened to John Winchester’s body after his death.”

“Some sort of ritual.”

“Possibly.  I’ll pay a visit to the alleged Mrs. Winchester after I talk to Reid.” 

“And Garcia,” Hotchner requested.

Gideon raised an eyebrow.

“She’s not taking Winchester’s death all that well either.  But then again, neither are you.”

“I’m okay. I just feel a certain amount of culpability.”

“You were combing the kid’s hair when he was shot,” Hotchner pointed out doggedly.  “I’d say you cared about him at least as much as Reid and Garcia did.”

“He wasn’t a kid,” Gideon objected, deflecting Hotch’s meaning.  “He hid behind that cocky, boyish charm most of the time but he faced death with as much bravery as I’ve ever witnessed.  Dean died a man.”

Hotch nodded and let him get away with it.  “They’re in the conference room whenever you’re ready.”

******

When Gideon got there Garcia was red-eyed but calm.  Reid appeared to be comforting her with a hand on her shoulder.  When he glanced up his expression was blank but he seemed to be looking to Gideon for direction.

“Are you okay?” Gideon said directly to Garcia, for which Reid seemed grateful.

She nodded and tried to get up.  “I should get back to work.”

Reid tightened his grip.  “You need to talk about it,” he insisted.

“I… I did talk about it,” Garcia stuttered, looking from Reid to Gideon in confusion.  “I’m fine.  You know me, I’ll go home and cry some more, but that’s what I do.  It’s not like I was engaged to the guy or anything.  I just… I guess I liked him.”

“We all did,” Gideon said, noticing the flinch Reid tried to hide.  “If you need to talk some more, you know where to find us,” he added, pulling Reid’s hand away and allowing Garcia to escape.

“Poor kid,” Reid murmured as she disappeared out the door.  He turned away from Gideon’s steady gaze. 

Gideon pursed his lips and waited.

“I’m sorry,” Reid finally said.

“For?”

Reid still couldn’t manage to look Gideon in the eye but he let out a breath and then the words began tumbling out.  “I believed him, everything he said.  I thought he was innocent, that he was some kind of hero.  I let my personal feelings override my common sense.  I was totally taken in by a monster.”

“Whoa,” Gideon interjected.  “Dean was sick.  He wasn’t evil.”

“But you believe he did all those things.”

“Yes, but never maliciously.  He was delusional.  We discussed this yesterday morning before we left for the hearing.  Why the sudden change of heart?”

Reid cleared his throat and tried to swallow but only offered a shrug.

“It may be easier to face Dean’s death if he was some kind of monster but we’re really no better off remembering him that way,” Gideon said gently.  “You made a connection, Reid.  Dean really liked you; he wasn’t trying to fool you.”

“Still, it wasn’t very professional of me to form a friendship with a killer.”

“Did you compromise your job in any way?”

“No.  I don’t think so.”

“Did you learn anything from him?”

“I did get a new perspective on the occult,” Reid admitted reluctantly.

Gideon nodded.  “A new perspective is always a good thing.  And I know Dean was better off for having known you.”

“So what do I do with all these conflicting emotions?”

“We find his murderer and we put him away for good,” Morgan said from the door.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Gideon approved.

“Yeah,” Reid agreed.  “Let’s do that before he hurts anyone else.”

***

Ellen Harvelle didn’t look especially pleased to see him, Gideon noted as he approached the waiting room at the Coroner’s office.  Nor did she seem especially surprised.

“Aw, the good widow Winchester,” Gideon greeted as he reached out to shake her hand.

Ellen kept her arms folded tightly across her chest.  “Agent Gideon.”

 “I understand you were able to produce a marriage license this time.” Gideon seated himself on the edge of the coffee table across from her. 

“I had it faxed to me yesterday,” Ellen said, reaching into her purse to pull out a folded piece of paper which she handed to him.  “It’s not certified, of course.  You’ll have to have your people call whoever they have to call to verify it.”

Gideon put on his glassed and opened the paper.  “New Orleans?  You didn’t marry in Vegas.”

“I never said we did.”

“It’s also four years old.”

“John didn’t approve,” Ellen sighed.  “Neither did Sam.  As you have already pointed out, I’m older than Dean.  There was a rift in the family because of me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“I didn’t think it was any of your damn business.  I still don’t.”

“You lived together as man and wife?” Gideon asked, his gaze drifting down the band she still wore on her left hand.

“Not for long,” Ellen told him.  “Dean had a problem with his zipper.  He couldn’t keep it up.  But I never stopped loving him so I never filed for divorce.”

Gideon sat for a moment and considered her.  “You’re a very good liar, Miss Harvelle,” he said at last.

“Screw you, Agent Gideon,” she shot back.  “Legally I have every right to claim his body.”

“If this checks out,” Gideon replied, holding up the fax.  “After the autopsy.”

“No,” Ellen begged.  “Please, you can’t let them cut him!”

“Why?”

A cell phone began to ring in Ellen’s purse and she tensed up.

“Aren’t you going to get that?”

“They can leave a message,” Ellen told him flatly.

“What if it’s important?” Gideon pushed.

“Then I guess they’ll call back.”  The phone stopped abruptly after only three rings.

The steady clomp of high heels could be heard echoing from the hall just before a well-coiffed woman appeared in the doorway.  She held up a document.  “We’re all set,” she told Ellen, sending a dark eyed glance Gideon’s way.

“Excuse me,” Ellen said as she got up.  “I’ve got to stop them from slicing up my dead husband.”

“Just tell me why,” Gideon persisted, grabbing her wrist.

“Release my client right this minute,” the lawyer demanded without raising her voice.

“Is it a religious belief?  Did the Winchesters think an autopsy would somehow keep them out of heaven?”

Ellen snorted as she tugged her arm free but she couldn’t hide the sudden tears that gathered in her eyes.  “Dean’s already in Hell,” she bent to whisper in his ear.

“I don’t believe that,” Gideon said as she walked away.  “Not for a minute.”  He followed them to the public desk and stood to the side as the lawyer presented the legal document.

“What’s this?” the clerk behind the counter asked, staring at the paper without comprehension.

“This is a temporary injunction.  All post mortem examinations on the body of Dean Winchester must cease and desist as of this moment until a judge can make a ruling.  Now I insist you take us to the body so I can verify that the order is being executed to the letter of the law.” 

“I can’t do that,” the clerk objected.  “Doctor Preston will have my job.”

Gideon pulled out his badge.  “You have to stop the autopsy, Gary,” he read from the young man’s nametag, “You don’t have a choice.”

The clerk rifled through a stack of paper on a clipboard.  “Dean Winchester?  They’ve already started.”

“No!” Ellen shouted, turning to Gideon in desperation.  “Gideon, please, do something.”

“As an officer of the law it is your duty to…” the lawyer began.

“I know what my duty is, lady,” Gideon said as he rounded the counter and pushed through the waist-high swinging partition that separated the lobby from the receptionist.

The clerk foolishly tried to stop Ellen from following by standing in front of the gate and ended up with matching scrapes on his shins where it hit him.  He gave up trying to stop them and hobbled along behind the lawyer.  Gideon opened the first door they came to but found a file room.   Ellen shot past him to open the door of an office.

“Sorry,” Gideon apologized to a man in blue gown after throwing open the door of the first autopsy room and finding an elderly female on the table.  He closed the door immediately but the man hurried out to find out what was going on as they continued down the hall.  “FBI,” Gideon told him with another flash of his badge just as Ellen hit pay dirt.

“Stop!” she screamed.  “Don’t touch him.”

Gideon rushed in with the lawyer in time to see Ellen snatch an abandoned sheet from a nearby stretcher and throw it across the loins of the naked corpse on the table.  She gave the metal stand a shove and sent pristine instruments clattering to the floor.

“What’s going on?” the doctor sputtered, looking to the clerk.  “Gary?”

“They’ve got some kind of order…” Gary held up the injunction and the doctor snatched it out of his hand to read.

Meanwhile Ellen searched Dean’s neck and chest for injuries other than the gunshot wound.

“I wouldn’t touch that body if I were you,” the other doctor suggested from the door.

“I’m his wife,” Ellen told him gruffly.  “If he has anything I’ve already been exposed.”  The flushing of her face as she moved the examination further south betrayed her lie but she stoically continued all the way to Dean’s feet.  More people in blue entered the room as she, apparently satisfied there was no damage, straightened the sheet and folded it reverently covering Dean all the way to his chin.

The doctor handed the court order back to Gary and snapped off his gloves.  “Put him back into cold storage,” he told an assistant and left without further argument.  “Nut job,” he could be heard muttering from the hall.

“Ellen,” Gideon urged as two technicians moved forward to return Dean to a refrigerated drawer. 

Ellen squeezed Dean’s shoulder and whispered what sounded like “Hang in there,” before allowing Gideon to pull her away.

******

“That was a wasted morning,” Reid said as he sank into one of the conference room chairs.

“Canvassing a neighborhood usually is,” Morgan concurred.  He moved over to the map that marked the areas they had covered.  “How is it possible for a raving mad man to simply vanish into a crowd?” he asked as he tapped the diagram with the tip of his pen.  “You would think he would have started a panic.”

“The general population is getting accustomed to aggressive public behavior.  If it doesn’t affect them directly they tend to not want to get involved,” Reid postulated.  “Half of the shopkeepers I questioned didn’t even want to talk to me.”

“It’s a sad world we live in.”

“So how are we going to find Henricksen before he strikes again if no one even noticed him?”

 “Wait, you said people don’t want to get involved if the behavior doesn’t affect them directly.” Morgan put his pen back in his pocket.

“Statistics show…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Morgan interrupted absently.  “We don’t need statistics to tell us we’re way off here.  No one panicked because Henricksen wasn’t a threat to anyone.  He could have hurt a lot of unsuspecting people at the courthouse but he only hurt one.”

“The object of his obsession,” Reid agreed, catching on. 

“We need to stop thinking of this as a random attack and focus on Henricksen’s state of mind.”

Reid nodded slowly.  “You’re right.  People can’t just turn obsessions off and on.  Dean’s actual death probably didn’t do much to satisfy Henricksen.  He might not be able to stay away from the scene.”

“If we’re going to catch Henricksen we need to stake out the courthouse.”

***

Ellen was clearly shaken as Gideon eased her into a chair back out in the waiting room.  The lawyer dug into her large bag and came up with a bottle of water.  Gideon accepted it gratefully and urged Ellen to drink.

“We’ve done all we can do here,” the lawyer told Ellen.  “I’m going to head back to the office and start working on making this thing permanent.”

“Thank you so much,” Ellen said, shaking her hand.

“Don’t thank me yet.  We still have to get a judge to buy off on it.”

Ellen nodded and drank deeply from the bottle.   The lawyer exchanged a look with Gideon, essentially turning her client over to him for safekeeping.   Her expression warned him to take it seriously.  Gideon accepted the task with a small smile and sat next to Ellen to wait her out. 

She drank her water and watched the door, seemingly lost in her thoughts.  The phone rang twice more, three times each but Ellen never made a move to answer it.

“Let’s get out of here,” Gideon finally offered.  “I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”

“No thanks.”

“They won’t attempt to start again today,” Gideon appeased, trying his best to ease her mind.  “You saw the coroner; it was just another task to him.  I’m sure he has plenty of other bodies waiting.”

“I can’t leave him,” Ellen said simply as she checked her watch.

“There’s nothing else you can do for him now.  Dean was a very troubled young man, but I don’t have to tell you that.  At least take some comfort in the fact that he’s not suffering any more.”

Ellen sighed and seemed to bite her tongue before regrouping.  “I know you don’t understand, but we lost one of the good guys yesterday and today the world is a scarier place for it.”

Gideon was quiet for a long moment.  “I’m glad Dean had someone who believed in him.  And I am very sorry for your loss.”

Ellen nodded but didn’t appear to be ready to go anywhere.

***

From across the alley Sam watched a hearse load a body at the dock on the back of the building.  Ellen had missed the last three check-ins but as far as he knew she was still somewhere inside.  He clenched the phone and fought the urge to call back early.  Closing his eyes he pulled himself together and refused to give in to the despair that nagged him.  Dean was still in one piece, he had to be. 

Pocketing his phone before straightening the coveralls he wore, he put on a smile he didn’t feel and headed for the service entrance.  “Hi,” he told the guard as he presented a fake work order.  “I’m here to P.M. the security system.”

“Preventative maintenance?  Is it that time of year again?”

“It rolls around fast, doesn’t it?” Sam asked, hefting his bag and glancing around furtively.  He scribbled an initial and a name on the clipboard and handed it back.

“The security office is straight down this hall and to your left.  Don’t forget to sign back out Mr. Scott,” the guard told him, issuing him a visitor’s pass and doing a double take at the nametag Velcroed on the front of Sam’s uniform that read Bon.

“I won’t.” Sam grinned as he entered the building.  “That one’s for you, big brother,” he muttered.

***

Ellen was certain Gideon was on to the fact that her phone seemed to be ringing at precise thirty minute intervals.  Since she’d missed one of Sam’s two hour checks he’d gone to the abbreviated time table.  If she didn’t pick up next time he would start calling every ten minutes.  And the last half hour check-in was coming up fast.  She jumped when Gideon’s phone rang.

“You okay?” Gideon asked before answering it.

“Sorry, I’m a little on edge,” Ellen said, thankful when he turned away and went to the far corner to talk.

A second later she caught her breath when Sam passed by the door.  He saw her and stopped.  Sam glanced at Gideon’s back and made the universal ‘call me’ signal with his thumb and forefinger then held up all five fingers.  Ellen gave him a stealthy ‘okay’ then watched him disappear down the hall, quiet as a ghost. 

When she got to her feet Gideon immediately covered his phone and turned back to her.

“Ladies room,” Ellen mouthed, holding up the empty water bottle.

Gideon nodded his understanding and moved to follow her.

“Easy there, cowboy, I can handle this one on my own,” Ellen told him, putting a hand to his chest.  “I’ll be right back.”

“Okay,” Gideon agreed.  “But then I’m taking you back to your motel. No arguments.”

Ellen pretended to think about it before giving in.  “Fine.  Give me five minutes.  I’ve got a shy bladder.”

“Take your time,” Gideon told her before getting back to his phone call.  “That’s good work,” Ellen heard him tell whoever was on the other end of the conversation.  She paused just outside the door and listened until she spotted Gary watching her from the other side of the counter.  He raised an inquisitive eyebrow at her.

“Excuse me,” Ellen said as she advanced on him.  “If that FBI agent asks would you tell him I don’t need a ride, I’ll catch a taxi back to my motel.  He’s on the phone and I don’t want to interrupt him.”

“No problem,” Gary said a little suspiciously as he eyed her up and down.  “Have a nice day.”

“A little late for that,” Ellen grumbled.  “Creep,” she added under her breath, making a break down the hall towards the front of the building.  She turned the corner and ducked into a nearby janitor’s closet.  Pulling out the phone she hit speed dial and finally let herself breathe.

“I’ve got to take this,” Sam’s voice sounded in her ear in a stage whisper.  “It’s the old ball and chain.  Hi, babe,” he greeted a little louder.  “What’ve you been up to?  I’ve been calling you all day.”

“I’ve had an FBI profiler up my ass all day, that’s what,” Ellen explained, exasperated.  “Dean is safe though.  Sorry I made you worry.”

“That’s great, sweetie.  I’m glad to hear it,” Sam said before excusing himself from whoever he’d been talking to.  “Are you alright?” he asked more seriously a few seconds later.

“I’m fine, don’t worry about me.  But you’ve got to get out of here, I heard Gideon tell someone that he thinks you’re going to show up to steal Dean’s body.”

“Gideon?  Is that the profiler?”

“Yes.  Did you disable the security cameras?”

“Not yet, but don’t worry, the whole system is set to self-destruct a few minutes before midnight.  Do you know what to do?”

“Yeah, but… what if I mess it up?”  Ellen knew she sounded needy and bit her lip.

“You won’t,” Sam soothed.  “Left to right, forehead to chin.  Say it.”

“Left to right, forehead to chin.”

“That’s all there is to it.  I have to be on the other end or you know I wouldn’t ask you to do this.”

“I know.   Just be careful, Sam.”

“You, too.  No more check-ins, okay?  You should only call if it’s an emergency or to give me the signal.”

“I guess I’ll talk to you when it’s over, then,” Ellen said.  “Bye.”  She disconnected and looked around at her hideaway, giving special attention to the mop sink.  She really did have to pee.

******

The plan was for Gideon to drop Ellen off at her motel for safe keeping then meet Hotch back at the morgue in case Sam Winchester showed up to make an unauthorized withdrawal.  In the meantime Morgan, Reid, and JJ would watch for Henricksen at the courthouse.  Unfortunately it seemed the dropping off of Ellen was going to be a problem since she’d never made it back from the restroom. 

Gideon tapped on the door for the third time.  “Mrs. Winchester?”  Again, no answer was forthcoming.  Just as he decided to bust in the clerk from the desk rounded the corner and pulled up short to keep from running into him.

“Hello,” Gideon said, acting like he hadn’t just been caught opening the door to the ladies room.

“Oh.  You’re still here.”

“I was looking for my friend…”

“Oh!  Oh, right.  I’m so sorry,” Gary rattled on.  “She left.”

“She left?”

“Mmm hmm.  She asked me to tell you not to bother with a ride, she’d get a taxi.”

Gideon gave Gary a stern look then barged into the empty bathroom, checking each stall.  He returned to the hall and sighed.  “How long ago did she leave?”

Gary checked his watch.  “Five minutes?  If she didn’t call ahead she’s probably still out front.  It’s notoriously hard to get a cab around here,” he called after Gideon who rushed out to check the curb.  He tsked quietly to himself until a tall hunk in coveralls went by in the opposite direction.  “Can I help you find something?” he purred cheerfully, following behind and taking in the scenery.

***

The cleaning crew came in around ten o’clock.  Ellen squeezed in behind a cabinet in the corner and held her breath while they gathered their supplies.  Once they were gone she slipped out into the hall and looked around.  Realizing the place was far from deserted she searched out another hiding place while avoiding the public areas, and more importantly, the security cameras.

After a few locked doors and one occupied office she located a locker room with a big shelving unit filled with blue scrubs.  The trash can had apparently just been emptied so she yanked out the new bag and stuffed it with scrub pants and a top that would fit Dean plus a smaller set for herself.  Perusing the rack of shoes under the lockers she stole a couple decent looking pairs of sneakers as well.

Hearing voices nearby she ducked out the opposite door and found herself in an anteroom that lead to the autopsy suites.  It was eerily calm but the lights were off so she went ahead and changed thinking it would be better to look like she belonged if someone saw her.  Ellen put her clothes and purse in the bag.  She thought about hiding it but decided not to since she might not be able to get back to it after and Sam had been adamant that she not leave any evidence behind.

The voices were now in the locker room and Ellen could hear metal doors opening and closing.  Locating her Swiss army knife she held it for a minute then decided it would be silly to brandish it at anyone and put it in the front pocket of the scrub top.  She dropped into a crouch behind a chair in the corner instead which provided only scant coverage but it was better than nothing.  If worse came to worse she could play the grieving widow card again which might or might not keep her out of jail but wouldn’t do Dean any good.

“Where are you going?” A male voice asked.  The doorknob began to jiggle.

Light spilled into the room as a woman opened the door.  She didn’t enter, but continued the conversation facing the other way.  “I still have to do the paperwork on McRae.”

“I thought they were going to cremate him this afternoon.”

“They were but I got tied up and couldn’t complete the report.”

“Come on, Doc, it’s late.  He didn’t have any family and the county’s picking up the bill.  There’s no rush, he’ll still be dead tomorrow.”

 “You’re right, I suppose.”

“Have I ever led you astray?”

The woman laughed at that and pulled the door shut.  “Okay, let’s get out of here.”

“Come on, I’ll let you buy me dinner.”

Some more banging lockers and a nauseating amount of flirting later the duo finally left.  By that time Ellen’s heart was racing and she swore if she got out of this alive and without going to prison she would leave the cloak and dagger stuff to the boys from now on.  But seeing Dean laid out like a piece of dead meat had broken something inside her and getting him back whole would more than make up for any trouble. 

Ellen checked her watch and saw she still had over an hour to kill.  She took a breath and opened the door to the corridor between the autopsy rooms.  There were two on each side and another wide door at the end.  The old adage quiet as a crypt struck her, prompting an inappropriate giggle that she didn’t know where the hell it came from.  She was not now nor had she ever been a giggling female.  It quickly died in her throat as she reached the door. 

She ducked inside and dug in her pocket for her Swiss army knife.  Jamming the screwdriver blade under the locking mechanism she then dumped her clothes and spread them across the bottom of the door before turning on the light.  It took a minute for her eyes to adjust to the brightness then she set about finding Dean in the row of drawers that ran three deep across the back wall.  Winchester was scrawled on an index card on the bottom drawer of the second row.

Opening the drawer was harder than she thought it would be but it had nothing to do with the heavy handle or the squeaky hinge.  Thankfully Dean’s face was covered with a sheet which gave her a minute to get a handle on her emotions.  Ellen tugged with both hands and fully extended the drawer.  She shivered involuntarily as she pulled back the sheet and saw his blue tinged face which didn’t look peaceful as she hoped, just dead.  She smoothed his hair and the skin under her hand was cold as ice. 

“Someday I’m gonna tease you about this over a beer,” Ellen promised as she pulled out the scrubs and set about dressing him. 

His limbs were stiff and Ellen wondered if it was rigor mortis or merely the cold.  She, however, worked up a sweat lifting and turning and pulling the scrubs into place.  Resting for a minute before putting on the shoes she glanced at her watch, astonished to see her hour was nearly up.  

At least the shoes would be easy, she thought as she removed Dean’s toe tag.  But what should have been a simple task reminded her of the time she tried to cram Jo’s pudgy, uncooperative little feet into black patent leather Mary Jane’s for Easter pictures when she was two.  They’d finally had to leave her barefooted or give up their place in line.  She smiled at the memory and passed it along to Dean as she loosened the laces since they turned out to be about a size too small.

When she was done she got her purse and pulled out the Ziplocked hanky.  She clutched it in her hand as she backed away and slid down the wall to wait.

******

Sam kept his head down as he walked glancing up only to avoid colliding with an attractive blonde he met on the sidewalk.  He thought it odd she was out alone on the almost deserted street so late but she seemed confident of her own safety so he merely nodded as he passed her.  He didn’t miss the double-take, in fact something about her whole demeanor pinged his cop radar.  But she didn’t speak so he played it cool and kept the same unhurried pace past the courthouse steps and around the corner.  As far as he could tell she didn’t follow him.

Once he rounded the corner it wasn’t hard to figure out where the so-called explosion had taken place.  Police tape sectioned off the side entrance and a sheet of plywood covered the missing glass on the door.  The only thing standing between him and the place of Dean’s death was a length of chain with a padlock and a bored security guard.

“Hey,” Sam greeted when he got close, lashing out before the man could even tell him to move along.

Sam lowered the hefty guard to the ground with a grunt then made quick work of the lock.  He dragged the man inside and added insult to injury by secured him to the handrail along the wall with his own rent-a-cop issue handcuffs.  He snatched the stocking cap off of the balding head and shoved it into the unconscious man’s mouth for good measure, patting him on the cheek as he got up and stepped over him.

The floor had been swept clean of the more dangerous shards of glass but clearly hadn’t been mopped.  There were small spots of reddish brown here and there but only one large area of smeared blood.  Sam’s heart caught in his throat and for a moment he couldn’t seem to breathe.  But midnight was rapidly approaching and he was on a mission.  He forced his emotions down and with a bit of effort pulled himself together.

He sat cross-legged on top of the smear, judging it to be the place where Dean had spent his last mortal moments.  Opening his backpack he pulled out a candle, chalk, rosemary, holy water, and Dean’s amulet.  He kissed the talisman and placed it in front of him as a symbol of his brother.  His phone rested in his breast pocket and he prayed Ellen would be able to complete her part and give him a ring before the stroke of midnight.  He took the chalk and began to draw the necessary symbols from memory.

***

Gideon lingered in the shadows across the street with a clear view of the loading dock.  The unshakable devotion Dean had for his younger sibling ran both ways, he was sure of it.  It held the family together in spite of their unusual upbringing.  Or maybe because of it, he’d have to reflect more on that thought later.

He adjusted the collar of his jacket against the cool breeze and glanced at his watch which showed twenty to twelve.  Hotch pulled the SVU around the corner and came to an abrupt stop.  “Morgan just called,” he said through the open window.

“They’ve got Henricksen?”

“No.  But JJ is sure she saw Sam Winchester.”

“Near the courthouse?” Gideon asked, unable to stop himself from looking toward the Coroner’s office as if for confirmation.  “Why would he go there?”

“Morgan thinks he was casing the place.  He might have made the same conclusion we did; that Henricksen will return to the scene of the crime.”

“Have they detained him?”

“Not yet,” Hotchner said.  “He gave them the slip but they’re sure he’s still in the area.  What do you want to do?”

“He’ll come here eventually,” Gideon reasoned.  “I’m certain he’ll try to take Dean’s body.”

“And what if one Winchester is as good as another to Henricksen?”

Gideon ran around the SUV and climbed into the passenger side without further hesitation.  “We can’t let that happen.” 

***

At six minutes before midnight Ellen knew that whatever Sam had sabotaged had gone off without a hitch when the lights flickered then left her in total darkness.  The white noise of the drawer coolers she hadn’t even been aware of faded and stopped as well.  So she sat in the pitch black morgue and listened to the sound of her own respirations for several of the longest seconds of her life. 

When the generator kicked in emergency lights came up and cast the room in a hellish red glow.  Given the circumstances she thought she might actually prefer the dark.  The hum of the drawers started low and gradually increased to the same level of unremarkable sound as before. Ellen opened the baggie and slid over to the open drawer.  She ignored the tremor in her hand and unfolded the hanky.

“Left to right,” she said as she rubbed her finger in the middle to collect the invisible ash.  She traced a line across Dean’s left cheek just under his eye, high across the bridge of his nose, and over to his right cheek equal distance from the left.  The drawer had been open for a while but he was still far from room temperature.  The cold skin gave her shivers in more ways than one and she wondered if she would ever be able to look at Dean again and not see death.

“Forehead to chin,” she finished, repeating the action down the middle of his face then sat back on her heels.  She couldn’t see the cross but was almost certain she got it right.  Shaking out the handkerchief she draped it over his face and hit speed dial, let it ring once then hung up.

“It’s up to Sam, now,” Ellen told Dean before scooting back to the corner to wait for the witching hour.

******

Everything was in place just like he’d practiced dozens of times while they’d been searching for the magic bullet.  Once Sam had discovered the spell he’d spent every waking moment he wasn’t looking for Willingham or in Dean’s company getting ready for this moment.  Since Dean was frequently occupied getting drunk in some bar or hooking up, finding out what Sam was up to hadn’t turned out to be an issue.  But knowing his brother it was all calculated to give him room to maneuver.  Or most of it anyway.

Bobby hadn’t been sure because the spell was only supposed to be uttered by a demon but Sam had no doubts.  He felt it in his bones, in his very blood that seemed to stir every time he ventured closer to the dark side.  Ultimately, he knew he had control, he had the power to choose good over evil, but he couldn’t deny the kernel the yellow eyed demon had planted so long ago.  And now, to set right the events that had led them to the point where Dean had offered up himself for Sam’s life, he would use that kernel to strike back.  God help anyone who got in his way.

The pre-paid cell rang once then went silent.  Dean’s body was ready, now Sam had to deliver his soul.  He took a cleansing breath and waited for the stroke of midnight.  When the alarm on his watch sounded he struck a match and started the incantation.  Latin had always been easier for him than for Dean but these words were carved into his memory and slid like silk from his lips as he lit the candle.  The flame grew tall and danced along with the rise and fall of his voice as he closed his eyes and chanted to finish the ritual, surprisingly short for summoning the damned.  

As he finished there was a stir in the air around him.  He opened his eyes and found himself knee to knee and face to face with Special Agent Victor Henricksen.  Or what was left of him.

“You rang?” Henricksen asked with many voices before blowing out the candle.

***

Reid passed the broken door again, realizing he always speeded up as he went by.  The glass was covered now but he knew what lay just beyond.  He didn’t think he’d ever get the picture of Gideon holding Dean as he lay dying out of his head.  The guard he had spoken to earlier wasn’t back from the break he had said he was going to take.  Reid wondered if he wasn’t slacking off somewhere since he knew there were FBI agents patrolling the area.  He decided to mention it to Morgan the next time he checked in.

***

Ten minutes slowly crawled by and nothing happened.  Ellen thought she might cry as she huddled in the corner.  She fingered the phone and wanted to call, desperately needed to know what the hell was going on but didn’t want to disturb Sam either if he was still busy.  After all, she had no idea how long it took to raise the dead. 

Suddenly out of nowhere there was a spark.  A tiny flame burst spontaneously into being and hovered over Dean.  It grew in size and intensity until Ellen had to shield her eyes.  It wavered for a moment and then disappeared.

“Dean?” Ellen whispered as she rushed to his side.  Hesitantly she pressed two fingers against his throat and felt for a pulse.  She repositioned her hand again and again but there was no tell-tale rhythm beneath the icy flesh.  Backing away as fast as she could she dialed the phone, certain something had gone utterly, terribly wrong.

***

Morgan strolled down the alley behind the courthouse, shining his flashlight up to the second and third story windows as he went.  Headlights came up behind him and he turned to see Hotch and Gideon in the SUV. 

“Anything?” Gideon asked.

“No.  For all we know one or both are already inside.  We need to be in there,” Morgan said, pointing to the building for emphasis.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Hotchner agreed as he pulled out his phone.

***

Sam jumped up in surprise and scrambled back, landing solidly on his ass when he fell back down.

“How’s it going, Sammy?” Henricksen greeted in the weird, multi-level tone as he scooped up Dean’s amulet.

Anger replaced shock and Sam lurched forward to snatch it away from him.  He folded it into his fist and glared.  “What do you want?” he snarled.

“Hey, you called us.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Sure you did.”  Henricksen grinned an all too evil grin, taking obvious pleasure from the situation.  “There’s no telling how many damned souls you conjured up.  I guess you Winchesters never learn.”

“You’re lying.  I didn’t conjure you.”  Sam climbed to his feet and surreptitiously assessed the situation.  The mad man was between him and the door, the hallway into the courthouse behind him was completely boarded up, and there was a gun tucked in at Henricksen’s waist.  Worst of all, Sam didn’t think he would be able to unlock the guard and get him out of harm’s way before Henricksen did whatever he had come to do.  

“Too bad you didn’t get the one soul you were fishing for.”

“Actually,” Sam assured, “I did.”  The ritual had worked.  Dean was now back in his body and the nightmare was officially over.  It had to be.  Anything less would break him.

Henricksen got up as well and turned a theatrical three-hundred and sixty degrees with his arms outstretched as he glanced around.  “So where is he?”

Sam’s phone started to ring but he ignored it, keeping his full attention on Henricksen.  Suddenly the amulet in his hand grew warm and seemed to pulse with each beat of his own heart.  “I’m afraid he’s closer than you think,” Sam murmured, stunned, worried, frightened beyond all belief that his efforts were all for naught. 

“Mortals shouldn’t go messing around in demons’ business,” Henricksen lectured, his voice getting deeper and his face growing more sinister by the minute.

“You’re mortal, too,” Sam reminded him, still trying to figure out what went wrong. “You’re a freak with a side order of crazy, pissed off spirits.  Nothing more than a demon wannabe,” he added for spite.

“Is that right?” Henricksen asked with a feral growl.  “Can mortals do this?”  He raised his hands as if gathering energy to strike at Sam but froze in place as something on the ground between them caught his eye.

Sam followed his gaze and saw the candle was once again burning bright.  A light breeze whirled around Sam’s ankles and grew bigger and more powerful with each twist as it rose up around him, leaving the flame untouched.  Suddenly it whipped away from Sam and caught Henricksen in a maelstrom of light and energy.

It lifted the ex-agent off the floor and held him in mid-air.  Henricksen convulsed as the voices screeched and howled in protest.  There was a clap of thunder and a flash of light then he crashed to the ground and didn’t move.  The wind died immediately but the candle continued to burn sedately.

“Henricksen?” Sam asked, giving the fallen man a nudge with his foot.  No response.  From across the room the downed guard began to groan.  Sam opened his hand and stared at the now cool and still amulet before glancing around uncertainly.  He swallowed once before finding his voice again.  “Dean?”

The background noise of the pre-paid cell suddenly stopped leaving the room quiet except for the occasional grunt or moan from the now semi-conscious guard.  The air seemed to shimmy and suddenly a transparent apparition stepped out of thin air looking rather pleased with himself.

“What the hell are you doing?” Sam raged at him in frustration.  “You’re supposed to be back in your body.”

Dean gaped and pointed to the body on the floor, clearly annoyed at his ungrateful brother.

“Yeah, I know, you kicked their asses.  You saved me and probably Henricksen, too.  Now go to your body!”  Sam glared for a minute before realizing Dean obviously didn’t know how to accomplish that after failing to check in the first time.  “Just wait a minute,” Sam told him firmly, reaching down to pick up his pack and pull out an ancient leather-bound book.

Putting his make-believe hands on his incorporeal hips Dean heaved a silent sigh that said ‘Where the hell would I go?’

In the meantime Sam’s real phone began to ring.  “Yeah,” Sam answered distractedly as he thumbed through the old tome.  He started guiltily, forgetting the book for a minute.  “Ellen!  I’m so sorry… no, no, it’s okay.  He’s here with me… I know that.  I am… I will… Just relax for a minute…” Sam had to pull the phone away from his ear. 

Ellen’s disembodied voice filled the room.  Dean grinned and shook his head as Sam got lambasted by their irate friend.

“Sorry,” Sam reiterated into the phone when she finally calmed down.  “Listen to me… Yes.  It’s okay.  Something else should happen in the next ten minutes.  If it doesn’t, get out of there.  We’ll think of something else.  Okay?  Okay… bye.  Boy are you in trouble,” Sam muttered to Dean as he closed his phone with his chin and flipped the book open where he’d had his thumb.  “This ought to do it.”  He began to read in Latin.

Alternately looking worried and confused, Dean still didn’t know what to do.

“You never studied,” Sam accused with fond exasperation as he bent and picked up the still lit candle.  “For once do what I tell you to do.  Go back to your body,” he said as he raised the amulet in one hand and the candle in the other.  “I command you.”

Dean’s protest was written all over his face even as he faded away.  The flame died leaving a thin line of twisting smoke trailing from the wick.

***

There’s no evidence anyone was inside the courthouse,” Morgan reported over the radio.  “The side entrance is still blocked off but there’s no sign of the missing guard.  What do you want us to do?

Hotchner exchanged a look with Gideon in the passenger side of the SVU.  They were parked across the street and down the block but had an unobstructed view of the side entrance.  JJ was in the sedan at the corner in the opposite direction, also in line of sight. 

“This is where they’ll come,” Gideon insisted.  “Certainly Henricksen, but Winchester may have just wanted to see where his brother died before he went to the morgue.”

Hotch nodded his agreement as he put the mic back to his mouth and pressed the button.  “You and Reid find cover and hang tight,” he ordered.  “We’ll let you know if anyone tries to get in this way.”

Copy that.

***

Ellen gathered her wits and tried to calm down.  Apparently Sam knew what had gone wrong and was taking steps to correct it.  They’d have a little talk later about leaving her in the dark.  Literally and figuratively.  She glanced at her watch and decided to stay until something happened or someone found her and physically removed her.  She just needed to quit freaking out and find a more useful outlet.

Still bathed in the glow of the emergency lights she could just make out the letters on the index cards at the head of each drawer.  Marvin, McRae, Sanchez, Winchester of course, Mehta, Hamilton, Gosselin… twenty-four in all, every one with someone’s remains inside.  Busy place.  McRae stuck in her head for some reason and she moved back to read the name a second time. 

“Oh yeah,” Ellen said quietly, mostly to calm her own nerves.  “You were supposed to be cremated today.  Or yesterday, I guess since it’s after midnight now.”   Curious, she pulled down the handle and opened the door.  Inspiration hit her and she rapidly tugged the drawer open.  Feeling a little guilty she none–the-less pulled it all the way out and uncovered the feet.  Foot.  The little old guy had lost a leg somewhere along the way. 

“I am so sorry,” she told Mr. McRae as she removed the toe tag and replaced it with the one she had taken off Dean before putting on the ill fitting sneakers.  After closing the drawer she pocketed the tag and the index card, replacing it with the one that read Winchester.

No sooner had she finished when a miniature comet came streaking through the room, crashing straight into Dean’s chest.  Ellen jumped back and covered her face as an explosion of light burst from under the scrub top right where the fatal wound was before encompassing his entire body with a brilliant radiance which quickly passed.  Just as the residual glow faded out Dean abruptly sat up and gasped, snatching the handkerchief from his face.  He screamed and fell back panting into the shallow tray of the drawer, writhing in pain.

“Dean!”  Ellen scrambled to his side and got smacked upside the head for her troubles.  Stunned by the blow she ducked as Dean vaulted over her and promptly fell on his face in the floor, still keening.

Ellen tried again, calling his name and reaching for his leg while keeping out of striking distance.  “DEAN!”

Dean rolled away and clawed at the wall desperately.  Ellen advanced on him anyway and pulled his still frigid body close to her.  “Dean.”  She finally got through to him and he clutched her desperately, sobbing as she cradled him in her arms.  Ellen shushed him quietly as she kept a nervous eye on the door.  “It’s okay, Dean.  It’s all right now.”  As she rocked him he gradually settled down. 

In a few minutes they were both shivering but Dean’s skin started to lose the grey undertones.  Ellen pulled back and assessed him for damage.  Pushing her hand up from the bottom of the scrub top she found only cool, smooth skin where there had been a deep gouge from the bullet wound before.  Physically he was whole.  “Thank God,” she breathed, hugging him tight once again.

“Ellen?” Dean finally asked in a broken voice.

“It’s okay, hon, I’ve got you.”

“Wh… what happened?”  He asked sounding very much like a frightened child.  “Where’s S…Sam?”

“We’re going to meet him later but right now we’ve got to get out of here,” Ellen told him.  “Do you think you can walk?”

Dean nodded, but made no move to get up.  He might never admit it later but he actually whimpered when she pulled away from him.

“Wait there.”  Ellen crawled over to her purse and dug out the same lighter she’d used to burn Dean’s hair.  Opening the next drawer up and a row over she climbed on Dean’s drawer as a step to get on top of it.  She said a silent apology to the body as she straddled it with a foot on each side which got her very close to the ceiling when she stood up.  She fished out the index card and one flick later was well on her way to setting off the fire detector.

There was a click and Ellen had just enough time to duck before the alarm sounded and the sprinkler went off.  “Dammit,” she muttered as she dropped down on top of the body and rolled off.  She slammed the drawer shut, then the door, then did the same with the one that had held Dean.

She was heartened to see that Dean was at least with it enough to be trying to gather her things and cram them back into the trash bag.  He was failing miserably to perform even that simple task but he was trying.  Ellen helped him but they were both soaked by the time she liberated her Swiss army knife and opened the door.   She grabbed Dean’s arm and draped it over her shoulders and took an alarming amount of his weight as they stumbled out into the hall. 

“I’ve got it,” Dean told her, tucking the trash bag close to his chest as they hurried along the hall, water still raining down on their heads.

***

Sam let out the breath he was holding.  He wasn’t completely, one hundred percent sure it had worked since he didn’t know what had gone wrong in the first place.  He assumed it had something to do with Dean’s free-will kicking back in as soon as he cleared the gates of Hell.  And he well knew how that could throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans.  He didn’t even want to think about the kind of psychological scars Dean’s time downstairs might inflict, and the book didn’t elaborate on that point either.

“Who’s there?  Yo, kid, over here!”

The guard continued to call to him but it was the groan closer to Sam’s feet that got his attention.  He bent to check Henricksen’s pulse and got his hand slapped away.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

“Like you care.”

“Look, we’re sorry about what happened to you…”

“Bastards!” Henricksen shouted, cutting him off.  “Both of you!”

“Hey,” Sam objected.  “Dean risked his own neck to save your life.”

“He took it away.”  Henricksen began to sob.  “Everything… all my power.  I was a god.”

“You didn’t have any power.  They were using you.”  Sam shouldered his pack as he got to his feet.  “You were lucky to get out of this alive.  What you do with that life is up to you, but if you ever come near my brother again I’ll kill you myself.”  

Henricksen continued to weep as Sam walked away.  He didn’t see him struggle to his knees but he did hear a gun being cocked. 

“Stop,” Henricksen ordered, firing a warning shot.  The guard screeched in fright.

Sam felt his knees go weak with relief when the apparition of Dean didn’t swoop in and save the day.  As he held his hands up and slowly turned back to face Henricksen the door opened behind him and two men and the blond woman from the street came in leading with their weapons.  Half a second later a large section of the boarded up wall came crashing down and two more armed men joined the party.

“Put it down, Victor,” the older man of the group urged.  “It’s over.”

“Nothing’s over,” Henricksen disagreed, pointing the gun at Sam’s head.

Sam felt a hand on his elbow and let the man slowly pull him away from Henricksen and out of the middle of the circle of guns.

“You know the routine.  There’s only one good way for this to end.  You were a good agent once and now you’ve killed a man.  Don’t compound that mistaken by killing again.”

“You,” Henricksen swore in recognition, finally taking his eyes off Sam.

“That’s right.  I tried to help you before.”

“I didn’t need your damn help.   You helped me right out of a career, you and that bastard Dean Winchester.  Where is he?”

“Dean’s dead.  You know that.  You killed him yourself.”

Sam eased further away as the conversation continued but the blonde was between him and the door.  He pulled his keys out of his pocket and nodded his head towards the security guard.  She nodded back and covered them while Sam unlocked him.  When Henricksen raised his voice again she looked back towards the confrontation.

“Son of bitch,” Sam muttered as Henricksen shot himself in the head.  The guard freaked out and grabbed the female agent.  Sam knew she could hold her own and used the opportunity to slip out quickly and quietly.

***

As they emerged from the autopsy suites and away from the infernal sprinklers one of the cleaning staff met them.  “The fire department is on the way.  How bad is the smoke?”

Even though he was having difficulty putting one foot in front of the other Dean coughed right on cue.  Ellen sent him a side-long glance before joining in.  “It’s bad.  Don’t go in there,” she warned.

“Some of my crew is back there,” the woman told them, wringing her hands.

“They got out the other way,” Ellen lied.  “Why don’t you look for them out by the loading dock?”

“Okay,” the woman agreed as she hooked an arm around Dean’s back and tried to help Ellen support him.

“I’ve got him,” Ellen said.  “Go find your people.”

The woman nodded and headed back the other way while Ellen made a beeline for the nearest fire exit with Dean in tow.  He seemed to be getting stronger but was still having some trouble walking.

“Something’s wrong with my feet,” he told her as they busted out the door into the cool night air and tried to maneuver down the set of concrete steps.

“It’s the shoes.  They might be a tad small,” Ellen guessed.  She lowered him to sit on the low brick wall next to the building and behind a shrub.  “Stay here and I’ll get the car.”

“What?  Are you gonna steal one?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Ellen laughed.  “But no, I’ve got a rental stashed over on the next street.”  She padded away leaving wet footprints in her wake.

“That’s my girl,” Dean said.  He shook his head to send a spray of water flying and shivered.  Waking up from the dead was a bitch but the chill was a welcome change.

***

Gideon swore under his breath and turned away from Henricksen as Morgan kicked the gun away and felt for a pulse.  “He’s gone.”

“Yep,” Morgan agreed.

“No,” Gideon corrected.  “I mean Winchester.”

JJ had the security guard slammed face first against the wall but he wasn’t fighting her anymore.  “Sorry,” she said.

“Not your fault,” Hotchner told her as he followed Gideon out the door.

“I’ve got the back,” Gideon called out as he broke into a trot towards the alley behind the building.  Hotch nodded and went the other way. 

Gideon rounded the corner in time to see Winchester jump high onto the chain link fence that encompassed the impound lot and vault over the top.  Graced with age and agility that Gideon hadn’t seen in himself in several years, the younger man dropped to the ground on the other side and kept moving. 

“Sam!”  Gideon used the only tool he had left.  “Sam Winchester!  Wait!  Please.  I want to talk to you about your brother.”

Already half-way across the lot Sam slowed, then stopped and turned around in spite of the distant sirens he surely must have heard.

“My name is Jason Gideon.  I’m an FBI profiler.”

“Are you the one responsible for getting my brother killed?”

Gideon paused and took a deep breath.  “Yes,” he admitted.  “Ultimately I accept that responsibility.  He died in my arms.”

Apparently thrown by the honest answer Sam folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the nearest vehicle, a beat up delivery van.  His head was down and his features stayed partially shadowed.  “What do you want?”

Anyone else would have seen a petulant young man but Gideon saw only grief and anxiety.  And hope.  The boy was shining with it.  “I have some questions.”

“Why should I help you?  One of yours killed one of mine.”

“I’m sorry about your brother.  Agent Henricksen had some problems.  He was relieved of duty."

“Yeah.”  Sam leaned his head back against the van bringing his face into the light.  “I know about his problems.  I can’t blame you for that.”

“Do you know what he was doing in there?  What were the lines on the floor?”

“It was an ancient summoning ritual,” Sam explained after only a brief hesitation, not quite a lie but perhaps not the whole truth either.

“To summon whom?  Or should I say what?”

“The damned, but that particular ritual only works if you’re a demon.”

Gideon faltered.  It hadn’t occurred to him that Henricksen might have been dabbling in the dark arts.  “He thought he was a demon.”

Sam laughed tersely.  “No, he thought he was a god.”  The sirens were getting closer and he looked ready to bolt.

“I have a message for you from Dean.”  Sam pushed off of the van and came closer to the fence.  “He wanted you to know he died bravely.”

“That sounds like him,” Sam muttered with a disgusted snort.  “Macho ‘til the end.”

“No, he was frightened.  But he didn’t suffer long.”

“That’s what you think,” Sam rebuffed as he moved away.

“What happened in St. Louis?” Gideon called after him urgently, clinging to the fence.

“You won’t believe me.”

“Shape shifter?”

Sam stopped and turned back around in surprise.  “Dean told you that?”

“Among other things.  Wait,” he pleaded as Sam started to edge away. 

“If you didn’t believe him, you won’t believe me.”

“Come back with me.  Let’s talk.”

“So you can arrest me?  I don’t think so.”

“We don’t have anything on you except for the ramblings of a mad man.  What have you done wrong?”

Sam grinned sheepishly.  “I assaulted a security guard,” he confessed.

“That was you?”

“Henricksen would have killed him.”

“Jessica Moore?”

The grief that passed across Sam’s face was all too real.  “That was an accident,” he lied, barely managing to get the words out as he walked away.  “A tragic fire.”

“Don’t go.”

“Are you going to shoot me in the back?”

“Of course not,” Gideon promised but Sam had already faded into the shadows.

******

“Okay, Mr. Winchester, your time is up,” the morgue tech chatted as he entered the cooler room.  “The injunction was only good for twenty-four hours and your wife’s lawyer failed to come up with a permanent one.”

“Good luck finding him,” the other tech huffed, resting against his mop handle.  “The sprinklers made all the ink run.  You can barely read any of them.  Stupid false alarm.”

“Don’t worry, I know where he is,” the first man said with a flourish as he pulled out an empty drawer.  “Oh.  I didn’t think we had any vacancies.”

The other guy laughed.  “They must have picked up old man McRae late.”

“I guess.”  The tech closed the drawer and examined a couple of the ruined index cards.  “Here he is,” he said, popping the handle and giving the drawer a tug.  One of the body’s hands was uncovered just enough to show a little skin.  He lifted the sheet and frowned.  “Hey, Brian?” he asked as he pulled the drawer out far enough to read the toe tag.

“Yeah?”

“Winchester.  Young white guy, right?”

“Yeah.  Gunshot wound.  Why?”

“Oh, man.  Somebody’s in trouble.”

***

The team sat glumly around the conference room table.

“The body is gone?” Hotchner asked incredulously.

“Apparently there was some kind of mix up and they sent Dean to be cremated instead of an old homeless man,” JJ said with a shrug.  “However the crematorium denies ever receiving a body at all.”

“Someone took it,” Gideon said.  “But we know it wasn’t Sam Winchester.  What about Ellen Harvelle?”

“Harvelle-Winchester?” Morgan asked, turning to Garcia.

“As far as we know they were married.  The clerk I spoke to in New Orleans told me they were still sorting things out after Katrina.  When I told her it was important she invited me to kiss a part of her anatomy I never want to see, let alone put my lips on.”

“Bring her in,” Hotch ordered.

“The clerk?”

“Harvelle.”

“She’s long gone,” Morgan told him as he held up the motel receipt.  “And there’s no way she carried Dean out of there all by herself.”

“There was a report of a man and a woman leaving the building just before the fire department arrived,” Garcia announced as she scanned her screen.  “But they weren’t carrying any… body.  And no, we don’t have any pictures.  The security cameras went down right before the fire alarm went off.”

“Maybe…” Reid offered then stopped and looked at the expectant faces around him.  “Never mind.”  He shook his head and closed his mouth.

“Enough,” Hotchner declared.  “The perp is dead.  The man who killed the perp is dead.  We will never know what really happened.  Let’s get back to work on a case we can do something about.”

One by one they filed out of the room.

Reid paused in the door.  “He wasn’t just a perp to me.”

Gideon cleared his throat.  “Nor to me.”

“I requested Sam Winchester be taken off the most wanted list,” Hotchner told them.  “An assault on a security guard hardly makes the cut.”

“Thank you.”  Gideon smiled sadly.

***

Dean stretched out in the shade in the back of the non-descript four-door sedan and wiggled his bare feet as he sipped his soda.  “Are you sure this is where Sam said to meet him?” he asked for the fourth time glancing straight up through the window at the faded and broken motel sign.

Sitting sideways behind the wheel with her feet out on the ground, Ellen continued to work the tangles out of her hair.  “Yes, Dean, this is the place.  He said he’ll be here by noon.  It’s only eleven thirty.  Relax.” 

When she turned to look at him he sat up and lifted her chin, running his thumb along her bruised cheek in silent apology.  “I can’t believe you stole such tiny shoes for me.”

“Well I’m sorry I misjudged your size, darlin’.  You know what they say, ‘big feet, big…’”

“Hey!”  Dean plopped back in the seat and pouted until he heard a familiar roar.  “There he is,” he announced.  He shoved his feet back into the hated sneakers and scooted out of the car.

The Impala tore around the corner and screeched to a halt.  Sam bailed out and rushed over.

“Sammy,” Dean greeted happily, his arms wide open only to be met with a fist in the face.  He landed on his butt in the dust.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Sam yelled as he towered over him.

“Sam!” Ellen dropped down beside Dean and glared up at Sam. 

“The fuck!?” Dean rubbed his jaw and stared in disbelief.

“You almost ruined everything.  Do you know how hard we worked to get you back?”  Sam reached down and hauled Dean up by the now dry scrub top to wrap him in a bear hug.  “Don’t ever do that again.  And no more deals with demons.  Ever!”

Dean exchanged a mystified look with Ellen but held on as Sam tried to hug the stuffing out of him.  “I’m sorry?” Dean offered before pulling back.  “Actually, I’m not.  What did I do?”

“You don’t remember?”  Sam held out an arm to Ellen and she stepped in for a brief hug as well.

“Dude, the last thing I remember some old guy was singing about blue birds or some shit.”

“You don’t remember sending Henricksen’s passengers packing?”

“I did?” Dean asked with a huge grin.  “I rock.”

“Hell didn’t take the edge off of his ego,” Ellen reported with a smirk.

Sam eyed him cautiously.  “So you don’t remember the pit?”

“Not a thing.”

“And you’re all right physically.”

“Fit as a fiddle,” Dean proclaimed, raising his fists and bouncing like a boxer.  “Wanna go a round, tough guy?”

Sam bobbed and weaved before pulling him in for another hug. 

Dean went willingly, patting his baby brother on the back.  “I don’t even have a scar.  Although I may be crippled from the infant sized shoes Ellen crammed me into.”

“Oh get over it, Tiny Tim,” Ellen huffed as she slammed the back car door.  “Take your brother,” she told Sam.  “I’m going home.”

“Thanks for everything,” Sam told her.  He kissed her on the cheek and hugged her again.  “We couldn’t have done it without you.”

Dean kissed her other cheek.  “I’ll thank you properly later,” he purred with a dirty wink.

“Stay away from my daughter,” Ellen told him, pointing a finger at him as she got into the rental.  “I’ve got to  take this hunk of junk back to the airport.”

“Do you want to ride back with us?” Sam offered.

“Not a chance in Hell,” Ellen replied with an evil grin as she held up one of Dean’s phony credit cards that Bobby had given her.  “I deserve a first class ticket, courtesy of Mr. Nate K. Cole.”

“Hey, that’s my new one,” Dean yelled after her.  He huffed to himself as she drove out of sight then turned his attention to the Impala.  “Oh baby, it’s good to see you.  Even if you do need a bath.”

“Forgive me, I’ve been busy,” Sam grumbled for show as Dean lovingly caressed the car before slipping into the driver’s seat.  “Are you okay to drive?” Sam asked.

“I’m in better shape now than I was when I left.  Give me your phone.”

“Why?”

“Fine.  Give me my phone.  Did you keep it charged?”

“Yes.”  Sam held out his hand for the keys and Dean stared at him for a second before comprehending.   

Dean tugged the keys out of the ignition and got out to open the trunk himself.  “I better not find any panties in here,” he joked.

Sam rolled his eyes as he followed, remembering to take Dean’s amulet from around his own neck.  He waited until Dean was digging through the trunk to dangle it in front of his face.  “Who are you calling?”

“Thanks.”  Dean grabbed the string and pulled it on over his head before resuming his search for his cell phone.  “The FBI.”

Sam shook his head as if he hadn’t heard that right.  “What?”

“Yeah.  Gideon is gonna freak,” Dean laughed.

“You can’t call the FBI.”

“Why not?  Here it is.”  He held up the phone in triumph only to have Sam pluck it from his fingers.  “What are you doing?”

“You’re dead.”

“Not anymore.  Duh.”

“Dean, you died in the arms of an FBI agent.  You don’t get any more dead than that.  They just took you off of the most wanted list, you dummy.”

“Look, I told this one that I’d prove there’s more out there than can be explained by science.  Bitch.”

“Jerk.  You are not calling to rub it in.”

“They were decent to me,” Dean tried to explain.  “I just don’t want to leave ‘em hanging I guess.  Look, man, they cared, okay?”

“Yeah.  That’s the vibe I got from Gideon,” Sam agreed.

Dean pursed his lips worriedly.  “You… ah, you talked to Gideon?”

“Don’t worry, he told me how brave you were when the time came.”

“You didn’t believe him?” Dean asked.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does to me.  Dammit, I knew he couldn’t pull it off.  Give me the phone.”

“No.”  Sam moved away and held it high over his head.

“Don’t make me climb you,” Dean threatened as he stared up at the cell. 

“Just listen to me for a minute.”

“What?”

“Give it a month.”

“Dude…” Dean made a grab for the phone which Sam easily kept out of his reach.  “You got ape arms, you know that?”

“If you still want to call in a month we’ll work something out.  Something that won’t land you in jail.  Deal?”

Dean sighed and looked pensively down the road.  “Yeah, okay.  One month.”  Before Sam could respond Dean tackled him, laughing as they rolled around in the dirt until he came up with the phone.  He patted Sam on the belly.  “It’s good to be home.”

***

One month later

“Oh for Pete’s sake,” Bobby complained when he caught Sam spying on Dean from the kitchen window.  Again.  “What’s wrong now?”

“He remembers,” Sam stated matter-of-factly.

“He says he don’t.”

“He’s lying.  What do you see out there?”

Bobby sighed and pulled the curtain back, not especially stealthily to watch Dean rolling around in the grass wrestling with the dog.  “I see that damn brother of yours ruining a perfectly good watch dog.”  He watched for another minute then harrumphed and took a seat at the table.

“Yeah.  Does that seem like Dean to you?” Sam turned to lean against the sink.  “He spends all his time outside playing with the dog and touching the grass and the trees, watching the clouds roll by… I haven’t seen him drunk once, Bobby.  Not even to celebrate.  And he smiles.  A lot.  It’s creepy.”

“Sam.  He got a second chance.  Maybe he just wants to make the most of it.”

“But he still wakes up screaming in the middle of the night in a pool of his own sweat.  And he won’t go near an open flame, not even your barbeque pit.”

“That could just be a subconscious reaction.”

“I’m telling you, Bobby, he remembers.  He remembers being in Hell and he remembers coming out of it,” Sam insisted

“Even if he does,” Bobby advised sagely, “You’ve got to let him be.  It’s his thing, not yours.  If he wants to share it with you he will in his own good time.  He’s probably still processing what happened.”

“He’s trying to protect me.”

“Well let him.  Now hush up, our reformed pyromaniac is coming up the steps.”

Sam turned to look at the screen door.  It opened and slammed shut and Dean wandered past them to the refrigerator to get a bottle of beer.  Dried grass fluttered along behind him as it fell from his clothes and hair. 

“It’s time to make that call, Sammy.”

“Dean…”

“No argument, my thirty days are almost up,” Dean said before twisting the top off and taking a long pull.  “Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan.”

“Those six words strike terror into my heart.”

“I promise to stay dead, at least as far as the FBI is concerned.  But I’m gonna need your help.”

*** 

Three days later

The team trudged in from a long week on the road but they’d caught their killer, a win they’d desperately needed.  It was late and they murmured their good-byes as they drifted off in different directions.

“Hey, gorgeous,” Morgan greeted as an exuberant Garcia bounded into the room.  “What are you doing here so…” his question was cut off as she jumped into his arms for a big hug.

“You are the best!  I loved my flower and I couldn’t believe you did that because I didn’t think you’d even remember.  I knew Reid would and probably Gideon but I didn’t think you would.  So thank you!”

“Whoa!” Morgan exclaimed as he pulled back far enough to see her face.  “Say what?”

Garcia beamed up at him.  “Don’t even act like you don’t know.”

“I have no idea,” Morgan said.  “What flower?”

“Yeah, right.  The sunflower you sent me yesterday, my big lump of brown sugar.”

“Yesterday?  Why would I…” he sent a questioning look to Reid who was sorting through a weeks worth of mail on his desk.

“Yesterday was a month since Dean was killed,” Reid supplied softly.

“Right.” Morgan winced.  “Sorry, baby girl, it wasn’t me.”

“Oh.”  Garcia frowned as if she hadn’t even considered any one else then looked to Reid.

“It wasn’t me, either,” Reid confirmed.  “What makes you think it had to do with Dean?”

“The card.”  Garcia pulled a tiny envelope out of her pocket.

Morgan took it from her and slipped the card out.  “To ‘Sunny’ Garcia to brighten your day,” he read.

“Gideon?” Reid asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Morgan scoffed.

“It had to one of you,” Garcia insisted.   “Nobody ever called me that but Dean.”

“We’ll figure it out tomorrow,” Morgan told her, pocketing the card.  “Go home, it’s late.”

“Okay,” Garcia gave in, a little disappointed.  “Hotch maybe?”

Morgan shrugged.  “Who knows?”

“Huh," Garcia sighed, clearly perplexed.  "Okay, I guess.  Night, guys,”

“Good night, baby girl.”

Reid waved.  “See you tomorrow.”

Morgan shared a look with Reid as she left.  “What?” Morgan asked.

Reid held up a card from his own desk.  “It’s a gift subscription to ‘Guns and Ammo’ from an anonymous benefactor.  You didn’t…”

“No.  I didn’t.”

There was a pause while Reid considered this.  “You don’t think…”

“No,” Morgan said firmly.  “I don’t.”

A little shrug as he got back to his mail suggested Reid wasn’t so sure.

“Hey Reid?”

“Yes?”

“We do need to get to the range sometime this week.”

Reid grinned.  “Yeah.  Yeah, we should.”

***

Gideon was tired.  In fact he’d been tired for a while and it didn’t have anything to do with the long hours they’d been putting in.  He turned on the lamp on his desk and left the overhead off.  He reached into the bottom drawer and pulled out the tie he kept there.  He placed it next to his keyboard and smoothed it out, running his finger over the spot of dried blood.  A month and a day had passed. It was time to let it go.  Still, he couldn’t quite throw it in the trashcan so he let it lie there and reached over to check his office voicemail.

He put on his glasses and made a few notes as one mundane message after another played.  It was always like this whenever they’d been gone for more than a couple of days.  Some of the more self-important ones droned on and on and Gideon wished there was a time limit.  Laying down his pen and taking off his glasses he rubbed his eyes and let the last few play without really listening. 

When the tenth out of fourteen began he looked at the phone in confusion then his eyes went wide.  He glanced around to see who might be playing a joke but this was not even remotely funny.  No one had been close enough.  No one had even heard but Hotchner and Hotch was far above such a juvenile, mean spirited prank. 

A knot formed in his chest the size of his fist.  His eyes began to sting so he clenched them tight, but a single tear managed to escape and slide down his cheek.  It struck him suddenly that Dean had kept his word.  Somehow he knew, knew it to the depths of his soul, that Dean was all right, wherever he was.  The veil of grief lifted leaving him with an emerging sense of peace.

“…tomorrow when the world is free…” he sang softly as the music faded away.

 

The End