Dean laid the cleaned gun down on the canvas-draped table and reached for the next one. He stripped the gun quickly, laying each part neatly in front of him on the canvas. Beside him, Jo Harvelle picked up the gun he’d just cleaned and loaded it. There was a neat line of loaded guns at her end of the table: four shotguns, five handguns of various calibres and a rifle.
“I can do this alone,” Jo said, breaking a long silence.
“What? Clean guns?” Dean quipped without smiling. He didn’t smile much any more.
“Hunt the skinwalker,” Jo corrected.
Dean nodded. “I know you can, sweetheart, but I’ve got nothin’ better to do. Might as well go with you.” Dean wiped oil off his fingers and started to re-assemble the gun. Jo was a competent hunter, but skinwalkers could be hard to hunt, and she’d admitted this would be her first. A skinwalker was a human who had gained the power to shape-shift through human sacrifice. Over time they became less human and more animal but they retained the intelligence and cunning of a person. They were easy to kill – a silver bullet to the heart – but the cursed thing would take the hunter with it if it could.
Jo seemed to read his thoughts. “I’m not going to help you get yourself killed, Dean.”
He glared at her, saying nothing.
A year before, Dean had killed his father. He was still wanted for the murder, which was the reason he’d been living at Harvelle’s Roadhouse. But it hadn’t been murder.
From one perspective, it was self-defence. John had been about to kill Dean. If Dean hadn’t struck first, he would be dead now. From a different perspective, it was entirely involuntary. Dean had been possessed by a spirit, used by it as a weapon. But the real kicker, the part that had Dean reaching for the whiskey and wishing it could give him true oblivion, was that the whole thing was really Sam’s doing. The brother Dean believed had died at fifteen had in fact survived. He’d committed murder, and thereby created a vengeful spirit that had killed five people Dean knew about, before their father.
Dean couldn’t even hate him for it. Sam had his reasons for killing that man, reasons Dean even agreed with, but that couldn’t change the consequences.
So here he was, still hunting because that’s what he figured John would have wanted, but his heart wasn’t in it any longer. Jo thought he was trying to get himself killed, but that wasn’t it. He just didn’t care.
Dean set down the last of the cleaned guns. “There. That’s it.” He reached for his whiskey glass but found it empty. He stood and headed for the bar. He could feel Jo’s eyes on him the whole way.
Ellen refilled his glass and added the shot to his tab. He’d work the tab off doing odd-jobs around the place; Ellen was pretty cool about that.
“You going with her?” Ellen asked bluntly.
Dean nodded. “If she’ll let me.”
“Good.” Ellen’s eyes said it all. Though Jo had more than proved herself, she always worried when Jo went hunting.
Dean knocked back his whiskey and went to help Jo put the guns away.
Sam’s usual workroom was a simple bedroom in the Woodward Institute, the asylum where he and Jessica both worked. The office Andy Gilbert gave him was plain, the walls painted a pale blue, the carpet a shade or two darker. Sam, with help from some of the children, moved all of the furniture out of the office and installed a bed. Sam didn’t much care if the room was comfortable. He just needed a place where he could remember he was an adult and a doctor. Being in the Psi Project compound made him feel like a helpless kid again.
Sam locked the door from the inside, lifted his bag onto the bed and changed his clothing quickly. He wouldn’t sleep in pyjamas; if anything happened tonight he might need to leave the room. But he needed loose clothing to sleep in, so he changed into soft jogging pants and a t-shirt. He laid his shoes beside the door where he could find them quickly, then sat down on the carpet to prepare himself to dreamwalk.
Sam took several deep breaths to relax his body. He drew air in through his nose until his lungs could hold no more, then held his breath for a few seconds before breathing out through his mouth, as slowly as he could, feeling his muscles relax more and more with each out-breath. Physical relaxation was the easy part.
His mind was racing. Sam hated being back here. He’d known it would be difficult. His years at the Psi Project had not been all bad; truthfully, he had some very happy memories. But the bad outweighed the good. His real life, as he thought of it, only began when he escaped the Project.
Was he doing the right thing, helping with this? Wouldn’t it be better for the Project to be exposed for what it was? How could he, of all people, help to cover it up?
The questions were pointless. Tonight, he had to dream with the children and find out what was going on.
Sam lay down on the bed and, eventually, found himself in Dream.
He reached for Jessica first, because he knew she would be waiting for him. Joining his mind to hers was so simple and familiar, he felt his tensions drain away at her loving touch. The physical distance between them was no barrier; Sam could have found her from the moon. In their shared dream they walked along the river near their home, hand in hand.
“Is it bad?” Jess asked him seriously.
Sam took her into his arms. “It’s…harder than I thought…coming back. I hadn’t thought about being around the children.”
Jess hooked her arms around his neck, looking up at him. “Oh, Sam.” She didn’t need to say more than that.
When they first married, they’d talked about having a big family, three or four children at least. But difficulties getting pregnant were followed by two late-term miscarriages, and by the time Rachel was born they had known she would be their only child. She had been enough: a bright and vibrant girl who brought endless joy into their lives…then Rachel died, too.
Jess may have suspected Rachel inherited her father’s psychic ability; Sam had known it for certain. Now, being around so many psychic children, he kept thinking of what Rachel would have been like at different ages. Of course, he would never have known; the Psi Project would have taken her, if death had not.
He swallowed, and tried to force his mind off the subject. “It’s not just the children. This place has so many bad memories. I shouldn’t have come back.”
“I told you it wouldn’t be easy, Sam, but that doesn’t mean you were wrong to go.”
He rolled his eyes at her. “My wife, the super-shrink.”
“You were so angry with them, Sam. I know your history and I understand your anger, but you were using it to avoid facing what the Project really is to you.” She reached up to touch his face. “You need to face it, honey.”
“What do you think it is to me?” Sam asked her, but he knew she wouldn’t answer.
Jess shook her head. “Uh-uh. You need to answer that for yourself.” She smiled, patting his cheek as if he were a small boy. “Now kiss me and go to work, Superman.”
“I love you,” Sam whispered against her ear. He kissed the delicate shell of her ear, then her cheek, then finally kissed her on her mouth. He wished there was time for more. The touch of her skin was as real to him in dream as it was in reality. But tonight, he had work to do.
Reluctantly, Sam let his connection with Jessica’s mind fade and went in search of the children.
Sam could no more refrain from dreamwalking than he could stop himself from breathing. As a boy, Sam had shared dreams with his father and brother every night. He hadn’t understood that he was invading their minds. Dreamwalking came so naturally to him that he was freaked out when he finally realised not everyone could do it. He’d thought everybody dreamed like that.
The Psi Project taught Sam control, but control didn’t mean he could stop doing it. There were, he learned, different levels of dreamwalking. He learned to touch other sleeping minds only lightly, skipping from dream to dream all night. It was the psychic equivalent of the way an insect walks across the water of a pool, never seeing what lies beneath the surface. Often, Sam didn’t even know whose mind he was touching and that was how it should be.
But he could go deeper. He could enter a person’s dream against their will. He could control what they dreamed and, inside a dream, could read every thought and feeling. He could even trap a person inside a dream, keep them asleep indefinitely, though he never would. As a therapist, he found those techniques useful, but since he learned how to control his gift he never entered any mind so deeply without their consent. Well…except once, but that was a special case.
Sam had not asked the children for their consent, but they were all psychics. Each of them would know what he was doing when he touched their minds and if any of them wanted him to stop, Sam would respect that.
Sam reached out to Colin, the telepath, first because he had seemed to know most about these strange events, but he found the boy awake. Colin was lying in bed, tired but unable to sleep. He felt Sam’s touch against his mind and shielded automatically. Sam had guessed before that Colin was powerful; now he knew it for certain. Sam couldn’t penetrate his psychic shield, at least not while the boy was awake. He moved on.
Sam touched Tamara’s dream and found a nightmare. Tamara’s dream-self was in a crumbling building, trapped beneath a fallen beam with water rising around her. She cried out for help, but in a voice that told Sam she expected none. Sam could simply have changed the scenario, taken her out of the dream and into a safe place, but he instinctively chose a more subtle approach. He made himself a part of her dream and leapt into the water. It was shockingly cold, needles of ice stabbing him, but it wasn’t deep, reaching only to Sam’s knees. Tamara saw him and screamed for help. The water, disturbed by Sam’s entry, was sloshing over her mouth. Sam extended his awareness to monitor her physical body. The Psi Project hadn’t taught him that; he’d figured out how to do it when he began treating psychiatric patients. Sam felt Tamara’s breathing stutter in her sleep, her heart beating too fast as if she lacked oxygen and he knew that if she drowned in this dream, she would stop breathing in reality, too. Perhaps not long enough to be fatal – the unconscious body tended to compensate – but long enough to cause harm.
Sam waded toward her and grabbed the beam pinning her down with both of his hands. The wood was rough with splinters and Sam winced with the pain. He sacrificed a few precious seconds, concentrating to smooth out the wood, but the splinters still cut into his skin. That wasn’t right. In a dreamworld, Sam should be able to do anything. He released the beam and tried to lift it without touching it, which he should have been able to do in a dream, but it didn’t move. It was as if someone else were controlling this dream. Sam concentrated, thrusting his power deep into the dream – into Tamara’s sleeping mind – to wrest control to himself. He reached for the heavy beam, prepared for pain this time, and heaved it upward. It took effort, but he raised the beam off the crying girl and shoved it aside. It landed in the water with a huge splash, but by then Tamara was beginning to get up.
Sam offered her his hand.
Tamara took it, her cold fingers curling around his. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“Let me take you somewhere safe,” Sam suggested.
“If you let me.”
She nodded. “Yes. Please.”
Sam looked into her mind for a place she would feel safe, somewhere she associated with happy memories. He found a children’s play-yard with red-painted swings, a tall jungle-jim with swinging ropes and a little merry-go-round, all surrounded by waist-high green hedges. He built up the image around them and Tamara seemed to relax at once. She sat down on the merry-go-round, one hand curled around the metal bar and both of her feet resting on the long grass, so she could control its movement. Sam noticed her feet were bare and she was shivering.
“Think about the clothes you’d like to be wearing,” Sam suggested.
Tamara gave him a quizzical look, but she did as he asked. Because it was a dream, Sam could read her thoughts easily, and he dressed her in the clothing she imagined: blue jeans, boots and a green cashmere sweater. She smiled up at him. “Wow. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Sam answered automatically. He created a bench to sit on, close enough to the merry-go-round for them to talk, but not so close as to intimidate her. “Who is doing this to you, Tamara?” he asked.
She hunched forward, hugging her knees. “They are.” She looked up, but seemed unable to meet his eyes.
“Alright. Who or what are ‘they’?” Sam tried to probe her mind gently, hoping to find the answer she so clearly didn’t want to tell him. All he saw was a ghostly figure forcing her into the water. But that was her dream; it didn’t tell him anything about the mind behind that ghostly shape.
She shook her head, tight-lipped. Water still dripped from her hair and Sam could feel her fear.
“You’re safe here,” Sam started to say, but as he spoke the hedge behind the merry-go-round was growing, the leaves twisting into vines and reaching upward. “Tamara…” Sam held his hand out to her.
Instead of taking his hand, Tamara turned to look. The vines thickened and reached, rustling, toward the merry-go-round.
Sam grabbed for her. “Tamara, come to me. Now!” He grasped her hand and pulled her to her feet.
The vines transformed, becoming snakes, forming hissing mouths. Sam shoved Tamara behind him, shielding her with his body. He stretched out a hand toward the mass of snakes, creating a barrier with his mind. One of the snake-mouths struck at Sam’s hand. His invisible shield protected him from its fangs, but try as he might Sam could not drive them back.
Sam gathered Tamara into his arms and shattered the dreamscape around them.
He cast around for an image to build a new dreamscape. The danger had come from living, growing things so Sam built this new setting from marble, glass and metal: the atrium of a modern building with sunlight streaming down on them through a wall of glass. It wasn’t a real place, but a mental patchwork of different buildings Sam had visited. They were safe here.
Sam turned to Tamara, his hands on her upper arms, holding her gently but firmly. “Tell me who they are. Please!”
She opened her mouth to say something and the glass above them exploded, shattering into a thousand glittering shards, raining down upon them. Tamara screamed. Sam pulled her close, shielding her again with his body. He felt daggers of glass slice through his clothing and into his flesh as he destroyed the dreamscape.
He had barely begun to form a new setting when he felt the heat of flames.
Sam couldn’t control this. He could not control Tamara’s dream. He wrapped a psychic cloak around them both and did a thing he had never done before. He pulled Tamara out of her dream…and into his own.
He slammed a shield into place. This was his dream now and Sam was a powerful, experienced psychic. No outside force could penetrate his shield now he was within his own mind.
Tamara was shaking in his arms. “Please, they’ll kill me. Please.”
Sam wanted to say It’s only a dream, but he more than anyone knew that dreams could kill. Instead he asked gently, “Where are you sleeping? Show me now.”
“Just picture it. Your bedroom, or wherever you are right now.”
Tamara didn’t question. She simply showed him.
“Good. I’m going to wake us both, and then I’ll come to you in the flesh.”
“We don’t really have a choice.” Sam could feel whatever it was testing his shield. The shield would hold, but he couldn’t keep Tamara inside it indefinitely. “I can’t keep us in a dream forever. You have to trust me, Tamara. Are you ready?”
She nodded, but Sam knew she was terrified. He gathered his power, taking a moment to calm and concentrate his mind. He had to shock her awake and release her mind in the same instant. If he didn’t get it exactly right she might simply dream she was waking…and that would be horribly dangerous. Publicly, Sam always maintained it was impossible to kill a person with a dream, but he knew it could be done. Tamara seemed unusually susceptible.
Sam gave her a mental shove and felt the backwash of her terror before it cut off, abruptly, leaving him alone in his dream. He prayed it had worked and she was awake. If not, he had just killed the poor girl.
While the women closed up the Roadhouse, Dean packed the gun-cleaning materials away. He retrieved his Colt, which Jo had put away with the rest of the guns. She should have known better. He shoved the Colt through his belt at the small of his back and made his way to the bathroom.
Dean stripped off his shirt and t-shirt and dropped them onto the linoleum, then turned on the hot tap and reached for the soap and his razor. Jo came in while he was shaving and hopped into the shower. Dean made no comment: he’d seen her naked before. They fucked occasionally. He didn’t love her and she knew it, but it didn’t matter. Jo understood him, and he her.
The shower steamed up the mirror so Dean had to wipe it off several times before he was done shaving. He studied his face in the steamed-up glass. The scars on his face were barely visible now, just slight ridges in the skin that resembled acne scars. A pity the scars inside didn’t heal so easily.
Jo pulled back the shower curtain. “Pass me a towel, baby.”
Dean threw her a hand-towel. “Don’t call me ‘baby’.”
She caught the towel and tried to wrap it around her long hair as she stepped out of the shower, dripping wet. Dean watched her walk toward him, enjoying the way her tits bounced as she walked. Jo had some scars of her own. The most prominent was a long, twisted line down her left arm from the shoulder to just below her elbow. He reached out to touch her arm, tracing the length of that scar, gathering water onto his fingers.
“You’re in a weird mood tonight,” Jo commented.
As soon as she said it, Dean realised that she was right. That old saying someone just walked over my grave was a good description of how he was feeling. But why?
Dean pulled her in close, crushing her body against his. Jo reached up to him at once, raising her face for a kiss. He kissed her hard, grabbing a fistful of her hair and turning them both so he could lift her onto the sink. She gripped his shoulders as he lifted her, deliberately digging her nails into his skin. Dean dropped the gun he still had in his belt into the sink, unzipped his pants with one hand and bent his head to her breast. He sucked her nipple into his mouth, sucked hard and then bit down, just enough to hurt. Jo liked a little pain.
She cried out when he bit her, wrapping her legs around him and working her hand between their bodies. She grabbed his cock – none too gently – and guided him into her. It was too quick and she was tight, not quite ready, but Dean shoved himself into her hard and fast. He buried his face in the curve of her neck, biting her again.
“Dean! Oh, god…” her voice was sweet in his ear.
For a few moments, buried in Jo’s willing body, Dean could forget the thought that had been weighing on him. He could forget what a mess his life had become. In the rush of heat and sex, the sheer physical pleasure of it, Dean could forget. He thrust inside her, feeling his orgasm build. Jo’s wet hair caressed his skin and she moved to meet his thrusts, writhing in his arms. Her breath came in rapid little pants but Dean heard frustration in her voice, as if she wasn’t quite getting there. He slid a hand down; his finger found her clit and he rubbed; Jo cried out. Her nails raked down his back and she came apart in his arms. Jo was fucking amazing when she came, her face flushed, her eyes squeezed shut, her lips parted. Her breasts danced as her body spasmed in orgasm. Dean had to touch them, but his hands were occupied. He kissed her neck, tasting sweat and worked his way down to her breasts. She grasped the back of his neck, holding him to her and he bit down again, held her nipple between his teeth and worked it with his tongue. He had to pull away, then, afraid he’d bite too hard when he climaxed. He held her close, thrusting into her as he came, finally, spilling into her with long, hot strokes.
Jo clung to him for a few moments as they both savoured the afterglow. Finally Dean moved back, pulling his softening dick out of her and lifting her down from the sink.
“Thanks, Jo.” He kissed her gently. “I needed that.” But even as he spoke he felt his strange mood close around him again. Sex usually helped; tonight, apparently, nothing was going to get rid of it.
Jo wrapped a towel around herself and bent to pick up her clothing. “Who’s Sam?” she asked. She narrowed her eyes at him, mock-angry. “Are you screwing some other girl?”
The question puzzled Dean. It might not have been entirely a joke, but Dean didn’t think Jo was really bothered by the thought of him with someone else. They were fuck-buddies, not lovers. “Not right now, I’m not,” he answered honestly.
“Then who’s Sam?”
Dean frowned. “The only Sam I know is my brother.”
Jo straightened up, giving him a weird look. “Ew! Do I want to know why you’re screaming his name when you come?”
Dean stared. “I did not! And I don’t scream.”
“Dude.” She simply looked at him, holding the towel closed over her breasts. Her look said it all.
But he certainly hadn’t been thinking of Sam during… Dean opened his mouth to say it, then abruptly everything made sense: his crappy mood and the way he’d been dwelling on his father’s death.
“Sam,” he said aloud.
Jo made for the door.
“Jo, wait. You don’t understand.” Dean went after her, realised his pants were still unzipped and yanked on the zipper clumsily. He put his free hand on the door to stop her from leaving.
She turned around to face him. “I’m not sure I want to understand,” she said icily.
She really thought he was… Fuck! “Sam’s a psychic,” Dean explained. “I think he’s trying to reach me.”
“Is he allergic to the phone?” she asked acidly.
Dean found himself smiling, in spite of everything. “Yeah. Sometimes I think he is.” He opened the bathroom door for her. “I need to sleep.”
She gave him a cheeky grin. “Dude, I know I wore you out, but don’t you want to call your brother first?”
On any other night, Dean would have dragged her into his room to prove she hadn’t worn him out at all. This time he simply shook his head. “That’s how Sam’s psychic thing works. He’s a dreamwalker.”
Jo pulled a face. “Freaky.” She shrugged. “Sweet dreams, then.”
“Yeah. Thanks.” Dean went back for his shirt and his gun. He found the shirt soaking wet on the linoleum; he balled it up in his hands, retrieved the gun from the sink and headed for his bedroom to sleep and, hopefully, to find out what the hell was so important that Sam was willing to ruin Dean’s sex life just to get his attention.
Sam burst through the door, grateful the Project still left the residential areas unlocked. His heart was beating in his throat, his breath almost painful from the long run. As he neared the apartment Tamara had shown him in their dream, he heard a child’s voice screaming. He followed the sound to this room.
“No, Tammi!” It was a young boy’s voice, filled with panic.
Sam had only a moment to take in the scene. Tamara was on the floor with her back against the wall, holding a large kitchen knife to the throat of an older man. He was sprawled awkwardly in front of her, his legs splayed at an odd angle that made Sam think one of them could be broken. The child Sam had heard was no more than seven years old. The boy turned to the door as Sam burst in, his eyes wild and terrified.
“Tamara!” Sam froze in the doorway. “It’s me, Sam. Remember? Look at me, Tamara.”
“Take her out!” the man shouted, then cringed as she pressed the knife into his skin.
Sam snapped, “Shut up!” at the man. He moved further into the room, slowly, keeping his hands visible to demonstrate he was unarmed. He spoke softly to Tamara. “It’s okay, Tamara. Just look at me. That’s all.” He would say her name as often as possible; it should help to bring her back to herself.
She looked up and he saw the blind panic in her eyes. She didn’t seem to recognise him at first.
“Good, Tamara,” Sam went on encouragingly. “That’s good. Are you okay?”
She drew in a deep breath. “No.”
Sam moved a little closer. “I’m here to help. Will you let him go?”
Tamara looked down as if she hadn’t known she was partway through cutting a man’s throat. “Oh. Oh, god. Sorry.” She let the knife fall from her hand.
Immediately the man rolled over and grabbed for her. “You little bitch!”
Sam was on him in two strides. He dragged the struggling man back, away from Tamara. “Don’t touch her!”
“Who the hell are you?” the man demanded.
“Sam Winchester,” he answered, still with one arm hooked around the man’s neck. It wasn’t until much later Sam realised he had given his boyhood name instead of Sam Grey.
Tamara started to get up. Halfway to standing she froze, staring at something, then screamed. The knife she had been holding rose into the air and flew toward Sam.
It was one of those moments when Sam’s power reacted before his mind caught up. It sent a blinding spear of pain through his head, but the knife stopped in mid-air. Through the pain, Sam had a fleeting impression of a figure holding a knife, the shadow of a young face. He realised abruptly that the knife wasn’t meant for him, but for the man he still held. Then the momentary vision was over and Sam dragged the man from the path of the descending knife.
“Run!” he snapped, releasing the man. He didn’t wait, but helped Tamara up and offered his other hand to the boy. “Let’s go.”
“Where?” Tamara asked.
It was a good question. Sam hesitated. Where would be safe. What did he need?
Salt. He needed salt. That meant food. “Kitchen,” Sam said aloud.
“There isn’t time to explain. Where’s the nearest kitchen?”
Tamara, still holding Sam’s hand, started to run, dragging him behind her. Sam followed.
Sam opened cupboards and pulled out drawers. He didn’t know how much time they had. He knew salt would work, but did he need to surround the whole room or just the door and window? He couldn’t remember.
“What are you looking for?” Tamara asked him. She had picked up the boy and was holding him in her arms. She must be stronger than she looked.
“Salt. We need salt.” Sam opened the next cupboard and there it was: a large tub of cooking salt. He grabbed it and tore off the lid. It was about half full.
“What’s salt gonna do?” Tamara demanded.
She was a medium; she really ought to know about spirits. “Trust me,” Sam said. He carried the salt to the doorway and began to pour it across the threshold. He was almost hoping it wouldn’t work. If the salt kept them safe it would confirm that what attacked Tamara was a spirit. Sam knew, in theory, how to deal with a ghost, but he had no idea how to go about it. Not here.
He salted both the door and window and that used up all of the salt. It didn’t make logical sense that this would work; couldn’t spirits just go through the walls? “That should do it,” he announced. The children didn’t need to know of his doubts. He set the empty tub down and crossed to Tamara and the boy she still held. “Tamara, are you okay?”
She nodded. “I think so. For now.”
“What’s your name?” Sam asked the boy gently.
Tamara set the boy on the ground so he could answer. He was a red-head with a face full of freckles and hazel eyes. He wore pyjamas with clown faces on them. Sam knelt down so he would be closer to the boy’s height.
“I’m Kevin. I’m ak…” he stumbled over the word, “acquee…”
“Acquakinetic,” Tamara supplied for him. “Kevin’s acquakinetic.”
“That’s good,” Sam smiled. “You’re safe here, Kevin, at least for tonight. We just have to stay in this room.” Sam looked at Tamara. “You’re a clairvoyant. Didn’t you know it was a spirit?”
Her cheeks flushed with guilt. “I knew,” she answered, her voice barely a whisper.
“Did you summon it?” Sam asked. He had to ask, but Tamara’s reaction left him in no doubt.
Her eyes went wide and she shook her head vigorously. “No! I would never!”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“When it got bad, I tried. Ralph wouldn’t listen.”
“When it got bad,” Sam repeated. “So, you knew sooner.” He waited for her confirmation. “And the other kids? They knew, too?”
“Some of us,” Tamara admitted. She looked down at her bare feet.
Outside of dream, Sam could not read Tamara’s thoughts, but he could tell his questions were getting close to something she didn’t want to say. He couldn’t afford to let her keep her secrets. If she hadn’t summoned the spirit, she wasn’t to blame, even if she had stayed quiet. What did she know? Sam could make a good, informed guess as to what this spirit wanted. He remembered Dean telling him, Murder, that’s how vengeful spirits are made.
Then Sam remembered something else. “If Colin knew about this spirit, why did he tell me I should investigate Wesley?”
That’s it! That’s the key to all this! “Please. I need to know.”
Tamara met his eyes, then. “Don’t be angry with him,” she pleaded.
Sam considered that, because he didn’t want to lie to her. “I can’t promise I won’t be angry until I know what you’re going to say. But I will promise that, no matter what, I’ll keep it between us. I won’t tell the Project. Okay?”
She nodded. “It’s because of Jenn. Jennifer.”
It was interesting that Tamara didn’t mention Jennifer’s psychic ability. Within the Psi Project, children tended to define themselves by their powers, introducing themselves that way almost as if it were a last name – and last names were rarely used in the Project. For Tamara to refer to this girl only by name was unusual enough to stand out.
“Who is Jennifer?” Sam asked.
“Colin’s best friend. She’s in the pit.”
The pit was what they’d called the isolation wing in Sam’s day, too. So, Jennifer was a psychic, then. Isolation didn’t mean solitary confinement, it meant psychically isolated. It was ostensibly done to prevent the deathlisted children from doing further harm while their cases were thoroughly investigated, but Sam knew the investigations were far from objective and the verdict was always the same.
“You mean she’s in isolation?” Sam prompted.
“Yes. And it’s not right! It’s because of Wesley. Colin thought if you got into his head, if you saw… You could help her.”
Sam remembered Colin calling him the dreamwalker. It was more than simple admiration, he realised. It was hope. Sam’s escape from isolation was used by the Project as “evidence” that their process was fair, but the children all knew better. Colin thought Sam could help his friend. Sam prayed it wasn’t false hope. What could Sam do? He had no influence here, no real authority. He had been promised access…
“Okay. I will look into Jennifer’s case, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do more than look. Right now, we need to deal with this spirit. I want you and Kevin to keep watch for me.”
“Keep watch?” she repeated uncertainly.
“I need to go back into the dream, Tamara. It’s the quickest way to find the help I need. I want you and Kevin to stay close and wake me if there’s any sign of danger. And make sure no one else wakes me up. What do you say?”
“A spirit can’t cross a salt line, honey. As long as we stay here inside the circle, we should be safe. Can you do this for me?”
Tamara swallowed. “I’ll try.”
The boy simply nodded. “Yes.”
Sam smiled, trying to make it reassuring. “Well done.” He looked around, but there was really nowhere comfortable to sleep. If he’d been thinking clearly, he would have taken the salt he’d found into a bedroom and sealed that. But it was too late now. He lay down on the floor and closed his eyes.
He needed help, and there was only one person he could trust to give it to him: his brother, Dean.
Dean’s bedroom was small: there was barely enough room for the bed and the nightstand. He had never intended to move into the Roadhouse permanently. Ellen offered him a place to stay after John’s death. It allowed him a breathing space after everything that happened and she hadn’t asked questions he wasn’t ready to answer. He started hunting again when Jo asked for his help; before long he found he was training her, the way his Dad trained him. Jo had been hunting on her own for years: she didn’t need training in the basics. But there were skills Dean learned from his dad that Jo had never come across and he was glad to teach her. Ellen never asked him to stay forever, but this had somehow stopped being the spare room and become Dean’s room.
Dean hung the wet shirt on the back of the door and quickly shed the rest of his clothing. He was sure, now, that his brother was trying to reach out to him. He hadn’t known Sam could do that. He crawled into his bed and closed his eyes.
Dean walked down a narrow, dirty street. Tall buildings stretched high on either side of him, rickety fire-escapes zig-zagging up their sides. The sidewalk beneath his feet was shiny with rain. The dark street seemed vaguely familiar, but not quite real. It was more like something out of a movie. The moment Dean thought of movies, he knew where this was. Gotham City. Which meant he was dreaming.
He looked down at his clothing. He was dressed all in black: black sneakers on his feet, black jeans, a nearly full-length black leather coat. He was a little disappointed that he wasn’t Batman.
No way was this his dream.
“Sam!” he called. His voice echoed back to him from the narrow alleys. Sam! Samsamsam!
Why was he alone? And why here? Gotham City was cool in comics and movies, but it wasn’t very safe. Dean looked up and couldn’t see the tops of the buildings.
“Sam!” he shouted again.
A door opened ahead of him, casting a beam of light into the street. A shadow appeared on that sparkling beam. “Here!” Sam hissed from the open doorway.
Dean walked toward him. “Geez, Sammy, couldn’t you come up with a better dream than this?”
“Hurry!” Sam urged. He gestured, beckoning rapidly.
Dean reached the doorway and Sam dragged him inside. He slammed the door, bolted it and moved a heavy chair in front of it. Considering that Dean hadn’t seen another soul on the street, it seemed like overkill.
They were in a small, square room with bare brick walls, lit by a single, naked bulb. The room contained a large threadbare couch and a rug on the floor. That, plus the chair blocking the only door, was all. Sam’s dreamscapes were usually a lot more fun.
“Sam. What’s going on?” Dean studied his brother, noting the tense set of his shoulders and the pallor of his skin. “You look like Hell,” he observed.
Sam leaned back against the wall beside the door. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t risk creating a new dream so I pulled you into mine.”
This was Sam’s dream? “Huh. You need to get out more, dude.”
Sam made an impatient gesture. “It’s…symbolic. There isn’t time to explain. Dean, I’m at the Psi Project and I need help.”
The words sent a chill of fear through Dean. The Psi Project had almost killed Sam before. “What the Hell are you doing back at the Project?” he demanded.
“They asked me to help with…something weird that’s been happening here. They thought they had an undetected dreamwalker, but they’re wrong. Dean, something is attacking these kids.”
“A rogue psychic,” Dean assumed. The Psi Project must have a few.
“No,” Sam disagreed. “I stopped it with salt, Dean.”
“Then it’s a spirit.”
“I’m afraid it could be more than one. I can’t deal with this on my own. I need a hunter and you’re the only one I can trust.”
Dean’s first, unspoken thought was Maybe you shouldn’t. He wouldn’t take revenge against Sam for what he’d done but it hadn’t made him feel any friendlier toward psychics in general. If anything, Sam had demonstrated how dangerous a psychic could be, even one who was trying to do good. Maybe the Psi Project had the right of it: take them down before they could do serious harm. Dean killed vampires, werewolves and skinwalkers for similar reasons. He found no moral conflict in his work. If it’s supernatural, we kill it, as his father always said.
Sam crossed to the old couch and sat down, scrubbing at his face with his hands. “Dean, these are children. The spirit, or whatever it is, has already caused one death.” He looked at Dean, his expression pleading. “I need help, man. I remember some of what Dad taught me, but it’s not enough. This is your specialty, not mine.”
It wasn’t easy to refuse Sam’s plea, but Dean tried. “Are you forgetting I’m wanted for murder?” he stalled.
Sam nodded. “That’s back home. The Project Centre is in Colorado. Can’t you use a fake ID or something?”
Of course he could. But Dean wasn’t ready to agree to this. He sat down beside Sam. “You look awful, Sammy. I thought you could…you know, clean things up in a dream.”
Sam managed a quick smile. “Usually I can. It’s taking all my concentration to make sure nothing can listen in on us here.”
That got Dean’s attention. He didn’t understand how this psychic thing worked but he knew that Sam was supposed to be one of the most powerful psychics in the country. “Sam,” he asked cautiously, “what is out there that you have to work this hard to stay safe?”
Sam met his eyes. “Angry spirits come from a violent or unnatural death. I remember Dad telling us that.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“Well, there’s a lot of unnatural death in this place, Dean.”
Dean understood, and the implication staggered him. Fear washed over Dean like a river of ice. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t help Sam. Not even their father would have taken this on.
“The last time I ran into the pissed-off spirit of a psychic kid, she used me to kill my dad,” Dean said flatly.
Sam blanched at the mention of Rachel. “I guess that’s a no.”
“I’m sorry, Sammy.” He couldn’t look at his brother.
“I understand, Dean. But I have to do this. I can’t abandon these children.”
Dean remembered Sam embracing Rachel’s spirit on the road to Willow Creek and he knew Sam would never let this go. Sam was no hunter; he didn’t understand what he was facing. Dean could not let him do it alone.
“Alright, Sam. I’ll come.” Dean thought he was signing his own death warrant with the words.