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11 September 2013 @ 07:03 pm
jai guru deva om: nowhere man (chapter 3)  

"Damn kid, you sound like dried crap," Bobby said.

A/N: Big thanks go to Emmessann, Tifaching, and NongPradu for their expert beta. I recall this chapter being a particularly stubborn problem-child, and they really helped me to smooth it out. Big thanks also go out to my friends who test-read this for me and gave me valuable feedback: Sue, Amanda, Deb, Ginger, and Penny.

Jai Guru Deva Om

Chapter Three
Nowhere Man


"Damn kid, you sound like dried crap," Bobby said. "But you sound alive—and lucid. That's a plus. How you feelin'?"

"I'm okay," Dean said, his voice all but gone. "Nothing's broke that won't mend." He ticked and poked at a piece of lint on his blanket. "Thanks for everything, Bobby. If it hadn't been for you, I'd…" He drew a shallow breath and closed his eyes. "I owe you one."

"You're welcome Dean." Bobby paused. "Dean, I'm sorry…"

"Sorry? Sorry for what?" Dean asked, mystified.

"I'm sorry I couldn't get there. I had the hospital on speed-dial for updates. I wanted to be there, but I had Richie in the hospital and a coven running amok at a retirement community. We only took them down day-fore-yesterday, woke up in the hospital and only just broke myself out this morning. Now I'm stuck trying to drink away a messed up back, a couple of cracked ribs and a broken wrist. Oh, and a slight concussion—keep forgetting. What is it with them things always slamming hunters into walls anyway?"

"Witches…" Dean commiserated.

"That's about the size of it, huh? Anyways, I should be good to go tomorrow or maybe the next day. Thought I'd head up your way, help you pass the time while you're laid up."

"You're not driving that far gimped like that, Bobby. You've done enough. Besides," he said, stony and cool. "By the time you got here, I'd be long gone. M'getting out of here soon."

"You don't sound like you need to be going anywhere, Dean. You can barely catch your breath."

"Can breathe just fine," he contradicted, forcing too much air into the words. He twisted his fingers into his bed-sheet, struggling to replenish his oxygen supply. When he could breathe again, he spoke. "You just stay there and get better. I'm out'a here soon."

"Boy, you are your daddy's son…I'm tellin' you what…and that ain't a compliment right about now. You're stubborn and bullheaded and stubborn. You keep your ass in that bed and I'll be there in a few days."

Dean began to scrabble at the lint-balls petulantly. "Bobby, I can't stay here." He blew out the words, vaporous and weak. "You know that. Got an insurance card that says I need to be moving on."

"Damn it, boy," Bobby argued. Dean could hear the old hunter remove his baseball cap, scratch his scalp and replace it with a peevish snap. "How about we meet in the middle, then? You head to South Dakota, and I'll head there, too. We can lick our wounds over a couple ‘a beers at my place—get some real damn food in us and just hole up. I'll see you there in a few days."

"Yeah, maybe," Dean hedged. There was a quiet lull until Bobby cleared his throat.

"Have you talked to them…either of them?" he asked, his voice soft and smooth, like he was wincing away from an expected blow.

"I called." Dean hurled a lint-ball onto the floor. "I called them both." He cleared his throat. "Voicemail." There was a silence for a long moment.

"I called John when you got out of surgery, left a voicemail letting him know you were going to be okay. You want me t—"

"Nope." Dean interrupted. "Nope. I guess as long as he knows I'll be okay, that's good enough for him. He's got his big hunt he won't tell me about," he said again, his pique punctuated by a wheezing huff of disgust. "S'all good, Bobby." Silence descended between the two, and Dean finally loosed a dismissive click of his tongue. "Hey, listen man…you know what? I'm getting a little tired. Why don't we stuff our bras and paint our toes some other time, huh? I'll give you a call soon."

Bobby let out a worn, defeated sigh. "You'll call me tomorrow. And then we'll make plans to meet up at my place. Don't give me no, maybe, or I dunno, ‘cause I ain't takin' none of ‘em."

Dean was about to argue, but he heard voices outside his door—Mei's among them. He glanced at the cell phone in his hand. "Shit. Hey Bobby…gotta go…the cell phone Nazi is comin'. I'll talk to you soon."

"Tomorrow," Bobby insisted.

"Yeah…'K. Gotta go," Dean puffed and snapped the phone shut, tossing it in the drawer and closing it as Mei entered. He gave her a big, fake smile.

"Wipe the innocent look off your face. And quit using the cell phone," she scolded.

"What? I wasn't d—"

"Oh please. The cell phone Nazi has perfect hearing." Mei closed the door behind her, shaking her head as she reviewed his chart. She removed the oxygen cannula, fiddling with the meters before situating the full mask over his nose and mouth. "Your O2 levels are still off, hot-stuff. Gonna give you a little extra mojo for a while." Dean didn't fight her on the change, grateful for the boost after his conversation with Bobby. She studied the monitors above his bed. "Your temp is up—99.2"

"Better alert the media." Dean smirked.

"Don't tempt me. Remember, I have connections," she said absently as she studied his chart. "I'm going to increase your antibiotic for the next 48 hours. I might not have to do that at all if—" She jabbed her finger at him and then grabbed the spirometer.

"Not now," Dean waved it away, pointing to his oxygen mask. "I'm having my O2 therapy."

"You're having O2 therapy because you haven't used this like you promised me you would." Setting the spirometer on the stand, she pulled down the blanket and reached for his dressing.

"Hey, hey," he said. "I'm not that kind of dude."

Mei rolled her eyes. "I need to check your incisions."

Dean winced when she touched him. "I'm fine. Leave ‘em." He grabbed her hand, giving it an irritable shove. She raised her eyes at him, surprised. Dean licked his lips and tossed her a tart grin. "I mean, it's all good. I just don't feel like it right now."

She watched him a moment, furrowing her brows, as though she was trying to figure him out, maybe. Turning, she grabbed the chair from the corner, spun it around and straddled it, observing him as he plucked at his blanket. "I hear you told Madeline to leave your room," she said at last.

He gave a disinterested shrug as he continued to poke at his blanket. "She smells like baked beans."

Mei read her chart, flipping the pages back and forth, considering. "And Connie reports that you refused your pain medication." She fanned the chart down, eying him. "Then you made her leave, too."

"I'm not in any pain."

"No?" Mei said with one eyebrow arched high.

"Nuuuupe," Dean emphasized.

"They're just trying to help you."

"Don't need help."


"You know what they say." Dean brushed her off with a smooth smile. "You can lead a gift-horse to water, but you can't…uh…look him in the mouth…or somethin'."

"Nice metaphor salad, there, Hemingway," Mei said blandly. "So, all this agitation, over-sensitivity, combativeness, and irritability is just you being a cranky-puss, then? It has nothing to do with pain?"

Dean's game-face remained unperturbed. "Would you believe I'm possessed by the Devil?"

"Nuuuupe," Mei parroted. She regarded her chart and then set it down. "Dean, seriously…has anything happened to upset you since this morning? You were fine the last time I saw you. You were walking. You were talking—and not just in monosyllabic grunts. Did someone do something to upset you?"

Dean rolled his eyes and then closed them. He sighed. "I'm fine, Mei."

"I can't help you if you aren't straight with me. Concussions can cause all sorts of mood swings—"

"Ugh, I said I'm fine," he whiffed out, opening his eyes and resuming his hunt for lint-balls.

"Hey." Mei tugged on the blanket that Dean was fastidiously working on, forcing him to meet her eyes. "You know, it's not at all uncommon for people to experience feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, even anger, after suffering the type of trauma you have. It's normal, Dean. Add to that, the pain and healing process, and you have a gourmet recipe for post-op depression," she said. "If you want to talk about it, I'd be happy to—"

"I'm not depressed," he cut her off again.

Mei cocked her head, her eyes calling bullshit. "Were you at least able to get in touch with your family?" she asked nodding toward the drawer that held the cell phone.

"My uncle."

"Everything all right with him?"


"And your brother? Sam…or Sammy is it? Did you get to talk to him?"

Dean gave her a smileless smile. "Can I have some more ice-chips, please?"

Mei chewed on her cheek, squinting as she watched him. "Do you have some issues going on with your brother?"

Dean doubled his efforts with the blanket. "Nope."

The doctor gave a short grunt and sighed. "If you don't want to talk to me, I can have someone else come see you," she suggested.

"Goddamn it, I said no!" Dean snapped with as much force as he could through the oxygen mask. He leaned back and rubbed his head, feeling guilty. "Just, no."

Mei rose, approaching him with caution, as though he were a wild animal. "Dean," she said, trying to calm him.

He sighed, wishing for a do-over. Not only did he feel like shit for snapping, he'd have to throw her a bone to avoid getting head-shrunk, judging by the worry and compassion in her eyes. He shook her off, deflating. "I'm sorry Mei. I'm tired. That's all. I'm just tired of hurting." Shit, Dean thought as Mei's eyes went wide. "I mean, okay, I'm a little sore, but it's mostly cabin fever, Mei. And I can be an ass sometimes. It doesn't mean anything. I'm sorry I was rude to the nurses. Do you want me to apologize to Connie and Baked Beans?"

"I'm not really worried about them, Dean. I'm worried about you. So are they." This time Dean submitted meekly as she pulled back the blanket to examine his surgical site. He winced and cringed as she peeled off the tape and bandages covering his small incisions. "Still tender?" she asked.

"Yeah, a little." He winced again as she probed the area with gentle fingers.

"They're healing pretty well," she said. "How's the pain?" She put her hand up, stopping him before he answered. "No cock-‘n-bull," she said.

"Not so bad. Not as bad as not being able to breathe." Mei pantomimed strangling him and pointed at the spirometer. "I know…I know. You win. I'll be good, I promise."

Mei made some notes on the chart. "I'm going to order some Tylenol for you, and I'm going to put a note on here for the good stuff if requested, okay?"

"Okay," he agreed.

"All right, remember, though; pain management is a big part of the healing process."

"You have my word," he said.

Mei released scoffing snort. She poured some ice-chips into a Styrofoam cup and handed it to him.

"Stick to it." She said archly and turned around, pushing the chair into the corner with her shin. "All right, Dean. Go easy on your nurses, huh? Both Madeline and Connie are good nurses and good friends of mine, both professionally and personally. Take your medicine; do your exercises—Doctor's orders."

"I'll be nice," he said.

"Right," she said, watching him. "Well, I'm off. Got a big date with my husband tonight. First time he's been home in over two weeks." Dean wiggled his eyebrows. "Hush, you!" she laughed. "I'll see you tomorrow. Be good, or else I'll have to bust out my Judo Fu skills," she warned him.

"Judo Fu?" Dean stared at her in disbelief. "Seriously?"

She did a hand-chop motion. "Fwahhhh!"

"Oh my god," Dean said, shaking his head. "You are a disgrace to your heritage, Grasshopper."

She straightened up and shrugged. "I can still kick your ass."

"In your dreams," he scoffed.

"Prove me wrong," she said. "I dare you." She pointed to the spirometer, gave him a nod and headed for the door. "Recovery is a challenge for anyone who's been through what you have," she said. "You're not alone, you know."

"Right," he said with a casual nod. "Sure, Mei."

As soon as she left the room, all pretense of a smile dissolved. Dean turned with a hiss, burrowed his head into his pillow and snapped his eyes shut. After another hour of struggling for breath, Dean sighed and finally grabbed the spirometer.


His sleep was too busy to provide escape or rest. Senseless dreams became suffocating nightmares, and at 2:00am, Dean put an end to them by asking for some pain relief. There was no real rest to be found with the drugs either, but at least he stopped caring. His thoughts swirled and tripped around his doughy, dopey center, and the rest of the night passed without him stirring again.

He was wasted and worn when he opened his eyes, too exhausted to carry out his early morning escape plan. Instead, he continued to lie there, huddled beneath his oxygen mask until nature called, forcing him out of bed. It was either take care of business or let them reinsert the catheter—and that wasn't going to happen. As soon he was finished he did his breathing treatment with the spirometer as promised. He was tired of feeling like crap.

Sometime mid-morning a different doctor showed up and let him know that Mei would not be in until the evening. Dean tried to kick him out of the room when he made an attempt to examine him and only complied when the bastard threatened him with a sedative. After that, he let the doctor have his way, biting back his anger and humiliation the whole time. As soon as the doctor was gone, Dean sweet-talked Rachel, the young, bubbly candy-striper, into grabbing a change of clothes for him from the car. She brought up a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and one of Sam's old hoodies. It was too big, but it would do—something to cover his head and serve as a disguise when the time was right.

Despite his get-away clothes tucked in the drawer, Dean still lacked the energy and mental acuity to put his plan into motion; though, he did his breathing exercises every hour, hoping it would revive him. He still felt off and couldn't bring himself to touch the broth and jello that Connie had brought him. While he was working up the energy to get dressed, he fell into a light sleep.

He pulled himself awake sometime around 5:00pm. Checking the clock, he sighed and tinkered with the idea of staying one more day. He was just about to yield and go back to sleep when the door swung open and Mei walked in on her evening rounds.

"Hey," Dean croaked, hailing her listlessly, lying flaccid—as though he was a part of the bed itself.

Mei didn't return his greeting. She seemed lost in thought, staring at his chart as she rhythmically tapped her pen against it. Her gaze went from the chart to Dean's meters and then right back to the chart, never once making eye contact.

"C'mon, it can't be that bad, Doc," Dean wheezed with a lopsided smile. She didn't respond; he wasn't convinced she'd even heard him.

"Your temperature is 100.8," she said at length, scribbling some notes on the page. "I hear that you didn't eat breakfast or lunch." She continued to write. "Apparently you were also a royal pain in the ass for Dr. Miller, too." Mei sighed and worried her hand against her forehead, pinching her nose. She turned and tossed the chart into the chair and folded her arms, pivoting to face Dean for the first time since entering. Her eyes were smoky and red-rimmed. She'd been crying recently. Dean blinked a few times, perplexed.

"What can I say," he tried to joke, employing his normal charm with caution. "I'm a problem child. I've been using the breast pump, though. Every hour on the hour—doctor's orders. That's something, right? I don't know if it's helping yet. I still can't breathe right."

Mei nodded absently and looked the monitors, her eyes still empty and distant. "Have you been using your spirometer?"

Dean did a double take. "Uh, earth to Dr. Mei," he said, waving his hand in front of her. "You in there?"

"I'm done playing games, Dean," she snapped without warning. Her characteristically warm features turned hard and angry. "Your fever is climbing and your O2 saturation is diminishing. Your lungs could collapse from atelectasis if you don't do those exercises; did you know that? You think it's hard to breathe now? You need to use the spirometer!"

Dean's breath started to come in bursts. "I've been using it, Mei," he said in between gasps. "I swear. I just told you I was." He pulled his mask off in a panic, gasping and straining for breath as he struggled to rise.

She looked at him, suddenly comprehending. "Easy," she said. "Easy, Dean…" She put the mask back on and turned his O2 level up higher, rubbing his arm, easing his breaths into a steady rhythm.

"God, I'm sorry Dean," she apologized and sighed. "Add this to my other list of failures today," she said thickly, tears welling in her eyes.

"What do y'mean? Wha's wrong?" Dean said in between gasps.

She shook her head. "Shhh. Breathe. I'm sorry, Dean. I wasn't hearing you. That was completely unprofessional of me to snap at you like that. I know you're going through a rough patch, even if you won't talk about it. I screwed up." She looked him in the eye. "I'm…I'm having a really bad day. I'm so sorry. I'm under the weather myself, and I shouldn't have come in tonight."

"Wha's wrong, Mei?" he asked.

"It's nothing," she said, shaking her head again, her face a marbling of grief and shame. "Just one of those days." She twisted her wedding ring and then straightened his covers. "You need to concentrate on your health right now."

"You can tell me."

Mei patted him. "I've already been unprofessional by being so harsh. I'm not going to make it worse by unloading my crap on a patient. That wouldn't be ethical." She gathered her chart and pen. "Listen, hot stuff, I'm not going to be here for the next several days. I have some personal business I need to attend to. But I'm going to have them increase your antibiotic. I know you're using the spirometer, but you may have a little something taking hold anyway. We'll get it under control and get you out of here long before I get back." Dean said nothing as he watched her move to the door, didn't know what to say at this point. Opening it, she turned and gave him a weak smile. "Keep using the spirometer. And cheer up, okay? I hope everything works out for you." Without another word from either of them, she walked out, shutting the door behind her.

Dean sat in dead silence for a moment and scratched his head, confused by the exchange. Looking at his watch he sighed at having wasted the entire day. With a shake of his head, he pulled the oxygen mask off his face and ran his hands through his hair, taking a moment to adjust. Once his breathing was as close to normal as he could get it, he peeled off the tape protecting the IV needle in his arm, and gripping the plastic tubing, he took a breath and gave it a quick, decisive tug.


He should have been more prepared. The simple act of getting dressed had worn him out. By the time he had finished and put his amulet on again, he was weak and wobbly. He couldn't take more than a few steps without having to stop to catch his breath—not to mention that making a break for it during the dinner rush was the worst possible time he could have chosen.

Gripping the wall for balance, he worked his way around aides delivering dinner trays. Standing erect caused his incisions to stretch and pull; it hurt like hell, but he forced himself to stand as straight as he could. Since he didn't have speed on his side, he'd have to rely on blending in with other visitors. Pulling the hoodie up, he tried to keep his face turned toward the wall as he made slow progress and followed the signs. Nearing the elevators, he found his way barred by the busy nurse's station. There was no way he was going to get past that unseen, hoodie or no.

Wiping the sweat from his face, he clenched his jaw and leaned against the wall, trying to think of a Plan B. Nothing immediate came to mind. Stumbling against the wall, he glanced back the way he came, wondering if there were any other elevator hubs nearby. As he stood there, squinting and tottering, appearing nothing like a healthy visitor, he noticed a small stairwell sign at the end of the hallway. He sighed and turned, working his way down the hall again. Swaying like a drunken frat boy, he threaded his way back past the kitchen-aides. The smell of hospital food was no better the second time around, and Dean's stomach rolled and quivered in complaint.

It was slow going, but he eventually found his way to the end of the hallway. Turning the corner, he nearly bumped right into Connie and Madeline, both inconveniently parked right in front of the stairwell. Dean slipped around the corner and cringed against the wall. He was dizzy and hollow, his legs like ribbons; he needed to get out of there before he passed out. Rolling his eyes, the women continued their conversation, chatting back and forth in excited whispers.

"Six years and poof. Gone. Just like that. No warning whatsoever. I honestly can't believe it. If those two can't make it…no one can. They were the perfect couple."

Jesus, Dean thought. Gossip hour at General Hospital was the last thing he needed. He tried to muffle his wheezes as he drew breath and clutched the wall.

"Well did he say anything? I mean, this is coming from left field. Is there another woman?" Madeline asked.

"No, not at all. He joined that freaky commune he was investigating. That whole place has gone full-on religious or something with that new leader of theirs." Dean stopped breathing at that point and turned a greedy ear toward them.

"No way!" Madeline exclaimed. "My god, poor Mei."

"It doesn't make sense, right?" Connie agreed. "They were happy. You can't fake that…not the way those two were. Mei said Jason showed up with one of the other members and gave her an ultimatum. Either she could go with them to that freak-show commune out on Mosquito Lake Road, or she could grant him a divorce."

"Man has that place changed. We used to pick apples in their orchards years ago. They were hippies, sure, but they weren't off the rails."

"Well they are now, apparently. Jason wiped out their joint bank accounts before he ever met up with Mei last night. He must have known she wouldn't go with him."

"Why would she? Why would he? Religion isn't his thing. Don't you remember him and Dr. Miller at last year's holiday party arguing over the living nativity scene at the courthouse? I thought those two were going to come to blows over it."

"Oh yeah," Connie said, lowering her voice. Dean leaned as close to the corner as he dare. "Mei's convinced they did something to him at the farm. And I'm not talking just indoctrination…she said he'd changed. Like…woo-woo weirdo shit—changed. So, she went to the police."

"She did?"

"This morning. That's why she missed her rounds. Not that it did her any good, though. They think she's the one who's crazy now," Connie said.

"Huh? Why would they think that?" Madeline wondered.

"Well, see…this is the weird, woo-woo part. When Jason and his buddy showed up to try and convince Mei to come back to the commune with them, Mei's convinced that she saw the other cult member's eyes flicker—like a dog caught in headlights. She said even the color changed for a second or two. She said the guy's eyes went from blue to a dark brown for a minute and then back to blue again." Dean sucked in a loud breath at that would have given him away had the nurses not been so involved in their conversation.

"What the hell?" Madeline exclaimed.

Connie continued. "Right? He was talking to her and then Mei said it was like someone else was looking at her through him."


"I know. It's crazy. Mei's always been a little off-center, but she's not a loon. My guess is that she was overwhelmed and probably hysterical."

Madeline agreed. "People see weird crap when they're that messed up."

"Still, it's weird. She said that cult member with Jason even told her at the time that Father was watching her…and that this Father had told him that she was worthy to come join them."

"Who? Who's Father?"

"Their new leader. They worship him as some messiah or something. The commune's turning into a weird cult. Jonestown, Waco, even that kooky Mormon sect…these groups are all the same. So bizarre. But come on, people like Jason? It makes no sense at all. He should know better. He does know better. Anyway, Mei said what she saw was definitely not natural. But the police laughed her out of the station. The poor woman's beside herself. I told her I would head over to her place tonight so that she wouldn't be alone, but I don't get off until ten. I'm worried about her." Connie glanced at her watch and turned. Madeline followed. Dean gripped his hoodie ties and pulled them tight, turning his back as they rounded the corner.

"Well, wait for me. I'm off then, too. I'll go with you. What's she going to do if the police won't help?" Madeline asked as they walked right past Dean without noticing him.

"Not sure," Connie said. "But this is Mei we're talking about. She's not going to give up without a fight."

Dean watched the women for a moment longer. He bit his lip and with a lurch he pushed away from the wall and escaped into the stairwell.


The morning sun rising over the rim of Mt. Baker's steaming crater spilled into Dean's glassy eyes. He squinted and moved the Impala's visor down to block out the bulk of the glare. Blinking owlishly, he rubbed his aching temple and checked his watch—5:45am. To the west, his binoculars magnified what appeared to be several community outbuildings or workshops, perhaps with an adjacent field or activity yard of some kind. To the north of that there were several rows of small cottages or barracks, each building not much bigger than the average storage shed. To the south large vegetable gardens blanketed several acres, stretching right up to the edge of a large orchard. A few people were bent in work, tending to things, puttering, doing whatever insane cult members do with their vegetables. To the east, a massive A-frame log cabin with a wrap-around deck overlooking the property on one side and the river on the other rose from a pine-covered hill. The perimeter of the entire compound was protected by high, military grade security fencing. The only thing missing was a razor wire cap. Three people, two men and a woman—devotees judging by their off-white tunics and brown trousers—were standing outside the guard-shack next to what he assumed was the locked gate. If anyone was inside the shack, he couldn't see for the tinting on the windows.

"So who's turning you into pod people, huh?" Dean asked, adjusting the focus on the binoculars as he homed in on the ridiculously outfitted trio. "What caught you? A Jedi-wannabe demon? A nerdy revenant? A witch? Oh god, please don't let it be witches. I hate them things," he snorted.

He winced as his diaphragm contracted, setting off a chain reaction that had him dropping the binoculars to clutch his abdomen with one hand and his chest with the other, trying to hoover air in and out of his lungs. Working through the pain only had him wheezing and gasping more. He pushed against the seat, gripping the steering wheel for leverage as he struggled to steady his breathing. Once the dizzying panic of not being able to breathe passed, he drew a trembling hand across the sheen on his brow and wiped it on his shirt. He searched the seat next to him and pulled the ibuprofen bottle from his duffel and swallowed three tablets. It had been over two days since he'd snuck out of the hospital, and still his low-grade fever kept him foggy and shivering.

He'd spent much of the past two days since leaving the hospital burrowed under the sticky, scratch-and-sniff sheets of the Shamrock Motel, but true to his word to Mei, he'd used the spirometer that he'd swiped from the hospital. He might only be at about 50% at the moment, but he was good enough to do this job—well, good enough to do recon, at least—nothing strenuous. The aspirin took the edge off his fever well enough. He rummaged in his duffel again, pulling out another bottle and untwisting the cap. Outdated antibiotics were better than no antibiotics at all. They'd been in the first-aid kit for a while, but they'd been outdated when they got them to begin with, no doubt. Black Market meds often were. His cellphone began to ring right as he set the tablet on his tongue. He swallowed it down and grabbed his phone, not bothering to look at the caller-ID.

"Bobby?" he said, wincing against the pill that had lodged halfway down his throat.

"No, Mother Theresa," came the old hunter's thistled reply. "Of course Bobby. You were supposed to call."

"Sorry," Dean said. "I was busy getting sprung."

"Who did the springing…you or them?"

"Does it matter? I'm free," Dean said.

"So you gonna head this way? Meet up at my place?"

"In a few days," Dean said. "I'm going to lay low here for a little while. Say, Bobby? Aside from demon possession, what else can take over a person? Anything?"

Bobby muttered incoherently for a moment before speaking. "You on a hunt, boy? Are you out of your mind? You ain't in no shape to be hunting. Not for weeks yet."

"N—no, I know. I was wondering, hypothetically. Demons can possess you. Ghosts can, right? Anything else?"

"There's plenty of things out there that can get up inside you if you're not careful. Revenants can get into corpses and use ‘em. Dybbuks can possess people. Vetalas. Hell boy, are there any other hypothetical symptoms or specifics that might help narrow it down?"

"Well, what if someone's eye-color changed for a second, almost as if someone else was looking through them. Maybe something that might also make someone's personality do an about-face."

"Sounds like it could be a shape-shifter, though that ain't possession. Shapeshifters get them lens flares, though. But they just copy people, mostly—make an evil clone of someone—extreme identity theft. They don't change the originals. There's no way to know for sure unless you get close enough. Holy water, silver, salt—you know the drill. It could still be a lot of things. But you're not hunting anything."

"I know. I was just asking. Dad left me his journal and I was reading about an old case he never could figure out." He rolled his eyes at his own lie. "Can't hunt so I got to pass the time somehow."

"Uh huh," Bobby said. "Do I need to make some calls to get a local hunter to handle something up there while you rest?"

"No, Bobby. I'm not hunting," Dean said with more irritation than he meant to show. It tightened his chest and he rubbed it with a grimace. "I'll call you in a couple of days, Bobby. Thanks for the information, man,"

"You're killing me here, Dean," Bobby said. "Get yourself some rest."

"Okay, Bobby. I'll give you a call soon." Dean snicked the phone closed and pocketed it. When he refocused the binoculars on the guard shack, the threesome had vanished.

"Sonofabitch," he clicked his tongue. He swung his binoculars from side to side, musing. As he was scanning, a metallic tap on the roof of the car startled him. Dean jumped in surprise, adrenaline rushing through him as he looked up into the faces of the three Jedi-guards. Fuck, he thought. He'd no business being out here if he could let himself be made so easily. If he could've kept two thoughts in his head, he'd have just peeled away. That was out of the question now, better to make the quick switch from a recon to an undercover-op. He rolled down his window and gave all three a good-natured smile.

"Howdy," he said, palming his gun with one fluid motion and shoving it deep into a pocket. He wiggled the binoculars in his other hand. "Three spotted owls and a titmouse," he boasted. "You know it's a good day when you spot a titmouse, am I right?"

"You okay?" one of the three Jedis asked. "We saw you sitting out here and thought you might be having some car trouble."

The man was in his mid-twenties, about Sam's height, hair just as shaggy. The man's face seemed sincere and kind—not a trace of intimidation or hidden menace.

"Uh…no. No," he said, studying the three benign faces. "I was just," he fumbled, displaying his binoculars while giving them a charming smile. "I'm uh…I'm Dean, by the way." He threaded his arm through the window, offering it. The young Jedi took it.

"I'm Brad," he said. "This is Gypsy." He pointed to the woman in her early-twenties. She reminded Dean of Cassie. He nodded, trying not to let his thoughts go there. Gypsy gave him a wink and a wave. "And this is Jason," he said pointing to the other man. Dean watched him through narrow eyes. If this was Mei's Jason, he was her polar opposite. A few years shy of forty, Dean figured—tall, broad but athletic, with dark red hair and splashes of freckles on his arms and face. Jason gripped Dean's hand and gave it a firm, friendly shake.

"Nice to meet you, Dean," he said.

"Jason…" he dithered. "You look familiar, Jason. What's your last name?"

"Hickey," he said, peering at Dean as if trying to place him. "Jason Hickey."

Dean shrugged. "I dunno, man…maybe not. Jesus Christo, you look familiar, though." He observed the trio intently for a moment and then relaxed into his seat, relieved—somewhat perplexed. He bit his lip in thought a moment and then smiled, casual and off-hand. "Must have one of those faces, huh?"

Jason chuckled. "Yeah, maybe," he agreed.

"We didn't mean to startle you or intrude," Brad interjected. "We were a little worried that you might need some help. You've been out here since before dawn."

"Ah, no," Dean said, nodding toward the guard shack. "What's the deal with San Quentin?" He asked. "You keeping people in or out?"

"Hah!" Brad laughed. "It's nothing like that, man. It's more for keeping the coyote out and the deer away from the crops."

"So what…? You're farmers or something?" Dean asked. "You work here?"

Gypsy smiled. "This is The Kindred," she said, assuming the words meant something to him.

"Kindred?" Dean quirked an eyebrow.

"Well, the official name of our group is The Dynamic Synthesis Co-op," she elaborated. "We're establishing a whole new paradigm in interpersonal and intrapersonal transformation. We seek to proactively empower individuals through collaborative synergy," she said, but the words seemed foreign in her mouth, spoken with a sing-songy lilt, a recitation. "But to us, we are and will always remain, The Kindred."

"Huh." Dean stared at her.

Jason laughed. "Don't let our official description scare you off," he said, glancing past Dean at the clothing and food wrappers strewn across the back seat. "We're just people attempting to find a permanent place in this world. Something we can count on. So we've come together from all walks of life and created a little family community here. It's kind of hard being all alone with nothing and no one to fall back on, you know?" he said, continuing to study the disarray inside the Impala.

Dean observed Jason. Again, he saw no hint of cunning or deceit. But there was also no hint of Mei, either. Dean knew that Jason had a family—a good family before he came here. Dean bit back his words, picking and choosing them with great care.

"Y—yeah," he said. "It sure is tough."

"Say," Brad interrupted. "Are you hungry? We were about to go get some breakfast. Why don't you come join us? We have a 120ft Douglas Fir with an eagle's aerie in it on the north side," he said nodding toward Dean's binoculars. "The hatchlings are a couple months old. You should come see them, man. They're incredible."

Dean hesitated. He hadn't planned on doing anything beyond some recon at this point. The aspirin hadn't kicked in yet, and he could feel the heat coming from his cheeks. He wasn't even so sure that he could stand up straight after sitting for the past couple of hours, but he'd stupidly exposed himself. He'd have to improvise. They knew him now; it wasn't like he could create a new cover. Posing as some loser who needed a substitute family was as good a story as any. Might even be better than coming in as a cop or investigator, something that threatened them, he thought. Approaching them antagonistically hadn't worked out in Jason's favor, apparently. Maybe playing along for a couple of hours would get him closer without arousing suspicion.

"Dean? How about it?" Brad said again, smiling. "You've got to meet Maureen; she makes the best blueberry pancakes you've ever had. I'm not even close to joking."

Dean's stomach, a big fan of pancakes on any normal day, rebelled at the thought, but a quick recon from the inside might be invaluable. He sized them up. The Jedi-guards were unarmed. Dean's hand went to his pocket, feeling the gun hidden there. He could get out if push came to shove, but more than likely they were going to load him up with pamphlets and manuals on his first day there. Dean looked from Brad to Jason. He thought of Mei and the devastation in her eyes, the confusion and the loss. Jason didn't belong here. He belonged with his wife, and if anything supernatural was at work, it was his job to take care of it. His lips tightened and he rubbed his temple.

"Sure," he said. "That—that sounds great."

"Awesome," Brad said, opening the driver's door. "Once you see the place and meet everyone, you're never gonna want to leave."

Continue to Chapter 4

jpgr: SPN Dean & John hugjpgr on September 12th, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
I still laugh at Dean calling them Jedis but it paints such a vivid picture of their outfits.

That last line always gets me too, even though Brad says it with total innocence.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 12th, 2013 02:24 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, Deb! Hee! Yeah, I guess Dean's showing his oft-hidden nerdy side by calling them Jedis.

Yep, very ominous words there. One could almost take it for...oh...I dunno....maybe foreshadowing! Pssshh...but you know...I'm sure Dean's safe...come on...what could possibly go wrong? ;)


(no subject) - tifaching on September 20th, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Rince1windrince1wind on September 12th, 2013 06:28 am (UTC)
Dammit, I was hoping I'd picked this up after you'd finished posting all of it! Definitely looking forward to the next installment, though!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 12th, 2013 01:41 pm (UTC)
Oops...you got drawn in anyway, huh? Well...I'll be posting twice a week, regularly, so hopefully the wait will not be too long! Very, VERY glad you're enjoying it!!

deangirl1deangirl1 on September 12th, 2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
LOVE this "Nice metaphor salad, there, Hemingway" - even though I do happen to love Hemingway! Curiouser and curiouser. I'm betting we see Mei again - like when Dean escapes from the Jedi's because I know that's not going the way he thinks it is...

Can't wait for the next update!!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 12th, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
Hee! You know, I once worked as a research assistant to a professor who was writing a book about Hemingway's novel "The Old Man and the Sea". I guess Hemingway has always remained in my psyche since then. But I have never been much of a fan. LOL. Oh well...

Oh yeah, huh? It would be very convenient if Dean could just go in there and wrap up the hunt in half a day. But how fun would that be fore ME? /halo. So I'm thinking things are going to go very, very wrong. Mwahaha!

As ever, thanks so much for the sweet comment, Deangirl!

chokouseichokousei on September 12th, 2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
There is no way Dean can do this alone, Bobby is hurt too, so hope John will come and help his son. This is the duty of a father and a hunter. Poor Dean!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 12th, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
This really is the perfect storm brewing, isn't it? This is all going to go deliciously wrong.

I mean...

Poor Dean, indeed! /woeful face!


lidia1991_anlidia1991_an on September 12th, 2013 05:25 pm (UTC)

I'm loving it!

sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 12th, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
I'm loving it that you're loving it!

/hugs right back-atcha! :)

mdlawmdlaw on September 13th, 2013 02:18 am (UTC)
Bad idea in a long line of bad ideas. m. :)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 13th, 2013 04:21 am (UTC)
Not his brightest moment, I'll grant you. I blame the fever. ;)
iontasiontas on September 13th, 2013 03:29 am (UTC)
Can't wait for the next chapter! And boy is Bobby so going to smack him!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 13th, 2013 04:24 am (UTC)
Right?! I'm sure Bobby will make sure he's safe first...and then thwap him repeatedly second. Dean...Dean...Dean... /shakes head.
aerynsun5: Arms crossed!Deanaerynsun5 on September 13th, 2013 04:42 am (UTC)
Ooo, still lovin' it. Really dying to know how they wooed Jason over.

Poor Mei.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 13th, 2013 01:08 pm (UTC)
Woot! So glad you're still engaged. Jason's joining is mysterious for sure. The way Mei talked about him, he wasn't a person easily turned from his own world-view. One would think that his new loyalty is almost...oh, I dunno...almost "supernatural" /dramatic music.


Poor Mei and Poor Dean!

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(no subject) - aerynsun5 on September 14th, 2013 03:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - sharlot1926 on September 14th, 2013 03:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on September 13th, 2013 06:12 pm (UTC)
This is amazing I'm glued!! Poor Dean, John and Sam not answering his calls. Although I do love some hurt Dean.
I love where this is going very intriguing!!
Can't wait for the next instalment.

Chelsea x
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 13th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
Heya Chelsea! Thanks so much. Yes, hurt!sad!lonely!depressed!sick!Dean and a cult who stresses "family" is definitely an interesting mix! This going to be so not good for Dean. Hopefully the readers will find it more enjoyable than our poor boys does!

Thanks so, so much!

aimear7aimear7 on September 15th, 2013 01:01 pm (UTC)
That last line was creepy, makes shivers go down your spine at how prophetic it will become! Love this story, in particular how you wrote the first chapter. Can't wait to see how things develop
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 15th, 2013 03:34 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, it really is foreboding, isn't it? I'm sure whatever he's in for...it's definitely going to be a bumpy, bumpy ride. ;)

Thanks so much for your sweet comments! I appreciate it so much.

maguiemaguie on October 9th, 2013 07:45 am (UTC)
Oh Dean! you haven't even recoverd and you are on a hunt already?
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 9th, 2013 01:00 pm (UTC)
He really is being reckless. I love him but... /reaches up and thwaps his head!

JJ1564jj1564 on October 12th, 2013 07:59 am (UTC)
Dumbass Dean, you gotta love him! This is getting very interesting and your spot on with the creepy cult - everyone being so 'nice' and seeming so 'friendly'. Dean should never have left the hospital, he's in no state to face this and now I HAVE to read on!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 12th, 2013 02:31 pm (UTC)
Really...not one of his brightest moments. I blame it on the fever. Or his depression. Or his alectasis. Or his cracked ribs. Or his....wow...I really did put him at a disadvantage, didn't I? "Oh Dean...I need you to go fight a cult, but fiiiirsst...." *punchnabgrabstab!* "There....there you go...nooooow you're ready. " Some fanfic authors.... /shakes head.

Thanks again for the comment, jj. :)