Chapter 1: Prologue
Dean Winchester stands on the back porch, beer in hand, watching as his girlfriend straightens from a crouch and tosses another hunk of weeds in the steadily growing pile behind her. He can't help but admire the view. A white tank top hugs her slim frame, emphasizing the golden glow of her lightly tanned skin. Cutoff denim shorts curve over her gorgeous bottom, drawing his gaze down over her long legs, to the low cut socks and beat up white sneakers. He grins and makes his way to her, whistling his appreciation as she bends over the flower bed .
Sophia sends him a withering glare over her shoulder and tosses the next bunch of weeds directly at him. "You know, you could help me out here instead of just ogling my ass, Winchester."
He takes a drag of the beer, not bothering to hide his smirk. "Ogling your sexy ass is way more fun than pulling weeds, babe, sorry."
Standing, she smiles sweetly at him as she pulls off her gloves and wipes her arm across her forehead. Dean tries not to frown as he notices the dark smudges under her beautiful cocoa eyes. "Well, we'll see how you feel when you're not getting anywhere near this sexy ass later tonight."
"Ummm, well, " he mumbles, nearly spilling the beer as he quickly sets it on the ground and reaches for the shovel nearby. "I, uh, was just coming out to help you, sweetheart."
She laughs then and throws her gloves at him. "That's what I thought." She eyes him and the shovel. "If you'd like to be useful, you can dig me a hole for that little tree I bought yesterday."
There's a pause as a new sound filters through the quiet country air: the familiar rumble of the Impala. A wide grin breaks across Sophia's face and she hops up and down before taking off at a run down the side of the house.
Rolling his eyes, Dean reaches for his beer again, thankful for the brief reprieve. He swallows and watches as his brother turns around the corner of the house just in time to catch Sophia as she hurls herself at him.
Sam laughs and catches her as she wraps her arms and legs around him, spider monkey-style. Dean can't hear what she says, but Sam laughs again as she plants a loud, smacking kiss on his cheek.
He kisses her back and sets her down on the ground, his long legs having made up most of the distance back to the flower bed. They walk back toward Dean, arms around each other, matching smiles on their faces.
Dean tries not to smile back at them, keeping a bored look on his face. But his heart swells with emotion as he watches them. Good God, he was a lucky man. A beautiful woman loved him and she and his brother, in turn, adored each other. Yeah, damned lucky.
"Hey, if you're done making out with my girl, get over here and help me dig this hole," he says dryly, shaking the hand Sam holds out to him before giving him a one-armed hug. It's been a couple of weeks since they'd seen Sam. He'd been out with Bobby and Dean and Sophia were taking some time off.
Sophia giggles and reaches up to brush her lips over his. "You'll get yours later, big boy," she murmurs. Stepping back, she smacks his bottom and says, "After you dig that hole."
Dean groans as Sam tries unsuccessfully to hide a smirk. Both men watch her skip back toward the house.
"You are so whipped, man," Sam sniggers.
The older Winchester growls as he jabs the shovel into the dirt in the place where Sophia had indicated. "Shut up, Sam. I wear the pants around here."
Laughter greets his pronouncement and he frowns, stomping his foot on the shovel.
"Oh yeah, right. You wear 'em when she lets you and you know it."
Scooping a shovel full of dirt, Dean dumps it on Sam's shoes, causing the younger man to jump out of the way, scowling. "Ooops, sorry, Sammy." He grins and digs in again.
Sam rolls his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest. "Jerk."
"Oh, for crying out loud, can't I leave you two alone for five seconds?" Sophia huffs up behind them, carting the small, burgundy leafed Japanese maple in her arms. She sets it carefully next to the hole Dean's working on and puts her hands on her hips, glaring playfully at the brothers.
"Hey, I'm just digging this hole like you asked," Dean replies innocently before 'accidentally' dumping more dirt on Sam's shoes.
"Yeah, right," Sophia replies, skepticism heavy in her voice. Gesturing Dean out of the way, she kneels to settle the tree in its new home. "So," she says casually, "did you ask him yet, Sammy?"
Dean's eyebrows rise. "Ask me what?"
Sophia glares up at Sam and Dean can't help but snicker. He hides it quickly when she turns the glare on him. "Sam..."
Sam shrugs. "He was too busy trying to bury me."
She snorts, patting at the dirt around the tree. "Why don't you boys go in and get some more beers while I finish this up?"
Dean immediately drops the shovel. "Sounds good to me, babe. C'mon, Sammy, I'll get you a beer and explain the birds and bees to you."
Sam gives him a shove, but follows along back to the house, trailed by Sophia's laughter.
"No, Sam, just no. Not now."
Sam leans back against the counter and crosses his arms. "You know I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. I know you and Sophia are taking some time off, but..."
Dean closes his eyes briefly and shuts off the water in the kitchen sink. Reaching for a towel, he dries his hands as he stares at his brother, jaw tight. "No, I'm not doing this. Not while Sophia's still having..." He stops suddenly, looking down at the towel in his hands.
"Sophia's still having what? What's wrong?" Sam is at full attention now, concern clear on his face. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine," Dean mumbles, suddenly intent on getting his hands dry.
Sam rolls his eyes. "I know you both better than that, Dean. What's going on?"
"It's not really my place to tell you. Sophia would kill me." Dean pauses and looks up at his brother. "She's not sick or anything, it's just..."
"I've been having these really disturbing nightmares."
Sophia lets the screen door clatter shut behind her as she enters the bright kitchen. The two men turn to look at her; Dean a little guilty, Sam still concerned.
"Nightmares?" Sam asks, a frown crossing his handsome face. "What kind of nightmares? For how long? Why didn't you tell me?"
Sophia sighs softly and takes a seat at the table. Dean moves immediately to stand behind her, his hands heavy on her shoulders. She wraps her fingers around his wrist and looks up at him with a soft smile.
Turning her attention back to Sam, she says, "For a little more than a week, I guess. I don't really understand them." She closes her eyes and continues. "There's a woman...a blond woman. She's wearing some kind of necklace...a pendant...maybe an amulet. Something's trying to take it from her, but I can't see what it is. And then..." She stops and shudders, clutching at Dean's hand. "And then there's screaming...and so much blood...so much blood."
Sam drops into the seat across from Sophia and reaches for her other hand. "God, I'm sorry. I had no idea."
"So we're not taking on any other kind of nightmares or things that go bump in the night or demons or what the hell ever until she's better," Dean growls.
Sophia looks up at him, surprised, but before she can speak, Sam holds up a hand.
"Wait, you said it was a woman and an amulet, right?"
Sophia nods. "An amulet, a charm, something like that."
"I think maybe my case and your nightmares might be related then."