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Reid and Rossi stared down at the body with practiced indifference. The victim was post-mortem-clean-and-tidy except for the gaping hole in his chest cavity that exposed the morgue gurney beneath.

“Well, cause of death is obvious.” Rossi mumbled. “Shotgun, sawed off, and at extremely close range.”

“Overkill, and awkward.” Reid jumped in while flipping through the ME’s report quickly. “The other victims were shot with a 9mm, some were stabbed – there was even evidence of AK-47 rounds at the first two scenes. These guys are all over the place, weapons-wise.”

“So we’re agreed that it’s a team…”

“Even with automatic weapons and the element of surprise, it would be nearly impossible to control a bank full of people alone. Plus, the sheer array of weaponry involved…”

“These guys would be walking around looking like John Matrix.”*

“I get that reference!” Reid pointed to Rossi suddenly and smiled. “But I’m concerned by their inconsistencies…”

“You mean their selection of targets, weapons and victims, don’t you?”

“Yeah, and their success rate as well. Spree killers are typically disorganized and rapidly decompensate as they go… the multiple weapons and continued avoidance of law enforcement suggest premeditation. But what’s with all of the rage?”

“Perhaps one of the partners is mentally unstable. Maybe it’s an Alpha/Beta relationship and the Beta is the planner… not fully in control but trying to protect them nonetheless…”

“We could even be looking at a pack…” Reid’s cell chirped. “It’s Garcia… Hey, Garcia, you’re on speaker…”

“I’m consistently impressed by your techno facility for a self-professed luddite, Doctor Dearest. I think that you’re undercover-savvy but stubborn at the same time, which is sorta sexy…”

Reid cleared his throat and felt a familiar blush creep up his neck and over his face. “Ummm, Garcia, kinda standing over a dead body right now…”

“Ugh, if only the dead had a sense of irony and understood what mood killers they could be… Hotch wants you back at Quantico a.s.a.p.”

“Did something happen?” Rossi spoke up.

“Yep, there’s been another one - this time the UnSubs decapitated someone. Gross… anyway, metro P.D. caught them in the act. Hotch is having them transferred to us for questioning.”

“Wait, they were caught decapitating a victim?” Reid’s brow furrowed.

“Yeah, I was hoping not to go there, Reid, but… with machetes and everything. It’s a pair of brothers and they have quite the criminal history. They’ve pretty much been in trouble since they were born.”

Rossi and Reid could hear the lightening-fast clacking of Garcia’s keyboard as she quickly dismantled the suspects’ digital footprint.

“…auto theft, credit card fraud, impersonating just about every government official ever, grave robbery…”

“Grave robbery?” Rossi huffed. “This doesn’t make any sense.”

“Oh, and I’m not even done. On top of all of that, and the bloody rampages, and the murders - these guys have been declared legally dead. TWICE.”

Reid went perfectly still. “What are their names, Garcia?”

“Winchester. Sam and Dean Winchester. It’s too bad that they’re, you know, psychos because they’re both pretty cute… not that I’m into criminally insane murderer-types or anything… but they are TV show-beautiful…”

“We’re on our way back, Garcia.” Reid interrupted her and then unceremoniously ended the call.

“This is weird. I never would’ve profiled necrophiliac tendencies based on what we’ve seen so far. There’s no interference with the bodies, no trophy collection… and machetes - that’s new. Do they have an endless array of preferred weapons?” Rossi was enumerating inconsistencies on his fingers as he spun theories out loud. “Grave robbery is a very specific and narrow pathology - there’s no reverence for the dead in their previous crimes…”

“I don’t think that’s what they’re about.” Reid mumbled, head down, as he made a beeline towards the morgue doors.

---

When Rossi and Reid arrived at the unit, the bullpen was alive with activity. The buzz given off at having two spree killer suspects in the building was palpable. It was the sort of excitement that the more junior agents and dedicated office staff didn’t usually experience, and the contagion seemed to have spread to every corner of the office. As agents breezed by them, Rossi reached out and grabbed one.

“Anderson, where’s Hotch?”

“He’s on the fourth floor with the rest of your team. They’ve got your suspects in rooms 417 and 419.”

They went down two floors and arrived at the interrogation suites just as Hotch exited the observation room between them, his fingers flicking over the keypad of his phone as he sent a quick text message.

“Hey.” Rossi nodded. “So, how’s it going?”

“They haven’t lawyered up yet but they are playing it hard. The one in with Morgan is a talker but he’s careful not to give us anything.”

“What’s this about grave robbery and a severed head?”

“They were with a decapitated body when metro P.D. found them. We haven’t recovered the head.” Hotch frowned.

“Does this make any sense to you?” Rossi quirked his face the way he did when he was particularly irritated by a case. Reid stood still and silent, which caught Hotch’s eye. “When did they have time to hide a head and yet still manage to get caught by the police?”

“I don’t know, Dave. This is utterly new to me. I’ve never encountered such a strange and varied pathology before…”

The door to room 417 opened and Morgan stepped out into the hallway. Inside, cuffed to the center of a table was a tanned man with close-cropped brown hair smirking at the exiting agent.

“Hey, Kojack, I know that you can hold me for 72 hours but that also means that you have to feed me. How ‘bout a pizza or something? You can pick the toppings - I trust you…”

Reid looked up straight into the eyes of the suspect. The tanned man jutted his chin forward and smiled as if ice wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “Oh look, it’s a party. Maybe two pizzas then, huh?”

“Rossi, you wanna keep him company?” Morgan turned back to his smirking suspect. “Before I figure out how to beat him with take-out?”

“Oh, don’t be like that, Kojack. At least send in the skinny guy… I don’t think that I’d have much in common with Grandpa…”

“Shut up.” Rossi muttered and slammed the door behind him. Reid visibly twitched and looked down at his shoes. He felt Hotch and Morgan’s eyes on him.

“You okay, kid?”

“Sure. Fine.” Reid drew in a deep breath and faced both of the senior agents. “He’s a typical Alpha male… I wouldn’t be very effective in there right now. Maybe later… when he’s worn down…”

Hotch and Morgan stared at Reid for a long moment in silence.

“I wouldn’t have quantified him that way, especially based on that brief interaction.” Morgan said.

“It wasn’t just that.” Reid hurried to add. “Garcia caught us up on their background and records on the drive over.”

Another moment hung between the threesome and then Hotch spoke quietly.

“You are correct, of course, Reid. We may use you later and perhaps only on the younger one.”

“Yeah,” Morgan added as he nodded towards room 417. “This one’s all talk - he thinks he’s funny as hell too - but Bigfoot in the other room is smarter. He’s keeping quiet.”

“I’d like you to observe for now, Reid.” Hotch gestured towards the observation room.

“I might be of more use synthesizing the new crime scene evidence into our existing profile.” Reid shrugged. “Maybe I could straighten out a few of the weirder inconsistencies…”

“Reid, I need your perspective on these two. Nothing in these crimes or their records make any sense with the preliminary profile that we’ve worked up. My gut tells me that there is something significant here that we are missing. I’m hoping that you’ll see it, as you so often do.” Hotch stepped closer and kept his voice even. It wasn’t a challenge or a threat, just concern. “If there is a problem, tell me now.”

“No, no problem, Hotch.” Reid thinned his lips as he shook his head. He looked to Morgan and then back to Hotch, readjusting his courier bag nervously. “I’ll just… go in and observe.”

He shut the door behind him with a solid click and then took half a dozen deep breaths before he lowered his bag to the floor and took in his room’s view. The observation suite’s windows were one-way only, so he knew that the Winchesters couldn’t see him. But that didn’t make him feel any better as both windows featured a pair of eyes staring straight into the observation room; staring straight at him.

---

He had a very significant problem. He had to get the Winchesters out of here. If they were involved with the string of crimes that he was investigating, then that wasn’t good and it also wasn’t something that he could share with the team. The problem was the decapitated body - it would be difficult to make that disappear. Surely the brothers knew that as well. So, the solution lay in gaining their co-operation in order to figure out what was going on without admitting the truth to either his team or the Winchesters. Sure, no problem - easy-peasy.

Reid exited the observation room and saw Hotch walking towards him from the elevators.

“Have they found the head yet?” Reid asked while formulating a plan in his mind.

“No.” Hotch frowned. “And it gets stranger. The cursory ME’s report says that the body that they were caught with had been dead for a week already.”

Shit. This is a real mess.

“How is that even possible? Garcia sent me some crime scene photos and the corpse didn’t show any visual signs of putrefaction.”

“I don’t know.” Hotch closed his eyes and dug his fingers into his right temple. Reid had never seen him express frustration before, and it made him uneasy. “We need to start pressing them for answers - they’ve been here six hours already and we have nothing.”

“I was just thinking that myself.” Reid spoke quietly, giving back the concern that his boss had expressed earlier. “I think that I have a way to approach them. I’m going to talk with the younger one.”

“Are you sure? You seemed very uncomfortable earlier.”

“Of course I’m sure.” Reid said a little too quickly. For once, he had an agenda other than solving his case and he just wanted to get on with it for everyone’s sake. “I’m always uncomfortable, Hotch. I’d have thought that you would have accepted that by now.”

He turned quickly and entered room 419. He didn’t give himself the luxury of wondering whether Hotch would observe his interrogation or not. He just assumed that he would, which would make what he needed to do all the more difficult.

“I’m Dr. Spencer Reid. I work for the Behavioural Analysis Unit.” He slapped a sizeable file folder down on the table and an old mug shot of Sam Winchester peeked out.

The suspect slumped back in his chair and shook the hair out of his eyes as he sized up his visitor. Despite sitting in the same room, chained to a table without company for almost six hours, he looked surprisingly unperturbed. Reid quietly wondered if Sam had a plan.

“A doctor of what?”

“Mathematics, Chemistry and Engineering.” Reid sat down opposite Sam and tried to act as if he was any other suspect. Mentally, he slid behind a practiced poker face to give himself the illusion of protection from the hunter.

“Wow.” Sam cocked an eyebrow and nodded once. “Impressive. How did you end up in the F.B.I.?”

“Maybe the same way you did: fate.”

“Fate’s a pretty word for how I got here.” Sam mumbled.

“Do you know why you’re here, Sam?”

“We were found standing over a dead body.”

“That’s the obvious, literal answer. I mean do you know why you and Dean are sitting in interrogation at the B.A.U.? We wouldn’t take an interest in a singular murder in D.C., Sam…”

“We are on the Bureau’s wanted list…” Sam’s brow creased as he thought.

“It’s the spree killings in Maryland and Virginia. Two Gas n’ Sips, Flo’s Diner, the massacre at the Green Leaf Motel, and just two days ago, the heist at First Fidelity Mutual right here in D.C.” Reid sat back and watched trying to convince both Sam and whoever else was observing that he was just doing what he had to do. “You’ve attracted a lot of attention, Sam. But it has to end.”

“Well, I’d say that you’ve accomplished that, right?” Sam lifted his hands and rattled his cuffs for effect. “But don’t expect a confession or anything.”

“We have you in custody, it’s true, but I think we both know that the spree crimes won’t stop as a result.”

Sam sat back in his chair and narrowed his eyes at Reid.

“Listen, I’m not going to try and ingratiate myself to you - gain your trust in order to coax out a confession. We both know that you won’t fall for that. Despite your long and varied list of arrests, neither you nor Dean have ever been convicted of a felony. You’re too smart for that.”

Sam’s expression didn’t change but Reid saw the smirk hidden behind his stare. It was as loud a tell as if the man had just nodded and said ‘okay, you have my attention…’. Sam was playing it close to the vest but Reid already had him down cold and he would’ve taken him to the cleaners if they had met over a poker table.

“What this tells me is that you either wanted to get caught with that dead body, or you thought that you had more time.” Reid leaned forward and laced his fingers together. “If the former was true it would denote a psychopathic need for recognition and to openly challenge authorities in order to boost your inflated sense of ego. But you and Dean don’t really profile that way. This leads me to believe that you were caught with your pants down instead.”

Maybe you boys have gone soft.

“Why did you think that you had more time, Sam? How do you imagine that we caught up to you so quickly this time?”

Sam’s poker face cracked a tiny bit and Reid watched as unspoken thoughts quickly flashed across his face.

“The crime locations…” Sam said quietly.

“The Gas n’ Sips, Flo’s Diner, the Green Leaf Motel…” Reid counted them off.

“We’ve been there before.” Sam closed his eyes briefly but when he re-opened them, his mask was back on. He’s got it now, Reid thought.

“And again recently.” Reid added. “Crime scene eyewitnesses have given us descriptions that sound a lot like you and your brother.”

“Copycats.”

“It’s possible.” Reid shrugged and leaned out of the spotlight over the interrogation table. “If they are copycats, they certainly have you two down to a T - almost exact duplicates…”

Sam looked angry for the first time in six hours. He jerked at his cuffs and winced but said nothing. A knock sounded on the observation window and Reid suspected that Hotch would enter and offer to step in against the ‘threatening suspect’. But Reid knew that Sam wasn’t angry with him.

“It strains credulity a little - that you would have such letter perfect copycats out there. It strains it even further to think that you and Dean would be unaware of their existence given the proximity of their crimes to your… travel plans.” Reid sought to drive his point home before Hotch intervened. “It’s just a theory at this point - one that my colleagues don’t share.”

Sam sighed and seemed to wither a little in his seat. “It’s only a theory until the next body drops.”

Hotch knocked once and opened the interrogation room door. Reid looked at his grim face and did his utmost to hide the wave of relief he felt and the crest of disgust that followed after. There’s been another one…

----

“We’re letting them go?” Morgan couldn’t seem to help taking a menacing posture as he heard the news.

“The latest Gas n’ Sip robbery/homicides happened while they were in custody, Morgan.” Hotch sighed. “That’s a pretty solid alibi.”

“But they were found with a dead man.”

“Forensics concluded that the machetes were clean. There was no blood found on them when they were arrested or at the scene. And then there’s the age of the body in question…” Reid quickly enumerated. “Whether you like it or not, they aren’t responsible for the spree killings and there’s little evidence to link them to the decapitated body other than immediate proximity. At best, they’ll be charged with committing an indignity to a body.”

“Any good lawyer could argue them out of that based on what we have, and it’s a misdemeanour, and local - so it goes back to metro P.D. anyway.” Hotch was frowning now.

“But they’re on the most wanted list!”

“Funny coincidence.” Reid raised a finger. “It seems that being declared legally dead actually removes you from the list, which makes sense. All of their federal charges could be reinstated but we’d have to petition a federal judge to alter their legal status and invalidate their death certificates. The process could take months. We can’t hold them in hopes of eventually charging them with something as they are demonstrably alive and therefore have the right against habeas corpus. It is an irony that the justice system wasn’t designed to face.”

Reid wasn’t sure but he thought that Morgan actually growled at him.

“Hey, Kojack!”

Morgan, Hotch and Reid looked up and across the hallway to see Dean Winchester standing with his brother and smirking. He quickly raised his cell phone and took a picture of the threesome. Reid turned away has fast as he could but knew that it wasn’t fast enough.

ShitShitShitShit…

“As a memento of the beautiful time we shared together in room 417.” Dean smiled and pocketed his cell.

“Dean…” Sam warned and tried to pull his brother towards the elevators.

“You’d better get the hell out of here, Winchester…” Morgan was actually vibrating with anger.

“Oh c’mon, Kojack,” Dean continued as his brother physically hauled him towards the elevators. “I hate chick flicks but even I have to admit that we might have had a few Sandra Bullock-approved moments in there…”

“Dean, shut up!” Sam hissed as the elevator doors opened and he pushed Dean through them. “Sorry! He’s sorry… he didn’t mean it… he has no brain-mouth filter…”

The elevator doors closed and Sam breathed a sigh of relief as he felt the car whoosh downwards.

“What the hell, Dean! We just narrowly avoided an extended stay in federal prison and you decide to taunt an F.B.I. agent on his home turf?”

“Relax, Sammy. We’re out… besides, the dude deserved it. Thinks he’s smarter and better…”

“Dean, every single agent on that team has a Master’s degree. They are all smarter and better than us.”

Dean huffed a little. “Well, how smart can they be? I’m the one with a G.E.D. and I’m walking outta here.”

Dean flipped through his phone. “Even the skinny one has a degree? ‘Cause he didn’t look old enough to shave let alone…”

Sam looked over at his brother in annoyance and saw him staring down at his phone.

“What is it?”

“Friggin’ awesome.” Dean muttered as he stabbed the fourth floor button. “You got any weapons on you?”

“Of course not, Dean. What the hell is going on?”

“We gotta go back.” He said through gritted teeth and showed his brother the photo that he had just taken.

---

Reid exited the bathroom stall and was dosed in water.

“What the… Hey!”

Luckily, he saw the emergency fire axe coming; water isn’t exactly a great distraction technique. He also saw the faces of his attackers and, in a split second, made the choice to let the blinds over his inner world flutter a little. He was certain that the break in protocol would be overlooked given whom he was facing. He ducked to his left while reaching for his .38 with his right hand. His left hand contorted until it coalesced and concentrated the energy that he needed to even the odds. Something behind his eyes flashed as he stretched his left arm out and held Sam Winchester ten feet off the bathroom floor at the other end of the room. His right hand cocked the trigger of his .38 that was aimed at Dean Winchester’s chest.

“Hold it right there, you two. Settle down.”

Reid shook his head and water droplets sprayed everywhere. Dean had frozen in mid axe swing and was staring at him. His face showed determination and a certain suicidal fearlessness, but his eyes were surprised. Every few moments they flicked sideways to check on Sam who was dangling against the wall with an equal look of shock.

“What’s with the water, guys?” Reid sputtered.

Dean looked down at Reid’s feet and then back up at his face with greater bewilderment. “What are you, man?”

Reid looked down. A quickly drawn Devil’s Trap was in front of the stall that he’d exited. One of his feet was in it and the other was outside it where he had ducked the first axe swing. The impromptu shower must have been holy water.

“Oh. Yeah. That won’t work. Not a demon.”

“Sammy, talk to me, man - you okay?” Dean yelled as he flexed his grip on the fire axe.

“He’s fine, Dean - I’m not hurting him. Tell him, Sam…”

“I’m okay, Dean, I just can’t move.”

“Sam’s got just enough other in him that I can restrain him old school. It doesn’t usually work on humans… I guess that I’m lucky today. You, on the other hand, need to recognize the authority of my Smith & Wesson over your axe.”

“Let Sam go.” Dean growled.

Reid considered it for a moment and then his face brightened. He quickly released the trigger of his gun and lowered Sam to the floor.

“Peace offering. I’m going to put away my gun now.”

Reid holstered his piece and Sam jogged over to Dean’s side. Sam placed a hand on Dean’s shoulder and squeezed.

“Put it down, Dean. He’s not what we thought.”

“Yeah?” Dean let the axe head fall to the floor with a thud. “Well, if he isn’t a demon, explain this…”

Dean tossed his phone at Reid, which he almost fumbled as he tried to catch it. The agent looked at the screen and saw a photo of he, Hotch and Morgan standing together. A patch of pixelated static obliterated Reid’s face and a strange glow circled his body.

“Who are you?”

Reid sighed and awkwardly tossed the phone back. “I’m Dr. Spencer Reid.”

Dean snorted.

“No really, I am. At least, I have been for the last twenty years or so.”

“So, you’re a shape shifter?” Sam asked.

“No. I’m nothing that you’ve ever encountered before. You should have never known of my existence. I’ve tried my best to steer clear of hunters in general…”

“Listen, I don’t have time for twenty questions here… I just want to get out of this building. So, you’d better start giving us some answers before I get really ticked off and gank you anyway.” Dean frowned and leaned on the axe handle.

“Well, first of all, you can’t ‘gank’ me - so there’s that. Secondly, there is no way to un-know something once you have discovered it. You’ll have to trust me that you don’t want to know more than you currently do.”

“You’d be surprised at what we know.” Sam said as he placed a hand on Dean’s arm trying to keep him in check.

“No, I wouldn’t, Sam.” Reid looked at them both with sympathy. “I know all about what you two have done. Please don’t make me add to your burden.”

“Enough with the Yoda act. You have to get through us to get out of here which is gonna cause a mess one way or another, so just talk already…” Dean spoke through gritted teeth.

“Fine.” Reid huffed. “All of the things that you have experienced - angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, shape shifters - are all bound to this planet. The life and death struggle, the apocalypse, the jockeying for power amongst the supernatural - its all terrestrial. I am not. I was sent here to observe.”

“Observe what? The apocalypse?” Sam asked.

“Nothing that specific. I was sent to observe life here, to experience existence on this world. We’re like scientists observing wildlife in its natural habitat. We don’t intervene, we just watch and record.”

“But you are intervening.” Sam leaned forward. “You’re wearing a human, you’re altering lives by your actions - you are actively participating in human society…”

“Part of the way we observe is to experience a lifetime through an organism’s perception. To develop, learn, feel, and eventually atrophy and die we gain valuable information that would otherwise elude us. The experience would be useless if we didn’t interact with others. Being an F.B.I. agent, I will alter a handful of lives, it’s true. But this alone will not change the course of a species. Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin - all effected millions of lives yet did not change the trajectory of the human race. In addition, Spencer Reid was always headed towards this role in society. I am him, so I must do as he would have done.”

“What does that mean?” Dean spat. “What have you done with the real Spencer Reid?”

“I told you - I am him. Spencer was born human and lived a human, albeit unusual, life for ten years. Then a man took him. Maybe it should have happened, maybe it shouldn’t - but it became an opportunity for me. Spencer was going to die and I offered to take over his life for him. He was an extraordinary specimen and I felt that his essence shouldn’t be lost. He agreed and I became him. His memories, his impulses, his neuroses, his talents - they are all mine now and I live his life as those traits dictate that I should. I have an eidetic memory, I’m lactose intolerant, I love Doctor Who, I have trouble relating to women, I’m not very good at sports…”

“But you levitated me off the floor…” Sam pointed.

“You aren’t entirely human, Sam. My strengths - what you would perceive as my ‘powers’ - don’t work on humans. One of your defining characteristics as a species is your frailty. To fully experience that vulnerability, I must be on equal footing with you - I can’t be any stronger than other humans. But that rule doesn’t apply to other species that might actively try to end me, like demons for example. They can’t kill me, but flexing my ‘otherness’ every once and a while keeps everyone civil…” Reid sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Just revealing that I am anything other than human to other humans has broken about a dozen protocols. I’m gonna be filling out explanatory paperwork about this for millennia…”

“This is weird.” Dean mumbled. “You’re telling us that you’re an intergalactic nerd…”

Reid looked up quickly and focussed in on Dean.

“What you know… what you have experienced here is just one water droplet in the largest ocean imaginable. The universe is unfathomably big, Dean. Earth is one planet out of hundreds of trillions of other planets capable of sustaining life. More organisms, more unique forms of life have existed, perished, and have yet to be created than you can possibly imagine. I have lived ten thousand lives - each one unique and precious and utterly different from the ones before it and I have still have thousands more to experience before the universe ends.” Reid made expansive gestures with his long fingers. “Dream a little bigger, dude.”

Dean stared at Reid for a moment and then cleared his throat while shuffling awkwardly. “Point taken.”

Sam stood next to his brother; his eyes wide and jaw slack, looking slightly deflated by this men’s room conversation. Reid shuttered his blinds a little and gave them some pure, unadulterated humanness for an instant. It was a bit much to expect them to grasp the true nature of the universe in less than five minutes.

“I told you guys that you wouldn’t want to know this stuff…”

Reid rocked back and forth onto the balls of his feet waiting for the next set of questions. He wondered how long it would be before a member of his team missed him and came searching for him. Sam cleared his throat and tried to speak. Nothing came out. He tried three more times before he managed to be coherent.

“Why did you help us? I mean, you did want us to get out of here… that’s why you were feeding me information about the spree killers in interrogation, wasn’t it?”

“I knew as soon as you were named suspects in the killings that it wasn’t you. Your reputation precedes you and I am aware of what you are capable of. But it wasn’t until you showed up in the investigation that I considered the UnSubs to be supernatural in nature. In all of the years that I’ve been working BAU cases, our suspects have always been human.”

“That seems… Really? Never? That’s, like, the opposite of our experience…” Dean’s brow furrowed and he scratched his head.

“People have a talent for killing, I suppose…” Reid shrugged. “Anyway, I wanted to get you out of custody partly because it was distracting us from the real suspects, and partly because I didn’t want to risk exposure. We all have jobs to do - mine is to be Spencer Reid and yours is to hunt. Right now, you need to hunt down that team of leviathan who are committing these spree killings…”

“You know about the leviathan?!” Dean whispered.

“I know of them, and I’ve heard whispers about their plans.”

“Then help us.” Sam stepped forward and held out his hands. “They aren’t human and their plan is equal to an extinction-level event to the human race. Surely you could intervene…”

“No.” Reid shook his head.

“Why not?!” Dean growled. “After that long speech about the precious uniqueness of life an’ stuff…”

“We don’t have any way to kill them!” Sam added. “Please, there’s no one fighting but us and we’re really outgunned here…”

“I can’t help you any more than I already have…”

“How have you helped exactly?!” Dean hissed, massaging the axe handle.

“I’ve freed you.”

“Oh, well then, that’s friggin’ great - I’m sure that your Nobel Prize is in the mail.” Dean cocked his head slightly and leaned in towards Reid. “Million-year old nerd-child of the universe and you’re leaving the salvation of humanity up to two high school graduates?”

Reid looked over at Sam, back to Dean, and then shrugged. “Sam went to college, right? For a few semesters at least… you’ll probably be fine.”

“Probably?!” Dean lunged forward but Sam caught him in time.

“Please, Dr. Reid…” Sam begged, genuine fear in his eyes. “We don’t ask for help easily.”

“Listen, here’s the thing…” Reid raised his hands. “Getting you two back out onto the street to do what you do is all the interference that is required in order to avert disaster. Now, the exact details of how this all works out are above my pay grade, but I do know that it does work out. If I did anything more, I’d really be overstepping my bounds as an observer. Believe me, this isn’t the first time that I’ve faced this conundrum…”

“How do we kill something that’s immortal!” Dean’s yell echoed throughout the bathroom. Someone will have heard that, Reid thought.

“Immortal doesn’t mean infallible, Dean. Just ask a vampire…”

“You can’t give us anything else?” Sam asked.

“Guys, the universe is amoral, okay? Good and evil, right and wrong… it doesn’t make those kinds of value judgments. It is math: cold, detached and logical. But what the universe cannot abide by is imbalance. When one quality hopelessly outweighs everything else, the universe reacts to restore balance: the greater the inequality, the more forceful the whiplash-like action back to neutrality. I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again - it never fails, even if it occasionally bides its time when responding. The leviathans are a massive imbalance in this little corner of the universe and, believe it or not, you two are the corrective force against them. The universe is also thrifty, never over-delivering when something more modest will suffice. You don’t feel like you are up to this task, but I’m telling you - you are all that the universe needs to return to balance. You just need to be free to do it, which is where I came into it.”

“Dr. Reid,” Sam sighed as his head drooped. “Do you know how hard it is to believe that?”

“I do, Sam.” Reid reached out and squeezed Sam’s arm that was restraining his brother. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s not absolutely true. If we run into each other again when this is all over, I’m gonna say ‘I told you so’ and you are gonna owe me a drink.”

“Doubt it, optimist.” Dean muttered and sagged against Sam in capitulation.

Reid reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a slightly creased business card. He pressed it into Sam’s hand.

“Here’s my number and you are never gonna call me. Because if you call me, I’m gonna assume that one or both of you is about to die. Some people’s fates are more important than others - that’s part of the balance thing too. You guys are important. I can’t have you dying before you’re supposed to…”

Dean opened his mouth to say something but Reid stopped him with a finger and a shake of his head. “That’s above my pay grade too.”

The threesome stared at each other for a minute. The Winchesters reeked of exhaustion and fear, and Reid genuinely felt for them. It wouldn’t be enough for them to just believe what he said - they wouldn’t understand until it was all over. He didn’t often regret his greater knowledge of time, but he did regret the restraints that it placed on him. There was so much that he couldn’t say or do… it suddenly occurred to him that he had just had a conversation with two humans about what he was. The only two humans in history who would ever come close to knowing him…

“Hey guys,” he offered shyly. “I’ve never told anyone outside of my own kind what I was. That’s a helluva secret to keep for billions of years - it felt… good to explain it to someone.”

Reid smiled as the brothers stared at him blankly.

“Great.” Dean deadpanned. “Glad that we could help you scratch that one off your bucket list.”

“Bucket list?”

“Nevermind.”

Dean mumbled something about the irony of an all-knowing nerd not getting pop culture references but Sam dug his elbow into his side to silence him. Sam fixed a tv-perfect smile to his face.

“We should go.”

“Yes, you should, and quickly.” Reid nodded. “If at all possible, please refrain from breaking any laws before you leave the building. However, if that is unavoidable, just try not to break federal ones.”

“Funny.” Dean groused. “E.T. is funny.”

Sam lifted Reid’s card lightly. “Thanks, Dr. Reid.”

“For what?” Dean sniffed. “For blowing our puny human minds out in the men’s washroom? Wait… that didn’t come out right…”

Reid felt a blush colouring his face and lamented that humans couldn’t control the reaction. It was annoying.

“Shut up, Dean.” Sam shoved Dean towards the door and gave Reid a long-suffering apologetic look.

“Hey guys?” Reid took a step forward, now fully outside of the Devil’s Trap. “I know that it seems like the odds are against you on this one, but try to look at it this way: you have always succeeded in the past. How many insane, suicidal tasks have you taken on?”

The brothers turned to look at Reid. Their faces showed an exhaustion that old men would find startling. They were barely in their thirties and yet they had been a party to more existence-altering events than any other member of their species. It was a surprising discovery to Reid that, despite their obvious issues and flaws, these two men might represent the zenith of their kind; they managed to survive no matter what they faced. And that was highly improbable.

“Maybe it’s time to start believing in yourselves a bit more.”

Sam looked away and Dean squared his shoulders as his face seemed to set itself in stone. There was conflict coming for these two – not just for them, but between them as well. Reid hoped that they could resolve it; they needed each other more than they could possibly realize.

“Just take care of yourselves, okay?” Reid wondered what kind of sanction he’d receive if he just broke down and told the Winchesters what he knew about their fate. “You two die more often than any other people I’ve met.”

“Isn’t that why we have the magic F.B.I. card now?” Dean jabbed a thumb towards his brother’s pocket that held Reid’s card. “Don’t worry about us, Dr. Manhattan, we’ll be fine. Everyone keeps telling us that, so it must be true, right?”

Dean wrenched the bathroom door open and left without waiting for a response. Sam gave Reid a quick nod and then followed his brother.

Reid looked down at the Devil’s Trap at his feet and idly wondered how he was going to get rid of it. No one really gives much thought to cleaning up after pagan rituals… The majority of his mind was considering if there was anything else that he could do to help the Winchesters. Now that he had met them in person, it would be considerably harder to leave them to their fate alone. He decided that when they caught up with their leviathan doppelgangers, he would do his best to have them declared legally dead for a third time when the bodies were discovered. Assuming that the brothers would show enough foresight to leave bodies to be found… Helping them to continue surviving was the best that he could do for now. He hoped, against protocol and common sense, that he might meet them again. After all, when you are a billion-year old intergalactic nerd, friends are hard to come by. He imagined that the same could be said catastrophe-averting supernatural hunters as well.