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Something To Believe In

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The story so far: Life, post-Chuck, has seen the Winchesters knee deep in cases, even without a looming apocalypse. Sam and Dean both are dealing with trauma in their own ways... mostly by not dealing. They are both haunted by the people they've lost, especially Cas and Jack. Sam is still learning to master his witchcraft and Dean isn't sure of himself, due to Chuck's manipulations.

Title card for episode 16.09.

AIntroduction graphic with Title of Episode


Eddy bellows out a deep sigh at the knock on the door and pushes his chair away from the small fruit crate where his typewriter teeters precariously. The half blank page glares accusingly at him, partially filled with an idea he can’t quite get a hold of. He’s no Burroughs or Kerouac but he’d hoped this rundown boarding house and the old school typewriter would, at the very least, not make the words come as if they were dead teeth being ripped from stubborn gums.

He doesn’t bother looking through the spyhole, only Shane and Marcus know he’s here. He’d thought they’d be too drunk by now to continue their dialogue on Dadaist poetry. Hell he’d been too drunk for that shit two hours ago. The weed, crossfading with the whiskey in just the right way, had sent him scurrying away from the conversation and to his room to write while the genius words continued burgeoning into his consciousness.

He turns the knob and throws open the door, ready to greet his fellow wordsmiths with outstretched arms and says, “...the small print taketh away,” an apropos quote for his writing struggles, but the words die on a gasp.

In the doorway is the most beautiful woman Eddy has ever seen. She’s a goddess. Ebony curls cascade over her shoulders and her coffee brown eyes are framed in thick black curling lashes. Her gaze pulls his breath from his lungs and his eyes travel down her form. She’s all curves, even if that black trench coat is doing nothing to show them off. Perfectly manicured toes peek out from strappy plum colored knock-me-over-and-fuck-me heels.

Eddy’s eyes make a pass back up that delectable body and stop at her lips, He imagines them wrapped around his dick and her mouth curves in invitation under his lustful gaze.

“Hey, Eddie.” That whiskey smooth voice ties up his tongue and any thoughts he had disappear completely when she uncinches the belt at her waist letting her coat fall open. Her cocoa brown skin is barely covered by lacy underthings that match her high-high heels. She is every erotic dream he’s ever had wrapped up in one exotic black woman.

“You don’t mind if I come in, right?” She doesn’t wait for an answer. She taps on his chest with one manicured nail and he backs up while she closes the door. She drops the coat and backs him up to the bed, never breaking the intense look that makes him feel as if she’s staring into his soul, like she knows him even though they just met.

She gives him a push and he flops back on the bed. Despite her mesmerizing gaze, his eyes wander down to her ripe, melon-like breasts that heave in such a way that Eddy wonders how they don’t simply plummet from her lacy, barely there bra. She climbs over him, a primal unrestrained animal of pleasure and straddles his hips. Eddy moans, undone by her erotic prowess.

“So, Eddy, am I everything you imagined I’d be?” Her voice is breathy, surely an indication of her sexual arousal.

His own arousal is scorching, brought to a feverish peak by her beauty and raw sexuality.

“I can’t be the only one undressed here, handsome.” She tugs at the hem of his shirt and he hastens to remove the offending garment.

Before he can get it over his head, her weight is gone and he can only imagine what comes next, how they’ll look entangled in the bedsheets, her amazingly perfect, dark skin pressed tight to his own pale whiteness, a coital taboo as old as mankind.

But when he’s removed his shirt, his girl is sitting on the edge of the bed with his manuscript in her hands. He moves to his knees, thinks about touching her shoulder in comfort as she is shaking with sobs. He has no idea why she’s so mercurial. He thought they were on the same page, but women can be so indecisive.

He settles for questioning her. He hopes that she answers quickly so that they can continue with their nude interlude. “What’s wrong?”

When she turns to him, Eddy realizes she wasn’t shaking in sorrow, but laughing. He crosses his arms, ready to remind her that she was the one who started this.

She waves the script in his face and her laughter has an unpleasant edge to it. “What’s wrong? Really? Your writing sins are too numerous to list, Eddy. But let’s start with how you wrote me.” She shakes the manuscript again and Eddy thinks how her anger makes her much less pretty. “I’m pretty, I’m black, I’m sexy and that’s it. The only reason I’m important to this story is because your main character Ted is having a shady affair with a girl he knows is too dark”, she uses air quotes, “to bring home to his racist Southern family.”

She gets up and starts pacing, as if her anger is too much to contain. “If that wasn’t enough, when Ted’s family eventually finds out, his brother kills me. And – and,” her voice is strident and loud now and Eddy really wishes she’d just stop, but instead she hurls his manuscript and the neat white sheets fly about the room from the drift of the ceiling fan, and damn, he’s going to have to get another copy printed tomorrow. “Ted forgives him because he’s family.”

“It’s a commentary on white supremacism and the treatment of black women in the South.”

She stands dead still. Glares and says, “No, Eddy. You’re not that woke. It’s a self-inserted piece of mastubatory fantasy that you are trying to palm off as writing. I’m nothing more than a token for Ted’s story and not even a good token. I’m just Ted’s dirty, nasty, taboo, sex kitten. Hell you didn’t even flesh me out enough to have a heart of gold.”

“Th-that’s not true.” It occurs to Eddy as he tries to get in a word against the raging virago that this must be some prank by Shane. He’d let his friend read an advance copy of his manuscript and Shane has pulled some shit in the past.

She snaps her fingers in his face drawing his attention back to her. She really does have great breasts. “For fuck’s sake Eddy! You named me Jemimah! You fucking named me after a fucking pancake syrup!” She takes a deep breath and her eyes narrow. “The thing is, Eddy, you also made me weak and helpless and totally reliant on my man. So I guess I’m going to have to switch it up a bit.”

Eddy doesn’t blink and yet where she stood is now, well, a guy that looks a bit like himself, but clean shaven with better cheekbones and blonder hair, piercing blue eyes and arms that could lift a pickup truck. “What the fuck?”

The guy doesn’t answer. He turns, puts his hands on the vintage typewriter that cost Eddy six hundred large on Ebay. “Hey, don’t –” It’s too late. The guy hefts the typewriter and the fruit crate topples with a bang.

It occurs to Eddy as the typewriter is swinging towards his head that maybe he should have looked through the peephole.

Sam reaches blindly for the plate Dean hands him, eyes glued to the article he found in the Wichita Eagle. Dean settles his hip up on the table and balances his position with one foot on the ground. Sam hears loud, sloppy eating noises coming from his brother. crunch, smack, gulp It’s a performance for Sam’s benefit to remind him to take a minute and actually feed himself and to rile him up. A win/win, Sammy, as Dean would say.

Well, Dean can have one win, but Sam doesn't take Dean’s bait with the exaggerated noises. Honestly, he’s not finding it as annoying as Dean would like. In fact, he has to hide a smile behind his hair as he clicks on the article he wants Dean to read.

“Take a look at this,” Sam says as he flips the laptop around so Dean can see the screen.

Sam grabs his sandwich as Dean chews and reads. He takes a close look at the contents, lifts up the bread, sniffs, but doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious.

“Dude, just eat it. I promise it won’t kill you.”

“Peanut butter, jelly, and bacon.” He hasn’t forgotten that disaster, even if it had turkey bacon on it. Sam smiles remembering how betrayed Dean was that bacon does not taste great on everything.

“Yeah, yeah, but what about the French Cavalier or that kale, sprout, tuna veggie mess? Still can't believe I liked that one.” Dean frowns for a millisecond as if betrayed by the universe, then continues eating.

“What’s in this one?” Sam asks.

Dean looks up from the laptop, cheek stuffed with half chewed food. “What’s the rule, Sammy?”

Sam sighs. “I have to taste it first.” Sam is dubious about the fried fish sticks but he takes a tentative bite. Not bad, he can see egg, spinach and fish sticks, tastes the mustard and mayonnaise. He wouldn’t ask for this sandwich again because he tries to avoid fried foods, but if it goes in Dean’s rotation he’s not going to turn it down.

The culinary experimentation is one way that Dean is dealing with his post Chuck identity crisis. ”Who knows what we like now, Sam? Maybe I actually like vegetables and you really aren’t a big girl with a dick.” Insults aside, Dean’s anxiety was real, but Sam flipped him off anyway.

Being Chuck free – for real this time – has lifted something from Sam, a weight he hadn't been conscious of until it was gone. He had forgotten what it felt like to truly enjoy things.

Somewhere between Dean going to Hell and depowering Chuck, Sam lost his joy; buried it in the belief that he was never going to be his own person.

Now though, Sam is living with a new perspective. Even little things, like Dean running into wherever Sam is at and releasing a fart near Sam while saying “Got a present for you, little brother,” is something he can appreciate. Sam still scrunches up his nose and calls Dean, “disgusting,” while he fans the air, and maybe he starts a scuffle, but inside there is a welling of happiness that expands his chest and lightens his existence.

Dean isn’t in the same place as Sam yet, still too stunned at finding out he hasn’t been his own person. Sam’s lived with the knowledge of not being his own person ever since he found out about the demon blood. Sam is living by Jack’s words, trusting that the answers are inside and that he can be his best self. That includes finding joy in the life he’s chosen.

Dean will figure it out. He just needs time.

Dean lets out a loud belch and dusts the crumbs from his hands onto the floor. Sam smiles at him, “Not my turn to sweep this week, asshole.”

Dean mutters a quiet, “Fuck,” and frowns down at his mess. Before Sam can tease him more, Dean goes on, “So what makes you think this is a case?”

Sam’s about to answer when Miracle darts out from under the table and licks up Dean’s mess. “Traitor.” Sam tells him. He doesn’t bother to appear ashamed, just looks up to see if there are more goodies coming his way.

Dean ruffles his head and says, “Good boy.” He wedges himself into the space between their feet and lays down.

“Check the other tabs.” Sam stretches out, arches his back and presses his fists to his spine until he hears small popping sounds. He flexes his toes and rolls his head. He’s been at this for a bit. He never can remember to get up and move around if Dean doesn’t remind him.

“I don’t know, Sam. Being beaten to death with a typewriter is a nasty way to go, but the cops have two perps identified right down to those photos. And, yeah there’s been a string of bad luck in the same vicinity over the last few days, but nothing screams it’s our type of case.”

“Maybe, but the incidents are all centered around Wichita State and all of them happened within the last three days, the same time this big writers’ conference started.”

“So we’ve got murder, professor breaks arm and says she was pushed down stairs, and community garden ravaged by young woman with a deer.”

“And birds. She had tame animals with her. Anyway, you and I both know that unlucky and coincidence often mean it’s something in our wheelhouse.”

“The only suspicious thing to me is why anyone would want to spend three weeks at a writers’ conference.”

“How long do you think it takes to write a book, Dean?

“Don’t care.”

Sam shakes his head and steers the conversation back to the topic. “We’ve gone further for less.”

“Shouldn’t we be on this Night Market thing?”

Dean not jumping on the case pings Sam’s something’s-up-with-my-brother radar. It’s not like Dean not to take any excuse to hit the road, especially when they’ve been in research mode. “It’s been two weeks and we’ve got bupkis.”

Dean runs a hand through his hair, hops off the table and takes a chair, so he can reach down and pet Miracle. “We could farm it out.”

Something is definitely off, but Sam knows if he presses, Dean will shut down. He switches tactics. “You know we never did get to that Pizza Hut museum and it's right on campus.”

Dean tilts his head up and his eyes light up. “Yeah?”

Sam shrugs. “We could stand to get out. Research can be done on the road and if this isn’t a case we can have some fun.” Sam’s types quickly and flips the laptop around. “They’ve also got a 5-star barbecue restaurant.”

Sam sees acquiescence before Dean even opens his mouth.

“Sure, Sam, why not? Might be fun.”

Despite the pod cast, Dean won’t hear of taking any car but Baby.

Sam gets it. She’s more their home than the bunker will ever be, but he still worries about being spotted, especially as there seems to be a shadow group with a personal vendetta out to get them.

As they head away from the bunker, ominous slate thunderheads float across the sky and the air is heavy with that pre-rain scent. Kansas in summer is mercurial - two steps away from a lightning storm and a heartbeat away from sunshine. Mother Nature lives in flux over the plains state. Sam hopes she decides soon because every inch of him is sticky.

Dean’s not doing much better, skin shiny and flannel shed.

Sam wads up his own shirt and puts it between his head and the window. He was going to go over a spell book on the drive but the grey world passing by the windows saps his energy. The familiar whoosh of Baby’s tires on pavement rocks him to sleep.

Sam manages to stay right behind Dean as they cross the parking lot. Dean’s still annoyed that Sam wouldn’t tell him how he wanted to play this case and so Sam is stuck with most of the gear. Sam wasn’t trying to keep anything from Dean, but he did want to avoid the time an argument, that he was going to win anyway, would take.

Dean jiggles the yellow and gold keychain in the lock, while Sam waits behind him with their gear. A twist, flick of his wrist to the left, a shimmy, and the lock clicks. The door swings open. Dean stops right on the threshold and Sam bumps into him.

“What the hell is that?” Dean asks.

Sam looks over his brother’s shoulder. On the far wall is a giant mural.

Wichita State University Fightin’ Shockers Mascot. A golden shock of wheat with a face, arms and legs and an angry expression. It is wearing a black sweater emblazoned with the letters WSU

“I don’t care what we’re here to hunt, Sam. We’re killing that thing first.”

“The brochure said it’s supposed to be a shock of wheat.”


Sam huffs and nudges Dean to move. A living shock of wheat does sound like a total nightmare, but they have other things to think about. Sam’s ninety eight percent sure that the university mascot is not their perp.

Dean grabs the bags he set outside and tosses them on one bed. “So, are you going to let me in on your plan, detective?”

Sam hangs the garment bag, unzips it and hands Dean his ensemble. A button up shirt, slacks and a tie with suspenders. Sam’s disguise is similar, but instead of suspenders he has a lightweight vest. He turns to rummage in the duffle until he gets to the case he packed and hands Dean the glasses that complete the look.

“Seriously, Sammy, nerds?” Dean’s nose is scrunched up and he looks like a pissed off pug, which is kind of cute, but Sam likes his limbs where they’re at so he’s not going to bring it up.

“Not nerds, writers.”

“That’s not better.” Dean’s holding the garments at arm’s length as if he’ll catch something from it. “Can’t we just do the fed thing?”

Sam starts changing and keeps talking. “This makes sense. We’re known for impersonating feds, so this makes us less easy to spot. We’ll blend in better.” Sam strips off his t-shirt and jeans and reapplies deodorant. “I signed us up for the convention since that’s our start point.” Sam slips on slacks and a belt.

He continues, ”We’ll want to check the crime scene, so I got us press passes as investigative reporters for a local station.” Sam buttons up his shirt, rolls up his sleeves and digs the fake IDs out of the duffle. “It’s likely some of our witnesses will also be convention goers, so we can say we are wanna-be authors and reporting is our paid gig.” Sam puts on the linen vest and tucks a couple pens in the pocket along with a small notebook before putting on the glasses. “You’re Henry and I’m James. We’re using fakes to stay under the radar.”

Pausing, Sam looks at his brother to see if Dean is going to fight him. Dean has a duck-lip pout going, but he’s changing. “You could have just told me.”

Sam sits on the edge of the bed and leans down to slip on the dress shoes. “I could have, but can you honestly say you wouldn’t have made a fuss about it?”

Dean’s deep sigh is the only confession that Sam’s going to get. Dean would have been an irritable pain about the whole idea. Normally Dean likes the whole undercover bit, but playing an intellectual has always made him grumpy.

Finished with dressing, Sam stands up and crosses over to where Dean is fumbling with his tie. Sam pushes Dean’s hands away and finishes the knot. He leaves it a little loose and steps back to take in the entire look. The hair isn’t quite right. Sam puts both hands in Dean’s hair and runs his fingers through it, giving it a more disheveled look.

Artists’ rendition of Sam fixing Dean’s tie by Peach-Coke

Dean frowns and bats at his hands. “Knock it off Sam. I don’t think anyone is going to suss me out because of my hair.”

“Fine.” Sam tosses him a blazer. “Let’s check out the boarding house first.”

Dean stays silent as Sam interviews their last witness. After their brush with the Night Market, it goes unspoken that they are not splitting up. They can’t help anyone if one of them is out of commission. Doesn’t mean that Dean isn’t chafing under the lost time. They were able to interview Marcus and Shane together. The last two people besides the perp to see the victim alive.

Dean’s rethinking Sam’s disguises. Marcus has been regaling Dean with all the details of his novel, droning on about whether his main character should be a female vampire or maybe a werewolf. Dean thinks both sound overdone and obviously this guy knows shit about either, but he plasters on a smile and nods where he thinks he should. Seems to keep Marcus yapping unfortunately.

Sam says, “All right, Shane. I think that covers it. We appreciate your time. Call us if you think of anything else.”

“Well, there was one weird thing.” He glances at Marcus and who shakes his head and raises an eyebrow in return, like Marcus isn’t sure they should share.

“We’ve heard some weird stuff,” Sam says. “We’ll believe you.”

“Yeah, well,” Shane starts, “those photos the cops put out. Marcus and I were talking about it. Eddy had this rough draft he brought and those photos, those two people would be like perfect casting if the book ever made it to the screen. They look exactly like how Eddy described them. It’s probably nothing but you said –”

“No, that’s good. You never know what could be important. Thank you.” Sam stands up and moves his head to signal Dean to wrap it up.

Dean does not need any urging. He cuts Marcus off mid-sentence as he stands up and puts out his hand. “Thanks man.”

Three hours to get through everyone and all they’ve got is maybe the perps looked like some book characters. Unless something turns up soon, Dean’s calling it and they’re going for BBQ. “So let’s talk to the manager and see if we can get a look at the security camera footage.” Dean says.

They find the woman in her office. Dean’s got this one. He plasters on his best panty-burning smile and introduces them. He doesn’t need to see Sam’s bitchface and eyeroll to know they’re there.

She’s more than happy to let them review the footage and even offers her office. When she closes the door, Dean says, “See, I still got it, Sammy.” It’s good to know his luck with the ladies was all him. Chuck can kiss his ass.

Sam’s still looking pissy, but says, “Let’s just check the tapes.”

It doesn’t take long to watch a stunning woman walk in and some buff bloody guy walk out.

“Could be a shifter, I guess.” Dean concedes.

“Yeah. I definitely don’t think it’s humans. It’s super suspicious that no one saw them before or after, especially as that room is on the third floor. It’d be easy for a shifter to just change.”

Dean hates to admit it, but it’s starting to look like it is their kind of problem after all. “We didn’t see flashing eyes, but both perps avoided looking straight into the camera. What about the other incidents?”

Sam shrugs, “Could be related. I know it seems crazy, but have we ever met a sane shifter?”

He remembers the first one they met – a sick serial killer. He’d fucked them up pretty badly, magnified the distance that was already between them and messed with their heads, sharing secrets that neither wanted spilled into the open. It also got them noticed by the Feds. Shifters blow.

Dean feels better knowing there’s something to kill.

After hiding the Impala in an underground parking lot, and stocking up on silver bullets and taking a silver knife each, they walk to campus. Dean grabs a campus paper and hands it to Sam. He scopes out a food cart and orders them two sandwiches as Sam reads the campus news.

Dean’s glad they’re together and didn’t split up. He’s not confident in his abilities and it’s messing with his game and there’s no one he'd rather have to back him up than Sam. And, Sam, well, he’s been a little clingy since Dean was kidnapped. Dean can’t blame him. As long as he can remember, having Sam out of his eyesight stirs panic inside him. He finds Sam at a bench on the quad and hands him a salad. Sam will steal his fries anyway so he got a large.

This is good: sitting at a bench with his brother eating a burger, the sun shining, temp’s not too hot because of the possible storm, no one forcing them to do anything.

Dean nudges Sam’s foot. “You find anything?”

“Yeah, listen to this. ‘Writer tied to chair and forced to eat hot dogs at gunpoint.’ This next one is definitely our kind of weird but doesn’t connect to the conference in any way I can see. ‘Farmer Claims Dead Horse Comes Back To Life.’”

“Maybe a shifter with a weird character fetish? Like that shifter in Pennsylvania that was into monster movies. Or maybe we have two cases in the same place?” In the past that wouldn’t have been likely. Monsters are pretty territorial and typically don’t work well together, but maybe that’s changing. “We know some monsters are working together these days and working with humans too. If they are terrified enough of who is controlling them or respect their leader, like with Eve, they can follow orders.”

Dean mulls it over. The M.O. would fit a shifter, but there’s a lot of weird out there, and he doubts they’ve seen it all. Dean wads up his trash, grabs Sam’s garbage too and walks over to a can to toss it.

Walking back he notices a lot of activity on campus. Seems weird for summer. “Why are there so many people on campus? All of them can’t be here for a writing conference.”

At least, Dean hopes not. That would be sad.

He wonders if it was like this those summers Sam was at Stanford. He doesn’t know much about Sam’s time there. It’s a sore subject for them both.

Sam answers. “Besides the conference, there are summer classes. The paper said this week was also alumni appreciation week and there’s a bunch of clubs participating in that.”

“Huh? Guess that explains those old folks doing Tai Chi.”

Dean watches two hot and curvy women about his own age study while juggling a baby between them “Do you ever think about trying again, coming back?” He’s afraid to look right at Sam, wary of the answer he might get, so he checks out the woman with the sketchpad drawing the Tai Chi participants.

“I’ve told you before –“

Dean cuts him off, “We’re A.C. now Sam. We get to re-think our choices.”


Dean looks at his hands. “Yeah, you know, After Chuck.” Dean can feel Sam’s eyes burning into him wanting to know why he’s asking, trying to figure out his motives. “I want you to be happy. If you want to leave hunting I’ll support you anyway I can.” He’s proud of himself for getting the words out without choking on them. Being honest and open is a new thing they’re trying. It’s uncomfortable.

Sam rests a hand on his shoulder, but no way is Dean going to make eye contact. Sam drops his hand with a sigh. “I’m good at this, Dean. I like how it feels to save people. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than right here with you. I wouldn’t hunt without you. It –” Sam stops. He’s searching for what he wants to say. “You’re my ride or die. And, I know what we do matters. Nothing else I’d ever do would matter as much.”

Dean wants to believe him and mostly, he does. He squeezes Sam’s knee as he stands up. “All right then. Let’s go be writers.”

Dean spots a sign announcing the writers’ conference. They follow each progressive one making a game of spotting the next one. The signs lead them almost all the way across campus before ending at Morrison Hall.

Dean says. “I totally win. I found the first sign, so that should make me the winner.”

“No, we tied. We each found five.”

“You’re a big fat cheater.”

“Me? You’re the one changing –”

They’re cut off when a man at the registration table clears his throat.

Before they can respond Dean hears a squeal coming from behind Sam. He sees Sam tense up and reaches inside his jacket for the knife just in case. When he sees the flowing blonde hair and the feminine arms wrap around Sam’s waist he relaxes. He shoots Sam a smirk and wonders where he’s been hiding a chick. The smile flips into a scowl when she peeks around Sam. Dean recognizes her. Becky

“Hey, D –”

Dean cuts her off before she can blow their cover. He grabs her elbow and her face pinches a bit because he’s not gentle. He pulls her towards him, talking loudly so she can’t be heard. “Becky.” Dean squeezes her to her side tight enough to make her gasp. “I can’t believe it’s you!” He really can’t. “James, can you believe Becky is here?” He doesn’t wait for Sam to answer. “Oh, we have got to catch up. James, get us checked in while I find out what our friend has been up to.”

Dean stops when they reach the end of a hallway that seems empty and is out of earshot. “What the hell are you doing here?” He knows he’s growling, but Becky is one of the things that took control of Sam. Sam forgave her, but Dean isn’t that easy when it comes to someone hurting his baby brother.

She takes a deep breath. “Me? In case you’ve forgotten Dean Winchester – mmmpphh.” Dean pushes her into a corner covering her mouth with a hand.

“I’m Henry and that, he points down the hall, “is my partner James. Got it?” He’s as menacing as possible. “We’re on a case and if you can’t keep our cover, you can disappear for a while. Understand?”

Becky nods. Dean releases her and steps away. “So let’s try again.” He softens his tone. Her eyes are rabbit scared and her cheeks are flushed.

She tucks back her hair and smooths her blouse with both hands. “I’m a professional writer now. I’m here to network and work on my next manuscript.” If there was anyone to pray to, Dean would pray that none of Becky’s books ever feature him and Sam. He puts the brakes on those thoughts; he’s not going down that road.

Sam walks up in time to hear her finish and says, “Can we count on you to keep our identities safe?”

He’s much nicer than Dean was and Becky turns to him with a soft smile.”Of course. Does your case have anything to do with all the strange stuff going on?”

“What strange stuff?” Dean asks in chorus with his brother.

Becky chuckles. “You two haven’t changed much. You’ll have to ask around for specifics. Everything I’ve heard I’ve heard third or fourth hand, but there’ve been some rumors of people in costume. The organizer says it’s just cosplayers, but this event isn’t their usual kind of thing.”

“Did you know the writer who was killed?” Dean asks.

“Wait. You think that’s something,” Becky waves a hand around and lowers her voice, supernatural?”

“We think so.” Sam says.

“Let me help.”

Dean is shaking his head right along with Sam. “Nope” he says as Sam says, “No way.”

Becky narrows her eyes and her lips thin. “I know almost everyone here. I can point you in the right direction or you can fumble around until someone else gets murdered.”

Dean is glad when Sam jumps in because the urge to strangle Becky is strong. Sam says, “You’ve got a point and that would be great but you have to do exactly what we tell you. Got it.”

Wait, What? You’ve got to be kidding. Becky does not need to be encouraged to be around them. The best thing for Sam is for her to run off and mind her own business. “Sam, we don’t get civilians involved.” Both Becky and Sam cross their arms and glare. “Fine, fine,” He points at Becky. “But if you get yourself killed, I don’t want to hear about it.”

“Becky” Sam asks, “Can you make the rounds and see if you hear anything. Don’t ask questions unless someone else brings up the murder. Just listen and report in, okay?”

“I can do that, Sam.”

Dean remembers they need a place to meet up and store their things. Sam’s got his traveling apothecary with him. He had a box, but it wasn’t portable friendly. Dean found a vintage leather bag stored in the Bunker that he knew Sam would love. Dean purchased mink oil online and read a great article on how to restore and weatherproof old leather. It looks amazing and if Sam wants to, he can put the box in it and still have room for other things.

Dean turns to Becky. “You said you know the organizer. Could you find an empty room we can use as a base?”

“I should be able to. Sam, can I get your number so I can text when I have a place?

“What am I minced meat over here?” Dean asks. Becky shrugs, but doesn’t take her eyes off of Sam.

Sam is smug as fuck. “Guess I’ve still got it too,” he says to Dean.

Dean rolls his eyes. “Whatever, let's get moving.”

Sam scrolls through his phone. “I’ve got a list from Becky of some people to talk to and where we can find them. I thought the professor with the broken leg would be a good place to start. She should be in her office now.”

They walk over to a newer building with clean architectural lines and head up two flights of stairs. They check out the exact spot the professor claimed to be pushed at, but find nothing.

Sam knocks on the office door and a female voice says. “Come in.”

She looks at them, tilts her head and raises her eyebrows in question. “How can I help you? You’re not my students.”

“No ma’am.” Sam ducks his head and brings out the double dimple smile. “My writing partner and I wondered if you would answer some questions about your fall. We’re from the Wichita Eagle” He flashes his ID and so does Dean. “Can we sit down?

She nods. “There’s not much to tell. I fell down the stairs. I don’t see how that’s newsworthy.”

Dean says, “Well in the school newspaper you were quoted as saying it was a ghost.”

She sighs. “I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. That student elaborated on my story.”

Sam looks out from under his bangs, widens his eyes and asks, “Would you mind telling us what happened in your own words. Our boss is a hard case and we can at least come back with some notes.”

“Sure. I was going down the stairs and I must have tripped. I fell. The end.” She stands to show them out, but Sam shoots Dean a look. She’s nervous and not telling the whole story.

“Hey,” Dean asks, “Are you a writer?”

She pauses, smooths her skirt and sits back down. “I am, but I don’t see what that has to do with my fall?”

“See, James, I told you she was a writer.” Sam’s not sure where Dean is going with this but he nods along. “My partner and I were sent out to get your story because some weird things have been happening around campus. Our boss thinks it’s some kind of prankster, but James and I are working on our own book about people who have had close encounters of the other worldly kind.”

“You are?” Sam sees her shoulders relax. Hope sparks in her eyes. No one likes thinking they are not believed or even worse thinking they are losing their mind.

“It’s our passion project.” Dean says and Sam nods his agreement. “This is a safe space and we’d be honored to hear your story.” Dena’s laying it on a little thick and Sam gives him a warning look, then checks out the professor.

Her cheeks are a little pink and she’s staring at Dean like he’s a giant holiday gift. “Well, all my friends did tell me I must have hit my head or something.”

“Go on.” Dean says.

“Well, I was on the stairs, but I didn’t trip. I felt a hand in the center of my back before I tumbled down. When I looked back up I saw an apparition. It was white. I could see through him. And he didn’t have a bottom half – just ghostly wisps. He looked sad. Then he disappeared.”

Dean’s writing like he’s never heard anything so interesting. Sam suppresses his grin.

Dean asks, “Was it very cold, did the lights flicker?

“No, no, nothing like that.” Dean looks at Sam. That doesn’t sound like a ghost.

Something occurs to Sam and he asks. “By any chance are you writing a ghost story?”

She stiffens and her lips thin. “I’m not making it up.”

“No, no, we believe you. I was just curious as a fellow writer.”

She softens again. “Thank you. It’s great to not be told, once again, that I spend too much time with my nose in a book, and I let my imagination run away with me.”

Dean stands and says, “We’ve got a few more interviews, but we really appreciate your honesty.”

She smiles and gives them a little wave as they walk out.

After the door closes Sam says, “You know I wish there was something like Aftermath that was real. She could use a support group. So could a lot of the people we save. Dealing with the supernatural changes everything.” Sam’s talking about himself and Dean too. At least they have each other.

“I think we can make a pretty good guess that it’s connected to writing, but shifters are usually corporeal.” Dean says.

“True, but maybe this one is a lot more powerful. Or there is more than one shifter and they are somehow combining their power?”

“Well silver should still do the trick. Hey, check that out.”

Sam looks up from his phone. Some young man with glasses and a sad expression on his face is pushing fliers into people’s hands.

Sam walks over and gets a flier shoved into his own hands. “Have you seen this girl?” Sam checks out the picture, The girl is cute, with dimples and a tiny beauty mark by her lip. She has purple hair and a lip ring. He hands the flier to Dean.

“Is this your girl?” Dean asks.

“I thought so.” The kid looks like he’s about to cry.

Sam pats his back. “Why don’t you tell us about it. Maybe we can help.”

“Really? That’d be great.”

Dean joins in, “Yeah, let's sit at that table over there and you can fill us in. We’re investigative writers checking into some disappearances.”

Sam waves the young man to the table. “So what’s your name?”

“Marshall.” The kid sniffles and strokes the picture of the girl on the flier.

“Well, Marshall,” Sam says, “can you tell us what happened.”

Marshall looks up. He’s definitely teary eyed. “She’s perfect. I mean -- look at me. I’m not good-looking, but she told me she could see that I was really smart and sensitive. I told her about my novel I’m writing and she was so encouraging. She said she thought it was something really special and that she could even imagine someone picking up the movie rights for it.”

Sam shoots Dean a look. Marshall has literally said nothing about the girl. It makes something nag at Sam’s thoughts. He pulls out the convention brochure. “Marshall. Any chance you met her at the Women Are More Than Dreamgirls workshop?’

Marshall answers, “Yeah that’s right?”

Dean mutters, “Well you failed.”

Sam kicks him under the table. They don’t want to antagonize a witness.

They leave Marshall gazing longingly at his fliers.

Sam shoves his hands in his pockets. Dean points down the hallway to a soda machine and Sam follows. Dean gets two cokes and hands one to Sam. After Dean chugs part of the coke, he pulls out his flask and fills up the can with whiskey. He holds the flask out to Sam.

Sam says, “Nah. I’m good,” but bites off any further words.

He thinks Dean’s drinking too much, but they both drink more than normal people. It’s not the best coping mechanism, but when it’s the difference between another night of reliving Hell or a couple of drinks, drinks seem like the lesser evil. It’s something he needs to bring up, but there is no way Dean is going to have an open mind about this. Sam’s not sure he’s all that keen on not drinking himself. He’ll figure something out, but it’s not going to be today.

Sam’s phone buzzes and he pulls it out. “Becky just texted. She said we should get to Room 111 right now.”

Sam signals Dean to follow him . He’s pretty much committed the map to memory and knows a shortcut back to Morrison Hall. They don’t run. They don’t want the attention, but they both pick up their pace.

They pass between two buildings that have only a narrow strip of grass separating them. As they’re almost to the end, a large figure steps out and confronts them. He’s at least Sam’s height, broad and is wearing a white mask and has a nasty looking machete.

Sam takes a quick glance behind him. Over Dean’s shoulder he sees another figure blocking the other end. This one is in a gas mask and carrying a pick ax. Sam turns forward. He would have preferred to run. They are disadvantaged in hand-to-hand here because of the confines.

Sam pulls out his knife as hears Dean behind him say,”Come and get it, fugly.”

The guy in front of Sam swings the machete. Sam ducks. Comes up under the attacker and slashes at his thigh with the knife. He makes contact, he knows he does, but the attacker doesn’t flinch and there’s no sign of blood. Hell, the pants he slashed through aren’t even showing a tear. What the fuck?

Sam’s not hemmed in anymore and is now facing the corridor. He quickly checks on Dean and then the slasher guy comes at him again. Sam backs away and goes for his gun. His attacker stills and then he’s gone as quick as he came. Just disappears. That’s new.

“What the hell?” Dean shouts. He runs over to Sam and gives him a visual once over.

“Serial killer workshop just ended.”

Dean gives him that look - the one that says, “My brother is a giant geek.”

“What? I saw it on the schedule. Look -- we’ll talk about it later. We need to see what Becky wants.”

When they arrive at Room 111 about fifteen people are there, including a man and a woman in campus security uniforms. They are both taking notes. Dean spots two girls in the corner, one comforting the other who has red-rimmed eyes and the spaced out look of someone who has seen the supernatural. It’s a look Dean has seen too much of and never quite gotten used to. He supposes that’s probably a good thing. It means he still cares.

Dean nods his head indicating Sam should check it out. Dean isn’t as comfortable with the touchy-feely stuff as Sam is.

Sam walks near the girls and says, “Excuse me.” One of the girls looks up at Sam, but she glares in a way that suggests Sam should disappear.

Sam swings a chair close and sits down. He leans in and puts on a sympathetic, somewhat hesitant smile. Dean also grabs a chair and sits quietly next to Sam. “I’m really sorry to bother you” Sam says, “we were supposed to meet my girlfriend here and I’m really worried that she’s not here. I’ve got no idea what’s going on and the security guys are busy.”

Dean reaches out and pats Sam’s back, and Sam catches Dean’s sympathetic look from the corner of his eye.

The girl who was crying looks up and sniffs. Her friend hands her a tissue and she blows her nose.

“I’m James,” Sam says, “and this is Henry. And you are?”

The nose blower sniffs again and says, “I’m Joan and she’s Michelle.”

“Hey.” Sam says. “Should I be worried? Kelly isn’t picking up her phone. Was anyone hurt?”

They both shake their heads and look at each other. “The rent-a-cops over there said Shel should probably lay off the –” Kelly purses her lips and mimes smoking. “But I saw it too. They told us to keep it to ourselves or they’d call the real cops and it could ruin the rest of our weekend.” She waves her hand around the room. “Everyone else just saw a flash of light and those two yahoos have been saying it was some alumni week prank gone wrong. I know what I saw.”

“What did you see?” Sam asks, voice gentle and encouraging.

Kelly hesitates again and looks at her friend. “An angel.”

Dean’s fist clenches on Sam’s vest. He immediately thinks of Cas, but dismisses it and ignores the accompanying pang in his chest. Angels aren’t around anymore.

Sam continues. “What did it look like?”

“It was mostly these large white wings. They filled the room and there was a face but I couldn’t really see it – you know?”

Dean nods. So does Sam.

“And it was like the sound disappeared and there was light everywhere.” The second Michelle quits talking. Sam jumps up, chair scooting across the floor and his hands are up in a defensive posture.

Both girls gasp and shrink back. Dean grabs his brother’s shoulders, shouts a quick goodbye and leads Sam from the room.

“Sam, Sammy? You okay?” Sam’s shaking and Dean leans him up against the wall, all the color has drained from his face. “C’mon Sam, talk to me.”

“I just saw Michael.” Sam's voice is dead neutral. As if the real Sam has vacated the building.

“You know that wasn’t real, okay? Whatever this thing is, it’s messing with us.” Damn, Dean wishes there was something to hit. He’d do anything to take away Sam’s trauma.

“Yeah.” Sam shakes his head and swipes his arm across his face. “Yeah.” He digs around in his pockets. “Look.” He points at a line in the brochure.

Dean reads out loud, “Angels, Demons, and the Celestial; How to Write Them Convincingly.

Dean holds Sam’s elbow and guides him down the hall, “Let’s go meet Becky.”

It’s been a hell of a day. Dean hates being back at square one. They take three flights of steps up to Room 314. By the time Dean turns the knob, Sam seems like he’s more himself.

Inside, Becky is waiting for them. She’s talking to a man who appears to be a few years older than she is.

Before Dean can ask, Becky starts talking, “Henry, James, this is the convention administrator, Marcus Shelby.” I told him we needed a place to plan the entertainment for tonight's post dinner get together.” She winks at them in an exaggerated manner and tilts her head awkwardly.

Sam steps in and offers his hand. “Nice to meet you. When Becky asked us to help out. We couldn't have been more pleased.”

Marcus pushes his glasses up his nose and smiles. “Glad to help. Becky has been coming up with original ideas every year for us. You should have seen last year’s skit. Well, I’m sure a couple like you will have some fabulously creative ideas up your sleeve.

Dean says, “Bud, We’re not –”

Sam butts in. “What Henry means to say is we don’t have much time so we better get on it.”

“Of course, of course.” says Marcus as Sam leads him out.

When the door’s shut Dean says, “Every fucking time. I swear Sam it’s these namby-pamby outfits you dreamed up for us.”

“Yeah, Dean, that's totally it.” says Sam. “Anyway,” he turns to Becky. “Did you get anything?”

She nods and they all sit down. Becky pulls out a notepad. “So I actually met the Snow White girl.”

“Wait, what?” Sam asks.

Becky responds, “You know the one from the paper with the tame animals.” They nod and Becky continues. “She was right outside this building shortly after you guys left. She was there with a deer and was calling birds to her hand and then releasing them. Everyone seemed to think she was a street performer or cosplayer. They were taking turns getting their pictures taken with her. Also she was dressed -- well -- she wasn’t really very dressed. Kind of like a sexy Bo Peep costume from Spirit Halloween.”

“Becky,” Sam asks, ”was this around the time that Rewriting the Classic Fairytale and Making It Your Own was in session?”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

“Everything we have dug up connects to writing in some way and this all started about the time this conference did. At first we thought it was a shifter –”

“Oh, like in Skin.” She shivers. “That was creepy.”

It infuriates Dean that their lives are detailed in print and available to anyone with a few bucks to dig into. Every time Sam browses a bookstore, Dean looks for copies of Supernatural and makes sure to smuggle them out of the shop to salt and burn.

Sam continues, “Yeah, like that, but it or they came after us and silver didn’t affect them at all.”

Dean holds up a hand and ticks off the things they know on his fingers. “One, broken leg lady, pushed by a ghost; she writes ghost stories. Two, –” He looks at Sam.

“This girl,” Sam pulls out the missing girl flier, “Who apparently only existed to prop the boyfriend’s writing up and showed up during a seminar on writing women.”

“Three,” Dean continues, “Snow White. Shows up during a fairytale workshop. Four - the mask wearing creeps who attacked us during the serial killer panel. Five, angelic manifestation in the angel panel. Six, farmer’s dead horse comes back to life -- we never did get to talk to him -- so could be an anomaly. And winner, winner, chicken dinner, the guy murdered by perps that hopped right off the pages of his finished novel.”

“You know those sound like Mary Sues,” says Becky.

“What’s a Mary Sue?” Sam asks at the same time Dean does.

“Jinx,” Dean mutters under his breath. He’ll make Sam buy him a rum and coke later.

Color runs up Becky’s cheeks when they both turn to stare at her. “Well, these days it means a poorly written character or characters. Maybe they're perfect, stereotypes, self-insert or wish fulfillment characters. Like, let me see that flier. Yeah, I thought so,” she puts a finger on the picture, “She’s a perfect representation of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and the guys you fought sound like stereotypical horror villains. Oh, oh and,” Becky’s bouncing a little and talking fast, “that woman from the murder, I’ll bet anything she’s a token black woman.”

Sam chimes in, “And the man was definitely a self-insert. He looked like a better version of the author.”

Dean’s mulling it over, thinking about Dad’s journal and their past cases. “Sammy, I think I got it. Remember that crazy Blue Oyster Cult symbol case?”

“The tulpa.”

Excited now, Dean stands up and paces the room. He thinks better when he’s moving. “It fits, right. These people are literally willing their thoughts into form. And, they’re doing a bad job of it. Tulpas tend to turn on their creators. So all we have to do is burn everything. Maybe with the rocket launcher, we could –“

“No.” Sam interrupts, command lacing his voice.

Dean opens mouth again to go on.

“No, Dean, we can’t burn the entire school down.”

“Well, have you got a better idea, Einstein. We at least know that works.”

Sam turns to Becky, “Can the convention be cancelled? That would give us more time to think of something. There would be fewer people creating and less thinking, so hopefully a depowered tulpa”

Beckys shakes her head back and forth. “Uh-uh, no way. They’ve paid and booked in for the entire convention. They’re not going to just pack up and go home. Even if we could get them to leave campus, ninety-percent of these people would still keep it going at local bars or their hotels. Some of them wait all year for this.”

“We need to trap it.” Dean says, “but with everyone writing, there’s no way to know where it will show up and we don’t want civilians to be at risk.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Sam chimes in. “Becky, can you get most of the writers to stop for like an hour or two?

“What time is it?”

Dean checks his phone. “4:45.”

“Okay, that's perfect. Most of the events end at five and I’ve got the perfect way to draw people off campus and get them to stop writing.” She types quickly on her phone. “Done. I put out a notice on our Twitter hashtag that Bennigan’s is having a buy-one-get-one drinks and appetizers happy hour for convention goers. Trust me. This place will be a graveyard in twenty minutes. But, we have to hurry. Booze and food will distract them, but we have a write-in that starts at nine.”

“I want to go to happy hour.” Dean didn’t really mean to say it out loud and he doesn’t like the look that Sam’s giving him. It’s dripping with concern and it means Sam has something on his mind that Dean isn’t going to want to hear.

Dean watches Sam’s expression change as he shakes it off and gets back to the task at hand. “First, it’s fake. Second, you're bait. Well, you and Becky, if Becky’s willing.

“Me?” Becky looks about as trapped as Dean feels.

“Yeah, you two are going to write badly and hopefully it will draw this thing in.”

“I don’t think so,” Dean says. “I’m the brother that kills, stabs and blows things up. If this is a death by writing solution that’s all you.”

“What? I kill things too.” Sam shakes his head. “No it’s got to be you, Dean”

Dean crosses his arms. “Why? You’re the college boy. You should do the writing.” Dean knows he sounds petulant and bitter. Sam’s college time still stings.

Sam takes on that tone that makes Dean feel like he’s a five-year-old. Probably because sometimes he acts like it.”No, I think what you would write would attract it better.”

“Are you saying I’m more likely to write badly than you?” He’s daring Sam to say it, even if he knows it’s true.

Sam doesn’t say anything. He lifts an eyebrow and stares Dean down, lips pursed in that way that makes Dean miffed and at the same time ashamed of himself, because it’s supposed to make Dean give up and Dean hates to back down even when he knows he’s wrong. This is one of those times; he’s the one more likely to write something without depth; they both know it. Unlike Sam, Dean prefers not to expend energy overthinking things when he could be doing things.

“Fine.’ Dean gives in, but next time he is totally getting to blow something up. He hates everything about this case. Pizza Hut shrine be damned. He still thinks they should burn the campus to the ground. He asks Sam, “What are you going to do?”

“Figure out a way to kill a tulpa. But first I’m going to set up a trap here that will restrain it until I can come back. All you have to do when it arrives is say this spell, ‘Ut quatuor elementa aer ignis aqua et spiritu containe hanc formam reddere frustrarentur.’

“You’ve got spells memorized now?”

Sam looks a little sheepish. “It’s a wiccan spell from that old Book of Shadows that I scanned a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like a general containment spell might be useful. Anyway, the incantation will light the candles and keep the spirit in the circle, but you have to keep the candles lit. If more than one goes out the spell will fail.”

“What's to stop the tulpa from blowing them out?” Dean asks.

“The spell can’t be tampered with by anything inside the circle.”

Dean nods. It makes sense. Otherwise it’d be a crappy spell.

Sam rummages in his bag and pulls out a small yellow bar. He tosses it to Dean. “Make about a four foot circle. Use that, it’s wax imbued with ritual herbs and won’t be visible. Create a hexagram inside and use the Tibetan symbols for air, water, earth and fire. On the fifth side use this.” Sam sketches a symbol and hands the paper to Dean.

Beckys pushes back chairs and desks and sets up a place for her and Dean to write. Dean makes the circle. Sam uses a mortar and pestle to grind up herbs and other ingredients from his bag.

It doesn’t take Dean long to finish and he plants himself back at Sam’s side. He doesn’t like that they’re splitting up, but, well, this thing may not read thoughts exactly, but there’s no point in taking the risk that it can tune into whatever Sam is doing. The further away he is while it’s being trapped, the better.

Sam sets out five candles that correspond to the five points of the pentagram, but are set back towards the wall, so they won’t be visible. He packs up his bag. He hands Dean a white ceramic cup with the ingredients from the mortar in it. “As soon as you see it, drop a match in here and say the spell.”

Dean reads the writing on the cup. Shocker Inn. Shaking his head and pretending to be shocked Dean says. “Sammy, shame on you.”

Sam shrugs, but a smile curves up his lips and he shrugs. “It’s the perfect size for small spells and they won’t miss it.” He opens the door. Before he heads out he turns to Becky. “Becky, are you good?”

She smiles. It’s not confident but her gaze is steady as she says, “Sam, writing is something I know how to be bad at.”

Sam gives her a thumbs up. “As soon as this thing appears, you need to leave. Let Dean handle the rest, okay?” She nods.

He looks at Dean one more time and one corner of his mouth quirks. It's almost a smile. “You’ll be okay. We got this.”

“What if this doesn’t work?”

“It will.” Sam says as he closes the door. Dean hopes he’s right.

Dean sits down at the desk. He puts the cup and a book of matches behind his laptop and resolves not to think about it again, or at least try not to. He opens a blank word document. He rolls up his sleeves and stretches his arms out, pops his knuckles.

“You have no idea what to write, do you?”

He doesn’t, but he’s not going to admit it. “We know that when people are focused on writing the same thing the tulpa is drawn to that,”

“One of the best pieces of writing advice is, ‘Write what you know.’”

Dean thinks about that. There are things he knows he’s not sharing with Becky -- no way in Hell. Actual Hell being at the top of the list.

Then he remembers she is a huge fan of Supernatural. She already knows everything that he knows. Dean shakes his head. He’s going to stop right there. It’s like the pistons in his brain are on overdrive but somehow he’s still stuck in park. “I can’t do this.”

“You can. Tell the story you know best. Remember it’s not actually going to be published and you can make up whatever you want.” Her gaze on him is kind and thoughtful and for the first time he can remember Becky is actually seeing him. She’s definitely a Sam girl and he’s always felt like he’s Sam’s accessory whenever she’s been around.

Not that he wanted a Becky Rosen dose of crazy focused on him, but she’s different now. She’s more confident. She’s wearing a wedding ring and her phone screen saver has two kids on it that he thinks are probably hers. She’s found a life and it looks good on her.

Becky says, “Hey, Sam used to tell people he was on a road trip with his brother. We could probably do something along that line.”

“Oh hell, no. You’ve read Christine, right? No car stories. And, definitely no monster stories.”

Becky chews on her lip, starts to speak, then shakes her head.

There’s one thing Dean knows better than anything else -- Sam. Writing about a kid should be easy enough. “You have kids, right? He asks Becky.

“Yeah, two boys.” The smile on Becky’s face is close to rivaling Sam’s when he’s happy.

“Well I practically raised Sam and you must know a lot about raising young boys. Maybe something like that?”

“Oh, that’s good. We can both write a story about young Sam.” Becky smiles like she just won a Pulitzer. Before Dean can tell her that’s not what he meant she continues. “Remember this should be bad kidfic. So Sam should either be a total angel or a complete menace. There shouldn’t be anything original about him and he should not talk or act like a kid. Basically take everything you know about how kids act and write the opposite.”

Becky’s enthusiasm is not something Dean can share, but it does make Dean believe he can at least get something on paper, create a thought form awful enough to attract the tulpa. “Yeah, that seems doable.”

Becky is typing away before he can even think about how to start. Finally he decides to be as cliche as possible. Cliches and puns are definitely something he can do. He starts typing.

It was a dark and stormy night when Sam Winchester was born. He was a fussy, cranky baby who would not be soothed even when his awesome big brother Dean made faces for him.

Dean keeps typing, creating a Sam that is the whiniest brat imaginable and has a brother that is perfect.

Thirty minutes later, Sam calls.

Jogging to the car draws more than a few looks Sam’s way. He’s not dressed for running, but they’re in a time crunch. It’s hot, his bag weighs more than a few pounds, and his dress shoes pinch his feet. Sam has worked harder on cases. Hell he ran an ultramarathon a few months back, he can handle this.

Cases like this push all of Sam’s buttons. They’re fun and intriguing because of the unknown, but at the same time peril is right there around the corner waiting for them to fail.

As soon as Sam is out of the range of what they’ve determined is prime tulpa area, he stops, takes a couple of breaths and gets out his phone. He’s dripping sweat and the phone almost slips from his hand. He can’t afford that kind of mistake.

He calls Li. They sometimes see Li when they’re on the west coast. He was a Tibetan monk and now lives in Chinatown. He’a hunter specializing in Eastern entities and lore. Of any of their contacts Li is the most likely to give Sam a lead.

He gets a message machine. “Li, this is Sam Winchester. I’ve got a tulpa case on my hands. I’m looking for a way to get rid of it permanently.” He leaves a few more details before hanging up.

Frustration and the looming deadline fill Sam with frustration. He clenches his hand on his bag and runs the remaining yards to the car.

Once he gets to the Impala, Sam checks a couple of the books he has in the trunk. He also reads a couple entries on thought forms in Dad’s journal. Sam knows his Dad and Dean were on a case while he was at Stanford. Dean couldn’t remember the details, but was able to regale Sam with minutiae about the cherry pie and the waitress that served it. Sam flips through the pages until he finds the entry. The entry is about half a page describing that they tracked it down, dismantled the altar and there is a notation that says, ‘thought form deconstructed’ whatever the fuck that means.

Sam tosses the books back in the Impala. The thunk of the closing trunk makes him wince and Dean would bitch him out for slamming it. He says a silent apology to Baby.

This case sucks and he was putting on a front of confidence for Dean. Right now all they’ve got is conjectures and guesses and he left Dean to deal with whatever shows up; alone, with no backup.

A wave of heat hits him as he opens the car door. Dean won’t even let him think about getting one of those sun blockers for the windshield. He runs his hand through his hair as he puts the car in drive. The leather burns his palms and glues his wet clothes to the seat.

Li is their best shot for something concrete. All the other contacts would be iffy at best. There might be something at the bunker, but that doesn’t help right now and Sam hasn’t gotten everything catalogued digitally yet, doesn’t know if he ever will. He hasn’t even scanned everything yet: cataloguing, translating and cross-referencing it could take him the rest of his life.

Right as Sam turns into the motel lot, his phone rings. It's Li.

“Sam, my man –”

Sam cuts him off. “I’m in a hurry.”

Li has the laid back vibe of a SoCal surfer that’s been transplanted in San Francisco and decided to live the hippie life. The guy has lived all over the world and knows a little something about most religions and a lot about Tibetan Buddhism. He’ll talk esoteric nonsense for hours if Sam let’s him. Normally it’s a nice wind down after a hunt, but right now there's no time, and Sam winces with a twinge of guilt.

“Hey, no worries. I’ll give you the Cliff notes.” As Sam gets out of the car and hurries across to their room, the sound of shuffling papers crinkles in his ear, then Li continues. “All religions have some kind of thought form and various practices treat it differently. It’s a Tulpa for my kind. A golem is a thought form given life in clay. A witch’s familiar is often a thought form in the body of an animal, making it hard for the familiar to turn on the creator. Hoodoo and Shamanism have their version as well. Physicists call it The Field Of All Possibilities and in Catholicism it’s a miracle.”

“Is it usual for a thought form to be physical and change how it presents itself?”

“Accidental manifestations are often concentrated thought, like praying for a miracle. I don’t think yours is like that, it’s probably being juiced up with creative thought. My best guess is someone brewed up a muse. That’s usually the case with thought forms tied to the creative arts. Completely different than the actual Muses though. If scientists are to be believed our entire existence is a group thought form.”

Sam breaths in and modulates his tone. “Li, how do we get rid of it?”

“Oh yeah. That. Four ways that I found. Find the symbols that were used to tie it here and erase them. Break up the group that’s thinking it into being. Find the practitioner and kill them. That doesn’t always work because if the form has become self driven they want the practitioner dead so they can’t be recalled. It’s not uncommon for thought forms to turn on their creators. Finally, get a bunch of people to deconstruct the entity, but that usually requires people experienced in meditation.”

Well shit “None of those work in this situation except finding the practitioner and we don’t have a clue.” Sam worries his lip with his teeth and drums his pencil on the notepad. None of their victims seem like they would have created this thing. Maybe the guy who was killed. Maybe that set the thought form free to be on it’s own. Something's still tying it to the area though. “Li, if I capture the thought form, can I locate what’s tying it to this plane?”

“Possible, but it’d take a shit ton of mojo” Sam files the idea away as a last resort. He doesn’t want to explain to Dean why he passes out after doing a spell. “Oh, I have a spell you can use if you want it.”

Sam quietly mimes hitting his head to the desk repeatedly. “That’d be great, thanks.” Sam writes down the spell. Most of the ingredients are common, but one is very rare, the skull of a bird that died on the rising of a full moon.

“Oh” Li continues, “You might be able to get the skull from a shaman I know in Chanute. Thing is the guy doesn’t take phone calls.”

Sam writes down the shaman’s name and address. “Thanks Li.”

“Anytime Sam.”

Sam hits the end button. He’d love a shower, but he settles for changing into a t-shirt and jeans. He grabs a couple of books he left in the room and heads back out to the car. He spins out of the parking lot faster than Dean would approve of, but he doesn’t care.

He calls Dean with what he’s got.

Dean picks up the phone. After Sam fills him in he says, “Well, dude, it’s better than what we had before. You’ll be pressing the time window, but you should make it back here close to the two hour mark.”

“You would have told me if you had a tulpa, so I’m guessing you don’t”

“No, not for lack of trying.”

“What are you writing?”

“We decided to try writing about a kid. We figured it wouldn’t be much of a threat if it appeared.” Sam doesn’t need to know they were writing mini-Sam.

Sam hums. It’s his thinking hum.

Becky yells and waves her phone. “Dean, put Sam on speaker.” She continues as soon as Dean hits the button, “Well, writing definitely works, Just not ours.” Her mouth thins. Dean understands her aggravation.

“What happened?” Sam’s voice sounds tinny and far away. It’s a crap connection.

A handful of people had decided to stay on campus and go ahead with the panel Knives Out: Writing Bad Asses, Ninjas and Assassins.” Dean closes his eyes, rubs them with his hand, and waits for the bad news. Hopefully it’s not another death they couldn’t stop. He reaches for his flask and takes a shot. “This woman came into the area they were writing and I’m going to read the rest. ‘She was dressed like some kind of lady Robinhood and damn her legs were fine. She pulls out this dagger and then she says, “Thou hast made me a beast o’ vengeance, Nicholas. Can a lady not also wear finery. Can she not have an ere to rest? Your hands shall ne’er rule over me again.” Then she plunged the dagger through his hand and pinned it to the table.’”

Dean whistles. Sam’s humming turns into a grunt.

“What is it, Sam? You have an idea?”

“Well this thought form seems to be out to get writers who write women that have very limited roles, women who aren’t fleshed out. You could try that. For instance Dean you could pretend one of your Busty Asian Beauties came to life. I believe it was Ms. April you went on about this year.”

Dean doesn’t need to see Sam to know he’s smirking. He can feel the heat in his ears and cheeks and knows they’re red. “You're a little bitch, Sammy.”

Becky shoots Dean a look that he interprets as somewhere between disdain and it figures. To Sam she says, “That’s a great idea, Sam.” And she’s off typing again.

Dean doesn’t say anything. He hangs up, deletes his other words and starts writing.

Her hair was black midnight and the tendrils brushed her ass as she sashayed into the room. Her tiny midriff top could barely conceal her cantaloupe shaped breasts. She was tiny, as many Asian girls are, so her breasts were more prominent than they might be on other women.

As Dean writes he searches his memory of media that have Asian women as sexy stereotypes to give him ideas. It’s not like Busty Asian Beauties says much about the girls as people. Although Miss April supposedly loves backgammon and horseback riding. Dean recalls a scene from Austin Powers with Asian cheerleader twins. He remembers telling Sam he would totally “do them.” The memory isn’t pleasant. Leave it to Sam to make him feel ashamed of one of his escapist pastimes.

He’s about four paragraphs in and Dean thinks he’s really nailing the scene. The cheerleader skirt is on the floor and the breasts are bare. He mashes the keys when the door swings open and bangs against the wall. Becky looks up, gasps, and her eyes widen. The girl in the door is just like Dean pictured her, right down to her teeny-tiny shorts and her thigh-high stockings. He’s pretty sure he made her legal, but she doesn't look a day over sixteen. It’s not like he’s planning on screwing her. A man’s thoughts hurt no one. Except in this case. Dean shuts down that voice. He doesn’t have time for an existential crisis.

Becky moves to leave immediately. As she’s shoving her laptop in her bag, the tulpa says, “You don’t have to leave, sweetheart. The more the merrier.” She sends a pout Becky’s way, winks, and crooks her finger. Becky shoves her laptop in a bag, slings it over her shoulder and doesn’t say goodbye.

Dean remembers what he’s supposed to be doing and lights the match. The ingredients flare blueish purple before burning away and the candles flame to life.

Looking at the pissed off expression on the tulpa, Dean guesses it worked.

A vibration alerts Sam to a text message. He pulls out his phone. It's a text from Becky. ”We got it.”

A thrill of satisfaction shoots through Sam. Now if they can figure out how to get rid of the creature.

The trip for the skull was a bust. He clenches his fists on the wheel and grits his teeth. A headache is creeping up his back and tensing the muscles in his neck. He leans over to the glove compartment while keeping his eyes on the road. He roots around with his hand until he finds the small bottle of Ibuprofen. He flicks the lid off and swallows four.

There’s got to be a better way than driving all over hell, possibly letting people get hurt or die, to look for things they don’t have when they're on a case. He thinks about Hermione’s Bag of Holding and wishes something like that was possible. Realistically they can’t bring everything they need with them, but if they had a trained team, or a person back at the bunker, or even caches at storage facilities like their dad had, it’d be an improvement. To be fair, life hasn’t slowed down enough for them to do much about any of those things.

Dreams of being able to search lore on his phone, get a spell ingredient delivered, or have a dedicated backup, fill Sam’s mind as he pushes down on the accelerator and hurries to help his brother.

The tulpa had tested the circle, walking it’s perimeter, but thankfully it held. Dean still doesn’t entirely trust magic. He prefers things he can see and hold, measure with his hands, Magic is something invisible that seems to him like making a wish and hoping it will come true. Also, witches suck. He’s made an exception for Rowena and Sam, but they still suck.

Dean moves the candles onto desks and pulls them closer to the circle so he can get to them easier. He checks each one, to make sure it’s burning evenly. He finds one with a longer wick and pulls out a utility knife. He releases the tiny scissors and trims it back. Long wicks make the flame go to one side and cause the candle to burn out. He’s careful. A too short wick can sputter and drown. Three eighths of an inch is the ideal.

That task done, Dean doesn’t have much else to do. The tulpa has been punching at the barrier and her expression says she is plenty pissed off.

“You could at least get a lady a chair.” she says.

“Do I seem that dumb to you?” Dean asks. He knows better than to break the circle.

She tilts her head. “Well, you are pretty. But, no, you’re far from dumb, Dean Winchester.”

Checking the candle on his left, Dean keeps her in his eyesight.

She makes eye contact and Dean doesn’t like the look in her eyes. He knows female mischief when he sees it.

She swivels her hips, and the pleated red and yellow skirt swirls around her thighs. She shimmies into a squat and spreads her thighs. Her mouth is pouty and her eyes heavy lidded.

Dean shakes his head. He definitely gave her all the right moves. “Don’t bother, sister. I know what you are.”

“You’re the one that wrote me, Dean.”

“So you're not bad, you’re just written that way?” She shrugs and bats her eyes at him. “What about that guy you killed?”

“I was new. I didn’t understand that it would kill him.” Something stirs in Dean, a measure of compassion that he isn’t sure is misplaced. He wants to believe her. She seems contrite. Sam’s usually the one that’s sympathetic to the monsters. Maybe he’s feeling it because she is completely his type. Maybe she’s working him to get out of the trap. He walks another loop around the circle.

“You stabbed some guy in the hand.”

She flares her nose and her mouth thins. “You would have too if you’d read his manuscript. If he never writes again I did the world a favor. You don’t understand what it’s like for me”

“Then tell me.” He might as well get her to talk. They’ve got no way yet to get rid of her and he might learn something.”

“I - I -” She grabs her throat and her eyes are wide. Her entire body slumps and she collapses on the floor. When she looks up there are tears in her eyes.

“You literally can’t tell me, can you?”

She shakes her head and her lips tremble.

Dean’s seen this kind of thing before. A summoning that is blocked from talking about it’s origins. That spot of compassion he has blooms a little brighter in his chest. He knows all too well what it feels like to have someone pull your strings. A wax pool is building up and Dean gets a paper towel from the dispenser on the wall to siphon some off. Good thing this room has a sink or he’d have to use his shirt.

“You and your brother are going to kill me aren’t you?”

Dean doesn’t look at her, doesn’t know what to say. Because, yeah, they are.

“Stories suck for women, Dean, and I’ve learned a lot of them.”

He still wants to believe she’s being real, but maybe she is hoping to get him to release her. “Doesn’t seem like you know many nice ones.”

“Nice stories are boring, Dean. Just like nice girls. No one wants nice, when they can have this.” She cups her breasts and shakes them. Disgust is plain on her face.

He doesn’t like sympathizing with her, but he understands the anger. He thinks of the things he’s read. Women in most stories aren’t great. He remembers Cassie always being angry that black woman were portrayed as sex objects or mammies in stories. He remembers her sitting at her computer and telling him she was going to do it better because black women were so much more than that. He believed her. She was amazing.

When Dean looks up, a likeness of Cassie is in the circle. He wants to reach out, apologize for not being enough. He pulls his hand back at the last second.

“Get out of my head bitch.”

“It doesn’t work like that.”

That gets Dean’s full attention. Maybe he can learn something useful instead of being a tormented plaything. “What do you mean?’

“I’m not a mind reader. I can’t pick through someone’s mind and pull up the things I want. You have to think about it. Written work is the best because the thoughts have been given strength, made permanent with words.”

Immediately Dean thinks of Ghostbusters and the Staypuft Marshmallow Man. He can’t help it, but the tulpa doesn’t immediately turn into that. Dean shoots her a look, but he’s not about to give the words form. He knows enough about the supernatural to know words have power.

She laughs and it’s like the tinkling of bells. “I choose who I want to be, Dean. Even if I wanted to turn into something massive, I don’t have that kind of power. A thousand people would have to write me that way, to give me the means.”

She’s still Cassie and he wishes she’d change into anything else.

The next second she’s not Cassie. She’s him. He remembers that wine red shirt, remembers what he was the last time he wore it. Her eyes flash black and he stumbles back. He bumps a desk and the candle slides towards the edge. He catches it just in time.

“What if your brother hadn’t fixed you Dean? What kind of story would that have been? Would you even have a brother? Would you be a knight of Hell, or would you just be a sad, sad demon, singing karaoke, drinking too much and bedding women? Even as a demon that self-loathing didn’t leave you did it? You wanted Sam to kill you.”

“Thought you said you couldn’t read thoughts?” Dean grabs his flask and throws back a few shots. He’s almost out. He makes a mental note to refill the flask soon.

“I can’t search for thoughts, but that stuff is just floating around in the foreground. You don’t like yourself very much, do you, Dean?”

With this version of himself right there, it’s almost impossible for Dean to stop thinking about. He ignores the question.

The tulpa continues. “Which story is really yours? It’s not the one about the sex positive Asian girl and it’s not the one about this.” The Muse waves their hand up and down indicating their demon skin. Dean wants to look away from the likeness of himself – eyes inky black and grin murderous, but he can’t. Something that tastes like fate, bitter and dead, wells in his throat.

The tulpa continues, “No, this is your real story. The place where your heart lays.”

In the circle stands Sam, that is, of course, not Sam, but it sure looks like him, too long hair, too long legs, too much of everything for Dean to stuff it all into his heart and keep it safe. The muse isn’t wrong. His life, everything he is, has always pointed straight at Sam, his charge, his reason, his brother.

The Tulpa continues. “This is definitely your Muse. I mean, self-insert demon Dean would make a great horror novel. How do you think that would end Dean? Would you get a redemption arc or would your tortured brother have to kill you and live out his days in misery. Doesn’t matter,” he waves his hand. “because I bet you could write sonnets to this face.” Tulpa Sam caresses the side of his own face. “Well,” he pauses, “you couldn’t, but I bet you could at least churn out a pulp novel.”

Dean just wants it to shut the fuck up. He knows he and Sam are all kinds of fucked up over each other – who wouldn’t be with their lives – no one else can understand the way they’ve lived. But he doesn’t need this caricature of Sam – worse than soulless. This is a Sam who would read his thoughts and take every broken part of Dean and stomp it into dust until all that was left was a husk that existed on whisky and violence.

“So which Sam are we going with?” That quick and the Sam in front of him is gangly limbs and cast off clothes including an almost knee length Van Halen shirt John had picked up for Dean on a hunt. “This is a great Sam for you, isn’t it?”

Artist’s rendition of young Sam in a Van Halen shirt and plaid overshirt. With swirling lights around him by Peach-Coke

Anger, molten and unrestrained, rises in Dean. That twelve year old voice – just shy of the first time Sam’s voice dropped and cracked into that of a man, a prelude to the snarky, sullen, ready-to-run-from-home-any-way-he-could Sam – “don’t call me, Sammy”, twists and rips at the hurt spots Dean tries so hard to bury.

“You're the hero in this Sam’s story. The big brother he looks up to. The –”

“Shut up. Shut the fuck up! You don’t get to do that.” A candle sputters across the circle and Dean pulls his eyes away and hurries to relight it. The tulpa is trying to distract him, get away, he needs to focus. The damn things got his number all right – worse than a fucking skin walker rooting around in your head.

A knock sounds on the door. Thank Jack Dean’s had enough of the psychoanalysis. He reaches for his gun. Becky or Sam wouldn’t knock. So it’s either a random person – who Dean can get rid of – or it’s the entity or entities controlling the tulpa.

He looks through the window panel and sees Becky. Her eyes are tear stained and Marcus is holding a knife to her throat.

Dean moves his hand away from his gun – he doesn’t have a clean shot – and opens the door. Marcus says. “Let us in and back up.”

Dean swings the door open, backs up, and Marcus walks Becky though it, closing the door with his foot.

“Over there.” Marcus gestures with the hand that he’d been gripping Becky’s arm with. “Faster. Towards the corner.” Marcus says.

Dean puts his hands up palms facing out to show he’s no threat and moves towards the corner. He looks quickly at the candles and they’re all still flaming. The tulpa has changed to a form he doesn’t recognize. Still beautiful, but blonde with wide purple eyes and a dress that looks like it belongs to a twelve-year-old girl. It’s all flowers and ruffles. Must be something Marcus thought up.

He lowers his hands slowly. He can probably take the guy, but not without the possibility that Becky will end up with a knife in her throat.

“So this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to do exactly what I tell you and Becky gets to live. You’re going to let my girl out of that circle. I’m going to walk out of here with Becky and once we’re far enough away I’ll let her go.

Becky’s eyes are glued to Dean, wide and frightened and pleading.

“Your girl, huh?” Dean looks at the tulpa. “Are you his girl?”

The tulpa shrugs, her eyes are miserable and wet as she lowers her gaze to the floor.

“Doesn’t seem like she’s real anxious to go with you, Marcus.” Dean needs to keep him talking until he can think of a way out of this.

“She doesn’t get a choice. I made her and she’s mine.”

Dean really wants to pound this guy’s face in. “You’re keeping her from talking aren’t you?”

“I told you. I have it under control.”

No wonder the tulpa keeps attacking men. “You know she’ll turn on you, right?” It’s what tulpa do. Especially when their creators make them vicious.” Dean’s not sure that’s accurate but from what Sam told him it’s a definite possibility.

Marcus curls his lip up in a sneer. “I know what I’m doing.”

Marcus’s gaze darts to the tulpa and Dean sees the doubt. Marcus isn’t as sure as he wants Dean to believe. He can work with that. “Thought magic isn’t so predictable.” Dean shrugs. “At least that’s what I’ve been told.”

A candle goes out near where Marcus is at. Dean takes a step forward. He needs to see how serious Marcus is.

Marcus tightens his grip on Becky and the knife tip sinks in. Blood oozes from the shallow cut. So, he will do it if he has to. Dean checks the candles again. Right now all he has is the hope that if the tulpa gets loose, she goes for Marcus first. He searches the room with his eyes to see if he can find anything to help.

“Break the circle.” Marcus has run out of patience.

“Why don’t you do it?” Dean asks.

“And give you a chance to take me down. I don’t think so.”

Sam appears in the window and relief courses through Dean. Sam turns the knob, enters the room and puts his gun to the back of Marcus’s neck. “Drop the knife.” Sam says.

Marcus's hands shoot up and Becky’s knees give out.

Dean steps forward and catches her. “Hey, I’ve got you. You’re okay, now.”

She clings to his shirt tightly with both hands and sobs wrack her body. Dean pats her on the back. It’s awkward. “Fantastic timing, Sammy.” He smiles at Sam and gets one in return. “So what are we going to do with this douchenozzle?”

The douchenozzle in question speaks up, “You can kill me, but you’re never going to figure out how I tied her to reality.”

Dean takes the swing he’s been dying to let go of. There’s a crack against Marcus’s jaw and he goes down. Sam catches him and lowers him to the ground. Dean wouldn’t have bothered. “You’re an asshole,” Dean says to the now prone body.

“Are you going to kill him?” It’s the tulpa.

“Are you?” Dean counters.

“I want to.” She pauses, frowns and huffs out a breath. “I don't know how to be different.”

Dean checks the room. Becky is cleaning up at the sink. Sam is relighting the candle that went out. Their perp is still out cold. Dean should restrain him before he comes around. He moves over to Marcus and bends down. Suddenly there is brilliant light and swirling smoke flooding the room. Dean can’t see. He reaches out blindly for Marcus, but his hands find only air. “Sammy.” Dean shouts.

“Dean. I’m okay. What the hell happened?”

The light is gone, the smoke is slowly dissipating, and Dean can make the hulking bulk of his brother a few feet over. “I’m not sure, but I think that sneaky shit used a spell to get away. Becky, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I can’t see much, but I’m okay.” Becky says.

Dean makes his way to the door and opens it. More of the smoke leaves and his eyes are adjusting. “Sam, I’m going after him.” Dean has to walk down the hallway to the stairs, stretching out his hands to find his way. By the time he’s there, his vision is back. He takes the stairs all the way to the ground floor, two at a time. The main lobby is empty, so he heads out the doors.

Dean looks around, but Marcus is gone. “Son of a fucking bitch.”

The smoke is almost gone and Sam is getting his vision back when the thought form lets out a high pitched scream and begins to thrash in the circle, her body twisting in a way no human’s ever could. He clutches his ears and sees Becky do the same.

He desperately wants to go to her, but can’t; the circle would break. The screaming goes on for a span of time that seems to Sam as if it is stretched across hours. Being helpless while someone suffers is something Sam could happily never go through again.

The thought form writhes and changes shape. Sam witnesses in mute horror as it changes hair color, size, and gender. Sam never gets a good look at it’s face and he’s thankful. He doesn’t need that to add to his brimming bank of nightmare fodder.

The tulpa stills as Dean comes back through the door. Dean reaches out to the tulpa and, like Sam, catches himself at the last minute to keep from breaking the circle.

“I lost him.” Dean says. “Now what?”

The thought form stirs in the circle, lifts her head and looks at Sam. She’s changed again. She’s a petite female with a short pixie cut, brown eyes and a floral dress. Sam squats so he can make eye contact. “What happened?”

“He cut me loose. He was afraid of me getting free. Thought you two might free me and let me kill him. He left me tied to the campus. I can’t leave this place even if you break the circle.”

“Do you know where he went?” Sam asks.

She shakes her head, “No. That’s why he severed the tie, so I can’t tell you.”

Dean pulls up a chair, sits down and asks, “What can you tell us?”

Sam’s fascinated. They rarely have a chance to learn about creatures first hand.

Sam follows Dean’s lead and also grabs a chair to sit in.

She runs a hand through her hair and adjusts her flowing skirt so she can sit cross-legged. “He called me Mneme. It means –”

Sam interrupts, “Memory. It’s what one of the first Greek muses was called.”

She nods. “I’ve had so many names already, but none of them are mine.”

Sam’s heart strings are being tugged. He feels for the tulpa. She is a victim. Sam knows how that feels – intimately – the pain, the anger, the violation and helplessness. She’s not innocent, but she’s also not solely responsible for her actions.

Dean grabs his knee, and motions with his head towards the door. “Can I talk to you outside Sam?”

Becky takes one of the chairs they pulled up and starts a conversation. Sam suppose there's no harm in it. She knows not to cross the circle.

Outside Dean is pacing the width of the hallway, His hair is standing up, which means Dean’s been running his hands through it. Sam leans against the wall, hands shoved in his pocket and waits for Dean to gather his words.

It takes a few more trips across the hallway, but Dean finally turns and says, “I don’t want to get rid of her. She doesn’t deserve that.”

“I agree. I don’t know that we could, not any time soon at any rate. I couldn’t get one of the key ingredients I needed to banish a thought form.” Sam recognizes that he’s separating thought forms from what’s trapped in that room.

Dean’s calmer and he’s chewing his lip. So that means he’s not sure Sam is going to like what he says next. “Could we change her? Make her good somehow? When I talked to her she told me that she was never taught how to be anything other than vengeful.”

Sam looks through the window into the room. He doesn’t know what she’s talking about with Becky, but he’s got a good guess. Sam sees a teen version of himself, then Dean when he was getting Sam at Stanford, then the Impala (Sam didn’t know it could imitate objects) but then Baby isn’t just an object. Becky is definitely talking about her writing. Sam may have read a few fanfiction works on line, but he is never telling Dean that.

Watching the tulpa gives Sam an idea. “What if we fed it stories to help it be better. I’m pretty sure I can work up a spell to transfer things we choose into thoughts. The Men of Letters used it to load up on knowledge in emergency situations.”

Dean’s eyes light up and hope changes his scowl into a smile. “That’s perfect. Let’s ask her.”

Sam grabs Dean’s arm before he can open the door. “What if she says no?”

“Let’s not make a problem we don’t have yet, Sam.”

Sam follows Dean through the door. He grabs a third chair and waves Dean to the one that’s not taken. Dean flips that chair around and straddles it.

The thought form is back in the petite brunette body she seems to have chosen for herself. “So, “ Dean starts, “we think that we can feed you stories with good people in them and help you be something else. You have to agree to let us. We won’t do it without your permission.”

“And if I say no you kill me?”

While he drove Sam came up with a different version of the containment spell and used it on a water bottle that he has in his bag. He got the idea from watching Dean carry his soul around. He goes over to a table and digs it out. “Not exactly. I break down your essence, trap you in here and store you nearby until we think of a way to get rid of you for good.”

“Not much of a choice is it?”

“You killed someone.” Dean says. “You’ve got to know we can’t let you do it again.”

“I understand,” she says. “Marcus had big plans for me. He hoped during the conference I’d grow stronger for some things he had in mind. Then you two showed up and he got nervous.”

Something about that grabs Sam’s attention. “Wait, Marcus knows who we are?”

The tulpa answers, “Yes, as soon as Becky introduced you. He was able to keep a lot from me, but if he was very emotional things leaked through.”

“Is there anything else you can tell us about him? I don’t want to leave that fucktard out there to hurt anyone else.” Dean says.

“He answers to someone else. He was promised a best seller if he could get me under control. I don’t know who his boss is. He worked hard at not thinking about it. Really his primary thought was glee about finally getting published and how many people he could lord it over and hurt.”

“How long did it take him to make you corporeal?” Sam needs to know, so he knows how long they have to find the guy before he tries again.

“I don’t know about the time I was in his head. My perception of time didn’t coincide with this reality. I guess I was an apparition for about six months. Marcus picked a campus setting because he knew someone would always be writing here. The first three days of the conference powered me up and that's when Marcus made me push that woman down the stairs.”

“Hey, guys. We have to get this wrapped up.” Becky shows them her phone display. “I’m getting texts that people are starting to gather back on campus. Unless that circle can withstand more writing.”

The candles are about half gone. Sam bought slow burning ones, but they are small and only last about five hours. He’s also got no idea if the circle will hold against the kind of force generated by a write-in. “It’s 7:30 now. That gives us an hour and a half. Dean, can you make a run to the comic store. I know that recently there’ve been some great female characters in comics and comics have some great stories about being heroes and making good decisions.”

“What are you going to do?” Dean asks.

“We.” Sam looks at Becky. “I figure you should be able to pull up hundreds of stories of good morals from fanfiction”

Becky’s grin says yes before her words do. “Definitely.” She pulls out her laptop and gets started.

He faces Dean. “I’m going to download classics from the internet and keep this circle closed.”

“Wait a minute.” It’s the tulpa. “Becky helped me with a name. It’s a combination of all your names. Call me Sabine.”

Sabine grins and it looks good on her. Sam notes the tiny dimples at the corner of her mouth and the pink blush on her cheek. She’s not over-the-top beautiful, but she’s very attractive.

Dean waves as he heads out the door.

Sam grabs a notepad to start scribbling the spellwork, it’s easier for him than doing it on a computer. While he’s thinking he opens the laptop to start searching up books and downloading them to a thumb drive. He starts with Plato, Socrates and Sappho.

As Dean turns the knob on the door, hears the tinkling of a bell announcing his entrance. There’s a green-haired clerk reading at the register and she waves a hand in Dean’s general direction. “Let me know if you need help finding anything.”

He may, but not yet. The store is long and narrow. The brick walls are filled with comics top to bottom. Near the register are glass display cases filled with CCGs that all comic stores seem to rely on these days for extra money. He bought Sam a pack of My Little Ponies as a joke last year. Sam had bought a bunch more and forced Dean to play the game with him. That was not a win for Dean..

He walks down the shelves grabbing titles he knows, Teen Titans, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Woman, and Supergirl. When he has a decent sized stack he takes them to the counter.

“Can you help me find a few more titles with female characters?” he asks.

“Sure,” the clerk says, She reaches behind her and hands him a book. “Something like this?”

Dean checks out the very hot, scantily clad Sleeping Beauty. “No, we definitely have too much of this. I’m looking for something female positive.” Dean feels the immediate need to wash his own mouth out with soap after saying it.

“Oh, okay.” She looks at Dean, doubt in her eyes, but goes to the back. He checks his phone. He’s got about an hour left.

“Do you need a box?” The clerk's voice drifts out to him from the back room.

Dean looks at his stack of fifty or so comics. “Yeah,” he shouts back. “That'd be great.”

The clerk comes out with the box and a stack of titles almost as large as Dean’s original one. Dean flips through them and there are a bunch he doesn’t recognize, but there are no half dressed women. He sees a lot of teenage girls and women of different races and cultures. “Aw, man, how could I forget about this one? Dean holds up a copy of Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

The clerk asks, “You read that?” Doubt is clear in her expression.

“Yeah It’s a classic.” Dean doesn’t add that it was close to the door at this shop he visited when he was ten so it was also easy to steal. Although, it gets almost everything about witches wrong.

The young woman rings him up and the credit card swipes with no problem. He hefts his box and turns to leave. The chime of bells follows him out of the store.

Sam’s got so many more questions he wants to ask Sabine, but they’re on a deadline. If it works, maybe he can swing back and do that some time.

“I’d be open to that, Sam.” Sabine says with a smile.

Okay, that’s all kinds of invasive. “You might want to not let people know you can do that. Humans aren’t comfortable having their thoughts read.”

“Oh,” she says. Her brows draw in and she goes quiet.

Sam checks the candles. They’re fine. He hits download for the next batch of books that include, The Diary of Anne Frank, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, To Kill a Mockingbird, and poems from Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath among others.

He’s almost got the spell right, at least as right as it can be before he tries it. The phrasing isn’t in the right order. Magic is a combination of intent, power and focus. The spell is a framework that gives those things meaning so it needs to be as clear as possible. He scratches out some words and rearranges them.

Becky sighs and stretches. He asks, “How’s it going?”

She looks over to him. “Really good, The drive is almost full. I posted a few places and told people what I needed. I’ve got a lot of hurt/comfort, because Sabine doesn’t know a lot about the latter.” She pauses. “Do you know what hurt/comfort means?”

“Seems obvious,” he replies. He knows, but Sam’s not sure he wants to answer any more of Becky’s questions along that line.

“I also asked for domestic fic and Avengers fic for the hero aspect. I specified no dark fic and minimal violence. I trust the people I asked to steer me in the right direction and then I added a bunch of things I know from my own bookmarks.”

Sam’s drive is almost full as well.

Dean walks into the room. Sabine gives him a little wave from her position on the floor.

Dean pulls up a desk and sets a box on it. He slaps the box and says, “Got the goods, Sammy. Are you two ready?”

Becky hands Dean her drive and seeing that the taskbar is full, Sam removes his drive and hands it to Dean as well. He also places the ingredients dish on the box.

“Give me your pocket knife,” he tells Dean. His brother looks puzzled. Before Dean can question him or have second thoughts, Sam nicks his finger and counts out the six drops of blood, three for the gathering, three for the sending. As he chants the spell colors swirl from the box and the drives, blues and greens and pinks, yellows and oranges. When the colors hover over their heads, Sam says the next part of the spell. The colors move through the circle breaking the binding and swirling around Sabine.

Sam grabs the bottle and holds it ready.

Sabine changes forms rapidly as the colors move around her. Sam recognizes Thor and a female Green Lantern. There’s a quick flash of what he guesses to be Anne of Green Gables from the period dress, and a sad Frankenstein. He catches quick images of himself and Dean, a black woman typing, and a hindu girl creating art. He hears a bit of jazz music, smells flowers and the colors make a rainbow for a few brief seconds. It’s beautiful.

Sam is thankful that Sabine doesn't seem to be in any pain. He wasn’t sure she wouldn’t be after the earlier display with Marcus. Her eyes are closed and her arms are spread out, The colorful swirls appear to absorb into her skin.

Next to him he hears Dean say, “Wow, gorgeous.”

Becky’s eyes sparkle and her smile is proud. Sam feels it too -- the hope that they are creating a power for good.

Slowly, the colors are absorbed and when the last spark vanishes, Sabine is back the way she seems to prefer. However her eyes are filled with tears and track marks salt her cheeks. Sam thinks he isn’t going to need the bottle.

“I had no idea.” she says. “There is so much good and beauty, amazing people who are strong and gifted and wise.”

Sam’s pretty sure his eyes are a little misty.

When he checks on Dean, his brother is wiping his face with his sleeve. “All those colors made my eyes water.” Dean says.

Sam chuckles and shakes his head. It’s not often they get a win like this.

“So do you plan to do better? Dean asks.

Sabine nods. “I can’t even imagine wanting anything else. You’ve made me stronger. You’ve given me so much more than the anger and hate Marcus fed me with. Now I can truly be a muse.”

“You already were.” All three of them look at Becky. “The seeds were there. You had some great ideas when we were talking about my writing. You only needed better stories to work with.

Sam doesn’t want to say this next part, but the reality is they have no idea if Sabine will continue on the right path. “Remember, you are tied to the university. At some point we might be able to free you completely but if there is even a whisper of you harming someone, I have this.” He holds up the bottle.

“Don’t make us use it.” Dean says.

Sabine disappears in a cloud of colors.

Dean turns to Sam. His eyes narrow. He reaches out and wipes the underside of Sam’s nose. “Sammy, this is blood.” Concern and accusation hold equal measure in Dean’s demeanor. He holds his finger up so Sam can see the dark red crust of dried blood.

Sam is not having this discussion right now. “Let’s talk about this later, okay?” He nods towards Becky. He turns his back to Dean and begins packing up. He tosses the candles and tucks away his purloined crucible. Dean grabs the box of comics and they all head out together.

At the top of the stairs Sam is hit with a dizzy spell and he grabs at the railing with his free hand. His foot almost slips, but he catches himself in time. Sam takes a couple of deep breaths and waits to feel steady. Dean’s a few feet ahead of him. He turns and lifts an eyebrow. An expression Sam understands to mean Is everything okay?

Sam hurries to catch up and hopes Dean doesn’t figure out what’s really going on, but his brother is far from dumb. Dean always knows when he’s hiding something even if he doesn’t know what it is.

When they get to the lobby people are milling around and chatting. Dean scans the crowd to see if Marcus was dumb enough to come back, but he doesn’t see him.

“Well, I guess this is goodbye,” Becky says.

If you had told Dean that he would someday think of Becky as a partner and not a hindrance on a case, he would have laughed in your face, but she’s been amazing.

“You’ve got our number if you spot anything wrong, right?” Sam asks.

“I do. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I don’t see either of you again.”

Dean’s a little taken aback. She was helpful and held herself together well.

She continues. “Before I knew better I thought your lives would be exciting and adventurous. I guess I never believed things were like the books. They were just stories. After Chuck disintegrated my family, I wished with everything I was that I’d never heard of Supernatural.”

“Wait,” Sam says, “Chuck did what?”

“He showed up one day wanting me to stroke his ego, and then he told me he’s God. I didn’t believe him. He got mad and made my family disappear.” She says it like she’s talking about grocery shopping, but Dean knows it’s a cover for something she will never get over. Humans are good at
compartmentalizing trauma. He does it all the time. “I don’t want that kind of trouble in my life. I’m glad you're out there and I’ll sleep better knowing that, but I’m happy with my husband and kids, and writing stories. It’s good.”

Dean understands. Sometimes he imagines leaving the life, especially when his knees pop in the morning or he needs a drink -- or ten -- to get to sleep, but he knows hunter is the cloth he was shaped from and the life that fits him best.

Looking at Sam and the melancholy smile he directs at Becky, he knows Sam sometimes thinks about what else he could be doing, but there’s a glimmer of surety growing in Dean, as the months pass and Sam keeps choosing him, that he can let go of the notion that Sam is going to kick him to the curb and set up house with a cat lady and her three kids. Maybe he spends too much time thinking about what else Sam could be doing instead of trusting what is right in front of him.

“We wish you well Becky.” Sam puts out his hand, but he gets an armful of Becky as she stretches up to give him a hug. Sam hugs back.

When she lets go, she turns to Dean. He braces for the hug, but she puts out her hand. “Be well, Dean.”

He shakes her hand. “Don’t forget if something happens, we’re only a couple of hours away.

Becky’s eyes suddenly widen. She points down the hallway and says, “Uh… guys I think something’s happening right now.

Dean grabs his knife and spins around to see a small group of bunnies hopping out an open door. They have tags around their necks with words on them. Dean asks, “What's M-P-R-E-G?

Becky and Sam say together, “You don’t want to know.”

“Oh, I get it.” Becky says. “ Looks like Sabine isn’t wasting any time.”

Sam turns a questioning gaze on Becky the same time that Dean does.

Her grin is bright and she looks amused as she says, “They’re plot bunnies.”

Sam notates everything they learned about thought forms in his journal. He’ll go back later and scan it. It’s not efficient, but he likes the feel of pen on paper, the way it connects him to his dad, his grandad and generations of hunters like them.

Dean wanders in with two beers, Miracle padding behind him. He hands one to Sam. Then he pulls out a chair and props his feet on top of the table.

Sam expects Dean to bring up the bloody nose, tell Sam that the cost is too great.

Instead Dean sips his beer and says, “What are you working on?”

Relief sits side-by-side with disappointment. He’s relieved Dean isn’t going to bring it up and disappointed that he doesn’t get to use his well crafted arguments. He supposes they’ll keep. It’s not like he plans to stop using magic and sooner or later they’ll have to talk about it.

“So, I’ve been thinking,” Sam says. Dean tilts his head, a signal for Sam to continue. “We would have been screwed when I couldn’t get that bird’s head for the banishing spell.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t rely on magic so much.” And, there it is. Dean’s a sneaky bastard.

“It’s not just magic. The scan project is coming along, but even if we both did it full time, we wouldn’t finish in our lifetime. Imagine if we could reliably look up the right weapon and have it fedexed overnight to us? Or, know in seconds on our phone what would kill a rock troll.”

Dean leans forward, elbows on the table. And rotates his empty bottle in his hands. “Hmmm, you’ve got a point. The C4 worked great though.” A huge grin spreads across Dean’s face. He does love explosions.

“Look, this isn’t easy for me Dean. Last time this bunker was full of hunters I got everyone killed.”

“Sam, that wasn’t your fault.”

Sam’s never going to stop feeling like it was even if logically he knows better. Still, it’s nice to hear Dean say it. “I’m not saying we should advertise in the paper or anything, but maybe we find the MOL chapter houses or something like them and get them up and running. Find hunters to staff them and start organizing a system that will outlive us. I hate to think that if something happens to us, this bunker and all the knowledge it holds might sit unused forever.”

“Can we get a tank?”

Sam doesn’t roll his eyes, but it’s a near thing. “Sure. You find a place to store it and we can get a tank.”

“Sounds like we got work to do.”