II. Preliminary Heats

chapter six

Boeing 767
Somewhere over the Atlantic

Sam Polanski had had severe migraines since he was four years old. His mom had whisked him off to doctors, therapists, hypnotists, and acupuncturists until he got older and learned how to control the headaches on his own. He recognized his triggers (smoke and grape bubble gum were really bad ones) and could tell when the debilitating pain was threatening to hit.

So the explosion of light and pain and Jackson Pollocky imagery that crashed into his head as soon as his seatmate spoke his name was a quite a shock. He felt his body quaking uncontrollably and the pinpoints of light became cascading fireworks. This was going to be bad. A hand planted itself against his chest and he bucked against it. A tissue came up and pressed against his face. Suffocation? Nosebleed. Shit.

He would have thanked someone when he felt a telltale pinch in his arm, but welcomed darkness descended too fast.

He woke slowly, feeling muzzy-headed from whatever he'd been dosed with. He knew he should be worried about passing the blood test since his first swimming comp was on Day 2, but all he could think about was what the images that had assaulted his brain had finally coalesced into. A stuttering filmstrip with black streaks and ragged tears. A boy. Blond and laughing. A man. Tall and smiling. Fire. Yelling. Crying. "I want Dean!" "I'll take care of you now, son. Your dad and your brother died." "Call me mom." "That's the Big Dipper, Sammy. See how it looks like a cup with a handle." "You listen to Dean while I'm gone, okay? Be a good boy, Sammy." "I'm your mom now." "Here, Sammy, you can have my milk."

Oh, God.

Memories. Dean. Winchester. Daddy. Sammy.

He thought he hated the name Sammy. His mom had called him that once.

The resultant migraine had landed him in the hospital.

"You're supposed to be getting more color in your cheeks, not less."

Sam forced his eyes open. They were sticky, sore. He looked up at a man who was staring down. "What?"

"I'm Dr. Michaels, Sam. Let me get your blood pressure, okay?"

"What happened?" He looked around. He was no longer in the seat beside Dean. "Where am I?"

"On a plane," the doctor said cautiously, then smiled when Sam gave him a dirty look. "Okay, you pass the awareness test. You're in the crew quarters recovering from a kick ass migraine. Must've hit an air pocket or something and knocked your system for a loop."

It was more along the line of "something" and it had knocked his memory for a loop. How the hell had he forgotten about his brother and his father? Why had his mom lied? Why had he believed her when she said they'd died? Yeah, he knew he was adopted. Knew in the back of his head that there had been a life before Arizona. Was that the key to the migraines? Was it the repression of—of what? Of being kidnapped? Stolen? Did Dean and Dad know? Had they searched the country for him? Was there a milk carton out there somewhere with his name and picture?

"Hey! You getting another spike?" the doctor asked anxiously.

"Nah, the medication just leaves me a little fuzzy at first. The pain's just a dull throb. Typical."

"That's good. We're gonna land in London for refueling in a bit. Why don't you stay back here until then?'

Sam nodded. "Can I have some company?"

The doctor snorted. "I don't think the crew would appreciate you fooling around in their quarters."

"Not that kind of company," Sam said quickly, his face coloring. "Just want to talk to a friend on mine. The guy who was sitting next to me earlier. It'll keep me from thinking about my head."

Dr. Michaels agreed and five minutes later, Dean shuffled through the tiny door. "When you said you got migraines you weren't kidding, were ya?"

Sam smiled. "They're usually not quite that dramatic. Sorry ‘bout that."

Dean shrugged. "Hey, I haven't thought about being 35,000 feet in the air since you went all floppy." He moved a blood pressure cuff out of the way and sat down. "Until now, that is."

Sam stared at him, having a sudden thought. Was this his Dean Winchester or just someone with the same name? Maybe it was coincidence or karma that this man reminded him that he had a brother (a father, a different life). But maybe this was his brother. He had to know, but he couldn't just come out with, "I'm your brother, the one you forgot about or lost or was lied to about or whatever." No, he needed to be all stealthy about it, do an investigation of the situation. Like he was preparing for a tricky legal case. He had to be both "Law" and "Order". If he could ever get out ER, that is. "Since I'm stuck here for a while, you could distract us both by telling me something about yourself. I mean, you already know about Jess. What about you? Have any family? Girlfriend? Wife? Children?"

"No to the girlfriend, and hell-to-the-no to the wife and children," Dean replied with a cringe. "I think it's sweet you have your bride all picked out, but that's not for me, man."

"So, no family?"

"My dad."

So if this Dean was his Dean, then Dad was still alive. Sam felt a tension relax that he didn't even know he had. "Any brothers and sisters?"

Dean cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Had a brother once... He died."

Died? Really? Had everyone been told the same lie in different forms? Two dead brothers and a dead father—and all alive and kicking. Wow. Forget starring in other shows. He was involved in his own little mini-series.

And, yes, his mom had told him TV would rot his brain, thank you very much for asking.

"You gettin' ready to take another header?"

He jerked his head toward Dean and realized he had a slightly crazed grin on his face and was probably looking a bit spaced out. He was certainly making an impression on his maybe big brother. And it wasn't a good one. "Sorry, man. I used to have a brother, too. Did he get sick or something?" The only mental picture he had of Dean was that of a child. From a child's point of view. Questions were the only was he was going to get the information he needed.

"Fire in a crummy motel outside of El Paso, Texas. My mom died in a fire, too."

Fire. Fire was good. He remembered fire. "Oh, man, I'm so sorry."

"Shit happens." Dean rolled his shoulders like he was tense. "Got an Uncle Bobby."

Uncle Bobby? More flashes. Piles of cars. Hide and Seek. Dogs. A baseball cap?

"I went to stay with him when I went to college. Haven't left yet."

"College?"

"South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Go Hardrockers," he added dryly.

"Hardrockers? Seriously?"

"Seriously."

"Guess being Cardinals ain't so bad," Sam muttered. "Thought you said you were a mechanic?"

"I am. I work on performance engines."

"Cool."

"Yeah, it is. So's my car. A ‘67 Impala."

"Black," Sam said as another memory appeared. This had to be his Dean. Why else would so many things match?

Dean cocked an eyebrow. "How'd you know that?"

"Um, you look like you'd have a black classic," Sam scrambled to say. There were other things he had to check out before he let Dean in on their shared past. Like his mom's involvement in all this. Was it a kidnapping? Or did she really think his family was dead? And what about the adoption? Was it legal at all? Speaking of legal, could his mom go to jail for this? Should she go to jail for this? What the hell was this anyway? And was there actually a "this" to be worrying about? Might just be one hell of a mix-up with no malicious intent.

Sure.

"What about you, Pole? Got any brothers or sisters, other than the one you used to have?"

"I'm adopted so it's just me and Mom. She wanted to come with me to Athens, but a few years back, she broke her knee and now it won't tolerate these airlines seats for such a long trip. Your dad coming?" Our dad. He was sure of it now.

Dean shook his head. "He doesn't even know I'm on the team." He gave a rueful smile. "I'm not sure he even knows there is an Olympics."

"He doesn't know?"

"I haven't seen him in what? Seven years? I used to call him but like with women, when you get voicemail every time and no one calls you back, you pretty much know you've crashed and—I mean, struck out."

"That sucks." Just what kind of person was his dad?

Dean rubbed at his knee. "I don't blame him. We just—after my brother died, things changed. He didn't trust me and, well, what good is anyone if you can't trust them?"

Sam's pained brain tried to figure it all out. "Your brother died and so your father didn't trust you?"

"I was supposed to be looking after him."

"So this happened recently?" Damn it, no. This had to be his brother.

"Nah, it was a while back. He was four and I was eight."

"Then it couldn't have been your fault," Sam argued, starting to hate a father he could barely remember.

"To-may-to, to-mah-to," Dean sang wearily. "And how the hell did we get into this chick-flick conversation anyway?"

Sam took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His head couldn't take another explosion. "If it makes you feel any better, I'm not exactly listening to what you say, just that you're saying it. A distraction, remember?"

"Yeah. Wanna hear the story about how I became an Olympic-level shooter. It all started in a parking lot and a guy with hair so red, you look around for a bucket of water to put it out..."

Sam closed his eyes and smiled. Yeah, he wasn't sure of how any of this had happened but this was his Dean. Because if there was one thing he remembered clearly was that Dean always told the best stories.


chapter seven

Olympic Village
North of Athens, Greece

"I feel like an idiot."

Sam snorted at his brother. They were alone in the tiny apartment he'd been assigned to, his three swim team roommates having already left. Because he'd had to be checked over by the doctor after they arrived, Sam was running late. "I take it this isn't your usual style of dress?"

Dean folded his arms and glared at him. "Hell, no. The last cap I had on my head was a John Deere one and as awful as that was, this is worse." He eyed the blue cap and red 04 with such extreme disdain that Sam couldn't contain his laughter anymore.

"Dude, it's a hat," he said between gasps.

"And a jacket with short sleeves. How useless is that? And a red shirt. Could it scream target any more than it does? And nobody better say a damn word about my steel-toed boots. I'm keeping my boots, you hear me!" Dean shouted to the world in general before recommencing his pout. "I thought the uniform I had to shoot in was bad, but at least it has a purpose—so they tell me. Although I've been shooting in flannel and jeans forever and never needed any ‘protective garments.' Wussies."

"If you're so offended, don't march in the Opening Ceremonies." Dean muttered something and Sam leaned over to hear better. "What was that?"

"I said I promised Bobby and Jim I'd do it and take pictures for them."

"Jim?" The name sounded familiar.

"Pastor Jim. He's an old friend of the family."

Pastor Jim. Wooden church and a white house behind it. Playing marbles on his front porch. The memories were rushing back now, as if a dam had been removed. "Steel-toed boots aside, you're just an old softie," Sam exclaimed, amused to discover that when Dean griped the most, he was trying to hide his more ‘fluffier" feelings. "Why if you had to shoot at bunnies instead of targets, I bet you'd never even made it here."

No reply but an improperly positioned finger.

Sam really liked having a brother.

"You doing okay?" Dean eyed him judiciously and scowled at Sam's cap the same as he had his. "Should you be walking around in this heat? Your first competition is the day after tomorrow, right?"

Sam was pleased that Dean remembered when the Men's 200M Freestyle heats were. As soon as the plane had climbed up in the air from their fuel stop in London, there had been air turbulence. Dean hadn't wanted to be sedated so Sam had talked and talked, about his swimming schedule and his courses at Stanford and even some drivel about The Supreme Court. He'd thought Dean had been too scared to really listen, but it seemed he'd underestimated his brother. "I've been cleared for practice tomorrow, so I'm sure it's okay for me to stroll into a stadium tonight and merely wave to the crowd and cameras. And I'm from Arizona. This ain't heat to me."

Dean nodded and adjusted his cap with disgust. "Well, come on then. Time to get this show on the road."


Athens Olympic Sports Complex
Athens, Greece

Three days later, Sam was looking back on the march fondly. At least something had gone right in Athens, because swimming hadn't. Freestyle had sucked. Or more accurately, Sam had sucked at freestyle. He hadn't even survived the first heat. Dean had taken him out to a taverna for a drink, patted him on the back and said he'd do better in the backstroke the day after tomorrow. Sam had rolled his eyes, told his secret brother that as a soothsayer, he shouldn't give up his day job, and slung back the ouzo.

Thankful that his hangover hadn't lasted any longer than it had, Sam was feeling quite confident that he was gonna suck at the backstroke, too, but hey, he'd made it to the Olympics and there were a lot of poor suckers back in the U.S. that were still only dreaming about an opportunity like this. But, lo and behold, Dean apparently was a psychic. Because not only did Sam qualify for the semi-finals in the 200M backstroke, he made it to the final as well. He was in the top eight swimmers of the world. The thing that had him shaking his head for the rest of the day was that he hadn't even noticed how fast he'd been swimming. That morning, during his first heat, right before he slid into the water to get into his starting stance, he'd looked out and seen Dean sitting in the seats, and when Dean saw he had Sam's attention, he'd given him two big thumbs up and an eyebrow waggle. Sam had been laughing when he started the swim and had continued the laugh after he found out he was second in the heat.

Sam had had lunch with his team, talked strategy with the coach, watched some of the other competitions, then walked to the edge of the pool for the semi-final. He scanned the crowd, which was bigger than for the earlier heats, and thought that maybe Dean had left. But no, there he was, raising a large, tacky, foam number one finger.

And Sam laughed his way to a fourth place finish.

After he'd changed into street clothes and ducked all the congratulations of his teammates, he walked out of the Olympic Sports Complex and found Dean shooting the bull with a handful of other athletes. Dean saw him and excused himself. "Well, if it isn't Mr. ‘I'm Not On Track For A Medal.' You were smokin' in that pool, man."

"Trust me, that's not my usual competition M.O. Coach says I get too lost in my head when I'm in a competition, too busy psyching myself out or something."

"You seem to have overcome that."

"Because I was laughing at you. Where in the world did you find a foam finger?"

"Gift shop. Gave it to this little kid when I left."

"I was so busy thinking about you, I forgot to get anxious about the swim."

Dean batted his eyelashes. "Oh, baby, that's so sweet."

Sam deliberately shoved his shoulder into him. "You know what I mean, asshole."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Bipolar much?"

"Look, I just wanna say thanks, okay? You had dinner yet?"

A cocked eyebrow. "You offering?"

"Yeah."

"Okay," Dean said with a shrug. "But we won't be out for long. You need to get to bed and dream of sea monkeys or something."

Sam couldn't remember ever laughing so much.

Less than twenty-four hours later, Sam was laughing again. It was time for the final swim and he eagerly searched the nearly capacity crowd for his brother. He finally spotted him waaay up in the stands with three or four women on either side of him. When Dean noticed him this time, Dean gave him a thumbs up. Then he and the girls around him stood and did a horrible Rockettes impersonation, kicks in every direction but the one they were supposed to go. Then Dean held up a sign that said in crooked letters, "Pole Dancers."

Sam wondered if they were sober.

He was still wondering when he touched the wall in the number three position. A bronze. He'd won an Olympic medal!

Sam didn't remember much about the hours after that. Greeks took celebrating seriously and winning an Olympic medal was cause for maximum celebrating. However, he did remember hugging Dean and telling him the medal belonged to him.

"You won it for me, man. You and ya ladies. They here, man?"

Dean had smiled. "‘Round here somewhere. Nice girls here in Greece."

"Dude, you're sober," Sam accused.

A shrug. "I never drink forty-eight hours before a hunt—a competition."

"Ahhhh. Blood testes—testica—"

"Something like that. Ready to catch a cab back to the Village?"

"Gonna put me to bed, huh? You a good big brutha, Dean." He gave him another hug.

Dean had just muttered something about him being an affectionate drunk. And the rest just became part of the blur of the night.

But in the morning, he found himself semi-undressed, with water and aspirin beside his bed. And posted across his door was the "Pole Dancers" sign.

It was the hangover that made his eyes water.


chapter eight

Olympic Village
North of Athens, Greece

"So, are we on our way to see your man-crush?"

Sam turned and waited for Rain Summers to catch up with him. He and Rain had been in the same Stanford freshman orientation group and between the facts that they were both pre-law and swimmers, they'd become best friends. When they'd both made the US Olympics team, they'd had a party that left reprimands on their school records. "What are you going on about, Rain?"

"From what I've heard, you and a certain buff member of the Shooting squad have been inseparable since you met on the plane over here. So what? You batting for my team now?" Rain was an out and proud lesbian.

"What? No. It's complicated, Rain. I mean, like, really complicated." He continued to walk, albeit at a slower pace because his normal stride doubled hers. She was right about one thing; he was indeed on his way to catch the bus to the Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Center, which was thirty-seven kilometers away from the Olympic Village, where all the athletes stayed. To say it was quite a commute would be an understatement. But today was Dean's first competition and he was determined to be there for his brother like Dean had been for him. "Besides, it's not like I've been ignoring you. I was at your final last night. Fifth is not bad. The 800M is a long one."

"Yeah, yeah," she said impatiently. "So back to the topic at hand: complicated as in ‘my sexuality is taking a hit' or as in...?"

"He's my brother."

Rain stopped him with a tug on his elbow. "Whoa! Brother as in—"

"Same mother, same father." Sam sighed and plopped down on a nearby bench. "I told you I was adopted, right?" Rain nodded and sat beside him. "But I think...I'm pretty sure now that Mom stole me. My father, brother and I were at a motel and there was a fire. Mom rescued me and told me that my family was dead. But they weren't."

"Maybe she assumed they—"

"No. I went down to the internet café last night and pulled up the newspaper records for the time and the area—which I got from Dean. The records say that three people were assumed dead in the fire—the couple who was cooking meth in the room beside ours and a four-year-old boy named Samuel Winchester."

"And you remember being Samuel Winchester."

He nodded. My name is Sammy Winchester. I am four years old. I have the bestest big brother and his name is Dean. He knows everything!

"So you think your mom intentionally amber-alerted you and your real family thought you were Kentucky-fried. What does your potential sib think?"

"I haven't told him."

Rain frowned and scratched at her bare leg. Sam figured she was reacting to the chlorine in the pool. It was different from what they were used to in the pools back in the States. "Is there any particular reason why you're playing all ‘mystery of the week' with him?"

"I've asked around. He's a medal contender." He hadn't really had to ask. Someone with Dean's confidence had to be good at what they did. "I don't want to drop all this in his lap and pull his head out of the game, you know? Not after all the help he gave me. It can wait. If he thinks I'm just some lovesick puppy, like you apparently do, at least he hasn't called me on it. But I think he feels our connection, and although he doesn't know what it is, he's content to let me hang around until he can figure it out."

Rain pondered that for a moment. "What about your parents?"

"Mom, my real mom, died in a fire when I was just a baby. Dad's still alive and kicking, but it seems he and Dean have parted ways. Dean seems to think Dad blames him for my death. I hope not." He sighed, then frowned. "God, my mom has some explaining to do. I've called her every night I've been here, and it's been fucking difficult not to bring this up, not to scream at her about why she did this to me, to my family."

"Could she...maybe...Your mom's a social worker, right? Maybe she was trying to protect you or something," Rain offered.

"Yeah, I thought about that. Especially since I think my dad is some kind of asshole. Who blames an eight-year-old for a four-year-old's death? Who the hell leaves an eight-year-old in charge of a four-year-old in the first place?" he huffed. "That's why I don't want to get into this with Mom now, not when I'm not sure of anything. I just wanna go and support Dean like he did me and take the rest of it day by day. That's the only thing I'm sure of—Dean is my brother. It's there in his eyes, his laugh, his smile. I remember them, Rain. I remember him."

Rain bumped his shoulder gently. "Man, when you say complicated, you really mean it, don't you?"

"Yeah. Remind me of this when I'm bitching about having a paper due and an exam on the same day."

"I'm not particularly fond of people who make my problems look petty," she noted dryly.

"Good thing I see my bus coming down the road." He stood and adjusted his athlete ID so that the bus driver could see it clearly.

"Hold up. I'm still coming with you."

"Why?"

She rolled her eyes and sighed. "I'm your friend, you idiot. Just because you annoy me doesn't mean I'm going to let you brood by yourself. Although, I don't know why I'm still your friend, considering how you ditched me at the Opening Ceremonies to stroll in with your brother."

"Rain, I'm sor—"

"Of course, back then I thought he was your new boy toy and, like, who needed a third wheel—especially a lesbian one. Now, I wish I would've barged in. Me walking in on the arm of a hunk like that would've blown a lot of people's minds."

"Hunk? Are you sure you're gay?"

"Even diabetics look at candy every now and then."

"At least you didn't use vegans and meat."

She laughed as they climbed on the bus. "Listen to you, gutter mouth. You sure you aren't batting for my team?"

"I didn't mean—I—" Sam stopped, feeling his face turning red. "I'm not talking to you anymore."

"Yeah, you are," she stated confidently.

And of course he did.


Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Center
South of Athens, Greece

"So what are we watching?" Rain asked as she and Sam sat down.

"Rapid fire pistol. There are five targets 25 meters away and the competitor has to shoot at each target in three different time intervals—eight seconds, six seconds, then four seconds. Scoring is a lot like a dart board—the closer to the center, the more points you get. They add up all the scores and the top six go to the final and all the shots are four seconds."

"Ah, the internet is our friend," Rain said knowingly.

"I didn't want to seem like a complete idiot," Sam said, defending himself. "Tomorrow's competition is even more confusing. It's the three-position rifle. He shoots lying on his stomach, then kneeling, and finally standing. According to Dean, it can be really slow. He says Bobby always brings Sodoku when he watches the rifle competitions."

"Bobby?"

"Our uncle. Dean lives with him."

"Why?"

Sam shrugged. "I don't have all the details yet. I've barely known him for a week."

"But you like him."

"Yeah, I do. He's...fun, but controlled, and I get the impression that it doesn't have a thing to do with him being four years older. I think Dad was hard on him after I supposedly died."

"He looks confident." Rain gestured to the other competitors. "Everyone else seems to be fidgeting, raising and lowering their guns, but he's just standing there."

"He can be incredibly focused and patient. I noticed that when we landed at the airport. Everybody else was going this way and that, trying to find the fastest moving customs line, me included. Then he grabbed my elbow and pointed to a line. We stayed there and got out long before a lot of other people who were on our flight. I asked him how he knew which line and he said he just took a minute to study pattern flow. Pattern flow." Sam just shook his head in disbelief.

"Maybe he's doing the pattern flow thing with the targets," Rain guessed. " And why doesn't he have on one of those shield thingies like everyone else?"

"They're called blinders. They help most people focus on the target. Dean says they're for wusses." Actually Dean said "pansy-assed bitches", but Sam edited it because he didn't want Rain to form an opinion about Dean until after they met. "He says in his world the only thing a blinder would be good for was maybe a distraction, that the things he hunted would be laughing so hard he could shoot them before they recovered."

"He hunts?"

"Apparently big game. Dad and Bobby are hunters, too."

She glanced at him. "You ever go hunting?"

"Yeah. At the flea market with Jess." They both laughed, then sobered as the competition began.

-:- -:- -:-

"Congratulations, man, on making it to the medal round," Sam said as Dean joined him and Rain after qualifying. Dean was in third place, less than two full points behind the leader.

Dean shrugged. "Nothing to it, dude. Who's your friend?" Sam made the introductions and Dean snorted. "Rain Summers. You divorce your parents yet?"

Rain grinned. "It's actually Rainbow Summers."

"It is?" Sam chorused along with Dean.

"And I haven't disowned my parents, but I did turn out to be a lesbian, so maybe they got the message."

"Honey, they named you Rainbow. I think you're the one who got the message," Dean quipped.

Rain looked at Sam. "I like him. He didn't even blink when I said the ‘L' word. Aren't you gun-types supposed to be offended that I don't want you?"

"I'm offended by your prejudice. Just because I'm straight..." Dean sniffed dramatically. Then he grinned and Sam had a flashback to he and Dean at one of those "move the crane to choose your prize" machines. He'd wanted that bear so badly, and he'd clapped when Dean got it. And Dean had grinned just like that. "Hey, Earth to Pole. You okay, man?"

Sam startled. "Yeah. Just taking a vacation since you and Rain decided to start your own comedy hour."

"This is what I have to put up with everyday." Rain shoved him slightly.

"You from Stanford, too?"

"Yep. Ran into the biggest goddamn puppy dog during Orientation Week and decided to keep him."

"Pole the Puppy. Nice alliteration there, girl. You a swimmer, too?" he asked, eyeing her athlete's I.D.

Rain nodded. "Breast stroke." She paused, obviously waiting for a response.

"So not going there," Dean murmured.

"Thank God," Sam agreed. "Let's go find something to eat. Oh, you can eat, can't you? I mean, some athletes don't eat right before a comp--"

Dean laughed. "Trust me, I can eat anytime anywhere. There's a taverna near here you have to try. The owner gives free dessert if you clean your plate."

As they left the shooting arena, a woman brushed past Dean. "Very impressive, Dean," she said in a heavily accented voice. "You will come see me be impressive, also?"

"I'll be there, Karina." Dean waved and watched her walk away. She was curvy in a way many American women steadfastly refused. "She rides horses," Dean said breathlessly.

"I bet she does," Rain said in the same breathless tone. "Want some company when you go watch her ride?"

"What was I thinking when I let you two meet?" Sam muttered, pleased as punch that his best friend and his brother were getting along.

"Sam never talks girls with me," Rain said with a pout.

"You got a type?" Dean asked, rolling his eyes at Sam. "I like ‘em busty myself."

"Long legs," Rain tossed out and looked questioningly at Sam.

"Um," he said.

He quietly followed the laughing duo out of the building, startled by the joy he was feeling. He hadn't grown up unhappy, but this was way different, deeper and all-encompassing—and totally beyond his vocabulary to describe.

Dean was even more impressive during the final later that day, ending up with a nearly perfect score and the gold medal. Leaving Rain to chat with a guy who was from her hometown of Flint, Michigan, Sam went looking for Dean after the medal ceremony. He found him talking to a reporter.

"How does it feel to win the gold medal?" the reporter asked.

"Feels pretty good." Dean graced the camerawoman with a smile that had her inching just a little closer. He fingered the medal draped around his neck. "Um, this is for my Uncle Bobby. He gave me the courage to try. And I know a certain movie character says there is no try, but Yoda got it wrong. Try is just as important as do because, man, if you don't try, you can't do, you know? I tried and I did. Thanks, Bobby." He tapped his heart in the universal "love ya" sign. The reporter made some closing remarks, thanked Dean and the camerawoman slipped him a piece of paper.

"Shit, man, you hit five bulls-eyes in the time it takes me to blink," Sam gushed as he walked over to Dean. "Shall I bow at your feet? Which aren't in steel-toed shoes, by the way," he teased.

"Damn regulations. At least I could wear my sneakers." Dean reached up to remove the laurel wreath all winners were required to don.

"Friends, Romans, countrymen," Sam intoned.

Dean looked around to make sure there were no reporters nearby. "Fuck you." He grinned and tossed the wreath at Sam.

"All you needed was a toga, man."

"Was I this mean when you got your bronze, dude?"

"Seems I recall something about me looking like a tree and encouraging birds to nest up there."

Dean snickered then kicked him as they walked. Sam stumbled.

"Jerk," he muttered without any steam.

"Bitch."

Sam eyed Dean cautiously. "Tomorrow's your last competition?"

"Yep."

"When you headed back to the States?"

"Delaying the return flight as much as possible. I'm here until the Closing Ceremonies."

"Me, too. Wanna do some sightseeing?"

"Did that throughout the equestrian events. And beach volleyball." Dean paused and widened his eyes dramatically. "Did I tell you I love beach volleyball? It's like mud wrestling, with less mud and more skin."

Sam sighed. "Not that kind of sightseeing. I mean, we're here in Greece. The Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus—"

Dean threw out an accusing finger. "You're a geek, aren't you? I knew it! You hang out with cool people like Rain, but you're just a geek at heart. Speaking of, why aren't you asking Rain to go sightseeing with you?"

"She's outta here tomorrow. Her sister's getting married so she needs to get home."

"Sister getting married, my ass," Dean charged. "I bet she knows you're a geek and that's why she booking out of here right before geek tourist season."

"Well, if you don't want to go with me—"

"Did I say that? Since this is the only time I'm going to be here, of course I want to see it all. Just gotta run an errand for Bobby first."

"An errand?" They exited the center and headed for the bus stop. There wasn't really much happening this far south of the city.

"Yeah. He sorta collects really old books. A friend up north has something Bobby doesn't trust the mail to handle."

"Up north?" Damn. He'd been looking forward to spending more time with Dean, maybe figure out a way to tell him they were brothers.

"The island of Thassos. It's in the northern Aegean. It's about seven hundred kilometers from here. That's what? Over four hundred miles away, so we're talking more than a day trip because, hell no, I'm not flying. Figured I'd take the train up to Kavala and then the hydrofoil to the island. Hydrofoils sound awesome."

"Don't they call them flying dolphins or something?" Double damn. Two days lost.

"Yeah. It's like the boats have jet skis so they glide over the water really fast. Then once I hit the island, I'm going to rent a motorbike."

"Sounds like fun," Sam said dejectedly.

Dean shrugged and looked at him speculatively. "Be more fun if a friend came with me."

Sam's eyes lit up, then dimmed. "I didn't bring that kind of money with me, man."

Dean grinned. "I did. A graduation gift from Bobby and Jim. I guess I'm like a favored godson or something."

"I'd say more like a spoiled son."

The stunned look that crossed Dean's face surprised Sam. It was obvious to him that Bobby was filling in for their dad. And doing a pretty damn fine job.

"Never considered that." Dean looked torn between confusion and embarrassment. "Anyway, how ‘bout it? Game for an adventure? I'm sure we'll pass plenty of places for you to get your geek on. I don't think you can walk a hundred feet in this country and not stumble on something historic. And that'll still give us plenty of time to come back here and visit the local attractions."

"If you're sure." Sam tried not to sound too eager. It wasn't like he was five years old or anything.

"All right." Dean pulled out his cell phone. "Let me call Calandra."

"Who?"

"This chick I met. She's a travel agent. Told her I'd probably have to do a little bit of travel while I was here and she told me she'd set me up real nice."

Sam shook his head. "Is there a woman within twenty miles of here that you don't know? ‘Cause don't think I didn't see that camerawoman slip you her number."

"All of us aren't blessed to have a hot chick waiting at home for us, Pole."

Sam blushed, thinking about the conversation he and Jess had had on the phone earlier, when it was still night in California. "So, we're picking up a book for Bobby. And you call me a geek."

"Since I've lived with one—a very cool one, however—for the past seven years, I definitely know one when I see one, wouldn't you agree?"

Sam shrugged. "At least I have a hot chick."

"Means your eventual offspring might have a fighting chance."

"And you're saying ‘eventual' as in many years in the future, right?" Sam paled, not even wanting to think about fatherhood. Not when he had doubts about his own father.

Who he had thought was dead.

"You do know safe sex is about more than just preventing disease, right?" Dean asked with a grin.

Sam bopped him on the head with the laurel wreath.


chapter nine

Larissa Railway Station
Athens, Greece

"Oooh, can I have your autograph, Mr. Winchester?" Sam asked in a fake high voice.

"Shut up, Sam."

"Nah, that ain't the way you said it. I think it was more like, 'call me, Dean, honey, and sure, I never turn down a request from hot babes'." This time his voice was lowered to a false bass.

"Dude, what was I supposed to do? Can't tick off the fanbase. Thanks to the basketball team, the U.S. already has an image problem."

"Should've thought about that before winning two—count ‘em—two gold medals. Maybe you'll even get a Wheaties box." Sam followed Dean as they boarded the train that would take them to Drama, where they would then take the bus to Kavala, the second largest city in northern Greece. It was a seaport on the Bay of Kavala and across from it was their destination—Thassos Island.

"I shoot guns, Pole. No way in hell I'm getting close to a Wheaties box. The day of the cowboy is long gone. And I'm pretty damn glad of it."

Sam was shocked, although he knew Dean didn't fit any hunter stereotype he knew. The guy didn't have anything against lesbians. He didn't listen to country music—he'd heard enough about that when someone in a taverna had put on Hank Williams. He thought using tobacco products was poor dental hygiene. But guns? The man had to be pro-guns, right? "What? You're not a card-carrying proponent of the Second Amendment?"

"Ninety-nine percent of the current population are morons, dude. Do I want them armed? No."

"But what about self-protection?"

"You don't protect yourself with an automatic assault weapon; you kill, pure and simple. I've been handling guns since I was six years old. I respect what they can do. I know that dead is dead; that the person I shoot will not be in next week's episode without even a scar. I know that to pick up a gun and aim it means that I want something dead. Using a gun is not an acceptable scare tactic. A gun is not a toy. These things were known back in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. If I thought everyone who owned a gun now knew all that, I'd have no problem with the second amendment. But guns have become a fashion accessory these days. And that scares the shit out of me."

"Wow," Sam said quietly as he shoved his backpack into an overhead compartment. "I don't think I'll ever figure you out, man."

"That's what makes me special," Dean replied with a smirk. Because trains remained on the ground, he took the window seat, leaving Sam the aisle and potential leg stretching room.

"Is that what they're calling it now?" The train lurched once as it pulled out of the station. The leg room was inadequate, but not as bad as he expected.

"You better be glad I'm still on the 'not an ugly American' kick."

"Anybody tell your face that?"

Dean rubbed his nose with a certain finger.

Sam ignored him and looked out the window. "You know, from a distance, those woods out there look just like the one where me and my friends hike back in California. I don't know why I assumed everything would look different."

"‘Cause when you read about Odysseus and his boys, you picture somewhere exotic or radically different."

Sam smiled. The way Dean thought of common things and ideas was...unique. "But if we were to get out and go up there, they probably would be exotic."

Dean nodded. "Sorta how I felt when I saw my first redwood. Biggest damn thing I ever saw. Felt the same thing when I saw you all sprawled in that airplane seat."

Sam laughed out loud, causing the person in front of him to halfway turn around. "You're comparing me to a redwood? Jeez, Dean, I'm only 6'5"; there are basketball players seven feet tall or more."

"So you're a puny redwood. It's alright, man. Size ain't everything."

Sam kicked at Dean's leg. "So what does that make you?"

"Never was a redwood to begin with, so I'm just an outstanding specimen of my genus."

"What genus is that? The humble tree?" Sam rolled his eyes, then grimaced as an elbow found its way into his side.

The attendant came by and offered them water because apparently not all visitors to the island were dealing well with the heat. Soon enough Sam grew bored again. "Thassos was colonized at an early date by Phoenicians because of its gold mines. Now the mining industry is mostly lead, zinc and marble," he said, apropos of nothing.

"Does Wikipedia know about you?" Dean asked dryly.

"It's also known for its beautiful beaches and exciting nightlife."

"Now we're talking. As soon as we meet up with this Sylvanus Konstantinidis, we're hitting the beaches or the nightlife. You can look at your ruins and temples tomorrow."

"Ruins and temples. Seems like I'm not the only one who's done some research." Sam tried not to sound smug.

"One thing you learn by being a hunter—never go in anywhere blind."

"What does that mean?"

Dean shrugged and adjusted his seat. "Know the topography of the land. Know the weather so you can dress properly. Know what's supposed to be there and what's not. Know what weapons you need and what weapons you might need. Have an exit strategy and a backup exit strategy."

Sam knew his jaw had dropped and didn't care. "What the hell do you hunt?"

"I'd tell ya, but I'd have to kill ya."

Sam started to laugh, then stopped. Dean's statement had been of the cliched secret agent variety, but—but Dean had shown other traits that mimicked a world spy's skills. He could shoot. He was cool under pressure. At the airport, he'd not only been focused, but aware. Even now... "How many people are in this car, Dean?"

"Sixty-five, sixty-six if you count the pregnant lady who looks like she could pop at any minute. Why?"

Sam could feel the tension ratchet up in Dean. He was definitely on alert. "Nothing. Just playing a game with myself—judging how observant I am."

Dean relaxed. "Yeah? What number did you come up with?"

"Fifty-seven," Sam tossed out.

"You were only counting the adults."

"Yeah, I guess." Damn. Who or what the hell was his brother? Spy? Terrorist? A member of a secret sect? "You get out of South Dakota much?"

"By the time I was sixteen I'd been to all of the lower forty-eight states at least twice."

"Wow. That's a lot of traveling. Your dad a salesman or something?"

"Or something. Look, man, I'm just not comfortable discussing my dad, okay?"

"Sorry. Guess I'm just bored," Sam hastened to apologize. "So, do you still travel a lot?"

"Shooting comps have me on the road quite a bit."

"Your employer doesn't mind?"

"Nah. It's good for business. Shooting is very macho and macho sells engines. Probably should be getting money from the advertising department just for making the Shooting team."

"And you still hunt?"

"When I can fit it into my schedule or someone needs backup."

Backup? For a hunt? And now they were going to pick up a "book" from "an old friend." Code words if he'd ever heard any. A militia group maybe? But didn't they advocate gun ownership? Secret government agency? Too "Alias"ish.

Sam had to laugh at his overactive imagination. Where was his copy of "Conspiracy Theories for Dummies" when he needed it? The train was definitely headed to the right place—Drama.

-:- -:- -:-

"Wake up, Pole."

"Huh?" He opened eyes he didn't know were closed. His fellow passengers were starting to stir. "Where are we?"

Dean glanced down at his watch. "About ten minutes out."

"Sorry I crashed on you." He grimaced when his apology was punctuated by a yawn. The party after Dean's second gold had lasted well into the night.

"It's cool. I crashed a bit, too."

Sensing a restlessness in his companion, Sam doubted that. Dean had nursed a single beer all night and hadn't even finished it. What had he said earlier? Something about he didn't drink before a hunt. Was this what the trip was? Was this a hunt? And how dangerous were these hunts? Sam shivered and faked it into another yawn. "Next up a bus, right? Feels like we're on The Amazing Race."

Dean grinned. "Olympics athletes Dean and Sam race around the world for one million dollars, huh? I could go for that."

"Except they find themselves at airports every episode."

"Except for that," Dean agreed.

"Jess is always talking about we should do it."

"Jess and Sam, the Dating Couple?"

"That even sounds boring, doesn't it?" Sam stretched and reached up for his bag.

"Considering we're discussing reality TV and not documentaries, I'd say yeah."

It was an accident that Sam's bag landed rather solidly in Dean's lap.


Thassos Town
Thassos, Greece

"Oh, man, that so made getting on a plane worth it." Dean practically danced down the gangplank as they disembarked from the hydrofoil onto the shore of Thassos Town.

"Admit it, dude. You're an adrenaline junkie." Sam laughed, feeling the rush the same as Dean.

"We need these in America. I'm gonna pack up Bobby and move him to the coast—any coast—and we're gonna start us a hydrofoil business. Better than a junkyard any day."

"Bobby runs a junkyard?"

"Salvage yard," Dean said in a lofty tone, then grinned. "Best workshop ever for an engine designer."

Designer? He'd gone from a simple mechanic to a mechanic on performance engines to a designer. He definitely needed to keep this brother of his talking. Before he could ask a leading question, however, they were interrupted by a curvaceous brunette.

"Dean Winchester?" she purred.

"Yeah, or anything else you'd like to call me," Dean replied smoothly.

"I'm Airlia, Calandra's cousin. I own the bike shop and I have my two best machines waiting for you."

"I'm sure you do." Dean grinned and held out his arm in a gentlemanly fashion. Sam, following behind, could've sworn he heard Airlia coo.

Sam was directed toward a large archaeological site a few blocks over from the bike shop while Dean "got directions" from Airlia. Apparently alcohol was a no on a hunt, but sex was acceptable. As soon as he saw the site, Sam forgot to care about what Dean was doing. It was an ancient agora which had the remains of a court flanked by colonnades that were decorated with statues and altars. He found it fascinating and was snapping photos when Dean joined him nearly an hour later.

"Everyone's real friendly here, aren't they?" Dean began.

Sam just shook his head. "Are you this much of a horndog at home or is this just an international thing?"

"Horndog? I'm just giving the audience what they want, Pole."

"Thought you were trying to erase America's bad image." Sam put away his camera as they started walking back toward the bike shop.

"Go ask Airlia if I left a bad image. I think I represented American men quite spectacularly. Look," he said, pointing to where Airlia was waving and smiling, totally ignoring the customer in front of her. "Dean Winchester—Satisfaction Guaranteed!"

"The size of your ego," Sam said with a snort. "It's a wonder that you hang around with guys with guns all day and haven't been shot. Or have you? Jealous boyfriends? Husbands?"

Dean shook his head. "Never with the marrieds. They...expect too much."

"What? Like settling down? You don't want that? I mean, eventually?"

They reached the two bikes Airlia had left out for them. "What I want doesn't mean a lot, Pole. Ever rode before?"

"Around the block on a friend's." He wanted to ask Dean what he meant about his wants, but he was starting to pick up on his brother’s body language and it was screaming for him to back off. He watched Dean start his bike and followed suit.

"We'll go slow. Good thing there's not much traffic."

"We know where we're going?"

"Airlia was very thorough in her direction giving." With a waggle of his eyebrows, Dean put on his helmet and took off.

Frowning as he stuffed his hair under his helmet, Sam followed.


chapter ten

Outside of Thassos Town
Thassos, Greece

After a few miles on the highway that ran along the perimeter of the island, Sam grew confident on the bike. As he watched the sea to one side of him and the verdant forest on the other, he felt like this was where he was supposed to be—on the road beside his brother.

He followed Dean onto an exit and then on smaller roadways until they stopped in front of a white stone villa that was set back a distance from the street. It was two stories and the second floor, reached by a set of narrow curving stairs, was ringed all around by a wide balcony.

Dean took off his helmet and waited for Sam to do the same. "Before we go in, I need to explain something. Bobby and his friends, well, they're involved in what we nowadays would call a role-playing game. Sorta like old-school Dungeons and Dragons without the board or the cards."

"Is it a sword and sorcery type of thing?"

"More like The Da Vinci Code meets the Scooby gang. Historical secrets and things that go bump in the night. Real intellectual shit. Anyway, they use real props so when they add in a witch's Book of Shadows or something, they actually create it—a virtual world that not so much virtual as it is make-believe. You get what I'm saying?"

"I should expect anything?"

Dean looked relieved. "Yeah, that's it. I just didn't want you thinking Bobby and his crew are freaks. They're just retro-geeks."

Retro-geeks. Good term. "It's fine, man. I played in a Harry Potter RPG once. They can get intense."

"Which character were you?"

Sam coughed. "Hermione Granger," he said quickly and nearly unintelligibly.

Dean nearly bent over double laughing. "I sorta figured you were a big ol' girl, Pole."

"Yeah, one who bitch-slapped the shit outta Draco Malfoy," Sam pointed out.

Dean grinned even wider. "You go, girl!" he cheered heartily.

"Bite me, jerk." Sam stomped off toward the villa.

"Oh, baby, don't be mad," Dean cooed between guffaws as he followed. He'd laughed so hard that by the time they started climbing the stairs to the front door, he was out of breath. "Guess we know ol' Syl ain't handicapped."

Dean rapped authoritatively on the door. The man who opened it had a shock of white hair, a huge moustache, and was most indubitably blind. Where his eyes should've been was just scarred tissue, wrinkled and thick. Sam bit back a snort as Dean shot him a look. He was soooo wrong about ol' Syl.

"Hi, Mr. Konstantinidis, I'm Dean Win—"

"Bobby's boys! Come in, both of you."

"Guess you should've specified what kind of handicap," Sam whispered as they stepped into the much cooler large living room.

Dean gave him the finger.

"Cheater." Wasn't it un-sportsmanlike conduct to make rude gestures in front of the blind?

Their Greek host gestured them toward the sofa. "I didn't know you were bringing your brother, Dean. How are you, Sam?"

Sam was taken aback. How could this man know who he was? And this definitely wasn't the way he wanted Dean to find out. "I'm fine, sir." He gave Dean a look that said, "See? I'm playing along like you asked me to." He hoped it worked.

"Bah! None of this Mr. Konstantinidis and sir business. Bobby is family, so you're family. Call me Syl like the whole island does. So did Bobby tell you why you're here?"

"To pick up a book?"

"A book? He actually called it 'a book'?" Syl said with a sneer. "After we have refreshments, I shall show you 'a book' then."

"We don't—" Dean began.

"Hmph! I can smell the Athens train on you. You rode long and with subhuman food. We shall go out to the balcony and you will refresh your bodies and your souls. Then we will discuss business."

They headed out another door that led to the backside of the house. Sam could only stop and stare. The view was gorgeous. He hadn't realized they were circling up a mountain as they rode toward the house. At this elevation, he could see over the woods and out onto the Aegean. A friend of Jessica's parents had one of those houses built on a cliff and they'd stayed there a few days as house sitters. The view there was nothing compared to this.

"I know you must be thinking this is wasted on a blind man. But I was not always blind and my memory, it is a thing of beauty. I know what you see. I hear the awe in your breathing. Are you not feeling better already? Come, our repast is ready."

Around the corner was a patio group—four chairs and a table that was set for three people. How had—Oh. Syl had already mentioned his heightened sense of smell and hearing. So he'd probably heard the two bikes stopping outside the house. Clever.

"You don't need to—" Dean began protesting again.

"Not a need but a desire, Dean," Syl gently corrected him. "Besides, I owe you. You have filled my pockets quite well these past few days."

"What?" Dean frowned, then smiled. "Oh. You bet on me in the Olympics, didn't you?"

"I did. Down at the taverna, some bet on our fellow countryman out of solidarity. Others bet on the Australian or the German, the two that were leading as you went into the finals. Me—I never changed my bet despite your two-point deficit. I thought to myself that you were pulling a hustle, baiting your opponents into underestimating you, and perhaps leading the ladies to champion an underdog, no?"

Dean chuckled while taking a big bite of his gyros. "Think what you want. A guy's got a right to his secrets."

Sam hoped Dean would remember that once he came clean about their relationship.

Dean waved the sandwich in the air. "This is good. You make it or you got a honey stashed away somewhere?"

Sam caught himself cringing because of Dean's less-than-tactful phrasing, but Syl just let out a great big laugh. "A honey? Is that what they call them now? Yes, I do have a lady friend and no, she did not make the gyros. You will meet Anna because you will be staying at her small inn while you are on the island."

"That's not necessary," Dean said quickly.

"You can stay with me if you like. But it is isolated here and Anna's is next to the new resort. Big swimming pools, little bikinis."

"Well, if you insist," Dean acquiesced graciously.

Horndog. Pure and simple.

After their meal (Sam wasn't sure what to call it; Greeks seemed to eat all day), Syl led them to a spiral staircase that led to the bottom floor of the villa.

"How is your Koine, Dean?" Syl worked on an extensive set of locks on a door just beyond the stairs.

"Better than my modern Greek."

What? Dean knew the version of Greek that was used back in the days of the Roman Empire?

"Bobby schooled you," Syl said knowingly.

"Better safe than sorry," Dean replied with a shrug, then he grinned. "He used flashcards."

Sam wondered if the conversation was part of the game Dean had described. An old school RPG sounded kinda fun. Maybe he'd tell Rain about it when he got home. A lot of her friends were bigger geeks than he was.

"That's got it," Syl exclaimed as the last lock tumbled opened. "In you go. The room's climate-controlled so we mustn't leave the door open long."

They stepped into the room and Sam sucked in the suddenly chilled air, not because it was cold but because of the shelves upon shelves of books the room contained.

"What you're hearing, Syl, is the sound of a geekgasm, which will end in said geek melting into a warm, gooey puddle of bliss. So please, watch your step."

Syl sealed the door. "Well, we practice safe-geeking around here, so grab a pair of gloves before fingering the books. You grab a pair, too, Dean. I want you to see my 'a book.'"

"Am I gonna have to tell Bobby you're not gonna forgive him?"

"Bah. I'm too old to hold grudges for long; I forget them after a while." Syl chuckled. Dean rolled his eyes as he met Sam's over the box of nitrile gloves.

After everyone was properly gloved, Syl gestured to Dean before he took a box from one of the shelves and laid it on the table. "Time to test your knowledge of Koine." Syl stepped back to let Dean open the box.

Sam tried to act like he was interested in the other titles, which he was. He was sure several of the tomes were first editions—unless they were re-creations for the RPG. But would fakes require climate-control? Still, as fascinating as the library was, he was more curious about the book that Dean would be taking with them.

"Let's see," Dean began as he lifted out a sheet of plastic containing...a leaf of papyrus? Or maybe a reasonable facsimile thereof because if it was real, it belonged in a museum and that would mean Dean and his friends were involved in black market relics and...No, Dean had said it was just a game and he had no reason to lie. Unless he actually was smuggling...

"Paul," Dean exclaimed. "This was written by Paul?"

Paul? Sam wracked his brain trying to remember a Paul that could evoke the disbelief he heard in Dean's voice. Paul McCartney maybe? Maybe it was a tell-all about Yoko Ono or something. And, yeah, he hated his mom was such a Beatles fanatic that he actually knew stuff like that. She bawled for days when Linda McCartney died and had even gone up to the vigil that was held in Tucson.

Hell, maybe he should've known his mom was screwy back then.

"It's from when he was imprisoned in Philippi," Syl was explaining to Dean. "Apparently it was hidden in the rubble after the earthquake and one of the guards found it and brought it home to the island."

Prison? Yeah, there'd been a drug charge, right? But was that in Greece? Philippi? Why did that sound familiar, other than reading it in the guide book? Ah, freshman semester. New Testament survey. The book of Philippians. Paul wrote to the church in Phil—Holy shit! That Paul? The Apostle Paul? No fucking way! But that was one of the miracles, right? Paul and Silas were in jail and God sent an earthquake and freed them or something. If they had an actual book of the Bible... Oh, man.

"This is a journal?" Dean said hesitantly, translating aloud as he lifted out more protected pieces of papyrus. "He writes about a dream. No, a vision. It's...This is an exorcism."

Exorcism? Sam almost laughed in his relief. Thank God. This was just part of the stupid game.

"Paul was imprisoned because he'd performed an illegal exorcism outside of Philippi, one on a little girl."

"I hear ya, Syl, but this isn't for some tiddlywinks playing, ordinary demon. This is for 'a darkness of the highest power.' We're talking some major mojo here."

"That's why I want this in Bobby's hands. He, all of you, will need it soon."

Sam watched Dean freeze, then look up at Syl. "You know something? Is Paul not the only one who had a vision?"

Syl nodded. "When I secured this journal, I became extremely arrogant, assured of my favor in the heavens because I had been granted the care of this document. And in my arrogance, I thought to call upon what was not for me to see. As Paul lost his sight, so did I. I did not regain my physical vision, but I was endowed with ethereal sight."

Oh, yeah, they were in fantasy land now. Sam was highly grateful.

"I'll make sure Bobby gets this."

"I know you will, Dean. You are important in the upcoming war."

Dean shrugged. "Learned to shoot for a reason, I guess."

"Guns are necessary in a war. But you and your family are more vital than that."

"My family? Yeah, right, whatever, Syl. Is this good to travel or do I need to rig something?"

"I have a case prepared. If you are going to be visiting the island for a day or more, I suggest you come back here right before you leave. It will be ready for you then."

A few minutes later, they were walking toward their bikes, Syl's directions to Anna's Inn fresh in their minds.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you my brother's name was Sam, too," Dean said as he lifted his helmet. "I didn't think that would matter here in Greece. Thanks for playing along. I didn't want to confuse the old man any further."

"It's okay." Sam tried hard to hide a shiver. He was pretty sure Syl hadn't been confused. For one, he'd called Sam by name before introductions were made. Maybe the exorcism crap had been part of the game, but there was something about Syl that said he hadn't been lying about the ethereal sight stuff. Creepy as hell. "Life certainly isn't ordinary around you."

"I know. I should've petitioned 'Extraordinary' to be my middle name."

Sam laughed and followed his brother down the road.


Anna's Inn
Thassos, Greece

"Up and at 'em, Sammy Sunshine!"

"Wah?" Sam tried to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth, but it was a losing battle. "Lemme sleep."

"No can do. Not gonna listen to you bitch about me keeping you from doing your geekly duty of seeing everything to be seen."

A pillow landed on Sam's head and with a sigh, and a lot of effort, he drew it away from his face. "Is it even mornin'?"

"Sun's up, birds are singing, and Anna's breakfast is wafting through the halls."

Yawning, Sam pulled himself upright. "Didn't we stumble in together in the wee hours of the dawn?" After checking in at Anna's, they'd gone over to the nightclub at the new resort. Once Sam had seen the long line to get in, he'd tried to turn around. But Dean had whipped on a pair of shades and strolled in like he owned the place before the bouncers could even think about turning him away.

"Yep."

"And didn't you drink as much as I did?"

"More. You're a lightweight."

"How come you're so chipper, then?"

"Years of unclean living, Pole. You should try it sometime."

"Yeah, maybe, but not now." He turned as to lay back down.

"Ancient Greece, man. Temples and gates, altars and colonnades, statues and pottery shards. Just beyond the door."

Sam groaned and jerked himself to his feet. "I hate you."

"Aw, you're hurting my feelings, dude. And my eyes. And nose. Go shower, please."

Sam pulled his sleep shirt over his head and tossed it onto Dean. He laughed as Dean's curses followed him to the bathroom down the hall.

By the time he was dressed, he was wide awake and hungry. "Feed me," he called, entering their room and waking Dean up. Pay back was a beautiful thing. Except Dean didn't so much as flinch, much less jump like Sam expected him to. Curiouser and curiouser...

Sam finished his juice and stared at the bright blue sky. "I miss Jess," he said suddenly. He and Dean were eating breakfast out on the terrace of the inn, looking out over the Aegean. Jess would love it here, but she had insisted she didn't want to come with him. She thought it was kind of tacky for a girlfriend to travel with an athlete, especially one expected to live in the dorms with his fellow athletes. "I'm not your blonde bimbo, Sam, and I won't be seen as one," she had declared.

Sam wished she'd spent less time with her grandmother while growing up.

Dean cracked his neck and sighed in ecstasy. "Well, I miss pie—real pie, not meat pie or cheese pie or whatever—so suck it up and let it go, man."

"Excuse me. You're comparing your lack of pie to my missing my girlfriend?"

"Hey, love is love, dude. I love pie. If I could find some decent fruit, I'd go inside and do a hostile takeover of Anna's kitchen and make myself a damn pie."

Sam scoffed loudly. "You know how to make pie?"

"I'm the champion pie maker of Lawrence County, South Dakota. Got the blue ribbon to prove it."

"I don't believe it." He was getting used to Dean's boasting prowess of everything.

"I wouldn't lie about pie. Me and Bobby, we do the bachelor cooking thing, you know? Burgers, steaks, chili, stew—man, I think we've worn out about three slow cookers. We never had to worry much about dessert because the ladies in the neighborhood, well, they seem to believe if they can bake well enough, they'll get a marriage proposal or something. Anyway, ‘bout three years after I moved in, there was this big blizzard—kept us pinned in for over a week. And wouldn't you know it, I had a sudden powerful craving for pie. Tried eating some canned fruit, but that didn't cut it.

"So we had this box of biscuit mix and on the back was this recipe for a cobbler. Looked easy enough. I followed the directions but the goody for the pie didn't smell right. I told you I was on the road a lot, right? Well, on the road equals a lot of pie in a lot of different places. I know a good pie just by smelling it. I kept adding spices and shit until it smelled right, then I popped it into the oven. Man, I thought Bobby was gonna ask for my hand in marriage after he tasted it. Hell, almost popped the question to myself. That was some damn good eatin'. After the neighborhood thawed out, I went to one of the ladies who has a crush on Bobby and asked for proper pie-making lessons, you know, a real crust and everything."

"And your blue ribbon?"

Dean sniffed. "Lost a bet to Bobby."

"So is there anything you can't do? In the kitchen, I mean."

"Fry chicken. Just...don't ask, okay? It's not a pretty story."

After purchasing a local guide book, they took off on their bikes and toured the island. Contrary to what Sam expected, Dean was a good companion on the trip. He was respectful at the hallowed sites, outrageous at the boring sites, and curious the rest of the time. By the time they stopped at the small beach that was part of Anna's Inn, they were tired but content with the day's events.

"Today was a good day," Sam said softly.

Dean sat down beside him on the white, compact sand. "Yeah, it was."

"The sea is pretty." Lame, Sam. Get on with it.

"Uh huh."

"You know the Star Wars movies, right?" Of course he did; Dean had quoted Yoda to that reporter. He felt rather than saw Dean nod. Good. He figured they needed darkness for this.

"Loved the first set. The last ones, eh."

"Remember when everyone was freaked the fuck out when Darth Vader told Luke he was his father?" He got another nod in reply. "Dean, I am your brother."


Part I ◄ ► Part II ◄ ► Part III ◄ ► Part IV ◄ ► Part V ◄ ► Part VI

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