Title: Have No Fear
By: mickeylover303
Pairing: None
Fandoms: Supernatural and CSI: Vegas
Rating: PG-13
Words: 4058
Summary: For Sam and Dean, it was nothing out of the ordinary. But Greg wouldn't understand his connection to it until later, and Nick was somewhat lost in the scheme of supernatural events.

***

Pressing her forehead against the window, Kelly was surprised when she felt the cool glass against her skin; the sun continuing to glare at her face through the transparent surface. She turned her head to the side, pressing herself further into the window. She wanted nothing more than to cover her ears, block out the sound of the other students who were part of the happy atmosphere she clearly didn’t belong to.
 
Sighing inwardly, she bit her bottom lip in anticipation when the bus began to break, coming to a complete stop; the familiar squeaking of the door opening somehow still discernable amidst the clamour of talking and laughter.
 
Kelly was quick to remove herself from the tanned leather seat on the bus, taking advantage of sitting in the front where Mr. Carter, the driver, was able to see her. She always sat alone and sometimes she wished otherwise, but she didn’t have enough strength to press her luck.
 
She manoeuvred quickly through the black and narrow aisle, pulling the straps of her backpack tighter around her shoulders; nearly missing a step when she hurried off the bus and almost falling when she landed on the street. As she began walking, her stride lengthened, her body moving as fast as her short legs could take her when she heard the pointed laughter behind her; four voices meshing into a familiar and hurtful sound.
 
“Aren’t you going to wait for us?” one of the girls asked and Kelly could picture the four of them, waiting at the bus stop, watching her. “We just wanted to say how much we like your new skirt.”
 
But Kelly knew she didn’t mean it…not with a voice that cruel.
 
“Ahh…little Kelly doesn’t want to play, anymore?” another girl said, cooing at her in a patronising manner.   “What…you too good to talk to us now?” she chided.
 
“Just because you’re dressed up doesn’t mean anything, you know.”
 
Kelly tried to walk faster without running, her braces scraping against the underside of her lip. She didn’t dress up for them and she didn’t dress up to impress Michael; no matter what the girls said. School pictures were today and her parents wanted her to look nice.
 
“Going to go crying home to mommy, again, Kelly?” a different girl mocked and Kelly could almost see her standing beside her; could almost feel the warm breath on her face.
 
“No wonder she doesn’t have any friends,” someone else remarked dispassionately, causing the rest of the girls to break into forced and meaningless giggles; if only because they knew it was making Kelly feel worse.
 
She did her best to ignore the voices, the taunts seemingly growing louder the further she moved away. Eyes stinging, she blinked, wiping her nose with her sleeve. It was only a few steps until she made it home, but she couldn’t wait; not with their laughter ringing in her ears.
 
She gripped the straps of her backpack and ran past her mom’s car in the driveway. She rushed to the backyard, fumbling with the latch on the wooden fence. Their voices still haunted her mind, but Kelly didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of seeing that their words could still hurt her.
 
Even if they already knew.
 
She nearly jumped at the sound of the door slamming behind her; inhaling deeply in an attempt to catch her breath. She braced herself against the wide, wooden bars, using them as a barrier against the eyes she could still feel gazing at her, examining and belittling her. Not looking back, she darted to the large tree in the yard, ominous in the foreground and stark against the sky.
 
Unnatural amidst the colourful foliage of the surrounding trees and the bright hues of the sky.
 
Leaning heavily against the tree, she let her body fall, ignoring the sound of her bag scraping against the bark of the trunk. The branches loomed over her figure, shadows reaching past her legs that were extended and grazed by the grass.
 
She didn’t want her life to be like this.
 
Her breath hitched and she swallowed the urge to cry, wiping the corners of her eyes with her hands. She didn’t want to live here anymore; didn’t want to move here at all. She missed her old friends, people who liked her. She missed her old house, someplace she knew.
 
Biting her lip, she pressed her palms against the dry soil surrounding the tree. She made two fists with her hands, gathering the dirt and kneading it between her fingers. She uncurled her hands in surprise, feeling something foreign in her grasp and quickly dropping it to the ground.
 
Kelly looked to her right, slowly crawling away from the object almost lost in the soil. It was a small piece of jewellery and seemed like something for a child. It looked like it could have been gold, but given how likely that would be, she assumed that it probably wasn’t real. Because if anything, it looked old and used, something nobody would want anymore.
 
She reached out for it, placing her hand over it and cautiously picking it up; looking it over it carefully. It was a charm bracelet with seven little pieces attached to the chain: four small seashells, two starfish, and a dolphin. Holding it in her palm, she brushed the remaining soil off it, using her fingernails to scrap away some of the hardened dirt. It appeared to glow for a moment, the sun piercing through the shadows of the tree and briefly shining upon the bracelet.
 
Her backpack rustled against the grass as she released her arms from its straps and set it on the ground; her mind too preoccupied with her newly found treasure to notice the nonexistent wind brushing against the nape of her neck. She traced the small dolphin with the tip of her finger, the material smooth against her skin and capturing her full attention.
 
But it wasn’t until she felt a chill run down her spine that Kelly noticed the faint voice behind her.
 
**
 
One week later
 
Grissom closed the car door behind him, making his way around it as he walked toward the house; Catherine following his steps. He placed his hand over his eyes, a neutral expression on his face as he tried to see through the rays of the sun.
 
“What are we looking at?” he asked as Brass approached them, body tense and arms appearing stiff at his sides.
 
“Paige Darlington,” he answered tersely, looking away from his colleagues; his gaze fixed on two people being questioned by an officer. He nodded in their direction. “Her parents are over there. They were out late last night and didn’t get back until a couple of hours ago. Said she wasn’t breathing when they found her on the floor.”
 
“How old was she?” Catherine asked softly, placing her sunglasses on her head as she pushed her hair behind her ear.
 
“Thirteen.”
 
Grissom pursued his lips, walking away from Brass and in the direction of the house. “Did David get a cause of death, yet?”
 
Brass shook his head, quickening his pace as he began to walk beside the other man. He stopped by the yellow police tape, lifting it high enough for the three of them to walk underneath it. “He can’t be sure until the autopsy.”
 
“Any ideas at all?” Catherine asked, walking past the threshold and into the house. It didn’t appear any less usual on the inside than it did on the outside. It was the stereotypical, average American home; white picket fence and all.
 
Brass shrugged helplessly. “None that he could tell me at the time.”
 
They walked past the foyer and the small table littered with framed photographs; presumably of the family. The collection portrayed the mother and father, but mostly consisted of a little girl; baby pictures, preschool and elementary graduation pictures. She was their only child.
 
Catherine looked away, forcing her mind to focus on following Grissom up the stairs and away from thoughts of her daughter. The sound of her heels clacking against the hardwood floor in the hallway was muffled as she ascended the stairs.
 
Grissom nodded to the officer by the door as he stepped carefully into the room, his shoes making little noise against the carpet. David was kneeling over the body of a young girl lying flat on her back with her arms bent at the sides. Her legs were positioned perpendicular to the rest of her body, one crossed over the other. And Grissom would hesitate to think she was dead if it wasn’t for the pallor of her skin, the long, dark hair curling around her face emphasising the lack of colour in her face.
 
Catherine paused abruptly when the room came into view, nearly making Brass walk into her. It almost reminded her of her daughter’s room; the cherry wood furniture, papers strewed all over the desk, and a handful of stuffed animals thrown unceremoniously in various places.
 
But it wasn’t Lindsey, Catherine assured herself when she glanced at the young girl lying brokenly on the floor. Lindsey wasn’t here. She was in school and she was safe.
 
“Hey, guys,” David greeted solemnly. He stood up from his position on the floor, using the back of his hand to push his sliding glasses closer to his eyes. “Liver temp indicates she died about four or five hours ago.”
 
“The parents’ alibi checks out and we haven’t seen any signs of a break in,” Brass said when his colleagues looked at him.
 
“It still doesn’t rule out many possibilities,” Grissom retorted, taking a quick glance around the room. “Someone close to the family or close to her…and we still can’t exclude suicide.”
 
“When she seemed to have everything in the world,” Catherine said softly, taking in the amount of things in the little girl’s room – everything pointing to high quality and value. She set her kit on the ground, picking up the camera that was hanging from the strap around her neck. She turned it on, taking off the lens cover as she moved past Grissom.
 
“Any ideas about internal causes?” Grissom asked as he walked closer to David, his gaze still on the young girl. “Maybe poison?”
 
“No outward symptoms so far, but if there are any, they’ll probably be more prevalent by the time we get her back to the lab.” David followed the older man’s gaze. “But I did find something that may help eliminate the suicide angle.” He lowered himself once more, a gloved hand carefully moving the young girl’s head to the side. “There’s a small bruise at the base of her head.” He moved some of her hair out of the way, indicating a small area of discolouration. “It was made post-mortem.”
 
“Really?” Grissom raised his eyebrows in interest.
 
“Suggesting her death was sudden,” Catherine added, the camera flashing and humming when she took another picture. “Or at least she wasn’t expecting it.”
 
“And it may also explain her body position. The most I can come up with now is some kind of heart failure. At least that’s my best guess.”
 
“…for a thirteen-year old?” Catherine asked; her finger shy of pressing the shutter button as she looked at the coroner.
 
David nodded his head. “I couldn’t even begin to think of what caused it, though…too many things could lead to internal complications; especially when we’re talking about the heart.”
 
Grissom bent down to open his kit, noting that Brass had already left the room. He shielded his eyes from the light coming through the window and something caught his eye. He turned his attention to a small object on the floor, almost lost within the beige carpet. “What’s this?”
 
“What’s what?” Catherine asked, watching him pick up something from the floor. She walked away from the little girl’s body, kneeling next to Grissom.
 
Grissom held the small item in between his fingers, holding it out in the light so Catherine could see. “It looks like some kind of…gold?” he said questioningly, hearing the feet of the coroner shuffle across the carpet as the younger man made his way towards Grissom. He was careful not block the light shining on the small object in Grissom’s hand.
 
“Looks like a seashell,” David said, squinting as he looked at the object held between the other man’s fingers.
 
Catherine quickly glanced at the little girl, studying her bare ankles and wrists. She scrunched her brow when she didn’t find what she wanted. “I would say it looks like it could go on a charm bracelet or something.”
 
“It’s small enough,” Grissom said, narrowing his eyes at the dark smudge in between one of the ridges of the seashell.
 
“Yeah, but I didn’t notice any jewellery on her…except for the two earrings.”
 
“Somebody else could have been in here, then,” David said, straightening the frames of his glasses.
 
Grissom frowned, placing the small seashell in the palm of his hand. “Take a look at this,” he said, motioning with his other hand for Catherine to come closer. “I think this might be dirt.”
 
“Definitely somebody from the outside if her room is anything to go by. I didn’t even see dust on the TV.” Catherine pushed her hair out of her face. “Brass didn’t say anything about a maid…so someone must have been here.”
 
“We don’t have anything so far that says it wasn’t hers,” Grissom pointed out, turning around to get an evidence bag out of his kit. “For all we know, this is something she may have forgotten about.”
 
“It’s too small to get prints…I doubt we could even pull a partial off of it,” Catherine said, standing as she watched Grissom put the charm in the bag.
 
“At least we can send the dirt to trace.” Grissom shrugged his shoulders, turning around to face Catherine. “But in the meantime, I’ll finish up in here and the rest of what’s upstairs…and-”
 
“I can take what’s left downstairs.” Catherine titled her head. “I’ll start with the kitchen.”
 
**
 
Three days later
 
After making another seemingly endless stop, they were finally on the road again.
 
The sun had already disappeared behind them, the stars made their presence known above them, and Dean could only concentrate on what lay ahead of them. He grinned when he saw the green, tell-tale sign coming up in the distance.
 
Barstow was twenty-nine miles, Baker was ninety-one, but the only city he was concerned about was only a hundred and eighty-seven miles away. Dean would drive all night to make sure they found an affordable motel by morning.
 
Hopefully Sam wouldn’t have to use the bathroom anytime soon.
 
Again.
 
Dean glanced at his brother, who had been surprisingly quiet since they left Utah. It wouldn’t bother him if it weren’t for the fact that a quiet Sam didn’t necessarily equal a sleeping Sam.
 
And sleep was something Sam didn’t seem to be receiving much of lately.
 
“Finally,” Dean sighed in exaggerated relief, hoping to get the other man’s attention. “It’s about time, don’t you think?” He spared another glance at Sam, trying to ignore the bags underneath red eyes; highlighted by the light of the car passing them on the left lane.
 
“Dean…” the other man said with barely veiled annoyance.
 
“The lights, the women…the money...” Dean turned to his brother with a large grin, hands resting languidly on the steering wheel. “Hey, think you can come up with your shining thing in time?”
 
“Shut up, Dean.”
 
The older man laughed at the sour expression on Sam’s face. “Come on, Sammy…” he tried to beguile. He was teasing his brother, but only because it was easy to get Sam riled up; and even more so for Dean when he was bored. “Lighten up, would you?”
 
“Las Vegas doesn’t just mean casinos.”
 
“Obviously,” Dean snorted. “But when are we going to get a chance to come here again, huh?” He raised his eyebrows suggestively, sticking out his thumb as he pointed behind him. “There’s a spoon in the back you can practice on just in case,” he added; the beginnings of laughter cracking the serious tone in his voice.
 
“You’re a jerk.”
 
“And you’re a bitch.”
 
“Anyway,” Sam said pointedly, breaking up any more thoughts Dean had on the subject. Though, the irony of going to Las Vegas for a hunt didn’t escape him. “I picked up a paper from the gas station.”
 
“Yeah…what’s it say? Anything about the girl?”
 
“It’s a local paper, but her death still managed to make a small section on the front page.” He opened the small stack of folded paper in front of him; placing it against the surface of the console. “Young girl dies of heart attack,” he read. “She was thirteen years-old.”
 
“Lucky number,” Dean remarked; no trace of the teasing from earlier in his voice.
 
Sam gave the other man a nervous look, turning to another section in the paper to read the rest of the article. “She died suddenly in her room. It doesn’t say whether or not she had any past complications.”
 
“Maybe it was just a freak accident?” Dean suggested; even though he knew better than to believe in the remote possibility.
 
“I don’t think so…I’ve been looking through Dad’s journal. He has a record of separate events listed like this over the last twenty years. The first three cases occurred in Henderson, Nevada; there was another one in San Gabriel, California, and then two more in Carson City, Nevada. All about kids dying from heart problems.”
 
“And then this one in Las Vegas,” Dean remarked quietly. Apart from the fact that evil actually existed, few things actually bothered him while hunting. Children being victimised by the things they couldn’t see in the dark was one of them. “It’s not like dad has been sending us any more coordinates, right?”
 
“I guess,” Sam agreed, nodding distractedly as he looked at his brother warily. The fact that their dad was missing was something he wanted – needed – to talk about with his brother. But he resisted the urge to bring it up because if Dean wasn’t ready to talk about it, Sam knew it wasn’t going to come into any of their conversations any time soon; especially since what happened at the Roosevelt Asylum.
 
That would lead to a discussion even Sam wasn’t sure he was prepared to enter.
 
“The only thing is that the earlier deaths weren’t highly publicised…or at all really.”
 
“So…why was this girl’s, then?”
 
Sam shrugged his shoulders. “My best bet is that she comes from a wealthy family. Or at least one that has some kind of influence in Clark county.”
 
Dean kept his eyes on the road, failing to keep the twisted smile off his face. “Funny how things work out, isn’t it?”
 
Sam didn’t answer, looking away from the expression on his brother’s face. He took Dean’s comment in stride, silently agreeing with him.
 
**
 
Entering the break room, Nick shook his head at the sight of Greg sprawled out on the weathered brown couch. One arm was hovering over his head and lying across the arm rest. The other arm was limp, hanging off the side of the couch and his hand was pressed flat against the floor. His legs looked as if they were positioned uncomfortably, crunched together against the other arm rest.
 
Nick uncrossed his arms, walking towards the other man and smirking at the sheen coming from the corner of Greg’s mouth; trailing down to his chin. He kneeled down, arms resting on his knees as he balanced himself on his feet.
 
“Greggo,” he whispered, raising an eyebrow when Greg didn’t move. He frowned, noticing how tired the younger man appeared. He looked as if he was detached from the rest of the world.
 
“Hey, Greg,” he said; raising his voice. He tried again, this time reaching out to shake the shoulder of the other man.
 
Greg woke with a start, eyes wide as he scrambled to get off the couch; only succeeding in falling to the floor. He cringed at the impact of the fall, blinking when he heard a familiar laughter.
 
“You okay, man?” Nick asked, laughter dying down as he extended his hand to Greg, tightening his grip when Greg accepted and helping pull the other man up.
 
“Yeah…I think so,” Greg answered, a hint of confusion in his voice. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, the tips of his ears becoming red as he hoped Nick didn’t notice the drool on his face.
 
Nick looked over Greg quickly, satisfied when the other man seemed able to stand on his own. “You haven’t been sleeping?”
 
“Something like that…” Greg began, covering his mouth when his voice was cut off by the need to yawn. “I think it’s more about this case, though.”
 
“Well, nobody likes it when kids are the victims.”
 
“Yeah,” Greg agreed quietly, though there was something else in particular adding to his feelings about the situation. He knew it was possible; kids dying from heart problems. He knew it happened, actually knew someone it happened to, but it just didn’t seem plausible. If anything, he still couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
 
Kids were too young to die.
 
No matter what the cause.
 
Though, aside from that, he couldn’t help but feel a familiar tinge at the way Paige died. “You ever had that feeling – almost like déjà vu?” He held the older man’s gaze, almost desperate as he searched Nick’s eyes for some kind of answer. “Though, it’s not really déjà vu because you know it’s happened before…but just not the same way.”
 
Nick stopped himself from backing away at the look in Greg’s eyes, eager for something from Nick the older man knew he wouldn’t be able to give. He wasn’t unaware of how much Greg looked up to him; all of them really. But it still surprised Nick to note how much faith the youngest member had in the rest of team.
 
It was a kind of naiveté that Nick was still trying to hold on to.
 
“Can’t say that I have,” he replied, inwardly relieved when the intensity in Greg’s eyes lessened considerably and the younger man took a step back.
 
“It’s like…” Greg turned his head, vision focused on the coffeemaker on the dark counter. “It’s like something’s nagging at me, trying to tell me to remember something important.” He moved his gaze back to Nick. “Like that whole wrapping a piece of string around your finger…”
 
“Because you’re telling yourself not to forget,” Nick added.
 
“The only thing is you can’t remember what you’re forgetting.” Greg laughed nervously, moving a hand to scratch the back of his neck. “I know it’s stupid-”
 
“It’s not stupid,” Nick assured him, shaking his head. He gave the other man an encouraging smile. “It’ll probably come back to you.”
 
“You think?” Greg asked, giving Nick a shy smile in return. There was still something bothering him, but he felt a little better knowing Nick didn’t chastise him about it.
 
“Yeah…after you get some sleep.”
 
“I should, shouldn’t I?” Greg licked his lips, surprised to find them chapped as he put his thumbs in his pockets. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep…well…not here, at least.”
 
“When’s the last time you caught some shut-eye?”
 
Greg frowned at the question, looking at the circular clock hanging on the wall.
 
“And I’m not talking about those power naps, either,” Nick added quickly before the other man had a chance to open his mouth.
 
“Maybe a couple of hours?” Greg answered meekly, feeling small beneath the weight of Nick’s glare. “Or maybe a couple of days.”
 
“That’s not good for you, man,” Nick admonished, slightly frowning at Greg’s response.
 
“I know,” Greg conceded, the smile on his face becoming more strained. “I guess I just got caught up in the evidence.” He paused, groaning when he realised what he said. “I bet Grissom would love that one.”
 
Nick smirked, putting a hand on Greg’s shoulder. “As much as knowing you conked out while you were processing it.”
 
“Yeah, yeah,” Greg said, rolling his eyes as he let Nick lead him out of the break room. “I’m just picking up your slack.”
 

“If that’s what makes you feel better.”

***

It was less than a block away from the Strip, offering a glimpse of Las Vegas life without being too close – a quiet anomaly in a sea of unrest that Dean could admit that not even he could keep up with. There was even a pool…not that they would need one in the middle of winter, but still, they hadn’t been to a place with a pool in a long time. And he managed to get the room for less than thirty dollars a night after spending a few extra minutes talking to Miranda, who liked curling her hair around her finger and smiling at him coyly.
 
It was a pretty good deal considering.
 
If only the weather wasn’t so disagreeable with him.
 
“Sam,” Dean called out, whatever was left of his dignity keeping him from running towards the Impala. Two swipe cards were secure in his hand as he looked through the window on the driver’s side. He snorted, not surprised to see his brother was still asleep. He just wished he didn’t have to be the one to wake Sam up.
 
He opened the door and quickly situated himself inside the warm car, putting the cards inside his pocket and rubbing his hands together furiously. Taking an exaggerated inhale, he turned to the sleeping man, reaching his arm out to nudge him. “Hey, Sammy.” He shook Sam’s shoulder harder when the younger man didn’t acknowledge him, his head lolling to the side in response to the movement. “Sam,” Dean tried again, his voice becoming firm and somewhat anxious as he leaned over to peer at his brother.
 
Sam groaned. He squeezed his eyes before opening them, pupils dilating as they adjusted to the dark. He licked his lips as he watched Dean begin to back away from his face, the creases on his forehead beginning to go away. “Dean,” he began sleepily, “where are-”
 
“At the motel,” Dean answered shortly, earlier apprehension now gone. He blindly reached in the backseat for Sam’s jacket, managing to grab it by the collar and tossing it in his brother’s face. “Come on…it’s freakin’ cold outside,” he muttered as he took the key out of the ignition; immediately longing for the rapidly disappearing warmth as the cold began to seep into the car.
 
Despite the confined space, Sam was still able to slide his arms through his jacket; a grin appearing on his face as he took in Dean’s expression. “Where’re the girls?” he asked knowingly, knowing Dean wasn’t really in the mood to be teased.
 
But that was probably why he did it anyway.
 
“Very funny smart-ass,” Dean retorted as he opened the door and hurriedly climbed out of the car, impatience taking a presence in the tone of his voice. “Hurry up…I’m going to freeze my butt off.”
 
Sam rolled his eyes, suppressing a shiver at the sudden change of temperature when he stepped outside. “Did you already-”
 
“They’re already in the room,” Dean said, cutting the other man off. He eagerly tapped his fingers against the roof of the Impala, waiting for Sam to close the door so he could lock the car.
 
Sam followed his brother to their room on the first floor, hugging his jacket closer around his body to encourage body heat. He was surprised to note that the motel looked fairly new, probably built within the last couple of years or so. Aside from the colour scheme that was still somewhat bright and assaulting his eyes – even after being heavily subdued in the dark – it was one of the more appealing places they’ve ever been to. However, he knew better than to be picky and really didn’t mind what the motel looked like as long as they had some place to stay. But that last one in Utah left much to be desired.
 
He just hoped Dean didn’t spend too much money on this one and almost felt bad about the part of him that wouldn’t object to it if Dean did.
 
Almost.
 
He placed his hand on the door Dean was holding open for him, small tremors travelling through his frame as he walked into the comparatively warmer room, dimly lit by the small lamp Dean switched on. Turning around after securing the latch on the door, Sam looked at the digital clock on the dresser in between the two beds.  It was a quarter after five.
 
“Dean, where’d you-” A ruffling noise caught his attention and Sam looked to see Dean spread out on one of the beds, lying on top of the comforter with his clothes still on; shoes already off and thrown carelessly on the floor. “Never mind,” he said quietly when he noticed the small collection of bags in the corner by the bathroom on the other side. He could see the brown strap of his leather bag underneath Dean’s duffel bag.
 
Sam took off his jacket, placing it on the other bed and picking up the relatively thick blanket. He walked towards his brother, leaning over to peer down at his face as he draped the blanket over his frame. Chest rising and falling slowly, Dean was heavily asleep and Sam was surprised his proximity didn’t cause the older man to wake up.  
 
The beginnings of a yawn breaking him out his musings, Sam began to stretch, long arms extending toward the low ceiling as he made his way across the room, intent to retrieve his laptop from the pile of bags in the corner. There was an uncomfortable yet alarmingly familiar stirring in his stomach as he considered the research he was about to do concerning the death of Paige Darlington.
 
Pausing after taking his computer out of the bag, he couldn’t help but frown at the thought.
 
**
 
Sara placed a large bag on the table, ready to remove the contents when she heard footsteps advancing. She lifted her head at the person approaching her. “You’re early, Warrick,” she said, wearing a small smirk.
 
“Really?” Warrick cocked his head to the side. “You sure I’m not late?” he asked, the teasing making its way through the lethargic tone of his voice as he pointed to the brown bag Sara still held in her hands.
 
“Very funny,” she said, the smile on her face fading. “You got an early call, too?”
 
“Yeah…didn’t get much sleep, either.” Warrick ran a hand through his hair, pressing his palm against his forehead. He first left the lab three or four hours ago. Looking at his watch, the short hand was on the seven and the long hand was in between the two and three. He sighed tiredly, moving his focus to the bag on the table instead of his lack of sleep. “Is that from the first case?” he asked as he moved closer to Sara.
 
“Yeah, the little girl…Paige.” Sara curled the corner of her lip as she began to take the evidence out of the bag. “Grissom just wanted us to see if we missed anything from the first scene. He’s with Catherine. They already started processing the other house.”
 
“Hasn’t even been a week,” Warrick remarked off-handedly as he grabbed a pair of gloves from his pocket, stretching the material and pulling them over his hands.
 
“I know,” Sara agreed, ready to speak again when she was interrupted by the sound of shoes squeaking against tile and another presence making himself known in the room. She and Warrick looked over to see Greg standing in the doorframe, two printouts and a small evidence bag in his hand.
 
“Aren’t you supposed to be doing the autopsy with-” Sara started before Greg cut her off.
 
“Good morning to you, too, Sara,” he said flippantly as he nodded his head in greeting to Warrick. “I’m on my way, now. Hodges asked – or more like told me to give you the results on the dirt from the charm Grissom found.” He walked closer to the other occupants of the room, setting the small bag on the table as he gave the printout to Sara. “I was going to pass by here, anyway. And the printout for the other soil sample is there, too,” he said as Sara took the papers in her hand.
 
Sara nodded absently as she read the results.
 
“I thought we already had the results in. Wasn’t this case made a priority?” Warrick asked, looking over the results with Sara.
 
“Hodges had a lot of backlog…and you know how he is around Ecklie.” Greg shrugged his shoulders. “But he told me the soil found on the charm is a match to the soil sample we took from the yard. It has the same fertiliser compound used in the rest of the neighbourhood.”
 
Sara looked up at the comment. “High concentrations of phosphorous with traces of boron and molybdenum.”
 
“Specific to that community,” Warrick added. “So…if the charm wasn’t originally hers, then we can at least use it to narrow it down to someone in the area.”
 
“We still don’t know if she didn’t die of natural causes,” Sara pointed out.
 
“I’m thinking if the second victim ends up like Paige…” Warrick paused, looking at Greg expectantly.
 
“Yeah, and-” Greg began, but stopped as he reached to take the vibrating phone out of his pocket.  He flipped it open, reading the message that appeared quickly and turning his attention back to Warrick and Sara. “That’s Nick,” he said as he closed his phone. “He’s waiting for me.”
 
Warrick and Sara nodded at him as he quickly left the room, his shoes making a loud, screeching noise; their attention now back on the evidence at hand.
 
“You think she could have died of natural causes?” Warrick asked as he looked at the items laid out on the table, picking up the small bag Greg left behind.
 
“Well, there’s nothing that really says otherwise.” She watched as Warrick examined the small seashell. “But since that was the only jewellery we found like that…”
 
“Everything else she had consisted of either earrings or necklaces.” He took the charm out of the bag, holding it between his fingers as he studied it closely. “I’m wondering if Grissom will find another one of these.”
 
“Even if he does, it still won’t tell us much.”
 
“Yeah, but at least we’ll know that there’s some kind of connection.”
 
**
 
“She looks like she’s sleeping,” Greg said softly, a distant look in his eyes as he peered down at the dead girl on the table. Her hair was dull, bearing no sign of sheen as it flared out awkwardly on the metal surface like a crooked halo. Her skin was tinted with grey and lacked the usual warmth he associated with life.
 
“Courtney Abbot. Young African American female, thirteen years of age,” Doc Robbins said as he walked to the other side of the autopsy table opposite of Nick and Greg. “So far, the conditions parallel the other little girl; though, I’m still waiting for a tox report and some blood tests. I found no signs of vaginal or anal tearing, but I sent out for a rape kit, as well.”
 
“Just in case,” Nick said quietly; though, there was little doubt in his mind that the results would come back negative. He looked at the coroner, turning his attention away from the distorted image of the child on the table; the image haunting him. “So…no outward symptoms, or signs of a cause of death for her, either?”
 
“Well, it’s basically the same as the other little girl…acute respiratory acidosis from a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. And that was caused by alveolar hypoventilation. But I still couldn’t tell you what caused said hypoventilation, what inadvertently led to her cardiac arrest.”
 
Nick nodded complacently, if not wearily.
 
“Did she have asthma?” Greg asked, quickly garnering the attention of the other two men. “A friend – well, not really a friend,” Greg interceded as he thought of the child who used to tease him. “But Kyle had asthma…when we were younger.”
 
“Asthma?” Nick said, the look in his eyes signalling Greg to explain.
 
“Yeah…he died from it,” Greg answered regretfully, the reply doing little to help the already sombre atmosphere in the room. “I can’t remember if it was from the same thing, but I remember my mom saying something about hypoventilation.”
 
Nick turned to the corner when the older man began to speak. “As its namesake implies, hypoventilation is caused more often by pulmonary problems rather than something like a head injury or drug usage, even though both have been known to induce it. But in this case, her clinical history doesn’t suggest asthma or any other respiratory illness. I didn’t find any evidence of inflammation in her airways or anything indicating excessive amounts of mucus in the lining.”
 
“And the same with Paige?” Nick asked, more than a little dismayed when the pathologist nodded in silent affirmation.
 
Greg frowned as he lowered his head, moving the lamp to shine directly on the girl’s chest. His vision was focused on the area in the gap of the large y-shaped incision. “Is that…” He squinted as he moved even closer, his finger hovering above her skin. It looked like a small handprint; a red bruise that was barely noticeable against her dark complexion.
 
“What are you looking at?” Nick asked as he moved beside Greg, trying to discern what the other man was seeing.
 
Greg delayed answering the question, briefly glancing at Courtney’s lax hand. He couldn’t say for sure at this point, but he guessed that her hand was about the same size as the print on her chest. “There’s a…there’s a handprint on her chest,” he said uncertainly, to some extent questioning himself when he looked to see the other two men watching him warily.
 
“I don’t see anything, Greg,” Doc Robbins said, a hint of confusion in his voice. He knew bruises would sometimes become more apparent post-mortem, but he’d cleaned the body himself and hadn’t noticed any discolorations. He walked closer to the body, shaking his head as he couldn’t see anything on the girl’s chest.
 
“It’s where her heart would be,” Greg said, the confidence in his voice wavering.
 
“I don’t see anything either, man.” Nick shook his head. “Maybe it was the light?” he suggested, gaze travelling to the lamp that was close enough to shine in Greg’s eyes; possibly harrowing some of his ability to see clearly.
 
Greg furrowed his brow as he looked at Nick, the lines on his forehead increasing when he looked at the body again in search for the handprint; only to find that it was gone. “It was…” right there, he wanted to say. He was more than convinced that he did see a handprint on her chest. He knew he was barely able to keep his eyelids from drooping, but he could have sworn that he saw the handprint. And though faint, it was still fathomable against the girl’s skin.
 
He moved his line of vision to find that Nick was looking at him with poorly veiled concern, lines around his eyes creased as he examined Greg. Doc Robbins was doing the same, though his unease was more subtle. And if the pathologist was showing cause for worry, then maybe it was the light; an effect from being close to it for too long.
 
But then there was that feeling again – as if the disappearing handprint was part of a puzzle he couldn’t solve; and he still couldn’t grasp the concept because he was missing the more important pieces.
 
The case reminded him of something and he had a feeling it had something to do with his childhood, which was probably why he thought of Kyle.  Yet, that meant trying to cipher through something that took place twenty years ago. He knew it was relevant, though.  But he wasn’t even to the point where it would be on the tip of his tongue. It was more like something out of reach, something he wanted to hold on to, but was never in his hold in the first place.
 
He was vaguely aware of someone calling his name, the voice becoming more coherent and rising in pitch when a hand suddenly appeared in front of him; a barrier between Greg and area of skin where he saw the handprint.
 
“Greg…” Confusion marred Nick’s features as he looked at the younger man.
 
“Yes?” Greg asked as he blinked in Nick’s direction, noticing that Doc Robbins was giving him a strange expression.
 
“There’s nothing there, Greg,” the pathologist said steadily, almost carefully as if he was trying to gauge Greg’s reaction.
 
Eyes widening in understanding, Greg shook his head. The other two men probably thought he was determined to look for something that wasn’t there. “No…I was just thinking about something,” he tried to assure them.
 
“It hasn’t come to you, yet?” Nick asked, remembering the conversation he and Greg had the day before.
 
“No,” Greg answered. “Not yet.”
 
“Then don’t worry about it.”  Nick eyed the younger man thoughtfully. He had that feeling before, when he couldn’t quite recall something; the feeling often leaving him on edge, but not enough to affect him like it was apparently affecting Greg. “Don’t let it get to you, all right,” he said, hoping the other man would take his advice this time. Greg couldn’t afford to be distracted – none of them could – and especially not on this case.
 
Greg nodded, not fully agreeing with Nick, but he was willing to drop the matter for now.
 
**
 
She stood straight in front of the full-length mirror, head slightly titled to the side as she ran the white, flat brush through a section of her hair; light, blonde strands finding their way in between the soft bristles. After another stroke, she undid the pink hair band tying the majority of her hair together, gathering her hair again with the newly brushed portion and wrapping it securely at the side of her head.
 
She hummed quietly to herself. It was the melody to some song she heard on the radio that she couldn’t remember the words to and one she would probably forget by tomorrow. Sighing, she gathered the last untreated section of her hair, preparing to brush it from root to tip. She took pride in her hair, how much she cared for it. It was naturally curly, something she received from her mother, so she made sure to straighten it out every night so it would hold less curl in the morning.
 
She preferred her hair to be straight because it was longer that way.
 
Almost startled, she halted in her movements at the barely able audible creak coming from her door. The brush was suspended halfway down the length of her hair, sifting through strands as she looked suspiciously at the door; her body still and eyes narrowed.
 
The door was slightly ajar. It wasn’t enough to see into the hallway, but she already decided who was on the other side. She didn’t pay attention to darkness seeping from beneath the door; creeping into the well lit room and creating shadows behind her.
 
“I know you’re there, Brandon,” she called out irritably, bringing the brush through the rest of her hair. She didn’t understand why her parents left her alone with her little brother. They were out celebrating their anniversary and she was left with an annoying nine year-old. “I’m really going to push you down the stairs next time if you don’t stop.”
 
But she didn’t hear the familiar pattering of Brandon’s feet when the door continued to creak, a prolonged screech that infused something disturbingly similar to fear alongside her aggravation. A mantra ensuring the overreaction of her imagination took over her mind and her heart began to beat a little faster. The regular, monotonous harmony now an erratic cacophony – muted when she slammed her brush on the ivory coloured dresser beside her.
 
Then it stopped.
 
The beating of her heart was assuming its regular pattern and the irritation brought on by her brother’s antics overwhelmed the anxiety that was now no more than a thing of the past.
 
Groaning, she straightened her pink and white pyjama top, pulling it over her matching black shorts; the one with the pink and white kitten on the right side. Her brother always did things like this; tried to scare her when he knew she didn’t scare easily.
 
“Brandon, if you don’t stop it,” she began, making her way across the room and reaching for the brass knob; brusquely pulling the door wide open. “I’m telling mom…” She faltered when she revealed herself in the hallway, within her room the only source of light as she realised there was no one there. “…on you,” she finished softly; the words muttered quietly to herself seeming to echo throughout the vacant hall.

“Brandon?” she called out. There was less conviction in her voice as she stepped through the frame of her door and moved into the hallway, her pink hair band showing signs of becoming undone. Her pace started to quicken as she manoeuvred through the dark, making her way to the other side of the hall where her brother’s room was.
 
She stood in silence behind his closed door, preparing herself before she opened it quickly. Turning the light on, she stilled when she found no sign of her brother; the bed undisturbed and the room lacking any sign of his presence. When she noticed the football on his bed was missing, she remembered that Brandon was spending the weekend at one of his friend’s house and chastised herself for forgetting.
 
She turned off the light, sighing in relief that was short lived after hearing a faint, clinking sound; liking pieces of metal softly making contact with one another.
 
She jumped when she thought she saw something behind her, the beat of her heart increasing once more and she began to run back to her room. She was urged by the resonance of her frantic movement, somehow louder in the empty house. Friction against her bare feet and the hardwood floor, she nearly tripped; grabbing the handrail leading to the stairs, ignorant of how close she was to falling as she hurried into her room and closed the door behind her; locking it with haste.
 
“Stupid, stupid…” she managed to say through gritted teeth; heavily panting as her chest fitfully rose and fell. Her eyes began to gather moisture at the corners as she closed them tightly; trying to convince herself that it had nothing to do with what happened to Paige last week. That was an accident that had nothing to do with her.
 
She wasn’t a little kid anymore and there wasn’t any reason for her to be scared. She didn’t believe in monsters in the closet or under the bed and ghosts weren’t real. It didn’t make any sense, and it was stupid to be afraid of something that only existed in her imagination.
 
And her imagination wasn’t real.
 
She breathed deeply, trying to calm herself and find some semblance of normality. Once settled, she walked back in front of her mirror, frowning when she saw her hair band was loose and her hair was beginning to curl. Pulling a face, she reached for her brush, pausing with her arm in midair when she thought she saw a flash of something behind her.
 
Turning around, she was met with nothing.
 
Letting her shoulders sag, she gave a forced laugh; hollow to her own ears as she tried to ignore her sense of unease.
 
She began to reach for the white brush, once more, and something red in the mirror caught her eye. Confusion appeared on her face as her hands moved to touch her lips; her reflection repeating the action when she wiped the corner of her mouth, blood attaching itself to her skin, staining it as it trailed down the ridges of her fingers.
 
But when she brought her hand to her face, gaze fixed on her finger, there was nothing on it.
 
And suddenly she gasped, feeling something foreign reach inside of her. Her airways were beginning to constrict and the ability to breathe was disappearing rapidly. Air wasn’t reaching her lungs as she continued to look at herself in the mirror, veins on her face becoming more prominent in protest of the lack of oxygen.
 
There was a gurgling sound and her hands reached and wrapped around her neck as liquid began to fill within her mouth, spilling over her lips and running down her chin.
 
Her eyes bulged as she stared at her reflection, transfixed as the blood made its way to her shirt, staining the white and darkening the pink as it seeped through the material, where she could feel the liquid make contact with her skin.
 
Then it was twisting inside her, squeezing inside of her and she felt something trying to rip her apart. It was tearing her in two and she made breathless gasps as her shirt was pulled apart. She could make no noise as a thin line travelled down the middle of her chest and extended to her stomach, the skin painfully being separated and slowly exposing her entrails. Blood pooling in her mouth, her vocal cords were unwilling to work as she made a final attempt to call for help. 
 

But no one could hear the silent scream. 

***

“It’s all her fault…I know it is,” the girl cried out, tears streaming down her cheeks. She buried her face in an older woman’s shirt, keeping a firm grip on one of the sleeves. “And they’re going to come after me next,” she managed to say, her voice muffled in the fabric. “I don’t want to sleep alone tonight.”
 
“Who’s going to get you?” Sam asked patiently, voice gentle and what he hoped to be trusting. He was both open and cautious of whatever it was she was going to say.
 
“She makes up friends because nobody wants to be hers. She doesn’t think anybody noticed when we saw her talking to herself on the bus.”
 
“Who makes up friends?” Sam’s eyes softened at the girl’s obvious distress, watching the older woman place a comforting arm around her shoulder.
 
“Kelly…” The girl looked at Sam incredulously, as if he should have known the answer already. “Kelly Mar-”
 
“Samantha,” the older woman began admonishingly.
 
“I’m telling you, mom…she doesn’t like us,” Samantha protested. “It’s true. And just because of her stupid-”
 
“That’s enough,” the woman said sternly, tightening her grip around her daughter as she raised her head to look at Sam apologetically. “I’m sorry, officer…three of her best friends just died and this really-”
 
“No, it’s all right.” Sam shook his head, holding his hand up in acquiescence. He nodded at the two, watching the girl’s eyes darting in between the house across the street behind Sam and the one next to it. “Thank you for time, Mrs. Jackson. I sincerely offer my condolences.”
 
Putting his hands in his pockets, Sam exhaled loudly as the door closed, turning around on the porch and heading down the short flight of stairs. He wasn’t entirely convinced by the girl’s story and suspected it had more to do with middle school social hierarchy than with something supernatural. Still, he couldn’t completely dismiss Samantha’s account and would have to look into Kelly Mar – he’d figure out her last name later – and see where that would take him.
 
Hearing footsteps, Sam lifted his head, taking one hand out of his pocket to brush the fringe away from his eyes so he could see his brother more clearly. “Hey,” he said wearily.
 
“The Abbots and the Darlingtons wouldn’t even talk to me,” Dean responded, scoffing before looking at his brother questionably.   “And I’m taking it that you didn’t get what we need…or at least something that could help us,” he assumed.
 
“Well, not much.” Sam placed his hand on the back of his neck, fixing the collar of his shirt. “Apparently Samantha Jackson was best friends with all three of the girls: Paige, Courtney…and Jessica.”
 
Dean raised his eyebrows, the beginnings of a smirk forming at the corner of his lips.
 
“Don’t say anything,” Sam said crossly.
 
Dean broke out into a grin at the affronted look on his brother’s face. “I didn’t say anything.” He held his hands up in mock surrender.
 
“Yeah, well…” Sam blinked, moving a hand to block the sun out of his eyes. “It’s not much of a surprise considering Jessica was friends with Paige and Courtney.”
 
“They were all best friends,” Dean confirmed. “And something tells me Samantha is probably next.”
 
“That’s what she said, too.”
 
“Really?”
 
“Apparently, Kelly is out to get her.”
 
“Kelly?” Dean asked.
 
“I’m assuming she’s in their class or at least around the same age,” Sam added. “So…are we going to watch Samantha’s house, then?”
 
“Yeah, that would be the first thing I’d suggest, but in a place like this,” he paused, extending an arm to gesture at the neighbourhood, “I think something low-key is probably our best bet. Because the deaths happen in their rooms, right?”
 
“Right,” Sam agreed.
 
Dean pressed his lips together thoughtfully. “I highly doubt anyone’s going to believe us and for once, I can’t think of something that would even get us remotely close to a little girl’s room without sounding the least bit perverted.”
 
Sam snorted but didn’t provide any further comment to what his brother said. “Then we’ll have to get this thing before it gets her,” he reasoned.
 
“So…any ideas on what this thing could be?”
 
“I thought we agreed it was some kind of spirit or demon?” Sam wiggled his nose at Dean.
 
“Well, personally, I haven’t really seen anything like it. And dad didn’t mention any of the other deaths to me. But I don’t doubt that it’s one of our usual playmates.”
 
“Something that attacks kids for no reason…” Sam thought aloud.
 
“Even demons have reasons,” Dean subtly reminded his brother.
 
Sam sighed heavily, legs starting to cramp from standing in the same place for so long. “Then what about their connection to Kelly? When I was talking to Samantha, I don’t really think she felt too bad about Kelly not having any friends.”
 
“What makes you say that?”
 
“She sounded convinced that nobody wanted to be Kelly’s friend,” Sam replied.
 
“Sounds like a bully.”
 
“What?”
 
“That’s right,” Dean said, smirking as if he was in the middle of remembering something. “You didn’t have that problem.”
 
“What are you talking about?”
 
“You didn’t forget all the times I saved your scrawny ass when you were younger?”
 
“No you didn’t,” Sam denied. “Because besides what we hunt,” he admitted almost reluctantly, “there was no one to save me from.”
 
“You never stopped to think why?”
 
Sam looked confused at Dean’s teasing smile before finally understanding; sucking his teeth and walking away from his brother.
 
“So it’s a demon now?” Dean asked as he walked faster to catch up with his brother’s long strides.
 
Sam paused, stopping in the section of sidewalk that placed them in front of the Impala. “Then that means either Kelly is summoning it or someone is doing it for her.”
 
Dean shrugged his shoulders, looking offhandedly at his car. “Not like it hasn’t been done before.”
 
“But still…”
 
“What we need to do,” Dean said, turning his head toward the direction of the house across the street from them, “is get into that house.” There was yellow tape around the perimeter and a black Denali in the driveway.
 
“We could come back later tonight?” Sam suggested.
 
“No.” Dean shook his head. “We need to get into there now before those guys move everything else or the family decides they want their house back.”
 
Sam looked at his brother with wide eyes and despite his mental protests; his legs followed the other man as Dean began to cross the street. “Dean,” he whispered harshly, now walking beside him. “Are you crazy or just out of your mind?”
 
Dean turned to his brother as he stepped on the grass, giving Sam one of his usual self-satisfied grins. “I promise we’ll be careful.”
 
**
 
“It still gets to me,” Nick admitted to Greg, the other man licking his lips nervously. He grimaced as he took in the shirt Greg was wearing, some shade of blue and appearing to hang off his frame. His vest seemed to be the only thing keeping it from falling off his shoulders. He knew that Greg was fully capable of becoming a good CSI, but wasn’t sure if Greg knew the price of being exposed to the impiety of humanity on a daily basis.
 
And maybe the thought of a cynical Greg was something that scared him more than Nick wanted to admit.
 
“Even now?” Greg asked.
 
“I won’t say I’m used to it, but…” Nick hesitated for a moment, not quite sure how to respond to the expression on Greg’s face. “It’s not something I wouldn’t expect.” And truthfully, there was nothing more he could say about it.
 
“Oh.”
 
Nick turned his head at the disappointment clear in Greg’s voice, looking to where the body of the victim once lay. He knew they wouldn’t be able to finishing processing the house until at least a couple more hours and he was grateful for the small fact that David had already taken the body out of the house.
 
“Did you know Brandon found her?” Greg asked, examining a photograph on a dresser. “The little brother,” he added.
 
Nick sighed in response, not really having anything to say. Mood changing, his eyes narrowed as he moved toward the window, catching sight of two men approaching the house from the side. They didn’t look overtly suspicious, but Nick knew better than to make assumptions.
 
Especially when there wasn’t an officer on duty.
 
He turned his attention to Greg, who was still engaged with the dresser, picking up another picture. The other man turned quickly at the sound of Nick cocking his gun. “I’m going to go check on something outside,” he said carefully, paying attention to the sudden stiffness in Greg’s posture. “You going to be okay until I get back?”
 
Greg nodded absently, his gaze focused on the weapon Nick was returning to his holster. He knew danger was always a possibility whenever they were at a crime scene. Whether people came back to the scene or left something behind, it was a risk he knew was part of the job.
 
It just was something he hadn’t really run into until now.
 
Nick scrunched his forehead in concern, having second thoughts about leaving Greg alone. He didn’t really have much of an option right now, but at the same time, he didn’t want to make Greg feel uncomfortable. The younger man still didn’t have a firearm.
 
Seeing that Nick was beginning to second guess himself, Greg was quick to reassure him. “I’ll be fine,” he said, his voice holding more resolution than he actually felt. “Do you want me to call somebody?”
 
Nick shook his head. “I think it’s probably just a couple of neighbours,” he said with a forced smile, trying not to pass off his unease to Greg.
 
Greg returned the gesture with an awkward smile of his own. “Yeah,” he agreed, turning away as Nick made his way out of the room, footsteps faint against the carpeting and becoming louder as his shoes made contact with the wooden floor.
 
He refocused his attention, trying not to think of the implications of Nick’s actions as he took another quick survey of the room; not wanting to overlook anything. He squinted; catching a glimpse of something small and burnished that was partially hidden within the carpet fibres. He lowered himself to the carpet; the faded denim of his pants brushing softly against the lush material.
 
Greg reached out his hand, picking up the item between his fingers and looking at it carefully. It was similar to the two charms they found earlier; this time a starfish instead of the previous seashells. He bit his bottom lip as he brought it closer to his face, the charm almost slipping from his grasp.
 
The starfish was vaguely familiar and made him feel somewhat nostalgic; reminding him of something given to him by his older cousin at one point in time. That feeling that he was missing something was back again, and even if it wasn’t prompted when they found the other charms, this one somehow enforced his sense of helplessness. It was like a blank slate, some kind of gap in his memory and he still couldn’t understand why this case in particular was forcing him to retrace a time in his life twenty years ago.
 
Greg smiled sardonically. While it was true James had given Greg a bracelet with similar charms, there were probably many generic bracelets people could add things to. The idea that someone had the same bracelet was silly if anything.
 
Even if James did live in Henderson when they were younger, Greg received the bracelet while he was California. It came in the mail shortly after James’ best friend died; becoming some kind of symbol for the unexplainable rift between him and his cousin that Greg still couldn’t explain to this day.
 
The bracelet was a serendipitous find for James and would temporarily serve his fascination with beaches and more specifically the ones in California; something that connected a twelve year-old Greg with his eighteen year-old cousin. But the year Greg received the bracelet was the year Kyle died and the same year James moved to Delaware for college. Greg tried to send to send the bracelet back before James moved; a naïve attempt to close the distance between them.
 
But he never bothered to ask what James did with it.
 
Greg sighed heavily as the put the starfish in a small bag, the first piece of evidence in his nonexistent pile. He stood up quickly, turning around and blinking when he came face to face with his reflection; the confrontation startling and unexpected.
 
He stared into the reflective glass; the mirror somehow obscure in the middle of the room. And if the entire room wasn’t so disturbingly white, maybe he wouldn’t have felt so uneasy with Nick leaving him alone in it. Everything seemed to bleed into one another and he almost felt trapped, suffocated in an ambience of white. With the exception of the open door, the mirror seemed the only – if misleading – way out.
 
He didn’t want to imagine how he would feel if the door was closed.
 
Then the room seemed to drop in temperature and Greg felt his body become rigid on its own accord. With his attention fixed on the mirror, he forgot to inhale when he saw something pass behind his reflection; a shadow, black and stark against the colour of the room. He turned around quickly, hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever it was, but saw nothing but white.
 
“It’s nothing…” he said to himself as he took a deep breath, closing his eyes and puffing his cheeks. He pushed away the fear that was burgeoning from the pit of his stomach; inwardly chiding himself for being so jumpy. “It was just my imagination…nothing else but my imagination,” he tried to assure himself, once more.
 
Greg opened his eyes, staring into his reflection again in an attempt to prove that he was overreacting. He walked closer to the mirror, dark spots appearing in his vision. He scrunched his nose, eyes narrowing and previous scare forgotten as he noticed a substance on the top of the white frame of the mirror; almost imperceptible within the embossing. He slid his finger in between it, taking a sample and holding it to the light.
 
He rubbed it gently in between his fingertips, the substance powdery and leaving a yellow residue on his gloves.
 
**
 
“Hey,” someone called out, and Sam groaned when he saw a man coming towards them. “What are you doing here?”
 
“We didn’t even make it to the driveway.” Sam looked at his brother reprovingly, speaking through clenched teeth.
 
“Shut up, Sam,” Dean replied irritably. “Of all the times for a cop to do their job…” he muttered to himself.
 
The man approached them warily, and neither Dean nor Sam was unaware of the gun resting on his hip. He wore a black vest, one side displaying the letters CSI and the other Stokes, which they presumed was his name.
 
The man looked at the brothers sceptically and inwardly Sam didn’t really blame him, but that didn’t stop him from trying to dispel the look from the other man’s face. “I’m Sam and this is my brother, Dean.” He pointed at his brother, and then gestured to a house near a street intersection. “We’re neighbours and we just got back from vacation.” He paused to make sure the surprise in his voice more believable. “What happened?”
 
Dean shook his head in agreement, softening his features and giving his look of – what Sam deemed as – fake concern.
 
But Stokes didn’t seem to be persuaded by their attempts. Though, Sam was somewhat satisfied to note that his hand didn’t linger as close to his gun as it did a few seconds ago. “I’m sorry, but I’m not able to disclose that information,” Stokes replied guardedly, his mouth still set in a thin line and the tone of his voice betraying his words.
 
“Oh,” Sam said disappointedly, moving his gaze from Stokes to his brother, who was actually the one responsible for their current situation.
 
Seeing Sam rolling his eyes and turning away, Dean bit his tongue, trying to not to comeback with a crass remark for the officer. “You know it’s going to be on the news, so I don’t-”
 
“Then you can wait to watch it on the news,” Stokes said in an overtly cheery tone as he crossed his arms, his posture and assumed authority taunting Dean, who was only somewhat quelled when Sam took hold of his arm.
 
Ignoring his brother’s firming grasp, Dean was going to say something else when the door to the house opened again and another man emerged. He appeared to be younger but wore the same vest as Stokes; the names Sanders written on the left side.
 
“Nick,” Sanders called out, seemingly unaware of Sam and Dean’s presence as he made a beeline for Stokes.
 
Nick turned around at the sound of Greg’s voice, keeping the other two men in his peripheral vision. He knew he wasn’t gone long, probably less than ten minutes.  He was going to ask if Greg finished processing the room when he noticed something in the other man’s hand.
 
Holding up a small bag, a yellowish substance barely visible inside of it, Greg blinked when he stopped beside his older colleague. “I think this is…” he began, trailing off when he looked in the direction of the two unknown men, his focus on something further in the distance.
 
There was something making its way to them. Blurry and unfocussed like an apparition, it flickered as it continued to move forward and Greg could almost hear the static of the disappearing and reappearing picture. He cautiously took a step back as it faded away again, only to materialise even closer and now no more than a few feet away from him.
 
His mouth opened but Greg lost the ability to speak as he watched it pass through a large tree, image somewhat recognisable and discernable as the form of a person continued to make its way to him; body crooked, walk distorted and aberrant. It looked like a young girl, head tilted and perpendicular to her neck. Her cheeks were sunken in and her skin was sallow; made even more so by the long, dark hair framing her face and cascading down a pure white dress, too bright for her complexion.
 
She paused. One arm was stretched out awkwardly as she slowly straightened her head; the movement making her neck twitch until she stopped; looking at Greg with large, black eyes.
 
They were no more than an arm’s length apart and though she didn’t even come up to his shoulder, Greg still found his heart beating in trepidation. He made another attempt to speak, but the intention to say Nick only came out as a strained gasp; his mouth drying as he found he couldn’t take his eyes away from the girl in front of him.
 
Her image began to waver again, blinking in and out of time as she angled her head slightly; the action causing her to jerk as confusion began to mar her features. She looked at Greg quizzically, her lips tightly pressed together as if she was assessing him.
 
A flash and she was gone, reappearing just as quickly; extending her arm and reaching for Greg’s chest. Rectifying the position of her head, her fingers began to curl, almost eager to grab something. Then they were spreading out, stopping short of making contact with Greg’s vest, her palm hovering over where his heart would be.
 
She narrowed her eyes and then she was gone, a man Greg didn’t know taking her place as he walked through her and another man looking at Greg anxiously. Almost jumping when he felt a something take hold of his arm, Greg turned and sighed in audible relief when he realised the fingers curled around his skin were noticeably larger. He raised his head to see Nick looking at him worriedly, familiar lines appearing around the corner of his eyes.
 
“Greg,” he heard Nick say, even distinguishing a trace of fear that crept into the older man’s voice. He didn’t know what happened, who that little girl was, and why, apparently, he was the only one who could see her. He was pretty sure the three men around him would have said something by now if they saw her, too.
 
He licked his lips, trying to brush off the hand on his arm that didn’t seem to want to let go. “I’m fine,” he told Nick, wondering why even bothered when he knew the older man wasn’t going to believe him. “Really,” he tried again, not noticing that Nick was supporting his weight until he tried to balance himself.
 
“You sure you’re all right?” one of strangers asked softly, the other one simply frowning and looking at Greg strangely.
 
Greg nodded his head as Nick began to loosen his grasp, letting the younger man stand on his own. Satisfied when he didn’t feel on the verge of falling, Greg bent down to pick up the evidence bag with the small sample of sulphur he must have dropped somewhere between seeing the  little girl and realising he was the only one who did.
 
He felt Nick’s eyes piercing the back of his head as he stood, but he turned to the direction of the two other men, where the girl first came from. He didn’t look to the other man when Nick moved to stand beside him, welcoming the more distant form of solace.
 
“Are you going to tell me what happened?” Nick asked, seeing the other two men drift away from his peripheral vision. But he wasn’t too concerned with them, as long as they weren’t heading towards the house.
 
Greg continued to stare absently at seemingly nothing, and Nick sighed heavily at the vague reply he received.
 
“I should have remembered something.”
 
**
 
“Nobody came to our house, yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not expecting them,” the woman said curtly into the telephone receiver.  “You know I think it’s only a matter of time before they start accusing someone. I’m actually surprised they haven’t come today…considering the latest one happened next door.” She snorted. “I don’t believe what’s on the news either. I think they’re trying to cover something up.”
 
“I know,” she said, nodding her head as she leaned against the marble counter in the kitchen. “It’s only today and tomorrow, but her school is closed for the rest of the week…so I took her to the hospital.” She glanced at the little girl sitting on the couch and watching the flat screen television propped on the blue wall. The woman frowned, wondering why her daughter seemed squished on one side of the couch when she normally took up more space. But she thought nothing more of it when the person on the other end began speaking.
 
“No…no, they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. But there was nothing wrong with those other little girls either…at least that’s what they told us. It doesn’t seem like the flu. But then again, I only have a DBA…and you know that has nothing to do with medicine.”
 
“I already made her another appointment with a different doctor for next week. Daniel’s going to take her because I’m going to be out of town that Thursday. I’m going to be overseas to make final negotiations with that takeover in Japan.”
 
Her lips flattened into a straight line. “Daniel and I have tried talking to her, but she doesn’t want to say anything about it. Yes, I’m worried about how this is going to affect her, too. I just…there’s so much going on right now. She wasn’t too happy when we first moved here, but she’s told me she’s getting along fine in school.”
 
The woman snorted, releasing a bitter laugh. “And I told Daniel about that. I don’t know what he wants me to do. Then he-” She was interrupted by the person on the other line. “That too, but it was really more for him than it was for us. I have no qualms with relocation, but I still have to take Kelly into consideration.”
 
“A lot of parents are talking about it, but nobody knows what to do.” She shook her head, reaching her hand to turn on the oven light. She kneeled down, the high heels of her shoes clacking against the tiled floor as she peered into the oven; the skin of the chicken beginning to brown and but the meat not yet finished. “No, not that I know of. I don’t know their parents that well, but they were all in Kelly’s class.”
 
Fourteen year-old Jessica Fischer was found dead this morning. Hers is only one in the string of recent deaths still puzzling experts and authorities. Though no official reports have been released, we are being told that each of the girls died due to heart complications. And while not unheard of, our own medical correspondents do admit that it is rare to have-
 
“Kelly,” the woman began, the palm of her hand covering the bottom of the phone as she spoke to the little girl. Her voice travelled from the kitchen to the living room, overwhelming the voice coming from the newscaster on the television. “Why don’t you watch something else, all right?” She didn’t want to hear anymore of the neighbours’ deaths and much less wanted her daughter to be exposed to any more of it.
 
“No, that was Kelly. She was watching the news and – I know. It’s all they’re talking about and those families…I wouldn’t want to hear about it, either.”
 
Finger posed over one of the channel buttons, Kelly stiffened when she felt something brush against the nape of her neck, finding its way beneath her hair. A faint tremor travelled through her frame, caused by the brief contact of skin upon skin; her body heat beginning to dissipate. The four charms on her bracelet were cold against her wrist, delicately piercing the skin as her fingers moved to turn down the volume instead.
 
Looking to see her mother still preoccupied with her phone conversation, Kelly slowly leaned over to put the remote on the small, glass table in front of her. She sat back against the couch, her other hand moving to rest on top of the small crevice in between the lavish cushions.
 
Her fingers not quite touching her palm as she squeezed her hand tightly.

***

Stretching out his legs on the bed, Greg placed his hands beneath his head; one on top of the other as he stared at the white ceiling above him.
 
After what happened yesterday, he knew he should have been more afraid than he actually was. By all accounts, he should have at least been questioning his sanity and whether or not lack of sleep could impair a person’s judgment to such an extent as seeing things no one else could.
 
But then again, maybe he was afraid.
 
Maybe he was just lingering on the adrenaline and trying not to think too hard about what happened. It would probably explain why he lashed out at Nick yesterday, when the other man kept asking questions and wouldn’t leave it alone. On one hand, Greg could understand why and it was more than comforting knowing that Nick cared; it was always good to know that someone did. But the older man’s concern quickly grew into annoying persistence and regardless of how many times he asked Nick to stop, the other man continued to be relentless. It wasn’t until he actually raised his voice that Nick decided to leave Greg alone, walking out on the younger man and Greg hadn’t heard from him since.
 
Though, while he did feel bad for yelling at Nick, Greg simply wasn’t ready to appease questions even he didn’t have the answers to. Furthermore, his thoughts about seeing the deformed apparition and the other questionable things happening to him since they started the case were things that Greg felt Nick would honestly dismiss. No matter how much trust he placed in the older man and how much Nick would enforce it, Greg didn’t want to lose what little respect he thought Nick held for him.
 
And claiming to be part of paranormal incidents was probably something Nick would frown upon.
 
For Greg, that was more than enough reason to push the other man away; fearing how he would respond to thoughts not particularly sane in his own mind.
 
He wasn’t sure why he held Nick in such a high regard, why he looked up to the other man and why his opinion meant so much to Greg.   He knew he and Nick weren’t exactly the best of friends, but there was definitely something that gradually developed between them; a kind of brotherly relationship that had practically grown on Greg, who wasn’t too familiar with the concept of having a sibling – even if he and Nick weren’t related by blood.
 
Greg turned on his side, throwing the covers off the bed and glancing at the digital clock on the side table; next to the small business card. The time was a little after seven in the morning. He sighed, realising he would have to face Nick within the next hour. The two of them had already planned to meet Warrick and Catherine for breakfast in some diner; trying to catch up with each other and an effort to take some kind of respite from the case.
 
He thought of his earlier conversation with Nana Olaf, an attempt to make sense of what was happening to him. Being the proclaimed psychic in the family, he knew she would be more lenient about his concerns. And despite the fact that she believed he had inherited her abilities and the fact that Greg kept an open mind to the supernatural, he didn’t really expect something like this to actually occur; much less affect him in such a way.
 
And the outside events surrounding it had to be more than merely coincidence. Happenstance couldn’t explain why Greg was being constantly reminded of his childhood and why it seemed to have a disturbing connection with the deaths of those little girls. A part of him almost wanted to tell Grissom about it, hopeful to gain some insight from the older man, but because of the nature of what Greg wanted to disclose, there was no evidence to support his contention.
 
Because the charms resembling the ones on the bracelet given to him by his cousin; the deaths of the girls eerily paralleling the deaths of James’ best friend and Kyle – there was something that shadowed his thoughts, clouded his mind, and furthered his resolve that a connection existed between what happened then and what was happening now. He just didn’t know it was.
 
And the things his grandmother shared with him seemed to make the entire situation even more complex than what it already was.
 
“Come on, come on…pick up,” Greg mumbled hastily to himself, biting his bottom lip as the phone rang for the third time. It was two in the morning over there and he knew his grandparents were probably sleeping, but he still hoped they would answer.
 
“Hello,” said a male voice doused with sleep, accent heavy, yet reassuring and familiar to Greg’s ears.
 
“Papa – Papa, can I speak to Nana?” Greg asked softly, wincing when his grandfather said his name questionably, his tone considerably more alert. He realised he must have been speaking in Norwegian. He didn’t use the language that much – able to understand it more than he was able to speak it – and only when he was especially nervous or scared; something his family knew well.
 
“I need to…I just need to speak to her,” Greg continued, still not reverting back to English. He waited as he heard the rustling of sheets, a few indiscernible words being shared and then a feminine voice calling his name.
 
“Nana…” Greg said uncertainly.
 
“What’s wrong?” she asked; the tone of her voice soft and encouraging.
 
He sighed heavily into the receiver. “I think I’m seeing things.”
 
 “…like what?” she asked cautiously.
 
“I think…I think I’m seeing a spirit,” he admitted.
 
“Do you remember…?” She paused; as if she was taking time to give what she was going to say more thought. “Do you remember your friend, Cari?”
 
“Who?”
 
“The girl you used to play with when you were younger – after you and James stopped talking as much.”
 
Greg shook his head in confusion; squinting his eyes as he tried to remember whoever his grandmother referred to. “I don’t remember anybody like that.”  He could imagine her pursing her lips as another moment of silence passed between them.
 
“She was who convinced me that my gift was passed along to you.”
 
“What are you talking about, Nana?”
 
“Your parents told me you made her up. They said she was a figment of your imagination because of what happened between you and James. But the way you would talk about her when you called me…how insisting and excitable you were about her.”
 
“But that doesn’t make any sense.” Greg gave a small, disbelieving laugh, the pitch of his voice slightly increasing. “Why wouldn’t I remember her, then?”
 
“I couldn’t begin to tell you, but it may have had something to do with the death of that little boy you knew.”
 
Greg stiffened. “Kyle?”
 
He could admit that he felt somewhat better and more resolute after relaying his thoughts to his grandmother, but her words still left him shaken; implying that something he did in his childhood had to do with why those girls died. It was a notion he couldn’t quite get himself to believe and honestly didn’t want to because it meant that he was somehow at fault.
 
As a twelve year-old, he could recall feeling incredibly guilty about Kyle’s death; something that still struck a chord within him today even though logic told him he didn’t cause the little boy to die. Kyle wasn’t the nicest person around him and Greg could remember strongly believing that the other boy lived solely to torment him; always searching for and finding something to bring down Greg’s sense of worth. And even though he didn’t liked being picked on, Greg would never resort to wishing someone dead in order to stop the taunting.
 
Though, the circumstances surrounding Kyle’s death were hazy if anything and Greg couldn’t remember exactly what took place; other than the fact the boy was found in his room one night and not breathing.
 
There was too much going at one time for him to comprehend and the appearance of those two men yesterday wasn’t necessarily helping matters; only further adding to his sense of bewilderment. Before their argument, Nick told Greg the two men were just neighbours, but he could tell the other man didn’t believe his own claim. And Greg didn’t believe in it, either. He didn’t like to make assumptions, but the way they dressed and how they presented themselves didn’t really correlate with the other people they met in the neighbourhood, who wanted little or nothing at all to do with the death of the little girls.
 
He wasn’t sure what to make of them, but something told him they knew more about what was happening than what they were willing to let on. As far as Greg’s experience was concerned, people normally preferred to keep to themselves or find out about something indirectly; especially in that kind of upper-class community. Greg wasn’t denying the plausibility, but it was more than a little strange that the two men – if they even lived in that area – were openly curious about it.
 
As the alarm went off, Greg opted to get dressed, deciding to think more of the situation on his way to the diner.
 
Removing himself from the bed, he turned off the alarm as he glanced at the small card on the bedside table; a ten digit number scribbled on it and beneath it the name, Sam.
 
**
 
“You okay man?” Warrick asked, watching Greg slide almost reluctantly into the booth beside Nick. Greg’s bangs were falling over his eyes and when he lifted his head to nod affirmatively – albeit half-heartedly – in response, Warrick couldn’t quite place the expression on the younger man’s face. By the lack of warmth on his face and the dark circles beneath his eyes, it was obvious he wasn’t getting much sleep. And it wasn’t different from any other member of the team, but it looked haunting on Greg.
 
“Hey, Greg.” Catherine gave Greg a small smile that he barely returned, a twisted and pathetic version of what it usually would be. She was sure Warrick noticed something wrong and surmised Nick had some idea of what was going on, if the way he was staring at Greg was any indication; seemingly keen on the younger man’s every movement. Nick’s body was uncharacteristically tense and his rigid posture alone furthered her deduction that he knew something; and it was something he probably wouldn’t be sharing with either Warrick or herself anytime soon.
 
She glanced at Warrick, the two making brief eye contact and informing her that he was sentient of the tension between Nick and Greg, as well.
 
“I see you guys already ordered without me,” Greg said, aware of the three pairs of eyes focused on him. He shifted uncomfortably, trying to dismiss the excess attention and avoiding Nick’s gaze.
 
Not wanting to make the situation more awkward that it already was, Catherine looked at the runny egg on her plate, some of the yolk spilling over to the slice of French toast. Using her fork, she cut off a piece of the egg white and picked it up with the utensil. “We’re sorry, Greggy,” she said unapologetically, some of the yolk now dripping off the fork and plopping back onto the plate. “It was just too tempting to wait for you.” She waved the food enticingly to Greg, who started to shy away from it, unconsciously moving closer to Nick.
 
Warrick snorted at the display, taking in the slight disgust appearing on both of the other men’s faces. “Not to mention that they’d probably kick us out if Nick’s stomach started growling any louder.” Nick turned his head sharply and Warrick returned his affronted expression with a nonchalant one of his own. Shrugging in mock helplessness, he took a bite of sausage, paying the other man little attention. When he lifted his head to look across the booth, he was pleased to note the corner of Greg’s mouth rising slightly and Nick’s muscles beginning to relax.
 
“But Nick did order for you,” Catherine pointed out, using her fork – now absent of the piece of egg – to gesture to the empty area in front of Nick; two glasses of orange juice in the place where his plate would be. Catherine watched as Nick looked at Greg expectantly, pushing one of the glasses towards the other man and she rolled her eyes at the deliberate theatrics.
 
“Really,” Greg asked, looking more than a little guilty as he turned from Warrick and Catherine to meet Nick’s gaze. “With the hash browns, too?” he asked, his voice almost eager and surprised.
 
Nick nodded, about to answer when their host came over with two plates in his hand. “Here you go,” he said, placing a plate in front of Nick and the other in front of Greg; both sure to mention their gratitude. “Anything else I can get you?”
 
Catherine shook her head as she looked at the waiter. “We’re fine, thank you.” She took a sip of her water, moving the straw to avoid picking up the lemon seeds lingering at the bottom of the glass.
 
As their host walked off, Greg turned to face the man next to him. “Thanks. I mean…” He gave Nick a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry about-”
 
But Greg was cut short by a growl evidently coming from Nick’s stomach, the noise prompting a silence between the four of them; confined to their booth.
 
“Told you,” Warrick stated calmly, breaking the brief moment of quiet and observing the red emerging on Nick’s face. He brought a mug to his lips, hiding a grin as he began to drink his coffee.
 
Greg snorted, bubbles appearing in his juice until he took the glass away from his mouth.
 
Catherine covered her mouth, considerate enough to turn her laughter into a quick series of coughs. But despite the somewhat thoughtful act, she could tell it was probably doing more harm than good, only adding to Nick’s embarrassment. She picked up her fork and took the last bite of her French toast when she heard the familiar sound of her cell phone ringing.
 
The three men immediately became quiet when she answered it, watching her intently as she hurried to chew the last of her food before speaking.
 
“Willows,” she said. “Really?” She turned to Warrick as she continued to speak. “No…he’s right here. Yeah, just give us a minute. We’re right around the corner.” She moved the phone from ear, closing it with an audible snap.
 
“Sorry to cut it short, guys, but uh…” She put the phone in her purse, putting it over her shoulder as she prepared to leave.   “Doc’s paging us about Jessica Fischer’s autopsy.”
 
Nick looked at her regretfully, but Catherine brushed it off. “Don’t worry about it.” She removed herself from the booth, Warrick following behind her. “I don’t doubt that Grissom is going to be looking for you two.”
 
 “Shh…you’re going to jinx us,” Greg responded playfully, putting a finger to his lips.
 
“And by the way,” Warrick said as he stood; hand resting on the table before he turned around and began to walk away, “thanks for the breakfast.”
 
“You’re welcome,” Greg called out, hand cupped on the side of his mouth and earning the attention of a few people in the adjacent booths.
 
Nick shook his head as he watched Warrick and Catherine leave. “I kind of wish Grissom called us first,” he said jokingly, earning a smile from Greg until both of them broke into soft laughter; the sounds fading and leaving disquiet between them.
 
Placing a piece of steak in his mouth, Nick found himself wallowing in the slight tension that had once again grown between himself and Greg. His previous approaches to get Greg to speak weren’t the most conducive, and this morning withstanding, he hadn’t really spoken to the other man since yesterday.
 
It was obvious that something was bothering Greg, even Warrick and Catherine picked up on it. Though, thankfully they didn’t push the subject; something that would probably cause Greg to become more determined to not let anyone know what was going on in his mind.
 
Nick turned to the man beside him, Greg back to avoiding his gaze and putting a hash brown in his mouth.  He chewed it slowly, hand using his fork to move the rest of his food around on his plate. Nick didn’t think he could take much more of the circumventing.
 
Sighing, he put down his own utensil; the metal against ceramic creating a clanging sound that more or less caught Greg’s attention.
 
“Look,” he began, finally breaking the silence, “I didn’t mean to push you yesterday.” He continued when Greg didn’t say anything. “I was just – I was just worried about you, you know?”
 
Greg nodded, though he made no attempt to speak, eyes still on his plate. “You’ve been acting weird ever since this case started and it’s not fun to watch. Then, when you won’t tell me anything…” Nick let the implication hang, hoping his voice didn’t sound as inept as he felt. “And…” he paused when Greg began to lift his head. “You know you can tell me anything, right…that I wouldn’t hold it against you?”
 
It was Greg’s turn to sigh as he felt himself beginning to crumble in his resolve, almost giving in beneath the weight of the older man’s gaze. This confidence – this belief – that Nick had in him was something he didn’t want to lose. Even after their argument; even though they both knew it was really Greg’s fault, the other man was stilling concerned and willing to find out what was wrong. And that was why Greg was so hesitant to tell Nick about his apparent and now confirmed confrontation with the paranormal.
 
“I know.” Greg put on his best grin, voice lightened but eyes still somewhat dulled as he tried to assure Nick that he knew he was able to confide in the other man. “But I’m just not ready, yet…okay?”
 
“But you will tell me,” Nick asked uncertainly as creases appeared on his forehead, the skin crinkling around his eyes. “…right?”
 
Greg fingered the small, business card in his pocket, an easy smile on his face and his decision already made.
 
“Yeah…I will.”
 
**
 
Sam moved the laptop turning it around as Dean took a seat across the small table, chest pressing against the back of the chair and his arms resting on top of it. “Caroline Taylor,” he said succinctly, letting his brother see the photograph of a little girl on the screen.
 
Dean leaned over to get a better glance. She wasn’t necessarily pretty, her features more awkward than anything. Her face was pale and pointed; arms long and hands crossed over her lap, a small charm bracelet on her wrist.  She appeared uncomfortable in her white dress, dark hair falling messily over her shoulders. “What about her?”
 
“Well…” Sam sighed; turning the laptop back around and using the arrow keys to scroll down on the screen. “She was thirteen years-old when she died in 1984; the first of three who died in Henderson that year,” he read from the computer. “She was found dead in the neighbourhood park with another girl from her school. Her heart just…stopped.”
 
“Like that?”
 
“Yeah…they determined it was due to natural causes and didn’t even bother looking further into it.”
 
“Was the other girl alive?” Dean continued when Sam nodded. “And they didn’t even bother to look at her?”
 
“Apparently not,” Sam answered, closing his laptop. “I think this is who we’re looking for, though.”
 
“So, it might not be a summoning after all – just some vengeful spirit.”
 
“Yeah, about that.”  Sam paused, running a hand through his hair. “You remember when we went to Kelly’s house earlier?”
 
“Hello Mrs. Marshall,” Sam began, displaying a warm smile as he and Dean flashed their badges. “I’m Officer Malcolm and this is Officer Grant.” He gestured to Dean. “We’re wondering if you would answer a few questions concerning the recent deaths in the neighbourhood?”
 
The woman stood with one hand on her hip, eyes glaring at them boorishly. “Am I obligated to do so?”
 
Seeing as they were quickly getting nowhere, Dean tried to charm her, accentuating his accent and slightly cocking his head. “Well, no, but uh…it would be a great help if you-”
 
“Then no,” she interrupted, slamming the door in their faces.
 
Dean snorted at the memory. “Yeah, that went well.”
 
Sam ignored the derisive comment. “Did you see Kelly? At least I think that was her.”
 
“The creepy girl hiding in the back?”
 
“You saw it, too…how she kept looking to her right at something?” Sam asked as he propped his elbows on the table.
 
“She had an imaginary friend,” Dean suggested offhandedly, shrugging his shoulders.
 
“I think she did.”
 
“I wasn’t being serious…”
 
“Well, not a real imaginary friend, but what if she was somehow talking to Caroline’s spirit or Caroline was pretending to be Kelly’s imaginary friend?”
 
“Gives me an excuse to use evil and imaginary friend in the same sentence,” Dean muttered to himself. “But why would a vengeful spirit hang around her like that?”
 
“Because she’s a vengeful spirit,” Sam said as he shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
 
“Well, what about that bullying thing? Let’s say that those girls did tease Kelly. Kelly gets angry, comes up with an imaginary friend, who turns out to be real…”
 
“Yeah, but if that’s true, what about the other deaths in Nevada and the one in California?”
 
“I don’t know, then.” Dean licked his lips, crossing his arms as he leaned over on the table. “But I say looking at Caroline is a good start.”
 
“What if Caroline isn’t evil and Kelly is actually behind everything. I mean, if we’re going to look at the bullying thing.”
 
“What? You want to go ask Kelly if she could call her friend off? I don’t think that’s going to go down too well. And besides, Caroline is the one that killed, Sammy.”
 
“It’s Sam,” he said shortly, the response somewhat automatic. “But what if she had a reason, like some kind of unsolved conflict or something that’s physically keeping her here?”
 
“That still doesn’t make her any less evil.” Dean shook his head. “But we’ll fix it like we always do, salt and burn the bones. Tonight…because I don’t know how much time we have left and this thing is too erratic, doesn’t have any set patterns.”
 
Sam lowered his head in thought, his eyes on the bed beside him before returning his gaze to Dean. “Then, what about that CSI from yesterday, the one who knew that Stokes guy?”
 
“Sanders…what about him?”
 
“I think he’s connected to whatever’s going on. I slipped my number in his pocket.” When Dean looked at him incredulously, he added, “You know…just in case.”
 
“Aside from wondering how you even managed to do that, you think that was such a good idea? You know he’s a cop-”
 
“CSI,” Sam corrected.
 
“Same difference. The point is that if he finds out who you are, there’s a good chance he’ll find out who I am. And I’m not really looking forward to that.”
 
“I didn’t get a bad feeling from him.” Dean was about to speak when Sam cut him off, adding quickly, “But you saw him, Dean – how he was acting.”
 
“I saw the sulphur in the bag he was holding. But I was just glad that the other cop decided to let us go.”
 
Not bothering to correct him again, Sam groaned when his brother avoided the question. “He looked like he saw something.”
 
“Like what,” Dean asked cautiously, remembering how removed the other man looked yesterday. Knowing their line of work and the people they’ve come across, he knew it was very likely that Sanders could somehow be involved. But he wanted to push it aside for now and concentrate on stopping someone else from dying. In addition, he really didn’t think it was in his or Sam’s best interest to get tangled up with the authorities.
 
“A vision,” Sam said tentatively. “It looked like he was having a vision or something…I know it was only for a few seconds, but-”
 
“Like the ones you have?” Dean sat up in the chair, suddenly more attentive.
 
“I don’t know…” Sam began to fidget beneath his brother’s penetrating gaze. “It’s possible…”
 
“You’ve been having visions?” Dean said, a somewhat hurt tone finding its way into the accusation.
 
“What?” Sam looked at his brother in confusion. “No…no.” He shook his head fervently. “I think Sanders saw something and he may have even seen her – Caroline, I mean.”
 
“Wait a minute…you’re saying some guy who’s probably around our age,” Dean pointed between himself and his brother, “can see the ‘imaginary friend’ we’re assuming killed all those girls?”
 
“Is it really that hard to believe?”
 
“Something you’re not telling me, Sam?”
 
“Dean…” Sam said, trying to keep some semblance of patience. “I’m being serious.”
 
“Honestly…” Dean met his brother’s exasperated gaze. “Yes… it is hard for me to believe.”
 
“But I think we might need his help after all.”
 
“You kidding me?” Dean scoffed. “You know it’s better not to get-”
 
“Then how come he was the only who saw it…Dean?” Sam retorted, voice slightly rising as he became more defensive. “There were four of us out there and if he did see her, he was the only one who could.”
 

Dean narrowed his eyes and was on the verge of saying something when Sam’s phone began to vibrate. He frowned when Sam took it out of his pocket, silencing the ringtone and then turning to look at Dean knowingly before showing his brother what it read on the Caller ID.

***

“I got a bad feeling about this, Sammy,” Dean said as he opened the door to get out the Impala. He looked around the seemingly isolated area, finding nothing short of broken playground equipment. He thought he saw another vehicle following them a couple of miles back, but if there was one pursuing them, Dean found no indication of it now.
 
“Well, where else were we supposed to meet?” Sam asked as he closed the door on the passenger side.
 
“Umm…” Dean began, scoffing mordantly, “anywhere but in an abandoned park.” He looked up at the sky warily, dark and without any sign of light. He sucked his teeth as he reached back in the car to turn on the headlights. “Or maybe the motel or his place? Either one would have been fine to me and not so dammed cold.”
 
Sam exhaled noisily, able to see his breath in the air. Maybe it wasn’t his greatest idea, but at least it wasn’t as cold Dean claimed it to be. Though, he’d admit he picked the park in hopes of having a close and neutral place to meet. Because despite what Dean said, he knew his brother wouldn’t have been comfortable if they went to Greg’s place and more so if Greg came their motel room.
 
It was too intrusive, and they still didn’t know how much Greg knew about them – if he knew anything at all. Part of him was surprised Dean even agreed to it, really.
 
Sam uncrossed his arms, turning his head as he caught a glimpse of light from the corner of his eye; a small car pulling up and parking on the side of the curb across from the Impala. The lights dimmed, fading completely as Sam heard the engine stop; the car door opening.
 
“Sanders,” Dean acknowledged somewhat guardedly, nodding his head as a man approached them.
 
“Greg,” Sanders said, garnering two looks of confusion. “Just call me Greg.”
 
“Okay…” Dean said slowly, putting his hands in his coat pockets in an attempt to gain warmth. “Whatever…um-”
 
“Hi, Greg,” Sam said, interrupting his brother, understanding Greg’s need to establish some type of familiarity. “I’m Sam, and this is my brother, Dean.” He gestured to the man beside him, smiling to divert Greg from the fact that his brother was rolling his eyes at them.
 
“Anyway,” Dean said, “about this spirit you saw...”
 
“So…you’ve seen her, too?”Greg asked nervously, running a hand through his hair.
 
“Uh…not exactly, but we’re pretty sure we have an idea of who you’re talking about,” Sam said.
 
“A little girl with long, dark hair.” Greg continued with Sam nodded his head in confirmation. “She looks like she’s about twelve or thirteen and she wears a white dress.”
 
Dean looked at Greg questioningly, raising an eyebrow at the other man. “You don’t seem too freaked out about this,” he accused, beginning to wonder just how involved Greg was with Caroline Taylor’s spirit.
 
“Oh no…believe me, I am,” Greg said as he began to laugh softly, wrapping his coat closer around his body. “But my Nana – grandmother – she brought me up on stuff like this.   Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”
 
Sam shared a look with his brother before facing Greg. “Your said your grandmother?”
 
“She said I have her gift and…and I guess I do.”
 
“What about your mom?” Dean asked, voice conveying his anxiousness as he waited for Greg to answer.
 
“No, Nana said it skipped her completely. My mom really doesn’t believe in that kind stuff anyway, though.”
 
“So your mom’s still alive?” Sam asked cautiously.
 
“Um…yeah.” Greg gave Sam and Dean a peculiar expression, not sure what to think when the other men sighed in obvious relief. “Why are you asking?”
 
Sam shook his head quickly. “Uh…no reason.” He smiled uneasily when he realised that Greg didn’t believe the excuse. “Just trying to start up conversation, you know.” The words sounded awful even in his head.
 
Seeing that his brother was trying to distract Greg and failing miserably, Dean decided to intervene. “Back to the spirit…do you know-” he began, stopping in midsentence when he heard a small click not too far in the distance.
 
“Damn it…” Dean said almost petulantly, a noticeable whine in his voice as he gained the attention of Sam and Greg. Though, before the other two had a chance to question him, a man came from behind a tree, aiming a gun at Dean. “I knew I saw something back there,” he murmured, quietly berating himself.
 
“Nick?” Greg questioned slowly, voice relaying the extent of his surprise; his eyes trained on the gun Nick was holding. He wasn’t aware that the other man had followed him or what he did that set off Nick’s suspicions, but Sara always said he was a bad liar. “What are you doing here?”
 
“Get away from them, Greg,” Nick said, his vision focused on Dean and Sam. “They’re not who you think they are.”
 
Dean looked at his brother accusingly, whispering so the cop wouldn’t hear him.  “Jesus, Sam…I told you giving him your number was a bad idea.” He offered Stokes a cautious smile, holding his hands up carefully and silently urging his brother to do the same.
 
Sam only gave him an apologetic nod, tightening his lips as he raised his hands warily.
 
Greg took a few steps towards Nick, unconsciously putting himself in between Nick and the men behind him. He wasn’t sure what was going on, why Nick was accusing Sam and Dean of something, but they seemed to be the only ones who knew what really killed those little girls. Possibly, they even knew of Greg’s association with it and that was something Greg was still trying to figure out himself. “What are you talking about?”
 
“Dean Winchester,” Nick answered, narrowing his eyes at Dean. “Wanted for credit card fraud, breaking and entering, grave desecration…”
 
“Great…,” Dean muttered, knowing he wouldn’t be able to avoid the inevitable. Tuning out the other man’s seemingly ceaseless list, he rolled his eyes when he realised that Sam had yet to be mentioned; but he knew he should have at least expected it.

“And you died six months ago,” Nick finally added as he pursed his lips, pausing to gauge Dean’s reaction.
 
Greg turned around in disbelief, slowly backing away from Sam and Dean and moving closer to Nick. “You killed someone?” he asked, completely ignoring the fact that Dean was supposed to be dead. 
 
Keeping his hands up, Dean spoke with an optimistic voice. “Well, technically I didn’t kill anyone. The other me, who was a shape-shifter by the way, he’s the one that actually did all the killing,” Dean reasoned, adding - what he hoped to be – a disarming smile. Though, the looks he was receiving told him otherwise.
 
Nick shook his head reprovingly, scoffing at the story. “I can’t believe you expect me to even fall for something like that.”
 
“See, I wouldn’t expect you to fall for anything like that,” Dean remarked sardonically. “Then again, I guess saying I’m telling the truth doesn’t do anything for you."
 
“That stuff’s not real, man,” Nick said firmly, the incredulity in his tone replaced with conviction. “And next you’re going to tell me that some kind of ghost is after us,” he added crassly, ignorant of the slightly hurt look on that passed briefly on Greg’s face; the younger man turning his head away from Nick.
 
“Well…now that you mention it,” Dean began smugly, suddenly becoming rigid when something brushed against his neck. He turned to Sam, surmising that his brother must have noticed it, too, and he couldn’t help but shiver at the chill than ran down his back.
 
He felt himself being lifted. And then he was moving, time almost stopping as he saw his brother’s fearful expression. The apprehension in Dean’s own mind not lessening until he felt himself connect with the trunk of a tree, the breath knocked out of him and black circles appearing in his vision.
 
He heard his brother call his name worriedly, Sam’s name on the tip of his tongue when he saw the other man being tossed into the air and painfully colliding with a bench.
 
**
 
He passed the light switch, already swarmed in the noise and glare from the television downstairs and drawn to the soft light protruding from beneath the closed door in the room upstairs, where his daughter was supposed to be sleeping.
 
She should have been in bed by now. It was nearing eleven and well past her bedtime. She may not have school tomorrow, but he still didn’t like her staying up late. It was something her mother allowed her to do when he was gone and something he didn’t necessarily approve of.
 
Releasing a half-hearted sigh, he placed his foot on another stair; the boards creaking beneath the pressure of his weight. The sound was prolonged, stretching into and intertwining with the faint voice heard in the distance; muffled by a closed door. And then the screeching became a fleeting noise, reduced to a resonance of the past when he lifted his other foot; placing it on the next stair.
 
He placed a hand on the railing, smooth against the coarse skin of his palm and creating a friction that that brought a shallow warmth to his flesh. The voice was increasing in volume as he neared the stop of the stairs, though it was not yet distinguishable.
 
Pausing when he reached the closed door; one foot landing on the tip of his toes and heel slightly raised as the bottom of his black, dress shoes left a mark on the wooden floor. H e leaned his head against the door. He kept his body from resting upon it fully as the voice suddenly stopped and he heard nothing more from inside of the room. He knocked on the door once – twice when she didn’t answer and getting a firm grip on the brass knob when she had yet to respond; the door rasping in protest when he opened it.
 
She was sitting on her bed, leaning against the wall with an open book in her hands. She peered up at him questionably, slightly titling her head to the side.
 
“Kelly…” he began cautiously as he walked into the room. “What are you still doing up?”
 
“The rest of my English homework,” she said shortly and almost purposely.
 
“You can wake up early and finish it tomorrow,” he reasoned. “You need to go to bed.”
 
“I just need to finish this chapter and I’ll be done,” she said as she lowered her gaze back to her book, licking the tip of her finger before turning a page. “…just a couple more pages.”
 
He furrowed his brow at her response, not used to any bout of difficult behaviour from his daughter. Prepared to reprimand her, he was distracted when he noticed the bracelet on her wrist. It was something he wasn’t aware that she wore, an aged piece of jewellery that bore three charms: a seashell, a starfish, and a dolphin.
 
“Where did you get that, Kelly?”
 
She turned her gaze from the book in her lap to the man standing almost fretfully beside her. “Get what?” she asked simply, almost ignorantly; moving suddenly and transferring her weight to the other side of the bed.
 
The man took a deep breath before pointing at the bracelet on his daughter’s wrist. “You know what I’m talking about.”
 
“Oh,” she said softly, almost reluctantly admitting to the existence of the jewellery she wore. “A…a friend gave it to me.”
 
He looked at her with relieved surprise, shifting his weight to one foot. Since they moved, he wasn’t sure how his daughter fared in school socially and knew she was shy about meeting new people. “You don’t talk about your friends,” he said, previous worries about his daughter staying up late now forgotten. “You’re mother and I almost worry that you don’t have any.”
 
Kelly turned away from her father, looking at the window wistfully; watching the curtains sway slightly with the breeze outside. “She’s – she’s a new friend.”
 
“What’s her name?” he asked patiently, moving across her room and arms reaching towards her window. “You’ll get sick if you keep sleeping with your window open like this,” he remarked absently, hands working on unlocking the two latches sustaining the bottom sash.
 
The sound of pane sliding down, nearly slamming against window sill caused Kelly jump; provoking her to answer his question. “…Caroline,” she said anxiously, as if the name was some kind of taboo. “She’s thirteen, too…my age.”
 
“Why don’t you invite her over, let us meet her,” he suggested, though the somewhat nervy tone of his voice revealed the rehearsed sentiment.
 
“…But I don’t know if you want to meet her,” she said slowly, turning her head to look at the empty space beside her on the bed. There was a kind of sincerity in her voice that gave him no reason to doubt her; the words almost giving the impression of being a warning of some sort. 
 
“Why do you think that?” he asked, following Kelly’s gaze to look at the vacant spot on her bed; wondering why she found it so interesting. He watched her adjust the bracelet on her wrist, fingers running over the charms absently.
 
“Because I don’t think she’s what she says she is.”
 
**
 
“Sam,” Dean yelled again, an edge in his voice that didn’t lessen until he saw his brother begin to pick himself up. He was too far away to see the extent of Sam’s injuries – and hopefully he didn’t have any – but Dean took the fact that Sam could stand as a good sign.
 
Satisfied that his brother was fine, Dean pushed himself off the tree, using his hands as leverage as he steadied himself on the ground. He ignored the slightly nauseous feeling building in his stomach as he made his way to the Impala. He fumbled for the keys in his pocket, silently urging himself to move faster as he used them to open the trunk. He didn’t know what the force that pushed them away was and where it even came from. And even if he did assume that it was Caroline, it didn’t make much sense considering they were no where near Samantha’s house. Dean didn’t understand how she knew where they were or if she somehow figured that he and Sam were after her.
 
Whatever the reason was, he really wasn’t in the mood to wait and find out.
 
Glancing up as he closed the door to the trunk, a shotgun in his hand, Dean saw Sam moving away from the bench and making his way towards Greg, who was laying face down in the grass and apparently unconscious.
 
It wasn’t because Greg was cop – CSI or whatever Sam wanted to call him – that he didn’t want to involve the other man. It was because something like this could happen and they actually had the opportunity to avoid it. Dean didn’t want any more deaths on his conscious.
 
Gritting his teeth, Dean cocked gun, preparing for another confrontation with Caroline as he looked for the other guy – Stokes. Dean noted that the man had somehow ended up in the middle of the road, the headlights of the Impala glaring angrily in the dark; illuminating him in the artificial light. He watched him stand carefully, almost feeling sorry for Stokes when he saw the obvious confusion in his eyes; turning to look at Dean for some kind of answer.
 
Dean resisted the urge to comment smartly, knowing it was neither the time nor place to do so. He may not like Stokes, but Dean never liked having to admit the truth of what really lurked under the bed. Instead, he nodded his head to the direction Sam and Greg were in; understanding that the other man was probably worried about his friend.
 
It struck Dean as odd that Stokes didn’t seem too surprised by the shotgun in his hands, aimed at seemingly nothing. But he shrugged it off, turning back to quickly glance at Sam and Greg.
 
Sam put Greg’s arm around his shoulder, grunting as he helped the other man to stand up. Greg wasn’t entirely coherent, but Sam was relieved to note that he wasn’t seriously hurt; nothing short of a few grass stains on his jeans. While supporting Greg’s body weight, Sam shared a shrewd look with Dean; observing the weapon in his brother’s hand.
 
That meant that what he thought earlier was true. Caroline had probably found them and he had a feeling it had something to do with the man leaning heavily against him. It didn’t seem reasonable that she would know that he and Dean were on their way to her grave and would have been there already if Greg hadn’t called earlier.
 
Groaning as Greg started slip out of his grasp, Sam turned his gaze to the man standing in the street. His outline was faint and barely visible beyond the glare of the headlights.
 
Nick rubbed the back of his head wearily, blinking at the intensity of the light shining in his eyes. His gun was lying on the ground, a few feet away from him. He wasn’t sure what happened. One moment, he was standing next to Greg and the next, they were being thrown apart.
 
That Winchester guy was holding onto a shotgun and Nick could read the uneasiness in the other man’s body language; obvious even in the dark. But much to his confusion, the gun, alongside Winchester, was moving around frantically and Nick didn’t know what the hell was going on.
 
Pushing the sight in the back of his mind, he turned to check on Greg again, the man now seemingly conscious but still not able to stand on his own. Nick ignored the small cramping in his thigh, slightly limping as moved toward Greg.   Quickening his pace, Nick felt something in his stomach drop when he caught his friend’s gaze, taken back by the frightful expression in Greg’s eyes.
 
It wasn’t until he felt the tremors that he understood the reason for Greg’s fear.
 
They began at his feet, small sensations that were almost ticklish, but rapidly spreading upwards through the rest of his body. Releasing a noiseless gasp, he felt his frame convulsing and the ability to breathe suddenly taken away.
 
Urged by the small choking sound, Greg tried to escape the tightening grip on his arm and the hold around his waist that was preventing him from falling to the ground. Throat scratchy and mouth dry, he couldn’t get rid of the scene in front of him. Again, he tried to get Sam to let go of him, because Sam didn’t know – couldn’t know what he couldn’t see.
 
His eyes widened in shock, Nick’s body was shaking uncontrollable; his hands somehow able to move and wrapping around his neck; emphasising his inability to breathe. His mouth opened and Greg could hear the voiceless scream in his head. Muttering to himself, he shook his head in denial, trying to release himself from Sam’s hold once more.
 
“Nick,” Greg desperately called out as he managed to get away from Sam.   He only accomplished a few steps when he began scrambling to his feet; tripping in his haste to get to Nick. He tumbled onto the concrete, scraping his palms against the gravel; the sounds of Sam’s heavy footsteps nearby transferring the vibration to his fingers. He ignored the burn on his knee, the skin exposed and a wetness dripping down his leg.
 
He squinted as he raised his head. He didn’t doubt it was her – the spirit he saw yesterday. Her hand was literally delving into Nick’s chest, arm almost through Nick’s body and Greg could see Nick’s shirt falling apart; a thin line down the middle revealing his the separating skin. Blood was dripping from the corner of Nick’s mouth, and Greg could see it began to bubble; overflow and trickle down onto Nick’s chin.
 
He now understood that this was something he had intentionally tried to run away from. Because somehow he knew, even though he wouldn’t admit it, this is what happened to those little girls, how they died – this is what happened to Kyle.
 
“Cari!” he shouted, feeling more than hearing Sam kneel down beside him and ignoring the man trying to help him. Hands into fists and knuckles grazed against the abrasive surface, Greg closed his eyes tightly; a throbbing in his head as a torrent of images began to assault him.
 
“Going to cry again like the baby you are?” Kyle mocked as he stood over a twelve year-old Greg. “Run home to your mommy, little Greg?”
 
Lips beginning to tremble as he looked at the older boy who pushed him, Greg narrowed his eyes in contempt. He pushed himself off the ground, new clothes and shoes muddied and almost unrecognisable. Ashamed of himself, he wiped the moisture from the corners of his eyes hastily before turning to run away.
 
Her arms was moving deliberately – sickeningly – out of Nick’s body and Greg tried not to shudder when she began to turn around; eventually facing Greg. She lowered her arm slowly, cocking her head to the side as Nick fell behind her, panting and gasping for breath loudly. The image of her was flickering and then she disappeared, emerging further away from Nick and closer to Greg.
 
Groaning as he tried not fall again, Greg caught himself with his hands before he could do so, nearly slipping on his palms when the pain in his head began to build.
 
“What did he send you, Greg?” his mother asked, looking at him curiously. It was his birthday and she was making shrimp salad – his favourite.
 
He showed her the bracelet adorned with seven charms, small and fitting into the palm of his hand. “James gave me this,” he said almost regretfully.
 
“Isn’t that that the one he used to wear? I always thought it was very important to him,” she said, frowning at the lack of excitement in her son’s voice.
 
“I don’t think he wants to be friends with me anymore.”
 
Greg clenched his teeth. Someone was calling out to him, calling his name. The voice was almost recognisable but still hazy beneath the pain clouding his mind. He vaguely thought it was Nick, and then wondered if Nick was even okay at all.
 
Opening his eyes when he felt the temperature around him drop, Greg moaned when he realised she was standing directly in front of him now. She stood tall above him, his head coming up to her shoulders as he remained kneeling, still attempting to keep himself from falling.
 
He raised his head, still able to peer at her in his daze. Her neck jerked as she straightened her head, the movement sporadic – unnatural – and Greg could imagine the sound of her bones cracking, cringing as another memory came to him.
 
“Who are you?” Greg asked, looking strangely at the girl sitting on his bed, the charm bracelet he received from his cousin clutched tightly in his hand. She had long, dark and almost black hair. It fell messily over her shoulders, strands out of place and framing her face, pooling onto her white dress.
 
She smiled slightly, almost sadly as she shook her head and pointed to the object in his hands.
 
He looked at her in confusion before opening his palm, unintentionally showing her what she wanted to see. “This?” he asked before balling his hand into a fist. “No, you can’t have this. James gave to it to me and I’m not letting a girl have it,” he said almost snidely; a feigned confidence in his voice. But the quivering in his tone detracted his intention to scare her away.
 
Because she didn’t seem perturbed, continuing to smile as she extended her arm, showing Greg a bracelet that she wore on her wrist identical to the one he held. She looked at him happily, eyes large, dark, and full of reassurance.
 
“I’ll be your friend.”
 
The scene began to darken, the light carpet of the room becoming the black concrete of the road and remnants of his childhood replaced with the abandoned park. But she didn’t move; only her appearance and facial expression were changing slightly and her posture remained the same. Greg closed his eyes, stiffening when he realised her hand was still extended towards him.
 
Then there was something against his face, something soft against his cheek. Greg opened his eyes, narrowing them in confusion as he became aware of the fact that it was her that he felt. Her small hand was gently holding the side of his face; as if she knew the about the power she held over him, deliberately trying not to hurt him.
 
“Caroline,” Greg said quietly, the name carrying on his tongue softly and the only thing he could hear in his mind. Her thin lips were upturned in some perverse version of a smile; a sense of innocence betrayed only by the quickly dimming light in her darkened pupils. Then suddenly she was gone, the image of Nick taking her place and kneeling down beside him.

And Greg gasped at the abrupt, sharp pain in his chest, the corners of his vision fading into black as he felt himself falling.

***

 

Sam turned in the seat when he heard a grunt from the back, placing his hand on the shoulder of the front seat as he saw Nick repositioning Greg, who ended up falling back on the other man. There wasn’t much light afforded in the car and Sam could barely make out Greg’s face, mostly covered in the shadows.
 
He sighed heavily and turned back around, gaze fixed to the empty road ahead as he caught sight of his brother throwing him a concerned glance.
 
Even though he was used to the small amount of space in the Impala, Sam felt more confined than usual and knew it had nothing to do with not being able to fully extend his legs in the car. It couldn’t have been thirty minutes since Greg passed out, but for some reason, the drive to Henderson seemed longer than it should have. Nick assured them the city wasn’t even an hour away, but time dragged on nonetheless. Truthfully, Sam would have rather taken Greg to a hospital – something Dean and Nick seemed to actually agree on – but since Greg appeared okay for the time being, it was decided that they find Caroline’s bones first.
 
It wasn’t an idea Nick readily agreed to, wanting to ensure Greg’s health more than anything, but eventually Sam and Dean were able to convince him...to a certain extent and after a bit of arguing on Dean’s part. Sam honestly believed that if Caroline hadn’t made an appearance, there would be no way that they could have convinced Nick that the supernatural wasn’t as unnatural as he once thought. Then again, they probably wouldn’t be in this situation right now, either.
 
Sam glanced at his brother, frowning at the expression on Dean’s face. Though he would probably never admit to it, Sam knew Dean felt guilty about what happened to Nick and Greg.  He knew Dean didn’t like when others became involved in a hunt; especially when said others had no idea what they were dealing with. And on some level Sam could agree because they tended to hinder more than they actually helped most of the time.
 
Although Nick didn’t seem in danger of dying anytime soon, Greg was still unconscious and neither Sam nor Dean had any idea as to what Greg’s connection to Caroline was and the mere fact that he had a connection at all still induced questions in Sam’s mind. Why was he the only one who could see her? How did even know about her and was there a chance that he was like Kelly?
 
But Sam knew he wouldn’t be receiving the answers anytime soon. He was almost tempted to ask Nick, see if he knew anything about Greg’s abilities, but there was already enough strain without Sam needing to add any more to it. Crossing his arms, Sam turned his gaze out the window; a green marker on the side of the road briefly illuminated by the headlights of the Impala. They had nine more miles to go, Dean was going sixty miles per hour, and Sam knew he was going to crack under the tension between his brother and Greg’s friend.
 
Though, Nick and Dean both shared a concern for Greg, it didn’t mean they suddenly came to an understanding. The underlying hostility between them had grown to be more than a little palpable and even though they were both quiet, it still made Sam uneasy. However, he didn’t know if he could sit quietly through the tense silence.
 
“If you know so much about us,” Sam began looking towards Nick, ignoring the questioning look Dean shot at him, “then why didn’t you turn us in?”
 
“Because you…” Nick frowned at the question, not really expecting nor wanting any kind of conversation on the ride to Henderson. The only reason he even agreed to the trip was the fact that Sam and Dean obviously knew something he didn’t and couldn’t comprehend. And as much as he didn’t want to admit it, they could probably help Greg more than he could and that was something that truly made him feel helpless.
 
Nick looked away from Sam, peering down at Greg intently; the other man’s head lolling on his shoulder; seemingly lifeless if not for the faint falling and rising of his chest. 
 
Truthfully, he discovered the Winchesters’ records not too long after the first time he met them, far from convinced by their neighbours story and suspicious about the apparent interest Sam had in Greg. Logically, he knew he should have turned them in. Yet, even with the information in front of him, he couldn’t do it and decided to follow his intuition no matter how much it went against his normal judgment; especially as Dean was essentially a dead man walking.
 
It couldn’t have been coincidence that Sam and Dean made an appearance around the same time Greg began to act differently. While Nick still couldn’t wrap his mind around the reality of the paranormal – despite actually having been directly exposed to it – it was better than not having anything to go on.   And no matter how incredible the idea of a spirit killing people was to him, Nick was at least grateful he had a better grasp of what was going on with his friend and that he now had a chance to help Greg and put an end to a killing spree.
 
“Because I didn’t,” Nick supplied, not willing to elaborate any further as he felt a slight movement against his side.
 
Greg squeezed his eyes closed when he felt a flash of light briefly penetrate through his eyelids; a low kind of hum faintly reaching his ears. He groaned, feeling as if he was moving, but not quite sure; eyes still not open as realised he was leaning on something – or rather someone.
 
“Hey,” Sam said gently, peering at Greg from the front seat. He undecidedly made a face, his mouth distorted and trapped somewhere between a smile and a frown. “How you holding up?”
 
“I feel like I got hit by a truck,” Greg admitted, finally opening his eyes and meeting Sam’s concerned gaze. Hearing a familiar voice above him – saying his name softly – Greg raised his head to see Nick looking down at him and found himself blinking slowly at the concern on Nick’s face. His mind was still somewhat hazy as he tried to place together why he was in the backseat of some car with Nick. “Why-?” 
 
“You passed out in the street,” Dean answered, eyes still on the road as he loosened his firm grip on the steering wheel. He released a nearly imperceptible sigh of relief, his muscles less taunt. And while he was glad not to have someone’s death on his hands, he just hoped the decision to take Greg and Nick to the cemetery didn’t blow up in his face.
 
“How did I-” Greg was going to ask what happened, but then remembered calling Sam, meeting the brothers in the park, being pushed away, seeing Nick...and Cari, the memories... “Oh...”
 
“Are you – are you okay?” Nick asked hesitantly, watching Greg move away and slouch against the seat, the younger man running a hand through his hair as he shook his head.
 
“No...not really,” Greg replied, surprised by the honesty in his voice.
 
“Did you see her?” Sam asked.
 
“You mean that...that spirit?” Nick looked at Greg hopefully, trying to show that he was at least trying to understand whatever it was that occurred in the park.
 
Dean didn’t wait for Greg to answer Nick’s question, posing one of his own. “Why did you call her Cari?” He pulled up the emergency break when the car stopped and took the keys out of the ignition. Unbuckling his seatbelt he turned around to face Greg, the other man appearing smaller as Dean looked at him levelly. “You knew her, didn’t you?” he accused.
 
Greg felt himself sliding further down the seat, the gazes of the other three men making him more than simply uncomfortable. He expected the surprise on Nick and Sam’s faces, but Dean looked disturbingly knowing, as if he saw Greg’s memories, too – could see the first time he met Caroline – and somehow knew that he was connected to everything that happened to those three little girls was his fault. It was guilt by association.
 
And more importantly, it felt as if Dean had discovered a part of him that Greg didn’t want to remember, going so far as to subconsciously forget. But no matter how he tried to avoid it, it still wouldn’t distract from the fact that he killed Kyle all those years ago.
 
**
 
“And you guys do this for a living?” Nick asked. Apparently spirits of the evil variety were actually real and who knew what else that so many people attributed to fiction. Not to mention that Greg seemed to have abilities that allowed him a somewhat better understanding of what was going on, which Nick figured had more to do with Greg having a spirit for an imaginary friend when he was younger.
 
Though, Nick was surprised to find himself becoming less and less opposed to either idea. However, the notion of grave desecration was something he still couldn’t quite come to terms with it...especially since he and Sam were the ones doing the digging. And he only agreed because of Dean’s logic, reasoning that as Greg was the only one who could see the spirit and Dean was better versed with that kind of stuff – hunting, Dean called it.
 
And while Nick conceded that it made sense, it didn’t mean he was happy with it.
 
“Something like that,” Sam answered from behind Nick.
 
“What’s the rock salt for again?” Nick held the shovel loosely in his hand as the four of them made their way to the cemetery. He didn’t bother asking about the various weapons Dean revealed when he opened the trunk. It was his personal belief that having such an assortment of weapons couldn’t possibly be legal. And although he believed in the right to bear arms, he still wouldn’t condone this. But he really wasn’t in the position to speak against it and at this point, wasn’t quite ready to risk anything with his scepticism.
 
“To stall the spirit,” Sam said. “It won’t necessarily get rid of her, but it does give us time.”
 
“Especially since we can’t see her...right?” Nick asked slowly, walking by another tombstone as he followed behind Greg, manoeuvring past the numerous graves.
 
“I can see her,” Greg remarked softly, almost sadly, closing his eyes when he felt Nick’s eyes on him. He understood now...why his younger self was eager to forget what happened after he received that bracelet from James, after Kyle died. He wasn’t sure if it was a subconscious thing or whether he did it purposely, but if what he felt now was any indication...the level of guilt and self-reproach.
 
She wasn’t the same person in his memories. And Greg was still having trouble believing that the Cari – Caroline – he saw was the same one he knew. He couldn’t remember her being so cold...so unforgiving. Was she always that way and he simply couldn’t or didn’t want to see it when he was younger?
 
And the way she attacked Nick...
 
Greg was honestly surprised Nick was taking everything as well as he was, especially considering the circumstances. While he could tell Nick wasn’t fully accepting of the idea of the supernatural, he was at least trying to understand and it was more than Greg could really ask for. Even after Greg admitted his connection to Caroline, how she was once his supposed imaginary friend and what was trying to kill Nick – Nick didn’t blame Greg for her actions.
 
It was something Greg was truly grateful for because he didn’t need anything else to add to the level of remorse he felt.
 
Dean stopped abruptly, almost causing Greg to run into him, the other man pausing just short of colliding into Dean’s back.
 
Dean held his hand up, signifying silence to the other three men. He led them in front of a diminutive tombstone, seemingly neglected and abandoned with dead flowers; somehow isolated among the other graves. Dean narrowed his eyes as he took a few steps back, surveying the small area. There was a small circle surrounding the grave, almost imperceptible, but ominous in the same light.
 
He let the beam from the flashlight trace the circle, making an outline and highlighting the grey and unfertile soil, following the wilted vegetation and resting on the tombstone.
 
“Caroline Taylor,” Dean read aloud. “Beloved daughter. July 1969 to March 1984.” He moved the flashlight upward, shining the light on the small, withered tree sitting behind the grave marker. It was perverted, a darkened take of nature, aberrant branches hanging down, like they were reaching towards Caroline’s grave.
 
Sam shared a quick look with his brother. “This is what we’re looking for.”
 
“That’s...disturbing,” Greg said, noticing the dark tree that sat directly behind the grave. With no leaves and branches sagging, warping with another, the tree looked dead, lifeless. It appeared brittle, as if a single touch could make it fall over and some part of Greg wondered what was keeping it erect.
 
“What do we do now?” Nick asked, trying to avoid looking at the tree. It wasn’t like anything he’d seen before, and while today seemed to be a day for firsts, there was nothing natural about it; nothing that allowed him to accept its existence. “Just dig up the grave?” he asked, not bothering to hide the slight aversion in his voice.
 
“And then we salt and burn the bones,” Sam answered, shining his flashlight to the salt and gasoline Greg held in his hands; the other man putting it down next to Dean. “That should get rid of it.”
 
Should?” Nick asked.
 
Sam shrugged. “It hasn’t...not worked,” yet, he added silently to himself.
 
“Look,” Dean interrupted, gesturing to Nick and Sam with the hand not holding the shotgun. He didn’t need Sam further perpetuating the doubt in an already dubious Nick. “You guys start digging and Greg and me...” he paused, looking to Greg with a small – and what he hoped to be – reassuring smile. “We’ll just hope she doesn’t get jealous with all time you’re spending with us.” Dean said the last part with wavering laughter, noticing he was the only one smiling and finding that his joke had fallen short.  He ignored the raised eyebrows Sam sent in his direction, muttering to himself about the lack of humour from the other men as he watched Sam and Nick begin to remove dirt from the grave; Greg looking at him worriedly as he moved closer to Dean.
 
**
 
She would have screamed if she could.
 
Head moving sharply, she again saw there was nothing there. She was alone in the bathroom, robe wrapped tightly around her body and bare feet cool against the tiled floor, but couldn’t help but wonder if this is what happened to Paige...Courtney...to Jessica.
 
Though, she kept telling herself it wasn’t happening. She kept telling herself it wasn’t real. She kept telling herself it was a figment of her imagination because there wasn’t an arm sticking out her chest, twisting inside of her and making her jerk...the movements of her body short and sporadic. It was just her mind distorting the image in the mirror – anything – anything but this.
 
Sickening, it was the most horrible feeling, constricting and as if her body forgot how to breathe, how to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide like they were learning in Mrs. Carter’s class. She tried to count to ten, practise those breathing exercises her father encouraged her to do. But she inhaled nothing, exhaled nothing and all she could feel was her body trembling, shaking, and she found herself pressed against the bathroom door.
 
Steam began to appear on the mirror, the heat from the shower clouding her reflection. But she could still see the blood seeping through her chest, a deep red mingling with the light blue of her robe; a rich mauve stark against her pale skin. She tried to gasp, the attempt producing nothing as something began to pool in her throat, making its way into her mouth and dribbling down the corner of her mouth.
 
Panicked, she pushed her back from the door, turning her gaze away from the reflection in the mirror and fumbling in the large bathroom. She fell on her knees, a harsh pain pulsating in her body and echoing in the tiled room; one hand around her neck and the other pressed against the toilet. Her back arched as she tried standing, forming a curve, contorting itself and reacting against something that wasn’t there.
 
She could almost hear the rush of footsteps outside the door, a pounding against it that was faint in her ears. Frantic was the voice on the other side of it, calling out Samantha and the sound quickly became hazy, a dull drone in her mind. She wanted to say something – needed to say something – and get anything out. She stood on unsteady legs, trying not to fall as she reached to open the door, unlock the knob and let her mother in.
 
But it was hard and becoming increasingly difficult when she felt her throat becoming dry, parched and she felt like she was somehow choking because of the lack of saliva. She was beginning to feel dizzy, the room spinning around her and her sense of balance upset.
 
She heard it the door open when she lost the ability to keep herself upright, the sounds of the pelting water behind her fading away and a sudden silence assaulting her ears. The pressure on her chest was releasing, disappearing, but her eyelids were becoming heavier, her eyes tiring as she continued to fall.
 
Samantha was breathless, weightless and time came to a halt, her back touching the white curtain and bringing it down with her, a small gasp escaping her only to become lost within the torrent of water and the sound of her body stumbling crookedly into the tub.
 
Her legs dangled over the side of the bathtub, still in motion, her knees a crux allowing them swing against the acrylic of the tub; slightly from side to side. Her body lay twisted and uneven in the tub, the curtain sprawled beneath her. The terry robe was heavy and wet, now a darkened blue, almost black and falling off her body. Her neck was bent, broken and positioned almost perpendicular to her body.
 
The water was scolding, reddening her pale skin and diluting the fluid that began to trickle from her body, following the oscillating pattern on the shower curtain. It left a trail in its wake, bright against the material of the curtain and tinted white as it travelled through the ridges at the bottom of the tub and eventually down the drain.
 
Droplets fell down her face, coming from the corner of her eyes, opened and gaze blank as they remained fixed to the ceiling.
 
**
 
“Son of a bitch,” Dean said as he fired another shot, again not hitting the spirit he couldn’t see. He looked over his shoulder quickly, seeing his brother and Nick were still all right and more importantly still digging. It seemed Caroline was just after him this time. He vaguely wondered if he said anything remotely threatening to Greg lately but the train of thought was quickly broken when he found himself being thrown against a tree for the second time in one night.
 
He heard his brother call his name, followed by a worried shout from Nick.
 
“I’m fine, just hurry up and burn the damn bones,” Dean yelled, scrambling to his feet and grabbing the fallen shotgun. “Where is she, Greg?”
 
But Greg didn’t answer him and it seemed the other man couldn’t speak as he suddenly stilled.
 
“Damn it,” Dean mumbled when Greg seemed disinclined to move. He ran up to the other man, standing in front of him and hoping his presence would do something to disrupt the spirit.
 
“Dean?” Greg asked, his legs becoming heavy as he took notice of the other man’s sudden appearance, somehow breaking the hold Caroline had on him. Until Dean came in front of him, he literally couldn’t move, couldn’t speak as was trapped without the ability to do anything except breathe.
 
Dean placed a hand on his shoulder, trepidation in his features as his eyes glanced over Greg’s form. But Greg found his gaze moving past Dean, to something behind the other man, to Caroline. She was coming back, moving closer and Greg found himself wanting to reach out to her; talk to her and somehow get her to stop. Maybe there was still a chance to resolve things without having to permanently send her away. Because a part of Greg wasn’t yet ready to let go, accept the rendering of what he once knew – someone he used to call a friend.
 
He said her name softly, the image of her body flickering away and appearing directly behind Dean, who was quick to turn around, firing at her and the rock salt going right through her, not affecting her.
 
Greg heard Dean shout something, the sound faint to his ears as Caroline came closer, a deviant smile on her lips, a ghost of the smile he once knew, used to share with the person who at one time, understood him better than anyone else could.
 
He exhaled quietly, closing his eyes as her arm extended to him, small hand taking hold of his chin. He felt his heart begin to slow, not protesting as he felt himself becoming light, a weight beginning to lift from his body.
 
But then it was gone, his body recoiling and something lashed against him, prompting him to open his eyes and allowing him to see the image of Caroline being enveloped in flames; hues of oranges and blues covering her, ravishing her small body. Her face was deforming; large, black eyes now holes overtaking her gaunt skin – hands clutching what was left of her hair – and Greg could hear her scream; a high pitched whine that caused him to put his hands over his ears.
 
And someone was shaking him, calling his name and trying to pry his hands away from head.
 
“Greg...”
 
Hands still over his ears, he squeezed his eyes, trying to rid himself of the image he still believed was before him. He felt himself falling, an arm around him as he landed on his knees. His body was shaking, trembling when he felt a hand rubbing circles in his back, the subtle motions soothing and calming.
 
“...Greg...”
 
Hearing his name again, Greg finally looked up, releasing the breath he didn’t realise he was holding when he came face to face with Nick. He flinched at the sudden emptiness his chest, saying the other man’s name tentatively.
 
“Are you hurt?” Dean asked hurriedly; eyes narrowed as he looked at Greg.
 
Greg shook his head slowly, taking the time to inhale as he realised he was once again the centre of attention.  “She’s gone,” he said quietly.
 
“You sure?” Sam asked worriedly, creases appearing on his forehead. “I mean-”
 
“Yeah...I’m sure.”
 
There was a moment of silence as Nick looked at Dean, moving closer to Greg as the younger man began to lean heavily against him. He knew Greg wasn’t okay, far from it, but he knew he’d have that discussion with Greg later. “That’s it, then?”
 
“You expecting something else?” Dean asked, surprised to note the slight disappointment in Nick’s voice.
 
“No – just…”
 
“Well...” Dean sighed as he stood, brushing the dirt off his jeans as he looked down at Nick and Greg, Nick’s arm around Greg and still supporting the majority of the other man’s weight. “She’s gone isn’t she?”
 
**
 
Five hours later
 
Sam turned his head at the sound of footsteps coming toward them, a pair of feet trampling the grass. “Hey,” he said solemnly, nodding at the sight of Nick and Greg approaching. He received a call from Greg only thirty minutes ago, discovering that despite their efforts to save her, Samantha Jackson had died. She was found on the floor of her shower, a contusion on the back of her head, her neck broken and spinal cord severed; the latter being determined as her cause of death.
 
Sam licked his lips, glancing at his brother as Nick and Greg stopped in front of them. “How are you holding up,” he asked, peering up at both men from beneath the fringe of his hair, but his question directed to Greg. “You going to be okay?”
 
“Yeah…” Greg sighed heavily, lowering his head and looking away from the other three men. “As long as something like this doesn’t happen again.”
 
“Are they putting her death with the others, then?” Dean asked, crossing his arms as he continued to lean languidly against the hood of the Impala. He could easily tell Greg was becoming uncomfortable, probably starting to blame himself for everything that happened. And while he could more than sympathise with the feeling, he wasn’t the type to go in depth with his emotions, didn’t have time to.
 
Dean knew he and Sam couldn’t risk someone else recognising them, couldn’t afford to because they had other jobs to do. For now, all he could do is hope Greg somehow got over his conscious and was able to move on. At least Nick would be there to help him.
 
“No,” Greg answered, somewhat distantly as his hands found their way into his pockets. “Not since we actually know what killed her.” The reality of the situation was now beginning to take a mental toll on him. Now that he’d accepted the fact he played a part in the deaths, it furthered his since of guilt, especially as they weren’t able to save Samantha. Despite what was probably going on the official report, Greg knew Caroline had something to do with it and was the force behind Samantha’s death. He didn’t say it aloud, not in front of Nick, or in front of Sam and Dean. But he knew what they were thinking, could tell they saw him at fault as they continued to give him fleeting looks.
 
If only he hadn’t fainted, if only he hadn’t hesitated and been selfish – then maybe...maybe she would still be alive.
 
“And that’s a good thing...I guess.” Dean placed his hand on the back of his neck, his nails blunt against his skin. “You didn’t say anything, did you?”
 
Nick shook his head. “They’re thinking that it may have been a suicide...because the other three victims were her friends...best friends.”
 
“What’s going to happen to the other cases, then?” Sam asked.
 
“They're probably going to end up cold,” Nick answered. He put his thumb through a belt loop in his pants, standing a little more erect as a school bus passed them; the sounds of children heard briefly and causing him to look away. “There’s really nothing else we can do.”
 
Dean nodded.
 
“And even if we did tell the truth...” Greg added dejectedly; sighing as he sagged his shoulders, “I doubt anybody would believe us anyway.” The only person who would probably be the most open to the idea of the supernatural was Grissom, and considering the older man’s nature, it really wasn’t saying much.
 
“What are you going to do now?” Nick asked, noticing how Greg was becoming even more uneasy. They didn’t really get a chance to talk about what happened, yet, the news of Samantha’s death interrupting the beginnings of anything close to discussing the matter.
 
Nick could admit he was still in some kind of shock, probably running on the adrenaline, but he was at least willing to accept the reality of what happened, no matter how out of place it initially seemed. He didn’t want Greg to hide behind his fears, what he thought Nick would think of him. And he could only hope Greg wouldn’t try to push him away again, allow Nick to help him and realise that he wasn’t alone.
 
Because it was a kind of assurance Nick needed, too.
 
Dean shrugged. “Go on to the next gig, whatever needs hunting.”
 
“Do you know where you’re going?” Greg asked.
 
“Not yet,” Sam answered, sighing as he stood. He watched his brother stand, as well, Dean making his way to the driver’s side of the Impala, opening the door and getting in. “But you still have my number.” He continued when Greg nodded his head. “Call us if you need anything.”
 
**
 
As she got off the bus, Kelly clutched the bracelet tightly in her hand: only the starfish and dolphin charms remaining. She took it off before she left for school, right after she found out that Samantha died sometime earlier in the morning; hearing her mother discuss the issue with her sister over the phone and seeing the yellow tape surrounding the house across the street.
 
She licked her lips slowly, the cherry flavour of the balm bland against her tongue.
 
It was beginning to fade from her mind – the memory of how she found the bracelet. She asked her mother if she or her father had given it to her and was somewhat dismayed when they told her she simply came in the house wearing it sometime last week.
 
Running her fingers through her hair, she couldn’t help but feel there should have been more charms and that the bracelet was somehow incomplete. Because she told herself that she wouldn’t have worn something like this. But maybe she did find it, possibly once enjoyed it, but now...wearing it made her feel hollow and as if she was missing something important.
 
There were students encircling, many in no rush to walk into the building; having at least thirty or so minutes until school actually started.
 
She turned around in surprise when something brushed against her neck and she felt an arm around her shoulders, almost jumping but calming when she saw that it was Allison. Kelly only met Allison a couple of days ago, but found a kind of familiarity with the other girl she’d been missing since she first moved here.
 
“What you thinking about?” Allison asked; a smile bright on her face as she leaned her head against Kelly’s.
 
“Nothing,” Kelly replied softly, a shy grin appearing on her face as strands of Allison’s dark hair tickled her face. “Nothing important, anyway.” She turned to the bus behind her, staring at the windows of the now emptied seats, were they used to sit; four other girls she once knew; part of a life she’d rather forget.
 
“Are you okay?” Allison asked, removing her arm from around Kelly’s shoulders.  She followed Kelly’s line of vision and then turned to look at her friend curiously. “You thinking about-?”
 
“I told you nothing,” Kelly interrupted, her tone teasing as she smiled at her friend. “Just wondering about how much time we have left until school ends.”
 
“You’re silly.” Allison snorted, grabbing Kelly’s arm and holding it in between her own. “The bell didn’t even ring, yet.”
 
“Like you’re not counting down to our next break,” Kelly retorted, fingering the bracelet in her hand carefully, her grip loosening as she and Allison made their way to the school entrance.
 
“Exactly seventeen days until the next teacher workday thing or whatever,” Allison said offhandedly.
 
Kelly rolled her eyes, the bracelet falling from her hands and landing on the concrete, left forgotten, abandoned on the ground but not unwanted. “I’m trying to take it one day at a time...that way I won’t be overwhelmed by the all the biology homework Mrs. Carter gives us.”
 
“She does give us a lot, doesn’t she?”
 
“Did you read all five chapters of that book for yesterday?”
 
“Nope,” Allison answered quickly, no hint of shame in her voice.
 
Kelly shook her head, laughing heartily at the reply; the sound intertwining with the crowd of students around her, becoming part of the noise and commotion she was no longer estranged from. She manoeuvred around her peers, dodging a boy walking opposite her as she continued to laugh, Allison’s voice joining hers.
 
“What’s this?” the boy said to himself, quickly bending down to pick something up from the ground. It was some kind of gold bracelet; decorated with seven charms: three starfish, three seashells, and a dolphin. It reminded him of the ocean, somewhere he’d always want to go but somewhere his parents would never take him. He vaguely wondered if it anyone lost it – the idea plausible considering the traffic of students – but he dismissed the thought. 
 
Finders keepers.
 
He was about to put the bracelet in his pocket when another body bumped into him.
 
“Oops...sorry, Michael” a voice said, but the tone relayed that the new presence was anything but.
 
Michael sucked his teeth, brushing off his clothes as he picked himself up. “Whatever, Bryan.” The other boy simply laughed, giving Michael another none too gentle shove before walking off in a different direction.
 
Releasing a deep sigh, Michael shrugged it off and returning his attention to the bracelet in his hand, holding one of the seashell charms in between his fingers. With his other hand, his pulled his jacket closer to his body, feeling a sudden chill from the back of his neck, causing his body to shiver slightly.
 
He jumped when he felt something brush against his arm, exhaling noisily when he realised it was his friend. “Jeez, warn a guy next time, Jason.”
 
“What?” Jason asked, smiling at his friend knowingly. He put his arm around Michael’s shoulder, guiding the other boy to the entrance of the school.
 
“You almost gave me a heart attack.”
 
“You were probably doing something wrong, then.”
 
 “No, I wasn’t.”
 
“Yeah, right...” Jason remarked sarcastically.
 
Michael rolled his eyes, ignoring his friend’s taunting as he placed the bracelet in his pocket, the chill down his spine disappearing as he let his friend lead him through the throng of students; both boys taking their time as they weaved their way through the crowd.


Fin


How could I leave it like that?  Why did I leave it like that?  Well, I take it that's just the way I like ending my stories.  I honestly leave everything else up to interpretation.  Like if Caroline's spirit was truly destoryed or if the bracelet was more important than Greg thought (hence, why he didn't mention it).

Regardless, I'm just glad to be done with this monstrosity...and to think I was going to make this chapter even longer...bleh.