Characters: Sam, Dean, (Characters related to the past hunt)
Genre: Gen/Horror, A/A, Angst, Hunt Fic
End Word Count: ~31,000 (chapters are about 2500)
Summary: After Sam opens a mysterious box, he and Dean find themselves battling the same bogey their father defeated sixteen years ago. As they fight alongside an unlikely ally to safeguard the town, Dean struggles to tie up loose ends in his life while Sam continues to search for a way to save his brother's soul.
Notes/Disclaimers: Not mine; no profit. Takes place after Dream a Little Dream of Me.
[Chapter 1] [Chapter 2] [Chapter 3] [Chapter 4]
Sam slowed the Impala as he neared the diner. Police cruisers from the neighboring town and the local sheriff barricaded the road, while dozens of people surrounded the diner and its adjacent alley. The hairs on the back of Sam's neck prickled.
His thoughts immediately went to Dean. From his vantage point, he didn't see any of the cops escorting a cuffed man to the cruisers, and he didn't see any sign of struggle or a shoot out. The action could have gone down inside.
Sam shifted nervously in his seat. As he drove closer to the diner, he turned the car down a side street. If Dean hadn't been caught in whatever happened, he might be hiding out in the neighborhood. Sam hoped he could spot him without becoming an unwanted target himself.
He sighed. Cell phones would be really useful right now.
After a quick scan of the park and the surrounding buildings, Sam took another run around the next few blocks. He started to get worried. He knew that he couldn't keep circling the neighborhood without tipping someone off that he didn't belong. At the same time, he didn't want to think Dean had been arrested or worse.
Then, he saw him. Dean was booking it down the main street, his jacket flapping behind him as he ran. Sam guessed he was heading toward the vicinity of where the diner heist had gone down. With a turn of the wheel, Sam brought the Impala right onto the main road and drove straight toward Dean, meeting him head-on. If that didn't get his attention, nothing would.
Dean skidded to a stop, nearly losing his balance, before he darted to the side and jumped into the street. Sam slowed the car down to a point where Dean could grab the door and hop inside. As soon as Dean shut the door, Sam peeled out of the downtown area and headed for the motel he'd found at the edge of town.
When they eased into a comfortable ride and Dean caught his breath, Sam decided to finally broach the subject. "Did you get it?"
"I'm fine," Dean said. "Thanks for asking."
Sam rolled his eyes. "What happened?"
"I left the diner and saw the bogey in action. I went sniffing around but it'd already disappeared." He leaned over to flip the radio on, but Sam quickly turned it off. Dean snorted. "What gives?"
"Did they see you? The cops?"
Dean shook his head. "We got out of there before the cops came."
"I got a ride from Dad."
Sam jerked his head. "What?"
Dean shrugged. "Nothing happened."
Sam clutched the steering wheel and shot Dean a fierce look. He didn't even know what or how to react to his brother's revelation. A mental image of time unraveling into mass chaos entered his mind all because he hadn't been there to make sure Dean didn't make some critical misstep with their past.
Finally, he pushed the image aside and focused on damage control. "You didn't blow our cover, did you?"
He saw Dean scowl. "Dude, give me some credit. He still thinks we're Joe or Frank or whatever generic name you picked." He paused. "And just who the hell are we?"
Sam kept his gaze focused on the road ahead. "The Hardy Boys," he said under his breath.
"We're posing as the – Oh that's nice. That's great." Dean glared at him. "Could you pick something any more lame?"
"No one will notice."
"I just better be the cool one."
Sam forced a smile and kept driving. He turned onto one of the side streets and checked the rearview mirror a couple of times to make sure they weren't being followed. From what he could tell, they seemed to be in the clear, but knowing they may have skirted disaster this time didn't make him feel any less anxious.
"We can't just be interacting with everyone and everything," Sam said. "We could impact the future. We have to lay low."
"Look, you said yourself that you think we're supposed to be here. What if we're supposed to be helping Dad?"
Sam sighed. It's not like he hadn't thought of that possibility himself. He knew that the chances of this all being a coincidence were low. They show up at a time when their dad worked with two strange hunters? Sam figured anyone could do the math on that one.
"We don't even know how often we're supposed to be in touch with Dad," Sam explained. "I only ever remember those hunters showing up a handful of times."
"Well, our memories are crap," Dean muttered. "If you hadn't gone and caught the flu and ruined it for us both, maybe we could've remembered better."
"That wasn't my fault," Sam said in defense. "But that's not important right now. This is exactly my point. We don't really know how much we should interact, how much we shouldn't. We don't know with who or what or even if our memories should be trusted. Dean, we just can't risk it."
"Risk what? By doing a little huntin' and helping Dad? We're in; we're out. By then you should have figured out how to get us back." Dean shrugged. "No harm done."
Sam narrowed his eyes. "You're up to something."
"Nah, you're just being paranoid."
"I know you, Dean." Sam searched his face, looking for any trace of what Dean could be thinking. Dean squirmed, but it was too late. His face betrayed him. Sam eyes widened. "No."
"We could end this now."
"You're not that stupid."
"Don't tell me you weren't thinking it."
"Think about it." Dean's eyes flashed with intensity, the same kind of spark Sam had long grown accustomed to whenever he became bent on some crazy plan. "We tell Dad and everything's fixed. No deals, no death. We could be ready for Yellow Eyes and none of this woulda ever happened."
"Something else could happen. Dean, this isn't going to fix anything. There's no guarantee. Dad could still die. I could die." He swallowed hard and stared into the darkness ahead. "You could still sell your soul. Nothing's set in stone."
"You're kidding me, right?" Dean scoffed beside him. "Coming from you? The one always whining, oh my destiny, oh poor me, destiny this and destiny that?"
"And you're the one that never wants to interfere with anything. What's the difference this time? Because of Dad?" As he turned onto the next street, he snuck a sidelong glance at his brother. "Dean, nothing we do is going to make our lives any better. You can't keep trying to chase some ideal that doesn't exist."
Dean didn't look at him. "What do you know? You don't know what I want."
"I know you well enough."
Dean muttered angrily and turned away, effectively ending the conversation. Sam was too cross and annoyed to persist. Neither one of them said anything else that night. When they reached the motel, Dean hopped out and slammed the door, storming immediately to their room. With a sigh, Sam turned off the engine, grabbed the charm box, and quietly followed him inside. He intended to pore over the materials as soon as possible and hoped that Dean's impulsive nature hadn't tossed a whole new set of problems at them.
The next morning, Sam woke up well before dawn to work on the charm box. Even though he barely had had three hours sleep, he wanted to work on figuring out the secrets of the box right away, rested or unrested. Dean's time was whittling away and he wasn't about to waste any more of that time on a case their dad was going to solve anyway.
Sam settled down in front of the motel's desk and slipped on his gloves as he examined the exterior of the silver box. By now, he recognized the embellishments and ornamentation were definitely lunar, and absolutely magical, with the middle engraving a pentacle of the moon. At least now he knew it definitely symbolized a form of travel locked inside the box.
Time travel had been the last form he had expected. Even so, Sam still felt strongly that this box was key in saving Dean. The rational side of his mind tried to explain to him it was nonsense, wishful thinking, but there was this small twinge deep in his gut that told him the box was critical. He wanted to believe in it. He wanted to believe more than anything.
Sam reached toward the box on the desk and paused long enough to shoot a wary glance at Dean. His brother was still asleep, sprawled across his bed, completely lost to the world, at least for appearances sake. Sam would take the moments of peace while he could.
Quietly, he opened the box and peeked inside. Everything remained where he'd last put them. He pressed his fingers against the side of the violet felt, checking once more to see if there were any additional secret pockets or items he might have missed. While the money was a pleasant and unexpected surprise, Sam wanted to make sure there were no other, nastier trinkets awaiting them.
When he was confident that the box was clean, Sam reached into the box, withdrew the talismans, and placed them on the table. This time he purposefully left the note inside the box to avoid the temptation of trying to decipher the spell. The last thing he needed was to activate the talismans again, without Dean or the Impala, and end up some place entirely different. While he wasn't even sure that could happen, Sam didn't want to take the chance.
And somehow, he knew that note was vital to the entire process. It popped in his memory, but the memory faded before he could hold onto it.
He turned his attention to the silver talismans. He knew the front engravings, with the Latin and magical symbols, were part of the charm of the talisman itself, likely linked to the lunar symbol on the front of the box. Unfortunately, all that told him was that the talismans were used in a travel incantation, but nothing more.
He flipped them over.
The symbols etched on the back had a serpent engraved in the shape of a circle, devouring it's own tail. When Sam had first looked at this symbol, he'd been positive he'd seen it before, but he couldn't place the memory. Even now, it escaped him.
All the years of occult knowledge swam through Sam's mind, but he still came up empty. He was glad Dean was asleep. He would have expected Sam to know it off the top of his head. While Sam was proud of the fact he could recall so much information easily, he wasn't in the mood for Dean's ribbing. Dean really had no idea how much Sam wanted this to work.
With a sigh, he grabbed his dad's journal and flipped through it, hoping to find some notation of the symbol. Sam wasn't sure how long he searched, flipping page after page, but finally he found a sketch that looked eerily similar to the talismans on the desk.
"Ouroboros," Sam whispered. The symbol of cyclicality and infinity. It made perfect sense.
If only the talisman could show him how to jump forward in time to where they had last been.
Sam frowned, tapping his entwined index fingers to his lips. He must be missing something.
He heard the rustling of sheets from the bed beside him. Sam glanced up to find a sandy-eyed Dean propped up on the mattress, squinting at him.
"Dude, how long you been doing that?"
Sam looked over his shoulder. To his surprise, sunlight streamed through the blinds of the motel window. Sam glanced down at his watch. He hadn't realized what time it was.
"You heard of sleep?" Dean mumbled.
"Sleep is for the weak."
"Sleep is..." Dean's voice trailed off as his face frowned with thought. Finally, he just slipped off the bed, grabbed his jeans and pulled them on before he walked away. "You're…weak," he mumbled over his shoulder.
Sam chuckled and shook his head. Dean stumbled past him to the bathroom, leading Sam to believe maybe he wasn't fully awake yet. He went back to studying the talismans as Dean turned on the faucet.
He didn't understand the significance of two separate yet identical talismans. He didn't understand why they had landed in this particular place and time. There had to be a reason for the travel to be so precise.
Sam heard the faucet snap shut. He glanced up to find Dean wiping his face, ready and prepared to leave.
Sam frowned. "Where are you going?"
"I'm gonna grab some coffee. You want something?"
"After what happened last night, maybe you should lay low for a while," Sam said.
Dean rolled his eyes and tossed the towel back into the bathroom. "I was careful."
"That's not what I meant."
"You mean Dad?" Dean asked. "You think I'm gonna tail him."
"Dean, I'm not stupid. I know you want to see him."
Dean didn't reply, but his face remained hard and dark.
Sam sat back in his chair and tried to soften his face. "I miss him, too. I do. But we can't keep seeing him. We don't know what kind of impact it will have."
"Dude," Dean muttered, wiping his face. "Lay off the Doc Brown stuff. It's not you."
Sam glared at him. He wasn't about to get caught in Dean's deflecting game. "You know, Dean, no matter what you try to do, it could backfire or make things worse," he said. "There's a theory out there that time will realign itself to make sure things happen the way they are meant to happen."
"Well, maybe we're here to fix things so they do happen the way they should."
Sam let out an exasperated sigh. "We don't know that."
"We were here."
"Then what the hell? What are you afraid of?"
Sam's face darkened. Dean couldn't understand. He wouldn't be able to understand. Sam had a distinct sense of déjà vu, a sense that they had done this over and over. The feeling was pure, thoughtful and deep, without panic or an impeding sense of doom. It was like they belonged in this pattern. He felt there was a power here that allowed a never-ending flow of repetition, but within the rightful course of history. Like a circle.
Like the ouroboros.
It was a feeling Dean would never understand. Sam knew if he told him, Dean would pull back, would look at him like he was a freak. He would diminish whatever they were here to do.
Sam was sure of it.
He stared at the talismans.
Beside him, he heard Dean mutter and let out a loud sigh. "What about the box?" he asked.
Sam sighed. "Dean…"
"What about the box, Sammy?"
Sam pulled off the gloves and slapped them on the table. "I haven't figured it out yet."
"So, the Magic Bus into Oz only had a one-way ticket."
"I doubt it." He snuck a glance at Dean through the corner of his eye. "Though, it's hard to concentrate when I'm interrupted every five seconds."
"No need to get all huffy about it." Dean moved out of his line of sight, heading to the door. "You keep working at it, Sherlock. I'm starving." He heard Dean grab his keys and open the door.
"Just don't…don't go find Dad," Sam said without turning to face him. "Please."
There was a long pause behind him. "He won't be hunting much today. Dad said the bogeyman won't show for another day."
Sam looked over his shoulder to Dean. "And?"
"I dunno. Dad said it won't show, so it won't show. I don't need to know why."
Sam set his jaw. Sometimes he didn't think his brother would ever change.
By the look in Dean's eyes, he knew what was Sam was thinking, but shrugged it off. Dean shut the door behind him, leaving Sam alone to figure out the workings of the box. Maybe at least he could have some peace and quiet so he could concentrate, but there were still some nagging doubts pressing him over letting Dean leave.
He just needed to focus and not let his anxiety get the better of him.
He sighed and reached for his gloves. Sam was just about to start to study the talismans in more detail when he heard the door fly open and slam shut.
Concerned, Sam turned around and stared at Dean. His eyes were wide, his face pale.
"I just saw…us."
Sam rose to his feet. "What? Dad is staying here? At this motel?"
Dean took a heavy step toward Sam. "What? You two share a brain or something?"
He hadn't known John was staying at this motel. Sam had purposefully found a motel at the outskirts of town so they could stay away from the action. He hadn't anticipated their dad would use the same reasoning.
"You know, you two are more alike then you'd ever wanna admit." He shook his head and grabbed his keys again.
"Where are you going?"
"To get some grub and move the car," Dean said. "You think Dad's not going to put two and two together when he sees us driving around in her?" He gave Sam a pointed look. "Happy?"
Sam nodded for Dean to go. He didn't want to remind Dean that Dad might have already figured the whole thing out, but at least he was comforted in the fact that Dean seemed to have dropped the idea to reveal themselves to John. Now if he could convince him to lay low until they had a better idea of what their purpose might be, they should make it through without damaging time too much.
He stood by the door and watched Dean peel out of the parking lot. He sighed. So much for keeping a low profile.
Sam waited by the doorway, leaning against the frame to allow the cool air to invigorate his senses. He cherished the peaceful moment for what it was worth, permitting himself to let his mind go and enjoy the early morning. He almost felt as if time was standing still here, as if they could stay here indefinitely and hide from the looming catastrophe that awaited Dean in the future.
He knew that they couldn't run from it. He knew that time kept ticking. He knew that if he didn't try harder, he would lose Dean.
That didn't mean he couldn't dream. And today, he dreamed the answer to all their troubles was just beyond his fingertips, waiting to be discovered.
Several minutes had passed before Sam decided to leave the cold morning air and venture back into the room. He wanted to squeeze in as much study time as possible before Dean came back.
He started into the room when he something flashed just beyond his vision. Sam stopped and leaned back out of the door.
On the opposite side of the stretch of motel rooms, on a wing that formed the "L" of the building, Sam caught sight of a little boy peeking out of a window. He seemed to capture a mix of boredom and curiosity.
Their eyes met.
It was him.
Sam swallowed hard as he stared at his younger self, watching as Dean quickly drew the curtain, effectively cutting the contact. He could see their shadows beyond the curtain, moving fiercely, small hands flying. He and Dean were probably arguing, likely fighting.
Despite himself, he smiled remembering those days when life seemed easier, simpler. Those were the days when his biggest fears were finding worms in his pasta or whatever
other tricks Dean had chosen for the week. Those were the days that even though he feared for his dad's life and the monsters he fought, he had been comforted by Dean's assurance that Dad would always come home.
Now he was caught in the middle of a demon war, his father gone, and his brother doomed.
The smile faded and Sam rubbed his arms, finally feeling just how cold and bitter the morning had become. He turned to enter his room when he suddenly stopped short.
John was standing behind him.
"It's not what it looks like," Sam said.
"What does it look like?" John asked.
"That my partner and I are stalking you and your children."
He nodded. "That's about right."
Sam let out a nervous chuckle. "We picked a motel out of the way. We're not staying in town long."
John cocked his head, his scrutinizing gaze burning through Sam. Then, he gave a short nod. "That's a good strategy. It's one I use when I'm just passing through."
"Yeah, I'd almost forgotten."
He frowned. "What?"
Sam felt his face warm. "That…hunters tend to use that strategy in case a hunt goes bad."
John's intense gaze never broke. "I thought you and your partner-brother were working the bogey case? You're skipping town already?"
Sam forced a weak smile. He and Dean were going to need to have a chat on what their cover story was if they were going to be stuck here for a while. However, he wasn't going to beat around the bush with this one. Sam could tell his father knew there was more going on than they wanted to admit.
"To be honest, I didn't want to take this case," he said. "I'd rather be working a different one."
"Yeah. Sometimes you just fall into them."
Sam frowned. "There's a another one you'd rather be working."
John gave a solemn nod. "Yeah, there is."
The pain in John's eyes, in his voice, was enough to make Sam stop cold. John was still trying to figure out what happened in Lawrence, Kansas all those years ago.
Sam could tell him. He could easily let a bit of information slide that would nudge John in the right direction. He had the power to change so much.
Which was precisely the reason why Sam knew he couldn't get too close. The temptation was too strong.
"This other thing you're working on, it's important isn't it?" John asked.
Sam nodded. "It's everything."
They both fell silent. Sam knew neither of them had to speak. There was an understanding between them, silent but profound, that not only spoke volumes here and now, but across the years. Maybe Dean was right. Maybe the two of them were more alike then they ever wanted to admit. Maybe even now over a year after John's death.
"My boys," John finally said, pointing to the distant motel room. "I didn't want this for them. I'm sure your dad didn't want it either."
Sam shifted his weight, trying to keep his composure cool. "I don't know what you mean."
"You're a smart one, I can tell. Don't play dumb," John said. " Our conversation the other day. I overheard you in the diner. Your father, the hunter? Sixteen years ago. That'd make you around my boys' age."
Sam felt his throat run dry.
"Bogies don't hit the same town twice." His eyes darkened. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
Sam set his jaw, trying to bite back the burn in his face. He knew no matter what he said John wouldn't believe him. His father could easily see through the lies; the truth was not an option. Silence was the only thing he could afford now.
John just shook his head. "If you and your friend want to work this case, that's fine. Just stay away from my family."
John started back toward the motel room. As Sam watched him go, he knew now more than ever that he had to figure out how to reverse the effects of the talismans. But there was something he had to know first.
"Tell me something."
John stopped and looked over his shoulder. "Yeah."
"You told my partner that the bogey wouldn't show for another day. Why?"
"You want to know?"
"The bogey only harvests every other day. Once it's sure the harvest was successful, it strikes again."
Sam frowned. "Harvest?"
John glared at him. "Didn't you do your research?"
"We didn't know that part," Sam said quietly.
He sighed. "It's past twelve hours since they've been taken. After that..." John shook his head. "The children can't be saved. They've already been changed."
Sam's eyes widened. John gave him a short nod, a knowing look, before he started back toward his room.
Changed. The bogeymen weren't just kidnapping children for fun. They were taking the children to spawn their own DNA.
For reasons Sam didn't entirely understand, that information changed everything. His mind set with determination, he turned back to the motel room and shut the door.