Characters: Sam, Dean, (Characters related to the past hunt)
Genre: Gen/Horror, A/A, Angst, Hunt Fic
End Word Count: ~32,000
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] [Chapter 5] [Chapter 6] [Chapter 7]
Sam jerked, nearly falling out of his seat. When he turned, he was surprised to find Dean standing by the window, fully awake, with the only traces of sleep on his face a small ink smudge on his left cheek. He shrugged on his leather jacket and was already heading for the door.
Sam held his head. He must have nodded off. "What's going on?" he asked.
"Well, between your little naps, I noticed that the Impala was gone," Dean said. "I checked out the joint. They've pretty much cleaned out. But here's the thing." He held up his bunched hand and opened the palm. A black cord snaked down, a distinctive amulet hanging at the very end. "Looks like they forgot something."
Sam's eyes widened. That couldn't be good. "Did you ever lose that as a kid?"
"I dunno. Once?" Dean flicked his wrist and caught the amulet in his hand before slipping it into his pocket. "I never lost it after that."
"Maybe this is the time."
Sam hoped it was the time. He tried not to contemplate minor splits in the timeline compounding onto each other until it buckled under its own weight.
"I tell ya one thing. If I ever see me again, I'm going to friggin' punch me in the face."
Sam ignored the snide remark and tried to stay positive. "Dad will come back for it. You should probably put it back in the room."
"And let some cleaning lady snag it? I don't think so." He patted his pocket. "It's staying with me. Besides, didn't you hear me? The room is empty. Dad's not coming back."
Sam didn't want to hear this. None of this seemed to fit the right pattern. John needed to be here to kill the bogeyman. Dean was never without his amulet. Their dad had to come back.
He looked down to the yellowed and worn paper. He had written this spell, or rather copied it. He understood now that as soon as he finished copying it, they would be ready to go. He also knew that time had not yet come.
Something was wrong.
Then he saw Dean's face darken in a way that Sam knew there was much more brewing in his mind than he wanted to admit. Sam felt himself stiffen in response.
"Wait, are you trying to say Dad split town in the middle of a case?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"Dean, he wouldn't do that."
"No, normally not unless something big came up," Dean said. "Or, say, maybe someone threatening to call the cops."
"Yeah, okay. I get that you're angry, but I had to say it." Sam frowned when he saw Dean grab his keys. "Where are you going?"
"I'm gonna see if I can find them." Dean said as he jimmied the handle and opened the door. "You can stay here and play with your toys you love so much. I need to get this amulet back."
Sam glanced at the paper again, his finger hovering over the scratched etchings.
Don't let him go.
"No, wait!" Sam jumped to his feet and grabbed Dean by the arm. "You can't go."
"I can't go? Last night you wanted to get rid of me."
"No, trust me." Sam pressed the door shut with his palm. "You have to stay. You can't leave."
Dean tilted his head, and Sam felt the scrutiny of his disapproving gaze. "What the hell's going on?"
"Call it a hunch."
Dean rolled his eyes. "I've about had it with your hunches. Good hunch? Bad hunch? Little more info?"
"I don't know. I just don't think you should leave."
Dean threw his keys on the table and slumped into the chair. "And what the hell are we supposed to do?"
Dean was friggin' tired of waiting.
The sun had set hours ago and Sam still insisted they didn't move. Dean knew it had something to do with that damn box, but he'd about had it taking orders from the thing.
By now, John could be halfway across the country while they just sat there twiddling their thumbs. Not to mention that the bogey was due to strike again that night. They couldn't just sit around and let it happen.
Whether their dad had taken off or not, there still was a job to do.
"Screw this." He slammed his hand on the desk and grabbed a map. He had to go.
Dean rose to his feet and walked to the desk where Sam was sitting. "Any time now, some poor family is going to lose their kid. Whatever hunch or feeling or vibe you're getting has to wait."
"Dean, the note specifically said for you not to leave."
"In that?" Dean asked, waving his hand to the crumpled paper. "The weird time box doesn't want me to leave the room? You know how crazy that sounds, right?"
Sam's face tightened. "I know because I wrote it."
"The note. It's my handwriting."
Dean stared at him. This was perfect. He honestly didn't know how this whole excursion into the Twilight Zone could get any better.
"Let me get this straight," Dean said. "You swipe one of Dad's locked boxes, start having massive déjà vu, and then end up writing the damn spell that trapped us in the past to begin with?"
"Oh, right. My mistake."
"Look, Dean, I know it sounds weird. I know it sounds crazy. But you have to trust me on this." Sam urged him to stand closer. He held up the yellowed paper to the light and drew his finger to the bottom where the brief message had been scratched into the paper. "You see it?"
"I see it," Dean muttered. "Don't see my name."
"The message is clear enough."
"As clear as my horoscope." Dean sighed. "That could mean anyone. Hell, that message could be for the maintenance man."
"Sure, Dean. We went back in time to warn the maintenance man."
Dean scowled. Sam was a regular comedian.
He walked back to the table and started sorting through the local maps that covered the areas right outside of town. He figured he could hit the ruins first. He wasn't too keen on searching the mines, but that would be as good as any place for a bogey to hide. Dean still felt that John would have already searched those places, but since Sam's big mouth had sent him off, it wasn't like Dean could ask him.
"What are you doing?" he heard Sam ask from behind him.
"I don't care about your note." He reached over and grabbed his duffle bag. "I'm going to hunt this thing."
"Dean, don't do this."
"I gotta go, Sam," Dean said as he opened his bag and started sorting through it. "You know that."
"I know how to get us back home."
Dean froze. He pushed the duffle aside and turned around, his eyes dark. "What?"
Sam glanced back to the desk. "I figured it out. As soon as I'm done copying the spell, we can go."
Dean was not hearing this. "You're telling me this now?"
"Once I knew it was my own handwriting, I realized that the writing on the front of the paper was a spell associated with the talisman I held in the car," Sam said. "The backside is the spell for the second talisman."
"Why did it send us here?"
"I don't know that part yet."
"And you don't know if it will send us back to the right time."
Dean rubbed his face. This was nuts.
"I know one thing, Dean. Out of all the times and places we could have been sent, we were sent here. That has to mean something."
Dean shook his head. He wasn't going to buy into that whole destiny crap. They were here because at some point, Sam didn't have enough sense to leave well enough alone.
He surveyed the maps and sighed. Dean couldn't believe he was doing this. "What're we supposed to do?"
"I'm not sure." Sam joined him by the maps and the duffle. "The déjà vu doesn't work like the visions did."
At least with Sam's visions, they had always been something concrete, even if creepy. Dean didn't like the idea of going in blind. Working off Sam's feelings wasn't going to cut it. They needed something more.
They needed Dad.
"We have to find him," Dean said. "We have to find Dad. He's supposed to be here. He's the one that is supposed to handle the case."
"I know." He heard Sam sigh. "I thought he'd come back."
Thinking something would happen just wasn't enough. This whole time Sam was so distraught about changing the timeline, and now it looked like it might happen. Dean didn't really want to think about the repercussions. He was just tired of sitting around and doing squat.
They should have just told their dad. They should have told him everything.
Dean started stuffing the maps into his duffle as he spoke over his shoulder. "I think we just go to the city limits, find this thing, and after we kill it, track down Dad. When we find him, then we can use your time box to go home."
Sam shifted his weight nervously. "Dean…"
"You have a better idea?"
He sighed. "No."
"All right. Then help me pack this stuff and we'll hit the road. I'll—"
Both Sam and Dean fell silent as they heard the distinctive roar of the Impala in the parking lot. After a moment, they saw the snap of the headlights as they flickered off, and the patter of footsteps on the walkway.
Dean stared at Sam. The shock in his face started to melt into smug satisfaction.
"Not a word," Dean warned.
As Sam chuckled, Dean worked on finishing packing their stuff. He was sure Sam was about to go for the handle of the door to look outside, when they both heard a light rapping on the door.
He didn't have a chance to say anything before Sam opened the door. They both fell silent as John Winchester stood in the entrance, waiting for them to let him inside.
"We need to talk," John said.
Sam hesitated by the door. The dead seriousness in John's face spoke volumes. Whatever John had to share, it was extremely important, significant enough for him to bypass all the tension and conflict they'd suffered over the past few days. That's why Sam knew this was it. This was the moment.
"I knew you'd come back," Dean said, urging John to enter with a wave of his hand. "I knew you just wouldn't leave."
Sam shot him a hard look, but Dean ignored him.
John walked into the room and shut the door behind him. His gaze fell to the half packed duffle bag and the haphazardly thrown maps and papers over the bed and table. Sam thought he was going to comment on it, but instead he glanced at Dean and then focused on Sam.
"What can we help you with?" Sam asked. He kept some of his attention on Dean, hoping he'd tune the enthusiasm down a notch.
"I've done my homework on you two."
"Oh?" Dean let out a nervous laugh. "What did you find out about such handsome devils?"
"Nothing. No one's ever heard of you. There's nothing on anyone using your aliases or anyone that matches your description."
Sam kept his gaze steady, trying not to let his nerves show. He had wondered when John would turn to his hunter contacts. He had just hoped it would have been long after he and Dean had left.
One glance back at Dean showed Sam that he was visibly flustered. They had to take control of this conversation before it got out of hand.
"We're good at covering our tracks," Sam said.
"And we tend to work alone," Dean offered.
"It doesn't add up," John said. "When I say no one knows you, I mean no one. Then you show up here in the middle of a hunt knowing more than possible, but less than you should."
Dean chuckled. "We're just that good."
Sam shook his head, urging Dean to be quiet.
"Look, I've known since the diner you aren't who you say you are. You're brothers on a hunt. You talk about your dad on a similar hunt in the same town sixteen years back when we all know bogies don't strike twice." He rubbed his chin and his eyes gleamed with intensity. "I just need to know why you're so interested in my family."
Sam and Dean exchanged a nervous look. This conversation was not going down the way either one of them had hoped it would.
"I think it's time we told him the truth," Dean said.
Sam nodded. As much as it killed him, he knew that John wouldn't stop until he had a reasonable explanation. Sam was prepared now to give him one.
"We were working a case and just passing through when we heard about the bogeyman job," Sam told John. "We never planned on jumping into this case, not until we found out that you were the one running it." He paused, glancing back at Dean with a silent question, asking him to let him do all the talking. He exhaled and continued. "We set you up, John."
John's face darkened.
"What?" Dean asked behind him. "We did?"
Sam ignored him and remained focused on John. "We created that story back in the diner to get your attention. We knew you would be here."
"Okay," John said between gritted teeth. "I'm listening."
"Don't you listen to him," Dean warned. "He studies law. They lie for sport."
John's gaze darted between the two of them. Sam realized it was a ploy to distract him, and he tensed, noting that John was reaching behind his back. One wrong move and this trip would end in a way that could be disastrous.
"Please, let me explain," Sam said.
"Oh, you've done enough explaining," Dean muttered. "I'm never letting you do all the talking again."
But John wasn't paying attention to Dean. His gaze was dead centered on Sam, the lines on his face deepening with the anger, the fear, and the concern he was obviously feeling. "What are you?"
"What?" Dean asked, exasperated. "No, no. We aren't a what. We're people. Normal, regular people." He paused and cocked his head, as if he was reconsidering his words. "Well, aside from crazy pants here."
"Just hear me out," Sam said calmly. "We came to town because we want you to finish the job. There are a lot of families hurting here. All those kids are missing. I think you know a thing or two about how the loss of a loved one to something supernatural can change your life."
John relaxed his shoulders and his grip on his hidden gun seemed to loosen. Based on the spark of pain Sam saw shimmer in his eyes, he knew he had gotten through to his dad and touched him on a level that would reframe the case. He wasn't sure why John had left in such a hurry, but he hoped this would be enough to make him stay.
Finally, John sighed and let out a soft chuckle. Sam and Dean chuckled with him, going along for the ride. Sam hoped the moment was enough to keep them on the same page.
"I got to give you credit," John said. "You had me going there for a while. I've heard some whoppers in my lifetime…" His smile hardened into a cold glare. "You boys are the worst liars I've ever met."
Sam felt his fingers turn to ice. "We didn't—"
"Half-truths," John said. He gave him a knowing smile. "You think I can't tell the difference? I have two boys of my own. I can tell when they're lying."
Sam should have known that John would be able to see right through him. He wasn't exactly lying, but John wouldn't back down until he had something more concrete. They just couldn't give him what he wanted.
"I've had enough games," John said. "I want a direct answer."
Once again, Sam shot a warning glare back at Dean. John couldn't know who they were. They couldn't reveal themselves.
Dean swallowed hard. "The magic box told us to help you."
Sam closed his eyes and sighed. Perfect.
He didn't need to look at his father to see the disbelief on his face. He could envision his hard eyes, his worn features, his growing discontent as he wavered, walking the fine line between frustration and skepticism.
He opened his eyes. John didn't look amused.
Sam and Dean stepped aside to reveal the box on the desk. When John took a curious step forward to investigate, Sam slipped between the desk and his father, holding his hands in a protective manner.
"It has powerful magic that we haven't completely figured out," Sam said. While it wasn't a complete lie, he hoped it would finally be enough for John. "We've been very careful to keep it isolated from anyone."
"It kinda guided us here to you," Dean said with a laugh. "Sounds nuts."
"We wanted to tell you, but yeah." Sam cleared his throat. "We didn't want to come off insane."
John nodded. "You could have done a better job." He nudged his chin toward the box. "Charms aren't something to mess around with. You should keep that in storage."
"Yes, sir," they both said.
"It still doesn't explain why no one's heard of you." John sighed. There was an odd flicker in his eyes, one that Sam found unreadable. "But my boys like you well enough."
"Is that why you came back?" Dean asked, sounding mildly disappointed.
John chuckled. "No, my eldest left behind something of his. They're checking the motel for it now. And I wanted to ask a favor."
Dean held out his hand and let the amulet drop and dangle between his fingers. He arched an eyebrow and smiled at John.
John raised his head and gave him an impatient look. "You searched my room."
Dean tossed the amulet to John who caught it easily. "Tell Dean not to lose it again, or I'll come back and kick his ass myself."
Sam had already moved passed the amulet, curious about what kind of favor John would ask them, especially given the fact he didn't even trust them. "You said something about a favor?"
"That other case I was talking about? I got a lead," John said to Sam. "I have to take it."
Sam didn't know what to say. John must have found a lead on what happened to their mom and was willing to leave in order to chase it. He couldn't say he blamed him. Three years ago, if Sam had found a lead on Jess, he would have taken it. If right now they received the impossible answer on how to save Dean, Sam would abandon the job for him.
He understood completely. "You want us to finish the job for you."
"Other case? What?" Dean gaze darted to Sam then back to John. "Are you two holding out on me?"
"You know I have to go," John said.
"I know," Sam said quietly. It was John's everything.
John needed this break just as Sam needed to believe in the box. Yet, he had this nagging doubt, this persistent discomfort that something was wrong. He couldn't pinpoint what the wrongness was, but it was there and it was growing.
Don't let him go. Was that meant for John? For Dean? For himself? He started to have doubts.
He glanced over at Dean and frowned. Any of the jovial attitude Dean had just moments ago had been replaced with a biting anger. His face was tight, hard, darkened with the explosive power of a fury that was ready to burst at the seams. He wasn't sure where the anger came from, but it wasn't like Dean. Not at this level. And certainly not towards their father.
Dean was on the verge of exploding.
"Hey," Sam said under his breath. "You--?"
"So, what?" Dean asked, taking a step forward. "You're just going to leave? Like that?"
"You two can handle it," John said.
"I drop everything for you. Do everything you ever asked and you do this?"
A wave of confusion passed over John's face; Sam tensed. He grabbed onto Dean's arm to stop him, but Dean shook him off.
"So, you're just going to abandon all those missing kids? Let their families suffer?" He set his jaw. "And I thought you were a hero."
"Those kids can't be saved now," John said, his voice firm. "After twelve hours, the venom the bogey injects into their bodies can't be reversed. And it's worse for the older kids. We can't help them."
"We can try. Hell, it's always about trying. We don't try, and we are just as bad as those bastards out there."
"Let it go," Sam said quietly.
"No. No, I won't. I'm tired of it. But you know what? Go ahead. Be selfish." Dean stared John directly in the eyes. "We'll finish the job."
Dean didn't even allow John to come back. He stormed off toward the bed and worked to finish packing up his bag.
John looked at Sam. "Why so personal?"
Sam just shook his head and headed toward Dean. Whatever he was going through, he needed to stop now. They didn't have time for it.
He leaned over Dean, trying to make eye contact as he shoveled stuff into his bag. "Dude, I don't know where all your issues with Dad are coming from, but you got to get over it. You've been like a yo-yo the entire time we've been here."
"I don't like being jerked around."
"Dean, no one is jerking you around."
Dean stopped and glared at him. "No? Dad skipping town. The two of you shooting the breeze." He zipped the bag. "Anything else—"
Overhead, the lights flickered. Sam and Dean froze, falling silent to listen and watch for any other sign. A nervous John was already heading for the door when a child's scream ripped through the air.
Sam felt air trap in his throat. It was him. The younger him.
John tore out of the motel room and down the walkway, Sam and Dean right behind him. They charged toward John's room without stopping, knowing that every second counted.
There was a flash of light inside. Another scream.
John swung the door open and bolted inside. Sam and Dean followed him and flipped on a second light switch for a better view.
The motel room was torn with signs of evident struggle. The lamps had toppled, the sheets ripped, the furniture broken. Sam's gaze settled on the far corner. His throat went dry. On the open closest door was the distinctive handprint covered in soot.