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] [Chapter 8]
Sam helped Dean spread the map onto the table. With a quick thrust, Dean secured it with his knife.
"Okay," Sam said, resisting the urge to glance at his watch. The three of them huddled over the table. "We know that the pattern of kidnappings are right off the main road. This is the first one to happen this close to the edge of town, but it still fits the direct pattern."
"Which means the creep is already out of the city," Dean muttered.
"I should have been with them," John said. He wiped his face and let out a threaded sigh. "I shouldn't have left them alone."
Sam felt the ache of watching his grieving father strike him in the gut. He searched his father's face, offering him a sympathetic look, hoping that maybe they could help ease the pain. "How much time do they have?" Sam asked softly.
John exhaled and braced himself on the table. "The little ones have the full twelve hours. The older ones have four, maybe six hours if they're lucky."
"Older?" Dean asked. "What do you mean by older?"
"The teenagers. It might be hormones or something. I don't know. They change faster."
Dean's face blanched white.
"Seriously? We only have a few hours?" Sam asked.
John gave a solemn nod. "I gotta go get my boys."
He started for the door, but Sam jumped to stop him. "Wait," he said. "We need to make sure, then. We need to think this through."
Sam moved back to the map and pointed to the forested area at the fringe of town. "Now, there are some ruins here and an old mineshaft. These things hide out in rotting or ruined places. We need to narrow it down."
"That'll take all night." Dean collapsed onto the bed and rested his head on the frame. "We don't have that kind of time."
Sam's gaze lingered on his exhausted brother for a moment before he forced himself to return to the map. "Are there any other places? Do you know what bogies generally prefer?"
"I already checked 'em both," John said. "It's all too obvious they aren't there."
Sam frowned. "Why is it too obvious?"
"Because I already checked it out and there was no one there."
"Maybe you missed something."
John glared at Sam. "I didn't miss a thing."
"Well, I'm saying maybe you did. You're not infall-"
"Guys!" Dean heaved himself off the bed, reached over, and ripped the map off the table. "Enough. Come on."
"Your brother's right," John said. "We'll sort this out on the way. We're just wasting time now."
Sam balled his fists. He wasn't going to fall into this pattern again. Not now, not when every second counted. Their younger selves didn't have time to spare. They needed to minimize mistakes. At this point, none of them had an idea where the bogeyman was.
John was already heading out the door with Dean in tow. As they stepped out into the chilly January air, Sam paused, watching as Dean headed straight for the covered Impala. He waved for Sam to help him.
Sam didn't agree with him, but he didn't have time to argue. With one arching swoop, the two of them lifted the cover, revealing the Impala under the moonless night.
"Hey, look at that," Dean said. "We have the same taste. Amazing."
Dean strolled over to the trunk and unlocked it. After he tossed the cover inside, he propped up the false bottom with his shotgun and started surveying his arsenal.
"Refresh my memory," Dean said. "What kills these things?"
"Iron rounds," John said. He frowned, looking into the trunk. "That's quite the arsenal you have there."
"Might not be neatly ordered and perfect, but it gets the job done." Dean held up a box of iron rounds.
Sam accepted them and loaded his clip with the rounds. With a click, he snapped the clip in place. When he was done, he reached for another box and started loading his shotgun. Then he passed it to Dean.
"We'll ride together," John said. "It'll be faster."
"We should take your car," Dean said. He tossed the box back into the trunk and locked it. "It's probably better equipped than my baby."
"I wasn't going to have it any other way," John said. With that, he jogged off toward the identical Impala parked just a few spaces away.
Sam walked over to the side of the Impala where Dean was leaning against the side, loading his shotgun. He cleared his throat and shifted his weight impatiently. "Are you all right?"
"I didn't feel like driving."
"Yeah, I know. That's why I'm asking." He searched Dean's face, still unnerved how pale he looked. "Dean, if you're the one that got us sick…"
"Was this part of the plan?" Dean asked suddenly.
Sam grimaced. "I don't know."
"I don't remember anything. It's all blank." He coughed and looked up at Sam. "No feelings? Psychic starbursts?"
"What? Dean, that makes no sense. Are you sure you're all right?"
"I just want it to be over, Sammy," he said wearily. "Why don't you go secure our time box, and we'll get going." He locked and loaded the shotgun. "Then we can raise a little hell."
The Impala shot through the south end of the town. A deadwood forest loomed ahead, dark and thick, obscuring any hint of the old mining shaft or farmhouse that once populated the landscape.
John turned the Impala onto a bumpy dirt road. It was hard to see in the darkness, with only the glare of the Impala's headlights and the spotty stars above shedding light into the forest. Sam, riding shotgun, kept peering out into the blackness, searching for any sign that could help them. He still wasn't sure how they were going to find this bogey.
Sam glanced down at his watch. They had three hours left to safely find Dean and himself.
He glanced back at Dean. He remained silent.
Feeling his frustration grow, Sam squirmed uncomfortably in the passenger's seat and readjusted the map. He clicked on his flashlight.
The old farmhouse ruins were closest to the city's edge with the mineshaft deeper into the woodland. There was no way they could search both in fewer than three hours.
"Don't worry about the ruins or the mines," John said. "We're heading elsewhere."
Sam slammed down the map. "You knew and you didn't tell us?"
"We were wasting time. There was no time to argue about it."
"You could have just told us." Sam folded the map and tossed it aside. Unbelievable. John's own children were in danger and he was still being pigheaded. "Where are we going?" Sam asked firmly.
"I noticed it in the motel. The mines used to be salt mines. The overflow from the mines killed the woods around the old site." He shook his head and maneuvered around an overgrown root. "I should have seen it before."
Sam agreed it made perfect sense. The salt would have damaged the area of the forest adjacent to the mines. All the rotting wood would be the ideal place for the bogey to set up shop.
He looked at his watch. Two and a half hours.
They could do this. They had time. Sam swallowed hard and forced himself to stay calm. He needed a mild distraction.
"What made you decide to trust us?" he asked.
"I'm not sure if I do," John admitted. "But I've never seen my boys take to strangers so well before, and there's just something about you…" He sighed and snuck a discerning glance at Sam. "I don't like it, but I've learned to trust my instincts."
Sam frowned. "Then all those threats and questions back at the motel?"
He smiled. "I just wanted to see if I could get you to talk." He arched his eyebrows. "It worked."
Sam leaned back, not sure what to say. He thought he heard a soft chuckle come from Dean in the back seat, but he didn't want to see the satisfaction in his brother's eyes.
They hit a bump in the road; Dean groaned.
John checked his mirror, but kept driving. The road was becoming narrow and overgrown, dead wood jutting out on either side of the dirt path. John had to swerve a couple of times to avoid damaging the Impala and rendering them carless, but despite the few close calls, they managed to stay on course.
Sam didn't miss that John was driving faster and faster.
"Back at the motel," John said suddenly. "Through all the lies, just what was true?"
Sam knew his dad wasn't a talker. The fact that he was reaching out could only mean he needed a distraction just like Sam needed one. While his stomach churned at the thought, he was surprised he felt closer to his dad than he had in a long time.
"Well, our dad did hunt a bogey sixteen years ago," Sam said. "It happened in a town exactly like this."
"That's some hell of a coincidence."
"I like to think it has some meaning," Sam said with a smile.
John nodded. "Yeah." He glanced in the rearview mirror. "And him?"
"That's my older brother. He gets a bit overzealous at times. I like to think it's because he's mad he didn't get the tall genes in the family."
John chuckled, but it didn't last long. "He looks a bit green. Is he going to get sick on this hunt? If so, he'd be better off sitting this one out."
Sam looked back at Dean. He was slumped in his seat, staring at the shotgun in his lap. Sam wasn't sure if he was deep in thought, running over possible scenarios, or if he was just plain tired. His coloring didn't encourage Sam.
Sam cleared his throat to get Dean's attention. Dean held up one hand and gave him a thumbs-up.
"I'm so not a backseat driver," Dean said with a weak smile.
Sam would take Dean's senseless humor as a sign he was well enough to fight. Though, he wasn't all that convinced.
"And that box led you here?" John asked.
"Yeah," Sam said, his attention still on Dean. "We knew we had to help you on this hunt somehow. We just didn't know when, why, or how."
John grunted and nodded, but didn't say anything more about it.
The Impala tore through a small clearing. Up ahead, Sam saw the traces of one of the mineshafts used back in the salt excavations. John took a sharp right.
The dirt road disappeared. They entered a desolate and gloomy part of the woodland. The lush green that they had first encountered when entering the forest gave way to deep browns and faded grays, all shrouded in a dense fog. All around them there was the heavy pressure of death. Sam could feel it even from within the safety of the Impala.
He glanced at his watch. Two hours.
The Impala came to a halt beside a rather grim looking tree. It had died long ago, just a husk of a trunk with its sober limbs barely able to hold itself. Sam shuddered and opened the door.
John jumped out of the Impala. "We'll cover more ground if we split up."
"I say we stay together," Sam said. "We aren't any good to each other dead."
Dean slammed the door shut. "Compromise, guys!"
Both looked to Dean. His weary face didn't mask the impatience growing in his eyes.
"All right," John agreed. "We stay together, but fan out and sweep the forest inch by inch."
Dean nodded and leaned against the Impala. "Got it."
"What are we looking for?" Sam asked.
"The bogey won't be far from its pods," John said. "You'll know it a mile a way by its stench. Two shots to the chest should take care of it. And take these." John handed Sam and Dean each a small ball. "It'll help mask you, but it won't protect you if they lock on to you. Salt is useless. Focus on shooting the things."
Dean's face fell. "Things?"
"The other kids will have been turned by now," John said, his voice grim. "Let's go."
Sam exchanged a worried glance with Dean. He knew what his brother was thinking; he wasn't comfortable with the idea that they could be facing a bunch of children. But Sam knew they didn't have much choice. If John was right, those kids had stopped being children long ago.
He raised his gun and locked it into place. It was time.