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] [Chapter 9]
Dean kept his shotgun armed and ready as he slowly stalked through the woods. All around him, the forest felt cold and dead, fused with a stillness that chilled him to the core. He felt like with every breath he took, he consumed a little piece of that deadness, and bit-by-bit the stale air froze a part of him, permeating his body like a sheet of ice, until there was nothing left but the waning warmth of a fire gone cold.
He shivered and kept walking.
The fog rolled into the woods, slow but steady, making it difficult for him to see despite his flashlight. Dean knew that Sam had started searching the grounds somewhere to his right while John was to his left. He also knew that time was a-wastin' and they only had about an hour and a half left to find their rebellious little selves.
He couldn't help but feel bitter. If their dad hadn't left, they wouldn't be in this situation. If they'd been up front with him, all of this could have been avoided.
He took another step forward; the dead wood snapped under his boots.
The silence killed him. No crickets. No frogs. No owls. Just a nothingness as heavy as the fog that curled around his ankles.
He knew the bogey and its demented "kids" had to be trolling around here somewhere. Every so often, he thought he saw one, a flash or a flicker from the very corner of his eye, of something just lurking, waiting, watching and hungry, hidden just out of view.
The bogies were watching him. They were watching all of them.
Dean felt the hair on his neck rise as he stalked deeper into the woods. Ahead, there was a twinned tree, huge and massive, its roots snarled into giant cumbersome knots. Despite the fog, he could tell it was old and dying, but there was a light warmth wafting off it. He couldn't help but be drawn toward it, his cold limbs aching for revival.
Quietly, he stepped one foot over the other, avoiding the dead, dry wood, and sunk into the mossy underbelly that remained unaffected on the ground. The soft padding cushioned his steps as he neared the tree, the heat, and after just a few strides, he found himself at the base.
He frowned. Nestled in the middle of the double tree was a large bulbous pod, the color somewhere between green and brown. It was a leathery cocoon with grooves and wrinkles that escalated toward its huge central lips and was centered with roots that bore deep into the heart of the tree as well as ones that snaked down into the ground.
He took a step closer.
His first thought was that either he or Sam could be in there. Dean didn't even want to think of what poison was being pumped into the pod through the roots. He didn't want to think about that at all.
Feeling the anger rise inside, he unsheathed his knife and hacked at the top of the pod, slicing through the top veins that attached the pod to the tree. Deep purple fluids started spurting out of the runaway chords and were tainted with stink so foul it made him think of a rancid toilet. He gagged, but went for the bottom veins anyway, intent on lifting this thing from its little nest.
When he was done, Dean heaved the pod onto the ground, surprised to feel how warm it felt to the touch. He pressed his cold hand against the lip.
There was a person in there. He could feel their heartbeat.
Without another thought, Dean took his knife and fit it between the lips, grunting as he tried to pry the pod open. When he realized it wasn't going to budge, he carefully started to saw at the fibrous material, careful not to stab too deep in case he impaled some poor soul.
Finally, the pod started to break, spewing spaghetti threads not unlike milkweed into his face. Dean spit out the nasty cocoon fibers and reached his hands into the soft squishy inside.
"Aw, this is nasty," he muttered. He felt like he was kneading raw hamburger.
With a grunt, he pulled. There was a popping sound and he rolled back, blinking with confusion as he watched the pod pop and fizz before his eyes. In his arms, there was a small child, a girl, her face pale and cold, but still with some heat puffing off her motionless body.
"Hey!" he called. "Over here!"
He rolled the girl on her back and checked her vitals. She looked like she was no more than seven. At least, she was alive. She just didn't happen to be little Sammy or himself.
There was a crunching behind him, but Dean relaxed onto his haunches, recognizing the footsteps of his oversized brother. Sam breathed out and leaned forward. Dean thought he looked as shocked as he felt.
"Is she dead?" Sam asked.
"No, but I thought this bogey thing only hit one house at a time?" Dean wiped away some of the gunk off the girl's face. "I seriously doubt our younger selves were sneaking in seven year olds."
Sam looked like he was about to attempt some lame comeback, but he stopped, his hand slowly grabbing the shotgun resting on his thigh. Dean tensed too, hearing the short, guttural breaths of something standing behind them.
Both whipped around at the same time, shotguns raised, only to watch the bogey jerk twice as two shots exploded in its chest. The tall lanky thing convulsed and crumpled to the ground, leaving the shadowy form of John Winchester in its wake.
John jogged over to them and looked down at the limp body of the bogey. He toed it once with the tip of his boot.
"Was that the bogeyman?" Sam asked.
He shook his head. "One of its spawn."
Dean scooted over to look at the creature. It sure as hell didn't look like a kid to him. Tall, thin, with long straggly hair, but pasty-faced with a sheen of green, the monster looked like it had been stalking the woods for a good fifty years. He grimaced. The purple blood kept bubbling out of its chest like a fountain, and dripping out of its fanged mouth.
And the smell. Rancid toilet again with sink drain. To think that had once been just a kid…
Dean covered his face with the sleeve of his jacket. He'd seen enough.
"The bogey must have gone out for more," John said. "On their last night of harvesting, they're known to collect multiple kids."
"Great, so that means we got tons of these kids growing off trees?" Dean asked through his muffled mouth.
John gave a short nod as he surveyed the forest. "Could be. Just be careful. These hatched ones will be attracted to your heat signature."
Dean sighed. That just made things even better.
After John disappeared into the fog again, Dean reached over and propped the sleeping child against the tree. He felt bad for needing to leave her there, but he and Sam had bigger fish to fry.
He glanced down at his watch. One hour.
The panic in Sam's face grew. They both knew they were running out of time.
"I'll go left; you go right," Dean said.
Sam nodded and hopped over a stray branch, vanishing into the fog, while Dean hooked left. Around him, the woods blurred into streaks of browns and grays as he raced through the forest. He panted, pushing his weary body harder and faster. By now, finding himself didn't matter. He knew that the young Sam had a greater chance of surviving this mess based on how much time they had left, and he wasn't going to stop until he found him.
Every second. Every breath. Every twist and turn, stumble or misstep – they cost him precious time, time that was whittling away. He had to find the young Sam. He couldn't let it end this way. He wouldn't let it.
He glanced at his watch. Forty minutes.
Dammit. "Sam! Sammy!" He stopped and searched the landscape. "Sam!!"
He tried to pinpoint any kind of pocket of heat, like he had with the little girl. He realized it shouldn't be hard, given how frosty the January night had become. But all that answered him was the echo of his own voice, hard and hoarse from the stale air.
Dean stopped and listened. They couldn't be far. The younger Sam couldn't be far.
In the distance he heard a grunt and the distinctive one-two clink of a knife. One thud later, he heard Sam – his Sam – calling out into the night.
"I found another one!"
Then two shots rang out. A thud. A hiss.
Dean stiffened. "Sam!"
"I'm all right!"
That's all Dean needed to know. He hooked another left and flew through the forest, every few seconds pausing to touch a tree and search for any warmth this dead wasteland could offer.
Then he felt it, warm and sweet.
Dean bolted toward the heat source, blocking out the double fire coming from behind him. He heard more hissing, a howl, and the triumphant yell between his brother and father. And then yet another swift thrash of a faraway knife.
In front of him was another small pod, this one lopsided and slightly broken. There was movement from inside, a soft and desperate pleading, as small hands pressed against the thick, leathery, but slightly translucent skin.
Another muffled and strangled cry.
It was Sam.
Dean slashed the knife across the top vein and hacked through the bottom before he pulled the pod from the dead tree. Carefully, he prodded the lips open and dug inside, feeling around for his younger brother.
Through the pasty ooze, he managed to drag him out. Little Sam's body had gone limp in the process, bringing Dean's fright to the forefront.
He had not just lost his brother in some bizarre time twist.
"Sam. Sammy." He tapped his face and pulled away some of the milky threads. "Come on, Sam."
Behind him, once again, he not only heard the approaching footsteps of Sam, but also his dad. The two skidded to a halt beside him and looked down.
"Sam," John said, his voice cracking.
Dean quickly switched off and gave the small body to John to oversee. Soundlessly, John took the small form and hugged him to his chest, whispering and urging him to snap out of his stupor.
The knot that had begun to form in Dean's throat only grew. Sam remained by his side, and though his face was a deadly shade of pale, Dean could see Sam was still searching, still scaling the forest for any sign of the younger Dean.
"Dean!" Sam started to yell. "Dean!"
There was no response from the forest.
Finally, Little Sam started to cough and spit up a glob of the gooey pod's innards. John let out a sigh of relief and hugged him close. "Oh, Sammy."
Dean gave a small, pained smile. He might feel like crap, but he knew he'd done good. Sam was safe, both of them. Hell, Sam and his dad even managed some bonding time in between. That was more than he could ever ask for.
He glanced down at his watch. Fifteen minutes.
When Dean looked up, he found Sam staring at him, his wild desperate eyes searching his face. The desperation quickly turned to shock and panic as his gaze fell to Dean's right hand.
"What happened to your hand?"
Dean frowned and looked down. The skin on the surface had started to peel away and flake, like he'd scraped it, but instead of a raw biting redness there was a scaly green sheen that smelled of bad eggs.
Dean's voice caught in his throat. He breathed hard as his eyes widened. "Sammy, something's wrong with me."
Sam caught him as he started to stumble and helped lower him to the ground. Inside, Dean felt all kinds of weird, like the coldness he'd felt earlier was growing to the point where there was nothing left, and as if something was churning in the pit of his stomach, something deep and dark and spoiled to the core.
"Dean!" Sam shouted into the forest. "Dean!"
Dean let out a threaded breath and wiped the cold sweat from his forehead. He paused to glance down at his gun, knowing what he had to do if they didn't find him in time.
He knew Sam knew it, too.
"We're never gonna find me in fifteen minutes."
Sam charged over to John and the younger Sam who were now standing on their feet. "We need to find Dean," Sam said, pacing. He turned around and glared into the forest. "Dean!"
John was already surveying the woodland, his eyes panicked and uncontrolled in a way Sam had never remembered before. Little Sam looked dazed and shocked.
"Dean!" John yelled. "Dean!"
Sam started pacing again and kept shooting nervous glances in Dean's general direction. He was looking worse and worse and if they didn't find his younger self in – Sam checked his watch – eleven minutes, then he was going to lose his brother.
He wasn't just going to lose Dean. He was going to lose his memories of him, of everything they had shared together.
Sam wasn't going to allow that to happen.
Sam reached over and grabbed his younger self and made direct eye contact. "I need you to remember. I need you to remember where they took Dean."
"I don't know," Little Sam whispered.
John was circling now, scanning the trees and the dead underbrush. Sam knew they all were hoping that the bogey had stashed Little Sam and Dean close together, unable to consider the consequences if it hadn't. John's voice rang out loud and uneven as he called for his oldest son, but Sam knew he kept a distrustful eye on him as well as an uneasy glance in Dean's direction.
Sam scanned the nearby brush. It was hard to see anything through the fog, and even when he tried to still his breathing and focus into the dark, he found he could barely see or hear anything.
Sam hastily looked at his watch. God, seven minutes.
"You have to remember," he told himself. "I know you're scared, and you want to forget everything. But this is important. You need to remember just for now."
Little Sam bit his lip and shook his head.
Sam felt his panic spike. "You're going to lose your brother. I'm going to lose my brother."
Little Sam shook from the desperation in Sam's tone and the urgency in his grasp, but nodded anyway. As his face pinched in deep thought, Sam stared into his eyes, trying to draw anything out of his younger self, from even himself, as to where Dean could be.
Then, like a flood, images and snapshots flashed through his mind. There were trees. Brushes. The cold January air. Screams and pleading. Fists, tugging, and dead silence.
Sam whipped his neck and stared at an overgrown tree in the distance nearly obscured by the rolling fog.
It was Dean. Dean was there.
Sam sprinted across the forest to the tree. There, high above him, nestled between one of the larger branches and the trunk, he found a quivering pod. Without delay, Sam drew his knife and cut a couple of chunks out of the old tree for foot and handholds and started to climb. He grabbed onto one of the branches and pulled himself up, reaching outward. After a heavy stretch, Sam yanked himself onto another branch and closed in on the pod.
"It's okay, Dean," Sam said. "We're going to get you out."
Sam furiously started to saw at the upper veins that attached the pod to the tree. Relief washed over him as he noted John and his younger self standing down below.
"Be ready to catch it," Sam called.
With one final thrust, Sam slashed the veins loose and watched the pod plummet. John caught it easily and began to tear through the sac.
Even from high above, Sam could tell the younger Dean was cold and motionless. John tore him out of the pod and held him close, just as he had done with his younger self. Sam couldn't hear what John was saying, but he looked visibly fearful. Little Sam hovered next to him.
After taking a deep breath, Sam started to climb down the tree. He jumped the rest of the way, landing beside John.
Little Dean looked dead. His face was unnaturally white, a shimmer to the pasty-looking skin. He felt his breath hitch as John pulled back his lip and searched his mouth.
"Come on, Dean," John whispered. "Come on."
Sam checked his watch. His face fell. It was two minutes after the first cut off time.
"It's not too late, right?" Sam asked.
John didn't answer. He kept trying to rouse Dean from his slumber.
That was when two shots rang out into the night.
"Don't let him go," Sam said, remembering the warning on the paper. "Don't let either of them go."
With that, Sam bolted into the darkness and tried not to think of who was at the end of those shots.
Dean watched the others vanish into the fog. He tried not to think that this was the last time he'd see them, see Sammy, or anyone for that matter. He sure as hell knew he wasn't going to let himself become one of those things.
Dean kept his .45 handy, loaded and ready, in the event it would come to that.
As he sat there, knowing the seconds were passing him by, he thought about his last moments. He hadn't expected to go out like this. Not that getting ripped to shreds by Hellhounds was an attractive alternative, but time-traveling paradoxes with monster inducing side effects was kind of low on his to-do list.
Sometimes he wished he had done more. Sometimes he didn't. He knew he wished he could have just told John who he was. He wished he could have hugged his dad one more time or told Sammy just how much he cared. He wished he could have said he was sorry.
But that kind of thing was awkward and uncomfortable. He wouldn't have done those things even if he wanted to.
Though, he did wish he could have had one last beer.
Dean winced and doubled over as he fought back the clawing in his gut. Everything about him was cold and empty; he'd give anything to feel warm again. He supposed that was why the bogies craved the warmth so much. They were trapped in a never-ending cycle of icy death.
He forced himself up and waited, sitting on his haunches. The fog seemed lighter, or maybe his vision had grown sharper from the changes. He knew his time was up now; he could feel part of himself slip away just like the last of the heat fading from his body. His skin was itching, his stomach hollow, and he could feel the subtle muscle movements in his mouth as his jaw readied itself for the incisors that were budding.
Dean looked to his gun.
He brought it upward and raised his head. He wasn't going to become some kid-stealing freak. If he was going out, he was going out a hero.
Dean leveled the gun to his temple. While it wasn't a chest shot, he knew it would have to do. His finger lingered on the trigger, hesitating, when he froze.
Ahead, he saw one of the bogies. The lumbering form shuffled toward him, its green eyes glinting with malice and delight through the gaps in its long, stringy black hair. It didn't have ears, or much of a nose, but the fangs were unmistakable. The thing looked hungry, starved for the warmth as much as he was, but also confused as it cocked its head and studied him.
"Well, you must be the queen bee," Dean said, ignoring the roughness to his voice. "Aren't you one ugly bitch."
The creature hissed at him and took a step forward. He laughed at it and waved his gun.
"That's right. Come on over. We'll have one big ol' family reunion." He coughed. "Come meet the newest addition to the family."
The creature charged him. Two quick shots and she was dead.
Dean sat in silence as he watched her body convulse on the ground. Purple fluid poured everywhere, staining the ground, his shirt, and even the tree beside him. But he didn't care.
He checked his gun. He still had plenty of ammo.
Dean glanced up, shocked to find Sam barreling towards him. He groaned, not wanting Sam to see him like this, and definitely not wanting Sam to be here when the deed had to be done.
But before Sam even reached him, Dean felt a wave of heat smack him in the chest. It hit him so hard he was flung backwards and struck the ground with a thud. At first he thought he was feeling the intensity of Sam's heat, but he as forced himself to sit, he realized this heat coursed through him like hot blood. His hot blood.
"You okay?" Sam said, nearly breathless. He started to check Dean's hands.
Dean patted his chest and poked at his teeth. Nothing. He glanced down at his hands. No peeling. No emptiness in his stomach. No coldness aside from the normal January chill.
"Huh," he managed to say. He was perfectly fine, as if nothing had happened.
Then, the stench hit him. Dean gagged. The bogeyman stunk of rotten, wet wood, bad eggs, and dishwater.
"God, that thing reeks."
"No, actually, that's you."
Dean blinked at him; Sam just offered him a sheepish smile.
"We are so never hunting bogies again," Dean muttered.
Sam helped him to his feet and the two of them lumbered over to where John sat with his children. Both were awake now, though dazed and disoriented, but they allowed their father to cling to them like he would never let them go.
Dean didn't make a comment and neither did Sam. They didn't need to talk about it. They didn't need John to talk about it. Watching their dad just sit there, sobbing lightly, as he clung to his two sons said more than any conversation could have.
The image would be burned into Dean's memory for as long as he had one. And one thing was for sure, he wasn't about to ever let it go.