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] [Chapter 10]
Dean sat behind the wheel of the Impala, waiting for Sam to finish copying the spell onto the notepad they'd snatched from the motel. Just down the road, he could see John securing their younger selves into the back seat of his Impala.
"Just about done there, Yoda? Dad's waiting."
"Almost," Sam said.
"Not like we're in a hurry or anything."
"I said almost," Sam muttered, sending him a deadly glare as he began scratching the warning into the new sheet of paper. "You can't rush perfection."
"Perfection my ass." He just shook his head.
Dean wanted to get on the open road and put as much distance between himself and this town as possible. After the cops received that helpful anonymous tip concerning the missing children in the woods, Dean didn't think strangers would be slipping in and out of the city limits with much ease. Before things got too hairy, he wanted to be in a different state or two.
Or more specifically, back where they belonged.
"You know," Sam said, pausing long enough that Dean turned to face him. "We could always stay."
"Stay?" Dean laughed. "With the cops on our asses?"
"Not here. I mean, here in the past."
Dean frowned. "Why the hell would you want to stay in the past?"
"Dean, your year is almost up. Maybe this is your way out. If you're not there in the future, the demon can't come to collect your soul."
"A year's a year, Sammy. That's assuming demons can't time travel. And last I hear that's welching and no welching on the deal."
"We don't know that."
"I'm not taking that chance."
Sam sighed, "Dean…"
"So, I get stuck in the past with your rotting corpse?" Dean scoffed. "Yeah, that's living the dream."
"And if we don't find a way, then I get stuck with your rotting corpse."
"You said it yourself. We don't belong here."
Dean looked ahead, watching John lean over the side of the Impala and talk to their young selves. He thought back to his confrontation with himself due to the dream root – the anger, the grief, the sadness. He thought of everything he'd said about his dad, both true and false. He knew he had to let it go, accept his dad for the person he was.
He swallowed back the lump in his throat and raised his head a little higher. "I can't keep living in the past, Sammy. No matter how much I want to, I can't."
"I know," Sam said quietly.
And Dean wanted to stay. He wanted nothing more for it to just be him, Sammy, and Dad traveling on the open highway, working jobs, running scams, and killing creeps. He wanted it to be the way it used to be.
Only he knew it would never be the same. He was a different person now, changed by the battles and the hardships of their ever-complicated lives. So was Sam. So was Dad, wherever he might be. They could never be the way they used to be.
But he kept trying. Dean knew that if he ever saw or heard from his dad again, he'd latch on and never let go. That's why he knew they couldn't linger. They had to leave before he spilled everything.
"It's done," Sam said. He took out the yellowed paper and shoved it in his pocket before sticking the freshly copied sheet inside. Dean didn't ask why he needed to do something so stupid and repetitive, but then again Sam always was a compulsive freak.
Dean sighed. "You ready for this?"
Sam nodded. "No."
"Yeah, me either. Let's go."
The two of them exited the car and started a slow walk to John's Impala. John met them halfway; the three of them stood there – caught in a mini face-off – on the outskirts of town.
"We'll be heading east," John said. "I want to still follow that lead."
"I hope something turns up," Sam said.
"Same for you."
Dean frowned and gave them both a once over, curious as to what they were talking about now. Only this time, he let it go.
Instead, he turned his attention to their dad's Impala. Inside, his younger self looked completely out of it, resting his head on the side of the interior. As he stared at himself, it dawned on him why he had such few memories of the town while hating it at the same time. He glanced to the left. The younger Sam appeared more aware, energized enough to be fiddling with an action figure, but drained to the point where he could only absently flip through a newspaper.
Dean wondered if the buck seventy-five heist was in that paper.
"How're they doing?" he decided to ask, pointing to their younger selves.
"Still dazed," John said. "I'm gonna tell them they had the flu. I don't want them to remember something like this."
Dean looked over to Sam and smiled. At least it now all made sense, even the missing info in their dad's journal. But there was no time for small talk. Dean knew it was time to wrap things up.
"We need to ask a favor of you." Sam said.
John gave them a curious look. "And what would that be?"
"Our magic box." Dean motioned to the box in Sam's hands. "We need a safe place to hide it. Somewhere no one will take it."
John eyed them both. "You want me to take it."
Sam nodded. "It's very powerful magic. It shouldn't be out where anyone can touch it."
"You boys are never gonna tell me what it does," John said knowingly.
Dean smiled. "Nope."
"I have a place," John said. "I can take it."
"Great." Dean clapped his hands together with satisfaction. "Also, can we borrow two hundred dollars?"
John stared. "What?"
"Two hundred bucks," he repeated. He ran over their expenses in his head and considering the dump they'd stayed in, two hundred seemed about right. "We'll pay you back someday."
"He's serious," Sam said.
John shook his head and reached into his wallet. "I don't know why I'm doing this." He flipped through and grabbed a handful of bills. "This is hard-earned money."
Dean snatched it and smiled before he handed it to Sam.
"Thanks," Sam said. He stuffed the money in the fold of the box while a speechless John watched. Sam let out a deep breath. "Okay. I'm ready."
Dean nodded. They'd gone over this three times already in the car. Sam had told him there was a particular order they had to follow to make sure the spell was complete. He still didn't understand how the whole thing worked, but Sam and his "feelings" seemed pretty confident on the whole process.
Dean cleared his throat. "I guess we should be going."
John nodded. "Okay."
With a sigh, Dean gave the signal for Sam to do his thing.
Sam reached into the box and withdrew the second talisman. He whispered the Latin over it, by heart, and when he was finished he dropped the talisman back into the box. Without hesitation, Dean grabbed it from him, careful not to touch his skin, and locked the box tight.
There was no going back now.
He handed it to John.
Naturally, John was suspicious as he watched Sam's body stiffen from the incantation. His intense gaze struck Dean like a ton of bricks. "Are you boys in some kind of trouble?"
Dean shook his head. "No, sir. Just setting things right."
John frowned. Dean could tell just by looking at him that he was concerned, that he wanted to know everything, that he even had the desire to help them. They had somehow earned his affection and his trust in a way that Dean knew would be impossible for any other stranger to duplicate. He swallowed hard and stood taller.
"You boys did great out there." John cleared his throat and put his hand on Dean's shoulder. If Dean didn't know any better, he thought maybe his dad was misty-eyed. "I know you make your dad proud. I know I am."
Dean felt his eyes start to well. The pride and the warmth in John's face overwhelmed him. It felt like he had been asleep, cold and dead, and now he'd finally been roused into the sun.
He didn't want to let it go. He never wanted to let go.
"We have to go now," Sam said between clenched teeth.
Dean felt his lip start to quiver and his voice strained as he tried to talk. "I don't wanna say goodbye."
John squeezed his shoulder. "I'm sure we'll meet again someday."
Dean quickly nodded, trying to end the conversation before he started sobbing like a baby. He gave John one final nod of thanks and turned his back to him, knowing this would be the last time he would ever see his father again. As he headed toward the car, the tears ran freely, soaking his face and the collar of his shirt.
He didn't care if Sam saw him. He just couldn't hold it back.
Dean didn't say a word when he reached the Impala. Sam's body was already starting to erupt with mild spasms, and he knew if they didn't get this whole time travel process right, Sam could just vanish right then and there.
He opened the door of the Impala for Sam. When he was safely inside, he shut the door and ran to the other side.
Dean hopped into the driver's seat and glanced over at Sam. The spasms were getting worse. He managed one more lingering look to John. Their father watched them, giving them one final appreciative nod before he in turn started for the Impala.
Now was the time.
Taking a deep breath, Dean grabbed the steering wheel and with his free hand he reached over and touched Sam.
The burning electricity ripped through him and snapped his head back. As he felt his consciousness slipping, Dean saw the world buzz and blink out and thrust them into complete darkness.
The sound of a car honking brought Sam back to his senses. He jerked in his seat and nearly smacked his head on the roof.
He breathed out and looked around, trying to clear the fatigue and sleepiness from his head. Outside, the rain was coming down at a steady rate, pinging off the hood of the Impala and the street sign ahead.
Beside him, Dean was out cold.
"Dean." He gave him an urgent shove. "Dean, wake up."
Dean jumped and did smack his head on the roof. "Dammit." He rubbed his head and looked over at Sam. The same sleepiness Sam felt was etched into his brother's glassy eyes.
"Dream?" Dean asked.
Sam checked the floor for the charm box. Then the backseat. Not finding it anywhere, he gave a shrug. "Not unless we both dreamed the same thing and made the box disappear."
"This isn't something left over from the whole Jeremy thing?"
"I doubt it," Sam said.
Dean leaned back and nodded. To Sam's surprise, he fell silent. Sam gave him the moment, knowing Dean didn't often indulge in open reflection.
"You know," he finally said, staring ahead into the rain. "I was thinking."
"Don't strain yourself."
Dean glared at him. "I'm trying to have a moment here."
He turned his attention back to the rain. "I was thinking maybe you're right. Maybe that whole thing was destined or some other Jedi Force mumbo jumbo. Maybe I needed to see Dad again, you know. Just one last time."
Sam gazed intently at his brother. "Dean, don't talk like that."
"I don't know." Dean let out a nervous chuckle. "I just thought maybe for a second Dad knew who I was. That he really appreciated me. That he knew we'd turned out all right." He paused. "Well, mostly."
"He always loved us, Dean."
"I know that. I know." He breathed out. Then, the vulnerability was gone and the mask returned, complete with his deflective smile. "You don't think he figured it out, do you?"
Sam shook his head. "We came off weird, but he's used to that. He raised you."
Dean hit him. "Shad up."
Sam just chuckled. When Dean turned to start the car, Sam let his smile fade. He could deal with allowing Dean to believe that the box was a way for him to tie up loose ends and work through the issues he had with their dad. He could pretend that the whole point of their trip was to help battle the bogeyman. But in the end, Sam knew the real reason was to keep the balance in order, to make sure the infinity loop never ended.
When his younger self had held that talisman, he had imprinted himself to it, binding his will to the charm. The link could only be restarted by Sam, and it could only work for that time, that place. The loop of the ouroboros would continue – his younger self would grow to be him, bringing the bits of memory with him – with the box – and then it would start all over again. They were meant to be there.
He knew that it was a lesson for him. It was a reminder.
Sam realized he had been right all long. The box was key in saving Dean, just not in the way he had originally thought.
But Dean was still in trouble. The answer to saving Dean from his deal wasn't going to be found in a simple charm box or in the past. The answer was here and now.
He'd almost lost Dean today. He wouldn't lose him again.
The Impala roared as the engine started. Dean shook his head, wiping his tired eyes, and pulled the car into the road. Sam had a feeling they'd be making a pit stop soon to try to combat the fatigue, but it wouldn't be in Creeksboro.
It would never be in Creeksboro again.
"Hey, something's bugging me," Dean said as they headed down the highway.
"What?" Sam asked.
"I don't get it. If you only copied the spell, where the hell did it originally come from? Or the box? Or any of it for that matter?" He shook his head. "And where the hell is it now? Back in storage or what?"
"It's just a paradox." Sam patted him on the shoulder. "Try not to think about it."
Dean shrugged his shoulders and stepped on the gas. In their rearview mirror, Creeksboro faded until it was just a speck on the horizon.
As they drove into the night, their thoughts turned to days long past, and of that one special night sixteen years ago after they had been sick with the flu. The memory became etched in their minds, clear as crystal. They remembered that happy time, embracing the spark of normalcy as their dad sat them down in the ice cream parlor and let them eat to their hearts' content. And as they relished the warmth of that time, so lost in the moment, they missed the knowing smile that only a prideful father who had realized his children's potential could wear.