Title: From Yesterday
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer/Summary: See Prologue
Author's Note: Technically...it's still Friday. At least in Kansas. *smile* Thank you so much for continuing with me on this journey. A special thanks to those of you reviewing. I read each and absorb each and will reply to each before this is all over. Promise. Please see the a/n at the end of the chapter for a special head's up on the posting of the next chapter. Meanwhile, this is a smallish exploration of Dean trying to fulfill his promise. Hope you enjoy!
Part 1: Prologue; Part 1: Chapter 1; Part 1: Chapter 2; Part 1: Chapter 3; Part 1: Chapter 4;
Part 1: Chapter 5; Part 1: Chapter 6
"You're thinking about it too much."
"It just…it feels all wrong."
"Stop thinking it's different."
Dean took a breath, blinking the sweat from his eyes, the protective covering over his ears heavy and unfamiliar. He'd been at Mason's shooting range for three hours. His left hand was cramping from the work he was demanding of it, his shoulder ached from holding the weight of the gun, and the muscles along his back, surrounding the scar tissue along his ribs, wouldn't stop seizing up.
And he'd yet to put a cluster at the head or chest as he knew he'd once been able to with his right hand. It had taken him an hour to get a good centering on the black at all.
Mason stood next to him, arms crossed like a bouncer at a club, frown fixed on his face as Dean raised his Desert Eagle once more, gripping the weapon like it was a brick, and squeezed the trigger. The bullet blasted the edge of the paper target to smithereens.
"You act like your arm's wooden, kid!"
"Fuckin' feels wooden," Dean grumbled. It didn't help that he had to close his left eye to not get distracted by the ever-present shadow over his vision.
Mason took the gun from Dean's hand, ejected the clip, and popped the chambered bullet from the top, catching it with his opposite hand and setting it on the shelf in front of Dean.
"You're done for the day," he declared, removing his ear muffs.
"No, Mason, listen, I—"
"You're exhausted, kid," Mason informed him. "I can see you shaking from here."
"I'm fine," Dean retorted, tossing his own ear protection on the shelf next to his gun. "I gotta get this."
"You don't have to get it today."
"Yeah, dammit, I do!" Dean sighed, rubbing at his aching forehead with the heel of his damaged hand. "You don't understand."
"Explain it to me."
Dean stared at the floor by Mason's feet, wondering how he could put into words the way it felt to be so good at something he didn't have to think about it – so good it was as simple and as important as breathing – and then have that taken away. He'd been shooting cans off a fence with precision and accuracy since he was eight – had first held a gun when he was six. He'd protected his brother and backed up his father before he could drive a car.
He looked at his bare right hand, the scar tissue thick and knotted like a foreign object forced under his skin. "I could always just…do this," he started. "Dad started teaching me…, hell, I was in Kindergarten."
Mason shifted his stance, but Dean didn't look up.
"I had to do it," he continued. "Dad needed me to. And Sammy…," he couldn't elaborate without giving away too much truth. And not just the truth they'd revealed to Jackson, but the truth that his very survival had always depended on his keeping Sam safe.
"Your brother a good shot?" Mason asked.
Dean lifted a shoulder. "Yeah. Good enough."
Mason was quiet a moment. "Give it some time, kid."
"Just feel like I don't have enough," Dean confessed. He was a spinning compass, looking for North. Proving that his ruined hand wouldn't keep him from doing the job was a huge step in one direction – and right now it didn't matter if it was the right one. "Besides, Tommy needs—"
"Tommy's fine," Mason interrupted. "He's staying back at the shop. His grandma's still in the hospital. A few more days to get you into fighting shape isn't going to hurt."
Dean looked at the mechanic, beyond being surprised at what the man knew. "Fighting shape?" he repeated. "Who are you, Mick or Pauly?" He crouched slightly, bobbing his shoulders. "Gonna get me ready to face Apollo Creed in the ring?"
Mason tilted his head, his expression intrigued. Dean straightened.
"I was kidding," Dean hastened to say.
"Actually that's not a bad idea."
Mason grabbed Dean's right arm, pulling his damaged hand up. Before Dean could flinch away, the big man patted the scarred palm gently. It had been so long since someone had touched his skin and not sent him into a dark, spiraling pit of psycho-electric shock that Dean gasped at the contact.
"Work the heavy bag," Mason said. "Get those muscles remembering what it's like to be a hunter."
Dean pulled his hand away. "How do you know this shit, man?" he demanded.
Mason stepped back, regarded Dean with a shuttered expression, then picked up the Desert Eagle and shoved the clip into the base. With barely an exhale of warning, Mason emptied the rest of the clip into the dead-center of the target, the room echoing with the noise, the barrel smoking when he was done.
"I've seen things," he said, setting the gun down carefully. "And I've known people."
Dean narrowed his eyes, trying to hide his reaction to Mason's marksmanship. "Hunters?"
Mason nodded. "Pretty sure; they never really advertised it."
"Yeah, well," Dean lifted a shoulder. "They wouldn't. Not if they wanted to stay alive. And out of jail."
"I, uh," Mason started, then cleared his throat, looking away from Dean and out across the shooting range. "I also knew Mike Guenther."
Dean flinched as if struck. "What?"
Mason looked down. "I told you Lawrence is a small community," he said. "When I started this business about twenty years ago, I talked to some of the other small garage owners. Mike and Kate…they were good to me. Gave me pointers on running a garage in a college town."
Dean felt himself swaying and had to move close to a wall for support. They'd been in Lawrence over two months and he'd almost made himself forget that everything had started here. That their father had had a business here. He'd not even allowed himself to drive over to their old street after Mia helped him replace the Impala's windshield last week.
Stull had to be the end of it. The end of that destiny. The end of his family being haunted by a past that all-but consumed every one of them.
"Mike gave me some tools his old partner had left behind," Mason continued. "They've worn out since then, been replaced, but…I started this garage with them." He looked over at Dean. "They were your father's, weren't they?"
Dean could only nod.
"Thought so," Mason replied. "Took me about a week to place where I'd heard that name. Winchester. Thought it was from a movie or TV show my girl makes me watch with her. Wasn't until I saw you working on that Chevy with Mia that it hit me. Even with a bum hand, you're a natural with cars, kid."
Dean stared at the big man, watching as his blue eyes skidded across the surfaces surrounding them, landing on nothing.
"That night…it just clicked. Mike Guenther's old partner was Winchester. Had two boys. Told some crazy stories about…," he swallowed, looking at the floor, "demons. And stuff."
Dean simply watched him.
"So, I talked to Kirby," Mason continued. "After I got my sister's email, well, I kinda had to." He looked up at Dean then. "That's what you do, isn't it? Go after demons?"
"And stuff," Dean replied.
"Yeah, well," Mason dragged a hand down his face. "Seen some of that…stuff…in town over the years. Makes you question everything you thought you knew."
"The truth'll do that," Dean replied, wishing with every cell in his body that Sam were standing next to him, hearing this.
"That's what's in Tommy's house? Hurt his grandma?"
"I think so," Dean told him. "I can't be sure until I check it out."
Mason seemed to chew on the side of his cheek as he contemplated his reply. "Well, you ain't going in there to check anything out until you can get in the ring with Apollo Creed," he told him.
At that Dean frowned. "Mason, I don't think—"
"Aw, don't look so panicky, kid," Mason waved at him, some of the light returning to his eyes. "I'm not actually putting you in a boxing ring. Gonna make you work a heavy bag is all."
"'Kay," Dean nodded. He looked down at his hand. "Don't know how I'm gonna get a boxing glove on, though."
Mason chewed his lip, stepping closer. He took Dean's hand and touched the tip of his fingers. "Can you move 'em?"
"A little," Dean said, illustrating.
"It hurt when someone bends 'em for you?"
Dean nodded, grateful when Mason didn't test the theory. He didn't need to be crushing any glass in his hand today.
"Well, we'll just see what happens," Mason said. "Need to work on your left hand more anyway."
It had been over a week since his fight with Sam. His promise to his brother that he'd try to live a normal life sat like a lead weight in his stomach. He didn't want to let Sam down, but the problem with that promise – the one he'd made just to get that damn heartbroken look out of Sam's eyes – was that he didn't know how.
He knew hunting. He knew research and weapons and lore. He knew how to fight to keep people alive.
He knew how to kill.
He didn't know how to go into a regular job each day, make small talk, laugh with friends about the mundane subjects of everyday life like basketball and TV shows and books they've read. He didn't know how to not be aware of what lurked just behind that shadow or just outside of that doorway.
And if he were completely honest, he didn't want to learn.
He knew if he confessed any of this to Sam, his brother would get on a solution so fast it would make his head spin. But he didn't want a solution. He didn't want a normal life, not like this. Not now.
Not when he was hollow inside.
When he could still replay every moment of their exhaustive journey through the battles with the Horsemen every time he closed his eyes. When he could still smell the burned-out buildings of post-Apocalyptic Kansas City and see Lucifer staring out at him from his brother's eyes.
When he could see Jo, pale and shaking from pain, and Ellen beside her ready to die to give them a chance. When he could still feel the heat from the amulet burning inside of him as he slept. Not when he had no idea how he'd been able to keep his brother from the Pit. Not when he was still too broken to move through life unaided.
He needed the hunt. He needed this hunt.
Dean had poured over the internet and visited museums and the local library, searching for anything that would support his theory about Tommy's grandma's house. He'd come up with a load of possibilities – up to and including spirits from Quantrill's Raid back in 1863. Tommy's house was the original farm house on the property; the neighborhoods around it were built up as the farmland was slowly sold off over the last century.
He hadn't been exaggerating when he'd claimed Sam had settled them on the Hellmouth. Stull's gateway to Hell had only become rumor and conjecture over the years because people were scared. And because hunters had done a damn good job of keeping the place as off-the-grid as possible.
But for the supernatural, there was no grid. The town was like a magnet for spirits. Dean hadn't come across many of the monsters they'd encountered in their travels as he researched, but he discovered a shit-load of witches and ghosts, poltergeists and kvetches.
Over the years, every instance had been dealt with, explained away, or exploited. There was even a ghost tour, he discovered, that took people to true hot spots of supernatural activity. The tours were primarily populated with non-believers wanting the "thrill" of being scared within the safety of a group, but the locations were real: the hotel where numerous people were killed during Quantrill's Raid, a University that had once been a school and camp for Native American children, a doctor's home that had been overrun by an epidemic, just to name a few.
Dean had been more than surprised to find out exactly how much supernatural history existed in his hometown. But, knowing now how desperate the angels had been to ensure he and Sam had been born – to the point of manipulating destiny to breed the hunting bloodline of the Campbells with the stalwart bloodline of the Winchesters – it made an almost poetic sense that they began their lives in a place overrun by haunted souls.
It continued to baffle him, however, that just like with every other town where they'd encountered spirits, everyone seemed to move through their lives completely oblivious to what surrounded them. It was as if he saw the world around him clearly while everyone else – including his own brother lately – wore bifocals.
The people in Lawrence walked blindly through cobwebs of lost souls, never even bothering to brush them aside.
If Sam had been researching with him, Dean would have bounced ideas off of him, assessing the possibilities based on the stories they could come up with. But Sam wasn't researching with him. Sam wasn't even aware that he was researching.
Sam was living his life, working at Freestate, paying bills, buying groceries, being normal. He'd met a girl he had taken out a few times – though never back to the house – and he talked about his new friends with affection. He'd even talked to Dean about saving up money for a car of his own, which for reasons Dean didn't want to pay too close attention to, stabbed Dean like a knife to the gut.
"Go home." Mason's voice pulled Dean back to the present. "Get some rest. Come back here tomorrow afternoon. And bring a couple Ace bandages. You got those?"
Dean nodded. "Mason, I—"
"I figure you can pay me back by working a few days a week; swing-shift for Tommy."
Dean looked at the man, surprised. Sam seemed happy that Dean was spending almost all of his free time at Mason's garage. But if he was going to be able to keep this up, Dean knew he was going to have start bringing in money. And there was no way he was going to be able to hustle a pool game now.
"Mason," he said, words hesitant and uncertain. "Not that I'm not grateful…I am, but…." He sighed and lifted his right hand.
"Kid." Mason shook his head. "I've been watching you. You got more automotive know-how in your little finger than everyone in this garage combined. Including me. I'll take you one-handed over any two-handed college kid who thinks he knows what a carburetor is because he watched Days of Thunder."
"These new cars don't have carburetors," Dean replied without thinking.
Mason lifted his hands toward Dean. "My point."
"Still, I can't do all the—"
"Stop." Mason made a cutting motion across his neck with the flat of his hand. "You need an extra hand? I know three people here'd offer you one. I'll pay you half what I pay Mia – which is still more than Tommy, so don't frown at it."
"Wasn't planning to," Dean replied, pressing his lips together to stop further self-doubt from escaping.
"Other half'll go toward targets," Mason nodded across the shooting range, "and time with the heavy bag."
"You got one of those here?"
"I do." Mason pulled at the scruff on his chin, but didn't elaborate.
Unsure how best to show his gratitude at the chance to earn some decent money, Dean picked up his gun and clip, sliding both into the pockets of the jacket he'd discarded across the back of a chair in the corner of the room. He'd found a fleece-lined hoodie that he'd layered beneath his leather jacket, solving the issue of him freezing to death and still managing to keep his father's presence close.
"Something else you should know." Mason said, watching him.
"Tommy said they're moving his grandma to a nursing home. Won't clear her to stay on her own."
"Because she's telling the truth," Dean guessed. "About what hurt her."
"Not the kind of truth anyone really wants to hear."
Dean nodded slowly. He had work to do. "Thanks, Mason. I won't let you down."
"If I thought you would, I wouldn't have offered you a job."
The Impala was cold and stiff when he slid behind the wheel. She seemed to sigh around him and he leaned his head back against the headrest for a moment's respite before turning the keys in the ignition.
He twisted to see over his left shoulder before pulling out onto 6th street, having mastered the necessary head-tilt-swivel maneuver that allowed him to check his side mirror. The phrase 'blind side' had completely new meaning to him now.
The cold of the leather seat was unforgiving of his throbbing back, but the metal steering wheel seemed the perfect fit to the scars on his palm. He felt both out of place and at home at the same time.
Having somewhere to call home…it had been a desire of his since he was young. Somewhere he belonged, someplace that was his. It had been the lack of permanence in his life that helped form the person he'd become. And yet as he pulled into the short driveway next to the small house he and Sam were renting, Dean felt no sense of peace, no connection of home. He felt as he had every time John had stopped long enough for them to finish a year of school: transient.
It wouldn't last, so don't get attached.
For a moment as he stepped out of the car, the sound of the creaking driver's door the one thing that felt right about this whole scenario, he wondered if there would ever be a time he could walk away and allow Sam his normal. Allow Sam to settle in while he just headed out to the horizon, to someplace else, continuing the search for his own sense of belonging.
Dean opened the door to their small house, the rush of warmth and smell of food wrapping around him like an embrace. The room seemed extra-bright and it took him almost a full minute of standing in the opened doorway to realize it was due to the short, squat-looking tree in the corner of the room. He blinked, closing the door softly behind him.
Sam came around the corner from the hall that led to their bedrooms, hilariously decked out in garland and tinsel, with multiple colored bulbs hanging from hooks on his fingers.
"Hey!" He greeted, his face blossoming in a grin that turned Dean's heart sideways, 60-watt dimples on full-power.
"What are…what is all this?"
Sam chuckled softly. "It's called a Christmas tree, dude."
Dean stared at his brother, dumbfounded. "It's Christmas?"
"Saturday," Sam informed him. "Day after tomorrow."
Dean watched as Sam hung the bulbs on the tree, the white lights already strung there glinting off the shiny surfaces and dazzling Dean's eyes. Sam unwound the tinsel from his neck and draped it over the tree, giving the small foliage the look of a little old lady wearing every piece of jewelry and all the furs she owned.
"What do you think?" Sam asked, stepping back.
For a moment, Dean couldn't speak.
Memories flooded him, rocking him on the spot. Memories of the last Christmas they'd celebrated – in the damp motel room in Michigan, the holiday almost brought to a screeching halt when two pagan gods tried to fudge it all up. They'd wrapped shaving cream and car magazines in newspaper and toasted the moment with eggnog, hands and arms bandaged from their latest job.
But Sam had made sure Dean had a Christmas before he died.
"Dean?" Sam pressed, his brows drawing together, the grin slipping from his face.
Dean wanted to say something – opened his mouth to do so, even – but he felt hollowed out, scooped clean. He turned his right hand over, looking down at his scarred palm and the fingers that refused to bend.
Another Christmas memory assaulted him: the one where two young, scared kids spent the holiday alone in a small, dingy motel room. The one where he'd stolen presents from a house down the street just so his brother would have something to unwrap. And the one where his brother had given him the gift that had saved both their lives.
The amulet had marked him, irrevocably changing him from what he'd been, from what he'd once been able to do, into…this.
Sam took a step forward. "What is it?"
Dean shook his head. "I don't…," he looked up at the tree, confused by the rush of emotion that seemed to suddenly swamp him. "You're too much, Sammy."
He heard Sam shift his weight, felt his brother searching for words – the right words. He should have guessed Sam would remember it was Christmas. Especially now that they had a house to celebrate in.
"Where'd you get all this stuff?"
"Hardware store," Sam replied. "It was on sale. Since, y'know…Christmas is so soon."
"Is that a real tree?"
"Yeah," Sam said and Dean heard the smile in his voice. "Kinda got the runt, but…well, we haven't had a real tree in a long time."
"How'd you afford all this?"
Sam chuckled and Dean looked over at him. "I have a job, man."
Dean nodded. "You shouldn't spend your money on this, though."
"Why not? What's the point of making money if we can't have something that makes us happy?"
Dean watched his brother as he adjusted some of the garland. "It looks great, Sam."
Sam smiled at him over his shoulder and Dean swore that for a moment his brother was twelve years old again. And after his dark thoughts of before, seeing Sam's soul shining from his eyes was a balm to his frayed heart.
"You ask Santa for anything this year?" Dean teased.
Sam's eyes clouded slightly and Dean watched him curl his scarred left hand into a fist. "I'm just glad to be here this year, Dean."
Dean nodded, then shrugged out of his coat. "Well…then I got a present for you. Kinda."
Sam arched an eyebrow, waiting.
"I got a job."
Sam tilted his head. "Like…a job? An actual job?"
"With a paycheck and everything."
"Where? Doing what?"
"Mason's garage. Whatever he needs me to do, really."
Sam's smile was blinding. He crossed the room and clapped both hands on Dean's shoulders, causing Dean to grunt with the impact. "That's perfect!" He exclaimed. "Feels good, doesn't it? Having something real? Something…solid around us?"
Dean nodded, unable to tell Sam the truth: that there was nothing solid around him right now. He was standing in a room with no floor, no ceiling, no walls, and he was suffocating on emptiness.
"I fixed dinner," Sam declared. "We can celebrate."
"Smells good – you sure you fixed it?" Dean teased.
"Hey, you're not the only one who can cook in this family," Sam retorted.
As Sam started to dish out the food, Dean headed back to the bathroom to wash the gunpowder residue from his hands. If he were to confess to Sam what he'd been doing all day at Mason's, it would be like spraying DDT over the mood and the light and warmth he felt between them now would vanish.
He wanted to hang onto this feeling as long as he could. Because as he stared at himself in the mirror over the sink, he recognized the look reflected back in his eyes: it was the same hollow look that had greeted him for months after he'd crawled from his own grave. That feeling of emptiness, echoing where his heart should be.
He may have saved Sam from Hell, but he lost of piece of himself in the process. Castiel had said he didn't know how the amulet would mark him. Staring at his own desperate eyes, Dean knew the scar on his palm was only part of it.
"Dude, it's New Years Eve," Tommy whined.
"And most places shut down. Y'know…'cause of it being a brand new year and all."
Dean bit the inside of his cheek as he worked the torque wrench on the engine of a '84 Iroc-Z. Mia was under the car and met his eyes through the chassis. Dean grinned back as they listened to Mason reason with Tommy about finishing his shift.
"Is that right?"
"So, y'know…I just think that it would be a good idea if we, y'know," Dean heard Tommy shuffling his feet, losing ground under what he could imagine was Mason's flinty stare, "respected the day and all."
"Pretty sure the day," Mason replied, stamping the words into the air like type face on white paper, "is tomorrow. Today doesn't count."
Dean finished what he was doing and turned to put the wrench back in the red toolbox behind him. He heard Mia slide out from under the car and hoist herself to her feet. He had one more thing to check on the engine and they could call this one good.
Working in the garage with Mason and Mia – and to some extent, Tommy – had given Dean a renewed sense of purpose. He was doing more than just healing, just figuring out how to get himself out of bed every morning, just breathing through the worst of the pain until it finally abated and he could move through his day.
He was doing more than just choosing not to drink himself into oblivion. Doing more than just not thinking about Sam spending time with new friends. Doing more than just not driving the hell away from Lawrence fucking Kansas.
He'd started working out on Mason's heavy bag the day after Christmas. At first, it was as if his body had forgotten everything he'd taught it for so many years about fighting and surviving. He was floundering, his punches weak, his body awkward. Mason wrapped his hands good – his right one bound with a bit more padding than his left – but he still felt each contact with the bag when he swung with his right.
That first day, the pain from even the slightest impact had shimmered up his arm, into his jaw, leaving him gasping, a wet taste in the back of his mouth. He would jab, hook, punch, and cross with his left arm until his shoulder cried out and his back spasmed, but he couldn't bring himself to put force behind his right hook.
What's more, when he'd pulled on his sweat pants and T-shirt, he saw again how much weight he'd dropped in the weeks his jaw had been wired shut. He'd never really been heavy on the muscle, but he'd at least been toned. Now, though, he could see his hip bones jutting out and his collar bones tossed shadows. He was going to have to start upping the food consumption a bit faster than the doctor's orders instructed if he wanted to be able to get in the ring, as Mason might say.
The second day he could barely lift his arms at first, but with an almost feral growl had hoisted his body out of bed, dressed, left a note for Sam and jogged to Mason's. His body was weeping with pain before he even started in on the bag, but after about an hour, his muscles began to remember. Tommy had had to drive him home – he'd left the Impala for Sam to take to work – and though he'd barely been able to drag himself to a hot shower, Dean knew he was making progress.
Three days later, he'd nailed that damn bag with a right hook that sent the thing from its overhead moorings.
"Listen, Mase," Tommy said, pitching his voice lower, but not so low Dean couldn't still hear him. "It's about my gramma's place, man."
Dean tilted his head a bit, trying to catch more of their conversation. Turned the way he was, he couldn't see the tools to the left of the box clearly through the veil over his vision, but at the moment he cared more about what Tommy was going to say than about grabbing the right wrench.
"What about it?"
"They're gonna sell it at auction Monday. Big ol' ad in the paper and shit."
"Aw, man, I'm sorry to hear that," Mason replied, sincerely.
"I gotta get in there before them auction people do if I want to get my stuff out. And, y'know…some of her stuff, too."
"She still in the nursing home?"
"What she say about all this?"
"Won't say nothing," Tommy grumbled and Dean heard him turn away. He rotated to face them fully, not caring if he was blatantly eavesdropping. "She didn't change her story, so they said she couldn't take care of herself. I think she's trying to prove them right."
"Her story…you mean about there being ghosts in the house?" Mason clarified.
Tommy was rubbing the back of his head, eyes on the cracked cement floor as he paced. "I know it sounds crazy, man, but…she seems so sure! And she's not a liar, y'know? She's as straight arrow as they come."
"Could've just been scared, Tommy," Mason said gently.
Tommy dropped his hand and stared at Mason, hard. For the first time, Dean saw age on him, edges to the kid's seemingly haphazard personality that had Dean squaring his shoulders in instinctive reaction.
"I'da been fuckin' scared, too, if a ghost beat the shit outta me."
"You really think it was a ghost?" Mia spoke up. She'd been listening as well, standing in the shadow of Dean's vision.
Tommy looked over at them and Dean felt the hairs on his arms stand at attention.
"I know she didn't do it to herself," he said darkly. "I know I didn't do it. And I know the police ain't found shit to say someone else was in that house."
Mia stepped forward, twisting her hands nervously. "I saw a ghost once," she said, her voice echoing a bit in the silence of the garage. "Out at Haskell. Where those Native American kids from the school are buried?"
Mason rubbed the back of his head. "Pretty sure I saw one at the Eldridge one night. Took my girl for a romantic overnight and ended up checking out at three in the morning." He looked over at Dean. "What about you?"
Dean narrowed his eyes. Where was Mason going with this?
"Dean?" Tommy pressed. "You ever seen a ghost?"
"I might've," Dean said. "Once or twice."
"Twice?" Tommy squeaked.
Dean ignored Tommy's wide-eyed stare and looked hard at Mason, trying to see if he could read the direction the man was trying to take him. Working with the older mechanic had reminded him a bit of knocking around Bobby's junkyard, back in his youth.
But Mason wasn't Bobby. Hadn't been through what Bobby had been through. Didn't know Dean like Bobby had known Dean.
And Dean knew he needed to remember that.
"Listen, kid," Mason said to Tommy, though he didn't take his eyes from Dean. "You need to wait. Don't go in there by yourself." When Dean didn't speak up, Mason rotated and faced Tommy. "Ghost or no ghost, the last thing you need is to get caught trespassing on seized property."
"But it's my—"
"Ah, just hang on a damn minute." Mason raised a hand to silence Tommy's protest. "Let me call Kirby. See if he can get you in there tomorrow. Police escort and everything."
Tommy swallowed the rest of his protest, and nodded, acquiescing.
"Now," Mason's look took all three in. "Can we get these damn cars wrapped so I can go home and get drunk with my wife? It's New Year's Eve, y'know!"
Dean echoed everyone else's obligatory grin and turned back to the tool box, his mind whirring. As he selected the wrench from the box, he turned back to the Camaro and flinched with a start to find Tommy standing beside him. He hadn't seen the kid approach.
"You really saw a ghost twice?" Tommy asked.
"Jesus, kid," Dean pressed the wrench in his hand against his chest and took a step back.
"That how you got all those scars?" Tommy waved his fingers in the air around Dean's face.
"Tommy!" Mia scolded, sucking on her teeth.
"No, it's okay," Dean told her. "Surprised you guys haven't asked before now."
"None of our business," Mia stated, lying back down on the dolly and rolling herself under the engine. "Besides," she called out, her voice bouncing against the metal above her. "They give you character."
Dean smiled slightly in Mia's direction before he looked at Tommy.
"I've seen a few ghosts," he said, thinking about Sam and about the fact that they told Sergeant Jackson the truth and weren't in jail primarily because, by his assessment, Lawrence was a supernatural hotspot. "I've fought a few more. And Mason's right. You shouldn't go in there by yourself."
Tommy stared at him a moment as if waiting for a punch line to a joke he wasn't sure he'd heard. When Dean said nothing else, he crossed his arms over his chest, his boyish face hardening. Dean realized he was suddenly looking at the Tommy who was pulled out of bar brawls and who spent time in jail for drunk and disorderly.
He wasn't sure he liked this Tommy.
"You realize neither of you can actually stop me from going in there," Tommy informed him.
Dean had handled more than a few punks growing up. Not only that, he'd been raised by John Winchester. A hardened jaw and steel-like stare were hardly enough to back him down.
"Believe me, kid," Dean said, dropping his chin and lowering his voice as he kept emotionless eyes on Tommy. "If I wanted to, I could stop you from doing pretty much anything."
Tommy blinked at that, drawing his head back, then nodded and stepped away. Dean took a breath, then turned his attention to the car. He replaced the wires connecting the battery, meeting Mia's eyes through the engine and nodding at her before tightening the bolts.
"Good job with him," Mia said quietly.
Dean smiled. She grinned back and he saw a blush creep across the laugh lines that powdered her cheeks. As he finished, packing up his tools and grabbing his work-out gear, he glanced around for Mason, seeing the man through the glass door of the office he'd been ushered into that first day. He was on the phone – presumably with his brother-in-law, the cop – and looked immeasurably tired.
It made Dean wonder which was worse: knowing that evil is out there, or suspecting that it was.
He shouldered his duffel bag that contained his sweats and boxing gloves and paused outside the office door. Mason waved him in as he hung up the phone.
"You talk with Jackson?" Dean asked.
"Yeah," Mason sighed. "He thinks I'm nuts."
"He agree to go with Tommy, though?"
"He did," Mason nodded. He scratched at his ever-present scruff, then studied Dean. "You alright, kid? You look…I don't know. Different."
Dean arched an eyebrow. "Would that be a did you do something to your hair different, or I thought you'd be taller different?"
"You look like you've got a mission, different."
Dean looked away, absentmindedly running his tongue along the scars the wires had left on his gum line. Mason might not be Bobby, but both seemed to share an uncanny ability to see through his walls.
"You're not ready, Dean."
"Pretty sure I can judge that for myself."
Mason moved around from behind the desk more swiftly than a man his size should have been able to. It caught Dean off-guard and had him taking a step back.
"You're right," Mason said, leaning forward, his blue eyes intense. "I've never done what you guys do. I don't know what's involved. But if doing that job is what gave you all those," he nodded at the scars around Dean's eye, "then you're not ready."
"I won't do anything stupid," Dean said, mentally crossing his fingers. "Promise."
Mason narrowed his eyes. "I got a bad feeling you and I have very different definitions of stupid."
"Listen," Dean implored as he started out of the office. "Just…call me if Tommy…well, if he does your definition of something stupid."
Mason simply lifted his chin. Dean left the garage, the late afternoon sun high and cold in the winter sky. Something told him this year was going to end much like it had begun: with blood and darkness and just enough light to keep moving.
Continued in Part 1: Chapter 8
a/n: Two more chapters in Part 1 after this; some action to be had before things heat up on various levels in Part 2. On that note, I wanted to let you know that chapter 8 will be delayed by a week. My little family is running away for the Thanksgiving holiday and I am going to attempt to take an honest-to-goodness vacation. I'll be working on Part 2 while I'm gone, though. Never fear. Chapter 8 will be posted by Friday, December 6th. I hope to see you then!