Title: From Yesterday
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title is from a 30 Seconds to Mars song of the same name. Rated very much PG-13 for language (mostly Dean) and a couple of mature scenes
Summary: See Prologue.
Author's Note: Thank you for sticking through the 'End' the boys experienced throughout Part 1. Now they're about to begin a whole new journey, starting off in a reality that is incredibly foreign to them: a normal life. But our boys have redefined normal in so many ways it probably wouldn't apply to you and me. And never fear: I live for details. So all of the little hints at the tail-end of the last chapter? Well, you're going to see them play out here.
This is probably the longest chapter yet. *smile*
Reiteration of the fair warning from the beginning of Part 1: though this is definitely a story about the Winchester brothers, an OC from my past stories, the druid Brenna Kavanagh, is a key character in Part 2. I've written this so that it's not necessary for you to read the previous stories in which she appears to understand her relationship to the brothers, but it might help add layers to her story.
I hope you enjoy!
Part 1: Prologue - Chapter 9
art by thruterryseyes
"…From yesterday, it's coming
From yesterday, the fear
From yesterday, it calls him
But he doesn't wanna read the message here…"
30 Seconds to Mars, From Yesterday
Loyalty is a concept ingrained into hunters alongside uses for rock salt and the correct symbols to ward off demons. For the longest time, I thought it was because our dad was a Marine: never leave a man behind and all of that. But when Dad died, and my brother and I encountered others who did what we did, who knew what we knew, I quickly realized that it was simply part of an unwritten code we all lived by.
That's not to say there weren't those who broke the code; Dean and I both learned that the hard way. But with those exceptions aside, loyalty among hunters kept us alive more times than I can recount, and got us into more trouble than I want to remember.
Looking back, I realize it was that quality that decided Dean's fate. Not his incredible stubbornness, not his endless capacity to love, but his unwavering loyalty.
Excerpt from "Roadtrip with My Brother: A Memoir" by Samuel Winchester
PART TWO: It Begins
Lawrence, KS, 2011
When he stopped to think about it, this was really all his fault.
Dean leaned his head back against the cement wall of the jail cell, his eyes on the Y-shaped crack that ran the length of the ceiling, and thought back across the series of seemingly unconnected moments that culminated in his current location.
New Year's Eve 2010 was arguably the worst year-ending Tommy McMahon had ever experienced, though those who had sympathy for him seemed few and far between. Mason had given the kid a few days off, forced to delay several jobs for a week while Dean recovered from being knocked around by the spirit in Tommy's house and Tommy attempted to pull himself together.
Dean came back to work sooner than he probably should have, forced to move slowly as he maneuvered around the engines and reluctantly allowing Mia the tire work so that he didn't strain the stitches in his side lifting anything.
Tommy had seemed to ricochet; he couldn't meet anyone's eyes, barely spoke two words to Mason or Dean. His nights were spent, for the most part, in Mason's back room. His days…were anyone's guess. A little over two weeks after the holiday, when Dean felt strong enough to start back on the heavy bag and shooting range, Tommy seemed to vanish. Mason had called around to most of the kid's friends, without luck.
"You didn't do this to him, Dean," Sam had argued as he got ready for work early that evening. "If anything, he did this," Sam gestured loosely to Dean's nearly-healed side, "to you. Dude bailed on you first chance he got."
"It was a pretty big shock, man," Dean had countered, patting the pockets of his jacket in search of his keys. Sam saw them on the top of the TV, snagged them and tossed blindly. Dean plucked them from the air with his left hand, continuing, "It's not like we make a habit of sticking around when the job's done. We don't know how many people we affect like this."
"We don't affect them," Sam had frowned, pulling a knit hat down over his ears. "The damn spirits do. Or demons. Or whatever the hell."
Keys in hand, Dean had pointed at Sam as he opened the door, allowing Dean to step through. "Exactly."
Sam's frown had seemed to age his face. "All I'm saying is, you're not responsible for helping him pick up the pieces."
They'd walked in tandem from the house to the car, pausing just before they opened their respective doors to regard each other over the roof of the Impala. It had struck Dean at the time how common, how natural this felt. Talking to his brother about one subject before sinking into the sanctity of the only home he'd ever truly known and shifting topics. It was almost as if the inside of the Impala were reserved for only certain kinds of conversations.
"Someone's gotta be, Sammy. You asked me to leave the hunting to others – I think this falls outside of those parameters." He'd shrugged and opened his door. "This is me being a friend. You should be happy."
"Yeah, well," Sam tugged hard on his door and flopped inside. "Just don't friend yourself into more trouble."
Dean had started the engine, tossing his brother a half grin. "Hey! It's me."
Sam had just shaken his head and rubbed at his scarred hand in a new nervous tick he'd picked up over the last several months. Dean hadn't pressed the issue at the time, dropping Sam off in front of Freestate for his evening shift and heading down Massachusetts to a bar called the Red Lion where he'd heard Tommy liked to spend his time.
And that's when the trouble had started.
Sighing, Dean shifted uncomfortably on the narrow wooden bench where he'd been waiting for several hours now. He pulled closer into his coat, the cement walls not playing much of a role as a heating conductor. The one thing he had going for him in this moment was that the holding cell in the Kasold branch of the Lawrence judicial system was, thankfully, empty at nine in the evening.
Of course, it was a Tuesday. No one caused much trouble on Tuesdays.
Except, apparently, loud-mouth mechanics who'd had too much to drink and nothing but a destroyed house, a grandmother in the psychiatric ward of the hospital, and a decade scared off his life.
Tommy had already been drunk when Dean had spotted him sitting at the far end of the bar. It was barely seven in the evening, but the red-head had clearly been warming that particular stool for awhile. Dean had simply slid in beside Tommy and clapped him on the shoulder in what he thought was a friendly greeting when Tommy seemed to disintegrate.
Before Dean had been able to pull the kid from the bar and into the relative safety of the Impala, Tommy had begun yelling about burning bones and ghosts and shadow people and when Dean had tried to quiet him, Tommy had gone ballistic.
The Red Lion had some serious repairs to a few wooden tables, three TVs, a couple of bar stools, and an entire shelf of pint glasses in its future. Dean hadn't thrown a single punch, but as he'd been the one that set Tommy off, according to witnesses, the two cops who'd been called in when the ruckus started cuffed him and tossed him in the back of the squad car next to Tommy on principle.
Dean heard muffled voices calling out to each other from the other side of the door that separated the sheriff's office from the holding cells. He lifted both hands – why they'd felt it necessary to keep him cuffed while he sat behind bars, he didn't know – and scratched at his day-old scruff.
Sam was going to be pissed. Especially when Dean knew he couldn't really claim innocence. He hoped his brother would understand when he found out that Dean had used his one phone call to contact Sergeant Kirby Jackson.
Dean brought his head up. A young cop with a shaved head and a tattoo peeking out from beneath the short sleeve of his uniform stepped into the holding area. He squared his stance directly outside of Dean's cell, hooking his thumbs on his belt and tilting his head to regard Dean as if he were a particularly rare specimen.
"Something I can help you with?" Dean asked, raising an eyebrow.
The motion pulled at the skin above his left eye – the scar tissue more sensitive now than it had been prior to his run-in with the spirit of an over-protective homeowner a few weeks back.
"Charges were dropped."
Dean watched the man for a moment. "So…why am I still here?"
"Tell me something," the cop demanded. "What have you got on Sergeant Jackson that he's willing to stick his neck out for you?"
Dean shrugged, non-committal.
"Gotta be something good; why else would he vouch for some looney who sees dead people?"
Dean stood slowly, his body coiled, each step purposeful as he approached the bars. He kept his eyes on the cop and felt a slight shift of satisfaction when the young man took a step back as Dean's cuffs clinked against the metal when he wrapped his left hand around the bars.
"Maybe he's afraid of me," Dean suggested, his voice low and dangerous.
"Jeffers! What the hell is taking so damn long?"
A voice Dean didn't recognized called to the cop standing on the other side of his cell. Dean didn't take his eyes off the man across from him, having dealt with enough cocky bastards in his lifetime to know that backing down gave them power. Lifting his chin in an obvious play for confidence, Officer Jeffers stepped forward and unlocked the cell door.
Dean stepped to the opening and held out his cuffed hands. With a snarl, Officer Jeffers unlocked the handcuffs and gestured for Dean to precede him from the holding area. Rubbing his wrists, Dean looked back at the cop and winked before heading out.
He stepped into the low hum of the sheriff's office, ignoring the glances cast his way as he sought the man who'd rescued him from spending the rest of the night on a cold bench in a jail cell.
Sergeant Kirby Jackson stood at the far corner of the room, his off-duty attire of jeans, baseball hat and a sweatshirt contrasting with the uniforms around him. He was deep in conversation with another plain-clothed man Dean didn't recognize, but when he saw Dean he gestured for him to approach.
Taking a breath, Dean made his way over, keeping his eyes front.
"Dean," Jackson called, gesturing for him to come closer. "This is Detective Sorenson. From the Cold Case division in Kansas City."
Dean forced himself to not dart worried eyes toward Jackson as he nodded at Sorenson.
"Tommy McMahon's claims have triggered a renewed interest in your case."
"My…case?" Dean asked, tilting his head inquiringly.
"We think the same vandals who attacked you and your brother out at Stull several months ago may have been responsible for the damage at the McMahon property," Sorenson elaborated.
The detective didn't have the same flat, boxy speech pattern as Mason and Jackson. He sounded more East Coast than MidWest. Not wanting to address the topic at hand too closely, Dean used that observation to his advantage.
"You local, Sorenson?" Dean asked.
Sorenson shook his head. "Just transferred from New Hampshire."
"Settling in okay?"
Sorenson glanced at Jackson, who remained blank-faced and silent.
"Yes, everyone has been…very welcoming."
"Good deal," Dean said, clapping a hand on Sorenson's shoulder. He looked at Jackson. "We done here?"
Jackson started to nod, but Sorenson interrupted, apparently not so easily set off course. "Ah, Mr. Winchester…if you don't mind, I have a few questions I'd like to go over with you about that night."
Dean nodded. "Sure thing. But it's late. And it's been a long-assed day. How 'bout I come in after work sometime?"
Sorenson pressed his lips closed, eyeing Dean carefully. The man had dark eyes, almost black. His thinning brown hair was combed straight back and Dean could see freckles on his pink scalp. The fledgling beginnings of a mustache peppered his upper lip, enhanced by the suspicious pucker.
"Fine." Sorenson acquiesced. " Bring your brother, too."
Dean tipped the man a quick, two fingered salute and started toward the door.
"And, Mr. Winchester…if coming into the office is too much trouble," Sorenson called, forcing Dean to pause and half-turn to face the man, "I can always come by your house to talk."
Dean tipped his chin up, but didn't reply, waiting until he and Jackson had exited the precinct before he truly exhaled. He glanced askance at Jackson.
"What the hell?"
Jackson shook his head. "Remember when I said there were a coupla cops I wouldn't want to get wind of your story?"
"Two of them were in the Red Lion when Tommy started going off…." He pulled off his Kansas Jayhawks baseball hat, scratched at his forehead, then tugged it back on, brim low over his brow. "I know you explained everything to him, but when that kid gets drinkin'…."
"Yeah, I get the picture," Dean sighed, shoving his hands into his pockets.
He really needed to get better about damage control; he'd just never had to think about it much before. Moving on was part of the job. He stepped through the door Jackson held open for him and let the cold January night wash over him.
"Any ideas about what to do with Sorenson?" Dean asked as he zipped his coat closed and pulled the gray hood up.
"Yeah," Jackson said, heading down the sidewalk ahead of Dean. "Avoid him."
Dean shrugged. "That oughta be easy," he shot back, sarcasm lacing his tone. "'Specially in a town this size."
"I'll see what I can do to help," Jackson tossed over his shoulder. "But I'm running low on favors."
Dean frowned, moving around to the passenger side of Jackson's truck. "No one asked you to call in favors, Jackson."
"They didn't have to," Jackson snapped.
Sighing, Dean climbed into the truck and slammed the door shut. The feeling of being indebted to someone rode sideways along his spine. He owed Jackson not only for his discretion in the face of the truth, but for saving his life – Sam's life – when he and Mason burned the bones at the McMahon house.
"Anyone at Stull ever come forward?" Dean asked as Jackson pulled out of the parking lot.
"Not a one."
"That should help stall Sorenson," Dean concluded, hope tipping up the edge of his words.
Jackson didn't reply. Dean stared out through the side window, watching the ice-and-snow-covered town slip by, lit by the brilliance of the moon. He felt his pulse speed up as his thoughts wandered to the possibility of someone who hadn't seen what Jackson had seen, who didn't accept what Mason accepted, finding out about them. His thoughts skipped and skidded back to Hendrickson, to the very real possibility of prison – or worse – for the 'crimes' he'd committed.
This is what a normal life gets you, Sammy, Dean thought darkly, forcing himself to take a slow, deep breath, his racing heart almost painful. He was fidgety, restless, the non-existent walls closing in on him. He didn't realize he was rubbing his hands on the legs of his jeans until he caught Jackson's questioning, sidelong glance. He forced his hands to still, almost sitting on them to stop the anxious motion.
"Take it easy, kid," Jackson said quietly. "I haven't let anyone get to you yet, have I?"
Dean shook his head, not trusting his voice. After a moment he swallowed his anxiety and shifted in his seat, "How's Tommy?"
"Sleeping it off."
"I didn't see him in the holding cell," Dean frowned.
Jackson lifted a shoulder. "They took him to the other side – detox."
"He gonna be okay?"
"Kid's got a problem," Jackson admitted. "He's a good guy, but…," Jackson shook his head. "Been arresting him on misdemeanors since he was seventeen."
"What happened when he was seventeen?"
Jackson glanced askance at Dean. "What makes you think something happened?"
"Good guys don't start down that path for no reason," Dean reasoned.
"Sounds like you've got some experience there," Jackson mused.
Dean's laugh was cold enough to frost the window he stared through. "Man, you got no idea."
"His dad died," Jackson revealed. "Cancer. Mom hadn't been in the picture for awhile."
Dean nodded. "Think the bar will press charges?"
"Because they dropped them against you, you mean?"
Dean's silence was his answer.
"Honestly, might be the best thing that happens to him."
Jackson pulled up behind where Dean had parked the Impala. Dean reached across himself to grasp the handle.
"Thanks for the ride."
"You okay getting home?"
Home. Dean bounced his head at that word. "I'm good."
"I'll give you a call about Sorenson."
Dean slid out of the truck, nodding at Jackson as he shut the door. He stood waiting for Jackson to pull away, staring at the back of the Impala.
Night driving was tough. It was a bright night, the moon illuminating the pavement, the mounds of snow that framed the parking lot, and the buildings lining Massachusetts Street. It should have been bright enough he wouldn't have really even needed his headlights.
Except that half of his vision sat stubbornly in shadow. And at night, that shadow was an impenetrable wall to his left. He'd avoided driving at night for that reason, but no way was he going to tell Jackson any of that. And no way was he going to call Sam. It wasn't that far to their house. He'd just go slowly.
He managed to turn a ten minute drive into a half-hour trip, pulling up to the front of their house just as Stella was dropping off Sam from his shift.
"Stellllaaa!" Dean called obnoxiously in his best Brando impression as Sam climbed out of his side of the car.
The brunette rolled down her window, resting an elbow on the door frame and leaning out to look at him. "You gonna say my name like that every time I come around here?" she asked.
Dean shrugged, grinning as Sam made his way around the front of her car. "Keep coming around and find out," he told her.
Sam just shook his head at his brother, then leaned in and gave Stella a quick kiss before murmuring, "See you tomorrow night?"
Stella smiled up at him, the look on her face making Dean's heart hurt. He'd seen one other person look at Sam that way: Jessica. Except he'd been a little distracted by the Smurf T-shirt she'd been barely wearing at the time to truly appreciate what he was witnessing.
Sam stepped away from Stella's car and Dean returned her wave as she backed down the short driveway, calling out goodbye to both of them before rolling up her window. Dean stepped up beside Sam, facing the same direction as his brother.
"What's tomorrow night?"
Sam looked at him in surprise. "Dude, seriously?"
Dean stared at him, blank-faced.
Dean blinked, eyes sliding away from Sam, staring at the footprints in the snow. He'd completely lost track of time. Again. And not just wow, am I late for dinner kind of time, but sands through the hourglass kind of time. Truth be told, he couldn't remember the last time he'd recognized – let alone celebrated – his birthday.
He heard Sam turn to head into the house, boots crunching on the snow that still covered the short front walk to their door, but he didn't follow. The patterns of light on the snow captured his attention.
He flinched slightly at the sound of his brother's voice, but didn't move.
"Come inside, man. It's freezing out here."
Obediently, Dean turned and silently followed his brother inside. He stood in front of the closed door, watching numbly as Sam removed his coat, dropping it on the back of one of the kitchen chairs, went to the fridge and grabbed a Coke, stood in the opened door of the refrigerator while he downed half the can in one gulp, then let out an impressively resonate belch.
Only then did Sam look over, finally realizing that Dean hadn't moved from his spot.
"What's with you?"
Dean ran his tongue over his bottom lip, working to re-engage his thoughts into a recognizable pattern. The night had taking a strange left turn and he'd started it out tired. This latest bit of information seemed to derail his constant forward motion.
"How old am I?" he asked in absolute honesty.
Sam closed the refrigerator, straightening up in surprise. "What?"
Dean blinked, trying to bring Sam into focus. "Tomorrow. How old will I be?"
Sam took a step forward. "Thirty-two."
"Damn," Dean whispered, making his way toward the couch. He sank down gracelessly. "I don't remember turning thirty."
He heard Sam moving behind him, but couldn't see his brother approach until Sam was standing directly in front of him, leaning back against the curtained window.
"You were kinda dealing with other things," Sam reminded him, "like…Hell."
"Thirty-two," Dean muttered. "Son of a bitch."
He could remember sixteen – his first werewolf – and eighteen – his first love – and twenty-two – Sam leaving for Stanford – and twenty-six – Dad vanishing. But after that, it all got hazy and rolled into years of blood and pain and fighting and survival.
And then there were the forty years in Hell….
"You okay, Dean?" Sam's voice seemed to be coming from a tunnel.
Dean shook his head slowly. "It's just…," he couldn't bringing himself to meet Sam's gaze, "we spent so much time trying to keep the world turning…I guess I kinda…," he shrugged, "lost track."
"Yeah," Sam nodded, though the tone in his voice indicated he was still confused.
"I feel older." Dean chuckled humorlessly. "I feel…eighty."
Sam cleared his throat, and Dean looked up, noting how uncomfortable his brother appeared. He clearly wanted to say something.
Sam shook his head. "Just…y'know. Thinking. About how…in some ways…you kinda are."
Dean was quiet for a moment, registering that his brother didn't forget. That Dean's time in Hell had been hell on Sam as well. And four months had felt like a lifetime to the one left behind.
"You whippersnapper," Dean teased, feeling something loosen in his chest when Sam grudgingly smiled.
"We don't have to do anything," Sam offered.
Dean frowned. "You said Stella's coming over?"
"Well," Sam shrugged, hesitating. "I mean, I thought since…y'know…."
"She taking the whole…family business thing better?"
Sam sniffed, looking away. "She's coming around to it," he said. "Haven't told her about the more… colorful parts."
"What, like your brother doing time in Hell?"
"Or my being addicted to demon blood…or the fact that I had death visions…or that you saved me from the Pit…."
"Maybe it's enough that she knows about…," Dean hesitated, trying to find a way to frame up the simpler aspects of their lives.
"Ghostbusting?" Sam teased.
"Well, that's all she knows so far: that pretty much every Halloween costume out there is actually real."
"And her boyfriend knows how to smoke 'em," Dean grinned.
Sam actually blushed at the word boyfriend. "She thinks you're fascinating."
Dean blinked in surprise, then recovered, smirk firmly in place. "That's because I am."
"So, I just figured, with our six months deal and all…," Sam tapered off, shrugging.
"Have her come over," Dean nodded, decisively. "We'll…I don't know. Grill burgers or something."
"Dude, it's like twenty degrees out there."
"Fine then; we'll order Chinese."
Sam pushed away from the wall with a nod, but paused before heading back to his room. "You're…glad…that you're turning thirty-two, right?"
Dean looked up, confused. "What?"
"I mean, because the alternative pretty much bites."
Dean smiled at his brother. "Yeah, Sammy. I'm glad I'm turning thirty-two."
Sam thunked the back of the couch with his knuckles. "Good." He headed back to his room, calling from the hallway, "Hey, did you find Tommy?"
Dean closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the couch. "Yeah. I found him."
"Everything good there?"
"Yeah. We're good." Dean took a slow breath through his nose.
There was always time to tell Sam about Sorenson later. And the hours he'd spent in jail. Let Sam think he'd spent the whole night at the Red Lion talking to Tommy. Some truths weren't necessary, until they were.
Dean stayed where he was, head back, listening to the house creak around him. He knew he'd have to eventually get up and haul himself to bed, but at the moment it felt like too much of an effort. The idea that he was already in his thirties without having consciously realized it had him feeling heavy.
He'd never really given much thought to his age before; he'd never really thought he'd grow old. He imagined himself going out in a firefight with a bad guy, ala Butch and Sundance. But something about the sedentary aspect of a normal life brought the dormant thoughts of fragility and the inevitability of age to vivid reality
There was a routine to life now. A rhythm. And Dean felt out of synch.
He went to work, practiced at the shooting range, built up his strength with Mason's heavy bag, paid bills, went grocery shopping, took his turn at the Laundromat. He'd even re-learned how to clean a bathroom and kitchen. It had been years since he'd even had a bathroom and kitchen to clean. He'd found himself watching TV shows the same nights each week, following the story lines and getting attached to the characters.
Last time he'd done that, the show had been in Spanish…and he was pretty sure it had been porn.
Sam had started to relax, the longer Dean stuck to the routine. There hadn't been anything come their way that had made him want to break the pattern, though, so keeping his promise thus far had been easy. However, with Sorenson now alerted to their presence, Tommy flipping out, and a birthday he hadn't really seen coming, Dean was starting to feel the cracks in the ground where he'd planted his feet.
It wasn't death that troubled him. He'd died so many times, in so many awful, unimaginable ways, that a true death – one where he couldn't be revived to simply be tortured once more – sounded almost like a reward.
Hell had changed him long before the amulet scarred him.
It was the idea of being incapable of doing what he needed to do that scared him. And the reality of it was he was living that now. He'd barely been able to protect Sam from the spirit that night in the McMahon house. He'd barely been able to protect himself.
He saw her in his dreams, a specter of his failure adding to the heat that seemed to fill the hollow the amulet left behind. She crawled across the ceiling, her shadowy tendrils reaching out to wrap around his throat, spilling darkness on him like ink, staining him…her dead eyes mocking him as the shadow tightened, denying him air.
He jerked, surprised to find his breath hammering out through a dry throat, his pulse slamming at the base of his neck, a film of sweat covering his face. Confused and disoriented, he looked around, unsure why he was seeing light filtering through the window in front of him.
"Hey, you with me?"
Blinking, he looked up to see Sam bending over him.
"Yeah," he croaked, swallowing convulsively in an automatic attempt to quench the fire in his throat. "You heading to bed?"
A line appeared between Sam's brows. "Dude, it's seven in the morning."
Dean shifted, his body stiff from staying in the same place for so long, and looked around again.
"You were dreaming," Sam informed him. "From the sound of it…a pretty bad one."
"Shit," Dean muttered, rubbing at his eyes. "I stay out here all night?"
"Apparently," Sam sighed, sinking slowly to sit on the coffee table. "Rufus called."
Dean squinted at his brother. Sam was in his running clothes, had his hat and gloves gripped in tight fists. "At seven a.m.?"
For a moment, he let himself hope that there was a job, a hunt they were needed for; no way could Sam deny Rufus.
"Seems he's had a breakthrough."
Dean's eyes widened. "What did he say?"
"Not much," Sam told him. "Said he'll be here in a few days. Needs to tell us this in person, I guess."
Dean stared at his brother a moment; suddenly not sure he wanted to hear whatever it was. They'd managed to find a way around avoiding skin contact. There hadn't been an instance of the shock-wave since that morning in the McMahon house. And there'd been nothing unusual about Dean's eyes – that he'd noticed or Sam had called attention to – since then either.
Part of him wanted to keep it at status quo; it was going to be much harder to play along with the normal scene if he knew there was a reason for the strangeness that had wrapped around them since that night in Stull. A reason that negated all normalcy.
Life had a way of making it impossible for Dean to keep some promises.
"Great," he said colorlessly. Trying to infuse more interest into his reply in reaction to Sam's frown, he continued, "Maybe we'll be able to get some answers beyond your Hero's Journey theory."
Sam rolled his eyes. "It's a good theory."
"It's a story, is what it is." Dean braced himself and pushed to his feet.
"It's your story," Sam countered. "You just don't want it to be."
Waving a dismissive hand at his brother, Dean half-staggered towards the bathroom. His hip and back did not appreciate sleeping sitting up, but he ignored them in lieu of the other sensations of fear and anxiety that were currently fueling his racing heart.
"Where are you going?" Sam called after him.
"Shower. Then work."
"You barely got any sleep, man."
"I got enough," Dean replied, remembering to shuck his jacket before stepping into the hallway.
"Hey," Sam called.
Dean sighed, then turned half-turned so that he could see his brother. "What, Sam?"
Huffing an exasperated laugh, he tossed Sam a half-grin, then headed for the bathroom, listening for Sam to head out on his daily run before he turned on the water and escaped into the thought-canceling noise.
"Impressive," Rufus told Sam as he looked over the papers spread out in front of him. "You've spent a lot of time on this."
Sam sat on the only other kitchen chair, arms braced on the table, leaning forward eagerly as he watched Rufus scan the research he'd compiled on his own over the last several weeks. Dean had been strangely reluctant to find out more about their connection or to further research the amulet. He hadn't gotten in Sam's way, but he also hadn't offered to help as Sam wove theory after theory seeking a reason, pattern, or purpose.
It was almost as if he didn't want to find out, which was confusing to Sam. How could Dean not want to know the answers to so many unanswered questions? He pulled at the sleeves of his flannel shirt, covering part of his hands as he watched Rufus read.
Their house was cold; Rufus had yet to remove his quilt-lined flannel jacket. They both looked up at the sound of metal on metal coming from the back of the house. Sam rolled his neck, working to stifle his irritation. Dean had chosen the moment Rufus stepped into the house to try to fix the heater.
Once again avoiding the issue.
"I got him some tools for his birthday," Sam explained with a resigned shrug. Rufus looked over at him, lips pressed close together. "He's trying to fix the heater," Sam elaborated. Instead of finding out the deal with our connection, he grumbled silently.
"They magic tools?" Rufus grumbled, glancing back toward the clanking sound as he shrugged deeper into his coat.
"They're made for lefties," Sam said. "Thought it would help him at his job."
Sam nodded, then stood up and grabbed Rufus' coffee cup. "More?"
Rufus lifted his chin in acceptance, his eyes on Sam. "Fancy coffee maker you got there."
Sam looked at the stainless steel machine, removing the glass carafe and filling both their mugs. "My, uh…, friend," he started, feeling awkward about Stella around Rufus, "got it for us. For Dean, really."
"Right. Birthday." He reached out and took his mug from Sam. "When was that again?"
"'Bout a week ago," Sam replied. "Day you called us."
"You boys are settling in here pretty nicely," Rufus observed.
Sam glanced toward the back of the house once more. "Yeah," he muttered, handing Rufus his coffee. "Guess we are."
Rufus took a drink, inhaling as he did so, as if preparing to deliver bad news. "Well, this is good stuff, Sam."
Sam turned one of the papers covered with his handwriting and a few lines of an image. He turned another, and slid it forward, showing Rufus how the four pages fit together to create a picture, a path.
"Here, this one?" Sam leaned over the table and pointed to a page that said First threshold, final test, Descent into the Abyss. "I figure that's when he was in Hell."
Rufus nodded. "What about this?" He pointed to the quadrant that said Second threshold, new rules, Ascent into Magic.
Sam sighed. "I'm thinking that's now."
Sam looked at the scar on the palm of his left hand. "There's some stuff you don't know."
Rufus sat back, the kitchen chair creaking with his weight. "I figured."
As Sam opened his mouth, a cry came from the back of the house. Already on his feet, Sam started toward the noise when his brother's frustrated Son of a Bitch! filtered back toward them. Exchanging a look with Rufus, he set down his mug and they started toward the hallway and the storage closet where the heater was located.
Before they reached it, though, Sam heard a ticking sound, like a lighter trying to catch. Images of the house exploding suddenly filtered through his mind and he hurried to the closet, only to find Dean on his side, hands shoved elbow-deep into the heating unit, grease smeared down the unscarred side of his face.
"Almost got it, Sammy."
"You're gonna blow us all up!"
"Dial down the drama, Princess," Dean growled. He looked up. "Turn that blue valve counter-clockwise."
Sam located the valve Dean indicated and gave it a turn. Instantly, they heard the heat kick on.
"Ha!" Dean exclaimed. "That's how it's done, boys!"
When it became clear that Dean wasn't extricating himself from the mechanisms on his own, Sam hooked his arms beneath his brother's shoulders and pulled him backwards. Dean eased his hands out of the unit, his right one shaking uncontrollably. Sam handed his brother a towel, frowning at the appendage.
"You try to use it again?"
"I did use it," Dean countered. "For a minute anyway."
"That why it's shaking like high-rise during an earthquake?" Rufus asked dryly.
Dean shot the older hunter a look that should have reduced the man to a pile of ash, then sat up. Distracted, Sam reached out a hand to help his brother to his feet and two heartbeats before Dean grasped it, they both froze, pulling back. Dean grabbed the wall instead, climbing to an unsteady stance as he stared at Sam.
"One of you boys mind telling me what the hell is going on here?"
"Fixed the heater," Dean choked out, pushing past Rufus to get free of the confines of the closet, and disappearing into the bathroom.
Sam stared after him, silent until he heard the water turn on. "C'mon," he said wearily to Rufus. "I think you might need more than coffee for this."
Rufus's scowl was more worried than angry as he regarded Sam, but he followed quietly as Sam led the way back to the kitchen. Rufus pulled out his flask and doctored their coffees, pushing Sam into a chair before he handed the mug over.
"Start talkin'," the older man ordered.
"There's always been something…off…about me," Sam said, painfully aware that his brother couldn't hear his confession. "It would take too long to go into the whole story, but let's just say I was…marked. From the time I was a baby."
"By a demon," Sam lifted his eyes to meet Rufus' squarely, relieved when he saw no judgment there. "I used to get death visions."
"What, like a banshee?"
Sam shook his head. "Not really," he looked down, trying to find a way to explain. "I could see who was going to die and how. Dean helped me find a way to channel it, use it so we could save those people."
Rufus nodded, taking it in.
"And your brother made a deal," Rufus filled in. "His soul for your life."
Sam nodded. "See, that's the test," he pointed to the first quadrant. "He went to the Abyss."
"I still don't get why you think you're dealing with magic." Rufus causally flicked his fingers toward the second quadrant.
Sam opened his left hand, letting Rufus look at the scar there. It had shrunk to the size of a quarter, though it was still thick and knotted.
"You've seen Dean's right hand?"
"His scar is bigger, deeper, and he can't use that hand," Sam informed him.
"Or he shouldn't," Rufus guessed quietly. "He ever go to physical therapy for that?"
Sam sighed. "At first, yeah. But…he stopped couple of months ago. Gave me some line about cost and insurance, but…I think it just hurt too much. And he wanted to figure it out on his own."
"Clearly he's making progress," Rufus muttered sardonically. "You couldn't make him go?"
"How, exactly?" Sam challenged. "Drug him and toss him into the trunk of the Impala?"
"I see your point." Rufus frowned into his coffee cup, seeming to want to say more, but deciding better of it. "Continue."
"Right, well…you know how we told you he was holding the amulet when he saved me back at Stull?" Sam paused, remembering. "Since then…I can't touch him. Not his skin anyway. I do, and it's like…I fall into his head."
"I see his memories, his nightmares…I feel what he's feeling."
Rufus sat back. "And Dean?"
"Nothing," came Dean's voice from the doorway that separated the kitchen from the hallway. Sam flinched, startled, at the sound of his brother's voice. "I see a big black nothing."
"But he feels something," Sam added.
Rufus watched Dean cross the room and lean against the counter. Sam saw that his face had been scrubbed clean, but his hair was dry. He poured himself a cup of coffee, then held the cup out to Rufus to add some whiskey before continuing.
"It's like a shock," Dean elaborated. "Not quite as bad as a taser, but…close."
"You've been hit by a taser?" Rufus asked.
Dean glanced at Sam who immediately flashed to the tense weeks five years ago when he thought he was going to lose Dean to a damaged heart.
"Yeah," they both answered.
Rufus took a breath and sat back. "And this happens every time you make skin contact?"
The boys nodded. Rufus shrugged out of his coat, the small house heating up quickly. Sam sat quietly, staring at the papers he'd created to prove his theory.
"Gotta tell you," Rufus said finally, "this would have been good to know about two months ago."
"Not something that's easy to talk about," Dean defended.
Rufus ignored him and stood up, leaning over Sam's four-quadrant picture. "So the magic, you think, is this…connection you've got."
"Right," Sam nodded. "Which just leaves Unification," he pointed to the third quadrant, "and Resurrection," he pointed to the forth quadrant, "which are sacrifice and freedom to live."
Rufus looked up at Dean. "Why do I get the feeling you're not buying into this?"
Dean lifted a shoulder, moving away from the counter to stand directly opposite of Sam. "'Cause you can spin it too many ways." He held his coffee mug in his left hand, his right hand still visibly shaking.
Sam sighed, pushing his chair back from the table. "C'mon, man."
"No, let him finish," Rufus held up a hand toward Sam. "Man's got something on his mind."
Gritting his teeth, Sam stood up and started pacing, counting off an eight-step pattern as he tried to quiet the frustration suddenly racing through him. When he felt the rush of anxiety grab hold of him, the only thing that helped was movement.
"You got four…phases or whatever in this Hero's Journey," Dean waved a hand at the table. "A test, new rules, sacrifice, and freedom. That could just as easily be Sam as me. How about the test of him losing his brother and going it alone?" Sam looked over at Dean, feeling the heat of his brother's eyes on him. "How about being able to burn out demons with his fucking mind if he drank demon blood? Those are some new magical rules right there."
"You drank demon blood?" Rufus asked askance.
"Long story," Sam muttered back, unable to tear his attention from Dean.
"How about almost going to the Pit to save the goddamn world?" Dean had started to shift his weight from one foot to the other, his right arm across his chest, hand tucked under the opposite arm as he tried to still it, his voice rising in volume. "I'd call that a sacrifice. And now you've got your chance to be free to live!" He looked at Rufus, practically out of breath. "This…story could be anyone. It could apply to anything. It doesn't have to do with…with Hell or with what I did at Stull. It's not me. I'm no hero."
"Sam," Rufus said calmly. "You seeing what I'm seeing?"
Sam took a breath, glad it wasn't just him. "Yeah."
Dean frowned. "What?"
"Your eyes are kinda…glowing." Rufus' voice was muffled by the hand he held over his mouth, as if unsure he wanted the words to escape.
Sam realized he hadn't seen this anomaly since New Year's Eve – but there also hadn't been reason for Dean to get worked up since then either. His brother's normally green eyes had turned almost a silver-gray, not quite glowing as Rufus described, but seemingly lit from within. As if he was literally seeing Dean's soul shine from his eyes.
Dean looked away. "Son of a bitch."
"It's just like back at Tommy's—"
"Yeah, I got it, Sam."
"Listen," Rufus put up his big hands, as if separating two warriors, though Dean and Sam hadn't made one step toward each other. "You make some damn good points." Sam opened his mouth to protest, but Rufus cut him off. "Both of you. But I think you need to hear what I found before you decide who's journey we're talking about here."
He looked to Sam, who nodded, then to Dean who sighed, shoulders sagging, eyes once more green. Sam braced his hands on the back of the empty kitchen chair and Dean leaned a hip on the counter, setting his coffee cup down nearly untouched; neither seemed to want to sit down to hear what Rufus was going to say.
"Took me some digging – going through Bobby's house helped," Rufus admitted. "That man saved almost everything. And documented everything else."
Sam felt a pang of loss at the mention of their friend.
"We got the amulet from a woman in Tampa," Rufus continued. "She said it was a protective charm – gave it to Bobby, actually, as a payment for a job we'd finished for her. A siren." He paused, gaze inward as he remembered. Sam and Dean simply waited him out. "She told us it was Mithras, a Persian god."
Sam leaned forward, pushing a few of his papers aside. "Persian?"
"Older than the Roman Empire," Rufus nodded. "It's a symbol of sacrifice."
"Thought you said it was a protection charm," Dean grumbled, arms crossed over his chest, chin lowered as he kept them on his blind side.
"It is. The wearer is said to be spared sacrifice."
"Is that right?" Dean pushed away from the counter and moved to the back of the couch, gripping it with his left hand. "Well, it did a bang-up job, then, didn't it?"
"Dean," Sam protested, wanting to hear more of what Rufus was going to tell them before exploding in denial himself.
Dean just shook his head, hanging it low between his shoulders.
"The idea of the Hero's Journey came from Bobby," Rufus revealed when Dean quieted. He opened a small, leather-bound notebook that had been resting on top of Sam's research and pulled out five folded papers with neat, block-like handwriting filling each line. He opened them up and laid them on top of Sam's papers. "Before he ever let go of the thing, he looked in to the story of Gilgamesh, read through Campbell's works, and formulated a theory that someone wearing the amulet – or I guess, connected to it – would follow a similar path."
Sam stepped forward when Rufus brought out Bobby's research and picked up the papers as if they were precious artifacts. Looking through Bobby's notes, he realized quickly that they'd come to the same conclusion: the only way out is through.
Freedom for the hero in this story would only be achieved once a great sacrifice was made.
"He gave the amulet to Sam," Dean said, his voice echoing hollowly.
"Because I wanted to give it to someone else," Sam countered.
"You wanted to give it to Dad," Dean pressed.
Sam dropped the papers on the table and moved around Rufus to stand near Dean. "I gave it to you."
"The whole Joseph Campbell thing is just a theory. An idea. A way to put meaning to symbolism," Rufus broke in, shoving back the kitchen chair, the wooden legs scraping loudly against the floor. He stood and moved across to the coffee pot, pushing aside Dean's untouched cup. "It's a nice story, but unless you find a reason in the narrative, stories mean shit."
He turned around and faced the brothers. Sam rested his hip on the back of the couch, facing him while Dean stayed stubbornly in his buried position.
"The real trick here isn't what it might mean, or who it was supposed to be for, or any of that. The real trick here, is blood."Part 2: Chapter 10 continued here in Post 11-B.