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 all so much for reading. A special thank you to those who have taken time to review – your words are a gift to me. Sincere apologies for not having responded to each of you individually yet, but I promise that I will. I'm a little behind right now (with just about everything in my life) and I took a chance that you'd prefer a new chapter to a personal thank you for the moment. But please know that each review is so appreciated and pushes me to write faster and when we reach the end, I will respond.
A posting note: this story will be a total of 20 chapters (including prologue and epilogue). I have the remaining 8 chapters outlined and just need to work to bring them to life. Real Life issues and some projects at my work have caught up with me a bit, so it may be a little more difficult to post a chapter a week as I have been doing, but I'll post as frequently as possible, with no more than two weeks between posts. I hope you'll stick around to see the story unfold!
We're getting into the details of this new hunt now. Hope you enjoy!Part 1: Prologue - Chapter 9, Part 2: Chapter 10, Part 2: Chapter 11
art by thruterryseyes
It felt like the right thing to do at the time. Forcing the confrontation. Letting the moment happen.
But the minute he'd stepped into that room, Dean felt the air light up around him, suffocating heat pressing against his skin, burning his eyes, flashing through him like a weapon. He had known he was full of shit with the bravado supporting his claims that they were just there to help their friends with a witch problem. He'd just hoped he would be able to keep up pretenses long enough to get in, get done, and get gone.
He should have known better.
Brenna had an effect on him unlike any of the other women in his life – bigger than Cassie, more potent than Lisa. She'd been real, she'd challenged him, she'd saved him, and she'd seen him. Inside of him, where he'd stashed the secrets he didn't want to pay attention to. He never had to figure out how to tell her the truth; she'd always just known.
The moment Virgil had left to respond to the alarm, Dean had mumbled a quick excuse for air and a suggestion that Sam get more information on the victims from Brenna, then stumbled outside, leaving the Impala parked at the station. He knew what they needed to do: investigate the murders, find a common thread, discover the supernatural element, neutralize it.
He'd done it hundreds of times before. This hunt was no different. No matter what his racing heart and shaking hands might say.
He walked a bit aimlessly down the main street of the small mining town, worrying the torn edges of the letter Sam had returned to him. He'd kept it in the back pocket of his jeans as a reminder that he once saw himself as more than a hunter, more than a vessel. After Stull, he'd just assumed the letter had been destroyed in the hospital.
Having Sam return it to him – having Sam know what it said – spun him. He'd almost convinced himself that he could play this game. Live this life. He'd almost convinced himself that the little triangle of land between Sam's place of work, his place of work, and their home was all that there really was of the world anymore.
No other people, no other needs. He'd almost convinced himself that he could live out his days with blinders on.
Stella had said that Sam needed it to be all or nothing; she was right, but what hadn't been entered into that equation had been Dean's need for Sam to choose. Up until Sam returned Brenna's letter to him, Dean had needed Sam to decide: normal life, or life as a hunter. The anger he'd felt at his brother returning the letter had nothing, really, to do with Sam, and everything to do with Dean's fear.
Fear that he'd masked on the drive up here. Fear that he ignored as he walked into the fire station. Fear that swamped him at her touch.
If he were being honest with himself, he knew he'd had to leave simply because he'd been afraid of what might happen if he stayed in the same room with Brenna much longer. The moment she'd touched his face, he felt the shift. In all the years before, when Brenna had touched him seeking the truth, Dean hadn't seen anything unusual. Nothing that hinted at the turmoil hidden beneath the surface of his consciousness.
When Sam touched him, he saw only black. He fell into a void that was absent sound, sight, and sensation save for the shock that hit his system like a blast wave.
But in the fire station minutes ago, he'd seen the flashes of Hell, he'd seen Castiel, he'd seen Lucifer, and he'd seen Sam beating him senseless at Stull. It had been so fast there hadn't been time for the emotions attached to those images to hit him, but the fact that he'd seen it rattled him more than Brenna's knowing the truth.
Taking a breath, Dean looked around, realizing he'd actually walked far enough from the fire station to have reached the end of the main road, the only thing in front of him a gravel road, a thicket of trees, and somewhere in the distance, a river or stream loud enough he could hear it crashing against the mountainside. He turned around, stuffing the envelope into his back pocket.
He didn't draw as many curious stares as he'd expected in a town this size. In his experience, small towns meant that everyone knew everyone else and the locals stared suspiciously at the sudden appearance of a stranger in their midst. However, in Argo, CO, people seemed to mind their own business to the extent of barely looking up from their direct path to and from their vehicles or the establishments they entered.
"Okay, that's just weird," Dean muttered to himself, scanning the buildings nearest him, trying to decide where to go first.
The sheriff's office was the obvious choice; if he wanted to find out about dead people in town, he usually went to the folks responsible for cleaning up the mess. But he had neither fake ID nor cover story on him at the moment – and he was willing to bet Virgil might have more luck in that area – so he took a right turn and headed into the diner.
The bell above the door drew the eyes of a gray-haired waitress and short-order cook, but only so much as they registered how many walked through their door. Dean scanned the room: five booths to his right, three tables in the center, and a counter with eight stools at the back. One table was occupied with an older couple – the woman holding a porcelain coffee cup with two hands, her elbows on the table and a contemplative look in her eye as she stared into the middle distance, the man reading the sports section of the local newspaper – the booths were empty and three middle-aged men sat on the stools at the counter, all engaged in a lively debate about the merits of musket-load hunting.
Dean slid into the nearest booth, his back to the room, facing the window so that he could see who happened by and put his blind spot toward the wall. A menu was propped up on the table with the salt and pepper, sugar, and hot sauce. He pulled it out, skimming the large, no-nonsense black font until he saw daily selection of pies and set it flat against the table, a signal he was ready to order.
He didn't have to wait long; in moments a waitress came by, black jeans smudged with floured hand-prints, pink polo top matching the other waitress from behind the counter, and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. She had tired brown eyes, lines drawing them in a slant away from her nose, and wrinkles around pursed lips that told Dean she either smoked a lot or wore the tight-lipped expression she was sporting now twenty out of twenty-four hours a day.
"Coffee," Dean ordered with an easy smile. "Black. And whatever pie you have ready."
"Pie and coffee." She peered over her white order pad at him, sweeping his head and shoulders with such quick scrutiny Dean felt as if he'd just been X-rayed. "You sure that's all you want? We got the best burger in town."
Dean lifted an eyebrow. "There another diner in town?"
"Nope," she almost-smiled, but Dean saw her eyes relax. "Don't mean ours still ain't the best."
Dean smiled again. "Make that a burger, pie, and coffee."
"I'll add a water, too," she told him. "Better drink a lot of it 'til you get used to the altitude."
Dean tipped his chin up. "What makes you think I'm not used to it?"
She pointed a pen at his forehead. "The line 'tween your eyebrows right there tells me. Bet you got the start of a nasty headache, dontcha?"
Dean rubbed at his forehead, trying to smooth away whatever line she saw. "Just need some caffeine is all," he replied.
"Naw, Sugar," she said, resting a weathered hand on his shoulder briefly as she moved back toward the kitchen. "You need water."
Dean twisted in his seat to watch her move behind the counter and shove the ticket with his order into the turn-table in the window between the counter and the grill. One of the men at the counter looked over his shoulder at Dean and he saw a set of narrowed eyes before he turned back around, facing the window. Mentally reviewing what he knew of this hunt, he was lost in thought when the waitress returned with water and coffee.
"I 'spect you're just passing through?"
Dean took a sip of his coffee and shook his head. "Visiting a friend."
She arched her brow impressively, tilting her head and cocking her hip to the side, nearly resting her leg against his table, for a moment appearing sociable.
"Anyone I would know?"
Dean paused, considering. Virgil was transient, only up once a month to fill in at the station. He decided to go with Brenna, get a read on the reaction in the diner. Maybe find out who might have wrecked her place.
"Brenna Kavanagh," he replied, glancing up at her. "Runs a…natural herb shop here in town."
The woman's face darkened, her lips pursing once more."What business you got with her?"
Dean lifted a shoulder. "She's just an old friend."
The waitress studied him a moment longer, then lifted her head at the sound of a dinging bell from the kitchen.
"Listen," she told him before stepping away, resting her hand on his shoulder once more, "you stay away from that one. She's nothing but trouble."
Dean frowned at her, but before he could respond, she moved away, presumably to get his lunch. He continued to sip his coffee, listening to the murmured conversations around him, watching the people on the sidewalk, waiting. No sooner had he finished his first cup than his lunch arrived, accompanied, interestingly enough, by the narrow-eyed gent from the counter. Without a word of request or an invitation, he sat down across from Dean.
"Something I can help you with?" Dean asked mildly, picking up his burger, his radar alert for the man's two friends to join them, too.
"Rae says you're friends with Kavanagh."
The man's voice was thick and rheumatic and Dean found himself wanting to pound a fist against his sternum to loosen up the sound. His craggy face boasted several moles and wild, graying eyebrows shadowed his narrowed eyes to the point Dean had no idea what color they were. He wore a tweed jacket with elbow patches over top a pale, button-down shirt and Dean could see a brown tie sticking out from one of the pockets of the jacket.
"Yep," Dean replied, waiting the man out. It seemed as if the diner had been a good choice after all.
"She's in a bit of trouble, that one."
"See, that's interesting," Dean said around a bit of his burger, "'cause your friend Rae just told me she was trouble."
The man nodded once. "But only for those who get too close."
"So…how'm I supposed to help her if I don't get close?"
"You don't." The man sat back, looking at something over Dean's shoulder. Dean resisted the urge to follow his gaze. "You just need to move on."
Picking up a fork to dig into his pie, Dean bobbed his head slightly. "Yeah…I can't do that."
"You don't understand—"
"I understand a friend of mine is in trouble," Dean looked up, leveling his eyes on the man. "That's all that matters."
"Son," the man leaned forward, his voice dropping to a conspirator's whisper. "This isn't a big town. We keep to ourselves, mind our business. But it's impossible not to cross paths once in awhile. Your friend? She crossed paths all over."
Dean took a bite of pie. It was incredible. He had to stifle a groan of pleasure as he listened, not wanting to throw the man off his path.
"So she's friendly." Dean shrugged, licking some of the pie filling off of his bottom lip.
"And she didn't care who she made friends with," the man stressed.
That caught Dean. He picked up the crust with his fingers, eating it like a bread stick. "She make friends with the wrong person?"
The man rested his forearms on the table, leaning closer to Dean. "When Bill and Joe don't like each other, and Bill has more power than Joe, but Joe is more dangerous than Bill…the smart person chooses a side and sticks to it."
"But she didn't."
With a shake of his head, the man sat back. "She didn't."
Dean finished his pie and took a long drink of the water. Coming up for air, he regarded the man with open curiosity. "This got anything to do with those people who died couple weeks back?"
"What do you know about that?"
Dean shrugged at the man's fierce tone. "Nothing, really. Just that after it happened, my friend got her place all smashed up." Dean rested his forearms on the table and gave the man a slow blink. "And I gotta wonder if it had anything to do with Joe or Bill."
The man frowned at him, then pushed himself up from the table, stalking back to the counter without another word to Dean. Finishing his water, Dean looked over his shoulder toward the counter and caught Rae's eyes.
"Rae," he called. "How much do I owe you?"
"Eight fifty," she replied, not approaching his table.
Dean set a ten dollar bill on the table, pinning it with his coffee cup and stood up. He paused at the door and looked back, noting that the older couple hadn't seemed to move so much as a turn of the newspaper in all the time he'd been there. They may as well have been wax statues, except for the look the woman was now pinning on him, rather than on the age-stained wall paper behind her husband's head.
Dean tipped them a two-finger salute and pushed open the door. As far as he was concerned, Brenna's problem wasn't that she was of druid ancestry with unique powers; Brenna's problem was that she'd picked the wrong town. Thinking about the older man's "Joe and Bill" example of Brenna not choosing sides when clearly there were sides to be chosen, Dean started down the opposite way he'd come, heading slowly back toward the fire station.
On his way, he passed the library. Out front, near the sidewalk, he saw a mounted map of Argo. Pausing, Dean took stock, easily finding the you are here tag in front of the library. He saw the main street with its diner, police station, church, grocery, library, and mine. He saw that there was a museum attached to the mine and further out a series of row houses reserved for the mine workers.
Up the mountainside a bit was the small residential area of Argo, which according to this map consisted of roughly fifty houses and two larger buildings that looked to be apartments. Dean saw that there was a working gondola with a station just slightly outside the town limits that took people up past the Roosevelt tunnel and to the next town up the mountain, Idaho Springs.
"Why here?" he wondered out loud.
Why had she decided to put her stake in the ground in such a small town when Virgil lived over an hour away? What was drawing her to this place?
He looked around once more and saw a few people passing each other on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store, further down a woman pushed a stroller into the five-and-dime. As the tweed-wearing geezer had said, everyone was minding their own business.
But it felt more than that. It felt…suspicious. Almost as if they were all hiding from something.
On a hunch, Dean headed into the small library, following the signs up the narrow interior steps to the second floor, the smell of cedar and lemon-scented furniture polish permeating the air around him. The stairs creaked under his weight and announced his presence to the Harry Potter look-alike sitting behind the desk, hammering on the keyboard connected to an ancient desktop computer with the vengeance of a college freshmen during finals week.
Dean saw the kid look up, shove his round-framed glasses up on his nose, then return his focus to the screen at his right. Schooling his features, Dean approached the desk, glancing around to assess the amount of information he might have access to.
"Hey," Dean greeted, leaning an arm on the desk and smiling at the kid.
"Help you?" the kid replied without looking up.
Dean glanced at the monitor and saw a black screen with green font and the random coding he only associated with something from The Matrix.
"Yeah…," Dean straightened, trying to draw the kid's eyes. "I'm hoping to find out more about the history of this town."
The kid didn't reply and Dean saw sweat gathering at his hair line as he typed faster. Frowning, Dean looked around the room, quickly reading the shelf labeling as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Religious, Self-Help, and Children. No History, no Reasons A Druid Would Settle Here, nothing.
"Look, Neo," Dean said a bit louder, "don't mean to break up your little coding frenzy, but if you could just point me toward the card catalog, that would be great."
The kid jerked slightly at Dean's tone, blinking up at him, brown eyes magnified behind thick lenses.
"We don't have one," he said. "And it's David."
Dean lifted his chin, pressing his lips tight. "Well, David," he said, resting his hands on the surface of the desk and leaning slightly forward, "how about you point out any books that talk about Argo."
David dropped his hands away from the keyboard in what looked to be a conscious effort at focusing on the man in front of him. "What about it?"
Dean shrugged. "Something that might explain why people settled here."
"You mean…aside from the gold mine?" David asked, sarcasm coloring his tone.
"Yes," Dean replied shortly, his lips pulling back in a thin smile. "Aside from that."
David let out a long sigh, then pushed to his feet. Dean frowned as he watched the kid lurch slightly forward, his gait uneven, but not unsteady. As he came around the end of the counter, Dean saw that David's spine was skewed severely to one side, causing one leg to be significantly shorter than the other. Dean followed silently as David led him around one bookshelf, down a narrow hall, and to a back room that Dean would never have seen on his own.
"Here's all our stuff on Argo," David said with a flourish of his hand. "Books, county records, maps, you name it."
Dean looked around the small room. "Why are you hiding it back here?"
David lifted a shoulder. "Anyone who lives here already knows it, and anyone who doesn't know it…doesn't stay long."
"So why bother with the room at all?" Dean asked, running his hand along the edge of a mounted map of the Argo Gold Mine.
"It was my Aunt's idea," David said with the half shrug of someone who'd not really given such a question much thought before. "She's big into knowing our roots or something." He shrugged. "I never paid much attention; I just needed the job."
Dean picked up a book with gold lettering on the front proclaiming it to be a natural history of Argo. "You from here, Dave?"
"It's David," the kid corrected. "And yeah. Lived here all my life."
Dean nodded, blindly flipping through pages of the book. "Kinda weird what's been going on, huh?"
"You mean the murders?"
Dean glanced over, not answering.
"Sure, I guess," David replied, adjusting the edge of a framed map hung on the wall. "Tell you the truth…it's actually kind of exciting. Nothing like this has happened since the cave-in twenty years ago."
"Cave-in?" Dean asked. "You mean in the mine?"
David turned to him, his eyes alight being his glasses. "Big deal. Shut down part of the mine – not really a part anyone had found gold in, though. Couple of people got killed."
"That had to hit a town this size pretty hard."
David nodded. "Yeah. My dad was one of the ones killed."
"Sorry to hear that." Dean pulled his brows close.
David shrugged. "I didn't know him. I was a baby. And my mom got a big settlement from the insurance company, so…."
Dean frowned at the kid's placid tone.
"Ironic, though, y'know?"
"What is?" Dean closed the book he was not looking at and set it back on the shelf.
"Well, they just figured out how to open the blocked section of the mine last month. They were going to clear it out and all that, but then Mr. Elliott died."
"He the one they found in the river?"
David nodded. "He was the foreman for the company hired to clear out that section of the mine."
Dean tilted his head. "There a book on the mine itself in this room?"
"Sure," David limped over to a shelf and pulled down a large volume, handing it to Dean. "Has pictures and everything."
"Thanks, kid," Dean said and as David started to turn away, he spoke up once more. "Hey, you know a Brenna Kavanagh?"
David smiled, his expression a little loose and dreamy. "Yeah, I know Miss Brenna."
"She live around here?"
"Up the hill a ways. Near the gondola station. Why? You know her?"
"Kinda," Dean lied. "I just heard she might have a…a remedy for some pain I've been having. In my hand," he showed David his scarred palm.
"How'd you hear about Miss Brenna?" David asked, eying Dean's hand curiously.
"Friend of mine," Dean replied. "Lives down in Denver, but comes up once a month to work at the fire station."
"Oh, you mean her boyfriend Virge," David replied. "Yeah, she'd probably have something to help you." He paused and frowned. "'Cept I think someone smashed up her place the other day. Heard my aunt talking about that."
Drawing back as if in confusion, Dean asked, "Why would anyone want to do that?"
David looked over his shoulder, though they'd been alone since Dean entered the building. "Well…Mr. Elliott isn't the only one who died."
"Yeah, I heard that."
"There was Mr. Frazier – he's one of the owners of the museum next to the mine – and Miss Abby," David told him. "She just worked at the church. I don't know what she did there, but she was good friends with Miss Brenna."
"There was another, wasn't there? Some dude just a few days back?"
David nodded. "Mr. Turner. He used to manage the fire station."
Dean maneuvered his expression into one that mirrored David's sadness. "Just awful," he tsked. "But, uh…what does that have to do with some lady who runs an herb store?"
David rubbed the back of his neck. "Miss Brenna, she…she's not like other ladies," David said quietly. "My aunt says she's got an aura."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "Aura, huh?"
David shrugged. "Sounds weird, I know. But she sees things, Miss Brenna does. Knew things about me I never told anyone. And I mean…anyone."
Dean nodded, keeping his eyes on David's face.
"She told me once she feels strong here," David said wrapping his arms around his middle. "Said her little girl needed this place."
Dean frowned, remembering Brenna and Virgil's daughter. "She say why?"
David shook his head. "Didn't really matter why," he replied.
The sound of a closing door and the creak of the stairs drew their attention. David started his slow lumbering walk back toward the hall, tossing over his shoulder that Dean could stay as long as he liked, but the books in this room couldn't be checked out.
Dean began to look through the book about the Argo Gold Mine, listening to the voices in the next room. From David's tone and responses, he gathered that the woman who'd entered was the aunt he kept referring to. Suspecting he knew her next stop after she checked in at the desk, Dean headed toward the front, his sudden appearance cutting the woman off mid-step and pulling her up short. Her hand fluttered to her throat in a gesture of surprise.
She was petite; the skin along her jaw softening with age and her eyes a pale brown. Her hair was curled tightly to her scalp and the same faded brown color as her eyes. Dean smiled at her and watched the color climb from the tips of her fingers resting against her neck up her cheeks.
"Hi," he said.
"Well, hello," she replied, stepping back and allowing him to exit the narrow hall. "Can I help you, Mr…?"
"David's been doing a great job," Dean replied, not providing his name. "I was just looking for some history of the town."
She glanced at the book in his hands. "I see you've found our book on the mine."
Dean held it out. "Great pictures in here."
"Yes – lots of history with that mine," she replied, waving a hand at the book. "Goes back further than the Klondike rush, you know."
Dean shook his head. "I didn't know. Klondike – as in Alaska?"
She nodded, leading him toward the desk and gently moving David aside as she accessed the computer. "That gold rush was back in the mid 1800's," she told him. "Our mine was started roughly the turn of the 19th century. And it wasn't gold they found, either."
Dean set the book on the counter, brows pulling close. "What was it?"
"Bastnasite," she said, shifting the screen so he could see an image of what looked like a geode.
"Ah," he nodded, then glanced at her. "I have no idea what that is."
She smiled at him. "Not many people do. It's a rare earth element; today it's only found in California. Long ago, it was thought to have healing properties. But," she sighed a bit, as if sad by this next piece of information, "once they found the gold, everything else contained in the mountain was forgotten."
Dean tilted his head, an idea beginning to roll around like a marble in the maze of his mind. "This bastardzite—"
"Bastnasite," the woman corrected.
"—was it in the part of the mine that was closed down after the cave-in?"
Dean didn't miss the sharp look David's aunt shot the kid before she answered, the words stretching out like molasses as she sought unsuccessfully to find a way around his question. "Why…yes. I do believe it was."
Dean's phone vibrated in his front pocket, stalling any other questions he might have had. He held up a finger, thinking it was Sam hunting him down after spending several awkward hours with Brenna and his conscience. He looked at the screen and swore under his breath.
"I'm sorry, I need to take this," he said to David and his aunt. "You guys have been a lot of help. Thanks!"
He turned and made his way down the creaky stairs, push the door open before he answered.
"Hey, Sorenson," he greeted breezily. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, Mr. Winchester," the east-coast detective's rounded tones clipped off at the ends as he spoke. "You can tell me what you know about Gordon Walker."
Dean stumbled, literally tripping over his own foot. He had to stop walking, the world suddenly shifting drunkenly around him. Taking a breath, he pinned his eyes on the grill of a Chevy pick-up truck parked in front of the grocery store where he'd stopped, trying to get his bearings.
"Sorry, you said Gordon…?" he asked, stalling for time.
"Walker," Sorenson repeated. "You see, I've been doing some digging, trying to get a bead on why vandals killed Mr. Singer – and tried to kill you and your brother – at a run-down cemetery in a small Midwest town and I realized that maybe it wasn't the location, but the participants. So, I began to look into you and Mr. Singer."
"You did, huh?" Dean asked weakly, sweat beginning to gather at the base of his neck and along his forehead, despite the cool temperature of the shaded mountain town.
"I did, and I discovered the strangest thing," Sorenson continued, as if chatting with Dean about the latest gossip magazine cover. "Did you know you were dead, Mr. Winchester?"
Dean swallowed. "That was a mistake," he tried, his voice tight and breathless.
"Oh, Sergeant Jackson was sure to walk me through that debacle," Sorenson said airily. "The FBI has never been known for keeping meticulous records. Always found their cases smudged a bit here and there to maintain their reputation in the public eye."
"Is that so?"
"Indeed," Sorenson replied. "However, the Sergeant's explanation did trigger some further questions and I discovered as I looked deeper into your past that Special Agent Hendrickson wasn't the first death you narrowly escaped from joining. In fact, there were several deceased whose last known whereabouts were in your presence."
Dean began walking once more, though he wasn't really seeing his surroundings. He was seeing Bobby, his pale face determined as he stood stalwartly next to Castiel and fired the Colt twice, trying desperately to save Dean. He was seeing Jo, her young eyes determined as her life bled out of her. He was seeing Ellen, unwilling to leave her daughter's side as she told him to kick it in the ass. He was seeing Chuck and Adam and Anna.
He was seeing Sam on his knees in Cold Oak.
Stumbling slightly as he bounced against a man walking toward him on the sidewalk, Dean muttered an apology and tried to focus once more on what Sorenson was saying.
"…which led me to a certain Gordon Walker, who, as I understand it, was not exactly a model citizen, but evaded arrest for very similar suspected crimes as you until his body was found – beheaded – in an abandoned warehouse."
Dean ran his right hand over his mouth, but then drew it back in surprise, the smell of blood so strong it made him want to gag. He looked at his fingers, shocked to see them smeared with blood. He looked down his body and couldn't find a wound. He glanced back at the man he'd bumped into, seeing him pausing outside the library and talking to David's aunt as if nothing was wrong.
Where had that blood come from?
Dean glanced around, hoping no one saw, and began to wipe his hand carefully on his jeans, trying to get the blood off while drawing as little attention as possible.
"So, I have to wonder if you crossed paths before his death. I know you were in his company for a short while, by witness accounts."
"No." Dean rasped out the lie.
"No, we weren't with him when he died," Dean clarified.
Which, for all intents and purposes, was the truth. Gordon Walker had died the moment he'd been turned into a vampire; Sam and Dean had not been present for that death. Only the death that ended his unnatural, immortal life.
Dean closed his eyes briefly, pausing along the sidewalk just outside the entrance to the mine, remembering the pain in his neck from where Gordon had bit him. Remembering how his body trembled from weakness, his hand pressing to his wound as Sam fought Gordon. Remembering the look of rage on his brother's face as he pulled the wire tight, removing Gordon's head from his shoulders with brute strength.
"Pity," Sorenson was saying. "It would certainly help this investigation if I were able to find a connective thread to all of this."
"Why do you care?" Dean found himself asking. He could hear his voice shaking. Feel his body shaking. Dammit, what the hell is wrong with me? "Why do you even want to know?"
"Mr. Winchester," Sorenson replied as if the very idea that his motives were being questioned was an affront to his character. "A man was killed. You and your brother very nearly were as well."
Dean swallowed the bile that rose up at the mention of Bobby's death. He hadn't let himself think about Bobby - not consciously, anyway - for months.
"What if you never find them?"
"Then Mr. Singer's death would be a true tragedy," Sorenson replied.
Dean wiped at the sweat along his forehead, hoping he didn't smear the blood that stubbornly stuck to his hand. "It already is," he replied. "I gotta go."
He hung up without giving Sorenson a chance to respond, then called Mason. He knew he should speak with Jackson, but he couldn't remember the man's phone number and his head was spinning too much to think about how to look it up.
"If you got this message, you should know what to do," Mason's voice mail echoed in Dean's ears.
"Mason, it's Dean," Dean said quickly, registering that he sounded slightly out of breath, "I need you to tell Jackson that Sorenson called. He's digging into our past hunts – people who didn't make it. I don't know what he's looking for, but…there's a lot of bad shit back there. Not sure what Jackson can do, but thought he should know."
Shutting off his phone and shoving it into his back pocket, Dean used the tail of his shirt to try to clean off the blood from his right hand, no longer caring how it had gotten there, just wanting it gone. His scar seemed to be seeping, but there was no pain. He looked around, realizing he was near the fire station once more.
He wasn't ready to confront what waited within, not yet. He looked at the rear of the Impala, wondering if he might hide in there for awhile, get his balance, figure out a way to clean off his hand. But then he saw the cluster of rescue vehicles and a couple of police cars further down the road, toward where he remembered the residential section of Argo began.
Stalwartly walking past the entrance to the fire station, Dean headed toward the noise and action, figuring he could either help or get lost in the commotion.
Awkward didn't begin to describe the first several moments between Sam and Brenna in the wake of Virgil and Dean's departures.
Sam wasn't sure where to look. Away from Brenna made it too obvious that he was avoiding eye contact. At her was too obvious that he was looking for signs that seeing inside of Dean had affected her. His hands felt too big for his arms and he alternated resting them on his hips, then holding his left hand with his right in front of him.
"Want a drink?" Brenna finally asked.
"God, yes," Sam breathed.
She offered him a slightly sympathetic smile and led him back through a door that opened into a small sleeping quarters with six bunk beds, then turned right down a hall to what was obviously a blend of the station's mess hall and rec room. Two collapsible tables were folded up against the wall with several folding chairs stacked next to them. On the far end of the room were two Lazy-Boy chairs and a red bean bag situated in front of a small TV that boasted an impressive set of rabbit ears.
The room was empty; Sam assumed everyone had gone when the alarm sounded.
Brenna headed to the industrial-sized fridge, retrieved two bottles of beer and used a magnet opener from the side of the fridge to remove the tops. Handing one bottle to Sam, she took a long drink of her own before boosting herself up on the counter with the grace of a cat, her shoulders barely missing the underside of the cabinets.
"You staying here?" Sam asked, noting her familiarity with the place.
Brenna nodded. "There's a tiny apartment over the kitchen," she said, pointing up. "Station master used to live there."
Brenna took another drink and looked toward the mini-rec room. "They found his body two days ago."
"One of the vics was a fireman?" Sam asked, pulling his head back in surprise.
"Turner wasn't a fireman. He managed the station. Made sure the place stayed running. I was at the B&B until yesterday. Virge worked out a deal for me to stay here until they got another manager…or I got my place fixed up."
Sam nodded. "There enough room for your daughter?"
Brenna tilted her chin down, looking at Sam through her lashes in an expression so familiar he instinctively braced himself. "I won't bring her back here until we get rid of the draíocht."
Sam wandered to the rec room, crouching down to peer at the collection of VHS tapes stacked beneath the old TV. "Yeah, tell me about that," he said. "Virge was saying witch or coven…you're saying, what?" He glanced back at her. "Dark Druid?"
Brenna raised an eyebrow at him. "Druids aren't Jedi, Sam," she scoffed. "We're not talking about Darth Vader here."
Sam stood. "So what are we talking about?"
"Virge was…kind of right. The draíocht is a witch, but a very powerful one," Brenna told him. "It gets its power from sacrifice – human life is the greatest source of energy, but sacrifice of any nature will do."
Sam found himself rubbing the pad of his thumb against the scar on his left hand, thinking of the many ways someone could define sacrifice. "So, what was your first clue that you were dealing with a witch and not your garden-variety serial killer?"
Brenna took a breath, then a drink, then looked away. Sam recognized the signs of someone stalling and waited her out.
"There are three methods for human sacrifice to strengthen a draíocht," she began. "Drowning, stoning, impaling, or drowning, hanging, and burning." She rolled her neck and Sam heard joints pop. "When they found Elliott, I was sad, but I honestly didn't think anything other than he'd had an accident…maybe was drinking. I mean, people drown every day, y'know?"
Sam nodded. "But the next guy—"
"Frazier," Brenna supplied.
"And that's not something you see every day."
"Not unless you date your checks B.C.," Sam muttered, moving to lean against the counter next to her.
"I got nervous," Brenna confessed. "And I don't get nervous. Not really. But…I couldn't shake this feeling that there was something…wrong."
"That when you took Aislinn to Boulder?" Sam asked.
Brenna nodded. "I was only gone two days," she said. "Just long enough to get her settled in and when I got back…Abby was dead."
"You knew her?"
"I knew all of them," Brenna replied, setting her beer down with a hollow thunk. "Well, except Elliott. He'd just gotten to town not more than two weeks before he died. They were opening up a section of the mine and he was the foreman. But Frazier ran the museum and Abby…," Brenna shook her head. "She was the custodian at the church, and one of my best customers."
Sam cleared his throat. "Virge said you…did other stuff. Aside from herbs."
"Oh he did, did he?" Brenna's voice captured her bemused smirk. "Virgil never understood my history – how I see the things I do. He spends every day working to keep people alive and could never accept that I might have ways to do that same thing – only with herbs, incantations, and creideamh." She glanced at him quickly. "Faith."
"I remember," Sam replied softly, recalling with chilling clarity how Brenna's herbs and Celtic remedies had saved Dean's life. "I remember Declan telling you it would all only work if you had faith."
Brenna nodded. "You still have the recipe for that salve I used on Dean?"
"The purple goo?" Sam half-grinned. "Yeah, we've got it somewhere. Probably in Dad's journal."
"Used it recently?"
"Not for years," Sam confessed. He startled when he felt Brenna's cool hand on his, lifting his left hand into the cradle of her right.
"Don't worry, Sam," she said softly. "I only see if I mean to now."
"You figured out how to control it?"
She smiled. "Having a baby changes a lot. When I realized I was pregnant, I had to learn to focus my skill or I'd have gone crazy seeing inside her developing mind. By the time she arrived, I was good at turning it off when necessary."
Sam nodded, letting his hand rest in hers, comfortable for the moment. "So, is that the…stuff…Virge was talking about? You told people that you saw?"
"I don't claim to be a fortune teller, if that's what you're asking," Brenna smiled softly. "But yeah…basically, I tell them what they need to know, but only the truth inside of them. I don't spy. And I provide the incantations that, when used properly with the herbs, can heal."
"Incantations," Sam repeated.
"So…spells." Sam pulled his hand away.
"If you want to look at it like that," Brenna shrugged.
Sam shook his head in wonder. "And everyone was…I don't know…okay with this? They just accepted you?"
She huffed out a quick, bitter laugh. "Not exactly. I mean, people talk. I heard stories about how I believed in witchcraft and crop circles...some of the deacons at the church told Abby they thought I was blessed by the Holy Spirit with healing abilities."
"Well," Sam finished his beer and set it next to her empty bottle. "Maybe you were. You saved Dean, after all."
"A couple of times," she replied, a far-away look on her face. Then she frowned. "Too bad I couldn't when it mattered."
"When did the notion of witches become…well, public?" Sam asked, hedging away from that sensitive topic.
"I don't know that it has," Brenna said, hopping down from the counter. "Far as the cops are concerned, they're looking for," she glanced back at him, "your garden variety serial killer. Virge says they're going to call in help from Denver."
"So why was your place trashed?" Sam asked.
Brenna sighed and pulled her hair from the knot at the nape of her neck. Thick waves fell slightly past her shoulders and she rubbed at the spot on her scalp where the knot had been.
"Abby was a friend," she said. "Everyone liked her. I figure when she died, they knew she'd bought herbs from me and…well, people like to have reasons, Sam. You know that."
"So there was talk before all of this of you being a witch?" Sam said, doing away with any protective pretense. "People didn't just think you believe in it, they thought you practiced it, am I right?"
Brenna wrapped her arms around herself, nodding. "Sure. But I didn't put any stock in it. People in Argo mind their own business. It's one of the things I like about this town. Until now, no one has paid much attention to us and…well, it's going to sound strange after all this, but…there's a…a sense of healing to this place. I just wanted my girl to grow up somewhere she could connect with nature and where secrets were kept to a minimum."
Sam thought back to when Brenna had discovered just how involved her parents were in the IRA and had found out the truth surrounding their deaths. He could see why secrets would be an issue for her when it came to her daughter. But to purposely keep her away from her father….
"That was more important to you than keeping your family together?" Sam asked.
Brenna shot him a look and Sam stared back, challenging her to answer. He'd lost his mother before he knew her. The idea of any kid being kept from a parent out of convenience rode sideways along his spine.
"Virgil sees Aislinn all the time," she told him. "And when I realized I was pregnant, we discussed marriage and agreed it wouldn't work."
Sam thought back to the last time he'd seen her, huddled in the chair next to the bed she'd just shared with Dean, telling Sam that he couldn't save his brother from the Pit. With her touch, with her power, she'd shown him how Dean kept Sam safe in his mind, locked in a vault where nothing could reach him as long as Dean kept that door shut tight. Sam knew it had been that mental lock-box that had saved Dean from going completely insane while being tortured in Hell.
He remembered telling Brenna she had to leave – she had to leave Dean, leave them behind. He remembered asking her not to make Dean watch her leave. He remembered her saying that he'd earned Dean's sacrifice, earned Dean's love.
Dean hadn't been angry when he'd found out Sam had been the one to tell Brenna to leave. He'd accepted it at the time, and he'd accepted it in the letter he'd never sent her. He'd accepted that Brenna would be protected and cared for by Virgil. He'd accepted that Virgil loved Brenna and would do for her what Dean could not.
But what no one had mentioned was how Brenna had felt about Virgil.
"Because you didn't love him," Sam stated finally, feeling as if he were surfacing after a deep dive. "Did you?"
Brenna stared at him for a long moment, memories like shadows lurking in the corners of her eyes. Just when Sam didn't think she would answer – or perhaps hadn't heard him – she looked away, a ragged, lonely sigh on her lips.
"Love is…a heavy, complicated emotion. It's a labyrinth." She dropped her arms and turned her back to Sam, eventually resting her hands on her hips. "People use that word when they mean need or desire or affection or comfort. It doesn't mean what the world thinks it means…at least not to me."
"What does it mean to you?" Sam asked.
Brenna turned around, opening her mouth, but was saved an answer by the ring of her cell phone. Sam had to grin slightly when he heard Zeppelin's When the Levee Breaks. She pulled the phone from her pocket, smiling when she saw the caller and answered right away, holding a finger up. He nodded, sliding from the counter and moving to the other side of the room to give her some privacy.
He could tell immediately she was talking to Virgil's aunt, getting an update about her daughter. He glanced at his watch. He was starving; it was nearing afternoon. He needed to get something to eat soon and wondered if Dean would remember to do the same. There'd been many days over the past six months where if he hadn't reminded Dean to eat, his brother would have just coasted through the day, wondering at the end of it why he felt so light headed.
"Can you put her on the phone?" Brenna was saying.
Sam looked over his shoulder in surprise. He'd been imagining an infant, not a child who could speak to her mother on the phone. He saw Brenna smile when she heard her daughter and he blinked in surprise when she began to speak to the little girl in Gaelic.
For a moment when she spoke she looked stern, though her eyes were gentle, then she smiled and he heard her whisper, "Tá grá agam duit, mo chuisle."
When Virgil's aunt came back on the line, Brenna told her that the little girl would listen to her now, thanked her for everything she was doing to help and then hung up, staring with sad eyes at the phone.
"Why don't you just leave?" Sam asked. "Just go get her and start somewhere else?"
"Where?" Brenna countered softly. She looked up at him. "Denver?"
She shook her head. "It's not fair to Virge. Nothing about me is."
"What about to Aislinn?"
"Aislinn is loved and cared for," Brenna told him. "She doesn't ever have to be afraid."
Sam frowned. "How old is she? I'm surprised she knew Gaelic well enough to understand you."
Brenna smiled. "She's three…going on thirteen. She has an old soul; I started teaching her Gaelic along with English from when she was a baby. My mother did that with me, so I decided to pass it on to her. She needs to know her history. It's the only way her present is going to ever make any sense."
Sam smiled at the look on Brenna's face as she talked about her daughter. She seemed to light up, a glow he'd rarely ever seen on another person. It gave him an odd pang of longing, a sensation of missing something he'd never known. But then it passed, like a cloud covering the sun, and Sam felt the chill in the room. She crossed the room slowly, her eyes on him the whole time.
"The world isn't safe, Sam," she said. "You know that better than anyone. There's nowhere I could go where I could guarantee nothing bad would happen to my daughter. The only thing I can do is make wherever we are as safe as possible. I can protect her from the evil here, now."
Sam watched her, took in her fierce eyes and the determined set of her chin. Her words rang of his past, his own upbringing and burned his heart. Brenna wasn't a hunter, didn't live the life of one, but she knew about the evil in the world, knew what the darkness held and because of that, her daughter was growing up in the shadow of that darkness, only stepping into the light once those who loved her had checked the corners, cleared the room.
It didn't feel right and yet…Sam could see no other way. To grow up not knowing, innocent of the reality in the world wouldn't keep Brenna's little girl safe. All it would do, in Sam's experience, would probably spell her death that much sooner. The sad truth to the situation made him feel heavy.
Part 2: Chapter 12 continued here in Post 13-B.