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 reading and for your reviews – I look forward to your thoughts each time I post to see if the story I'm weaving is one you're interested in reading. You make this all worthwhile.
So, as far as posting, it's pretty much going to be an every two-week thing now for awhile. Real Life is getting a bit chaotic and I didn't stock up on enough completed chapters to stay ahead of it. I hope you'll stick around to see how this plays out. This is a longer chapter, but there are a lot of plot pieces that had to go on the board here before the action and angst could play out in the last seven chapters.
Hope you enjoy!Part 1: Prologue - Chapter 9, Part 2: Chapter 10, Part 2: Chapter 11, Part 2: Chapter 12
art by thruterryseyes
He could smell cigarette smoke.
The scent curled in from the outside, filtered through the window and slipped around him, pungent enough to pull his head around. The silhouette of one man, leaning against the side of the building, face toward the mountains, glowing embers near his features, caught Dean's eye and he settled back in his chair.
It always seemed odd to him when he saw fire fighters smoking; they inhaled enough of it just doing their job, he figured they wouldn't want to add more carcinogens to their already taxed systems, but, addiction was addiction; he knew that better than anyone. He'd once had his own crutch on alcohol to chase the demons away and he'd watched his brother deny, succumb and overcome one very powerful addiction.
One that had nearly destroyed the brother Dean would willingly die for.
It was dark in the fire station, the only light a soft yellow glow emanating from the underside of the microwave above the stove, and one street light outside. One of the pop-out windows was open and the smell of the smoke filtered inside from whichever man had to steady his nerves after the eventful day.
Captain Reynolds – a rugged, quiet man with narrowed eyes and mottled scars on his arms – had allowed Dean and Sam to stay at the station over night in payment for Dean's assistance at the rock slide, and subsequently saving one of his firemen. Though the Argo station wasn't Virgil's primary home, it seemed he was one of a brotherhood. Dean saving Virgil from the gas line blast at the Jurgen house had bought he and Sam some time before they had to find a place to stay to complete this hunt.
Dean was grateful; he wasn't excited about sleeping in the Impala again. Though he'd been healed from the events at Stull for some time now, his hip seemed destined to trouble him if he sat too long. Or moved too long. Or shifted the wrong way. And the only motel in town was the B&B where Brenna had been staying, which currently boasted one free room – with a queen-sized bed.
The trouble with bunking at the station, however, was the fact that the free beds were in the common room with the rest of the firefighters. Ten beds in all, eight of them occupied. That would be a lot of people Dean would wake with the sound of his nightmares.
After the noisy and welcoming dinner of spaghetti – made possible by Brenna and Sam's afternoon efforts – most of the men drifted to their various haunts to dial down the adrenalin from the day. Several wandered to the saloon – and it was actually still a saloon, which intrigued Dean to no end – a few dropped down in front of the TV to watch a movie – the second Underworld movie from the sound of it – and many hit the sack.
Sam and Dean had wandered over to the TV, the allure of Kate Beckinsdale in skin-tight leather too much for them to resist, though Dean found himself smirking and catching a shared look of disbelief with Sam at the transformations and killings of the vampires and lycans in the movie. Virgil had crashed in the common room and Brenna had gone up to her small loft room to call and check on her daughter.
When the movie ended, the firemen distributed the remaining beers and wandered to their bunks. Dean was amazed that none of them questioned the brother's presence beyond asking them how long they'd known Virgil. They'd been told that the brothers were visiting from Kansas, just passing through, and that had been enough. Sam had carefully framed up their jobs – fellow blue-collar workers, just trying to get by.
It had felt good, Dean thought, being accepted. Not having to scare anyone with the truth…and not having to fabricate a lie so thick he'd forget its origins.
Just as the lights began to shut off in the common room, Brenna came down into the kitchen. Sam was in one of the Lazy-Boy chairs, the footrest kicked out – though his feet still hung over the edge a bit – a rerun of MacGyver playing through the static on the TV. Dean was at the table, having positioned himself so that Sam was on his blind side and he could see who walked through the door, a notebook he'd snagged from Virgil in front of him, pencil clutched awkwardly in his left hand, half-empty beer bottle balanced in his right.
She was wearing draw-string sweat pants and a grey Pearl Jam T-shirt, her hair pulled back and tied in a loose, messy knot so that he could see the tattoo on the back of her neck. Dean felt something kick, low in his gut, at the sight of her and he looked back down at his paper, not saying a word as she opened the fridge and retrieved a bottle of water. He felt her eyes on him and took a slow, deep breath.
"You okay?" she asked finally, her voice pitched low in deference to the sleeping souls around them.
Dean looked up and gave her a quick, empty smile. "I'm good."
Brenna lifted her chin, indicating the paper in front of him. "Since when are you left handed?"
Dean swallowed, releasing the bottle he held with the tips of his fingers. She's already seen some, he knew. No reason to hide the rest from her. He turned his hand over, exposing the large knot of scar tissue on his palm.
"Since this," he replied.
Brenna nodded once and Dean saw her throat bob quickly as she swallowed. She motioned to one of the chairs near him and he tipped his head back in invitation. She sat gracefully, her eyes shifting back to where Sam lay sprawled in the chair.
"Don't worry about him," Dean said, a smile in his voice. "He's asleep."
Brenna frowned. "How can you tell?"
"He hasn't made a crack about duct tape and a Campbell soup can in about ten minutes," Dean said with a shrug, turning his attention back to his paper. "He's out."
Brenna sat quietly for a moment, distractedly opening and closing the plastic bottle in her hand. After a moment, Dean looked up at her, noticing that her eyes were on his right hand. He could feel her working up to a reason to learn more about what happened to them.
"When did that happen?" She asked, a finger swirling in the air around his left eye.
"Same time," he replied. "You saw it."
"Sam did it," she said, darting a glance toward the Lazy-Boy chair.
"Naw," Dean turned his head so that he could see Sam as well. "Sam stopped it."
"You can't see out of that eye anymore, can you?"
It was more of a statement than a question, but it still caused him to shift uncomfortably in his chair. He looked down at the table, then glanced up at her.
"I lost my peripheral vision," he told her. "But I can still see most things."
She nodded slowly. "That must have been some fight."
Dean didn't reply. This was going down a path he wasn't ready to travel. "So, why didn't things work out with you and Virge?" he asked, wanting to throw her off course.
Brenna jerked slightly, surprise clear in her expression. She hadn't expected him to be that forthright, apparently. He liked catching her off-guard, he decided. She always appeared so…controlled. Following a set of rules that only a select few were privy to, that had been decided long before she was ever a glimmer in the universe. He imagined she had to maintain that control to keep her power in check, but he remembered her out of control, he remembered her losing control, and he remembered liking it.
"Not one to beat around the bush, huh?" Brenna replied. "Guess I forgot that about you."
Dean took a breath. "You show me yours, I'll show you mine."
Brenna gave him a look, her gaze steady. Though her expression didn't change, he saw years travel through her eyes, memories of times with and without him shifting the level of trust she offered him. After a few heartbeats, she looked down.
"I don't owe you an explanation," she said with a quiet rasp to the edge of the words telling him she wanted to offer one.
"Never said you did."
"You could have asked me to stay."
Dean rolled his lips against his teeth, remembering that last night with her, remembering how she'd known so much without his having to say a word.
"I was living with a death sentence," he reminded her. "Not asking you to stay was the only way I could show you how much I cared about you."
Brenna nodded slowly, her body rocking slightly with the motion. "How long were you…," she broke off, then looked away, "gone?"
Dean sat back, worrying his bottom lip with the tip of his tongue. "Four months," he replied. "But…uh, down there…," he cleared his throat, "down there it was more like forty years."
She raised her eyebrows, a wince of sympathy narrowing her eyes. "Added incentive to behave myself."
He flashed her a small, surprised smile.
"When you came back," she hedged, "did you think about…contacting me?"
Dean looked down, then lifted his eyes to meet hers. "No," he replied truthfully, knowing she deserved nothing less. "Not at first. There was," he shook his head once, looking away, "a ton of shit to wade through. Like the Devil coming back to Earth."
She nodded, though her expression showed that there was no way she could comprehend what those words truly meant outside of keeping Dean from her. "I think I saw him," she said, chewing on her bottom lip as she searched his face. "The man with the rotting skin?"
"Yeah, that was him. Ugly son of a bitch."
"And the angel with the shadow wings?"
"Castiel," Dean told her, feeling a pang in the center of his chest as he said the name. "He…pulled me out of Hell."
Brenna cocked her head at him. "He's a friend?"
"Was," Dean replied quietly, loss like a weight pressing down on his shoulders. "He, uh…he died the day I got this," he rolled his hand over again. "Lucifer killed him and Bobby both."
Dean looked at her. "I forgot you never met Bobby," he said, a sad smile ghosting his lips. "Bobby was a friend of our dad's…kind of like a surrogate uncle to me and Sam. He was a hunter…best damn hunter I ever knew."
"You miss him." It was a soft exhalation of truth.
"Yeah," Dean said quietly. A hollow ache started behind his heart, making him feel a bit sick and lonely and strangely like he wanted to cry. "Yeah, I miss him. He was a cantankerous son of a bitch, but he loved us. He taught us almost as much as Dad. And he died trying to save my life." The burn of tears stung the backs of his eyes. He hadn't talked about – or let himself even think about – Bobby in months. He looked up at Brenna and saw mirrored pain in her eyes as she caught the tears swimming in his. "He was basically the only family we had left."
"You've lost a lot of people these last few years," she said.
He sniffed and dragged his hand down his face, banishing the emotion. "Thought you had to be touching me to see the truth."
Brenna smiled sadly. "You wear their loss like a shroud, Dean. It's in the way you move."
"How about you, huh?" Dean deflected, uncomfortable with her eyes peeling back his layers in a glance. "You've had a busy four years."
She twisted her lips ruefully, looking down at her linked fingers. "You mean Aislinn."
Dean didn't reply. He couldn't fathom having kids. It was hard enough to protect Sam from the evil in the world and his brother was a grown man who could defend himself and knew the truth. The choices Dean would have to make if he had a kid were almost too massive to absorb: truth or innocence, soldier or civilian, life as a hunter or normal life? How could he even begin to explain to a child what he'd gone through to survive, what he'd seen, how he'd seen it?
For about a fraction of a second he'd once thought that the son of a one-time encounter, Lisa Braedon, had been his, and at the time, he'd been surprisingly disappointed to learn that he wasn't a father. But after the initial realization wore off, he'd been immensely relieved. There was too much danger around him, too much uncertainty, too much loss. Brenna was a braver person than he'd ever be to bring a child into this crazy world.
"Scares you to have her so far away, huh?"
She smiled. "Leave it to you," she chuckled. "You always knew me better than I gave you credit for."
Dean shrugged. "It would scare me," he said.
"More than having her around all this?" She swept out a hand. "Didn't your dad ever send you guys away to keep you safe? When you were little?"
Dean started to shake his head, but stopped. "Well, yeah," he conceded. "A couple of times he'd leave us with Bobby or Pastor Jim when he had a dangerous hunt. Mostly he seemed to think that between him and me, we could keep Sam safe."
"Well, I don't have you," she said quietly, then looked up at him hurriedly. "To keep her safe, I mean. So, the only thing I could do was send her to someone I trusted until this was all over."
"What about Virge?" Dean asked, honestly confused. "Why didn't you guys just go to Denver and stay with him?"
Brenna sighed. "I never thought I'd be explaining my love life to you," she said with a soft, humorless laugh.
Dean tilted his head. "I know you don't love him," he said. "Not…enough, anyway."
Brenna furrowed her brows, sadness drawing lines around her eyes. "I always wanted to," she confessed. "I hate that I just…couldn't." She looked up at him, his tears of before echoing now in her gaze. "I've been so unfair to him…never telling him to leave, always being the one to walk away. And he just…lets me. He's never not been there for me."
"He's a good guy," Dean said.
"One of the best. He deserves better than me," Brenna said, sniffing. "But I'm afraid to let him go."
Dean looked down at the pencil on the table. "I can understand that."
They were quiet a moment, and then Dean felt Brenna reaching out to hesitantly touch the tips of the fingers on his right hand. He stiffened and started to draw back.
"I won't look," she whispered, her fingers trembling slightly as their skin connected. "Not unless you want me to. I don't pry."
"It's not that," he replied softly. "Before, when you…did your thing…I saw what you saw."
Brenna nodded. "I know."
"That never happened before."
"And with Sam, I don't see anyth—" he stopped, drawing in a sharp breath.
Brenna froze. "What do you mean?"
Dean looked at the scar on his hand, silent.
"What happened to you, Dean?"
He heard Brenna swallow. "Can I…?"
Dean shot a look over his shoulder; Sam was lax in the chair, mouth slightly open, breathing softly. The common room was dark, the only sound the crickets from the opened window. He looked back at Brenna and let his hand fall flat.
"I'll be careful," she promised.
He nodded and watched as she skimmed her fingers over his scar, then pressed carefully. Part of him expected to feel pain, but all he felt was the pressure of her fingers before she gasped softly, her eyes going wide and wild as they tumbled into his mind, an eerie silence surrounding them as they stood on the scrub grass of Stull cemetery and watched.
Dean saw himself, broken and bloody, on his knees before Sam, a large hole opening up in the Earth behind his brother. He saw himself reach out and Sam reach back in a gesture that appeared almost instinctive. The moment their hands touched, Dean was no longer on the outside, but was staring up at Sam once more, his brother's cat-like eyes filled with courage and misery as he surrendered, ready to give his life to save them all.
He felt Brenna's fingers flinch in his palm as light filled his memory – blinding, brilliant light that Dean knew fused him with the amulet. He closed his eyes, pulling his hand away, shutting her out, unable to see more. He hadn't heard a thing, hadn't felt a thing – not like in his nightmares where he relived every wound – but he was hurting just the same. The memory of the moment was almost as bad as the moment itself.
Brenna exhaled a shaky breath and Dean opened his eyes. He was unprepared for the almost violent way she flinched away from him. He frowned.
"What?" It hadn't been pleasant, what she'd seen, but it could have been so much worse.
"Your—your eyes are…," she stopped, blinking, as if remembering that her own eyes flashed wild when she used her sight. "How?"
He shrugged helplessly. "When I was a kid," he started, looking down, trying to reel in the light she saw shifting his eyes. "Sam gave me an amulet. It was just this…charm—"
"I remember," Brenna said. "Some gold thing, black leather strap. You never took it off. Even with the wraith."
He nodded. "Right. Well…it turns out it was actually something of a…," he paused. How did he tell her about the righteous man? About being a vessel? About breaking in Hell and the first of the seals? "…well, it had meaning we'd never realized."
"Until you had to put the Devil back in the Cage," she guessed.
"You saw the Cage?"
She shook her head. "I got those words from Sam's head," she confessed. "I didn't really know what it meant."
"It meant," Dean sat back, his eyes feeling gritty. "That I could use it to save Sam. Only…when I did, it kind of…connected to me. A binding spell."
"So…you have sight? Like me?"
He shook his head. "Only with Sam. Except it's one-way. If we make skin contact, he sees my…emotions, nightmares, whatever I got going on up in my melon."
"What do you see?"
Brenna started to nod, slowly. "But with me…you see what I see."
"I get the feeling there's a lot more here that you're not telling me."
Dean gave her a tight half-smile. "If you had a week, maybe I could scratch the surface."
Brenna tilted her head at him, a teasing smile tipping up the edges of her lips. "Nothing's ever half-way with you, is it? Can't just be, hey, how's it going, turns out I'm not dead. No…," she smiled a bit broader. "No, with you it's I'm not dead and turns out I have powers."
"I like to keep things interesting," Dean shrugged, grateful for the light tone and her smile.
"That, I remember," she grinned.
"Your turn," Dean leaned forward, his eyes up, on her face. "Why here?"
She frowned, confused.
"Why Argo? Why not pick up and leave? Why fight it out?" He hunched his shoulders, pinning her with his gaze. "What's so important about this place?"
Brenna sighed, sinking back into her chair. "You're not going to believe me."
Dean bit off a chuckle. "Sweetheart, if you'd seen what I've seen, you'd know there's not much I won't believe."
"I just meant…it's not going to make sense to you."
"Try me," Dean coaxed. "The kid at the library said your daughter needed this place."
Brenna looked up. "David?"
"Huh. I didn't think he noticed."
Dean shrugged. "Seems like the kind of kid others forget is around and say things they otherwise wouldn't. I bet he knows all the town secrets."
Brenna's lips twisted in a smile of acceptance. "Yeah, you're probably right." She rubbed her face, tucking a couple of wayward curls behind her ears. "Aislinn was born in Denver," she said quietly, her voice hesitant as if this was the first time she'd ever said these words. "We were in Boston, looking for work, when I realized…. Anyway, it was Virgil's idea to be near family and since I don't have any, we headed to Colorado. His aunt moved to Boulder last year, but she was in Denver when we got there."
"How'd you end up here?"
"I tried to make it work," she said, pulling her lips away from her teeth as if trying to ward off pain. "We lived together and we pretended…but I knew early on that Aislinn had the sight. I remember Declan telling me how scared my mother had been when I was a baby, trying to understand my power, make sure neither of us went crazy or they didn't take me away from her…it's just," she glanced at him. "Until you're there, you don't know."
Dean nodded, accepting that.
"Virgil wanted to help – he tried, but…he didn't know how to block himself. And when he'd hold her, she'd see, but she wouldn't understand and she would cry for days. Terrified. I tried to teach him, but it was like…," she pushed at her hair, though it wasn't in her face. "Like trying to teach a fish to fly. It was tearing him up not to be able to hold her, to touch her, to help me…. I started to look around, trying to find a way to help her learn control. I wanted so badly to talk to someone who'd dealt with me, but…they were all dead. So, I looked to see if there were any druid sects…and I found Argo."
Dean frowned. "There are druids here?"
She nodded. "They don't make themselves known; the world doesn't really accept druids as a faith. It's paganism…basically witchcraft to many."
Dean wrinkled his nose slightly in remembrance of his own father's assertions that Brenna had been a witch.
"They were drawn here about a hundred years ago," she continued. "There's a…a healing energy to this part of the mountains. I think it has to do with the mine, but I haven't been able to prove it."
Dean sat up straighter. "The bastnasite."
Brenna shot him a look of pure surprise. "Yes! How the hell did you know about that?"
"Hey, I'm more than just a pretty face."
Brenna stared at him for another moment, apparently thinking better of her retort. "The druids here aren't what I was hoping for," she confessed with a sigh. "They're third generation, none of them have sight – or any other powers for that matter – and all of them are very focused on protecting the Earth. There was a celebration at the last winter solstice commemorating the day the mine caved in because it stopped further drilling into the Earth."
"Heard some people in town died that day."
"Yeah," Brenna tossed him a look. "You can see why the druids aren't really popular around here."
"If they aren't what you needed for your daughter," Dean argued, "then why don't you just leave? Go get her and just…go someplace else."
Brenna leaned forward, her forehead resting on the palm of her hand. "Aislinn doesn't talk," she said suddenly.
"What do you mean, she doesn't talk?" Dean frowned.
Brenna looked at him, her eyes large and sad. "Not one word. I've had her tested – she isn't deaf, she can hear me just fine. And there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with her physically. She just…doesn't speak."
Dean narrowed his eyes slightly. "You think it's because of her sight."
Brenna nodded. "It can be…traumatizing until you learn to channel it or block it. I simply stopped touching people for years until I figured out how to focus it. But when you're a baby…?"
Dean tipped his chin down, starting to put her complicated logic puzzle together. "And you think the bastnasite can help you."
Brenna sat up straighter. "Every book I've read on druidism says the mineral from that ore can be used in a ritual to block powers – essentially remove them until or unless the ritual is reversed. I think I can help her stop being so afraid."
"What makes you think she's afraid?"
Brenna sighed, putting her face in her hands. "I can feel it. She can't really tell me, but I can feel her fear."
"Wait," Dean held up a hand. "I thought you were teaching her Gaelic."
Brenna glanced at him, an eyebrow raised. "You don't have to speak a language to understand it."
"Oh. Good point."
"Anyway, Virgil's aunt has been around Aislinn all her life and knows how to communicate with her and when she gets too scared, she'll call me and I'll talk to her or sing to her and she's okay as soon as she hears my voice."
"I'm sorry, Brenna," Dean said softly, sincerely.
She looked up at the sound of her name. He realized it had been a long time since he'd said it out loud…to anyone.
"Thanks," she replied quietly. With a deep breath, she stood up. "It's been a long…weird…day. I'm gonna get some sleep. You find your bed okay?"
Dean nodded, not mentioning that he didn't plan on using the bed tonight. "See you in the morning," he said, smiling at her as she walked away.
He waited a few more moments, then glanced back over at Sam, half expecting his brother to be staring back at him, having been listening the whole time, but he looked out for the count. Dean stood stiffly, and headed out to the common room. Grabbing a blanket from one of the free beds, he made his way back to the rec room and spread it over Sam, not bothering to wake his brother. Sam looked comfortable enough and if he were honest, Dean liked having him close by.
Sitting back at the table, Dean looked once more at the paper he'd been working on. It had been awkward and frustrating to learn how to write with his left hand. Shooting with his left hand had seemed like a cake walk the minute he tried to form legible words with the unfamiliar grip of fingers unaccustomed to such a specific task. At first it had looked like gibberish, but as he continued to practice over the last six months, he'd managed to at least make it intelligible. Enough that he could sign his paycheck or leave Sam a note as to his whereabouts.
He wanted the laptop, but it was packed out in the trunk of the Impala and he wasn't sure he could get out and back in without waking the men in the common room. So he stuck with the paper, sketching out two circles, overlapping one edge of each. Inside one he wrote 'power,' and in the other 'danger.' As he thought through who he'd encountered so far in the town, he began to write their names in each circle, noting that some seemed to fit inside both.
Below the circles, he listed the names of the dead and their cause of death.
Elliott, foreman of mine, drowned.
Frazier, museum owner, stoned.
Abby, church lady, impaled.
Turner, fire station manager, drowned.
For the fifth victim, he simply drew a question mark and the word stoned, having yet to learn who the person had been and what their tie was to the town. That meant, though, that the next cause of death would be impaling. The problem was, as he saw it, figuring out who the victim was going to be. He didn't know enough to draw a connection between each victim, and without a connection, figuring out who was next would be impossible.
Rolling his neck, Dean sighed. Glancing up at the clock on the microwave he saw that it was nearly two in the morning. Brenna had been gone for hours, Sam sleeping soundly the whole time. Dean was beat, his body aching from the events of the day. He flexed his right hand as much as the scar tissue would allow. As he did, he remembered the landslide, the heat, the way he'd somehow known – not clearly, not in a way he could articulate, but known all the same – that something bad was about to happen. That Virgil had been in danger. That he'd needed to move.
He hadn't even thought about it; he'd just done it. He longed to ask someone, to talk to someone about the after-effects of the binding spell with the amulet.
There was so much he still needed to ask his friend, so much he needed to understand. What happens to the righteous man when the angels walk away? When the demons retreat into their Hell? Does destiny even matter when there is nothing left to fulfill, nothing left to fight? Where had his friend gone that he couldn't even answer him when he prayed, when he reached out with every ounce of need, searching for an answer, a path to follow?
Longing for one more conversation with his friend shifted suddenly to anger for Castiel not listening to him. If Castiel had just stayed behind, stayed safe, he might still be alive, still present in Dean's life. But he'd had to show up and try to help – just as Bobby had – and now they were both dead. Dean could feel the anger at that loss crawl up behind his heart and sit with a small pick-axe, carving into the hollow space inside of him that never seemed to fill.
Castiel had once beaten him senseless for daring to choose his own path. He remembered how the power behind his friend's fists had taken his breath away, shaking him from the soul outward with each impact. It had been as bad as Lucifer using Sam's fists on him. It had bruised his trust, shaken his faith. It had nearly defeated him, that beating. Dean could still taste the blood in his mouth, still feel the darkness sweep him up, still recognize the swift, painful sensation of his bones knitting, his skin healing with Castiel's apologetic touch.
Dean woke with a start, at once confused, disoriented and, strangely, mortified. He hadn't meant to fall asleep – couldn't clearly remember even putting his head down on the table. He lifted his head stiffly, the joints in his neck cracking with the movement. It was still dark and quiet, but Sam was sitting next to him at the table, having taking over the chair Brenna had vacated.
"Time 's it?" Dean muttered.
"About three," Sam replied softly.
Dean rubbed at his face, coming back to himself, and realizing he was shivering. "'s freezing in here."
"Window was open," Sam told him, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. "Woke me up."
Dean looked mutely at the chair where he'd last seen Sam. "Covered you up," he said.
"Yeah, well," Sam shrugged. "You okay? That was some dream."
Dean peered at his brother, trying to bring his bleary eyes into focus. "You saw?"
Sam frowned, looking as if he wanted to deny the truth, but then nodded. "You weren't making any noise, so don't worry about that, but…," his frown deepened. "You were shaking. I wasn't thinking and grabbed your arm. I'm sorry."
"I didn't feel it," Dean frowned. "The spark."
"You seem to only feel it if you're already awake," Sam observed. "Dean…," he sat back, seeming to brace himself for his next question. "When did Castiel…when did he do that to you?"
"Beat the hell outta me, you mean?"
"Back when I was going to…y'know, say yes to Michael. Before Adam."
Sam's eyes darted in thought and he sat forward, rubbing his face. "I remember him bringing you back, unconscious, but I didn't know…," he shook his head.
"It was a long time ago, Sam," Dean offered. "Right now I just wish we had him back so we could ask him about…this." He rubbed at his scarred hand.
"We've been getting along without him pretty good, don't you think?" Sam hedged. "I mean, we've been able to work around the whole…mind meld thing. And as long as you stay away from ghosts, your eyes don't go all…Riddick on us."
Except for when they do, Dean thought, remembering Brenna pulling away at the sight of his eyes when he was caught in the memory of Stull.
"Sam," Dean started, his brows pulling close. "Something happened today."
Sam sat back as if he'd been waiting to hear this and wondered when Dean would get around to telling him. He stared at Dean, hazel eyes shadowed in the dimly lit kitchen, mouth set in a thin line. Dean suddenly felt like he was on trial. Taking a shallow breath, he told Sam about the heat, the way it rolled over him, not touching him, and the fact that Virgil's friend had seen a light just before the blast.
"You think it was you? This light?"
Dean shrugged. "All I know is, there's something else going on with this whole fused amulet thing. Something more than you being able to see my nightmares."
Sam nodded, his jaw working, lips pursed in thought. "With my…with the demon blood," he began quietly, "it was about a trigger. There actually had to be a demon around for me to feel the…surge."
Dean leaned forward, intrigued. Sam had never brought up the mechanics of his demon blood powers. Once it was over, it simply became something in their past.
"It was different from the visions," Sam continued. "They just…happened. But I had to…to, uh, turn this on, basically. I had to will it."
Dean nodded. "Like the Force," he said, only half-teasing.
Sam huffed. "Sure, okay." He glanced at his brother. "And you say I'm the geek."
"You are," Dean replied, rubbing his face tiredly. "I'm just trying to speak your language."
"Anyway," Sam said, resting his forearms on the table, voice still hushed. "All I'm saying is…maybe whatever it is inside of you now…maybe it only works when there's a trigger."
Sam shook his head. "Like…danger. Like someone needing protection. That's what Rufus said the amulet was for, originally, right? Protection?"
Dean rubbed the back of his neck, ignoring the aches of his body. "Protection from sacrifice."
Sam picked up Dean's discarded pencil and began tracing the edge of the circle Dean had drawn. "We could always pray to someone else," he said quietly. He looked up, meeting Dean's eyes. "Another angel. Joshua, maybe. You said he told Cas about the amulet in the first place."
Dean watched Sam's hands as he traced the circle, holding the pencil easily in his right hand. "I thought about that."
"And what if we accidentally call down someone we don't want?"
"Uriel and Zachariah are dead," Sam pointed out.
"We don't know who's up there, Sam," Dean reminded him. "We didn't even know about Cas until…well, until we did. I just…it's been quiet. No angels, no Crowley. I don't want to…," he flipped his hands up on the table, "tip the scales."
Sam nodded quietly, the pencil still moving. "We can call Rufus again, see if he's got anything else."
"Yeah," Dean nodded, thinking that if Rufus had found something, he most likely would have called them already.
"You asked her about Aislinn," Sam said suddenly.
"I knew you were awake. Faker." Dean let his head fall forward, chin to chest, as he grinned affectionately at his brother.
"Is that why we're here?"
"Would it matter if it was?"
Sam was quiet long enough that Dean looked up, watching his brother's profile for an answer. Finally, Sam looked over at him. "No. No, it wouldn't."
Dean looked down at the paper. Sam had added to it, apparently noting what he'd gleaned from Brenna in the time they were apart.
Draiocht gets power from sacrifice.
Amulet protects from sacrifice.
What does the Wicker Man mean?
Why are vics electrocuted first?
"What are you thinking?" Dean asked.
"I'm thinking one of us needs to find out more about this draiocht thing," Sam said. "And one of us needs to find out more about the electrocution on the bodies."
"Brenna has books on the draiocht at her place," Dean pointed out. "But I think we need to look into the mine, first."
Dean nodded. "There was a cave-in about twenty years ago and there's some kind of ore or something in the tunnel that fell in. I think it's important."
"You take the mine, I'll take the bodies," Sam declared.
"Sir, yes, sir!" Dean teased.
"Listen," Sam sighed. "No offense, but you haven't really been dealing with bodies all that well lately."
Dean looked away, not answering.
"I just think…why chance it?" Sam tempered his tone, apparently hearing the criticism as loudly as Dean had. "I can just go in as Agent—"
"Wait, no." Dean looked back quickly.
"No Agent, no alias'," Dean said, leaning forward. "Sorensen has a target on our backs right now, man. And he's going to take Jackson down with us if he can. We go under the radar."
Sam pulled back at the urgency in Dean's harsh whisper.
"I mean it, Sam."
"Okay, got it! Under the radar."
"Use Virgil to help you get in," Dean suggested. "He can help. At least…I think he can…."
Sam was staring at him, brow furrowed. "How about you get some rest, man?"
Dean shook his head. "I'm not going to sleep here."
"Sleep in the chair," Sam suggested. "I'll make sure you don't wake anyone up."
Dean looked up sheepishly, slightly ashamed that his brother got to the heart of his concern so quickly. "You gotta sleep, too."
"I've been sleeping."
"Couple hours," Dean scoffed.
"So we trade off," Sam shrugged. "You're no good to us on no sleep."
Dean took a breath. "Fine. Just…," he looked down at the table. "Just don't let me—"
"It's going to be fine, Dean. Trust me."
Dean looked hard at his brother, thinking through the efforts Sam had gone to in their little house in Lawrence to help him get even the few hours of sleep he'd been able to capture.
"Okay," he acquiesced.
Pushing stiffly up from the table, he dropped onto the Lazy-Boy chair Sam had vacated and pulled the blanket around him. Focusing on the sounds around him – the refrigerator humming, the sound of snoring in the other room, the scratch of Sam's pencil – he managed to lull himself into a comfortable doze, slipping over the edge of consciousness as if sinking beneath the surface of a lake.
Everyone in the station seemed to wake ridiculously early.
Sam had managed to sneak out to the Impala and retrieve his laptop without waking anyone up, sitting quietly at the kitchen table and dividing his attention between the case he was pulling together and listening for Dean to stir. Roughly three hours after Sam had finally convinced Dean to sleep, Virgil stumbled into the kitchen.
"Hey," Sam said quietly, looking up at him over the laptop.
Virgil stopped, blinking bleary eyes at Sam, a crease across one side of his face from where it had pressed against his pillow. He rubbed the heel of his hand into one eye and yawned wide.
"What are you doin' in here?" he said on the exhale. "It's like…," he peered at the microwave clock, "six in the morning."
"Working," Sam said, pointing to the laptop. "Why are you up?"
Virgil yawned again and moved over to the industrial-sized coffee maker.
"Inner clock," Virgil explained. "Coffee?"
"Yes." This from Dean who growled out the word from the depths of the blanket he'd pulled over his head.
Sam and Virgil glanced over at the Lazy-Boy chair as Dean uncurled, gasping slightly as his joints popped. The over-sized FDD T-shirt he'd borrowed from Virgil had twisted around him and Sam could see the tail-end of the pink scar that ran down his back where the screws had been inserted into his ribs just before he yanked it back down. As he stood, Dean rubbed the flat of his hand over his head, sending his hair in twenty different directions, lending him a brief illusion of innocence.
"You guys got something against beds?" Virgil muttered, turning away from Dean and filling the coffee basin with four large scoops.
Sam half-grinned and glanced up at Dean, who was standing over him, looking down at the screen.
"What's all this?" Dean tipped his chin at the computer screen.
Sam sat back and gestured toward the machine. "I just built out a context wall – y'know, like Dad taught us."
Dean frowned, reached out and flipped the notebook he'd been writing in around. "You mean, like this?"
Sam nodded. "That's a good start, but this is better," he said. "It's like a database, see? You can insert the formulas and codes here and here," he pointed to the cells on the spreadsheet he had pulled up, "and it will help us make connections from the victims to their manner of death and each other—"
"All right, all right, there, War Games," Dean muttered, moving around the table to stand near Virgil and wait for his coffee. "You lost me at 'database'."
Sam furrowed his brows, slouching back in his seat as he pouted, "Well, it is better."
"Why, because you did it?" Virgil asked, tossing a grin over his shoulder to pull the sting from his words.
Dean outright chuckled as he took the mug of black coffee Virgil handed him.
"Such a jerk," Sam muttered, closing the laptop.
"Bitch," Dean returned, his lips perched on the edge of the mug, a grin still framing his eyes.
Minutes later, more of the men who'd filled the beds in the common room filed in, grabbed coffee and breakfast, and greeted each other with the terse, half-sentences that narrated morning. Dean pulled on his boots and shuffled stiffly out to the Impala to grab their spare clothes. While he was gone, Sam edged Virgil away from the group of men and told him what the brothers had discussed during the night.
"So, you want to, what…inspect the bodies?" Virgil asked, puzzled.
Sam shook his head. "No, just question the cops."
"You want to question the cops," Virgil repeated. "How am I supposed to get them to just…hand over the information?"
"Brenna took a folder from the coroner yesterday," Sam explained. "Reynolds wanted to look at the autopsy for some reason. Offer to take it back over to them."
Virgil was frowning, but Sam could see from the way his blue eyes darted back and forth that he was calculating the possibilities and likelihood of the plan working.
"What about the mine?"
"Dean'll go check out the mine," Sam told him. He glanced over Virgil's shoulder to see Brenna enter the kitchen and make a bee-line for the coffee. "Brenna can go with him."
Virgil ticked back his head, his eyes leveling on Sam's, his expression territorial.
"They're gonna have to talk sometime," Sam said.
"About what?" Virgil replied, his voice cold. "The fact that he let her believe he was dead?"
Sam shook his head once, feeling his jaw tighten. "There's a lot of stuff that happened then, Virge," he said softly. "A lot of shit you don't understand."
"How about you tell me, then?"
"Tell you what?" Brenna asked, walking up with innocent eyes as she sipped her coffee. "Mornin'."
"Hey, Brenna," Sam greeted with a small smile.
"What're you guys talking about?"
Sam looked at Virgil, waiting. Virgil sighed.
"You and Dean need to go check out the story behind the cave-in at the mine," he told her.
"What about you?"
Virgil looked at Sam, then rolled his neck until it cracked. "I'm gonna take Stretch here to talk to the cops."
Brenna nodded slowly, taking it in. "Okay. So…where is Dean?"
It took Sam a few minutes to find his brother. He wasn't at the Impala and the showers were empty. After a brief flash of worry, Sam wandered around outside of the station to the back where the mountains nearly butted up against the building, leaving barely enough room for a utility easement. He saw Dean standing near a large, waist-high bolder, one foot braced against the rock, leg straight as he bent sideways over his hip.
Sam skidded to a halt, gaping as Dean caught sight of him. Neither moved and then after a moment, Dean shrugged and continued the odd stretch.
"Oh, c'mon," he said, his voice slightly strained by his position, "this is not the weirdest thing you've ever caught me doing."
"What are you doing?" Sam asked.
"Some moves Mason taught me," Dean said, dropping his foot and bending over at the waist to touch his toes. "Helps get my hip loose faster. And my ribs."
"Mason taught you…yoga?" Sam almost laughed.
Dean stood up, his face slightly red from his head-down position. "Yes. Now, unless you want me to put you in the corpse pose, shut the hell up."
Sam couldn't help but grin wider. "Dude. Didn't you go out with a yoga instructor once?"
Dean paused, hands over his head, and grinned. "Aw, yeah. Lisa." He bounced his eyebrows. "Yoga has its benefits."
He swung his arms loose and made his way over, grabbing up a duffel bag along the way. Sam saw that he was actually moving more fluidly than he had when heading out to the Impala. When Dean got even with him, Sam reached out, clapping his brother on his shoulder in a gesture so natural it felt strange. Dean didn't react, but Sam dropped his hand and followed Dean inside, oddly rattled by how easily everything seemed to be falling into place.
The road trip, sleeping in the car, putting the clues of the case together, giving each other a hard time about nothing and everything, it felt like…coming home. How was this normal? How was this right?
He knew what Dean would say if he asked: Normal is other people.
But he wanted it to be them, didn't he? That's what he'd been after all that time, fought endlessly for in the months that followed Stull. But then why did he feel like he could take a breath for the first time in weeks?
"You go on ahead," Sam said, pausing at the edge of the building. "I'm gonna make a call."
"Your girl?" Dean guessed, giving him a half-turned glance.
Sam nodded, putting the phone to his ear, wondering exactly when he'd become so transparent to his brother…or if he always had been. Talking to Stella settled him a bit. Her voice, her laugh, the way she knew instinctively when to ramble about nothing important so that he could get his balance, then casually ask him how the hunt was going as if he was just running to the grocery store….
He'd missed her. A lot.
"When do you think you'll be home?" she asked.
Home…. Lawrence was home. Not the road. Not this nomadic life. Not the front seat of an old Chevy. Right?
"Couple days," Sam told her. "I don't think this is what they thought it was."
"So…no boogie man?"
"Not this time," Sam chuckled. "Pretty sure it's just a serial killer."
He heard Stella huff out a quick breath. "Only you could make that sound like no big deal." Smiling, he was about to hang up when Stella stopped him. "Hey, a friend of yours stopped in at the bar yesterday."
"Friend?" Sam frowned, thinking maybe Rufus had found out some information on the amulet to share with them. "Black guy?"
"No," Stella said. "He didn't leave his name. Honestly, he seemed kinda cagey. I told him you guys were out of town for a few days."
Not Rufus, Sam realized, instantly concerned. It wasn't like they had many friends.
"He say what he wanted?"
"No, but he left a number." She read it off to him. "He didn't seem to be in a rush or anything, just ordered some beer, asked about you guys, then he was gone. Left a big tip."
Now that was weird. Who did they know that was a big tipper? Another hunter?
"What'd he look like?"
"Average height, dark hair – oh, he had a British accent."
Sam went cold. His fingers were numb and he tried to grip the phone tighter so he wouldn't drop it.
"He left? You're absolutely sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. Sam, what's the matter? You sound…scared."
"And you didn't tell him where we are?"
"No, just that you were gone for a few days."
Sam swallowed hard, darting his eyes around at the rock face behind him, the building to his left, the men moving around inside the building. Impossibly, his eyes found Dean as his brother was studying the screen of the laptop Sam had left inside on the kitchen table. As if by some magnetic draw, Dean's head came up slowly and his eyes met Sam's. Dean stood, but Sam shook his head, not taking his eyes from him as he spoke to Stella.
"Listen to me," he said. "That guy is no friend. He comes back, you call the cops. Right away, don't even wait to see what he has to say."
"No, listen, Stella. He's dangerous. I can't even—" He closed his eyes and took a breath. "He's bad news. Call Sergeant Jackson and tell him. Describe everything about the guy. Tell him not to do anything, just be aware." He opened his eyes and flinched violently to see Dean suddenly standing in front of him, frowning. "Call Scott Mason over at the garage, too. Ask him to keep an eye on our house. I don't know how he'd find it…and it's warded against demons, so…."
Dean's face paled at the same time as Stella gasped.
"Did you say…demons?"
"Just…be careful, okay? I'll call you soon."
"Sam, I—" She stopped, whatever words she'd been about to say stalling in her throat. "You be careful, too. I miss you."
"I miss you, too." He closed his phone, staring at Dean, feeling the ground shift under his feet once more, as if the Earth was trying to collect him and send him straight to the Cage.
"Who?" Dean asked.
"Son of a bitch," Dean growled, his teeth gritted as he looked away. "I knew that bastard was still out there."
Sam couldn't reply. Dean had told him months ago and he hadn't wanted to believe.
Sam nodded. "I told her to call Mason and Jackson. He left, she said, but he gave her a number."
Dean drew his head back, eyebrows up. "The King of Hell has a data plan?"
Sam looked down at his phone.
"You're not calling that number, Sam."
"Don't you want to know what he wants?" Sam asked.
"Hell no," Dean frowned. "I don't give a damn what he wants."
"I should have listened to you." Sam looked up, feeling as if his world was melting around the edges.
Dean's anger shifted to worry as he studied Sam's face. "Hey, take it easy, man."
He grabbed Sam's arms and turned him until his back was against the building. With slight pressure from Dean's grip, Sam felt himself sliding down the side of the building to sit in the grass. Dean crouched in front of him.
Sam nodded. "I can't believe I thought they'd all just go away."
"You have hope, Sam. That's not a bad thing."
Sam looked down. He'd been an idiot. They could never have anything normal. Never have a life. Just being around other people put those people in danger. Crowley had found Stella. He could find anyone.
"You don't know that."
Sam looked up, puzzled. He hadn't said anything out loud, he was sure of it. "What?"
"He can't find anyone," Dean said. "I know how that big brain of yours works, man. You're spiraling and you gotta stop it."
"He was in Lawrence, Dean."
Dean shrugged. "Not a big secret where the grudge match of the century went down," he said. "I'm just surprised it took him so long."
"Yeah, well. He doesn't know where we are."
Dean sat back on his heels, keeping his eyes level with Sam's, his hands hanging between his knees. "What do you want to do?"
Sam frowned. "What? What do you mean?"
Dean tipped his hands outward, the knotted scar catching Sam's eye. "You said you didn't think this was our kind of thing," he reminded Sam. "We could leave this to the cops."
"Leave?" Sam gaped at his brother. "What about Brenna?"
Dean looked down and Sam saw the muscles along his neck tighten. "She's been doing okay this long," he said, his voice pitched toward the ground. "She'll do okay without me getting in her way." He lifted his head. "If this isn't a witch…then there's no reason for me to be here."
Sam narrowed his eyes. "Do you really believe that?"
Dean gave him a sad half-smile. "Doesn't matter, does it? She's got her own family."
"They're not together, Dean," Sam emphasized.
"Since when have we defined family by conventional standards, huh?" Dean replied. "You want to go back and make sure Stella's okay?"
Sam studied Dean for a moment, looking for the tell in his expression, the waver in his brother's voice. But he could find none. Dean was completely ready to drop everything and return to Lawrence with him if that's what he said he needed to do.
"No," Sam replied. "She's okay. She's got protection."
Dean pushed to his feet. "Okay then. Let's call Rufus and get this show on the road."
He pulled out his phone and dialed the older hunter, leaving him a voice mail that Crowley was back on the grid and to call them back. "Knowing if I have some kind of super-special angel powers might come in handy if we run into that limey bastard," he concluded and hung up.
Sam stood waiting as Dean finished his message, then looked over at him. "I was checking out your whole…algorithm thing," Dean said as the moved in tandem back toward the entrance of the fire station.
"Pretty neat, huh?" Sam asked, grinning proudly in spite of himself. "I took most of the idea from Ash's programming, but I figure the more we learn about the town and the suspects, we can just plug the information in and the formula will calculate who the most likely suspect is."
"Oh, it already did," Dean said, putting his left hand on the door and looking at Sam with his eyebrows up.
"It did?" Sam paused, pleasantly surprised that Dean had figured out how to use it.
"Yep," Dean pulled the door open for Sam. "Narrowed it down to Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick."
Sam shot him a look. "Hilarious."
"Could have been the lead pipe," Dean hedged, following him inside.
"Shut up," Sam grumbled good-naturedly as they made their way back to the kitchen to find it mainly cleared out except for Brenna and Virgil.
Part Two: Chapter 13 continued here in Post 14-B.