Characters: Dean, John
Rating: PG-13 for language and mature scenes
Spoilers: None. Pre-Series.
Summary: With Sam at school, John and Dean must find a way to connect and survive. When John is hurt on a hunt, Dean is forced to pick up the pieces. However, when ghosts threaten to take Dean down, it's up to his father to keep him from fading.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Story title from Led Zeppelin song of the same name.
Dean’s body shook, his hands twitching as if his muscles remembered how to protest even if he weren’t fully aware of the action. John winced as the ventilator was removed and Dean coughed, seeming to come around for a moment before sagging back, eyes closed.
“His oxygen levels have improved,” Dr. Rice informed him, “so that’s a good sign.”
“Why isn’t he waking up?” John asked, sitting in his wheelchair next to Dean’s bed, his leg propped up on an extender, his IV pole behind him.
“His body is desperate for rest, John,” Dr. Rice said. “I’m reassured that his vitals haven’t dipped further, and having the tube out will make him more comfortable.”
“John?” Dr. Rice said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
He wasn’t sure when it had happened, but this woman had slipped in behind his walls, and her touch no longer tightened him or repulsed him. He even allowed it to comfort him in a way he hadn’t in a very long time. It struck him then that since the firefighters had pulled Dean from his arms, he had yet to touch his son.
He looked up at her. “Sherriff Bonner is here. Needs to ask you some questions,” she said.
It had been almost twenty-four hours since he’d forced Gus to take him to the building site in search of Dean. He knew he wouldn’t be able to avoid the inquisition much longer.
“Okay,” he nodded. “Send him in.”
Dr. Rice patted his shoulder and left the room. In moments, John heard the room door open once more and heard the nervous sound of someone clearing their throat.
“Hello, Sherriff,” John greeted, not looking away from Dean.
“Just call me John.” He looked over his shoulder at the other man. “Have a seat.” He nodded to the hard plastic chair positioned between the two beds.
Sherriff Bonner sat down, his hand in his hands. His careworn face was sympathetic, his eyes running down Dean’s still body.
“How is he?”
John looked back at his son. “He’s a fighter,” he replied. Though, admittedly, there didn’t seem to be much fight in Dean at the moment. His normally tense posture was relaxed. His hands were limp, not positioned to fist up at a moment’s notice. “What can I do for you?”
Sherriff Bonner cleared his throat once more. “Cole Lawson’s body was found burned and hanging from a metal spike inside the downtown construction site,” he began.
John sat quietly, waiting for a question.
“The site was completely destroyed,” Bonner continued. “The town’s finances apparently with it.”
“Sorry to hear that,” John replied, finding the words to be surprisingly true.
“I need to know why.”
John glanced at the other man. “Why what?”
“Why I have another dead body in my morgue,” Bonner snapped, the tension he was obviously feeling from the past several weeks seeping out with helpless frustration. “Why my town is dying.”
John licked his lips, shifting in his chair. The ache in his leg had become so familiar he almost didn’t notice it. But the itch was new. “Hand me that chopstick looking thing, there,” he requested. Bonner handed it over and John jabbed it carefully down inside the cast. “Son. Of. A. Bitch,” he muttered to himself. “This is gonna get real old real quick.”
“I can wait as long as it takes,” Bonner said, stubbornly.
John was reminded of Sam in that tone. He glanced over, half expecting Bonner’s arms to be crossed over his chest. “I can tell you what I know, but the rest,” he glanced at Dean, “is gonna have to wait on him.”
“’Cause I wasn’t there for the final act,” John sighed. “Dean faced that one on his own.” He sat back and rested his eyes on the reassuring motion of his son’s chest as he breathed.
“Tell me what you know.”
“You’re not gonna like it,” John predicted. “But I promise you every word is true.”
“And you can back this up?”
John nodded. “I can.”
Bonner pulled out a small notebook. “Hit me.”
“It started with your predecessor,” John began.
John nodded. “Roman Sutcliff. He and two of his pals, Frank Teller and Joe Lawson, basically made a deal with the devil.”
“I hope you’re joking,” Bonner inserted.
“You want to hear this or not?”
Bonner waved at John. “Go on.”
“Joe Lawson was having an affair with a girl named Brooke Marcus,” John continued. “She had a son as a result of the affair.”
“You’re telling me… you’re saying little Andrew Marcus… that he was Joe Lawson’s kid?”
John nodded. “For reasons we’ll probably never know, Brooke decided she wanted to end the affair. Probably because Joe was a grade-A asshat, but that’s just my two cents. Anyway,” John glanced once at Bonner. “Lawson wasn’t ready to let her go, and Andrew was kidnapped.”
Bonner shook his head. “No, no. Brooke Marcus killed her son,” he replied. “I’ve reviewed that file myself.”
“What you saw in the file was the story Teller, Lawson, and Sutcliff made up to cover their tracks,” John proclaimed. “Brooke Marcus didn’t kill anyone.”
“It’s a pretty big claim to say that Joe killed the boy.”
John shook his head. “He didn’t.”
“Well, who are you saying killed Andrew, then?” Bonner asked, clearly frustrated.
John looked at him. “No one killed him,” he said. “Andrew Marcus is alive.”
“The hell you say,” Bonner exclaimed.
Dean flinched and both men turned their attention to him. The machine’s steady beep didn’t alter and after a few moments with no further movement from Dean, John relaxed and looked back at Bonner.
“I told you,” he said, “you weren’t going to like this. You ready to hear the rest, or do you want to go now and make up your own story to explain what’s happened to your town just like the others did?”
Bonner seemed to sink into his chair, his mouth drooping into a bow of shattered illusions. “You have to understand,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life. This town… this town is my family. You have any idea what it’s like… finding out a truth like this about your family?”
John looked away, not answering.
“Give me the rest.”
“You sure?” John pressed, still not looking at the other man.
John took a breath. “Around the same time Brooke Marcus died, a Quileute man found a boy—beaten and nearly-drowned—and took him into the tribe to raise as one of their own when no one in the town claimed him. That boy — Kwaiya — is Andrew Marcus.”
“Son of a bitch,” Bonner breathed.
“Joe Lawson had two other sons during the time he had the affair with Brooke Marcus.”
“Matt and Cole,” Bonner nodded.
“Right. Apparently — and the details on this you’ll have to get from Dean — Cole tried to kill their bastard brother.” John looked at Dean, wishing with everything inside of him that his boy would open his eyes and fill in the gaping holes, help him justify or at least explain the purpose for all this pain. “Only, Andrew didn’t die.”
Bonner pinched the bridge of his nose. “Louisa Lawson — Joe’s wife — was the one to claim that Brooke killed Andrew.”
John nodded. “Somehow she found out about the affair and what her son had done. She managed to convince enough people and Brooke was arrested.”
Bonner was shaking his head. “But the files… the case files were so thorough. Blood evidence, photographs of her house. I’m telling you, the woman looked like a… a witch.”
“She was a witch,” John replied. “But she didn’t kill her son.”
Bonner gaped at John. Before the sheriff had time to assimilate the witch part, John rolled on.
“Brooke was arrested and cuffed inside the jail. They trapped her in there and lit a fire.”
“Lawson, Teller, and Sutcliff.”
Bonner’s mouth opened and closed, as if swallowing air rather than breathing it.
“Lawson had the affair, and Sutcliff was sheriff… but… why Frank Teller? I mean, I know he was a friend of Lawson’s, but… murder?” Bonner said.
John lifted a shoulder. “Like I said, some of the details we can get from Dean… others… you might never know. Brooke died and they buried her beneath the ruined building. They fabricated a case file and the town was happy to let the dead bury the dead.”
Bonner rubbed his face, saying nothing. John took a breath.
“This next part… you’re gonna have to trust me on.”
“Because,” John began to twist his wedding ring. “It’s a little… supernatural.”
Bonner’s eyebrows rose to his hairline. “If you’re about to tell me that the ghost of Brooke Marcus killed all these people…”
John simply looked back at the sheriff, eyes serious, face impassive.
“Jesus Christ, man.” Bonner regarded him imploringly. “You expect me to believe that shit?”
John looked away, watching as Dean’s hands twitched, his fingers moving as if he were drumming a rhythm. “Some things are true whether you believe them or not,” John replied.
“I knew I should have retired last year,” Bonner almost moaned.
“Gus Spencer told us that the building site and the surrounding area was unable to sustain a successful business for years, but that nothing much really happened aside from that around here until a team of investors decided to restore the site.”
Bonner nodded. “That sounds about right.”
“This team just happened to be comprised of the sons of the men who killed Brooke Marcus and allowed her son to be beaten beyond recognition.”
John watched the pieces fall into place on Sheriff Bonner’s face. “Matt Lawson, Jake Teller, and Jim Sutcliff. All the second generation… well, except Terry Bowing.”
“Right,” John nodded. “First thing this team of investors does is desecrate Brooke’s grave by covering it up with more building.”
“I’m guessing you’re going to tell me that’s a bad thing.”
“How long after that part of the remodel was finished did the first kid die?” John asked him.
Bonner sagged, dropping his face into his hands. “Oh, God, those kids. Those poor little kids.”
“Cody Lawson, Annie Teller, James Sutcliff, and the real casualty of this war, Teresa Bowing,” John ticked off his fingers as he named them. “She took their children just as their father’s had taken hers.”
Bonner lifted his face. “But… how?”
John looked at Dean. “Still working that part out.”
“And Jake Teller? Jim Sutcliff?”
John shook his head. “That was Cole.”
“Wait, what? Cole? Cole Lawson killed those men?” Bonner exclaimed. “You’d better have something to back this up.”
John looked down, the white bandages that covered his burns glaring at him with accusations of inadequacy.
“Cole Lawson is a total douche bag... Only reason Gus hasn’t fired his ass is that he needs help. And Lawson’s brother is one of the partners.”
“Dean knew it,” he said softly, his mind retracing steps, finding holes in logic. “He knew the guy was bad news. Lawson tried to beat my kid to death right behind your station just a couple of nights ago.”
“His father watched the whole thing,” John said.
“That’s… that’s what Joe was doing? Watching a fight? They told me he was simply worried about the building project after Teller died…”
“I couldn’t help him,” John said softly. “I tried, but…” John shook his head. “Kwaiya was there. Ended up carrying Dean over here.”
“How does this mean Cole killed those men?”
“When I got to the building,” John said, having almost forgotten Bonner was in the room, “it was already burning.” He looked at Dean.
“Oh, God, it’s good to see you... I take back everything I said. You can be in charge as much as you want.”
“Cole shot Gus in the chest with rock salt.”
“So that’s why he’s still alive,” Bonner intoned.
“He’d handcuffed Dean on the second floor and was going to let him burn alive. I shot him —winged him, really — and went up after Dean.” John rubbed his face, remembering the heat, the blood on Dean’s wrists, the fear that took him by the throat at the sight of his child in such peril.
“He killed them—all of them… Not the kids… But everyone else. Including Andrew Marcus. Or so he thinks.”
“He told me Cole had killed them all, except the kids,” John sighed. “There wasn’t time for him to say anything else.”
“How did Cole Lawson die?” Bonner questioned, his voice all-business.
“The floor collapsed,” John said. “Kwaiya, Lawson, and Dean fell through. By the time I got down there, Kwaiya was gone and Lawson was impaled on the spike.”
“So Kwaiya could have killed him,” Bonner said, eager to have a tangible perpetrator, regardless of justification.
“Brooke killed him,” John replied with conviction.
“But you didn’t actually see him get killed,” Bonner pressed.
John sighed. “No. I didn’t see it.”
“That’s all I need,” Bonner stood up.
“No, it isn’t,” said a fragile female voice from the doorway.
John and Bonner both turned to see Marissa Teller leaning against the doorway to the room. Her right arm was in a sling, the left side of her face an ugly mess of bruises, and a long, angry line of stitches ran from her eyebrow and disappeared into her hairline.
“Oh, my God,” Bonner breathed, hurrying over to her. He gently cupped her elbow and led her to the chair he had been sitting in, facing Dean’s bed. “Who did this to you, girl?”
Marissa swallowed, her eyes pinned to Dean’s face. “Cole Lawson,” she replied.
John gaped at her, his gut twisting sickeningly as he thought about having suspected her of being the cause of this madness.
“…your little girlfriend has a pretty hefty motive—losing her boyfriend like that. And witches are more commonly female; the Kappa was summoned by someone familiar with Wiccan rituals.”
“When?” John demanded.
“Last night,” Marissa replied. “I was at Jake’s house, helping his wife pack. Cole came over, and he was… I don’t know. Not drunk, but… he was definitely on something. I made him go for a drive because I didn’t want him around her. His family had done enough to destroy mine.”
The venom in her voice chilled the room. John could see Bonner standing to the side of Marissa’s chair, but he kept his focus on her battered face.
“We didn’t go far,” she said, her voice hitching. “The first time he hit me… I didn’t see it coming. My face hit the window. He was demanding to know what I’d told Dean. Cole had it in his head that he and I were… a couple,” she seemed to gag slightly when she said the word, “and he wanted to know why I’d betrayed him.”
“What did you tell him?” John asked.
Marissa lifted her wolf-blue eyes to his, the tears shining there those of anger. “That I hated him. That I’d told Dean everything — I’d told him how Matt had raped Jake’s wife, how I knew Annie was Matt’s daughter…”
“I gotta sit down,” Bonner whispered, resting a hip on the edge of John’s empty bed.
“But,” Marissa continued, her split lip quivering with the force of her emotions. “He told me I was wrong. It hadn’t been Matt… he’d been the one to rape her. Annie was his daughter. And,” she sniffed, a tear gliding across her swollen cheekbone. “Cody was his. And…” she reached out a shaking hand and rested the tips of her fingers on Dean’s bandaged wrists. John’s eyes flicked quickly to Dean’s face, searching for some sign that he’d felt Marissa’s touch. “He told me he’d… he’d killed my… my father.”
The tears ran freely now. Bonner set a box of tissues in her lap.
“He wasn’t making sense,” she said, awkwardly blowing her nose. “But he said that Dad knew something and was going to tell something and…”
“Cole killed Frank Teller?” Bonner repeated slowly.
Marissa nodded. “He was hitting me… so hard. I kicked at him and opened my door and rolled out.”
“You’re willing to swear to this?” Bonner asked.
Marissa looked at him. “I’ll do whatever you need me to, Sheriff,” she said. “I want Cole Lawson to burn.”
“He already has,” John said softly.
After a moment of shocked silence, Marissa spoke again. “Is he going to be okay?”
John knew this time she was talking about Dean. “He’s a fighter,” he replied.
“He’s been good to me,” she said. “You don’t find guys like him a lot these days.”
“No, you don’t,” John agreed, thinking about his son’s drive, his instinct to protect, his code of honor cleverly disguised by a devil-may-care grin.
Dean was common sense wrapped in reckless abandon and John had never truly appreciated the gift that was such a combination.
“You got someone to take you home?” Bonner asked Marissa.
“No,” she said softly. “I’d appreciate the ride.”
“You got it,” Bonner said. He looked over at John. “We’re done, for now. Until your son…”
“I’ll let you know when he wakes up,” John replied.
Marissa stood to leave, then paused. As John watched, she bent low and brushed her lips across Dean’s forehead. “Thank you,” she whispered. “You saved my life.”
They left him alone with his son, and John leaned forward, slowly reaching out and resting his fingers on Dean’s warm skin.
“C’mon back to me, kid,” he whispered.
“Sam, I’m not playin’!” Dean shouted, glancing first through one door way and then into another. “You come back right the hell now!”
The silence that greeted him terrified him more than the prospect of looking under the bed.
“It’s just a dream, Dean,” he told himself, his fingers twitching, curling and uncurling against his palms. “If it’s just a dream, you can wake up, right? So wake up! C’mon, man, wake up! WAKE UP! WAKE UP, DEAN!”
His throat felt raw from yelling and his voice echoed back to him from the empty walls. He moved across the room to the bed.
“Son of a bitch,” he growled.
Grabbing the bed frame, he yanked, hard, pulling the bed away from the wall. The physical action felt good and he pulled again, tugging and shoving until he’d pushed the bed to a lopsided angle in front of the closet doors. The floor beneath where the bed had been was bare. Not even a dust bunny to speak of.
“WHERE ARE YOU?” Dean bellowed. “You just leave? Again?”
He kicked at the wall, denting the plaster. It hurt, but it also felt good. Turning, he grabbed the stool and threw it with all his might toward the closet door, shattering the wood.
“You’re a selfish bastard, Sam!” He screamed it, feeling pieces of him break inside as the words finally tore free. “All you thought about was getting out, going to school. You wanted a normal life, huh? What about me?”
He whirled and punched at the wall, feeling the vibration shimmy back through his knuckles and up through his shoulder.
“You think I wanted to watch over you every fucking day?” His face was burning from the effort of his screams. “You think I wanted to be scared all the time that something bad was going to happen to you? Huh?” His hands shook at his sides. “You think I wanted to give up everything? Everything? Just to watch you walk away? Leave me here?”
He pounded his other fist into the wall, wanting to bleed, feeling as though that might be the only way to find release.
“He didn’t know what to do… I didn’t know what to do. We’ve always had you. You always balanced us.” Dean felt the pressure of tears squeeze his chest and he rebelled, refusing to give in. “We’ve never had a home, Sammy. We’ve never been… been safe. But, dammit, at least we were together!”
He turned to the desk and reached for the small silver mirror. Just as he grasped the frame, however, he saw his list. His what if list. And the last line was blurred, smeared out as if a hand had erased it in haste. Instead, below it was written: forget about Sam.
Dean pulled the mirror from the wall and started to throw it, wanting to shatter the glass and eliminate those words. But he caught the reflection captured inside and realized it was not his own. It was his father’s.
He slumped against the wall, the mirror gripped in his hands. John’s eyes stared out at him, his voice filling the room around him.
“He left us, Dean. He made that choice. I gave him a choice. And he left…”
Dean slid to the floor, the mirror like a life-line to a forgotten world. A world he didn’t know how to get back to. John’s eyes seem to bleed pain through the glass.
“Goddammit, Dean, I did the best I could. I tried to protect him from this as long as possible. But you know why he had to be a part of it. He knows. And he turned his back on us. I told him to choose, and he chose to leave!”
Emotion choked him, burned the backs of his eyes, fisted its way through his heart until he felt the sob shake through him. Pressing the mirror to his forehead, Dean bowed his head, letting the tears come as John whispered.
“I miss it… The way we used to be. I miss Sam, too.”
The only thing that had kept Dean off ventilator as the night hours stretched out was the fact that Dr. Rice seemed unconvinced it would do any good. As John watching, his son seemed to grow fainter before his eyes. The slight flinches and twitches he’d witnessed when Bonner had been there didn’t return. Instead, an almost corpse-like stillness seemed to overtake his son and John found himself unable to willingly release his hold on Dean’s arm, the feel of his warm skin a reminder that life still beat within.
Buck up, Winchester!
The voice had been so quiet for so many days John had all-but forgotten it.
You didn’t raise a quitter. Dean will dig himself out of this.
“He shouldn’t have to,” John argued softly.
The burn on Dean’s chest continued to seep and the blackened skin around the edges turned John’s stomach if he looked too long. They’d cut off the pentagram and the pendant Dean always wore and put both in the bag of his personal items beneath the bed. The silver ring that his son was never without was also missing, and the braided charms he’d so often seen on Dean’s wrists had been replaced by the bandages.
It was almost like looking at a shell, a clone. Not his boy. Not his son.
You gonna just sit there? Just sit there and watch him die?
“Shut the hell up,” John growled aloud to the voice in his head. “What do you know? You beat on us until we obeyed. You never inspired respect, you demanded it!”
And are you any different?
The voice was right. He wasn’t any different. He looked at his boy and his heart ached as fiercely as it did when he thought of Mary, when he spoke to her.
“Goddamn, kid,” John whispered. “You knew, didn’t you? You knew it was Lawson, and I didn’t listen. I’d give anything,” he swore, his voice choked. “I’d give anything to switch places with you. If I could… make a deal. If such things were possible… I’d take your place. You gotta know that.”
“You are my kid. Mine. You don’t get to make the rules in this fight, Dean.”
He’d been so arrogant. So sure that he was the one that had to be in control. But Dean hadn’t needed to be reminded of his place. He’d been the one to remind John who he was.
“I am. I’m your child.”
It had been Dean who’d taken John back to ground and reminded him that he had a place and a purpose. He was more than a soldier, a hunter. He was a father. And he’d let his son down. He’d let them both down.
Suddenly unable to breathe, John pushed away from the bed. With difficulty, he moved out of the room and into the quiet hallway. A quick glance at the clock on the wall told him that it was nearing five in the morning.
“Can I help you?” Asked a familiar-looking nurse.
“I need… I just need to… think somewhere,” John managed, his voice a choked imitation of his normal tone.
“Is Dean okay?” The woman stood, preparing to move around the desk, concern drawing lines around her eyes. John placed her now. Caroline. The nurse who’d been with them in the ER just days ago.
“No change, I just—“ John couldn’t continue.
Caroline’s face smoothed as if she understood. “The whole hospital is pretty quiet right now,” she said. “But… I always find the chapel on the fifth floor a good place to think.”
“Chapel?” He didn’t need God; he needed to focus.
“It’s peaceful,” Caroline shrugged. “And people rarely go there.”
“Fifth floor,” John nodded. “Thanks.”
“Need some help?”
John shook his head, maneuvering the wheelchair toward the elevator, and wheeling inside. Once on the fifth floor, he saw the sign indicating the direction for the chapel and made is way toward the small room. It was on the outer edge of the small hospital, the omnipresent stained-glass windows dark as night still clung to the outside world.
It was quiet inside, light provided by a series of small votive candles at the front of the room, and a small bulb hanging above the altar. John wheeled to the front, staring at the collection of religious markings with empty eyes. They meant nothing to him beyond their history and the power they contained in his battle against evil. They offered no comfort, no assurance that he wasn’t in this alone.
He wanted to pace, having so often found comfort in the repetitive motion. But his body denied him that comfort. He found himself working to steady his breathing, and gripped the edges of his wheels tighter.
“I wanna know why,” he suddenly blurted, jaw clenched, eyes up. “Why Mary? Why my boys?”
Silence was his only answer.
“If it’s me, then just take me. Let Dean go.”
Someone cleared their throat behind him. He turned to see an older man with the collar of a pastor easing himself into one of the six pews in the room.
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
He reminded John of Jim Murphy. But then every pastor reminded John of Jim. They all seemed to have the same air of calm and assurance of having some kind of answer that no one else seemed to possess. It pissed him off.
“I didn’t think anyone else would be here,” John offered. “Didn’t realize the hospital was big enough for its own pastor.”
The man huffed out a sad laugh. “Oh, I’m not with the hospital. At least, not officially,” he amended. “My wife, you see. She’s…” The man swallowed, then glanced at the altar. “She’ll be going home soon.”
John looked away. “I’m sorry.”
They sat in the quiet of the chapel for awhile, both trapped with their own thoughts and memories. John stared at the warming colors of the stained glass as the sun rose, illuminating the room.
“I don’t mean to pry,” the pastor said, drawing John from his reverie. “But I couldn’t help but overhear you as I entered.”
John studied the floor, preparing to rebuke anything the man had to say.
“And I would offer that God always forgives, no matter the sin. All you need do is ask.”
John looked up, glaring at the pale face and sad eyes of the pastor. “No offense, Padre,” he snapped. “But I don’t need God’s forgiveness. I need his help.”
The pastor lifted a shoulder. “Sometimes to get one, you have to ask for the other.”
John shook his head, gripping the wheels of his chair once more, preparing to move toward the door. “God’s never bothered to listen before,” he said sullenly. “Don’t know why he’d start now.”
Now that one of his boys was trapped inside his own body and the other was so far away John didn’t know if he could ever get them back. Now that John was weak and wounded and unable to fight. Now that he was broken down enough evil could win.
“Maybe you simply need to remove the hold of the world,” the pastor said, standing up. “I find that when I can’t find my way to God, it’s because I’ve let the hand of the world keep me down.”
John froze. His breath literally stalled in his lungs. “What… what did you say?”
The pastor stopped his slow retreat to look back. “I said that you need to remove—“
“No, no… the part about the hand,” John whispered, watching as the colors from the window danced across the pastor’s face.
“I’ve let the hand of the world keep me down.”
“Oh, son of a bitch,” John breathed. “John, you fuckin’ idiot.”
“I’m sorry?” the pastor blinked.
“Not you, Padre,” John wheeled down the aisle, forcing the pastor to step aside. “I think you just saved my kid’s life.”
John didn’t wait to see how the shocked pastor absorbed that bit of news; he headed to the elevator and returned as quickly as he could to Dean’s floor. As he passed the nurse’s station, he saw Caroline speaking with another nurse.
“Hey!” Caroline looked up at the sound of his voice. “What day is it?”
“Uh… Monday,” she replied.
“The date!” John demanded.
“The 15th,” she clarified, frowning. “What’s the matter?”
“I need you to get Gus Spencer. I need to talk to him,” John said.
“He’s here!” Caroline exclaimed, looking more confused than ever. “He’s waiting in your room.”
“Fantastic,” John exclaimed, and wheeled himself down the hall. When he entered the room he saw Gus sitting on the chair next to Dean’s bed, his normally tanned features pale and pinched, a hand pressed gently against his chest. “Gus!”
Gus turned and started to stand up as John wheeled closer.
“John, I am so sorry,” Gus said, wincing and sitting back down. He looked at Dean. “This… this is all my fault, I—“
“Shut up,” John ordered. “Listen, I need your help. This hunt ain’t over.”
“What? But, I thought—“
“Look,” John wheeled over to Dean’s bedside. He pointed to the angry, red burn on Dean’s chest. “You see that?”
“A hand-print, right?”
Gus frowned looking closer. “Yeah… yeah, it could be.”
“It is!” John exclaimed. “That bitch touched him in the fire. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before.”
“What are you—“
“He’s dying, man,” John snapped at Gus. “He’s dying because she touched him. Because we didn’t finish the job.”
“Listen, John, you need to know something,” Gus said, waving his hands at John. He stood stiffly and moved around the end of Dean’s bed, facing John’s wheelchair. “I went to see my mother.”
“That doesn’t matter right now—“
“Listen,” Gus implored. “After I heard about… about what happened in the building, I went to see her. She told me Kwaiya had come several months ago, asking for her help. He told her that his mother had returned and that she had asked him to avenge her death. My mother actually used those words,” Gus shook his head in disbelief. “I haven’t heard Kwaiya say more than ten words his whole life, so my money’s on some editorializing liberties here. Anyway… she told me that she gave him a ritual.” Gus looked sick, and thrust his hand out against the wall for balance. “She gave him the ritual for summoning the Kappa.”
“You saying… did she...”
Gus closed his eyes and looked down. “I don’t know. I don’t know what she did. She wouldn’t say. But I know this: she knew what the Kappa did and she knew who Kwaiya was.”
John was quiet a moment. “I honestly can’t believe Kwaiya is responsible for the deaths of those kids,” he said finally. “He’s done nothing but help us. Help Dean.”
“If he is…” Gus looked at John with tragic eyes. “Then so is she.”
John simply met the man’s gaze, saying nothing.
“I have to tell Bonner,” Gus choked out. “Those families deserve to know.”
“Know what, exactly?” John challenged. “That your mother, who believes in Japanese lore, gave a ritual to the son of a murdered witch, and the witch’s ghost gave him the power to summon a creature that killed four children?”
Gus swallowed, pressing his hand against his chest. “Well, when you put it that way…”
“I agree,” John said, “that we need to tell Bonner about Kwaiya, but… when I saw him get out of the building… his back was on fire. He may not have made it.”
“We’re talking about a kid that was beaten and nearly drowned and survived twenty years with his attackers walking free,” Gus reminded him. “He’s nothing if not a survivor.”
“Okay, you’ve got a point,” John conceded. “But that doesn’t matter to me right now. Right now, I need your help. You gotta get me back out to that building site.”
“What?” Gus exclaimed. “You’re going to leave him?” He gestured to Dean.
“Brooke’s remains didn’t burn up in that fire,” John told him. “I think she’s determined to take Dean.”
“But… why?” Gus looked at John, confused.
John looked at Dean. “Because… he’s my kid. And hers was taken from her.”
“But, Dean had nothing to do with her death,” Gus protested.
“Not her physical one,” John said, looking askance at Gus. “Besides… neither did those other children. Her spirit is just looking to cause pain — the kind of pain she was feeling when she died. I think we crossed over the line between retribution and reason when Teresa Bowing was killed.”
Gus rubbed his face. “I’m so glad I never had kids,” he muttered. “This whole thing is just… just messed up.” He sighed, then after a moment, he lifted his eyes to John’s. “Okay, I’ll help you.”
“Thanks,” John sighed. “I’m going to need—“
“But you’re not going anywhere,” Gus interrupted.
John started as if Dean had spoken, so familiar were the words. “Listen, Gus, I don’t think—“
“I agree,” came a voice from the doorway. “You stay with Dean.”
John looked past Gus to see Chester standing in the entrance of the room. “Doesn’t anyone knock in this town?”
“I’ll help,” Chester said, coming up to stand next to Gus. “What are we doing?”
“What are you doing here?” Gus asked.
Chester reached up and scratched at his shoulder, the gesture revealing a myriad of tattoos as his sleeve fell back over his bony wrist. “Came to check on him.” He nodded toward Dean.
“He’s not doing too good, man,” Gus said, worried eyes resting on Dean’s bruised face. “But I’m getting ready to fix that.”
John looked at the thin man, then darted his eyes back to Gus. “You guys don’t know what you’re getting into, here.”
He watched Chester’s face as the man’s eyes wandered the room, then landed on Dean. He found it remarkable — he’d not yet seen Chester actually look at anything directly.
“I know he’s a good kid,” Chester said. “And bad things happened to him because he came to this town.”
“And I know part of the reason those bad things happened was because of my family,” Gus interjected. “Anything else…”
“Is just details,” Chester finished.
Their certainty gave him pause. He knew he was in no shape to do this job. He knew he’d risk the whole operation — and with it Dean’s life — if he pushed the issue. He knew that sending these two to finish the job was the most logical choice. But his entire being resisted. His skin seemed to shrink-wrap his bones as he took a breath, forcing himself to give in.
He looked Gus square in the face. “You have to dig up her bones — all of them. You have to pour salt over them. And then you have to burn them. Until they’re nothing but ash.”
“Heavy,” Chester commented dryly.
“You got it,” Gus nodded. “When?”
“As soon as fucking possible,” John said, looking back over at Dean.
“You ready?” Gus looked over at Chester.
“I was born ready,” Chester replied.
“Wait,” John called. “She’s not going to go quietly. Today’s the 15th, the anniversary of her death. No matter what we did on Saturday, she’ll have plenty of strength today.”
Chester pulled out his cell phone.
“What, you’ve got people that can help protect you from an angry spirit, too?” John scoffed.
Chester lifted a wiry eyebrow. “You think Kwaiya raised himself, man?”
Gus made a strange noise in the back of his throat, somewhere between a gasp and a cough. “You’re calling the Quileute tribe?”
Chester put the phone to his ear. “Not the whole tribe,” he said, turning away. “Just one of them.” In moments, they could hear him mumbling quietly in a language neither Gus or John understood.
Gus blinked. “Holy shit.”
“This a bad thing?” John asked.
“I just… the Quileute’s, man, they’re bad ass. There’s a reason most of the town avoids them.“
“People tend to fear what they don’t understand,” John said, unconcerned about the mysteries that apparently surrounded the local Native Americans.
“It’s not just a matter of not understanding them,” Gus protested, squaring his shoulders in protest of John’s unintended slight. “They’ve got some serious mojo.”
“Define… mojo,” John asked, wishing like hell Dean were awake to hear this.
“Magic, man,” Gus said. “I don’t know what it is… and I don’t want to know.”
“They’re gonna meet us at the site,” Chester said, closing his phone.
“That was quick,” John commented.
Chester lifted a shoulder. “Doesn’t take long to ask for help.”
John looked down. “Thank you,” he said toward his lap.
“Dean would do the same for us,” Gus said. “No doubt in my mind.”
With that, the two men turned and left. John pushed himself toward the head of his son’s bed, staring at Dean’s pale face. With a shaking hand, he gently traced the bruises that framed his boy’s eye.
“Mary, if you’re watching this,” he said, not taking his eyes from Dean’s face. “I’m sorry. I’m gonna get him back. I’m gonna get him back…”
He waited for the quiet nod, the flash of memory, even the imagined hand against his cheek. But Mary had turned away from him, it seemed. All that was left was the digitized beat of his son’s heart and the heated skin beneath his fingers.
Gus and Chester had been gone for nearly half an hour when Dean’s heart began to slow. John wasn’t aware of it at first; he’d simply been watching Dean breathe, his mind timing out the mission he’d entrusted to the two men. Soon, though, he realized that the space between the constant beeping was lengthening. It wasn’t overt; not enough to bring the nurses running.
But John felt it. And he knew what was happening.
“Aw, no,” John shook his head, leaning closer to Dean. “No, you don’t. You don’t get him. Not him.”
He pressed the flat of his palm against Dean’s shoulder, his other hand just below the burn on Dean’s chest. The skin beneath his fingers was cooler, John realized. He felt Dean’s breath speed up as the rise and fall of his son’s chest increased.
“Hold on, kiddo,” John whispered. “Just hang in there, okay? Keep fighting. You keep fighting.” His throat tightened and he found himself working to force out enough air to form the words he needed to say, the words Dean needed to hear. “I know you, Dean. You won’t let her win. You’re too strong for that.”
And with a whisper, words came to him in Mary’s voice, their insistence heavy in his ear repeating in his head until his tongue tickled with the need to say them. He pulled his lips against his teeth, resistant at first, but her voice was relentless and suddenly John found himself leaning as close to Dean’s ear as his broken body would allow.
“There are places I remember,” John started, his voice a low rumble, rough around the edges, soft at first. “All my life, though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone, and some remain.”
He could hear music.
It wasn’t very loud; it wasn’t coming from a radio. It sounded almost like someone was singing. Setting aside the now empty mirror, Dean pushed himself to his feet, his legs shaky. He looked around the destroyed room. The music wasn’t coming from here.
Tentatively, he moved toward the next room and looked through the doorway. Everything was back where it belonged. Even Sam was there, sitting on the stool in front of the desk, dressed as he’d been when Dean had first seen him: jeans and a blue T-shirt with a turtle on the front. Across his lap was an acoustic guitar.
“Was that you?” Dean asked as he moved into the next room, distantly registering the fact that seeing Sam again didn’t trigger quite the amount of relief he’d thought it would.
“Was what me?”
“I thought I heard… singing…” But it hadn’t been Sam’s voice. Of that he was certain. It had sounded more like… Dad.
“Dude, you know I can’t sing,” Sam replied.
“Yeah, but,” Dean pointed. “You’re holding a guitar.”
“Huh,” Sam looked down. “Go figure.”
Shaking his head as if to clear it, Dean narrowed his eyes at Sam. “Why’d you come back?”
“I, uh… didn’t know I’d left,” Sam replied, his eyebrows disappearing beneath his hairline, his hazel eyes guileless.
Dean rubbed his chest, working to ease an ache that had grown harder to ignore. “I’ve about had it with this dream crap,” he muttered. “None of it makes any sense.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re here, you’re not, you’re young, you’re old.” Dean scratched at the back of his head. “You say you’re basically me, except you ask me questions I can’t answer. I’m stuck in the same damn room where we started this damn life. And I can’t figure out why I keep seeing that turtle.”
“This turtle?” Sam gestured toward his shirt with the neck of the guitar.
“You see any other turtles around here?” Dean snapped.
“Maybe it’s because of the hunt.”
Dean blinked. “The hunt?”
“The one that got you stuck here,” Sam clarified.
“I thought you said you didn’t know anything about the turtle,” Dean accused, narrowing his eyes.
“Well, I didn’t then,” Sam shrugged.
“You’re right, though,” Dean sighed, pressing his hand against his chest. “The turtle showed up after the Kappa beat us to hell back on that beach. Only… first time I saw it… it was dead.”
“It’s a T-shirt now,” Sam pointed out helpfully.
Dean rolled his eyes at his brother. A low hum started buzzing in his ears, building pressure in his head as it grew louder. “I’ve seen it alive, though. In this room. Or, y’know,” he stretched his arms out in either direction, pointing to the opposing doors, “those rooms.”
“So, maybe it’s telling you something… like it’s your animal guide or something,” Sam shrugged, picking at the guitar strings and drawing out a tangled, discordant tune. “Maybe it’s telling you… I don’t know… that the answer’s been in front of you the whole time. It was dead, now it’s alive…”
Dean dropped his hand from his chest and ticked his chin to the side. “Keep talking.”
Sam folded his lips down in a shrug. “Okay, so… who do you know that was dead and then wasn’t dead?”
“Andrew Marcus,” Dean replied immediately.
“So… why is Andrew a turtle?”
If his head wasn’t buzzing so loudly, Dean might’ve laughed at that question. “In the fire,” he started, his voice sounding strange, as if it were coming from somewhere outside of his body, “just before the floor fell in… I was gonna tell Dad that Kwaiya summoned the Kappa and killed those kids.” He rubbed at the ache in his chest, once more pronounced. “It was the only thing that made sense.”
“But it doesn’t anymore?” Sam set the guitar aside and stood up, his bare feet making a strange sh-sh-sh sound as he shuffled across the bare floor to the rug where Dean stood.
“I don’t know,” Dean shook his head. “I don’t know what makes sense… Dad said—“ The ache thrummed a sharp beat and his heart echoed. “—ah! Damn.” He took a steadying breath. “Dad said the spirit couldn’t be strong enough to summon the Kappa… she would need a human to do the ritual. But… Kwaiya’s… Sam, he’s like a little kid. A little kid that’s wicked strong, but still… the beating he took when he was young… it changed him.”
“Maybe he was just playing it off,” Sam proposed. “Biding his time.”
Dean shook his head, and the world spun suddenly, crazily around him. “He would’ve had… so many chances…” He couldn’t finish the thought. He thrust out a hand for balance and sighed when Sam reached back, grabbing him.
“You’re bleeding again,” Sam said softly. “Why are you always bleeding?”
Dean looked down. His T-shirt was turning pink, the pink soaking through to red. He felt no pain accompanying it, though. And he didn’t know if he should be afraid. He didn’t know if he should feel anything anymore.
“I don’t know,” he said, his voice barely audible. “I don’t know how to stop.”
Sam looked beyond him to the room he’d just left. “You made a mess.”
Dean nodded, watching the blood seep down into the waistband of his jeans. “I think I kinda… fell apart.”
“Why?” Sam asked.
Dean shrugged. “I forgot what held me together, I guess.”
“Do you remember now?” Sam’s voice grew deeper, heavier, aged with time his brother hadn’t yet seen. Dean felt Sam’s fingers grip, tighten, hold.
“What is that?” Dean slurred, looking around for the source of the voice he could now hear inside the incessant hum.
“What?” Sam’s now-deep voice asked.
Dean looked at his brother, noting how Sam’s hazel eyes were darkening to brown, changing, becoming heavy with sin and sadness. “Seriously, you don’t hear that?”
“Hear what, Dean?”
Dean looked to the next room. “I swear I hear someone singing.”
John felt Dean’s muscles suddenly begin to tremble beneath his touch. He raised his eyes to his son’s face. “Dean?”
The monitor began to speed up, the beeps becoming an echo of John’s own pounding heart. He heard the scurry of feet in the hall and knew he had seconds until the nurses and Dr. Rice swarmed them. He anchored his grip on Dean’s arm, just below his son’s bandaged wrist.
“What’s happening?” Dr. Rice demanded as she put her stethoscope in her ears and pressed the circular face to Dean’s chest, her eyes on the heart monitor affixed to the wall above John’s head.
John didn’t — couldn’t — answer her. In his mind, the final lyrics of the song whispered in Mary’s voice: in my life, I’ve loved you more.
Dr. Rice began to call out orders. John turned away from her, staring at Dean.
“All right, Son,” he said, a comfortable edge to his voice. “We’ve tried it your mother’s way. Now you listen to me.”
Dean moved from the room where Sam stood and stepped into the next white room, devoid of life—all life. No Sam, no turtle, no singing.
“What the hell?” he started, but was forced to stop as the ache in his bleeding chest became a burn, as if his heart were on fire. “Son of a…”
Staggering forward, he grabbed the doorjamb on the far wall, leaving a bloody handprint in his wake.
Dean was shaking.
The quiet tremble from before had increased to a full-body, seizure-like shake. Dr. Rice’s orders started to include words that John recognized as drugs.
“Wait!” He yelled. “Just wait.”
“John, your son—“ Dr. Rice started.
“No, he’s fighting… just wait!”
He looked up at her. “Do not touch him,” he growled. He knew what was happening. Gus, Chester, and their Quileute friends were waging war—and winning. And Brooke’s hold was becoming desperate. “He’s gonna do this.”
He began to stagger, the room around him seeming to bend and fade, the white shifting to gray, the bed shimmering and disappearing. Disoriented, Dean turned to face the doorway he’d just come through only to find it was gone. There was nothing there — no doorway, no wall. Just… nothing.
He was lost. This had been his home at one time. This had been the place he’d come to look for Sam. This had been the place he’d hidden when the pain had become too much. And it was dissolving around him like rock salt in sea water.
He made his way through the shifting room, feeling drunk, dizzy, and fell to his knees on the other side of the doorway.
He needed to get out of there.
He needed help.
“Open your eyes, Dean. That’s an order!”
John was leaning forward, aware of the medical personnel crowded into the small space around Dean’s bed, aware of the tremors that shook through his son’s body, aware of the heat that radiated from the burn on Dean’s chest.
He captured all of that and shoved it back, centering all efforts on one thing: anchoring Dean. Bringing him back.
“You are one of the best goddamn soldiers I’ve ever met, Son. You listen to me,” John barked, digging deep and pulling the order from his gut. “You open your eyes. Do it!”
The room froze. It was as if all breath was sucked from the room and they all hung suspended in a vacuum.
“Dean?” John whispered, moving his hand from Dean’s arm to clumsily grasp Dean’s reaching fingers.
“Get me out…” Dean replied, his words slightly slurred, barely audible.
“I’m here, Son. I’ve got you.”
“You can do this, Dean. Open your eyes. Don’t you let her keep you.”
He watched as Dean’s eyes rolled beneath his closed lids, as his brow folded, a line bisecting his brow. He leaned closer, his face directly above his son’s. Dean’s chest heaved, his breath hammering through barely-parted lips as the effort to escape took its toll.
“You can do this,” John repeated, his words clear. “Come on back to me, Dean.”
The room flinched as Dean raised a hand and clapped it with a resounding smack on the side of John’s face, holding his father still. As John watched, his body tense, Dean pried open heavy eyes and looked directly at him.
“There you are,” John replied, ignoring the tears that now blurred his vision. “Took you long enough.”
Dean blinked rapidly, breath hammering through his nose, the heart monitor echoing loudly in the quiet room. “You’re here,” Dean whispered. “You’re here.”
“Where else would I be?” John replied, easing back into his chair, his back muscles throbbing in protest from his efforts. Dean’s fingers skipped and skidding along his face as he pulled away. He let that hand fall to Dean’s side, but didn’t release his son’s other hand.
Dr. Rice’s hands seemed to flow over Dean like mercury, checking this, verifying that. She called out more orders to her ever-ready staff and Dean lay still under her ministrations, seemingly unable to take it all in. Finally satisfied that Dean wasn’t going to expire before her eyes, Dr. Rice took a step back, and father and son sighed in unison.
Dean looked around, his eyes bleary and slightly confused. “Is Sam here?” he asked in a thick voice. Dr. Rice held a cup of water with a straw to his lips.
John didn’t even flinch at the question. “No, Son. He’s not here.”
Dean drank deeply, closing his eyes as he did so, then opened them wide. “Weird. I coulda sworn…”
“Remarkable,” Dr. Rice broke in. John looked over, too drained to ask. She was staring at Dean’s chest. John looked down and saw that the angry, seeping wound had closed, leaving simply a sunburned-like handprint in its wake. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
John licked his lips. “I’ll explain it to you sometime,” he said.
The phone between the beds rang and two of the nurses cried out in surprise, then retreated with nervous laughter. Her eyes still on Dean, Dr. Rice picked up the receiver. She frowned, then handed the phone to John.
“It’s Gus Spencer.”
John met Dean’s eyes, promising him an explanation with a silent nod. “Good job,” John said into the phone before Gus could speak.
The contractor was short of breath. “Dean’s okay?”
“He’s awake,” John confirmed. “And the handprint is healing.”
“Hot damn,” Gus exclaimed. John heard him yell to someone nearby. “It worked!”
“You two okay?”
“We’re fine,” Gus replied. “Not ready to make a habit of this, though.”
“Yeah, I can understand that.”
“Got someone here who wants to talk to you.”
John looked at Dean, reassured as his son’s green eyes stayed steady on his face. “Who?”
“Kwaiya’s Quileute father,” Gus said.
“Oh, yeah?” John pulled his lower lip in against his teeth, feeling the tickle of whiskers brushagainst his upper lip. “He know where Kwaiya is?”
“He may not, but I do,” came a voice from behind John.
He turned to see a gray-faced Sheriff Bonner. “Gus, hang tight a sec.”
Bonner looked down at the hat he was twisting in his hands. “I’ve got Matt Lawson down at my jail,” he said to the shock of all Brinnon townspeople present. “He apparently tried to finish the job that his brother started twenty years ago.”
“Where’s Kwaiya?” Dean asked, his ravaged voice demanding the attention of the distraught-looking sheriff.
“He’s at the jail, too,” Bonner said.
“Is he dead?” Dean said.
John looked at his son, shock and disbelief silencing his need to protest such an injustice.
Bonner shook his head, but John knew something had happened. Something bad.
“Wait,” John said. “Just… just wait. Gus?”
“I heard part of that,” Gus replied, his voice bereft.
“All of you get back here. On the double.”
Gus’ Yes, Sir was lost as John passed the phone back to Dr. Rice.
“I’m sorry, I’m going to have to insist that we table this for later when Dean—“
“No!” John and Dean’s unified protest cut off Dr. Rice’s statement.
Dean looked at John, using the anchor of their still-joined fingers to punctuate his sentence. “Dad, I need to know.”
John nodded. He shot a look at Dr. Rice who glared reproachfully back for almost a full minute before relenting and motioning to the doorway with her head. She pointed at John.
“You owe me details, John,” she snapped.
John nodded wearily, releasing Dean’s hand and rubbing his face as the door swung shut behind the exiting medical staff.
John looked at his son, dizzy with the relief of just hearing Dean speak.
“This was all you, Dean,” John protested. “This was your fight.”
Dean pressed his lips flat, his gaze hitting nothing. After a moment he looked up slowly, as if the lashes that seemed to stitch his eyes to his face each weighed a hundred pounds.
“I wouldn’t have made it without you,” Dean said, the frank honesty in his gaze becoming John’s undoing. He had to look away. Dean continued. “I heard you, y’know.”
“Heard me what?”
“I heard you… singing… to me.”
John didn’t reply. His throat was too tight. Words shouted in desperate anger days before seemed to build and resonate in his memory, spreading and growing until John seemed to feel them like physical blows, the internal beating beginning with if you walk out that door, don’t you come back and ending with until I say otherwise.
“Dad,” Dean was saying, his voice drawing him back, his eyes heavy on John’s. “Sam was there.”
“Wherever I was,” Dean said, licking his lips sluggishly. John was too far away to hand him the water glass once more, but Dean continued. “I miss him.”
“I know you do, Son.”
“You do, too.”
“Dad… in the fire… before you showed up.” Dean’s eyes were growing visibly heavy as he spoke, but John watched with admiration as he forced them open. “Cole said that family stuck up for each other… that the town was a family.”
“Yeah,” John said softly. “Bonner said pretty much the same thing.”
“But…” Dean continued, “Cole killed those men because he thought they’d betrayed his father somehow… and he tried to beat his own brother to death.”
John nodded again, watching Dean watch him.
“We can’t be that kind of a family,” Dean concluded.
“We’re not!” John exclaimed in surprise.
“We could be, though. As soon as we stop… needing each other,” Dean slurred, his eyes drifting shut, then darting open once more. “We could be.”
John looked down. “I’ve been thinking, Dean.”
John dropped his voice a bit, secretly hoping Dean would sleep through his next sentence. “Maybe when all this is over… when we’re healed up… maybe we head south… look in on Sam.”
“Yeah,” Dean mumbled. “Yeah...”
John lifted a tired, heavy hand and rested it on Dean’s gently fisted one. “Rest, Son,” he said. “Rest while you can.”
He swallowed hard as Dean turned his hand to grasp his father’s in an almost-unconscious gesture of connection.
a/n: I know, I know… but I promise everything has an explanation before the end. Perhaps not the one some of you want, but it’s what’s been planned since the beginning of the story. I’ll brace myself for your thoughts.
I’ve had a few people help me keep things tidy in this story—before and after posting. My own impatience makes it so that many of you read a typo-laden chapter, but thanks to friends (you know who you are), I can go back in a fix some errors. I thank you for patiently reading, regardless of mistakes, and I hope you come back to see this through to the end.
In My Life by The Beatles
Chapter 7 can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/72229.html>