Chapter Eight: Strangeland
"Can I ask why you all seem so calm about this?" Dean said as he took the coffee Morgan offered him, "I mean, not that I'm complaining, but… usually civilians put up more of a fight than this."
Rossi answered, smiling grimly, "We hunt monsters in men's clothing almost everyday, it doesn't take a great stretch of the imagination to accept the existence of real monsters."
Dean shrugged and took a sip of his coffee. Sam was sitting beside him with his own cup, staring rather intently into its dark depths.
"How do you know about monsters?" JJ asked, twisting a lock of blonde hair around her finger nervously.
Dean set his cup of coffee down and ran a hand through his short-cropped hair.
"It's kind of a long story…" he hedged.
"We've got time," Rossi said, glancing up at the clock above the whiteboard.
Dean glanced at the faces of the men and women of the BAU team and sighed.
"I guess you should know the story- the real story," he admitted.
Of course Dean wasn't going to give them everything, there were many things in his and Sam's life that didn't need to be shared, but he'd at least let the BAU know how and why they were hunters.
"When we were kids," Dean began softly, making eye contact with each agent, "A demon killed our mother and our Dad vowed to get revenge against it."
Agent Hotchner nodded, "That was the night of the fire, right? I read about it in your file."
"Yeah," Dean said, "That was our first encounter with the supernatural."
For the next half-hour Dean talked, giving the agents the revised version of his and Sam's lives, keeping it as vague as possible.
Afterwards the team sat silent, stunned.
Dean looked over at Sam. He hoped he had done the right thing by telling the team their history. He had made sure to leave out the most important parts- his death and resurrection, his kick-off of the Apocalypse, Sam letting Lucifer out and his subsequent trip Downstairs- and only told what the agents needed to know.
"So there are more hunters like you?" JJ asked and Dean nodded, "All over the world. Trying to keep average folks safe."
"It's hard to believe that something like this could be kept secret for so long," Rossi said in awe.
Dean smirked, "Yeah well, most hunters aren't the friendliest of people. We like to keep to ourselves."
He glanced over at Sam who had not taken one drink of his coffee, the beverage now cold.
Dean reached out and turned his brother's head so he could get a better look at his face.
Shit, Dean swore silently at Sam's red-rimmed, wet eyes.
Dean gripped Sam's head, keeping his brother's eyes focused on him.
"It's okay, Sammy," he murmured quietly.
"Dean? Is he alright?" Morgan asked but the hunter ignored him.
"What is it? C'mon," Dean continued, "Just take some deep breaths."
Sam pulled away from Dean, "I- I'm okay."
The younger brother stood shakily but Dean was not relieved. His sibling's body language told him Sam was not well.
"Sam," Dean said cautiously before his brother flinched at something unseen and his legs gave out from underneath him.
Dean and Morgan moved at the same time. Dean made it to his brother first though and pulled Sam up to lean his back against his chest.
Morgan dropped to the floor, gripping Sam's legs tightly to try and stop their thrashing.
Dean had both arms wrapped around Sam's torso, pinning his sibling's arms to his sides so he couldn't stop the cries that were coming from his brother.
"Shhh," Dean soothed, his heart beating frantically, "It's okay. I've got ya. Shhh."
The door to the conference room opened and a startled-looking officer poked his head in, "What's going on?"
Hotchner snapped into action, "epileptic fit," he said and slammed the door shut.
A horribly long two minutes passed before Sam quieted, leaning heavily against Dean's chest, confused and shaking.
Morgan backed away, keeping a wary eye on the two Winchesters.
No one moved until Dean was able to help Sam up and back into his chair, the younger man slumping over, one hand resting on his brow to keep his head up.
The eldest Winchester looked at the alarmed expressions of the agents.
"I don't suppose you'll believe Sam just had a seizure?"
No one replied, so Dean sighed.
"Can someone get him some water?"
JJ moved first, leaving the conference room and closing the door behind her.
"Sam was… hurt… by one of the fuckers we hunt," Dean explained, feeling the anger creep into his voice, "He was hurt bad and he gets… flashbacks sometimes…"
Rossi nodded, "I understand. I was in 'Nam. Saw my share of PTSD when I came back."
"Are you getting help for it?" Hotchner asked and Dean bit his lip before shaking his head.
JJ returned with a bottle of water, handing it to Dean before going to stand beside Emily.
Dean twisted the cap off the bottle and held the drink out to his brother.
The young man looked up and took the offered beverage, taking a couple of sips before setting it down.
"We can't," Dean continued, "Not many people know about monsters and if we went to the hospital, well…"
"You're afraid they'd take Sam to a mental health facility," Reid finished and Dean nodded.
No one said anything for a long minute.
"Why don't you go back to your motel?" Hotchner suggested, "Get some rest and we'll call when we have more information."
Dean wanted to protest but then he looked down at Sam. His brother needed to sleep.
"Okay," he stood and shook the Unit Chief's hand, "Thank you."
Silently, Dean gripped Sam's shoulder, and the younger man stood.
Without say another word, the Winchesters walked out of the police station, the eyes of the BAU team on them as they went.
Reid looked over at Morgan as the other agent sat down, sighing and running a hand over his shaved head.
"What the hell just happened?" the dark-skinned agent asked.
"I feel like my whole world's been turned upside down and inside out," JJ commented, wrapping her arms around her chest.
"How can you be so calm about this?" Emily asked Hotch and the senior agent looked surprised.
"You didn't even question what Dean said," JJ agreed, "Not once."
The Unit Chief ran a hand through his dark hair.
"I don't have any reason to question Dean."
Emily narrowed her eyes, "Uh huh, we'll believe that."
"Something must have happened to you," Reid guessed, "Didn't it?"
Hotch shook his head, "No, I just…"
"Aaron," Rossi spoke up, "I know that look. You've got a secret."
"Tell us," JJ suggested, "What was it?"
Hotchner's eyes darkened with sadness.
"I had a friend when I was younger, Tyler Flannigan," he began, "We played together all the time… for hours. We were neighbours."
The Unit Chief paused, trying to keep his emotions in check.
"It was December, just after Christmas, I remember because Tyler was so excited to get this new toboggan," he continued, smiling at the memory.
"He promised we could play with it the next day and I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I kept getting up to go look out my bedroom window at his- they faced each other- and I saw this… thing… I didn't know what it was. It looked like an old ratty blanket or something."
No one spoke. There was silence in the room as the agent told his story.
"It was floating in front of Tyler's window, hovering there. I… watched it open his window and slip inside."
JJ put her hand up to her mouth in shock.
"I was scared so I ran to my bed and pulled the covers over my head. I tried to tell myself that I had just imagined it. The next morning though, when I went to Tyler's, his parents said he was too sick to play."
Hotch sucked in a shaky breath, his normally calm demeanor cracking.
"I went home and played with Sean instead. The next day when I went back to Tyler's, his parents said he was in the hospital."
The man stopped for a long moment, saying nothing.
"He never did recover," he finished, "He slipped into a coma and died. None of the doctors could explain it."
"Oh Hotch," Emily said sadly.
"That's not the worst thing," the agent said, "His little sister came down with the same thing and passed as well. After that we moved away. I think my parents were afraid."
Hotchner looked up, "I don't know how I knew but I was always certain that thing I'd seen that night was responsible for Tyler's death. I never said anything though, who'd believe me?"
The rest of the team looked at their leader with sad, sympathetic expressions.
"I… think something happened to my sister," JJ spoke up, shocking everyone.
They all knew that the blonde agent's sibling had committed suicide but no one had ever asked about it out of respect for JJ's privacy.
The next few hours the team members spent telling stories of their experiences with the supernatural. It was astonishing how close each of them had come to the Winchester's hidden world without even knowing it.
Chapter title comes from a Green Day song of the same name.
Thanks to psylocke23, LeeMarieJack, emebalia, L.A.H.H, FlyingLovegood123, SamDeanLover28, and DjinnAtwood for reviewing.
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