Merry Christmas, happy second day of Chanukah, and happy Boxing Day to in really early time zones!
This story came about because sapphireswimming is literally the sweetest person ever and decided to end a year of a lot of ups and downs leading to very little communication between us by gifting me a Superfalls fic yesterday, and I promised her a review when I got home for the holidays but figured what's better than a review? A continuation fic! So thank you sapphire for being the best internet friend I could ask for and thank you readers for continuing to look into my work and this crossover despite the small size and long hiatuses of both my archive and the crossover as a whole, and hope you can all have happy holidays with those who matter most :)
To make it clear, this is a follow up fic to sapphireswimming's oneshot Never Mind All That. Enjoy!
It turns out that they couldn't get into the motel after all.
The drive there took four tries and at least 25 minutes, given that the town the Winchester's wandering led them to (Gravity Falls, according to a sign they passed on their way in) had unexpectedly labyrinthine roads for a place this far out West. Twice the road was completely blocked off by construction equipment (which had Dean cursing the civil engineer behind this backwater town) and the third time the empty road leading that way out of the town center looked so beat up that Dean just turned the Impala around rather than risking the wear and tear (after sharing a meaningful glance with Sam that could only translate into what the hell kind of something did this?). Eventually, however, the boys pulled up to the worn down motel building Susan must've been talking about a couple miles out of town the opposite way the Winchester's approached from.
As soon as the brothers pulled in the parking lot they were prepared to sleep the night in the Impala. The motel clearly didn't have the space, what with a parking lot full of trucks surely taking occupancy in half the rooms and a giant crater from what appeared to be a meteor strike dead on the building surely destroying the other. It was becoming increasingly clear why Susan thought the owner could use the business: that kind of damage wasn't cheap to fix and that kind of motel wasn't going to be insured… at least not against whatever that was.
All of it only lent more curiosity and terror about what Susan meant by "never mind all that."
The owner clearly was also desperate to keep his business going, or maybe, looking back on it, the people here just happened to be the world's nicest backwater locals. The motel owner, the same Ron they had been recommended at the restaurant, came out to cheerfully greet them in the parking lot when they made no move to get out of the car, and started throwing a fuss when he heard the brothers were planning on staying the night in there.
"I own a motel for a reason! I can't just let two people spend an uncomfortable night in their car!" He threw his arms in the air at the Winchesters, gesticulating even more dramatically at Sam's height when they both stepped out of the car to continue the conversation.
Dean's eyebrow twitched at the hint of an insult to the Impala as Sam stepped in. "No, no it's fine. We heard you might have vacancy but you're very clearly full. We're a little tight on cash anyways, so we're used to sleeping under the stars."
"Oh, who recommended the place? Lazy Susan?" Sam and Dean sent each other a look and a shrug at the nickname, the woman seemed busy enough in the diner but the lazy eye could also be behind it, and nodded at the motel owner.
That only seemed to make the balding man more flustered. "Susan was trying to find you two a place to stay the night and we're full? Oh, that makes this even worse! Come inside and take whatever room or bed I can scrounge up for you two! Free of charge, I insist!"
Seeing that neither Winchester was making a move into the motel Ron tried to casually grab Dean by the arm and pull him towards the building, which had about the same impact as leaning against a brick wall and hoping it'll budge. The elder Winchester was nonplussed.
"Uh, no offense man," Dean gestured out towards the hole torn straight through the building, "but I'm pretty sure we'd be sleeping under stars either way tonight."
"Never mind all that!" Ron brushed off with a wave of his hand, before turning and staring at his own motel as if he was taking it in for the first time. "Actually, now that you mention it this may not be the best place for you to stay. If it wasn't so late at night I would just send you on out towards the next motel about fifty miles down the way…"
It was nearing midnight, which wasn't so bad for the Winchesters, leading Dean to shrug and turn back to the car before Sam elbowed him and gestured towards the man who clearly wasn't done. A set of looks back and forth argued between Dean's reluctance to deal with all of this right now and Sam's suggestion that taking the locals up on their hospitality might give them a closer look at whatever's behind all that. A few bitchfaces and one tactically placed puppy dog eyes later and Dean huffed but stayed outside the car as Ron continued to think through potential options for the night.
"Susan clearly doesn't have the place to stay and Mayor Tyler's house is too small. The Northwest Manor's currently in the selling process, but I doubt the Northwests would let you two in regardless and McGucket doesn't have the deed yet. Manly Dan's home probably isn't safe, though you might fit in…" he sends the Winchesters an appraising glance and they gulp, "and normally I'd send you off to the Ramirez's but they're moving in and moving out and it's already cramped to begin with."
Dean sent a look at Sam that had both exasperation and confidence: they were likely being run through half the town at this rate.
"The Gleefuls used to have a spare room but now Gideon's out of jail, not to mention they already have enough going on with the cars and the tent and their kid's new friends moving in after the summer… that's it!" Ron turned back to the Winchesters, "the Mystery Shack right down Gopher Road had two twins living there over the summer, now that they're back in California there should be just enough space for guests for the night. A bit cramped but it'll work!"
"The Mystery Shack… isn't that the tourist trap Susan was talking about?" Dean asked.
"Yeah," Ron replied, "it's the biggest draw to Gravity Falls outside of trucks just passing through. Strange and mysterious things happen there all the time, you really can't miss it." He didn't have the same theatrical demeanor as Susan did, but somehow that made it more apprehensive. It was one thing to see a waitress trying to entice tourists with a haunted roadside attraction, it was another to see a friendly businessman sagely nod as if it was the real deal.
"They don't have a formal place for guests to stay as they generally don't offer overnight guests, but I'm sure if I give Stan Pines a call he won't mind making an exception. I wouldn't have thought of it even a month ago, but I'm convinced those twins made him finally go soft on us." A fond chuckle escaped the man, and it was obvious these kids were part of the town family. It was just another factor making Dean want to turn the car around and keep driving rather than stay the night.
It was one thing to spend the night in the Impala, or in yet another seedy motel bedroom.
It was another to spend it in the summertime bedroom of two siblings who had a stable childhood the Winchesters never did.
But neither brother said a word as Ron said goodbye and went inside with a promise to call the Mystery Shack to inform them of their stay. Sam reluctantly asked the motel owner if he wanted a number to call to confirm he made the reservation so they wouldn't be barging in the Mystery Shack if it's occupants were asleep or said no. Dean elbowed him in the ribs given their only phones were burners, but Ron waved them off and said not to worry about it, the call was mostly a formality. A minute later and they were on the road heading both out of town and towards this Mystery Shack.
"We can't just skip town on this one, Dean. There's clearly something going on and it's not like we can just come back the next day and investigate the town when half the residents think we were supposed to be sleeping over while passing through!"
"Yeah Sam, well all we know is that this whole freaking town is weird. And this Mystery Shack seems weirdest of all and what kind of lunatics not only let two random guys off the street stay at their house but would send them over to their neighbor's without permission?"
"So you're saying we can't stay… because they're too nice…"
"Dammit Sam I'm saying we don't just find nice strangers. We're not nice strangers and certainly not the kind you should be inviting into your kids' bedroom! All I'm saying is what if this Pines guy's a fugly? What if this whole town is a giant mess of fuglies because this whole thing's a mess."
Sam sent him a piercing glance, then looked back at the road. "Well, if that's the case then I don't see how this is all that different from all the other cases we've run. We never know exactly where the monster we're hunting is, and until we find out exactly where and what we're after we'll just be on guard the entire time. Even tonight at the Mystery Shack."
"'Still feels wrong," Dean grumbled under his breath. Sam couldn't help but agree.
The Impala pulled up outside the Mystery Shack a little after midnight.
Both Susan and Ron were at least right about the can't miss it thing: even in the dark the oddly shaped building with its huge sign stood out as the right location as soon as the headlights hit the building. Stepping out of the car and grabbing their clothes and weapons duffles respectively from the trunk, Sam and Dean made their way towards the gift shop door and exhibit entrance sign.
Light spilled into the lawn from an entrance further down the building as a door opened. Seeing a slightly hunched figure at the door the Winchesters realized that must be the front door to the residential establishment. The man gestured they come inside and stepped back to reveal an old man in only a beat up tshirt and a pair of boxers that had clearly seen better days.
"It's late. The shop entrance is all closed up. Come on inside and we'll talk about arrangements that crook Ron sold me into for the night."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Do you want us to leave? We can easily sleep in the car and we won't tell."
The man tapped his foot by the door and put his hands on his hips. "Is that what I just said? Sleep in a car like that and by the time you're my age you won't even have a back. Now get inside before the bugs come and take your beds in the attic. It's late and I'm not getting paid for this."
"Heh, hope you don't mind the glitter in the room. Should've guessed Mabel would leave a pile of it making goodbye cards for everyone before she left at the end of the summer." The Winchesters and Stan Pines were seated around a table in the living space next to the gift shop's back entrance. A mug of coffee (less of the soul-burning blackness of diner coffee, but still somehow paling to the surprisingly good in hindsight brew Susan made) sat in front of the each of the three men as they talked over arrangements for the night.
"Nah, it should work fine. As long as Samsquatch here's legs don't dangle off the end and touch the floor." Dean's comment solicited a bark of laughter from Stan Pines and a bitchface from Sam.
"But seriously, thanks for the place to stay the night. We'll be sure to make it up to you tomorrow morning and check out a tour of this place when it's open." Dean nodded his head and took a long sip. Part of the tour would be an investigation into the place for their benefit, but he and Sam we're about to mention that to the owner, friendliness aside.
Stan took a deep look in his coffee and sighed. "You know, once I would've spent the whole night selling you both on some of the displays and souvenirs we have in the shop. I'm not saying you shouldn't buy at least a night's stay worth in merchandise or else you're not getting your bags back, but I'm practically retired now and that's Soos's job when it's not the dead of night."
Sam's head perked as he processed the information like the Stanford pre-law student he once was. "Sounds like you retired pretty recently."
"Been training Soos to take over the Shack since the end of summer. Once he's moved in and I'm moved out I'll be getting out of town."
Sam sent a look towards Dean before turning back to Stan Pines, keeping his tone perfectly even and casual. "Anything in particular make you decide to retire at the end of summer? What made you eager to get out of town, if you don't mind me asking."
Dean raised an eyebrow, "family?"
"Heh, listen to me. Kids aren't even gone a month and I've turned into an old sap. My great niece and nephew come spend the summer, think it's just going to be business as usual and next thing I know they're back in Piedmont and the place feels empty and I'm back in contact with my brother planning a big boating trip like we dreamed of when we were kids.
"What about you, eh? Same kind of story?"
Sam shrugged, doing a great job of looking the nervously wandering twenty-something. "Pretty much. Figured it'd be fun having a nice road trip with my brother." It'd been years since they first used the story when Sam traveled with Dean following Jess's death, and almost just as long since they both stopped believing it, but sometimes when passing through small off the map towns it made more sense than to imagine any agency or reporter would bother stopping there as a final destination.
But then Dean remembered they're probably be investigating come morning. "Yeah, I mean part of it's all that but then there's also the fact Sammy just got a job here as a reporter back in Seattle at the Times and we figured he might find fodder for some human interest…"
The door creaked swung open behind them and suddenly all of Dean's coffee-fueled nerves are tingling on high alert as he cuts off and turns.
"Stanley, who are these men and what are they doing in my kitchen?" A smoother voice asked from the figure who just walked through the gift shop door.
The man was about the same age as Stanley Pines and bore a definite family resemblance. Dean could tell sure as day that the two men were brothers, which made this man the guy Stanley's planning a boat trip with. He was dressed much more fancily than his brother, which wasn't really saying anything at all given Stanley's attire. Instead the newcomer was wearing a red turtleneck sweater, black jeans and a pair of hiking boots, the last of which was a bit strange given that the outside entrance to the gift shop had been locked well before the Winchesters arrived. He was watching Sam and Dean wearily, but the man didn't seem nervous at the prospect of strangers in his home nor did he take immediate action, though a trained eye could tell he was in a relaxed ready position.
This was an old man confident that no harm would come to him in his own home, and trusting enough of either strangers or his brother to hear them out.
"I'm Dean Winchester and this is my little brother Sam." Sam shot him a look at the little. "We were just passing through town when motel was full and the owner Ron recommended we could stay here. I was just saying Sammy got a job as a reporter back in Seattle and we were traveling around to celebrate and get an idea for some stories about-"
"You can shut up about the bogus reporter story already." Stan Pines interrupted. "Trust me, I know a con when I see one."
Stan Pines looked over towards the newcomer. "This is my brother Ford, the idiot who keeps me up half the night making sure he doesn't blow up because he can't keep track of time or keep normal hours like regular people."
Then Stan gave a smirk. "Ford, these are the idiots who show up in the middle of the night with fake IDs, a fake story, and a duffle bag full of weapons asking to stay a place for the night. They're gonna sleep up in the attic and come morning buy enough Mystery Shack merchandise to convince me not to call the cops before continuing on their way to whatever smuggling ring or illegal enterprise they got going."
The man stood up from the chair with a creak of the wood, a crack of his joints, and a hearty laugh. "I may be almost retired but I still know how to pick out the weight of a bag of firearms and the telltale signs of a stash of Kinkos printed IDs. And Ford, you said that idiots wouldn't stop by to spend their money after the end of the summer season!"
Halfway up the stairs he turned to the dumbfounded Winchesters, who weren't sure whether to be more shocked by Stan's reaction or his threat. "Hope you enjoy your tour tomorrow. And if you don't, at least pretend you do for Soos's sake. He's still learning the finer points of running the Shack, but he can answer any questions you have."
It was certainly going to be a unique investigation this time around.
I will say I just wrote this entire draft straight through from AN to AN, and I totally did not see that ending when I started lol. I guess if sapphireswimming or someone else wants to pick up on the next day we can round robin this fic, or it can end here. I wanted to see the Winchesters get diverted to the Shack after reading Never Mind All That, and tie in some family goodness for the holidays, but the word distribution and the end course got diverted by it being 2am and doing this in a two hour burst with little editing. A bit worried about Stan's characterization, so there may be updates with edits soon, but for now I'll leave this as my fanfiction stocking for sapphireswimming!