Ricochetby dotfic (Constance Eilonwy)
Time frame: 1989 (Something Wicked post-flashbacks)
Disclaimer: Supernatural is owned by the WB, but I love 'em like they were my own
A/N: This is also a prequel to my story Recoil, but you don't have to read that to read this.
Huge thankyous to the wonderful Meko for the beta read and suggestions.
It's been two weeks since Fort Douglas, and Dean still struggles to stay awake each night to watch over Sammy. If Dad catches him sitting up in a chair, he makes him get into bed, so it's really hard to stay awake.
But he tries anyway. He keeps his eyes wide open staring at the dark ceiling of whatever hotel room they're in that night, his eyes flicking to the window to watch the shadows. None of the signs of everyday life outside comfort him: the blinking of a neon light from a diner, the murmur of voices outside, the almost soothing rush of cars on the highway. These were all at Fort Douglas, and gave no protection.
Sometimes after Dad falls asleep in the other bed, Dean gets up again and sits in a chair near the window, the shotgun across his lap.
He wonders how Dad and Sammy can sleep after what happened. Sammy sleeps with his limbs all sprawled every which way. By two a.m., he's tangled the sheets and the blanket is on the floor while Sammy is sound asleep on his stomach, arms out flung and palms face up, oblivious to nighttime horrors.
Dean envies him and is also glad.
They keep the windows shut tight and locked even though it makes the room stuffy.
Mysteriously, the nights where Dean sneaks out of bed to sit up and watch at the window, when he awakes to daylight he's always in bed, the shotgun carefully leaning against the wall in the corner, the blankets neatly arranged over both brothers. Since Dean can't remember getting into bed, and a lot of the time just nods off sitting up in the chair, this is puzzling.
Dad doesn't leave them in the hotel room anymore when he goes out on jobs. He takes the boys with him and tells them to stay in the car.
Dean thinks Dad is probably still mad at him, because he's been quiet the last few weeks, even for Dad. He ruffles Sammy's hair a lot more than he used to, like he's reassuring himself Sammy is actually there. Dad doesn't touch Dean much, they have practical conversations about what food the boys want for the car, how much buckshot they have left, instructions for how to clean the gun, what to do if a werewolf rushes at you, did Dean do his math homework.
They pull off the interstate at a truck stop near Denver. Dad goes around to the men's room while Dean looks after Sammy. They've agreed to meet inside to get food, and Sammy, normally content to sit still and stay close, is still just a little kid after all and is restless after four hours straight in the car. So he runs ahead eagerly, lured by the scent of pancakes and French fries and the beeping of video games.
"Sam!" Dean says sharply, and his brother stops short in the middle of the parking lot. Dean walks fast to catch up. "You can't run ahead like that."
"It's my job to look after you. Wait for me. Don't make my job harder."
Somewhere in the back of his head Dean knows it's not fair to yell at Sammy. He's just a little kid, and Dean's screw up is Dean's screw up. So he softens his tone. "Help me look after you. Help me do my job. Okay?"
Sammy smiles and suddenly no amount of getting yelled at, or responsibility, is any kind of problem for Dean.
In a small town outside Denver there's a haunted house. Kids in town have been vanishing. They're all found later--always in the house or in the woods nearby. The kids are confused, terrified, babbling the house wouldn't let them leave.
On the way there Dad tells them that the corpse of the house's owner is probably still in the house, which is why the haunting is so strong. Dad has to find the corpse and burn it. Then the ghost will be freed and the house will stop snatching kids.
They park just in front of the house. Dad shoves a container of lighter fluid and box of matches into the pocket of his jacket.
"Boys, wait in the car." It's an order, punctuated by the driver's side door slamming shut.
There are dead leaves all over the yard and the paint is peeling off the siding. The few shutters left on the windows are dangling like they might fall at any second. Dean's worried one might hit Dad on the head. From the passenger seat, he watches as Dad goes up the sagging porch steps carrying his shotgun. The heavy front door won't open when he turns the knob, so he steps back and kicks the door open.
Dad vanishes into the house. The overcast afternoon seems to grow darker.
"Dean?" Sammy leans his chin on the ridge of the driver's seat, peering over.
His little brother scrunches up his face. "Do you think the house is lonely?"
"Huh?" Dean turns in his seat, the vinyl creaking.
"I think the house is lonely so that's why it takes the little kids, it doesn't hurt them it just keeps them for a little while."
Dean turns back to look out through the front windshield. "Houses don't get lonely."
"Yes they do."
"No, Sammy, they don't." Dean turns back in annoyance. "It's just a house. It's made of wood and bricks. It can't get lonely."
Sammy stares past Dean at the house. "I think it's lonely."
"Fine." Dean rolls his eyes. "The house is lonely. Now shut up."
They wait. Leaves swirl around outside, settle. A few raindrops speckle the windshield but it doesn't actually start raining. Dean flips through a comic, trying to pretend he doesn't feel the knot of worry in his stomach. He doesn't really see the pages, keeps watching the house. Finally he gives up pretending, flings the comic book aside so it flutters down like a trapped bird, folds his arms on the dashboard and stares at the house.
Sammy reaches into the front, stretching his body through the gap between the two front seats, snags the comic book, then curls up in the back with it. The only sound in the car is the sound of turning pages. Dean thinks Sammy's probably too little to get half of what's going on in the comic, but at least it's keeping him from asking stupid questions.
They wait. There's no sign of movement from the house. Dean's hand falls asleep so he pulls it free from under his other arm and shakes it vigorously.
"Dad's been in there a long time." Sammy sits up, putting the comic book aside.
"We should go help him." Sammy puts his chin on the back of the front seat again, staring at the porch.
"He said stay in the car."
"But he could be in trouble."
"Dad? No way."
"He gave us an order. Stay in the car."
But Sammy's got the back door open, he's out of the car and is already running past the hood by the time Dean gets his door open.
He catches up to Sammy on the top porch step, grabbing his brother by both arms. The wind picks up. There's a scraping sound, maybe a branch rubbing against the side of the house.
"Dad?" Sammy yells.
"Back in the car," says Dean.
He's literally dragging his brother down the porch steps when something rips Sammy from his grasp with incredible force. It happens so quick Dean isn't even sure what's happening until Sammy's whisked inside the still-open front door.
"Sammy!" Dean screams and hurtles himself towards the dark, gaping doorway.
The last thing he sees is the chipped paint of the panels rushing into his face as the door slams itself shut hard, hitting him in the forehead.
"Dean? Dean, can you hear me, it's Dad. Dean?"
Sound and sight come rushing back in like water. He's on the porch, staring up into his father's face. It takes him a moment to realize that Dad's holding him the way he held Sammy the night of the shtriga.
Dean blinks a few times. His head hurts. "Ow," he says.
The shotgun is leaning propped against the porch railing. Dad gently stands Dean on his feet, smooths the hair back from the tender spot on Dean's forehead.
He winces when Dad touches it. "Ow," he says again. "Stoppit."
"You've got a big bump there. Follow my finger." Dad moves his index finger back and forth in front of Dean's face. Dean's eyes track it. "Are you dizzy?"
Memory returns. Dean backs away from his father. "I'm sorry, I told him to stay in the car but he said the house was lonely and you might be in trouble and I told him not to but he got out and started running but I grabbed him, I had him, I'm sorry, I had him but then the house, it like grabbed him away from me and when I tried to follow the door slammed in my..."
"Stay with me." Hefting the shotgun, Dad strides back into the house. Dean follows.
The inside smells like mildew and rotted wood. Wallpaper is peeling away from the walls. There are stirrings and rustlings as they walk, rodents. Dean takes a few running steps to stay closer to his father's broad back. The scent of his father's leather jacket offsets the rot smell of the house.
They both call for Sammy, then stop and listen for a response. There is none. Upstairs is worse than downstairs and Dad finally decides the floor is too rotten to walk on so they go back downstairs and check the basement. Nothing.
They return to the ground floor. Dad turns slowly in the middle of what was once a living room while Dean stands by the fireplace, watching his father.
"Let my son go, you goddamn sonuvabitch!" Dad bellows suddenly. His words just echo off the walls.
Sammy thinks the house is lonely and Dad think it's a goddamn sonuvabitch. Dean doesn't know what to think. Something grabbed his brother like a giant invisible hand, snatching him away. He knows it was the house that did it but he still can't think of it as a thing with personality. It just is.
It's totally dark, wherever he is. He's cold. It's damp, and the air smells of wet dirt.
Sam's been screaming for a while now but no one answers. He follows the walls all the way around and three sides are made of dirt and one is made of stone. There are wooden steps but when he climbs them he meets solid, thick wood. His fists barely make a sound against it.
He climbs down again, but stays at the base of the steps because that's the way out.
He's not alone.
The thing in the room with him doesn't want him to leave, because then it would be all by itself.
His throat is hoarse from yelling and from the damp. Sam decides to stop yelling and to think instead. He's thinking so hard he can feel his forehead wrinkling. Obviously he's somewhere deep where Dean and Dad can't hear him. Otherwise they would have come for him already.
There is a shadow, a flicker in the corner of his eye, a pale wisp against the blackness.
He's not alone.
The scent of wet earth makes him feel like water's closing over his head and the darkness is a weight against his eyes. There's another scent, too, worse, much worse than wet dirt. All he can see is the flicker in the shadows.
The flicker-shadow moves closer.
Shrinking back against the steps, Sam huddles into a ball and wraps his arms protectively over his head.
"Help me look after you. Help me do my job. Okay?"
Sam squeezes his eyes shut, and calls for his brother.
The shout's in his head. He smells wet dirt and something else that makes him want to retch. He can't see the living room or his father, just darkness and something paler, a wisp, moving.
The bump on his forehead throbs and he clutches his head.
"Dean?" Dad hurries over to him as Dean sags back against the wall. But he stays on his feet and looks up into his father's anxious face.
"I know where Sammy is."
"There." Dean points.
It's three cellar rooms away from the stairs, in the farthest corner. There's a trap door, half-covered by rusted metal shelves.
Dad shoves the shelves aside with a crash. Bugs go scurrying. There's a big iron ring set into the door.
"Sammy?" Dad shouts, but they can't hear a reply. Dad heaves the door up and now they can hear Sammy calling from below. Dean clicks on a flashlight and aims it down into the hole in the floor.
Without bothering with the steps, Dad shouts to Sam to get back and drops down into the old root cellar, then fires several rounds into the shadow. It disperses but Dean can feel the energy in the air. It's still there.
Dean climbs down the steps and grabs his brother, who clutches him with his arms tight around Dean's neck.
"Boys, go to the car."
They obey. Dean carries Sam up the stairs, through the cellar. Then they run through the house, practically tumbling down the front porch steps and finally into the car.
It's like coming home and they collapse together into the back seat. Dean tries to calm his breathing, taking in the smell of vinyl and stale potato chips and gasoline and air freshener. Ordinary smells. Not like the smell that came out of that root cellar.
Sammy can't stop shivering so Dean gives him his flannel jacket and reads to him from Encyclopedia Brown, sitting with Sam's head on his knee.
At last Dad emerges, puts the shotgun in the trunk, and gets in. Before he turns the key in the ignition he reaches back and touches Sammy's shoulder, as if making sure he's okay and really there.
"I found the body in the root cellar." Dad glances at Dean. "I torched it. The spirit's gone."
"Good," Dean says flatly.
"How's your head?"
Dad doesn't ask how Dean knew Sammy was there. Dean isn't even sure he saw and smelled what he thought he saw and smelled. Maybe it was just luck. He'd read about root cellars somewhere.
As they drive off, Sammy sits up and turns around so he can watch the house growing smaller in the rear-view mirror. He's not shivering anymore. The flannel jacket is several sizes too large for Sammy, engulfing his hands and reaching the middle of his thighs. It makes him look much too small.
Dean huddles in the corner of the back seat, waiting for the reprimand. He should have been in the back seat with Sammy. He should have moved faster to keep Sammy from reaching the porch. He should have been paying more attention.
"Dean," Dad says. Dean swallows and sits up straight. "Why don't you sit up front with me?" His father gives him a small, sad smile in the rearview mirror.
He climbs up front. After a few minutes his father reaches out and smooths Dean's hair back, being very careful not to touch the bump, like he's reassuring himself that Dean is really there.