Category: Gen; case-fic; angst
Characters: Sam, Dean
Word Count: 4,400
Rating: PG Spoilers: none
Summary: When Sam's drawn to a house - and its lone inhabitant - will it be a blessing or a curse?
Notes: Once again, my hugest of thanks to geminigrl11 for the beta - any remaining goofs are mine.
Disclaimer: Not mine. The pretty, snarky, angsty brothers belong to the WB & CW.
"So. No property damage. No injuries. No anything remotely interesting," Dean said, shining his flashlight in Sam's face. He grinned when Sam squinted, turning away from the light. "Remind me again while we're here?"
They had been driving across the mid-west, killing time between one hunt and the next when Sam had become fixated on an old, brick two-story. A hotel room and some research later and there they were. Inside the house with nothing of interest, just like Dean had expected.
Still not looking back at Dean, Sam shrugged awkwardly. "Something just feels..."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Off. Yeah, you said that in the car the first time. Well?" he said, gesturing widely at the large room. From the looks of it, it had once been a family room but had long since been abandoned.
Wandering further into the house, vaguely impressed by Sam's abilities to spot trouble even if he never admitted to it out loud, Dean kept on alert. Just because the place looked innocent, even if there were no stories, that was no reason to let his guard down. He could hear Sam moving around behind him, searching for who knew what. After all, there was nothing in the room save an inch-thick layer of dust on the hardwood floor.
"Anything?" he asked, slightly unnerved by the silence.
He turned in time to see Sam shake his head. "No. Maybe there isn't anything," Sam said, although the way his eyes kept darting around the room told Dean otherwise.
"Yeah, maybe," Dean agreed with a shrug. "But we've got nowhere else to be. No reason we can't finish checking it out." He squirmed under the thankful glance Sam threw his way. "Come on, maybe there's something upstairs," he continued, indicating the way with his flashlight beam.
Sam nodded before crossing the room ahead of Dean. "Hey, wait a minute bucko," Dean said, quickening his pace.
"What?" Sam asked, turning, one foot already on the first step.
"You know the rules. I go in first."
Dean managed to keep from snickering when now it was Sam rolling his eyes. "Dean, I'm not twelve anymore."
Shouldering past Sam and starting up the stairs, Dean shook his head. "Don't care. Them's the little brother breaks, Sammy." When he heard Sam sigh he couldn't help grinning. Sometimes it really was just too easy.
Reaching the top, Dean was once more on guard. There was little light filtering into the hallway from a window at the far end. And, like downstairs, there was little occupying the place but the dust that caked the floor and walls.
"Seems harmless enough," he said, turning around to look at Sam. "Hey, what do you..." he cut off in mid-sentence upon seeing Sam staring fixedly at the second door to the right. Grasping Sam's jacket sleeve Dean asked, "Sam?"
Sam seemed to shake himself out of whatever zone he was in and after several long seconds - to Dean at any rate - Sam looked at him. "There," he said, indicating the same door with a jerk of his head.
"What is it?" Dean asked, not letting go of Sam's sleeve just yet but turning back toward the room. He felt, rather than saw, Sam shrug. "Okay, gonna need a little more than that to go on." Releasing Sam's coat, Dean handed him his flashlight before pulling the EMF meter from his jacket pocket and putting one of the buds into his ear.
He flicked the small power button and for a moment there was nothing; no lights, no sounds. Dean glanced at Sam, whose gaze was still transfixed on the door, before taking a couple of steps forward. He'd gone just far enough to lay his hand on the doorknob when the EMF went crazy.
"Not bad, Sammy," Dean said with a grin. Palming the meter and headphones, he shoved it back into his pocket before pulling a pistol from the waist of his jeans. In that time, Sam had caught up to him, lightly running his hand over the surface of the door before Dean could stop him. "Hey," Dean hissed, grabbing Sam's arm and pulling it away. "We don't know what's in there, Sam. Hands off."
Dean took his flashlight back from Sam who huffed quietly and pulled out his own weapon. "One way to find out," he said, reaching past Dean anyway and grasping the door handle.
Dean was spared time for a reply when the door slowly swung open. Flashlight in his left hand, gun in the right, Dean crisscrossed his arms before stepping into the room. The beam cut a light through the near-total darkness and a second later Sam's joined it.
There was only one window, covered by thick drapery that pooled on the floor. Dean fought a shiver at the sight of so much deep red seemingly spilling everywhere. It reminded him eerily of blood. Looking away from the window he took in the rest of the room. Like the rest of the house, at least what they'd seen, there was nothing in the way of furniture left behind.
He was about to suggest they check the rooms on either side, just in case, when Sam broke the silence. "Dude, can you hear that?"
Dean turned, lowering his weapon only to find Sam standing stock-still, hands hanging limply at his sides. "What?" he whispered, glancing quickly around the room but finding nothing.
He was about to pull the EMF back out when Sam said, "It's like... a little kid... a girl, I think... whispering. It's there but almost out of earshot."
"Hearing little girls now?" Dean smirked, but seeing the concentration on Sam's face it was more a rote reaction than anything. "Seriously," Dean said, stepping forward. "What's she saying?"
Sam's eyes scrunched closed and he shook his head in short, jerky motions. "I can't quite make it out." Dean could see him struggling to hear the words.
A chill ran up Dean's spine and he spun in place, flashlight and gun at the ready. He searched the far side of the room for whatever had triggered the reaction but as before, there was nothing there. Suddenly the EMF, which he thought he'd turned off, sprung to life in his pocket, tinny sounds echoing from the headphones.
"Yeah?" Dean asked, reaching for the EMF and turning back around to Sam. "Did you make it out..." he began to ask, his voice trailing off as he saw Sam pulling his hand away from his face. It felt as though his heart stuttered and he stepped forward quickly. His eyes flickered back and forth between the red-stained fingers and Sam's face.
He saw Sam try to say something right before his eyes rolled backwards. Sam's long body began to collapse almost in slow motion and Dean jumped forward. The guns and flashlights clattered to the floor forgotten, as he struggled to keep all six-foot-four of Sam from colliding with the hardwood.
"Sam!" Dean cried, faltering under Sam's weight and just barely keeping his head from impacting with the hardwood floor. Sneezing from all the dust flying in the air, Dean struggled to make out Sam's features in the dull light. One of the flashlights had fallen facing away and the other had gone dark.
Patting Sam on the face, Dean swallowed roughly. He bit back the small frisson of fear of what was happening - and what he was going to do about it, sitting in an abandoned house on the outskirts of an equally run-down town.
"Sammy, wake up!"
Beside them, on the floor, the EMF continued flashing even though there was nothing else there, not even a cold spot.
Sam blinked, his eyes watering at the sudden abundance of light that surrounded him. He pressed his fingers to his upper lip and blinked, surprised, when they came back clean. "Dean?" he called, turning quickly in a 360. He scrunched his brow, confused when all he saw was a swirling mist in all directions - and no Dean. A quick glance downward confirmed no handgun, either.
Picking a direction - everything looked the same - Sam took a few steps. He reached his arm out in front of him, waving it back and forth. The fog churned around him but didn't break, nor could he see anything for it.
"Dean!" Sam felt the slightest of chills when there wasn't even an echo.
"Stay with me..."
Sam flinched at the voice, looking frantically in as many directions as he could but still seeing nothing. "Who are you?" he called, recognizing the voice from the house, though only now could he understand it.
There was a giggle, which strangely, did echo crazily through the mist. "Stay?"
Sam shook his head. "Sorry. Can't stay." He squinted, still trying to pinpoint the source of the voice but having no luck. Oddly enough, he didn't feel threatened; rather it felt as though he was being stared at unceasingly. "Can you tell me your name?"
"Hi, Abigail. Where are you?"
A chill ran the length of Sam's spine right before he heard her say, "Right behind you."
Jumping, Sam spun quickly. Standing there, the fog swirling around her simple dress, was a little girl. She looked to be about seven, if Sam were guessing. Swallowing roughly, his heart pounding in his throat, Sam managed a smile for her. He kneeled down, even then not quite eye-level with the girl.
"Where are we?" he asked, taking the chance she might know - but not holding out much hope. He wasn't surprised when she shrugged, chestnut curls bouncing on her shoulders. "How long have you been here?"
Abigail giggled. "Forever and ever and all alone." She held out her hand, stark white in the brightly lit fog. "Stay with me?" she entreated.
Sam shook his head, not taking her hand. "I'm sorry. I can't."
The girl pouted, staring downward for a long moment before looking back up at Sam, tears brightening her eyes. "But I'm lonely. No one ever wants to play. No one until you."
An understanding that had been tickling the back of Sam's mind ever since she first appeared solidified at her words. "Because I could hear you?"
She nodded happily.
"Did you live here?" he gestured toward the fog, but meant the house he hoped lay beyond.
She shook her head but seemed to change her mind and nodding. "In the cottage, behind," she replied. Her voice dropped to a whisper when she added, "but I would come inside sometimes, pretending."
Suddenly the little girl's dress made more sense. The house they were had no doubt been lavish and extravagant in its glory. However Abigail was wearing the plainest of dresses, well tended but faded and worn.
"What about your family?" Sam asked, unsure of what to do next.
Sniffling, she shook her head quickly. "I don't know!"
Trying again, Sam asked, "What's the last thing you remember? From before?"
Abigail paused at that, dropping to sit on the 'floor'. Sam had almost given up hope of an answer when she finally spoke. "Cold. It was cold."
Sam nodded and sat cross-legged across from her. "Anything else?"
She sniffled again, rubbing her knuckles across her eyes. "I don't..." She paused, looking to Sam as though she was struggling to remember. "I wanted to play but they didn't." She looked almost excited for a moment before the reality of the memory crashed home. "I wasn't supposed to bother the other children but it was lonely. Finally Susan said to go hide, that they'd find me."
"But they didn't," Sam said, horror filling his voice.
Abigail shook her head. "No."
"And now you're here?"
Sam tilted his head, part of the story still not making sense. "But why here? Why this room?"
"It was her room!" she cried, tears marring her cheeks. "She was supposed to find me!" As Sam watched Abigail pulled her knees to her chest, laying her arms across them before hiding her face. Reaching out his hand, he almost touched her before she suddenly jumped backwards.
He pulled his hand back. "Abigail?"
"You didn't want to find me either." Sam inched forward, wanting to comfort her, only to have Abigail pull back again. "Go away!"
Shaking his head, Sam refused to budge. "I want to help you," he said, using the 'earnest' voice Dean always complained. Well, except when it was helping them get out of trouble. "You don't have to stay here."
"Where would I go?" she asked, looking at him with heartbroken eyes. "I'm all alone."
Sam smiled, hoping he looked more confident than he felt. He had no idea. Evil spirits that needed vanquishing? That he could deal with. A lonely, trapped little girl? He wasn't sure where to start.
Suddenly an idea, however inane, struck him. It was worth a shot, he decided. "You wanted to be found, right? When you hid?" he asked, taking a chance.
Abigail wiped the last of the tears from her face and nodded. "Yes."
Sam went for the obvious. "And I found you."
"Yes," she repeated, looking at him strangely.
"The first one in all this time?" His heart broke a little at the thought.
She didn't answer but nodded.
"But I found you. You were hiding and I looked... and I found you."
Abigail froze, staring at him as the words sunk in. "But you won't stay," she said in a broken voice after a long moment.
"I won't have to," Sam said, shaking his head. The fog flared brighter and Sam smiled at her, even as he shaded his eyes. "I won't have to," he repeated, watching as hope flared on her face.
"The game's over?" she asked, a disbelieving laugh following.
Sam laughed and relief filled him as he nodded. "The game's over. You can go home."
A brilliant smile slowly filled her face, transforming the sad little girl. "Home," she repeated, as if trying out the word.
Sam had barely time to nod before she flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. Sadly, he wasn't surprised that he couldn't feel her even as he automatically wrapped his arms around her, too.
"Thank you," she whispered in his ear before the fog turned black.
"Wake up, damn it."
Dean sighed, contemplating how he was going to haul his little brother out to the car when he felt him stir. "Sam?" he asked, holding his breath for fear he'd imagined the movement. And then, as suddenly as it started, the EMF went quiet. the sound had been growing steadily more annoying and Dean didn't question the small favor. If it meant they were truly alone, too, then all the better.
"Sam. Time to wake up. Enough beauty sleep," he said, shaking Sam lightly.
When he heard Sam groan, Dean couldn't help smiling. "Dean?" Sam almost slurred the word but not quite. He struggled against Dean's grip momentarily before going still. "Dude, why am I in your lap?"
The adrenaline rushing out of him at hearing Sam awake and coherent caused Dean to laugh. "That's what happens when you take a swan dive, buddy."
Dean was surprised when Sam didn't argue the point. And he was doubly surprised when Sam began looking around the room weakly. "Where's Abigail?"
Worried that maybe Sam actually had hit his head, Dean looked at him warily. "Who's Abigail, Sam? We're the only ones here." He glanced at the now-silent EMF, wondering... "Well, now anyway."
Sam smiled then and relaxed against Dean, causing his worry to return. "That's good," Sam said, his eyes sliding closed.
"Who's Abigail?" Dean couldn't keep the edge out of his voice; he hated not knowing what was going on right in front of his face.
Sam sighed, attempting to sit up and almost failing before Dean put a hand on his back. "Easy, Sammy," he said in a low voice, not wanting a repeat performance of Sam passing out. Once a day was more than Dean preferred to deal with. He looked closely at him, unable to shake the concern Sam being injured always brought. "You're not gonna throw up or anything, are you?"
"No," Sam replied but Dean noted he didn't attempt to shake his head. He did, however, press a hand to his forehead. "At least not as long as I don't move too fast."
Dean watched as Sam took several careful breaths, obviously trying to prove his point. After a couple of minutes, and fairly sure Sam wasn't about to fall over, Dean began to collect their things. He placed both guns beside them and turned the working flashlight so that it was actually helpful.
Dean studied Sam's face in the new light, not liking the pallor he saw there. He shown the light in Sam's eyes, ignoring Sam's muttered complaints, happy to see they reacted normally.
"Sam?" He paused until the other opened his eyes. "Abigail? What, earth girls not good enough for you now?" He was trying to lighten the mood - after all, when all else fails, joke. However when he saw the joke falling flat, Dean held up his hands. "You're gonna have to help me out here. What happened?"
Sam wiped his hand over his upper lip, looking at the red smear that was left behind. He frowned. "How long was I out?"
"Didn't exactly check my watch, Sam." When the snap earned him a glare, Dean shrugged. "Long enough but no more than a few minutes." Even if it felt like longer - though he left the last unvoiced.
"Huh," Sam said, rubbing his hand on his jeans and Dean cringed. Of course it was his turn to do laundry and bloodstains were a bitch to get out. "Felt like longer."
"What did?" Dean snapped, losing patience.
Sam cringed; looking around the room as though it was the first time he'd really seen it. "Can we get into this at the hotel?"
Torn between giving in and letting Sam rest and getting answers, Dean shook his head. "I want to know what's going on Sam. Or are we just going to end up back here with you springing a leak again?" Dean fought the shudder the words caused, already hating the memory of blood on Sam's fingertips, of him passing out.
Taking a deep breath, Sam shook his head. "No, we're done here."
"You're sure?" Dean asked, unconvinced even though the EMF had long been quiet.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Let's just go, okay? I promise I'll explain everything."
Sighing, Dean caved. As much as he wanted - needed - answers, he also wanted the chance to check Sam out in better light. And no doubt Sam was going to crash soon; the visions or whatever usually wore him out.
"I'm okay, Dean," Sam whispered, breaking him away from the dark thoughts.
"Of course you are," Dean snarked, his defenses rising once more. "Head as hard as yours? It'd take more than that to ding it."
Contrary to the harsh words, however, he helped Sam stand and kept a hand on his arm until the swaying stopped. Reaching down, Dean picked up the flashlights and guns, stashing the EMF in his pocket once more. He wrapped an arm around Sam's waist - just in case, he told himself - and led them from the house.
They both squinted when they reached the still-open front door. Night had passed and the sun was peeking over the horizon, the light surprising after the blackness of the house.
"Come on," Dean said after they stood there for a minute, adjusting to the light. "Car's over here."
"Yeah, I remember," Sam replied. "Considering I parked it there last night."
Dean rolled his eyes, pretending to be annoyed but relieved that Sam was up to being a smart ass. "Shut up, Sam."
"So?" Dean asked, glaring at Sam from the other bed.
Biting back a sigh, Sam leaned into the pillows. He had to give Dean credit, he'd at least been allowed to shower, change and not so subtly be checked over before the inquisition started. Apparently he'd passed Dean's inspection.
"I want to go by the library before we leave town."
Sam saw Dean nod but could tell he was only more confused. "Okay. Why?"
Feeling himself relax, Sam took a deep breath and held it for a moment before letting it go. "There was a reason I was drawn to that house."
Sam's lips quirked in a smile - leave it to Dean to have a blunt response. Although even though the annoyance and bravado it was impossible to miss the worry. "I don't know when it happened, but years ago a little girl lived in the cottage behind that house. Maybe her parents worked there, I don't know."
Sam paused, rubbing at his head. Ever since he'd woken up it had been pounding as if it wanted to escape his skull. Sadly, it was far from a new state of affairs. He had to stifle a smile, though, when almost on cue Dean was handing him two ibuprofen tablets and a bottle of water. "Thanks," he said, swallowing the pills without argument.
"Anyway. Abigail - the little girl - she was probably about seven. I figure, though this is part of why I want to go by the library. There weren't many kids around except for the rich kids who lived in the house. She was lonely, wanted someone to play with."
Dean nodded. "Makes sense."
Sam looked at Dean and couldn't help smiling. As screwed up as their childhoods had been, the one thing he had never felt was lonely. The only time he'd felt as remotely thankful for that, as he had when faced with Abigail, was when he truly had known loneliness the first few weeks at Stanford.
"What?" Dean asked, startling Sam from his thoughts. "Got something on my face?" he asked, rubbing a hand over the stubble that was darkening his cheeks.
Sam laughed. "Nothing other than the usual. Do you want to hear this story or not?"
Dean rolled his eyes, giving Sam his best 'put-upon' expression that Sam easily ignored. "Hey, I wasn't the one off in la-la land, Sammy."
"Yeah, yeah," Sam replied, waving his hand at Dean but not disagreeing. "She'd been told to leave the other kids alone but I guess she listened about as well as most kids do. But one of the rich kids, Susan, played a trick on her. Said they'd play, told her to go hide."
Sam saw the realization dawn on Dean's face right when he expected it to. "Only they didn't look for her?"
"And it was winter," Sam replied, nodding in affirmative. "I don't know for sure, but I figure she probably died of hypothermia or pneumonia or something. That's the other part of why I want to go to the library. I want to know if there's anything more out there about her. She was a sweet little girl, Dean. She didn't deserve that."
"So that's it?" Dean asked. "That's why you wanted to go there?"
Fidgeting with blanket, worrying a fray close to the edge, Sam felt sad thinking about her trapped there for so long, alone. "No one could hear her. No one was searching for her, trying to find her. She just didn't want to be alone anymore."
"Well, you're obviously not still there. What happened?"
Glancing over at Dean, fearing the inevitable John Edwards jokes he was liable to hear for the next few weeks, Sam finished the story. "I didn't have a clue how to help her or how to get back. The only thing I could think of was to convince her she was done. The game was over - she'd been found."
Dean laughed, the humor showing all the way to his eyes. "Ahhh, yes, the 'unfinished business' approach." When Dean laughed, Sam knew he was in trouble. "Worked for Casper you know."
Sam threw a pillow at Dean, smacking him in the face. "Now that you've just admitting to watching the movie Casper, which I am so not going to let you forget, you weirdo..." Dean opened his mouth to defend himself but Sam cut him off. "She realized that the game was over, she didn't have to wait to be found anymore. Then Abigail hugged me and it all sort of went black. Next thing I knew, there you were."
"What?" Dean jumped up, all hints of humor gone. "You let a spirit touch you?" Sam watched as Dean paced in the small space between the beds. "Sammy, what are you, crazy?"
Rubbing his forehead again, Sam bit back the sigh that wanted to come out. Should've known better than to mention that part, he thought. "It's fine, Dean. She was just a scared little girl. It felt good, actually, getting to help for once, not just vanquish them."
"She was a ghost. What part of that translates to trustworthy, Sam?" Dean threw his arms up, turning to face him. "She could've been evil, suckering your gullible ass and you fell for it!"
Annoyed, even though he knew it was concern making Dean act like Sam was nine, he bit back. "Give me some credit, Dean. I am capable of telling when something's trying to kill me." Dean seemed to deflate at that, dropping back onto his bed, elbows resting on his knees. He glanced away for a moment before Sam managed to catch his gaze. "I'm okay," Sam insisted, his voice quiet.
Dean nodded. "I know. Just not so crazy about the trouble your shining is getting you into these days."
"I know. But that's why I have you."
Snickering, Dean rolled his eyes and tossed Sam's pillow back over, hitting him in the chest. "Dude, Casper or no we are not having this conversation."
Finally feeling like they were back on what passed for normal ground, Sam smiled. "Yeah, yeah. Can I go to sleep now?" Climbing under the covers, Sam watched as Dean did the same. He was grateful that even though it was another cheap hotel, at least it was one with decent curtains. He almost couldn't tell it was full daylight outside.
"G'night, Sam," Dean said, breaking the silence several moments later.
Smiling, Sam closed his eyes and relaxed into the pillows, listening to the familiar sound of Dean's breathing. "Night, Dean."