guys, it's finally done!! Phew! What a ride! It's been a long haul,
and I wanna thank all of you for sticking with this story. I
appreciate it more than you'll ever know. This was my first
Supernatural fic and I was very anxious with every chapter I'd post.
Granted, I'm anxious whenever I get to post any other story, but this
was just... well, kinda special to me, what with being the first and
all. You guys have been really supportive and you went through all my
delays without hitting me with a baseball bat, for which I'm really
Seriously though, thank you so much! I hope you will enjoy the last chapter.
Tom Alban, Dean decided, was exactly the kind of guy he'd expect his brother to get along with.
His blue eyes were so clear that he couldn't have managed a decent lie if he tried (Dean really didn't envy him for that), he had a ready smile that just oozed friendliness, and had greeted them with the most enthusiastic "Hey guys!" Dean had ever heard.
He had also set two large burgers in front of them as soon as they were seated at the table in the back, saying they were on the house, of which the older Winchester admittedly wasn't complaining.
"So, Dean, how are you feeling?" the man asked as he sat down across the table. "You look good."
"I feel good," Dean replied warily, picking up a fry.
Tom Alban was also treating him like he had known him all his life, which was utterly unnerving, seeing as how he'd never even met the guy before. He was also watching him as he'd expect him to keel over and die any second.
Tom Alban, Dean decided, was extremely annoying, other than nosy. But he did serve some killer burgers, Dean had to give it to him as he dug into his own.
"We wanted to talk to you, about the curse," Sam said, his tone soft and compassionate.
Tom looked curiously at the both of them.
"What about it?"
"We want to know a little more," Dean said. "Basically, everything you know."
"Hasn't Sam told you?"
Dean smirked dryly.
"I'd like to hear your version."
"Skeptic, are you?" Tom said, and Dean almost choked on his coke. Skeptic. Him. He had tried the whole thing first hand, there was no way he could be skeptic about this one. "Fair enough," the older man continued with a shrug, and then proceeded to tell them everything he knew about Gwrach-y-rhybin's in general, about this particular one, and the curse hanging over his family.
By the time he was done, both Sam and Dean had finished eating, and they were presently looking at him with somewhat disappointed expressions over their features. Fact was, Tom Alban didn't know anything more about the whole mess than they did themselves.
"What?" the man asked, looking from one downcast face to the other in confusion.
"We were hoping you might be able to tell us something we didn't already know," Sam said after a moment.
Tom frowned a little,
studying them both intently.
"Why? Now that you've stopped it from affecting other people, what does it matter?"
"We want to stop it from affecting you, as well," Sam informed him with a small smile.
at them, and then he smiled bitterly, shaking his head.
"You won't make it. Curses aren't meant to be broken. Believe me, we've tried that before."
"You didn't try hard enough."
"Dean," Sam warned softly, surprised at the harsh tone in which his brother had spoken, at the hard glitter in his eyes as he now stared defiantly at Tom Alban.
"Your father was dead," Dean said. "I wanna know exactly how he fooled everyone into believing the contrary."
Sam stared curiously back at Tom. That was a matter he had intended to discuss, too, although he had imagined the conversation developing in slightly more friendly tones.
The man hesitated, and Sam could tell that he was considering lying, or tell them something along the lines of "None of your business", but one look at Dean's hard features had him go for the truth, for which Sam was secretly grateful: he did not want to think about how ugly things could have gotten if Tom had really tried to lie to Dean in his present state.
Sam blinked when the answer came, and he suddenly wasn't sure he liked the truth that much anymore.
"Excuse me?" he said, eyes going wide, while Dean clenched his jaw, not looking surprised in the least.
"He… he had me perform a ritual that would bind his soul to earth."
Tom had the good grace to look ashamed, which Sam strongly suspected was the only think keeping Dean from punching the man. That, and the fact that every ounce of his brother's strength was currently being used to try and restrain the anger Sam could see pulsating through Dean's jaw.
"What kind of ritual?" Dean asked, voice dangerously devoid of any emotion.
"Tom, do you have a book?" Sam asked.
Tom did, and he disappeared somewhere for a few minutes, returning with a small leather-bound notebook, which he handed out sheepishly.
Sam felt a tug at his guts as he reached out to take it into his hands. It bore a sickening resemblance to the one he had found in Roy LeGrange's house back in Nebraska, hidden behind a Bible.
It hadn't gone lost to Sam back then, the irony of it, how he had life and death and faith in both light and darkness all there, on one single shelf.
He forced himself to snap out of his gloomy reverie and leafed through those new pages until he found a bookmarked one.
"Is it this one?" he asked, looking briefly up at Tom, who nodded mutely.
Sam scanned the ritual intently, relieved when he found it involved no human bones and only a very small amount of blood, therefore requiring no murder.
But it was still necromancy; something dark, something evil. Something that played with bodies and souls, and Sam knew Dean wouldn't take it kindly.
Sure enough, the younger Winchester watched as his brother's features darkened further, Dean looking up with blazing eyes once he was done examining the page himself.
Sam noticed Tom squirming uncomfortably in his chair under Dean's flaming gaze.
"How did you pull it off?" the older Winchester growled menacingly.
Tom stared back in confusion.
"It says here that it takes up to three months for the bound soul to acquire a visible, tangible appearance. How did you pull it off until your Daddy got his illusory body?"
"I… I just told everyone who'd ask that he went to visit some friends."
"For three months?! And they believed you?" Sam asked somewhat incredulously.
"It's amazing what people would believe when they don't really want to be bothered in the first place."
"You son of a bitch."
The screeching of the chair as it was pulled back and Dean stood did nothing to drown out the furious hiss coming from his mouth, which echoed loud and clear and scary in both Sam and Tom's ears.
"Dean!" Sam cried sharply, grabbing his brother's arm in a restraining grip. "Sit down."
But Dean wasn't listening, his anger finally getting the best of him as he snarled in Tom's face.
"You don't mess with this stuff. Who the hell are you to decide ho lives and who dies?! Your father was dead, and he should have stayed dead. What fucking right do you have?! Hasn't your family messed around with death enough?!"
"Dean, stop it!" Sam said, standing up, as well. "It's not the Albans' fault this curse has happened."
"The hell it's not, Sammy," Dean raged, wrenching sharply out of Sam's grasp. "You really think they couldn't have stopped it if they really wanted to? You don't mess with necromancy! You don't mess with Reapers and Grwach-y-rhybins or whatever the hell the thing's name is… You don't mess with death!"
Sam stared at Dean in shock throughout his tirade, and the more his brother's voice rose, the more he came to realize exactly what all this was about. Dean was tired. Exhausted, in fact. He was tired of seeing evil have its way, tired of watching as people helped it out, messing with life and death as if it was the most natural thing to do, playing God's part, engaging in a game that was far greater than them and definitely not theirs to play. He was tired of seeing people die because of other people's mistakes, and Sam knew that Layla was in there somewhere, too, behind Dean's anger, amongst the pain lurking far and deep into Dean's eyes.
"Dean…" he began softly, only to be interrupted by Tom Alban's angry voice.
"It was no selfish act," the man spoke, glaring fiercely back at Dean. "My father tried to watch out for his family. He brought another curse upon his own soul in order to do that."
at the man icily.
"I don't feel sorry for him."
"Dean," Sam said again, sternly. "Enough. Why don't you tell us the whole story, Tom?" he demanded then, looking back at the man, satisfied when Dean begrudgingly sat back down.
Tom looked angrily at both of them for a few moments before finally giving a curt nod.
"It happened about eight months ago," he began. "My father and I were driving back home from Aberdeen and it was raining like crazy. The headlights weren't of much use and before I knew what was happening, I lost control of the car. When I woke up it only took me one look to know that my dad wasn't going to make it. I was about to call for an ambulance but he told me there'd be no use."
Dean refrained from saying that, so far, it was probably the thing with the most sense he knew Davis Alban to have said.
"He begged me to perform that ritual," Tom said quietly. "So I did."
"And is necromancy a skill that runs in the family?" Dean asked coldly.
Sam was about to reprimand him again when to his astonishment, Tom nodded.
"Everyone knew how to perform the easiest ritual, starting from my great-grandfather," the man said. "When the curse hit us, we set out to find a way to escape."
"By messing around with dark stuff."
"Dean," Sam warned again, exasperated by his brother's behavior.
"Yes," Tom said harshly, his blue eyes snapping up to stare at Dean in anger. "Look, I don't really give a fuck about what you think. We were trapped. We were only trying to survive."
"Your 'efforts' got twenty people killed!" Dean yelled, slamming his fist down onto the table and getting up on his feet.
"We didn't know how to stop grandpa!" Tom screamed back, shooting up as well.
"The hell you didn't!"
It was a roar. Tom Alban physically winced, and even Sam found himself too stunned to do anything but sit there and gape at the enraged form of his brother.
"All you had to do was waste your grandfather's spirit, and I can't quite believe none of you had any idea of how to do that," Dean growled.
"We didn't!" Tom defended, but there was a hint of panic in his eyes and a guilty pallor on his face that told both Sam and Dean otherwise.
"You could've trapped him," Dean said, leaning over the table so that he was staring hard at the other man.
feral grin spread Dean's lips, and Sam knew things were about to get
out of hand.
"You tell me," the older Winchester said. "Trapping a spirit is necromancy business."
Sam had to admit that his brother had a point, and that was why he didn't do anything to stop the relentless interrogatory and merely watched as Tom Alban sat back down and looked forlornly at the wooden surface of the table.
"We didn't want to," he spoke quietly. "He was still a member of the family."
"He was dead," Dean said pointedly.
"Would you waste your brother if he was to turn into some kind of evil spirit?" Tom spat angrily.
Dean froze. His whole frame went so rigid that for a moment Sam thought he was going to leap and break the man's jaw with a single punch.
"This is not about me or Dean," Sam spoke, softly, quietly. And yet, his voice carried more steel and authority than any shout could ever do. "This is about you and your family and people getting caught in the middle. Are you telling us that you guys knew how to stop this all along but never had the nerve to actually do something about it?"
Sam's accusatory stare was far more intimidating than his brother's furious one, and Tom found himself looking away.
"Dad finally got around to decide to act upon it," he said after a moment of tense silence. "But by the time he did, he was dying."
"And he asked you to make a ghost out of him so that he could stay around and save the world," Dean interrupted icily. "How noble of him."
"He wanted me to do it," Tom replied flatly, glaring back at the hunter. "That's why he stayed around. To convince me to trap grandpa's spirit. But I couldn't do it, I didn't want to do that to him."
you left all those people to die."
Sam's voice was still calm and controlled, but it was now seething with such anger that even Dean turned to stare at him with a frown.
"I was just trying to come up with another solution!" Tom defended again.
It took only one shared look for both Dean and Sam to know that they had nothing else to do there. Dean took the small book and tucked it into his jacket.
"If we hear about anything else going on around here, we'll be seeing you," he warned, green eyes boring into guilty, scared blue ones. "Sam, you comin'?" he asked once he reached the doorway and turned to see Sam hadn't moved.
The younger Winchester stood there for a few minutes, regarding Tom Alban with a mixture of pity and rage and sadness.
"Goodbye, Tom," he said, turning to follow his brother out of the room.
Tom watched them go and let himself slump further down onto his chair, knowing that whenever the Gwrach-y-rhybin came to call his name, he would deserve it.
"You alright, Sammy?"
Dean spared a sideways glance at his silent brother. He knew exactly what was going on in Sam's head, but he wanted Sam to voice it himself.
younger Winchester cleared his throat to allow his voice to float out
after long minutes of disuse.
"I just can't believe it."
There it was. Dean had to fight off a bitter knowing grin at the desolate, disbelieving, almost lost tone that was currently marring Sam's voice. It made him sound younger, and Dean gripped the wheel tighter, wanting to hurt the Alban's all over again for this new reminder to his brother about how nothing and none could be really trusted except for evil.
"I mean, they seemed so... afraid." Sam's voice dragged him out of his purposes of murder. "How could they turn to necromancy?"
"I think they did it exactly because of how scared they were," Dean replied grimly, while he was reminded of another conversation.
"To cross a line like that, a preacher's wife. Black magic, murder. Evil."
There were so many similarities between what had happened back in Nebraska all those months ago and what had happened there in Gettysburg that Dean felt almost physically ill.
"You think... You think what made Davis change his mind and go against his father was the death of his wife?"
Dean was glad that driving required keeping your
eyes more or less fixed on the road, because otherwise he would never
have managed to look away from Sam's gaze right then. It looked a lot
like the one Sam would fix him with when he was a kid and he'd ask
Dean why couldn't they have a mother just like everyone else.
He wouldn't ask that question often. No matter how young he'd be, Sam had always been adult enough to be extra careful around it.
even those few times were enough to make Dean's heart sink low in the
pit of his stomach and his throat close up completely.
To this day, that look in Sam's eyes affected him like nothing else could, begging with Dean for answers he didn't have.
"I mean, Tom refused to do anything even after his own mother..."
God, Dean hated Tom Alban. No matter how amazing his burgers were, he hated him with a passion.
"It doesn't matter, Sammy. What matters is that someone decided to do something in the end."
It wasn't a satisfactory answer, not by a long shot, but it was the only one he had.
Sam nodded mutely and went back to stare at the window, and he felt a shiver run down his spine. If there was anything Dean Winchester was proud of, it was being able to pick up on the slightest change of his brother's mood.
Presently, he had known something else had entered Sam's mind the instant it did. He also knew that whatever it was, he wouldn't like it. Which was why now he reached out, turned the volume of the radio up of a few notches, and waited for Sam to talk rather than being the one to push him.
He didn't have to wait long. Sam barely made it past the doorway of their motel room before he sat down on one of the beds and fixed Dean with that puppy dog 'we-gotta-talk-I-don't-know-how-to-tell-you-whatever-it-is' look of his.
"Dean… something… There's something else you have to know."
Dean felt the sudden urge to avoid the subject. At all costs. He wanted to say that he didn't want to know, that he had yet to process everything he already knew, and please, let him have a break.
But he didn't say any of it. He shrugged out of his jacket and leaned back against the kitchenette counter.
"You don't remember anything, do you?"
The look on Sam's face suggested that he hoped his brother would say otherwise. But Dean really had no recollection of anything after confessing his guilt to Sam (something he was already regretting strongly), and he was forced to shake his head.
"Well…" Sam licked his lips nervously. "Something happened, with you and me."
Dean spent the next ten minutes trying to follow his brother's tale as the younger Winchester tried to explain about glass walls, corporeal Banshees and some sort of weird communication with Dean himself while he was in fact still in a coma.
Dean's frown was deep as he tried to make sense of what he had just heard, to no avail.
"What are you saying, Sammy?"
"I don't know." Sam sighed. "I don't know what happened. I mean, I was seeing both you and that thing, you were seeing both me and that thing, Davis was just seeing it, and the doctor didn't see anything at all. According to him, the monitor never even went off."
Sam looked lost, and Dean had to admit that he had no clue about any of it, either.
Dean's head jerked up as Sam trailed off, the fear lingering in his brother's voice and eyes having alarm bells go off in his mind.
Sam didn't reply.
Dean's stomach clenched as soon as his brother looked back at him after having averted his gaze. It wasn't fear that Dean could see staring back at him in Sam's eyes now. It was raw terror.
"Maybe it's some sort of new ability." The younger Winchester's voice sounded rough, and it scraped like sandpaper over Dean's ears. "Maybe I get to have this, other than the visions."
Dean arched an eyebrow.
"What, seeing almost dead people as if they're all wide awake and coherent?" He ignored Sam's flinch at the 'almost dead' remark and went on with a scoff. "Come on, Sam, this isn't 'True Calling'."
"But I saw you, Dean!" Sam cried, fear and confusion mingling into anger. "Even before the Gwrach-y-rhybin came. I saw you. Behind that wall. You begged me to get you out of there!"
"That was a dream," Dean reasoned firmly. "You were unconscious, you said so yourself."
"And you brought me back! I don't believe in coincidences, Dean, neither do you. And the wall was no dream: it was there all the time."
Dean ran a hand over his
face and exhaled slowly.
"No. No no no. No. There's no way it was another psychic thing, okay?" he declared, hoping that what sounded like despair to his ears might pass like stubbornness to Sam. "It was just…"
"What?" Sam interrupted defiantly. "Just an episode? Something that won't happen again? Because you said that about me moving that closet at Max's house, too."
"And I don't recall you moving any other piece of furniture with your mind after that, did you?" Dean almost yelled back.
He prayed Sam would drop it. Just this time, just for a while. He was still trying to figure out both the visions and the temporary telekinesis, he couldn't deal with another psychic power. Not now.
But if the look on his brother's face was any indication of it, Sam had no intention of dropping it.
Escape came for Dean in the form of his cell phone going off in that precise moment, something that made him briefly wonder whether maybe there was a God after all.
He ignored Sam's glare, which clearly said something along the lines of, 'don't-you-dare-take-that-we're-not-done-yet', and flipped it open.
"Dean! Hey, it's good to hear from you." Caleb's voice flew familiar and relieved into his ear, and Dean grinned.
"You only heard from me a few hours ago. What, worried about me, old man?"
The grumpiness crept back into Caleb's tone, and Dean welcomed it. He couldn't stand people treating him like he was about to break, no matter how close a call it had been.
"Listen, I looked into any bit of information I could come across, but I couldn't find anything," Caleb informed him. "It seems there's just no way to break the curse over this family."
"Good." The feral growl was out of his mouth before Dean could stop himself.
"Uh… I mean, okay, thanks Caleb."
Fact was, as far as he knew, Tom Alban had no wife or kids, and at this point Dean thought the man deserved whatever the Gwrach-y-rhybin had in store for him.
"I need you to research something else for me," he said then, ignoring Sam's puzzled look.
He told Caleb everything. About the mysterious glass wall that not even the Gwrach-y-rhybin could cross, about his begging with Sam, about everyone seeing different things.
He could feel Sam's eyes boring into his back the whole time, and he know that talking about this to anyone else was the last thing his brother would have wanted. But Dean needed answers, possibly reassurances, and Caleb was the most immediate, reliable source they had.
He didn't even realize how tightly he had been gripping the phone until he had explained everything and he was suddenly aware of the tension in his knuckles.
"Well, there's no need for research," Caleb said. "I know what it is."
"What is it?" Dean asked, making sure to keep his back to Sam so that his brother wouldn't see the fear in his eyes.
"I think it's an episode of unconscious empathy."
Dean had no idea of what it was that Caleb was talking about, and so he didn't know whether he should be relieved or just grab Sam and run as far as they could.
"Is Sam empathic on a regular basis?"
He also couldn't remember the last time he was reduced to inarticulate blabbers.
"Don't worry, Dean, empathy is nothing supernatural, despite a few scientists believing it's some sort of psychic ability," Caleb said. "Bullshit, in my opinion," he spat, and Dean's racing heart slowed a little. "It's actually pretty normal amongst very sensitive people."
"Uh… well, he…" Dean cleared his throat. "He does pick up on people's emotions pretty easy."
"There you have it, then." Caleb sounded relieved. "It was unconscious empathy."
"Mind telling me what the hell are you talking about?" Dean snapped, pinching the bridge of his nose with a thumb and a forefinger.
"It's something that occurs sometimes between empathic people and someone they have a very strong bond with," Caleb explained patiently, totally unfazed by Dean's anxious tone. "They can pick up the other person's emotions even if said person is unconscious or doesn't know about those emotions on a conscious level. I think because his perception of reality was already slightly altered, what with the ghost who didn't look like a ghost and a creature with Banshee quality being around, this event translated into images into Sam's head."
"Hang on a second," Dean said, feeling slightly dizzy with it all. "So Sam saw it all because of this empathy thing?"
"It makes no sense. Why would everyone see different things?"
"It's very simple," Caleb said, and he suddenly sounded a lot like a parent trying to explain to a child something that wasn't meant for children to understand. It grated on Dean's nerves. "You were able to see Sam because of your brother's empathy and the Gwrach-y-rhybin because it came for you. Sam was able to see you because of his empathy and the Gwrach-y-rhybin because that's what you were seeing at the time. It was corporeal to him because he was the only real presence in the room at the time, the only one who was fully bound to earth. Davis Alban could see the Gwrach-y-rhybin because he was dead, he could see Sam for obvious reasons, and he couldn't see you awake because the real you was unconscious and he had no connection with you. The Gwrach-y-rhybin couldn't see Sam because he's not dead and it wasn't there for him. Finally, the doctor couldn't see a thing because he was completely into the real world. Everything clear?"
Dean's head was definitely spinning with information by then, and he could only hope he'd mange to convey it all into some sort of understandable explanation for Sam later on.
"What about the wall?" he asked after a moment spent trying to collect himself.
"I think that was some kind of unconscious materialization of your fear. You were probably afraid back then."
Dean didn't deny it. Fear was the only thing he could remember about those hours.
"Which is why none could go past it but you when you reached out to pull Sam back into consciousness," Caleb said again.
"How did that happen?" Dean enquired with a frown.
"Same way the rest of it did. You're probably a little empathic yourself when it comes to Sam. Or maybe it was just Sam's mind translating his own worry for you. I don't really know which one."
It all sounded pretty reasonable to Dean. Crazy, yes, and it still didn't make much sense, but reasonable nonetheless. And most of all, it sounded reassuring enough.
"So there's nothing supernatural going
He needed to hear it again, just one more confirmation, just one more word that would put his trouble thoughts at rest.
"No, Dean. Sam's safe. You both are."
There was a smile in Caleb's voice that had a small matching one creep onto Dean's lips.
"All right," he said. "Thanks Caleb. For everything."
"Don't mention it," the older hunter replied readily. "You boys take care of yourselves."
The line went dead then, and Dean took a few moments to let the relief sink deep before turning around to face Sam's anxious stare.
"Caleb says it's unconscious empathy."
His announcement was met with a blank stare.
"You don't know what it is, college boy?" Dean grinned wickedly.
Sam's frown promptly turned into a scowl.
Dean explained everything as best as he could, and he was a little put out when Sam didn't appear nearly as confused as he had been. Psychic little brothers apparently held the power of making their ordinary older brothers feel remarkably stupid. Not that Dean was ever going to admit it out loud anyway.
"So it's safe, isn't it?"
Sam asked, a hint of fear still lingering in his eyes.
Dean's smile softened into reassurance.
"Yeah, Sammy. It's safe."
Sam exhaled slowly, and Dean could see relief was quite overwhelming for him, as well.
At this point, there was only
one thing Dean could think of.
"What do you say we get the hell outta here?"
Putting Gettysburg, South Dakota, in their review mirror was something they were both more than ready for.
Sam knew he would be dreaming of screeching monitors and glass walls for many weeks to come. He knew his ears would be echoing with Dean's pleas every time the highway would be silent enough.
He also knew the Alban's would be popping up in there somewhere, too. Cold, uncaring, scared. Desperate. And he would be wondering who the real Davis Alban was: the kind, weary spirit he had met, or the terrified, resigned man he had seen reflected in Tom's eyes.
Amongst all of this though, he would be look at Dean and thank God that he was still with him.
On his part, Dean knew he wouldn't be dreaming. The thoughts and memories would creep in during long drives and quiet nights, and he would turn the volume of the radio up as far as it could go to try and silence them. It wouldn't work, and he would sing songs in his head to smother it all.
That wouldn't work, either, and he would be forced to start working on yet another layer of his mask. A grin wide enough and remarks witty enough to cover it all up, a veil over his eyes thick enough to hide one new burden, one new secret that he had to keep from Sam: there was nothing on the other side.
No, Dean wouldn't be dreaming. He'd be too firmly anchored to reality.
"What about the curse?"
He looked up after tossing one of their duffel bags into the trunk to find Sam staring at him with a mixture of sadness and lingering hope.
Dean stared back, slamming the
"You don't break a curse."