Disclaimer: Standard stuff. Sadly, I own nothing.
Spoilers: Story is set in Season 1 before "Shadow"... so spoilers for pretty much anything that happened before that.
This is my first attempt at this wonderful world of fan fiction. I have read so many amazing stories by so many talented authors on this site that I was inspired to throw my hat in the ring. This hasn't been beta'd, so all mistakes are my own. I'm posting this in three parts. Reviews are welcome. Needed. Craved...
Dean was running.
He couldn't see if it was to or from someone…something. But he was running as if his – or someone else's – life depended on it. The environment around him was blurred, but Dean was clear.
Then he turned, his chin over his shoulder, his eyes following, then his upper body rotating to follow the motion. The look in his eyes was terrible. Rage. Pain. Fear. Desperation. Sorrow.
A crimson trail of blood covered the left side of his face, and as he moved it dripped from his chin to collect on his already blood stained shirt. His arm came up with a sawed-off in it – his left arm, which was odd because Dean is right-handed. His jaw hardened, his eyes emptied, and he fired…
"Gah…" Sam came awake with a start, unsure if he'd really been asleep. He took a moment to gather his bearings. He was in the Impala. Metallica hummed in the background. The seat beneath him vibrated with the consistent, comforting rumble he'd grown to associate with home. And his brother's hand was splayed on his chest.
"…with me, Princess?"
"You okay, there, Sammy?"
"It's Sam," he answered without thinking.
Dean removed his hand once he could tell Sam was awake. He wrapped his fingers around the steering wheel, the silver ring that never left his hand clinking against the black metal. He slid his eyes sideways to look again at his brother; surreptously checking on Sam's status was as natural to him as breathing. Sam had straightened a bit in his seat and was looking out the front window, a slightly dazed expression on his face. As Dean watched, he squinted his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Your spidey-sense tingling again, little brother?"
Sam shook his head. "Just a headache."
"How far are we from…" Sam had forgotten the name of the town they were heading to.
"'bout another 150 miles or so. Why?"
Sam was silent for a moment. Dean waited him out. He had known from the time he was seven that the best way to get Sam to open up was to watch and wait. Sam was always the type of kid that needed to talk about what he was thinking. He either needed to be validated or simply share. A quiet Sam was a broody Sam. Or a worried Sam. And Dean had never let either of those situations last longer than necessary. So, he waited. And he watched.
"Dean, it ever just… I don't know… piss you off that Dad just keeps sending us these coordinates and never actually calls to talk? Never calls back even."
Sam didn't look at him, but Dean knew he was thinking about Nebraska. Dean knew Sam had really thought that that time Dad would call. He hadn't the heart to tell him that he'd called Dad from Lawrence with no reply. Other than another set of coordinates, that is. Did it piss him off? No. It worried him. Every time they followed the string of numbers, Dean hoped their Dad would be there waiting for them. And every time he wasn't, a tiny fissure cracked through the stoic wall of protection he'd spent 22 years building. Dean couldn't shake the feeling – even after all these months on the road with Sam – that he'd done something that day to make Dad leave. And he was the reason Dad wasn't coming back – not some demon.
But how to tell that to Sammy?
"It's our job, Sam."
Sam's head whipped around to face him and Dean bit back a cringe at the reply he knew was coming. "Our job?"
"Yes. Our job. We've had this discussion."
"No, Dean. We've never discussed this," Sam pivoted sideways so that his back was to the door and his left arm stretched across the back of the seat. Dean had a fleeting thought that he hoped the door his brother was leaning against was locked.
"We've never discussed how Dad just left – how he knows where we are because he keeps sending us places. How he knew you were hurt – you were dying and never even bothered to call and say 'glad you made it out alive'."
Dean sighed and rolled his eyes. He opened his mouth to retort when Sam's next tirade closed it again.
"You ever wonder why he never called around to check and see if you are really buried in St. Louis, Dean? I mean, there was a funeral. There were newspaper articles – with your name in them – and… nothing."
Dean pressed his lips together. That one had stung. Worse than Lawrence. Worse than Nebraska. But he would die before he let Sam know that. Aside from protecting Sam, Dean's mission in life was to keep peace between his Dad and his brother. Two people so alike they ricochet off of each other. The two most important people in his life were constantly at odds – and they hadn't even seen each other in nearly three years.
"Say something, man!"
Dean lifted his fingers from the wheel in an impatient gesture. "What do you want me to say, Sam? There's nothing I can do right now about how Dad operates. But our job is to hunt evil. And he knows that. So he sends us to where he finds the evil he can't get to. Because he knows we'll do our job."
Sam clenched his jaw and shook his head. "I wish that just one time you would admit that this hurts you."
Dean pulled his eyebrows together. "What?"
"This, Dean. This…indifference."
"Oh, god, kill me now."
"Fine. Fine, Dean. Have it your way," Sam pouted, rotating forward and looking out the side window.
Dean waited a beat, then looked back over at Sam. "You gonna tell me what you saw?"
Sam nearly sprained his neck this time, looking over at Dean, "Wh-what?"
"You think I don't know when you have a vision, Sam?"
Sam's eyes clouded and he shook his head slowly… "No…it-it wasn't a vision… it was…"
Sam nodded slowly.
"Don't think so, kiddo. You forget who you're talking to? Who talked you out of nightmares since you were a baby?"
Sam lifted his eyes to meet Dean's, and for a moment, Dean caught a glimpse of his three-year-old kid brother staring back at him. Sam blinked once. "I, uh, couldn't see it clearly."
"Any reason for me to turn this baby around and head in a different direction? Anyone on the verge of getting decapitated?"
Sam's minds eye flashed to that look Dean had just before he lifted the sawed-off – lifted it with the wrong hand – and fired. "No, this one was different."
"This one was about… you."
Dean pulled into the parking lot in front of apparently the only diner/bar/motel in Blackroot, Massachusetts. He sat for a moment, staring out of the front window, processing what Sam had told him 150 miles ago. It hadn't really been much of a vision, as visions go. But it bothered Sam. And that bothered him.
"Let's go in and see what we see," Dean sighed.
"I don't like this," Sam said, his lips tight.
Dean lifted an eyebrow. "Well, unless you get a tremor in the Force that tells us to vacate, this is where Dad sent us, so this is where we go."
Sam opened the door, and swung his legs out. The squeak of the Impala's doors covered his grumbled, "Still don't like it." Dean didn't have to hear him to know what he said.
They went in, the sadly familiar smells of cigarette smoke, beer, greasy food, and hard-living people assaulted them instantly. Dean breathed it in like ambrosia, his chin up, shoulders rotating back as he opened himself up to the room. Sam ducked his chin and shoved his hands in his coat pocket. Both, however were on alert.
They were shown to a corner booth. Or rather, the bar tender who could have passed for Sean Connery's double, gestured to the corner booth with his chin as he whipped clean a pint and grumbled without really looking at them, "She'll be by in a bit."
Sam chewed the inside of his lip as he carefully surveyed the locals.
"So, I came up with nothing recent on my search of this place."
Dean's brows met over the bridge of his nose. "Nothing?"
"Nothing recent. This place was as bad as Salem back in the day. But it's been quiet for about the last 75 years or so."
Dean pressed his lips together with a nod. His green eyes slide to the back of the diner, past the bar. There was one pool table currently being accosted by two twenty-something drunks. A sly grin lit across his face.
"Think I'll go make us some money, Sammy. See what you can get out of the waitress when she comes by."
Sam had to grin at the look of anticipation on his brother's features. "You want me to get you something?"
"Sure the usual."
"Right. Evian and green salad it is."
Dean paused mid-way through standing from the booth and tossed Sam a stricken look, "Dude! Are you trying to kill me?"
Sam chuckled. "Okay, burger and fries."
"Beer, right," Sam muttered as Dean walked away. "Can't forget that."
He watched Dean walk past the bar and knew the minute he'd lost him when what he assumed was the 'she' the bartender had been referring to swished out of the swinging doors from what could only be the kitchen in a swirl of words Sam didn't understand. She held a tray laden with filled plates in one hand and two pints of beer in the other. Her hair was a coppery gold, long, and tied at the base of her neck. She was trim, but tall.
As Sam watched, Dean's stride slowed, but the waitress's didn't. She walked right up to him, and Sam saw she was just about eye-level with Dean. She met his eyes and as she passed him, pulled his gaze with her. Dean rotated around, his eyes pinned to hers until she turned her head and broke the gaze. The bar tender called something to her in that strange language and she all but barked back, comfortable it seemed that no one else understood what they were saying.
Sam lifted his eyes from the woman to Dean. He wasn't sure if he should be amused or concerned by the dazed look in his brother's eyes. It was if she'd bewitched him. He didn't move – just stood in the center of the room, his hands loose at his sides, and his eyes on her. Sam stared intently at his brother, trying without success to get his attention. A sharp bark of a laugh from behind him made Dean jump and he quickly shifted his eyes from the waitress to Sam. A flush of embarrassment spread over his face and he turned on his heel and continued back to the pool table.
Sam chuckled as he turned back to the menu. It wasn't often that he saw Dean captivated by a woman. In fact, he could only think of one other time: Cassie. Dean's silent admission to Sam that he had not only loved her but had been in love with her still surprised him. Sam had always thought Dean saw women only as objects. Beautiful objects, but not as people who could give him anything back. He only spent as much time with them as it took to release the tension he was consistently building up inside of him – and he only picked ones that wouldn't make him work too hard to get to the moment where the tension could be released.
It helped that women fell over themselves to get his brother's attention. He'd watched it happen since they were kids. Sam had always been tall for his age and Dean had always been a world-class bullshitter, so Dean had been able to get him into bars with believable fake IDs since they were 18 and 14. For the most part, it had been to hustle pool and play poker for money, but the side bonus for Dean had been the surplus female attention. The thing that had surprised him about Cassie was that Dean never never let the women he encountered get close. He'd let them believe they were his universe for a night, but he never let them see him.
That was what had initially drawn Sam to Jess. That she let him be open in a way he knew his brother never had been, and, until recently, he thought never wanted to be. Jess had always accepted him – which made him regret even more not telling her the truth. His gut told him that she would not have taken it as Cassie had. She wouldn't have pushed him away from her as Cassie had to Dean.
"Ack, I'd say penny for your thoughts, but they look like they weigh a ton, and I don't have many pennies to spare."
The words seemed to trip over themselves and flow smoothly at the same time. There was an accent, but he couldn't quite place it. He looked up from his sightless stare at the menu to see the bewitching waitress standing over him, pen and pad at the ready.
"Oh, yeah, uh, sorry."
"Can I get y'anything?"
God, why couldn't he place that accent? Sean Connery's double bellowed something to her from the bar, and Sam looked up at her long-suffering sigh. Her eyes were an unusual shade of yellow-green, and the irises were so large that he had to look again. She growled something low over her shoulder and turned back to Sam.
"Sorry 'bout that. He's been in a bear of a mood for two days but won't share why. Can't help him if he won't tell me, now can I?"
Sam grinned, and watched as her lips quirked in an answering smile. "No, guess not."
"So, you hungry, or just looking to stop moving for awhile?"
Sam pressed his lips together at her interesting phrasing. How many times had he said those same words to Dean?
"Yeah, I'll have the chicken and get the burger and fries for my brother…oh, and uh, two beers."
"Your brother the one currently hustling my no-brain cousins out of their papa's hard-earned money?" She asked, not looking up.
Sam slid his eyes to the side, just past her frame to see Dean grinning, eyes down cast, and shoving a wad of bills into the front pocket of his jeans.
"That'd be him."
She nodded, an unreadable expression on her face. "Chicken, burger, and beers, coming up."
She turned and took a different path back to the kitchen. Sam couldn't tell if it was to avoid Dean or not. Dean sat down in his seat with a satisfied sigh.
"That didn't take long," Sam observed.
Dean lifted a shoulder. "When you're good, you're good. They weren't." He laced his fingers together and leaned forward, his shoulders hunching in close. "You find out anything from the waitress?"
Sam mentally kicked himself. "Not really…"
Dean lifted a brow, but didn't move otherwise, "Sammy, I'm shocked and amazed. You aren't the kind to let a pretty face get in the way of progress."
Sam answered him brow for brow. "No, that's your department."
Dean looked out the window with a sideways grin. "Touché."
"I did find out that the bar tender's been in a bad mood for two days and won't tell her why. And they speak another – Gaelic!"
Dean lifted both eyebrows and looked at Sam. "Another Gaelic? There's more than one?"
"Shut up. I just couldn't place the language they were speaking to each other. It's Gaelic."
"How the hell do you know what Gaelic sounds like, Sam?"
"Jess had a thing for… y'know what, never mind. Just trust me."
Dean sighed and sat back. "Well, it so happens that those two college dudes were worth more than just the contents of their wallets."
"Yeah. Turns out there's been a couple of mysterious disappearances in the last week."
"So, the same time one of the family members was snatched, another one went crazy."
Dean pointed a finger at Sam. "Yatzee."
"Any idea where we start?"
"Chicken and burger, two beers, right?" Her voice was so close so suddenly that the boys exchanged a glance. How long had she been there?
"That's us," said Dean, shifting his head and looking up at her through his lashes. She merely lifted a brow and looked back down at him. As Sam watched, a silent conversation seemed to go on between them. One where Dean suggested, she shot him down, Dean backed off, and she ran him out of town with a lynch mob. He watched his brother swallow, pull in his bottom lip, and sit back, for all intents and purposes, defeated.
"So, uh…" Sam started, trying to find a name tag on her shirt.
"Those that matter know it, and those that don't know it don't matter," she said, turning her cool eyes to him. Sam, however, didn't really care much what she thought of him, so he returned her stare while Dean quietly sipped his beer.
"All right, then, I'll just ask you flat out. What do you know about these disappearances?"
"What's it to you?"
Sam tilted his head to the side, "We're working for a paper in Boston, doing stories on strange happenings in small rural towns."
She tilted her head to match his expression. "You're lying. And I don't have time for liars." She let loose a low grumble of Gaelic, and Sam felt himself grow suddenly cold.
She turned and left, then, and Sam blinked a couple of times, then turned back to his food.
Dean cleared his throat, drawing Sam's attention. "You okay, there, Sammy?" He'd notice Sam pale at her last words.
"I-I think she just cursed us," Sam said.
"I thought you said you didn't understand Gaelic? And since when has a little swearing upset your delicate sensibilities?"
"I never said I didn't understand it," Sam retorted. Dean lifted a brow. "I don't, but I never said that. And I didn't mean she cursed at us… I mean… I think she cursed us. Like a spell…"
Dean pulled a face at him. "Whatever, Dude."
"Dean, I'm telling you… I got this really weird feeling…"
Dean sat back, scratching the back of his head. "A gee she's cute feeling, or a grab the rock salt feeling?"
Sam stared at him, "I don't know why I bother telling you anything."
"Because I'm an awesome brother."
Sam shook his head and they finished their food in record time. The Waitress With No Name came back and dropped the check on their table.
"Hey," Dean called after her. .She turned and gave him a dead stare. "You know where we can find a room for a couple of nights?"
"To work on your story?"
Dean leveled his eyes on her and even Sam felt the coolness in his voice as he answered her. "Yes."
He was done trying to seduce her – now she was simply a vehicle to get information from. Plus, she'd given Sam a hinky vibe, and that was good enough for him. Not that he'd ever tell Sam he took his word at face value. Had to keep that edge.
"Go through those doors there. Alec will help you." She pointed with one long arm, her slim fingers curling back into her hand as she lowered her arm and then looked back at Dean. A look reflected there that Dean couldn't place, but didn't bother to linger on.
"Thanks," he said, dropping a few of the bills he'd just relieved her cousins of on top of the check, his eyes never leaving hers.
The boys stood in unison and walked away from the table. As they passed the bar Sean Connery's double looked up from the tap he was pulling and watched them. Dean shoved his hands in his pockets and unconsciously slowed his walk so that Sam was just ahead of him, and he was between Sam and Sean Connery's double. Something about that look gave him a bad feeling, and he didn't have to be psychic to trust those feelings.
Just as they reached the doors The Waitress With No Name had indicated, a bark of a voice sounded from behind them.
Dean froze, but Sam turned on instinct. Dean saw the mental kick flash across his brother's face, just before the surprise at who had called them registered. Dean cocked his head to the side and slowly turned to face the same direction as Sam. Sean Connery's double was moving from behind the bar and approaching them.
"You're John Winchester's boy or my name ain't Declan Kavanagh."
Dean lifted a brow. At least he knew the man's name. He started to open his mouth and reply, when Declan walked past him and directly up to Sam.
"You look just like him. Dean, right?"
Dean stood silently, watching Sam's face.
"Uh, no…Sam." Sam lifted his chin in Dean's direction. "That's my brother, Dean."
Declan turned and regarded Dean with surprised. "Boy, you must take after your mom, because there ain't a hint of John in you."
Sam winced at that. He knew the man was talking about appearance, but he also knew his choice of words would slice through Dean and leave a bloody wound in their wake. Dean's life was about being the son their Dad demanded he be. He was a better soldier at 16 then most Marine's would be in a lifetime. As Sam watched, Dean's green eyes emptied and for a moment his gut clenched and he half expected Dean to raise a sawed-off with his left hand so close was that expression to the one in his vision.
But all Dean said was, "Yeah, I must."
Declan seemed to realize what he'd said, and cleared his throat. "Well, I had been hoping to see John, but he wouldn't have sent you two if he didn't think you could help."
Dean lifted his chin. "So, you know us. Who the hell are you, Declan Kavanagh?"
The Kavanagh's owned and ran Blackroot's only diner and motel. Their house was located just behind the main building with a separate garage filled with four non-operating classic cars and two working tractors. Their family had lived in this area since before the Civil War, and they knew everyone and everything that went on in the small town.
This information Sam and Dean digested in the walk from the motel room where Declan let them drop their duffels to the main house where he insisted they join him for a drink while he told them the reason for calling John. He'd bellowed to Alec the motel manager that he'd better tell the girl to mind the bar because he wouldn't be coming back in that night, and with a wave, pulled the boys in his wake.
Dean, Sam observed, had followed along silently. Sam could tell he was sizing up Declan, unsure how exactly to accept this man who knew their father. He wasn't too sure himself. Something about the whole situation gave him an uneasy feeling.
Declan waved them to two wooden chairs gracing the time-worn kitchen table. The room was small, but comfortable. A spacious living room with various bookshelves and cabinets – each decorated with multiple blown-glass figures and vases – was off to the right and a stairway was tucked between the two rooms. A closed door was behind the table where they sat, and Dean assumed it was to a storage area.
"I gather you heard about the disappearances," Declan began, plunking two whiskey glasses down on the table in front of the boys. Sam began to wave him off, but Declan interrupted. "I can't trust a man I can't drink with. You'll have some."
Dean glanced at Sam and shrugged. Sam rolled his eyes and sat back against his chair, allowing Declan to pour him two fingers of Jameson. Dean downed his shot in a gulp, pulling his lips tight against the burn in his throat. Sam hated whiskey. He always had. He hated the memories it evoked of the hard nights his father had endured after a hunt, and his brother putting him back together again – mentally and physically. But at Dean's challenging look, he downed the shot, then immediately turned the glass over on the table.
His eyes burned and watered, and for a moment, he couldn't breathe, but then the burning subsided and he was back in the kitchen, listening to Declan. Dean had kept his green eyes leveled on him the entire time and Sam knew he was waiting. He nodded once at his brother and watched as Dean turned that intense stare onto Declan. Declan, however, was talking to Sam.
"So, you see, as soon as I heard about the connection I had to call John."
"Sorry, what?" Sam wheezed out. "What connection?"
Dean sighed, "To recap, Sam, Declan knew Dad from the Marines. He ran into him once in New Orleans when Dad was after a witch. Declan, here, figured out all by his lonesome that the people who are getting snatched and the people that are going crazy are related to the same evil sonofabitch and he thinks it's the same kind of witch Dad had been hunting."
Dean slid sly eyes over to Declan, "That about it?"
Declan squirmed a bit under Dean's stare. He seemed to be registering that he went sideways with Dean and that was not a good thing. "Look, I don't know that it's the same kind of witch. I just know that the reason these people are going insane is because they feel pain – intense, unimaginable pain – but it isn't real."
Sam pulled his brows together. "What do you mean it isn't real?"
"There's nothing physically wrong with them. The mayor's wife screamed and screamed that her belly was being ripped open, but…"
"No gaping hole in the belly, huh?" Dean said.
"No. Then…" Here, Declan paused, his face paling.
"What?" Sam said, leaning forward with that soft, encouraging look in his eye that never failed to get people to bare their soul to him.
"Then last night, the mayor was returned. They found him tied to the notice board in the center of town. He was dead, and…"
"His belly had been ripped open," Dean guessed, sitting back.
At Declan's nod, Sam frowned. "What makes you think this is a witch?"
"Well, your Dad mostly. When I talked to him –"
"Wait, what?" Sam interrupted.
"You talked to him?" Dean asked.
"Well, yeah," Declan shrugged, looking surprised at the response from the boys. "How else would I have told him what was going on?"
Dean shrugged, then ran his right hand over his face. "Right. How else." He looked at Sam and could practically feel the anger rolling off of him. He could hear his little brother's thoughts. He knew and he didn't give us anything. Just sent us numbers and expected us to go like good little soldiers… Dean sighed. He was suddenly very tired.
Just then, the front door burst open and bounced against the far wall from the force of the impact. Sam jumped and Dean was on his feet, facing the door, hand reaching for the .45 tucked in the back waistband of his jeans before any of them registered who came through the door.
"I don't know where you get off informing Alec that I am to watch your bar, old man, when I have my own tables to cover and on a Friday no less -- what the hell are they doing here!"
Again the words seem to trip and flow simultaneously to Sam. It reminded him of a shallow brook. Dean, he noticed, hadn't moved. He stayed tense, standing between the door and Sam, as if ready for The Waitress With No Name to explode into a ball of flame.
"Brenna," Declan said, tapping the air with his hands to calm her. "These are John Winchester's boys."
"I don't care whose boys they are!" Brenna stood in the doorway, hands on hips, her face a terrible mask of anger directed, thankfully, at Declan. She blew a wayward curl from her eyes. "Who the hell is John Winchester?" She looked back over at Sam and Dean, her eyes resting on Dean's face for a moment. "Oh, John Winchester."
If she hadn't been so mad, Sam would have laughed. All of the fire and emotion that Dean emitted from his eyes and held behind his tightly controlled wall, she let loose with a volley of volume. Even her facial expressions reminded him of Dean. Eyes narrowed, brows together, lips pursed. If Dean were ever to let his guard down, Sam thought the words would flow from him as swiftly as from Brenna.
Dean still hadn't moved, however. Sam wished he could see his brother's face. He was sure the stillness was purposeful, but he almost couldn't tell if Dean were even breathing. Brenna stepped up to him, her eyes widening slightly and looking directly into his.
Dean's stance instantly relaxed, and his hand moved away from the concealed gun. He nodded once. Her eyes shifted slightly and rested on Sam's. "Sam?"
Sam nodded, watching Dean's profile. His brother was once again studying Brenna with a look of cautious curiosity.
She looked back at Dean, and her breath trembled slightly as it escaped her slightly parted lips. "I figured. You are the hunter, he is the scholar. It may as well be tattooed on your foreheads."
Whatever damage Declan's earlier words had done to Dean's ability to trust these two, Brenna's words instantly healed. His stance relaxed into what Sam would have described as 'at ease', and he looked back at Sam as if to say 'guess we're doing this'.
Brenna dropped into the chair next to Dean's and reached for his shot glass. She poured herself a generous shot of Jameson, and slung it back, hissing at the burn. Dean sat back down in his chair, his eyebrows up in obvious admiration.
"So, you two going to help us figure out what the hell is going on around here?" Brenna asked, her eyes shifting between the brothers.
Sam chewed his lip for a moment, waiting for Dean to speak up as he usually did. When Dean remained silent, still watching Brenna, Sam nodded, then turned to address Declan. "So, Dad told you he thought it was a witch."
Brenna blinked once, surprise clear on her face, and she looked up at Declan. "A witch?"
Declan cleared his throat, looking at the table. "All I'm saying is that when I told John about the connection between those taken and those touched, he said it was a spell. He said he'd seen it before, and he was pretty sure it was a witch."
"He happen to mention what kind?" Dean asked, his voice low, his eyes on his hands.
Dean kept his chin down and lifted his eyes to Declan. "Of witch. There's more than one kind. Means more than one way to kill 'em."
At that, Brenna coughed. Sam and Dean shifted their eyes to her. She shrugged, waving their concern away. "Whiskey," she offered and turned the shot glass upside down on the table.
Declan looked over at Brenna, then back at Dean. "No. He didn't say. Guess he figured you boys would figure it out."
Sam slid his eyes to his brother. "Yeah. Guess so."
"So, the mayor, he the only one to be returned?" Dean asked.
"So far, yes," Declan sighed, a shadow covering his face. "The sheriff's wife was taken two days ago. They admitted Ben to the hospital soon after, but, like I said, nothing wrong with him."
"Nothing except his wife been taken," Brenna grumbled. Declan shot her a look and muttered a phrase that Sam and Dean couldn't follow. Brenna paled slightly and remained silent.
"Well, looks like we have some work to do," Dean said, flattening his hands on the table.
Sam took his brother's cue and stood. "We'll, uh, talk to you both in the morning."
Brenna stood, too, nodding at them, still silent. Dean narrowed his eyes and watched as she moved away from them and to the small door he'd taken as a storage room. She sighed and rolled her shoulders in a manner that spoke of true weariness. As she walked she reached back and gathered her hair from her neck, twisting it up in a bun. Dean caught a glimpse of a tattoo on the back of her neck. It read: Creideamh. He didn't know what the word meant, but he had a feeling that the image of the curve of her neck and that tattoo was going to linger long after she was out of his sight.
"Dean." Sam's voice sounded to his right.
They walked silently back to their room, each lost in their own thoughts. When they walked into the room, Dean flopped fully clothed onto the bed nearest the door and rested his arm over his eyes. He could feel Sam watching him.
"I'm fine, Sam."
He peaked an eye out from behind his arm. "Dude, seriously. It's been a long day."
Sam was standing at the foot of his bed, his hands resting on his hips, looking down at him. "A long day where we find out that Dad talks to pretty much everyone but us."
"The man has his reasons."
"Goddammit, Dean, why can you just admit that he pisses you off!"
Dean sighed and sat up, pulling his coat from his shoulders. "Because he doesn't."
Sam narrowed his eyes at the back of his brother's head. "I don't believe you."
Dean leaned over and pulled off his boots. He was growing wearier by the moment, as though someone had shoved a tap in his side and was draining out his energy. He knew it was the fact that he and Sam consistently returned to this conversation. Sam was like a dog with a bone when he was convinced he was right but no one would acknowledge him. Without answering his brother, he pulled his jeans off, left them in a pile on top of his boots by his bed, reached into his duffle for his knife, then slid it under his pillow.
"I don't believe he doesn't piss you off."
"Sam, whether you believe me or not is out of my control."
Sam pulled his eyebrows together. That wasn't like Dean. "You okay?" he asked suddenly, his voice an octave softer than his previous bellow. He ducked his head to get a glimpse of Dean's face.
"Yeah, man. Go to sleep."
Sam watched as Dean rolled to his stomach and pulled the covers with him. He sighed, knowing he wasn't going to get any further with his brother tonight. He grabbed a shower, letting the hot water ease the muscles that always ached from riding in the car for endless hours, and when he returned to the room he checked on Dean again. His brother's face was mashed into the pillow, his arms wrapped around it and Sam knew one hand was curled around the hilt of his knife.
He climbed into the other bed and hoped desperately for a solid night of sleep.
Dean was running.
This time he could see it was away from something. He was running down a hall of stone, towards a destination covered by darkness. He turned, chin first, then shoulders, his face bleeding heavily, and raised his arm – his left arm, his wrong arm – and fired.
A scream echoed and made him stumble. The scream was terrible – like the screech of a dying bird amplified tenfold. Dean went to his knees, look back towards the darkness, then turned and fired again – with his left arm...always his left.
A shadow passed over his face and the scream echoed again. Something bore down on him and Dean cried out "Sam, keep going! Don't look back! Don't come back for me!"
Sam woke with a start. The room was dark, silent. Had it been a dream? It was the same – the exact same – as before, only this time it lasted longer and he could see things clearer. He lifted a shaking head to wipe the sweat from his head. His head pounded like it had after a vision, the pain collecting behind his eyes in a dull throb. But the last time he'd had a vision, he'd been awake. Both times with this one he'd been sleeping. And they didn't have that same sense of urgency…
He turned to check on Dean and was surprised to see his brother's bed was empty. He sat up quickly and looked over to the bathroom. The light was off and the door was open. His eyes flew to the small table where Dean had tossed the keys to the Impala when they'd entered. The keys glinted in the faded light seeping in through the crack in the curtains. Sam looked to the clock. It was only 3am. Where the hell was he?
He got up from the bed and grabbed his jeans, pulling them on as he walked to the door. He opened it with force, anticipating a run to the car and stopped short when he saw Dean standing outside, shirtless in only his jeans standing outside leaning over the railing and studying something in his hands. Sam could see silver glinting in the waning moonlight. His cell phone?
Sam jumped a little at the sound of Dean's voice. He'd been so in his head since waking from the vision, he was surprised to hear him.
"Uh, yeah… couldn't sleep." He walked over to stand next to his brother, leaning his backside against the railing and looking down at Dean. "What'er you doing out here, man?"
Sam started. "What?"
"Left a voicemail. I slept through the ring. Can you believe it?" Dean chuckled mirthlessly. "Been looking for the man for almost a year and I sleep through the fucking ring."
Sam pulled his eyebrows together at the darkness in Dean's voice. "Man, I did, too. Don't be –"
Dean shifted sideways to look up at Sam. "What, Sam? Hard on myself?" He shook his head. Looked back at the cell. "Fucking voicemail."
He tossed the phone at Sam. Then pushed away from the rail and started to walk away.
"Hey – where are you goin?"
"For a walk."
"Dean… you don't even have shoes on, man."
"I won't freeze to death, Sam."
"Dean, wait… I'll… I'll come with you."
Dean stopped walking and let his shoulders drop. "Just…listen to the message, Sammy. I need a minute, okay?"
Sam watched him walk away from the motel and toward the garage behind the Kavanagh house. He sighed and flipped open the phone. The sound of his father's voice saying more than This is John Winchester. I can't be reached. If you need help, call my son, Dean. He can help… was a shock to his system.
"Dean. Answer you phone, Son. Listen, this witch is dangerous. She is taking people related to the Kavanaghs for a reason. I think Declan may be in danger. You watch out for him. You get this bitch, Dean. I think she may be related to him… do this for me, Son. Find her. Burn her. And take care of your brother."
Sam cringed at his father's sign-off. Take care of your brother. How often in his lifetime had he heard his Dad say those very words to Dean? As if Dean could ever forget. As if he would. Then Sam thought about what he didn't hear his Dad say. I am glad you're okay, Son. I miss you. I love you. He didn't even think his Dad knew how to say that particular four-letter word. He wondered if it had ever been said to Dean.
He remembered Dean saying it to him when they were kids. When he was scared or lonely or just needed reassurance. Dean had said, "You know I love you Sammy." As they grew, he stopped saying the words, but Sam saw it each day in his actions. In every teasing remark, in every blow that he took instead of Sam, in every step that he took putting himself in danger instead of his brother, Dean said 'I love you'. Sam flipped the phone shut and looked into the darkness where he brother had gone. He'd give him a few minutes then, go fetch him back.
Dean walked sightlessly toward the garage, his father's words echoing in his head. He tried to shove away the hurt and focus on the information his Dad had given him, but he was having trouble zeroing in on what was important. He wanted to run really hard until his lungs burned. He wanted to drive really fast until he was far away. He wanted to hit something, hard, until his arms ached. Instead, he stopped inside the doorway of the garage and stood absolutely still. He barely breathed. He just…stood.
He stared at the four cars Declan had told him were parked in the garage. They were a sad sight. A 1972 Chevy Nova, faded blue paint giving way to rust. A 1969 Porsche Boxter, covered in grey primer paint and up on blocks. A 1982 Grande National, black – it was probably in the best shape. And a 1965 red Ford Mustang convertible, front seats missing, real wheels missing, and a tree growing out of the engine block.
Dean sighed. He would die before he let the Impala give way to rust. He cared for his baby like he cared for nothing else, save Sam. Speaking of Sam, he knew he should stop pouting and go back to their room. Sam worried like a mother hen. If he stayed away long enough, Sam would come after him. Plus, he was getting cold.
He felt the presence behind him before he heard anything. He knew it wasn't Sam immediately. It didn't feel like Sam. It felt…foreign, dangerous. He cursed himself for his vulnerability. He'd left everything back in the room to wander off and pout about how Daddy didn't love him enough. He felt the presence exhale and quick as lightening he turned, grabbed it and pinned it to the wall.
He was not expecting to be face-to-face with a pair of bird-like yellow-green eyes and a rosebud mouth. He was not expecting to smell lavender. And he was not expecting the knee to his mid-section. The air rushed out of him and he stumbled backwards.
"What the hell…" he gasped, wrapping an arm around his belly.
"What are you doing here!"
"I could ask you the same question," Dean wheezed.
"No you couldn't. I live here."
"It's 3am and you're in the garage."
Dean straightened gingerly and rubbed his hand carefully over his stomach. "This is going nowhere," he said, turning to leave.
"Hey," Brenna cried, grabbing his arm. "I – "
She never finished. Instinctively, Dean had reacted to her hand on his arm, twisted out of her grasp, and had her pinned to the wall again in second. This time, though, he stood close enough that she couldn't get a leg up to knee him and both wrists were pinned next to her head. She gasped for breath, surprised at his strength and speed. His chest was bare, his skin warm. He panted a bit, surprised at the effect her closeness had on him.
"I was just going to say," Brenna breathed out, "That I was sorry."
"For misjudging you earlier in the café."
"Oh, I thought it might have been for sucker-punching me just now."
"No, that you deserved."
Their faces were inches apart and Dean could feel her warm breath on his face. His eyes darted from hers down the path of her nose to her mouth. For a brief moment he considered sucking on her bottom lip, and then his eyes darted back up to hers. Her eyes seemed to grow a bit as she stared at him, and he felt suddenly strange, like he couldn't move away from her, but like he was floating away at the same time.
"Wha—" he started. The feeling of vertigo intensified, but he couldn't pull his eyes away. He was aware of the increased rate of her breathing. Her chest touched his as she pulled in breaths. He found that it was hard for him to breathe at all. His periphery vision began to swim and he tried to blink his eyes but she held his gaze.
Sam's voice called from outside the garage. Brenna blinked at the sound and Dean stumbled backwards away from her. She pressed her lips together for a moment, contemplated saying something to him, but heard his brother just outside the door. She pushed Dean completely away so that she could escape in the other direction, not watching as he wavered and stumbled to his knees.
"Dean!" Sam's bellow was closer, Dean could tell he was just outside the door. He was thankful because the world was spinning and he wasn't sure he would be able to stand up on his own, let alone get back to the motel room.
"Whoa, hey, man, you okay?" Sam's voice grew soft and came closer.
Dean tried to nod, but the world tilted suddenly and he found himself laying against the cold cement of the garage floor trying to stay conscious. What the hell had she done to him?
Sam sprinted the last couple of feet to his brother, alarmed by the way Dean had slumped over onto the ground. He was pale and trembling slightly. He reached for him, carefully pulling him to sitting position.
"Easy, it's okay, I've got you."
Dean sat up and pulled his knees to him, folding his arms across them and resting his forehead on his arms. "What the fuck was that?"
"I don't know, man. I came out here and you just keeled over."
"It was Brenna."
Sam put a hand on the back of Dean's neck, trying to comfort and still the visible shaking. "What was Brenna?"
"She was out here," Dean would never admit it to his brother, but the warm hand was comforting and seemed to help ground him. His reality that had been spinning came to rest and he started to feel solid again. "Sh-she… I don't know… put a whammy on me."
Sam left his hand resting lightly on the back of Dean's neck, but lifted an eyebrow. "A whammy?"
Dean shrugged. At that, Sam lifted his hand, thinking his brother was shrugging away from his touch. Dean was sorry, but didn't correct him. "I don't know, man. She surprised me, punched me, I pinned her to the wall, and then things got all… swirly."
Sam looked down at Dean, head still cradled on his arms.
"Let's get you back to the room," he said, hauling Dean to his feet from under the arms. When Dean was steady, he looked at Sam, a silent 'thanks' in his eyes. Sam gave him a half-grin 'don't mention it' back and they started to walk to the room.
"Sam," Dean said as they reached their door.
"You know I'd always watch out for you, right? Even without Dad…"
Sam leveled his eyes on Dean's. "I know, Dean."
"Dean, if you do not stop tapping that pen I'm going to kill you," Sam growled not looking up from the computer. They had been in the small motel room since breakfast trying to determine what kind of witch they were up against with no luck. Nothing they found pointed to a witch that was able to connect the victims psychically. Sam thought that maybe it was a spell and had started searching for spells about two hours again.
Dean dropped the pen and started pacing. Sam kept his face pointed toward the computer but lifted his eyes to watch his brother. Dean paced the same eight steps, back and forth, clenching and unclenching his fists, his jaw working into knots.
Dean jumped at Sam's bark. "What?"
"Go. Outside. Go… work on the car or something."
"What? No, I'm helping you."
"No you're not. Get out of here."
Dean sighed. Looking at Sam with what might pass for glee, he said, "I guess I could ask if Declan would mind if I worked on a couple of those cars out back."
"Yes. Go. Do that."
"You gonna be okay?"
Dean almost sprinted out of the door. He made his way to the bar/café and dropped down onto one of the barstools, waiting while Declan finished cleaning the pint glasses.
"You thirsty this early, boy?"
"You got anybody working on those cars out back?"
Declan looked confused. "Cars?"
Dean lifted a brow. "Yes. Cars. In the garage."
Declan's eyes darkened. "Those aren't my cars, son."
Dean cocked his head to the side. "Whose are they?"
Declan shrugged. "Different family members pass on sudden like, I keep the cars. Kind of a memorial."
Dean thought about the condition of the cars he'd seen. "You sell some of those memorials for parts, there old man?"
Declan narrowed his eyes. "Just because you're John's boy ain't no reason to smart off."
Dean gave him a side grin, "See, that's just the thing. I don't need a reason." He narrowed his eyes. "Something about this case has been off from the start. What aren't you telling us?"
Declan avoided Dean's keen gaze. "Those cars are from family members who were taken."
Declan nodded. "Taken."
Dean lifted a brow and pressed his lips together. "Taken like the mayor was taken? Like the sheriff's wife was taken?"
Declan nodded once.
"The mayor, the sheriff's wife, they related to you?"
Declan nodded again, continuing to wipe the same place on the bar with a wet white bar towel.
Dean thought back to the years of the cars. "So…this has been going on since… the sixty's?" At Declan's third nod, Dean continued, "Why are you just now asking for help?"
Declan sighed. "The sheriff's wife was Brenna's aunt. Her mom's sister. Brenna's my granddaughter."
Dean sat back. So it had to hit close enough to home, apparently, for Declan to take action. "Same deal every time? One gets taken, apparently tortured, and then the body is returned while the other goes crazy from the phantom pain?"
Declan's chin trembled a bit. "Mostly. Bodies aren't always returned. And it's not the pain that drives them crazy. It's knowing that their loved one is going through it for real and there's nothing they can do about it. It's the helplessness."
Dean leaned forward, fingers folded together. "You have to know more than you're saying. Sammy and me, we got nothing. All Dad is saying is that it's a witch. But we can't help you if we don't know what kind, man."
Declan lifted his dark eyes to meet Dean's and for a moment it looked like he was going to say something. Then the door behind him swung open and Brenna walked in, startling him. He shook his head, and turned around to head back to the kitchen, brushing passed Brenna without a word.
She pulled her eyebrows together, glaring at Dean. "What did you say to him?"
Dean pulled his head back. "I didn't say anything to him. I'm trying to help you people."
Brenna narrowed her eyes. "Sure." She tried to ignore the fact that his grey T-shirt outlined the curve of the chest she still remembered clearly from last night, and accented his well-muscled arms perfectly. She also tried to ignore the fact that his hazel-green eyes lit up when he was pissed. Like he was now.
Dean pressed his hands flat against the bar and leaned over close to her. "Listen, lady, I don't know what kind of mojo you're working here, but don't forget that you called us for help."
"Well don't do us any favors, Winchester," she spat at him.
"Fine!" He pushed away from the bar.
"Fine!" she hurried around the corner and stopped his exit. "And another thing, I am not working any mojo as you put it."
Dean lifted his hands in a mock surrender. "Whatever you say."
"I'm not! You were the one sneaking around last night."
Dean tried to move passed her, but she stepped in his path. "What the hell, Kavanagh," he said, mimicking her use of his last name.
"I want you to admit that you were the one where you shouldn't have been last night."
"Honey, you can just wait until hell freezes over then, because I'm not admitting to anything," his green eyes raked over her face seductively and he stepped closer to her, challenging her. His eyes darted to her mouth and he found himself imagining what it would be like to suck on her bottom lip.
Brenna pulled in a breath, and as Dean watched, her eyes grew wide.
"No, no way," he said closing his eyes, and turning his head. "You got some strange witchy power that I – "
He stopped and looked at her suddenly, startled. She went pale. He blinked at her… thinking.
"No," she whispered, shaking her head. "No, Dean."
"No what," he whispered back, his voice betraying his confusion.
"Dean!" Sam's voice startled him. He looked up to see Sam barreling through the front doors, and turned back to watch Brenna back away.
"What is it, Sam," said, wearily, turning to face his brother.
Sam stopped when he saw Dean. Something about the way he stood, the expression on his face, how he held himself, gave Sam a bad feeling. He was reminded how Dean had looked in Nebraska. "You okay?"
Dean nodded, waving his hand in the air as if to say 'I'm always okay, what's on your mind'.
"They just found the sheriff's wife."
Dean's eyebrows went up. "Found her?"
"Yeah, she was hanging from a tree about 5 miles down the road, just off the property of an abandoned mill house."
"Unfortunately. And she looked like she'd been stabbed through by a…poker or firebrand of some kind. Man, this is not a normal witch we're dealing with here."
Dean thought of Brenna's face when he'd mentioned the idea that she had powers. "I gotta agree with you there, brother."
Sam narrowed his eyes. "What is it?"
Dean shook his head. "Never mind. Think we should check out this mill house?"
Sam shrugged. "Good a place to start as any. I've researched this thing to death."
Dean nodded. "Let's go."
Sam turned and all but sprinted out of the door. Dean followed, glancing behind him once to see Brenna's strange eyes watching him from the shadow of the kitchen doorway. He lingered for a moment, wondering if the witch they hunted were closer to home than either of them thought.