Summary - A kidnapping, a ritual sacrifice, and a desperate hunt…just another typical holiday season for the Winchester family.
This is a SFTCOL(AR)S Secret Santa fic for Annonie.
A huge thank you to Faye Dartmouth for her beta on this one.
Winter Solstice – Part 1
John Winchester was at odds with his youngest son. Again.
The lifestyle he had chosen wasn't compatible with raising kids but somehow Dean had turned out alright. In fact John would say Dean was an exceptional son; dedicated, talented and willing to take orders – John never had to worry about Dean.
Sammy, on the other hand, was turning out to be a handful. It wasn't that he was slow, stupid or a bad aim. Sam didn't want to listen to anything John had to say. And that was the crux of the problem.
He scrubbed his hands over his face before straightening to his full height, mentally preparing himself to go another round with Sam.
John had just intercepted a call from one Ginger, a schoolmate's of Sam's, wondering when Sam would be at her house. Apparently Sam and Ginger had plans tonight but hadn't agreed on a time. John took little satisfaction in explaining to Ginger that Sam wouldn't be leaving the house tonight, or any night in the foreseeable future; Sam was grounded for the rest of his natural life. Ginger's voice had barely quivered a response to John before hanging up.
Great, John had made a teenage girl cry. His day was complete.
Well, almost complete. Next he had to confront his youngest son about his deceptive behavior. Lying by omission to your father was just not acceptable.
Sam had always had a quiet stubbornness about him but lately he seemed to take issue with everything John said. Simple conversations turned into verbal sparring matches. Increasingly John turned to Dean as a mediator to help sort out the communication problems plaguing John and Sam. It put Dean in an uncomfortable position but John's well-oiled machine, his family unit, was falling apart and he needed the help.
The Winchesters had moved to a new town right before Christmas and John knew the timing couldn't have been worse as far as Sam was concerned; it wasn't even the end of the first school semester and Sam had once again been ripped away from a stabile existence. At least to hear him tell it. And boy did he tell it; he bitched to both his dad and brother every chance he got.
John paced the kitchen as he thought back on Dean's adolescent school years. Dean had been no angel but when it was time to buckle down and take care of business his son had been right there with him. Dean's rebellion took the form of skipping school and collecting girlfriends, regardless of their availability, but he never questioned John or his orders.
Sam, on the other hand, could turn an observation that it was cold outside into an argument. At least if John were the one making the statement. His sweet, biddable youngest child had suddenly grown a backbone. John should have been heartened at this turn of events but the backbone tended to only be turned on him, Dean escaping the brunt of Sam's sassiness.
"Sammy! I want to see you in the kitchen. Now!" John bellowed from the kitchen. Sam had closed himself in the bedroom he shared with Dean right after John had picked him up from school. Sam had been in such a snit, reason unknown, he hadn't even deigned to eat with John and Dean.
John heard the bedroom door at the top of the stairs open followed by light footsteps approaching the kitchen. He didn't look forward to the upcoming conversation but Sam needed to understand that John called the shots. Everyone's well being depended upon it.
Sam shuffled into the kitchen, hair in his eyes, and stopped before his father. "Sir?" It was incredible how much insolence could be injected into that one syllable. John felt his blood pressure begin to rise.
"Your friend Ginger just called and I had to tell her you couldn't come over tonight. What the hell did you think you were doing making plans when you knew you were grounded?" John flinched as he heard his voice. Damned if he didn't sound just like his own father talking to him when he was younger; he'd vowed never to do that and yet here he was, spouting off just like his dear, old dad to his youngest.
John found himself tapping his foot impatiently, waiting for an answer. Sam stared down at his feet, mute. "Sam, look at me when I'm talking to you." Sam folded his arms across his chest and continued to evade eye contact. After what seemed like an eternity of silence he reached forward and grabbed Sam's chin, angling it up so he could look into his eyes.
John's eyes widened as he noticed that Sam was sporting a shiner over his left eye. How had he missed that earlier? John was supposed to be observant. Their lives depended on it. He couldn't believe Sam's shiner had flown under his radar. It frustrated him that Sam wouldn't trust him to share what had happened and instead hid behind a wall of silence and his hair.
John, unwilling to delve into the larger issue of Sam's mistrust, focused instead on the familiar -- Sam's hair which he conveniently used as a curtain to shut out John. Short in the back but long in the front, Sam's hair was the bane of John's existence and a constant source of friction between the two.
"Tomorrow you're getting your haircut," John stated.
Sam had meekly allowed his father to touch his chin and brush the hair off of his face but the fact that the only comment his father could make over his black eye had to do with his hair hurt Sam to no end. He hadn't really expected sympathy but he thought his father would at least ask what had happened. But when it came to him he sometimes felt like John Winchester just couldn't be bothered.
Disgusted at what he perceived to be his dad's uncaring attitude and his own hurt over it, Sam pushed away from his father and made to leave the kitchen.
John wanted to know what the hell had happened to Sam's face. Why couldn't Sam just tell him instead of turning this into a production number? For the umpteenth time John wished his youngest had come with an instruction manual. Increasingly it was harder to reach him and he felt as though he was cutting himself off from John. Dean was never this difficult.
"Oh no you don't. Were not done here yet," John said as Sam shied away from him. When his words went unheeded John decided to physically rein in Sam.
John reached out to grab Sam's arm as he passed by and at the last moment his son tried to dodge away. Instead of making contact with his arm John's hand ended up swinging against Sam's shoulder at the same moment that his usually sure-footed son lost his balance; Sam toppled sideways cracking his head against a cupboard and slithered to the floor, landing on his knees.
John crouched next to his son and rubbed his back, "Sam, talk to me. Are you okay?" He'd wanted to confront the situation head on but he hadn't planned on things getting so out of hand. Even if it was unintentional. What did he always tell the boys--there is no room for accidents.
Sam pushed himself to his feet and away from his father. "It was an accident. I'm fine. I'll be up in my room." Sam's head was ringing but he'd sustained no permanent damage. However, his pride and his feelings were hurt. He brushed past Dean and trudged upstairs. Could this day get any worse?
Ten city blocks away the motel sign blinked its vacancies relentlessly. John Thompson, known as JT to friends and foes alike, lounged on the motel bed with his prized possession, The Arcane, lovingly cradled in his hands. This tome held the secret to immortality; at least JT believed this to be the case. You only had to read between the lines to understand it.
His fingers traced over the raised letters in the section on Cernunnos, the Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. His cult spread throughout Gaul and into Britain around the 1st century BC. The mythology suggested that this horned god was born at the winter solstice and died at the summer solstice, alternating with the goddess of the moon in ruling over life and death, continuing the cycle of death, rebirth and reincarnation.
JT's eyes glinted obscenely as he re-read the passage that pertained to his current mission. To achieve the bounty of Herne the Hunter, also knows as Cernunnos or Cern, a sacrifice must be made at midnight on the winter solstice outside of hallowed ground. It is to be a live boy child, son of a hunter, pure of body and soul. The incantation of Herne along with the Hunter Boy will call forth the spirit of the horned god; petition him for succor and if your sacrificial lamb is worthy he will bestow his attributes upon you in exchange for the live sacrifice.
December 22 was only a day away and JT had found his sacrificial lamb. After much deliberation, he had decided that pure of body referred to a virgin and pure of soul meant a generous spirit.
JT's former good friend, John Winchester, hunter extraordinaire, had sired two sons. The oldest boy was of an age where his virginity would most assuredly be an issue. At 19, with his fair good looks and easy charm, Dean Winchester was a definite success with the ladies.
Sam Winchester, however, seemed to have everything JT needed. JT was certain of his virginity as he was just maturing out of an awkward adolescent stage and stories reputed him to have a warm and gentle nature which was driving his father and brother to distraction; hunters didn't stop to help injured dogs as young Sam had supposedly done recently while on a hunt with his family.
I bet John Winchester is fit to be tied JT thought when he heard this story from another hunter and mutual friend of JT's and John Winchester's. A dog had darted out into the road while the Winchesters were en route to a job and the Impala had clipped the back left hip of the dog. John's youngest had refused to leave the scene until they dropped the dog off at a Veterinary Clinic. Short of bodily stuffing his son into the car John had decided that the quickest way to get back to the job at hand was to acquiesce to Sam's demands. Rumor had it that the two Winchesters had stopped talking over this incident.
Unconsciously rubbing his hands together, JT pondered his next move. He had tracked the Winchesters to their current base outside of Chicago. John had rented a furnished apartment in the poorer section of town, enrolled Sam in school, and was now working as a mechanic along with Dean at a Sears Automotive Center. JT didn't know what had drawn the Winchesters to Schaumburg, Illinois, and he didn't care since he was only interested in procuring the boy, Sam Winchester, for his ritual. And if John and his young son were at odds, all the better-- that meant it might be easier to get to his target. JT gathered some items together and headed out to his car. It was time to implement the first stage of his plan.
Tension simmered throughout the apartment as Sam disappeared upstairs and Dean joined his father in the kitchen.
Dean had been relaxing on the couch in the living room, quietly channel surfing, when the argument had exploded between his dad and brother. The apartment had thin walls and he couldn't help but overhear the argument, including the sound of something solid smacking into a cupboard. That something solid being his baby brother.
"Dad, what the hell?" Dean stood in the kitchen doorway in open mouthed amazement. "Did you just hit Sam?" Dean was incredulous. Sam could try the patience of a saint but no one laid a finger on his brother. Not even his dad.
"Give it a rest Dean. He slipped. It was an accident." John sighed. Dean had always protected his younger brother with a fierceness that made him proud but lately he felt as though Dean didn't approve of the way he handled Sam. Well, if Dean could do better, John was more than happy to let him try.
Unable to mend the situation with Sam at the moment, John turned his attention to something he had some control over – his quest for information on the Fire Demon who had ripped his family apart fourteen years ago.
"We need to do some reconnaissance. Be ready to roll in 30 minutes." John was pursuing a tip regarding the demon and had intended that both Dean and Sam would join him tonight but there was no way he was going to insist Sammy come along now. Not after the little scuffle in the kitchen. He needed to let things cool down a little on that front.
"What about Sammy?" Dean wanted to know. He hadn't talked to his brother since he'd slammed upstairs after school, preferring to lounge in the living room while Sam calmed down. He had no idea what was going on but he intended to get the full story out of Sam. Dean had learned from experience that if things festered with Sam for too long then what was just a minor understanding could quickly blossom into an international incident.
"Do me a favor and go upstairs and check on him. I want him to lay low and stay put while we're out." John regretted that he wasn't comfortable enough to go upstairs and talk to Sam now but he needed to focus on the job ahead of them. He trusted Dean to smooth things over.
Dean nodded his head before heading upstairs. He didn't bother saying anything because he knew it would fall on deaf ears. His father ran a tight ship and didn't take kindly to interference when he thought he was in the right. Which in John's view was always.
Dean was already an adult at 19 but it seemed that his 15-year-old brother's spirit was easily crushed and he needed to hear that he wasn't a failure. John Winchester had always been a hard task master but lately it seemed that he'd forgotten how to dole out praise to his sons. Dean knew his dad loved them but would it kill him to let them know it once in a while?
"Sammy?" Dean said as he knocked on the bedroom door. He didn't hear a reply but decided to go in anyway -- after all it was his bedroom, too.
Dean entered the bedroom unsure of what to expect. Sam was stretched out on his back, a bedside lamp shining just enough light onto the pages of the book in his lap. He didn't even look up as Dean entered the room.
"What's with the silent treatment?" Dean was irritated that Sam was ignoring him.
Sam used to bring every little problem to him and now he didn't seem to need Dean like before. Sam used to run to Dean with his skinned knees and hurt feelings and Dean had handled them with equal aplomb but this teenage version of Sam kept his own counsel and didn't seek out Dean for help or advice. Dean missed being Sam's protector. He missed being needed.
"I'm sorry. I heard you calling 'Sammy' and he doesn't live here." Sam set his book aside and looked up at his brother, flashing his dimples.
So Sam wasn't mad at the world, just their dad. Dean sometimes wished he had a scorecard to keep track of Sam's ever changing moods. But he was pleased that Hurricane Sam had blown through leaving a sunnier disposition if his smile was anything to go by.
As Dean crossed the room and approached Sam he marveled at the changes that had taken place in the last year. His chubby little brother had shot up a few inches and now resembled some exotic being with his large tilted eyes and skin stretched taut over his cheekbones.
The girls were starting to flock to his brother and Dean couldn't help but be proud. Another Winchester dazzling the ladies. Another thing the brothers could bond over.
On closer examination Dean noticed the black eye. "Jesus Sammy. Did Dad do that to you?" Dean gestured toward Sam's left eye. He couldn't believe it.
"Relax. Dad didn't do this to me." Sam peered around his long bangs to look Dean in the eye, "It happened at school."
Dean didn't appreciate the fact that Sam was making him pull the details out of him. But no one touched his brother and got away with it. Except him.
Dean reached forward and touched the skin around the blackened area. "Does it hurt?"
"What do you think? Of course it hurts," Sam spit out sarcastically. He instantly regretted both the words and the tone. Dean was the best brother a guy could ask for and didn't deserve Sam's attitude. He also knew Dean would want to beat the guilty party for daring to lay a finger on his brother but the truth was Sam could stick up for himself. In fact he wasn't the only person with a black eye this evening.
Unhappy with the situation he found himself in and life in general, Sam took it out on the one person who always stuck up for him -- Dean.
"You know what little brother? You'd better watch that smart mouth of yours or someone is going to shut it for you." Dean couldn't believe the gall of his younger sibling. And he was fed up with the mood swings.
Frustrated over Sam's behavior toward him Dean grabbed up the book that Sam had been reading and flung it across the room. He'd assured himself that Sam was okay and now he was going to get out of there before Sam succeeded in picking a fight. Throwing the book rather than decking his brother was the safest choice at the moment.
As Dean slammed out of the bedroom he snarled, "Dad says your ass is grounded. If I were you I wouldn't move a muscle until we get back."
Sam dropped his head into his hands. He regretted his harsh words to Dean but what he really wanted was some peace and quiet. His head throbbed and he wanted to rest. He loved Dean without reserve but Dean was not a quiet, restful person. He turned off the light and settled back as he heard the front door to the apartment close.
JT watched from the relative safety of his beat up sedan across the street as John and Dean Winchester exited the apartment and got in a truck. He couldn't believe how easy this quest was turning out to be. He pulled a ski mask over his face, pulled plastic gloves onto his hands, and grabbed up the black bag on the back seat. The bag held the necessities for subduing young Winchester -- a chloroform soaked cloth, syringe filled with sedative, blindfold, gag, and ropes. And his prized possession, The Arcane. Although he knew the passage by heart he refused to be parted from it.
Checking for foot traffic as well as cars he decided the coast was clear. It was time to make his move.
JT jimmied open the apartment door leading to the Winchester's unit. John had grown lax in the security department. The door was not bolted from within and JT easily gained entry. He noted the salt coating the floor but chuckled; salt wouldn't repel a thief or kidnapper and this apartment wasn't in the best of neighborhoods. JT's estimation of John's parenting skills plummeted. This was no place to raise a kid. Sam would be better off away from this existence.
JT turned off the lights in the living room and kitchen before stealthily making his way upstairs. From here on out darkness was his friend. On the second floor he passed a bathroom and bedroom with opened door before approaching the last room. Behind that door was the key to JT's plan.
Taking a deep breath JT turned the knob and pushed into the room. Peering into the darkness he paused to allow his eyes time to adjust to the new landscape. Scanning the room he thought he detected the outline of a body in the bed farthest from the door. JT set down his bag and pulled the chloroformed cloth out a plastic bag, taking care to hold it away from his own face. He slipped the syringe into his pocket. Holding the cloth in his hand he stepped farther into the room.
JT sensed someone was behind him and dropped to a kneeling position at the alert. He felt the rush of the attack but allowed himself to be tumbled over, knocking his bag over, but securely holding the cloth in his hand. Moonlight glinted off the body above him; Sam Winchester. He quickly thrust the cloth over Sam's face and held it firmly in place as Sam tried to wrestle it off. JT had the advantage of weight and strength and before long Sam was pinned underneath him, losing the battle with consciousness.
Sam couldn't believe this was happening. His dad and brother hadn't even been gone for half an hour when he'd heard the apartment front door open and when neither his dad nor Dean had called out he'd felt something was wrong. Hiding behind his door he'd hoped he could take the burglar by surprise or that the room he was in would be left in peace. He was baffled when the intruder seemed to head straight for his room. When the door opened he'd pounced on the figure. Whoever was in his room was taller and wider than him but he had the element of surprise. He hadn't planned on the fact that someone would try to drug him.
Sam valiantly held his breath as he fought to get clear of the cloth smothering his face but he was fast becoming dizzy and the room was spinning around. After holding out for as long as he could he was forced to take a breath and that's when the fight left him and he spun into blackness. Dean, I need you were his last thoughts before he passed out.
JT sat back on his heels and observed his sacrificial lamb. He was a good looking youth and had fought well for his age and size. It really was a pity. But to achieve his goals he needed Sam Winchester.
JT pulled the syringe from his pocket and smoothly uncapped it before pulling back the sleeve of Sam's t-shirt and sliding the needle into his upper arm. He couldn't take any chances that Sam would wake up before he was ready for him.
JT retrieved his bag, picking up the spilled contents. He pulled Sam's arms behind him, quickly tying the rope around his wrists before winding another length of rope tightly around his legs. Satisfied that Sam was trussed up tighter than a Christmas goose he slid the blindfold around his eyes and the gag into his mouth.
Now he needed something to disguise Sam so that no one would be suspicious if they saw him exiting the apartment carrying a large object. Pulling a blanket off the nearest bed he rolled Sam into it and heaved the precious package over his shoulder. Scooping up his bag he made his way downstairs. Stepping carefully over the salt he pulled the apartment door closed behind him. He couldn't believe his good fortune. That had gone far more smoothly than he would ever have anticipated.
Jauntily heading across the street toward his car JT didn't see the curtain pulled aside from the second floor window of the apartment adjacent to the Winchesters. He gently lowered his burden across the backseat before getting into the car. Tomorrow was the Winter Solstice and he was ready to petition the horned God.