Title: House of Mirrors

Summary: An encounter with a cursed artefact gives Sam a whole new perspective on his father and brother, and a chance to undo all the wrongs in his past.

Author: Wintereden

Status: Work In Progress (don't let that scare you!)

Disclaimer: Still playing in the sandpit.

Warnings: Um, language, suspense, DeanandSamOwies. Oh, and JohnandSamangst, because I love them all too much to be nice to them.

Reviews will make the author dance, and write more, thus saving mankind from her cooking.

Here comes the circus now to steal your life away
Catch unwary children at their play
Disturb what was a peaceful island of calm
A storm is coming on the horizon
The traveller begs for you his words to heed
To fear the evil thing that he proceeds
Recruiting evil in the autumn times of sin
A mad collection of broken men
Thunder ripping out across the sky
Draw the lightning out of my mind
By the prickling of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes
The house of mirrors is your place of play
Ten thousand faces driving you insane
A carnival of hate crawling through your mind
A gripping fear that leaves you paralyzed
Thunder ripping out across the sky
Draw the lightning out of my mind
By the prickling of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes

-Nuclear Assault

Sam got the feeling he was no longer in Kansas. Or Wyoming, for that matter. Touching his fingers to his hairline, he wasn't surprised when they came away bloody. That bastard jewel thief had caught him with one hell of a right hook. Dean was right; shapeshifters were assholes, and this one hadn't even tried to frame them for anything. He climbed gingerly to his feet and took a good look at his surroundings as a spike of panic jabbed him sharply in the gut.

They had followed the shifter from its latest robbery at the State Museum, cutting it off before it could hit the sewers, and for once, everything had gone according to plan. Sam had even managed to get a hold of the bastard.

And then, predictably, everything went ass up. Something had flashed before Sam's eyes; Dean had called his name, then nothing. Just a big pile of blackness where there should have been memories of a post hunting high.

God, he hated getting knocked unconscious. It made him cranky. Or crankier, in Dean's opinion, which was worth about as much as the cheep beer he drank.

Panic snuck up on him and attacked with the speed and efficiency of a panther moving or the kill. Where was Dean?

His brother would never have left him alone and vulnerable unless he were physically incapable of doing otherwise. Even then, Sam could recall a few occasions when Dean had come to his rescue with broken bones, and gapping wounds.

It was that knowledge, and his sudden fear for his brother's safety that had him search out with his fledgling psychic abilities for any hint of his brother's presence, and only then did he realise where he was.

He was in a cemetery. A fricking graveyard.

But he could feel Dean somewhere close by, like the bruises you can't see, but can feel beneath the surface. Dean's presence was a bruise in his mind. He wouldn't be sharing that comparison with the other hunter any time soon. He valued his balls too much.

But Dean was here, wherever here was. In the middle of a graveyard.

And not just any damn graveyard, no, looking more carefully, Sam recognised the place from pictures in his dad's journal. He was in Stull Cemetery.

So he was still in Kansas. Literally. Dean was not going to be happy. Their last visit had given the older hunter nightmares for weeks. Sam, suffering from his usual insomnia, had been hard pressed not to shake his brother awake on several occasions. Hell, Dean had driven them the best part of a hundred miles out of the way in order to bypass the city on the way to another hunt. Lawrence, Kansas, was the bull's eye on the dartboard of Dean's nightmares. Nightmares that had gotten progressively worse after their father had died.

"Dean?" He wished he had his flashlight, but it had been daylight when they had cornered the shifter. "Dean?" He called again, louder this time. A shout rang out in answer, but it wasn't the voice of his brother.

It was a child. Screaming.

The sound was nails on a chalkboard in Sam's head. He had never been able to stomach the sound of anyone suffering, least of all a child, but there was something about this voice that had his pulse pounding and every instinct telling him to rush into the fray with no thought for the consequences.

The feelings took him by surprise, but he didn't stop to analyse them.

The Spartan graveyard glowed under the full light of the overhead moon. Sam darted gravestones and vaulted headstones as he sprinted up the small hill towards the screaming, his mind replaying everything Dean had ever told him about the nineteenth century site.

Gateway to Hell, yadda yadda, devil walks the earth, blah blah. Dean had been stubbornly pessimistic about the whole place, and for the life of him, Sam had difficulty remembering anything beyond the look of disdain on his brother's face.

Another heart-rendering scream of terror, and Sam rounded the thick trunk of a tree only to come face to face with an image from his own childhood nightmares.

A ghoul.

Sam hated ghouls with a passion that bordered on repulsed obsession. They represented every evil thing Sam had grown up leaning about. Horrific, white-faced creatures, with melted, peeling skin and bloody, gore covered lips. Standing close to seven feet, even hunched over, ghouls were one of the few creatures Sam had to look up at in order to make eye contact.

He hated that, too.

The thing crouched on double jointed, deformed legs, ready to spring away, taking its victim with it. Sam got a brief glimpse of terrified, tear filled green eyes set in a small face before the ghoul tossed the child away like a rag doll and leapt for Sam.

Immediately, Sam went for his weapon, only to realise that it must have been lost somewhere in the fight with the shifter. Barely able to dodge the speedy attack, he darted to the side to avoid sharp claws and bone crunching teeth.

He couldn't spare a glance at the child, but the stillness he sensed from the tiny body made the blood cold in his veins.

He really hated ghouls.

A swipe of a clawed arm raked a burning path across his shoulder blades. Pushing past the pain the way his father had taught him, Sam brought his own fist up with a fast cross hook. The crunch and the spray of blood was far more satisfying than it should have been.

If Dean had been in his place, Sam would have counted on his brother to make some cocky pun at the stunned look that cross the monster's distorted face. Sam settled for a sharp axe kick, his long legs providing both enough range and power to deliver one hell of a blow.

Which, of course, just served to piss the damn thing off.

Two more swipes had Sam bleeding above his left eye and across his bicep. The thing snarled and spat bloody spittle across Sam's face. Sam belted it for that alone. He ducked an arm, circled around behind his opponent, and curled one hand under its jaw. He broke its neck with one smooth jerk of his hand, and wondered if it were so wrong that he knew his dad would have been as proud as hell.

Sam darted over to the fallen child before the vile remains of the ghoul hit the cemetery ground, his fingers frantically searching for a pulse. The little boy couldn't have been more than five years old and Sam had never felt so much the giant Dean called him as he did in that moment, the small head cradled gently in one palm.

"Come on," He whispered. There was so much blood. Too much blood. After what seemed like an eternity, he felt the weak thrum of a heartbeat against the thin skin of the boy's neck. "Thank you, thank you." He breathed, not knowing to whom the thanks was directed.

He should have been paying more attention, and Dean would kick his ass so damned hard if he ever found out, but in that moment, Sam's concentration was focused entirely on the unconscious child. He didn't notice the second ghoul until it had reared up above him, snarling ferociously. Cursing himself for making such a rookie mistake, it was only his instincts that saved him from a head-severing blow from the monster's gnarled claws.

Ghouls were a mound of deformed bones and twisted muscles, and Sam used his knowledge of their anatomy to swipe out at their most vulnerable point. Shifting the child to one arm, still crouched on the damp earth, Sam kicked out with one long leg, his foot connecting with what constituted a kneecap.

The sound of bone snapping was almost as loud as the sound of a bullet leaving the barrel of a gun. Both noises kicked his instincts into overdrive- he threw himself down as the bullet lifted the ghoul clear of the ground, and he stayed crouched until the thing landed in a messy heap only metres from it's counterpart.

"What in the hell took you so long?" He snapped, looking up and expecting to see Dean pulling a Dirty Harry.

The man in the leather coat wasn't his brother, and the smoking gun wasn't Dean's favourite pistol. The ground dropped away from beneath him, leaving him floundering against a tide of emotions too complex to compute. He stared dumbly at his rescuer.

John Winchester looked far younger and far more terrified than Sam could ever remember seeing him. The sudden shock unblocked the dam in his mind, and the pieces dropped into place. He took another look at the boy, the five year old lost in a Kansas cemetery. In the end, he settled on one of Dean's favourite sayings as he dared to raise his gaze once more to the smouldering eyes of his father.

"Son of a bitch."