When Jill drops the dusty old leather bound book on top of her desk, Mary looks up at her like it's a joke she doesn't quite get. The strange symbol on the front of it, and the fact that it is kept closed by an odd linked rusty chain, raises her brow, before her head follows the motion and she looks upward at her friend.
"Okay," Mary starts, dragging out the 'a' sound, indicating she doesn't quite understand what she's looking at. "Did the Edgar Allen Poe estate have a garage sale or something?"
Jill laughs a little to herself before taking a seat in the chair next to her. Mary is always early to homeroom. Her father starts his shift at seven o'clock sharp, and since neither she nor her friends have a car yet, getting a ride to school an hour early every day was always better than the three mile walk.
"What if I told you this was a ticket to all your hopes and dreams?" Jill asks.
"I'd say my ticket looks an awful lot like a smelly old book," Mary replies.
Jill grins as she leans closer, and Mary wonders if she'd been smoking up with her brother before school again.
"I've got a secret to share Mary Madrigal," Jill sing-songs as she runs her finger in a slow circle along the book's cover. "There is magic in the world. Real magic. Black Magic.
Mary rolls her eyes at her friend.
"Have you been smoking out with Jake again?" She asks aloud. "And listening to his Santana records?"
Jill giggles, but her finger is moving oddly faster on the book, her smile stretching eerily wide for someone who is simply baked. Mary jumps when Jill slams her hand down on the old leather cover, and Jill stares at her as if she's waiting for something when suddenly she hears it.
A small little melody that Jill doesn't appear to be humming, it's as if the tune is coming from the very pages in front of her. It's beautiful, the little melody, and Mary can't help the smile that stretches across her lips. She finally gets the joke.
"Does it look right to you?" Mary asks as she scrolls the chalk against the cold concrete surface of Jill's basement.
"A carbon copy," Jill replies as she circles around, lighting all the candles, and glancing down at the open book on the floor next to them. "You read it. I am completely failing French, and this Latin stuff seems twice as harsh."
"Fine," Mary answers, falling back on her knees and picking up the book so she can recite the words displayed just below the symbol she's copied. "Do I really have to cut myself?"
"Means you get the first wish," Jill says, blowing out her last match and kneeling face her friend on the opposite side of the symbol. "You cut, I'll light."
"You are such a pyro," Mary laughs.
"And a bleeder," Jill sighs, handing over the knife she took from her brother.
Mary starts making her way through the incantation, finding it oddly easy for the ancient language to roll off her tongue. Midway through the second paragraph she picks up the knife, no hesitation in her movement, the thoughts in her mind are clear with understanding that the blood is necessary, the blood is divine.
When she finishes reading the last line on the page, Jill drops a match into the phosphorous, the dank basement briefly bathed in bright light, before the flame fizzles out and the two of them are left staring at each other.
"Was that it?" Jill asks.
"That was all the words," Mary replies.
A beat and nothing happens.
"I told you this stuff wasn't real," Mary says getting to her feet, her movement freezing at the sound of the basement door suddenly flying open.
"Jillian?" a masculine voice calls from the top of the stairs. "Are you down there?"
"Oh shit," Jill mutters under her breath, moving quickly to blow out all the candles and try her best to wipe away the chalk. "Yes daddy," she calls back. "Mary and I were just, uh, studying."
The footsteps are heavy as they trudge down the stairs, slow and deliberate, and Mary feels a sudden chill run down her spine. Jill jumps quickly to her feet and stands next to Mary doing her best to block the symbol on the floor with their bodies.
The chill increases in intensity when Jill's father appears at the bottom of the stairs, and she tries her best not to fidget against it.
"This doesn't look like studying young lady," he says, his eyes shooting straight for the little white lines at their feet.
"It's just, um, well…" Jill trails off, her lying skills suddenly taking a leap out the window.
"It's not you father," Mary whispers, wondering just how she knows this.
She can feel Jill's eyes on her but she doesn't turn to meet her friends gaze.
"What are you talking about?" Jill asks. "I swear daddy we weren't smoking anything down here and…"
"You're a smart girl aren't you Mary, Mary quite contrary?" He says with a smile, his eyes suddenly turning an odd shade of yellow. "You'll forgive me if I don't remember the rest."
"Daddy?" Jill questions quietly.
"Normally I wouldn't waste my time with such amateur incantations," he says, making a slow circle around the two of them. "But you're a special one aren't you?" He lifts a hand to Mary's hair, lets his fingers run through the length of it. "Such power in that blood of yours."
Mary shudders at his touch, and wants to run but her feet refuse to move.
"All my hopes and dreams," she whispers.
"Not really my forte," yellow-eyes replies. "Guess you girls really should have been studying if you wanted to get that text right. But I do know someone that can make them happen."
Mary wonders how Jill is completely ignored in the moment, when she's standing so close she can feel her shivering.
Yellow-eyes leans in close and smiles a crooked smile with Jill's father's face. "Just tell me what you want Mary, Mary. And we can come to some sort of arrangement. Though I warn you, my price will be high when I come to claim."
It comes out of her mouth without even thinking.
"I want to marry Johnny Winchester."
His phone rings the second he hits the elongated concrete steps in front of the main lecture hall of Stanford law, and almost stumbles down a few while trying to reach for it and walk at the same time. He doesn't recognize the number right away and thinks about just sending it straight to voicemail, when the fleeting thought that it could be import has him hit the answer button.
"This is Sam," he says into the receiver.
"Like I don't know who it is smart guy," a familiar gruff voice replies. "I'm the one who called you."
Sam moves the phone from his ear briefly to look again at the strange number.
"Nice to see it takes a college education for you to be able to recognize your own brother's voice."
Unsure how to respond after not talking to Dean in almost three years, he stands waiting for whatever news his brother found worthy enough to break the silence. His stomach drops down to his feet and falls all the way down the stairs when it comes.
"Dad's dead. I thought you should know."
Jess finds him in the kitchen on his fourth beer, staring down at the rarest of things in the Winchester family, a picture of him, dad, and Dean at some Mexican restaurant in San Antonio and they're all smiling. It was Sam's birthday, she can see that much because he's wearing a sombrero and staring down at some flan with a candle in it.
She knows something is wrong because he never talked about his family, never drank alone, and never burst into tears at her touch. She doesn't ask because she's learned that he'll talk when he's ready. Instead she just puts her arms around him and lets him cry into her shoulder and waits for him to speak.
"I thought I hated him," he says softly. "And now he's gone."
She just squeezes him harder.
It's a little after midnight when Sam is out on the sidewalk in front of his place; scrolling to the number Dean had called him from, and hesitating to hit send.
"How did it happen?" He asks when he finally finds the courage, when Dean finally picks up after several rings.
Dean doesn't answer him at first, and for a long agonizing pause he can only hear the familiar rumble of the Impala's engine as his brother's lead foot coincides with his anger, just as it always had.
"Do you really want to know?" Dean asks.
"Yeah, I really want to know."
Another long pause, so long that Sam has to check the phone to make sure the call hasn't been dropped.
"No Sammy, not just a demon, thee demon. The one that killed mom, the one that started all this."
"He finally found him?"
"We finally found him, sneaky bastard. Dad was able to track him, left me behind to keep me safe, he said, but I caught up and didn't show my face until I had to."
"Was he pissed?"
"Hell yeah he was, but I didn't care. Family Sam," Dean jibes with extra reiteration. "You do what you have to."
And despite walking away from the life those years ago, Sam does feel a small pang of guilt. For not being there, for not being able to say good bye.
"We found him, it, whatever," Dean says again. "And I don't think Dad really understood what it meant to go toe to toe with him. He jumped bodies so many times it was ward to tell what was what. He… Aw damn it…"
Dean trails off and Sam hears the screeching of tires then soft rumble of the car coming to a stop in the gravel on the side of the road.
"He made me promise," Dean says. "That if the demon got a hold of him I'd end it no matter what."
"You can't kill a demon Dean," Sam interjects.
"You've been out of the game a long time," Dean says. "Some of the rules have changed. Samuel Colt, the famous gun maker? Made some kind a special revolver. When you kill something dead, it stays dead."
Sam feels his stomach about to drop again, slowly putting together the pieces his brother was laying out for him.
"Dean you didn't" he says, almost choking on his disbelief.
"I gave him my word. You know how he was about a man and his word."
Sam feels his legs almost give out from under him and stumbles to sit down on the grass.
"Sneaky bastard jumped the second before the bullet hit. I could hear him laughing Sam. He just kept laughing…
Another long pause.
"I'm gonna get that son of a bitch," Dean says firmly.
"You're going to get yourself killed," Sam says.
"Probably," Dean agrees. "But don't you worry about it little brother. You walked away you stay away. Don't let us Winchesters die with me you got it?"
"Promise me Sammy."
"This isn't time the time to bitch about it. It's done."
"Fine, Fine I promise. Okay?"
Sam hears the car start up.
"Don't call this number again," Dean says. "It won't be here if you try."
"Dean let me help."
"Five years too late man," Dean says. "But you go, live your life."
The line goes dead and Sam sits on the grass until the sun comes up.
Three days later he tries the number again anyway, and true to Dean's word, it's disconnected.
He wonders when the next of kin call will come.
The first time it happens, mom blames it on letting her stay up to watch Night of the Living Dead, because she insisted she was finally a big girl and zombies didn't scare her.
When she wakes up screaming, her shrill cries cutting through the dark, mom is there in seconds, cursing herself for not knowing better.
"Ssh," she coos softly, cradling Ava's head against her chest.
"The man," Ava cries against her. "In my dream, he's gonna… He's gonna go splat."
"It was only a movie sweetie," her mom assures. "It wasn't real."
Ava sniffles softly. "My dream was real. The man was real I know it."
"Oh honey," Mom sighs, but Ava knows better.
Mom doesn't say anything else, merely rocks her back and forth until she finally falls back asleep.
The next morning Ava sits at the kitchen table swinging her legs back and forth and munching on a bowl of cheerios, while daddy sips at a cup of coffee and reads the paper. When mom walks in, she moves to kiss the top of her head before going for her own cup of coffee.
"Feeling better honey?" She asks her daughter, and Ava nods mutely.
She watches from the corner of her eye as mom takes a seat at the table and idly reads the backside of daddy's paper, and doesn't flinch when the coffee cup falls out of her hand and crashes to the floor.
The headline that reads, "Downtown suicide shocks town, as man throws himself from building."
Ava knows the paper is what caused mom to drop her cup.
Daddy looks shocked as he folds the paper down to stare at mom, who hasn't moved to clean up the mess.
Ava can feel mom's eyes on the top of her head, but she just keeps eating her cereal and doesn't look up.
Even at eight years old Ava knows that mom is a worrier. The abundance of band-aids, ointments, and ace bandages in the bathroom are all indications of the fact. That morning after she finally unfroze and cleaned up the coffee cup, she kept mumbling to herself, scaring both daddy and her.
So when it happens again, and again, and again, she knows it's best to keep it to herself. When she keeps waking up screaming it's quiet, and she gets quiet, and writes it all down in the diary mom got her last Christmas. The one she flipped through that cold winter day never thinking she'd ever be able to fill up all the pages.
She hides it under her pile of teddy bears and never says a word.
Ava has always been told she's a bright girl, but as she sits in Mrs. Stanley's office she doesn't quite understand why she's there. She didn't push anyone off the monkey bars at recess, nor did she steal anyone's chocolate milk at lunch. She's not a bad kid like Tommy Dooley, who had done both of those things today.
She bits her lip when mom walks into the office with Mrs. Stanley, and tries her best to remember what she could have done to get called in.
Mom sits down next to her and places a hand on her shoulder and Ava starts to fidget because she's really starting to think she's in big trouble and doesn't know what for. That's when Mrs. Stanley shows mom the pictures from art class, and Ava stops fidgeting and stares at the floor.
A few days ago she ran out of pages in her diary, so she thought the next best thing would be drawing out her dreams, though with the all the hiding she's been doing, doodling it at home wasn't a good idea.
Mom's eyes widen as she looks at the picture of the lady she drew, falling out of a tree trying to get her kitty and landing on a white picket fence. Then her hand tightens on her shoulder the slightest bit when the next picture of the ice cream man's truck getting hit by the big rig. There's a few more, and Mrs. Stanley voices her concerns, and mom starts to mumble again, and Ava starts to cry because she can't help it.
She has to see a doctor once a week, which is strange because she doesn't feel sick. She's supposed to talk about her dreams, but never wants to. Instead she sits there and doesn't say anything, and thinks of her diary at home and how much more trouble it will cause her. The doctor talks to her like she's stupid, and Ava hates how her office smells like cough drops.
She folds her arms and waits for mom.
On lucid days he's allowed visitors. When they don't keep him pumped full of thorazine for his own safety.
That's when Sam finds him in the rec room, looking around like he's suspicious of the walls that surround him. His eyes light up when he takes a seat across from him, and Sam hopes that today is going to be a good day.
Jo walks up behind him and places a hand on his shoulder, and Dean's bright eyes narrow into confusion, like he's not quite sure who she is.
"Bringing your girlfriend to the crazy house Sammy?" Dean asks. "Not what I'd call a hot date."
Sam and Jo turn to look at each other and laugh, and Dean follows along even though he's not sure what's funny.
"Dean," Sam says, still chuckling. "This is Jo remember? Our sister?"
"Sister?" Dean questions.
"Sister," Jo throws in. "You hard of hearing on top of being crazy?" She asks, taking a second to ruffle his hair, which he quickly shies away from.
"Jo," Sam chides.
"It's not like he doesn't know where he is," she replies.
Dean watches the whole conversation, the questions clear on his face, and indicates with his index finger that he wants to talk to Sam with out her hearing. Sam nods at Jo and she wanders a few feet away and pretends to be interested in an old magazine someone left on one of the tables.
"Okay I get it," Dean says once she's out of ear shot. "She's gotta be family to get in here, that's fine. So what's the plan? She distracts the guards while you steal some orderly's clothes to get me out of here?"
"Get you out of here?"
"What am I even doing in the loony bin anyway? I don't remember getting thrown in."
Sam looks away briefly; swallowing back words he doesn't think his brother can handle hearing.
"I'm not going to break you out Dean," Sam answers quietly.
"Why the hell not?" Dean shoots back.
"You really don't know why you're here do you?" Sam says more to himself than to Dean. He looks across the room to Jo who has been watching them, and nods at her sadly.
"What?" Dean asks. "What was that? What are you not telling me?"
"Mom and Dad put you in here," Sam says. "Because you saw things no one else saw. Because you did things about them, because you were dangerous."
"Mom and Dad?" Dean questions. "Mom and Dad are alive?"
Jo walks over again and Dean shifts away from Sam, mumbling softly to himself.
"What's a djinn?" Jo asks, picking up on some of his words.
"Something he made up," Sam answers.
"I didn't make anything up!" Dean shouts, catching the attention of a few of the guards.
Sam manages to keep them at bay, raising his hands up and silently asking them for a minute to calm him down. Jo is kneeling in front of Dean trying her best, but Sam moves back in and gently nudges her away.
"Mom and Dad would never throw me in here," Dean insists. "Winchesters stick together no matter what."
"He doesn't…" Jo starts.
"No I guess he doesn't," Sam finishes.
"You two are really starting to piss me off with this finish each other's sentences crap," Dean mutters.
"I know who you meant when you said 'mom and dad'," Sam says. "But Dean, they died in a fire when we were kids."
"That was mom," Dean insists.
"It was both of them," Sam answers sadly. "They told you to save me. And you did. I'm right here alive and breathing because of you."
"What are you saying Sammy?"
"John and Mary Winchester died in a house fire," Sam says. "One you and I managed to escape from. We were adopted by some of their friends from Nebraska, Jo is our sister, and we're technically not Winchester's anymore."
Sam places a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"Our name is Harvelle."
"You were fine," Sam says. "Up until your eighteenth birthday. The doctors, call it some sort repressed memory relapse. You kept seeing it happen over, and over, and over. They say you put things in the gaps, gave yourself a villain so that you could handle something so bad happening to good people. They say you made up the demon so your mind could accept that they died for a reason."
"You're lying," Dean says, but there is no venom in his voice.
"You started seeing him everywhere. The one with the yellow eyes. You said he could jump bodies. You said he had followers. You said he was bringing on a war."
"He is," Dean says. "And we're right in the middle of it, and we're wasting time with all the psycho babble when we could be out there doing something about it!"
Jo and Sam look at each other briefly before Sam continues.
"You did do something about it," Sam goes on. "You put three people in the hospital. You fought the cops tooth and nail and you wouldn't shut up about the demon."
"I wouldn't say anything about him to the cops," Dean counters. "That's just stupid."
"Well you did. And once you started talking you didn't stop. You told them about spirits, and shape-shifters, and lake monsters. You talked about bloody Mary and killer trucks. You talked about me, you, and dad hunting all these things."
"It all happened Sam."
"No it didn't Dean," Sam shoots back. "None of it happened. And until you realize that you're stuck in here."
"The hell I am," Dean says, standing up so quickly he knocks back the chair he was sitting in.
That gets the guards attentions, who ignore Sam's gestures for a minute this time; instead two of them instantly spring on Dean and hold his arms behind his back. Dean's eyes bore into Sam's.
"Listen to me Sammy, I'm not crazy."
The guards start hauling him away but Dean never breaks eye contact. Jo starts to cry a little, and Sam puts his arm around her shoulder.
"I'm not crazy!" echoes down the hallway when they take him out of the room. "I'm not crazy!"
In a way it's like killing two birds with one stone, she tells herself. Making ends meet with what menial financial benefits this job provided, as well as testing being able to keep her thirst in check with the constant flux red blooded bodies passing through night after night.
It's not a hard job. It's mainly just beer from the tap, popping open bottles, or pouring straight shots of whiskey and tequila. No fancy mixed drinks with the flannel shirt and mesh cap crowd. And thankfully the only hunters coming through this place are just those of the wild game variety.
Eli taught her little mind games to play during the down time. Where everyone is set with their drinks and refills don't require any kind of actual concentration. She stares at the jar of olives that hardly ever gets used and tries her best to count how many are inside. Then she tries to remember the plots of all the books she's read this year. Then tries to hum all the songs she knows in alphabetical order.
She's on Cornflake Girl when the door opens, and stops mid-tune as the face of Sam Winchester comes into view. Instantly her instincts scream hunter and want her to turn and bolt for the back door. She takes a deep breath, remembers the last time she saw him, how gently he took care of her when he put her in his car, and stays put.
She'd succeeded in opening his eyes, she tells herself, and hopes in the time that's lapsed between them he hasn't changed his mind.
He walks straight up to the bar; never averting his eyes from the floor, and mumbles a brand of beer to her while he takes a seat on one of the stools.
Popping open the bottle she sets it in front of him and he finally looks up at her. Seeing the recognition on his eyes she almost smiles, as he takes a sip of his beer, and smiles at her when he swallows.
"I wondered what happened to you," he says, and just like that her instincts are calmed.
He sits in the same spot the rest of the night, watching while she pours drinks and fights off the occasional flirt. She wonders where his brother is. If she remembers correctly they seemed to have an attached at the hip vibe going on, but thinks she can make an educated guess by his solemn demeanor and the way his eyes seem to stare longingly and nothing at all.
"Can I ask you something?" He says, almost startling her because he's been so quiet.
"Sure," she replies.
"You've been around awhile, haven't you? I mean, when we met I got the feeling that you've seen enough to want to change like you have."
"You could say that," she concedes.
"How to you deal?" He asks. "With outliving people you care about?"
She's almost stunned, because the irony of a hunter asking a vampire for advice is not lost on her. She knows he's talking about his brother. And her suspicions are confirmed because he must be dead for Sam to ask her such a question. Strange thing is there's not really an answer that isn't going to come off like a cliché. You go through the stages; you deal with it one day at a time, etc.
Telling him all this won't make anything any better, but he's looking at her expectantly, waiting for an answer. So she puts her hand on his, noting to herself that he flinches the slightest bit at how cold her hands are, and looks into those lost eyes of his.
"I just hope that one day I'll wake up and the hole that formed inside will magically be sealed and I can breathe again."
He nods slowly and thanks her with a small smile.
"Do you breathe?"
This makes her laugh, and for a second he does too.
"Figure of speech," she replies, her senses focusing on the fact that his hand has turned upward under hers so that he's almost holding it.
"I really did wonder what happened to you," he says. "You opened my eyes that day. That what we did wasn't just black and white."
"I'm glad," she says in return. "If only I could convince more people like you."
His hand is still in hers.
"I remember carrying you out of that house," he says. "The moonlight did something to your hair and you were looking up at me and I thought you were the prettiest thing I had seen in a long time. I almost wanted to kiss you."
She doesn't reply right away, because really, she doesn't know how. This is Sam Winchester, a hunter. Is he flirting with her? Is he for real? She's suspicious of the almost compliment.
"Be honest with me," she says after the pause.
"After he cut you, after you saw what I really am, did you think I was pretty then?"
He doesn't know what to say to that, she can tell, and goes back to staring at his beer.
"That's what I thought," she says, pulling her hand from his and moving away.
His hand shoots quickly across the bar and latches onto her wrist as gently as he can with such sudden movement. She looks down at his grip on her, the instinct to defend herself rising back up to the surface.
"When you said no," he answers. "When you refused, I thought you were beautiful."
She can't remember the last time she felt a warm body next to hers. Or the last time she felt a heartbeat this close without wanting to drink it dry. His arm is draped casually across her hip and around the small of her back, and she lays with her head pressed into his chest, listening to the rhythmic thump.
It's almost a blur how it happened. How his simple little words filled her with a hope of the future she feared had been fading. If a human, and a hunter of top of that, can trust himself to be this close to her, who knows how many minds can be changed?
He is different.
That's why she chose him. That's why she let him go. That's why she let herself even fathom the idea of letting this little tryst happen it all.
He's all alone now. A feeling she knows all the way down in her heart that no longer beats. A feeling she can sense in every beat of his.
She's going to keep him. She knows that much about herself and what this has done to make her wants and needs alter like the changes she's always fought for.
Shifting next to him, his eyes openly slightly and focus into hers, and she smiles up at him as if it's the most natural thing in the world.
"When my kind are betrothed it's forever," she says softly.
This revelation doesn't scare him.
Somehow she knows he's thinking the same.
Just like she knows it's probably what he wanted all along.