Disclaimer: Characters and premise of 'Supernatural' belong to Eric Kripke et al. 'Stargate: SG-1' characters and premise property of someone else I don't know. They don't know me either. Suffice to say, the only green you'll see here is the word I just spelled.
A/N: Sequel to 'Signs And Warnings'. Won't make much sense without that, but you're always welcome to try. Set between 'What Is And What Should Never Be', and 'All Hell Breaks Loose, Part I.' Only AU because Kripke's canon is that aliens do not, cannot, and will not exist in the SPN universe. I am not changing canon. Just . . . adding a little something.
Summary: When Sam and Dean put a town in their rearview mirror, they rarely go back. But there's an exception to every rule . . . follows 'Signs And Warnings'
Dirt. Dirt. Blood. Friggin' djinn. Damn, that's a big tear. He liked those jeans. What the hell is that?
Squinting at the unknown stain, Dean risked touching it, and grimaced at the feel of crusty flannel. Two seconds later the shirt was lying on top of the 'unidentifiable' pile. The ripped pants got set to the side with other torn clothes.
The laundromat door slammed into its frame, bell still clanging softly.
Dean grinned at the extra roll of quarters his brother held aloft. "Nice." They were both down to their last sets of publicly acceptable clothes; the laundry run was almost dangerously overdue.
"And I got the good stuff, too." Extra-powerful bleach, for colors, thumped onto the top of a closed washing machine. Shaking long hair from his eyes, Sam flipped the lid and started filling the washer, deftly balancing the load of denim and pilfered motel towels. "Which pile is this?"
Dean looked over from where his brother's duffle had thrown up across three hard, plastic seats. T-shirts, boxer-briefs, socks. And no obvious stains in sight, so – "Regular."
Fifteen minutes later six washers were running, the sound of swirling water and clothes filling the otherwise-empty laundromat. Few people were up bright and early on a Tuesday morning to keep track of the rinse cycle.
Sam threw himself into one of the chairs with a contented sigh. Good thing they're bolted to the floor. But his brother had slept the night through undisturbed by nightmares for once, which was reason one to celebrate. Reason two was the heady sunshine streaming in through the laundromat's glass front, signaling an end to the crappy weather plaguing Bone Gap, IL.
Sam held out a needle. "Race you?"
Dean took a good look at the pile – more rips and tears than he was used to, but he'd spent the last four years minus Sam's giant-sized clothes, so maybe it just looked like more. "Usual rules?" Winner chosen by number and quality of garments mended. What with all their practice on skin and cloth, the Winchester brothers' stitches were a fine rival for any MD's, so it really came down to who was faster.
"Yep. Winner gets to pick the next five meal stops," his brother bargained.
Dean dropped to hard plastic, taking the needle from Sam's fingers. "You're on."
For a few long minutes, the only noise was the swish of the washers and the quiet sounds of concentration Sam didn't even know he made as needle dug into cloth. Dean was in the process of turning his second shirt inside-out to reattach part of the sleeve when the statement came.
"You never told me about MIT."
Too much to hope that the comment O'Neill had let slip would be ignored; his little brother was tenacious. And smart enough to put the pieces together; it was, after all, what they did.
But it was laundry day, a rare refuge of peace after hunting; the day after they'd counted all fingers and toes, and the only survival they were worried about was of their clothes. Sammy always got a free pass on the emo-crap on laundry day. "I never told Dad about it, either," Dean kept his reply neutral.
And because it was laundry day, Sam didn't blow up at the revelation. Just tied off his line of stitches and set the t-shirt aside. "Why?"
Why do you think? Dean punched needle through cotton with a little more force than necessary. "Woulda been a hassle."
But Sam knew that, after all – Stanford. "No, I mean, why did you go? I thought you were all about the hunt, man."
"I am." But of course his little brother was looking for more than that. I really hate this crap. Dean searched for the words. "It's just -" I thought maybe I could have . . . more. Something for himself.
Damned if he was going to dump that on Sammy.
"It helps on the hunt," he offered. And that's not a total lie.
"The EMF-meter." Sam's eyes were thoughtful now.
Okay, Dean knew he'd been showing off a little to his brother, but that hadn't meant Sam's quick dismissal of something he'd done had hurt any less. "Right," Dean muttered. 'Cause if he didn't say anything, his little brother would be on it quicker than a dog on a bone, and whipping himself with guilt for something he couldn't change.
Denim met his fingers; Dean pulled a huge pair of jeans out of the pile. Sammy's. And so was the massive, straight tear stretching from four inches below the waistband all the way to the lower seat of the pants. Huh? He hadn't stitched up a matching cut in his brother's skin, or seen any indication in Sam's smooth movements of bruises big enough to account for this kind of damage. "Dude. What the hell?"
"Ah." Pink rushed into Sam's face; blue-green eyes darted his way and then stayed fixed on the ragged hem he was putting to rights. "Yeah. Digging."
It took a minute for Dean to catch on. Laughter burst from his chest as he sank further into the uncomfortable plastic seat. "You split your pants?"
His brother stitched determinedly, voice defensive. "They're old."
"Right." Fingering the label, Dean took a good look, testing the weave against knowing fingers. "About a year old. Ancient." Although with the wear they put into them, a year was pretty decrepit for Winchester clothing.
"Shut up," Sam growled, red under his tan with embarrassment.
Not a chance. Dean grinned, tone more demanding than inviting, in the way of older siblings planet-wide. "So, tell me, Sammy."
"You're falling behind," his brother retorted, clearly desperate for a change in topic.
A quick look, picking out different types of cloth from each finished pile, showed that he was trailing by one. Son of a – "Not for long," Dean declared, attacking the tear.
The grin crept back, full of evil intent. "Not as big as -"
"Come on, come on!" Daniel muttered, panting in the 'Gateroom as the security guards raised their weapons, plastered against gray walls and all available – scanty – cover.
"Holy Hannah!" Sam gasped, as they dove out of the way of staff blasts winging through the wormhole.
Come on, Jack, come on!
Three figures, recognizable by their desert attire, stumbled through – Daniel hissed a breath out from between his teeth. Tok'ra. Jacob, Aldwin, and the unknown operative among Olokun's servants. All three skittered sideways to avoid passing over the Key of Solomon, at the older Carter's direction.
Then, the staff blasts stopped. Jack, Teal'c, where are you?
The screaming klaxons drowned out all sounds but the rippling of the event horizon; at his side, Daniel could feel Sam panting from their mad dash to the 'Gate on P3X-972.
Tell-tale ripples passed through the waving blue event horizon, just before three figures emerged. Two were wearing SGC green, and the third –
The weapons aimed at the chocolate-skinned man, bedecked with gold and brightly-colored linen, told a different story.
"Shut the iris!" Jack yelled.
Between Jack and Teal'c, the man's eyes flashed white, a snarl erupting from the host's throat.
Daniel felt a headache blossom just behind his forehead. Gods. They did.
With a drawn-out snck of scraping metal, trinium snapped over the wormhole. A moment later, the connection was cut. And Jack was herding their prisoner off the ramp, surreptitiously keeping him away from the Key of Solomon. Because anyone stuck there would be vaporized when we tried to dial out.
Well, you couldn't have everything.
The Tok'ra advanced on the Goa'uld, and Daniel found himself relieved by their presence. It would be hard enough to subdue a System Lord, even one without a ribbon device or any of the other technological arsenal they wielded as easily as Daniel would a pen. At least now they had others who could counter the enhanced strength a symbiote gave to its host.
"Sir?" Sam stepped forward, wary eyes on Olokun.
"Carter," Jack grinned, Colonel-in-candystore routine going full-blast to cover the way his hands never left his P-90. "See if you can get a cell for our friend here. Keep him comfortable for awhile?"
A nod had her retreating from the 'Gateroom.
"We will be taking Olokun into custody," the unknown Tok'ra interrupted. "The High Council has many questions for him."
Fury built into a thunderhead on Jack's face, waiting to unleash a storm.
Daniel stepped closer. "Of course," he said smoothly, shooting Jack a wait-for-it glare. "But in the meantime, there are several off-world teams scheduled to return to the SGC, and there are a few maintenance procedures scheduled for the 'Gateroom today. It may be awhile before we have an open time slot to dial out to Vorash."
The unknown operative's head nodded; Aldwin looked thwarted. Daniel didn't think he'd fooled General Carter at all, though. At least we'll have some time to bargain with him for information.
Locked between two Tok'ra, Olokun's eyes flared white, voice reverberating around the converted silo as they brought out restraints to pin his arms. "Di'dak'dida, gonach!"
Daniel rolled his eyes.
Jack raised a brow.
The archaeologist waved a hand. "How dare you, filthy cur," he translated flippantly. Close enough.
"Yadda yadda," Jack nodded. Aimed a perfunctory smile at the Tok'ra, raising his voice to a shout for the 'Gateroom surveillance. "Carter, we good?"
In the Control Room, blonde hair leant toward the microphone, Sam's voice even. "Level 16 is ready and waiting, sir."
The Colonel smirked, arm sweeping out in a gallant gesture. "After you."
Sun, insistently hot against his skin.
Sam shifted, leather creaking at his back, his stomach growling a complaint. Hungry. Lunch after laundry had been filling, but that was four hours ago now.
Cedar Rapids Welcomes You!
He inched forward, peeling his back from where it had sweat-glued to black leather. Autumn chilled the world resting just outside the Impala's sleek paint job, but the sun and the heater he had going were more than enough to have him uncomfortable. Sam readjusted his grip on the steering wheel and snuck a glance at the Impala's passenger seat, and the reason for the heater's low hum.
Dean had slept through their entrance to Iowa, and was still slumped against the window.
It had shocked his brother to learn that he'd lost a day to the djinni's dreams; it had taken Sam that long to find out where the creature had secreted its victims in the fifty square miles of real estate his brother had been searching, after Dean had ended up hours overdue.
How much blood did it take?
They really didn't know. Enough to knock his stubborn brother on his ass, meaning Sam was driving for the foreseeable future. And he hadn't even had to fight about it.
Winning their impromptu clothes-repairing contest had a few side benefits.
Following I-380 West would take them clear through the state after leaving Cedar Rapids. It had been a month or two since they'd swung by this way, and they needed to check the post-office box they had here.
Haven't heard from Bobby lately. Not since the Trickster, but that wasn't unusual. Dean had insisted they stay well-clear of the Roadhouse since Meg, keeping off the radar of other hunters.
Sam swallowed, eyes following the shifting movement as his brother squirmed against ribbed leather, and settled.
"What, you thought I didn't know you wanted to go to college? You were starry-eyed about that before you hit twelve, dude."
Maybe the conversation they'd had over lunch had more to do with Dean's lapse into sleep than the blood loss.
Sam kept quiet – this, like anything Dean gave up willingly, came out of nowhere.
"I knew what I wanted," his brother traced one finger along the diner's table in random patterns. "But you were fourteen, and -"
Sam sucked in a breath.
"No," green-gold met his, solid, swift, and certain. "Don't you think that I put it off for that, Sammy."
And he knew then that Dean was telling the truth. He didn't think he could bear it if his brother had put off his life like this just to raise him; and anger was quick to stir, reminding him that that should have been Dad's job. Not Dean's.
"You and Dad – d'you remember? The two of you were at each others' throats, man, there was always static. Stubborn as hell, the both of you. And I knew if I left -" Dean swallowed a mouthful of iced tea. "Four years is a long time. If I left – there probably wouldn't be anything to come back to."
Sam frowned. "We wouldn't have killed each other, Dean."
A shrug lifted soft flannel; Dean kept his eyes on the diner's entrance. "You wouldn't have been family anymore, either."
So he'd stayed long enough to see Sam go solo, no surprise there, and then found a way to do what he wanted. Everything he wanted – hunting, and learning better ways to build and blow things up.
What the hell could Sam say after that?
Instead, he'd stared, blown away a little. He'd never been without Dean – but sometimes he forgot how well his brother knew him.
Dean had dug into his food, which arrived with merciful timing, and Sam had stolen the keys out of the pocket of his leather jacket when Dean had gone to pay the bill.
Dean had practically raised him – and that, Sam suddenly remembered, included helping him with his homework through senior year. Dean had to have been a straight-A student to get accepted, hell, to get their father to let him hunt, but he'd never let a word slip.
Sometimes, he couldn't decide whether he wanted to buy Dean a beer to celebrate getting into MIT, or strangle his brother for getting a stone's throw away from graduating without saying anything.
Sam checked the passenger seat again, and kept his speed down as he passed through the suburbs bordering the main section of Cedar Rapids. They were maybe five minutes from the Post Office, and he wanted his brother to sleep for as long as possible.
Dean made it so easy to forget the intelligence that burned just behind green eyes. Part of it was the same way Sam slouched in layers, minimizing his height, hiding the muscle of their life from easy notice. The hunter that was underestimated had an automatic advantage. But the other part . . . The other part, near as he could figure, was just Dean. Not that that's saying much. Every time he thought he'd figured his brother out, Dean turned around and flabbergasted him some new way.
The revelation at Lake Manitoc, months and months ago, put things he'd always known into perspective. Sam would explode when he stressed out – build up and lash out and then, he'd be done. Dean, on the other hand, shut down hard and fast and completely. Didn't give away any of his secrets, anything close to his heart, as ammunition for others to use against him later.
Sam had been eight when he'd asked Dean why he hadn't told his class about his birthday, so they could celebrate. "If no one knows," Dean had finally answered, "then they can't forget about it."
Pulling into the empty parking lot, Sam checked his watch. The Post Office wouldn't be closing for another ten minutes or so, but they were still cutting it close.
He didn't want to do it, but Sam reached out anyway, shaking Dean's shoulder gently. Post Offices were notorious for hanging posters of the FBI's Most Wanted inside. He wasn't about to leave his brother, sleeping and defenseless, right in front of one waiting to be recognized. "Dean. Hey. Wake up."
"Whazzit?" came the bleary mumble.
"We're here," Sam nodded toward the red-brick building, old and inconspicuously squished between a small deli and a tree-laden street corner.
A sound somewhere between a snuffle and a grunt escaped his brother; Dean just slouched further down against the leather, eyes bleary but awake. At least he knows he can't go in.
"Be right back," Sam offered, getting a lazy wave in return. Irritating, and comfortingly normal for them. He's feeling better.
There was a hefty pile waiting for them – half of it seemed to be long-expired notices about local events, coupons and other junk, but he just hauled the pounds of paper out of the box situated at shin-height, and slid out the door again. Find a motel, check the mail. He'd seen a credit-card application or two that it would be worth their while to send out while they were in town.
Cool wind shivered over Sam's skin as he left, blowing overlong strands into his eyes. The Impala's door creaked open; Dean lifted his head from its resting place against the window, grabbing for the mail as Sam plunked it onto the bench-seat.
"Credit card applications, I think. I didn't really look." The Impala purred to life as he twisted the key. And three, two, one –
Dean shifted straighter in his seat, sifting through with interest a bright gleam in green eyes. "October-fest, coupla weeks ago."
"Hmmm." Sam's eyes shifted, between scanning road and mirrors, to where his brother was sorting the stacks of paper. As usual, Dean was dumping the junk mail in Sam's pile. "Oh, come on."
"You like reading about that local stuff," Dean tried to excuse it. "Huh. Here's one for both of us. Looks . . . kinda official. No return address."
What the hell? Thick white envelope, with prepaid postage in the place of stamps, and fat with whatever was in it. Over the faint strains of Styx's 'Renegade,' Dean kept sorting. Okay. If I follow this back to 380 we can probably find a motel.
For being so close to the evening rush hour, it was surprisingly easy to slip back onto the highway and scout out a place to stay. So close to the city, there were only chain hotels, pricier – nicer – than the dives they usually found. And they would get unlimited hot water and water pressure, for once. Sam felt a grin pull at one side of his face as he slid the car into a space in front of a Ramada Inn. I think I can live with it.
"I'll go get us a . . . Dean?"
His brother was holding an envelope in each hand, with an expression that said he was waiting for them to go off. The cream-colored letter extended toward him. "You got a letter from Stanford."
What? The paper was rich and thick against the pads of his fingers. Sam shifted against the Impala's seat, staring at the seal in the upper-left corner. "This isn't the address they have for me."
"I know," Dean frowned. "It's not the one I gave MIT, either." The return address for the pale envelope in a white-knuckled grip flashed his way.
Wide blue-green locked on green-gold; then the sound of ripping filled the Impala as both brothers shredded through the envelopes to the messages beneath. "Holy -"
"Does that say what this says?" Sam gulped, scanning the neat type; the signature that was definitely not a stamp gracing the bottom. He started to read aloud. "Dear Mr. Winchester, we are pleased to inform you that in light of recent information received by the University, your scholarship status has been reactivated -"
"- space for you has been reserved indefinitely, until such time you are able to return and complete your education," Dean finished, reading from his own letter. Awe coated each word in precious, perilous hope.
"Information?" The skin on his forehead crinkled. "What information?"
Even the hope couldn't keep sudden seriousness from Dean's face. "C'mon. Let's get a room, look this over someplace with a table. In contrast to the three pieces of paper in Sam's letter, Dean's was thick with almost a dozen sheets.
Sam swallowed. What the hell's going on? "Yeah."
"The time-travel device has been destroyed." Jacob/Selmac leant against the tiny table in the senior VIP quarters of the SGC. Thank God.
Aldwin frowned, though his symbiote, Wotan, remained silent as ever.
Marsil's head jerked up, spine snapping straight from where the deep-cover operative had been slumped against the maroon bedspread. "What? How?"
Selmac took over, reverberating Jacob's voice. "Colonel O'Neill," he said dryly. Looking out from the back of his eyes, Jacob echoed the sentiment. 'That really does explain it.' Even to those with less than an hour's exposure to SG-1, like the operatives in front of him who had been undercover for many decades within the Goa'uld's forces.
Tension thrummed through Tiernan's body, Marsil's thoughts tightening his host's muscles. 'They have been on assignment far too long,' Selmac whispered. Silently, Jacob agreed. Too long for the newly-released operative to feel secure anywhere that was not the heart of the Tok'ra base.
"I see," Tiernan finally sighed, relaxing as Marsil retreated. "And Lord Olokun?"
Lord? Jacob kept his frown hidden. It made sense that symbiote and host would have made sure they could not be caught out by a simple slip of the tongue; they would have made every nuance of their false life habit. But they were out, now. How long will it take habit to break?
"He will remain in our custody," Aldwin asserted. Arms folded across the desert garb of Vorash, he was propping up the wall just inside the steel door to the quarters they had appropriated.
"The SGC will have some objection to that," Jacob pointed out.
Aldwin scoffed. "They are questioning him even now, Jacob. And the High Council will treat with him for information we could not recover."
A wince passed through brown eyes; but no other expression showed on Tiernan's pale face.
Jacob mentally stepped back, head dipping; Selmac raised their eyes to meet the scientist's gaze. "Of course," their voice rumbled. "But the issue remains, and the question of what will happen to the host -"
"The host is no more than a shell."
They turned, Selmac's shock echoed in Jacob's mind. "What?"
Tiernan had spoken harshly, the flush of something – anger? fear? – high on his face, but Marsil eased into control with barely a blink. "I spoke with him, once. The host is more thoroughly broken than any I have seen."
"You say he is beyond saving?" Even Aldwin looked horrified; it was not their way.
'He can't mean that,' Jacob protested. 'Traumatized or not, the host is still human. Still alive!'
"In that case, leaving him with the Tau'ri should not provoke much opposition on the High Council," Selmac responded instead.
'Separate host and symbiote, after -' The tingle of a shared idea started far back in Jacob's mind, from the place Selmac had blended their thoughts.
"What?" Confusion flicked through blue eyes as Aldwin moved two steps into the middle of the room. "We have none who could speak with Olokun once removed from his host."
"There would be little of use gleaned from the host once free of Olokun," Tiernan/Marsil interjected.
Indignation burned slow and hot in Jacob, slipping to his symbiote. "The host has a name." Selmac kept their voice quiet, reproving. We don't know it, but he has one.
The dark eyes that turned to theirs showed no remorse. Marsil's shoulders, still clad in the white-and-gold raiment of Olokun's servants, shrugged. "He has long since forgotten it."
It was almost as if he was hinting that they leave the host to Olokun's decidedly lacking mercy. Indignation turned to outrage – Jacob smothered it, letting Selmac keep control. "Nonetheless, I doubt the Tau'ri would be willing to concede to let the host remain with Olokun. And the High Council will not sanction upon the host the measures needed to force the symbiote to speak."
If the information were desperately needed, the memory device would be used – but such was not the case. Unless –
"Olokun truly had no knowledge of the time-travel device?" Selmac demanded, picking up on the thought.
Marsil shook his head, black bangs drifting over his forehead. "None."
Good. Their sigh of relief went unnoticed in the silent room; Jacob took control once again. "Then I will inform General Hammond of our decision, and we will request the SGC's help in removing Olokun from his host."
"The Tau'ri have a method capable of successfully separating symbiote and host?" Aldwin didn't even bother to hide his surprise.
Memory of the power of the words flung at them by two brothers flooded Jacob, augmented by Selmac's own sensation of separation. A threat they hadn't known of – the SGC hadn't known of – until that strange incident a few months ago. George still wouldn't give him the details, only a smile and a shrug that said you know how it goes. They would need Dr. Jackson's help. "That's what we're going to find out," Jacob muttered.