A/N This takes place after Season Two's episode Hunted. "Snow Bound" was first published May 24, 2007 in Chinook Vol. 7 by Blackfly Presses. I am grateful to them. I especially want to thank Nightowl who, after reading "Devil's Cage," invited me to submit this story which was later accepted by their fanzine.
Night had settled over the junkyard. The TV was flickering in the dark room when Bobby heard the growl of the Impala. When Sam had left Dean behind at the Velvet Inn, Dean had called those he knew trying to find his brother. Bobby had promised to keep a lookout for the younger Winchester and had invited the two brothers to stop by when they were back on the road together. Levering himself off the couch, he went to the door as the adolescent pup, England, gamboled after him. Doors creaked open and then shut, one after the other. Sam, first to reach the house, nodded a silent greeting to Bobby and brushed past him.
"What the hell?" Sam's face was a rigid mask. Dean followed more slowly. His crestfallen face was the clue that Bobby needed. "He's still not taking it well, huh?"
When the Winchesters had stayed with him after their father's death, Dean had alluded to some secret John had kept from them only to divulge it to Dean right before he died. Dean hadn't told Bobby what the secret was, just his fears that Sam would be very distraught by the news. Bobby had advised the older Winchester that sooner would be better than later if Dean had any intention of sharing the news. Sam now knew, and Dean was left to deal with the aftermath.
Sam headed for the office. He settled behind the desk and turned the chair away from the doorway, leaving Dean standing alone in the centre of the den. The trip from Peoria had been filled with silence. Sam's anger about Dean's silence had cooled. Now he was terrified about what had happened to Ava. Had she been taken or had she gone willingly? The implications of either were cause for fear. Sam had stoically endured Dean's sideways glances and was driving him to distraction.
Bobby turned off the TV and gestured for Dean to follow him to the kitchen. Dean left his duffle on the floor, tossed his jacket on top, and ambled after Bobby. "You want to talk?" Bobby asked, as he reached up to grab a bottle of whiskey and two glasses off the shelf. Pouring each a healthy shot, he placed the glasses on the table and settled down to listen.
Dean twirled his glass, watching the liquor swirl. "This mind-control dude got me to spill some of it by accident, and I let slip some more in Rivergrove. This whole thing has me seriously freaked out. I just need some time to think. Sam thinks I'm afraid of him. I'm not, but he doesn't believe me. If anything, I'm scared for him. You were right; there's a war coming, and Sam is caught in the middle."
Bobby waited. He was good with puzzles. That's what made him a great researcher. And from the bits and pieces Dean had told him, Bobby had deduced it had something to do with the demon and why it had gone after Sam, twice. "I don't have an answer."
"He ditched me. He was hurt and furious and scared. Said he needed to figure out what's going on. I found him, but things went bad. Gordon tried to kill him because of his visions.
Sam agreed to come back with me, but I don't know if he'll stay. He's ripping his heart out."
"Dean. I'm betting that Sam no longer trusts you to tell the truth. Your daddy always kept secrets from everyone. You know that. You're really just now learning how much. But you two—I think Sam needs to believe that you'll be honest with him no matter what. You're all each other has. You love this life; he doesn't. He's only here because of you."
And I'm only staying to save him, Dean thought. "For now. But for how long…?" Dean remembered Sam choosing to hunt as a memorial to John. Now, he was hunting answers for himself.
Bobby had no answer to that.
Bobby insisted that Sam join them for dinner. The younger Winchester refused to meet the eyes of the others. He no longer looked upset; instead, he just looked lost. He'd learned for sure that his abilities were the reason his mother, his girlfriend, and his father had been killed by the demon. Now Sam knew what the demon planned, maybe why he existed. He was expected to be a soldier in the demon's army. Dean had promised, had sworn, that he knew Sam would never accede to the demon's plans, at least not willingly. Sam had to know Dean would shield him just as he had done all his life. But not telling him the truth…. To Sam, it must have seemed as though Dean did not trust him not to fall into its plans. The demon had been pushing those kids he'd found. So far Sam had held firm. His rock was Dean's concern and love for him. If Sam thought Dean feared him, he would never feel safe, expecting other hunters like Gordon to turn from allies to enemies.
Dean snickered. Sam was so oblivious that he didn't notice he was eating spinach, a vegetable he despised. But his distracted air wasn't amusing. Dean knew some of it was his fault. They hadn't really talked much since leaving Peoria. Conversation, when it had happened at all, had stayed on mundane topics. Only the sounds of Dean's music had filled the Impala. Singing the lyrics in his head distracted him from his brother brooding beside him, a world away.
Looking at Sam's bowed head, Dean reaffirmed his vow that nothing would harm Sam. Sam would not turn on him, would not go dark side. Max, Andy, Anson, and Ava hadn't had Dean. Those others did not have Dean. Sam did, and that would be enough.
Bobby cleared his throat. "I've found something that I think will help hunters a lot if it works." Two pairs of eyes turned towards him, glanced at each other, and then away.
"What is it?" asked Dean as Sam remained silent. It wasn't like him to not be fascinated with some aspect of research.
"A spell to locate lost bones. Specific bones that you're looking for. I found it in the Lemegeton's Goetia."
Both Winchesters straightened up at the thought of all the hours usually spent in research before traipsing around through graveyards or desolate areas becoming unnecessary. Dean's soaring spirits crashed back to earth with Bobby's next words.
"It has a very limited range. It's only effective in a 25-yard radius, so you'll have to really narrow the search grid before it's cast. It's a complicated spell, and the ingredients aren't common, so you can't just keep recasting it 'til you find it."
"But at least it can help with unmarked gravesites," croaked Sam. They were the first words out of his mouth the entire day.
Leaning back in his chair, he glanced at his plate and grimaced at the green mess he saw there. He looked over at Dean, who was chortling. He'd known how Sam felt about spinach and said nothing. Sam's stare was accusing, as if he suspected Dean had slopped it onto his brother's plate himself. Glaring at Dean, he turned to Bobby. "Do you have a hunt in mind to test this spell?"
"No, Sam. That's your job."
Sam rolled his shoulders and scrubbed his face with his hands. He needed a small break from being hunched over the computer, but not from the distraction of research. Looking through sites, he'd been able to focus on the search and ignore the conflicting thoughts in the back of his mind.
Looking up, he saw Bobby, who cleared his throat before asking, "Any luck finding something?"
"A few ideas for hunts. I'll make a list and then decide which one would be the best test for this spell of yours."
Bobby shuffled his feet before taking the plunge. "Look. I can see you and Dean are really tense around each other. Much more so than when you left here for Colorado. Anything I can do?"
Sam felt his face stiffen.
"No, Sam. I need to say this, and I think you need to hear it. You're mad at Dean; we see that. You're upset with this thing he's told you." At Sam's startled, wary glance, Bobby hastened to reassure him. "He didn't tell me what it was about. I just know it was killing him to keep it from you. You were both so torn up with John's death and all and not really talking to each other when you stayed here before. We talked about John telling him a secret before you both left. He knew you'd be upset—hell, furious. But he was afraid you'd leave. Which you did. Don't make Dean pay for your daddy's stupidity"
Sam was furious. He wasn't a kid any more, so why did everyone—his father, Dean, and now Bobby—insist on treating him like one? He'd been an adult in mind much longer than he had been in body. He'd taken care of his life while still living with his father and brother, and then he left for Stanford. Then the demon had stepped back into his life. "This… this thing… it's about me and me alone."
"Dammit! How can you say that! Anything that affects you affects Dean. You know better. With your daddy gone, it's just the two of you."
Sam slumped in his chair. "Dean's afraid and that…." Sam resisted giving voice to the fear, making it more real. He had thought about just giving up so Dean wouldn't have to execute their father's final order. But he knew Dean would give up, too, if anything happened to him. This demon destroyed everything he loved. Only Dean was left. Dean's faith and support of him were what he needed most. He couldn't bear to ask for Dean's thoughts, afraid of what he'd hear. Did he still want to lie low? Did he really believe they could escape the demon's notice that way?
Bobby ached for the boys. They'd lost three alpha males from their tight-knit circle: John, Pastor Jim, and Caleb. Although Bobby and John had been on the outs, he still hoped the boys knew he was there for them. Whatever this thing was about—and he knew it had to do with that demon—it was sending them into a maelstrom where they would need each other to escape. War was on the horizon, and these two were desperately needed in the fight. Dean would fight, but his defense of Sam would always come first. If Sam left or was attacked, Dean would leave the battlefield in a heartbeat. Sam was pivotal. Too many incidents with the demon involved him for him not to be. What that meant for the Winchesters, for their side, remained a mystery.
Sam dropped a file onto the kitchen table. "I think this is our best option to try the spell. In the Killdeer Mountains of North Dakota, there've been several hikers and campers who've died near Spring Creek. Locals are claiming that bobcats are attacking the people, but I don't think so. With the flesh being shredded off the bones which were then crushed, it just doesn't seem right.
Dean scrunched his face in disgust at the mental picture. "Huh. So do you think a spirit is responsible? Not a Black Dog? A banshee?"
"I'm not sure, but the region was settled by Norwegians, and I'm looking at their legends. After the scarecrow in Burkitsville, I think this thing might be an import. Or it could be just an animal. We should check it out. Something is killing people, and, if it's not a spirit, it's something evil.
"Manning, the town nearest to the attacks, doesn't have a big population. Heck, the whole region is sparse. We might want to start in Killdeer looking for info since it actually has a library. The bodies were taken to the morgue at St. Joseph's, which is about 40 miles away in Dickenson. We should go there, too."
Bobby stood next to Dean, watching as Sam slammed the trunk lid shut on the last of their gear. Trying to cheer Dean up, Bobby pointed out, "He's still going with you. You need to try to get him to open up about all this. If he keeps whatever he's thinking inside, he's gonna blow. He needs to trust you again. He needs you to trust him. Do you?"
"I know him; hell, I raised him. There's not an evil bone in his body. He wanted away from this life, and now it's sucked him back in, and he can't escape." Dean stopped talking. He'd said too much to Bobby already, and he might pick up on the secret. And it was theirs and theirs alone. "We'll be okay."
Dean stepped from under the porch, stooping to give England a pat. "Ready, Sam?"
"Yeah. See you, Bobby," he called out, waving.
"You boys call if you need anything."
"Sure, but there might not even be an internet connection in the motel." A half smile twisted Sam's lips as he folded his long legs into the Impala and shut the door.
Dean waved to Bobby and joined his brother in the car.
When the cloud of dust had dispersed, Bobby went back inside. He wished the Winchesters the best and not just with the hunt.