Authors Note: Hello everyone! This is now my second Supernatural fan fiction. This is a sort of companion piece to "Clench", although I hope it works as a stand-alone as well. All mistakes and typos are mine. I apologize. Again: AU, Pre-series/ wee!chester. Reviews = love. Any and all constructive criticism is welcome. If you enjoy it, please let me know.
Disclaimer: If I owned these characters, I would no longer be in student debt. I'm just borrowing them.
"You been looking for me, John-boy?" There was a flash of yellow eyes through the smoke, and a clink of glass against glass. The bar was crowded for a Saturday night in nowhere, Nevada. Sometimes the sound of billiards and jeers won over the blaring country music about heartbreak and slashing tires. The air was hazy, but John was pretty sure that was the alcohol's fault. He automatically factored in a slower response time as he began contemplating exactly how to kill the monstrosity sitting beside him. He kept his screaming anger on the inside. Sipping on his beer, John planned how to end the thing that had started it all.
"Your youngest unnerve you sometimes, Johnny?"The demon asked, not looking at John. The bartender was a middle-aged woman with bleach-blonde hair. She refilled the demon's whiskey as he emptied it. John suspected mind control until she winked a demon-black eye at him. "Sammy knows a lot of things he shouldn't know, doesn't he?"
Yes. John didn't answer the demon's question out loud. By the pleased look on the demon's face, it wasn't needed.
Sometimes his ten year old son tilted his head, as if he were listening to something, and then stated the future as if it were fact. He would tell John not to take a certain highway. Later, John would hear on the news that there was a crash with a tractor trailer, a whole family killed. Sam would refuse to stay in a hotel. The next day, John would read about a horrific fire, most of the occupants dead. John used to ask Sam question upon question, but his son could never answer. Sam didn't understand that what he did wasn't normal.
"He can do things too, can't he?" the demon asked with a smirk. John remembered windows rattling, up-ended houses, turned over cars. Sam always knew where his father and older brother were, where they were going to be even before they were there.
John finished his beer and the demon-bartender gave him a new one. It was a bottle, the cap still intact. John popped it off on the counter top; the cap clinked when it fell to the cement floor. The dark wood counter had millions of nicks from the same type of action done hundreds of times every night. The song on the jukebox changed and started talking about the rain never ending. John thought of the knife in his belt, the gun tucked into his waistband. Neither would kill a demon, though, just the host. John wondered if the man whose body the demon was borrowing was screaming on the inside as he looked out.
"Oh, Sam's talented," the demon continued. The voice was raspy as if from a long-time smoker. The demon smiled straight, white teeth. "He's so young and already on the right frequency." He sounded wistful, eyes fixed on something past the bar that John couldn't see. Innocent host or not, John wanted to put a bullet in his brain to make him stop talking about his son.
"He did inherit the best of everyone: you, that young spitfire wife you had…and me." The demon's eyes snapped to meet his, intense yellow with a shine like a cat's in the dark. John felt himself freeze, his muscles stiffened as his gut dropped to his toes. His hand was on the knife in his belt and he wasn't sure when he moved. He briefly wondered if he would finally scream his rage as he disemboweled the body. Then he remembered that he couldn't. He couldn't disembowel, he couldn't scream his rage. If he stabbed someone in public, he'd go to jail and lose his sons.
"You had nothing to do with making my son!" John growled, teeth clenched against the anger, the compulsion. His other fist was white knuckled against the beer bottle. He tried to remember that there was an innocent man screaming somewhere inside that mind, behind that yellow gaze.
The demon raised his eyebrows at John. "Oh? I didn't?" The tone suggested John was no more than a child who thought he knew everything.
"Come now, Johnny," the demon said, patient, calm. John wanted to cut the tongue out of the smooth face. He forced himself not to move away as the demon leaned in towards him. They must have looked like buddies out for a drink. He gripped the knife handle tighter. "What do you think I did in that nursery?" The demon paused. "You know I didn't come to simply kill a young mother."
John could hear his own blood pounding in his ears. He didn't give a damn about an innocent host anymore. His mind raced through what he could remember of exorcisms. He had memorized them the moment he learned what he was after. But the alcohol made his memory hazy, and the words slipped through the holes before he could grasp them. He focused his gaze on the millions of nicks in the dark wooden counter.
The demon stopped talking for a moment to down the rest of his drink. There was a cheer at one of the pool tables; a girl's laugh rang over the music from the other side of the room. The whole place reeked of smoke, woodchips, and vomit.
"It's too soon, John-boy. Your youngest shouldn't be unnerving you yet." The demon said. John didn't look up; his mind was still searching, grasping at Latin. The rage was still screaming through his veins. There was the scrape of the chair across the cement flooring followed by a pat on his shoulder; nothing more than friends saying goodbye. "Don't worry. I'm going to fix that." A clink of glass and the demon was gone.
John was sober when he reached the motel room door. Adrenaline and the four-block run from the bar purged his system of alcohol. Latin was ready to pour forth from his lips, the gaps having filled themselves in with the clearing of his head. He held his gun pointed towards the ground. Latin for the demon, gun for the host. Everything in him was screaming to rush into the room to check on his children.
The motel room's front window was shattered. A piece of glass crunched between his boots and the pavement as he stepped up to the door. The night was crowded with the sounds of crickets and frogs and mosquitoes. Somewhere on the other side of the parking lot, a bird was singing, mistaking a parking lot light for daylight.
There was a stain on the door, a large melted indent of a man's hand. John had been able to see it from the street. From a distance, it just looked like a strange shadow or a trick of the light. Up close, he could see how the metal had melted and twisted. Had the door been oak or pine like some of the nicer motels, the entire building would have gone up in flames.
The door was cracked open. Nothing but darkness was visible inside. Pushing on the door, he was slightly surprised to find the metal cool to the touch. He half expected to pull away with a burned hand, as if the evil that had marked the door would mark him as well.
The door swung open slowly and the sound of a loading shotgun thundered through the air. John felt an intense rush of relief physically shudder through his body at the sound. At least one of his boys was okay if they were aiming a shotgun at him. "Dean? Sammy?" John called. He tucked his gun away into his jeans.
"Dad?" the voice was tight, uncertain, frightened.
"Yeah, Dean. It's me." John couldn't see his fourteen year old through the darkness. He still stood in the light of the motel parking lot. "Turn on the light, son."
"I can't, Dad." It was rasped and shaky. John felt panic and concern prickle up his neck like goose bumps.
The bird paused for a moment. John took a breath in the silence. "What do you mean?" He asked. The bird started again, closer, the song high and shrill.
"Well, everything kind of blew up. I don't know if any of the lights work." John could almost hear the shrug in the words. John thought about rattling windows, upended houses. He thought about Jim Murphy telling him Sam had a nightmare.
"Okay. I'm coming in. I'm going to try the light switch." John said. There was no response, not even the sound of the gun being unloaded. John paused. "Don't shoot me."
John slowly crept toward the general area he remembered the light switch being. He tripped after his third step, but caught himself on the wall with a curse. Stretching to the left, he hit the switch.
The over-head light flickered for a few moments, giving John glimpses of the room: turned over dressers, exploded mirrors, clothes, books, bags. John was glad all the weapons had been left unneeded in the car for the night. As the lighting solidified, John's gaze fell upon his boys a few feet away.
Dean sat at the edge of the bed in the middle of the room. There was a gash on his forehead, blood trickling slowly down the side of his face. Sam was in his lap, wrapped around his brother like he was much younger than ten. Dean's recent growth spurt had put him closer to John's height than Sam's. It added to the illusion. Sam's back was to the door, his face buried in the side of Dean's neck. Sam's shoulders were shaking.
Dean rocked his brother slightly back and forth. One hand cradled Sam's head, the other pointed the shotgun. Both boys were covered in blood: smeared down the sleeves of Dean's white shirt, black against the back of Sam's pajamas. John couldn't tell where it was coming from, but suspected Dean had played bodyguard to keep his brother safe. Worry gnawed at his gut.
There was a lot of blood. John thought of Mary on the ceiling. There was always a lot of blood.
Outside, a car passed by on the street.
John raised his hands slowly in the air. "It's me, Dean." John said. Dean lowered the shotgun to the floor. John didn't comment on the boy's shaking hands. A demon had just walked in and out of their motel room; shaking was allowed.
Dean's now-free arm wrapped around his brother's back. He kept rocking. "I can't stop it, Dad." The fourteen year old sounded near tears.
With three steps John was beside his children. "Stop what, Dean?" John asked. Dean was pale. John thought about shock and the color of the boy's skin after his first hunt. John cupped his eldest's neck in comfort as his eyes searched for the source of the blood.
He gently pulled Sam as far from Dean as he could. His youngest had his fist clenched in the older boy's blood stained shirt. John didn't fail to notice that Dean didn't relinquish much of his hold on Sam either. John held Sam against his chest, taking comfort in being able to feel the boy's ribcage expand with each shaking breath. He pressed his hand to Dean's midsection, searching for the wound.
"Where are you hurt, Dean?" John asked when he didn't find the source of blood.
"It's not me." Dean's eyes were locked on his brother's face.
John pulled his youngest out of Dean's lap, placed him on the floor and turned Sam to face him. John froze. "Oh, Jesus." He felt like someone had knocked the wind out of him.
The blood was Sam's. It oozed slowly from the boys' eyes and ears. His eyes were closed, shoulders shaking in silent sobs. John thought of ruptured eardrums, burst eyeballs. He wondered if his youngest could hear. He instructed himself to keep breathing.
"Dad's here, Sammy," John said. His voice sounded choked. John held his son's head in his hands and pressed down on both the boys' ears in hopes of stopping the bleeding. Sam screamed. John pulled his hands away.
"I'm sorry, Sammy." He whispered. "I'm sorry." His son's blood was warm on his palms, running through his fingers, down his wrists. He wiped the liquid on his jeans. John didn't know how to stop this either. Outside were the sounds of crickets and frogs. Another car passed by, radio blaring country music about growing up.
John pressed Sam's face to his chest and spoke. "It's me, Sam." He ran his fingers through Sam's dark hair, felt the boy shudder against him. One hand let go of Dean to re-clench in John's t-shirt. John let out the breath he had been holding, and picked the boy off the ground in one solid motion. Dean stood, dragged up by Sam's grip on his shirt. John held Sam in one arm and threw his other over Dean's shoulders and pulled him close.
Warm blood seeped into John's shirt. The material felt sticky next to his chest, above his heart. His son's blood was staining his clothes, his skin. John didn't know how to stop the bleeding. He decided that all these clothes, his and the boys', would be burned as soon as they had the chance. It would be the closest he could come to cleansing away the evil that had touched them. John held both his sons close to him and felt helpless. Outside, the bird continued singing the shrill, high-pitch song.
Three days and five states later, and John still didn't want to stop. He wasn't sure if there would ever be enough space between his sons and Nevada ever again.
John glanced at his boys in the rearview mirror. Both were asleep. Dean was leaning with his back against the door, his legs stretched across the seat. Sam lay on top of his brother, his head resting on Dean's stomach, hand clenched in Dean's shirt. Looking back at the road, John smiled softly. Sam had started out leaning against the opposite door.
Three nights before, John had started packing even before Sam stopped bleeding. His first instinct had been to get his children as far from where they were as possible. Later, in the car, when he had been about to pull into a hospital, the bleeding had stopped. Both his boys had slept. John drove.
The next time the boys woke up was closer to lunch than breakfast. Dean had been quick to ask for food. John sometimes wondered if his oldest was a human garbage disposal. Then Sam's eyes had opened, hazel like his brother's, and roamed around the car. He had asked questions, carried a small conversation. Then he had fallen asleep again. Sam could see. Sam could hear. John had relaxed, and asked Dean what he wanted to eat. He took the triumphs he could.
John flipped on the windshield wipers as it began to rain. The radio was off, no Metallica lullabies on low. Later, when they were awake, Dean would slip upfront and put in his choice of music to drive his brother nuts. For the time being, John would let the sound of the rain pattering on the roof top sooth the boys in sleep. The sound made John think of his own childhood; summer days and cooling pavement, running for shelter after fishing all day. A part of him mourned that his sons' childhood associations would be about demons and nightmare creatures. Another was relieved that caution would be ingrained in his children's psyches. Maybe if a demon walked into his children's homes, they would be able to stop it.
Another glance back revealed Sam to be awake, rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
"Hey there, kiddo," John said, keeping his eyes on the road. There was a grunt from Dean before Sam slid over the back of the front seat with a soft thwack of leather on skin. John wrapped his arm around his youngest and pulled him close. Sam's hand clenched in his shirt. The rain became stronger, and lightening flashed from the horizon.
"How are you feeling, Sammy?" John asked. He could feel his son's breaths coming too fast. If he didn't calm down he would start to hyperventilate. "What's the matter?"
"It's too quiet," Sam said, wriggling closer to his father.
John winced as Sam's shoulder dug into his ribcage. Looking down at his youngest, he could tell the boy was panicked. Sam had been in the car when it was this quiet hundreds of times in his life. Then John thought about Sam tilting his head, listening to things no one else could hear. He thought about the demon talking about frequency. John wondered if life had ever been truly quiet for Sam. The thought unnerved him.
John leaned forward and turned on the radio.
John pretended to be asleep as he listened to the whispers of his boys in the darkness. In between the whispers there were no sounds of crickets or frogs or confused song birds. The only sounds alternated between the AC, the mini-fridge, and the dripping water from the shower. The door was locked, and the window was closed. John had laid the salt and carved the protection symbols himself while the boys had eaten dinner.
"What happened that night, Dean?" Sam whispered. There was no response except for a rustle of sheets. The air was colder on John's skin than he liked. It let him know that Dean had moved the thermostat when he hadn't been looking. For some reason his oldest liked to freeze in his sleep.
"What night?" Dean asked. His voice was groggy as if he were on the edge of consciousness. Dean had a teenager's talent for being able to sleep anywhere at any time of any day.
There was a pause. The mini fridge turned off and John could hear the dripping water from the showerhead into the bathtub. "You know…" Sam said. His voice was closer to an exhaled breath than a whisper.
"Well, there was this girl from school. Back in Louisiana," Dean started, cocky, confident. "She was a total hottie. She would wear these miniskirts and her legs went on for miles. And she had one of the biggest racks—"
"Dean," Sam said, part whine.
John was glad because he didn't really want to hear where that story was going. His boys were growing up, no longer children. He thought about the embarrassing sex talk he had shared with his own father. When Dean had been born, he had made a laughing Mary promise to give the talk. But Mary wasn't there, and Dean was more than interested in the opposite sex. John was pretty sure his son had been looking at girls' assets since he turned eight.
"What happened when, you know…" Sam tried again. "When… he… came?" There was silence again. Three more drips from the shower fell into the tub, and then the humming of the AC kicked on.
Dean sighed. "You know, Sam. You were there." His oldest sounded frustrated.
"But what did you see?" Sam asked. There was an emphasis on the 'you' that made John wonder and worry at the same time.
"I told you already," Dean said. There was another rustle of sheets.
"Tell me again." Sam said.
Dean groaned. "Why don't we just sleep instead?"
"Tell me," Sam said. The AC was pouring cold air onto John's face. He was tempted to get up and turn it off. Dean's liking of the cold was going to give him pneumonia.
"I didn't wake up until the door was already open. He was in the doorway, staring at us." John almost didn't hear Dean speak into the darkness. "I went for the shotgun, but I didn't even get halfway across the room." Dean paused. Faintly, John heard the drip, drip, drip from the shower over the AC.
"I remember hitting the wall…not being able to move." Dean said. "I called to you. Told you to run."
"I remember," Sam whispered. There was a bang of the headboard against the wall as one of the boys sat up.
"Then, he walked in the door as if there had never been any salt laid down." Dean said. John remembered looking for the salt line from the door as he had been packing, and he hadn't been able to find any. He knew it had been there, he just didn't know where it had gone.
"He stood over you, and he looked at me. He smiled. Then he touched your head." Dean said. "That's all he did. He touched your head, you started screaming, and the room blew up."
John choked on his breath, and faked a snore at the last moment. The way Dean paused let him know that his oldest knew he was faking. John hadn't known that his youngest had screamed or that the demon had smiled at his oldest. Somehow those two facts made it all worse.
"When I woke up, I was on the other side of the room along with most of everything else. He was gone. You were still on the bed. You were screaming and bleeding, and there was nothing I could do." John heard a sigh and guessed it came from his oldest.
John strained to hear in the silence. He could hear the drip, drip, drip in the bathroom, could hear both his sons' breathing. He was tempted to roll over so he was facing them, but decided it would be too much blatant eavesdropping. Even though Dean knew he was listening, didn't mind saying these things to his father, Sam would see it as an invasion. John had learned that if Sam wanted him to know something, he told him. Everything else was told to Dean in the dark of a hotel room.
"Are you okay, Sammy?" Dean whispered. John knew it wasn't the question Dean wanted to ask. But his oldest son knew that the more complicated questions, like what did you see, wouldn't be answered. So he asked the questions he could, took what triumphs were given to him.
"I don't know," Sam said into the dark.
"What do you mean," Dean asked.
"I feel so empty." Sam said.
There was more rustling of sheets, another thunk of the headboard against the wall as his sons laid back down. "Get under the covers, Sam. You're freezing," Dean said. John only heard a mumble of apology. "Don't worry," Dean said. "It's okay."
John knew the double meaning of the words wouldn't be lost on Sam. Sam who asked a million and two questions a day. Sam who went through books faster than the Impala went through a tank of gas. Sam who used to hear things and know things no one else could, and suddenly didn't.
Sam who said he felt empty inside.
John felt cold, and it had nothing to do with the setting on the AC.