Chapter 4

Disclaimer: See chapter 1

A/N: This is probably the fastest I've ever posted updates, LOL. I hope you enjoyed this one!

oooOOOooo

Where the winds cannot reach
The tyrant's might was born
And often I look back
With tears in my eyes
Grotesque glory
None will ever see them fall
And hunts and wars
Are like everlasting shadows

Circle of the Tyrants

Celtic Frost

Songwriter Thomas Gabriel Fischer

oooOOOooo

John and Aidan were waiting outside when the small convoy reached the cabin. John was curious if he'd recognize Renee, but wasn't surprised to find out that she didn't even seem familiar. He looked toward the second car, relieved to see the boys were staying back with Leon.

"John," Renee's voice was soft. She took a few steps forward, but seemed to suddenly remember their surroundings and situation before reaching the porch. She smiled, and it struck John as bashful. "We have a lot to talk about."

"Do we? I don't even know who you are."

"That's part of what we have to talk about it."

"Are you the reason I'm here?"

She glanced around. "I guess you could say that."

"Why are you here now?"

"Because everything is falling apart, and I didn't feel right leaving you the way I did."

"And I'm supposed to trust you?"

"You don't have any reason to, I'll grant you that. I'm sorry for my part in what happened, and I want to make it up to you."

John exchanged a look with Aidan, then turned his attention back to the woman in front of him. "How?"

"By telling you everything."

Skeptical, but without any other viable alternatives, John agreed to listen to what Renee had to say. It was no warmer inside the cabin than out, and considering the condition of the rooms, staying outside was the best option. They could have gone to a met up in a public place, but Renee told them she didn't want to risk it, and preferred to talk where they were.

John didn't particularly want the boys to hear the story firsthand, but wasn't very inclined to order them to sit in one of the cars. Even with the luxury of having the heater running, he knew they wouldn't like it. Normally that wouldn't concern him, but he'd had his reasons for letting them come along in the first place, and it could very well defeat the purpose by having them wait elsewhere.

There were a few stumps and logs around the property where they could have sat down, but the group chose to stand. Aidan found a galvanized trash can and managed to light a fire inside. It didn't provide much heat, but it was better than nothing.

Renee didn't seem affected by the firearms around her. The hunters kept them close at hand without being overly threatening, but didn't bother to hide them. John suspected they were, like him, more concerned with the possibility of Renee using mind control techniques on them than what she might do physically. Even if it was useless, sometimes it just felt good to have a gun nearby.

"I feel like this is a command performance," Renee glanced around the group with a small smile.

"You came her of your own free will," John pointed out.

She nodded. "I did. And I'd like to get out of here as soon as possible."

"Then start talking."

"I'm a witch. That, along with some natural psychic ability, allows me to practice mind control. I'm very good at what I do, and I caught the attention of someone who doesn't care for you very much." She looked at John.

"Who?"

She shrugged. "I don't know for sure. I was hired through a third party."

"Hired to do what?"

"Originally to find out what you knew about Daniel Elkin. I don't know why, other than he's apparently fallen off the map and my employer wants him for something very important."

"Why can't I remember anything?"

"A side effect of the mind control, I'm afraid. The missing time may or may not come back, but even if it does, a lot of it will be false memories," Renee paused, apparently waiting for another question, but when none came, she went on. "Prior to hiring me, my employer tried to find Elkin in other ways, but I don't know the particulars. I agreed to the terms of employment, but things began to change. When I didn't have instant success, I was given new orders, expected to make last minute changes to very intricate plans, and things began to fall apart."

"Did you do anything to my sons?"

Renee looked at the brothers and John followed her gaze. He noted that Sam was standing very close to Dean, but looking every bit as defiant as John knew him to be. He might be afraid, but he wasn't about to let this stranger see it. The expression on Dean's face gave John pause, though. He looked beyond angry; he looked dangerous.

"I was told to keep them out of the way. I influenced them along with some people around them." She looked curiously at Sam. "It didn't work very well on him."

From the corner of his eye, John saw Dean shift uncomfortably. When Renee spoke again, he turned his full attention back to her. "Some people are less susceptible, but…."

"But what?" The question came from Sam.

"I don't know," Renee said to him. "You seem different somehow."

John saw a small crack in his younger son's demeanor and decided to turn the conversation away from him quickly. "Did you bring me to this cabin?"

Renee looked at Sam for a moment longer before turning back to John. "Yes. I was told to bring you here after I suggested it might be easier to get the information from you here than somewhere else. Your connection to Daniel is strongest here."

"And did you make me do anything along the way?"

She smiled. "No. You stopped for gas and food. I joined you at a diner to make contact again. My influence over you had faltered a little while I was dealing with things in Denver. I initially made physical contact after you left the motel in Green Mountain Falls. Some other associates of my employer met up with you there and healed the infection that had set in from the wounds you got from the werewolf."

"How did they do that?" John asked.

Renee shook her head. "I don't know. I have a feeling they weren't using Western medicine, though."

"What do you mean? Were these associates also witches?"

"No. I…." she looked around nervously. "I don't know for sure, but I think they might have been…."

"Might have been what?" John was losing patience.

"It sounds crazy," she laughed uneasily. "But I think they were demons."

"Demons!" John repeated incredulously. Despite all the evidence presented to him, primarily by Jim and Bobby, and things he'd seen with his own eyes, John had only recently come to terms with the existence of demons. He'd educated his sons about their traits, but assured them that demons were rare. That's what Bobby had told him, anyway.

"Like I said, I don't know for sure. I got a really strange vibe from the person who hired me and I just got the feeling he wasn't human."

"Can you describe him?" John asked.

"I can, but –"

"Hold on just a second," Aidan said. "Let me get some paper and a pen. I can make a sketch from your description."

Aidan headed for his car and John looked back at Renee. "You said that things started to fall apart. What did you mean?"

"My employer wasn't happy about my lack of progress. The orders kept changing and it seemed like the end goal may have, too. I don't know that for sure, but orders to me became more frantic. Mind control, especially to the degree I was performing it, takes a lot of planning and a very particular process. You can't turn on dime. There's no good way to readjust quickly."

Renee adjusted her coat against a sudden blast of wind and the hunters looked around for signs of something supernatural. The few birds brave enough to endure the cold hadn't stopped singing, so John asked Renee to continue.

"Like I said, I couldn't influence Sam very well. He didn't get very far in convincing Dean to call in reinforcements, but ended up doing it himself. I was too far away to exert any control over Aidan, and once he was in town everything I put into place just shattered."

"We felt like we'd woken up," Sam commented.

Renee nodded at him. "Yeah, I suppose it would have felt like that."

"Why did you talk to us at the bar?" Leon asked.

She turned to him. "I was ordered to. I was also supposed to work my magic, as my employer likes to call it, and exert some influence on all of you to get you off John's trail. Now, I'm good. I'm very good. But even I can't keep all the balls in the air that I was supposed to."

"And that's why you're telling us all this?" John wondered.

"Yeah. I'm out. I don't think there's anything else I can tell you.'

"Except for the description," Aidan said as he rejoined the group.

She nodded. "Yeah, except for that. I don't know if it will be any help, though."

"Maybe not," Aidan said. "But we can't overlook anything."

John watched while Aidan got ready to work, then glanced at his sons. They'd walked away a few feet and looked like they were deep in conversation. He had about decided to leave them alone when he saw Dean put a hand on Sam's shoulder. Sam pulled away and said something that John couldn't hear, but the look on Dean's face told John that he was at a loss.

"What's going on?" John asked as he approached the boys. Dean glanced at him, but Sam turned away. "Sammy?"

Sam didn't respond, so John moved closer to him and put his hand on his shoulder. "You okay?"

"Just cold." John thought there was more to it than that, but clearly Sam wasn't ready to talk about whatever was bothering him. He reached into his pocket for the Impala keys and held them out to Sam. "Why don't you and Dean get in the car and start up the heater?"

Sam took the keys and walked away without a word. John looked at Dean. "I don't know, Dad. All he said was that something had to be wrong with him because of what Renee said about not being able to control him."

John ran a hand over his face. "Great. Take care of him, okay? We'll finish up here and….well, we'll do something."

Dean nodded and followed Sam to the car.

-----

"Look, I don't know if there's anything else I can do," Renee said once Aidan had finished the sketch. "But take my cell phone number."

Aidan wrote the number on the sketch as John joined them. He looked over Aidan's shoulder. "He doesn't look familiar."

"Yeah, to me, either." Aidan glanced at Renee. "But if she's right about demons, this is probably just some poor schmuck who was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Yeah," John agreed quietly.

"For what it's worth, I told my contact that you didn't know anything about Daniel's whereabouts." Renee said to John.

He nodded. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course," she said as Aidan walked away.

"What you said about Sam? That he's different…."

Renee nodded. "Yeah, I don't know how to explain it. Like I said, some people are naturally resistant to mind control, but I couldn't get a read on Sam at all."

"Any idea why?"

"It could be a couple of things. I kept thinking maybe he has his own psychic ability. I felt something that I can't explain. I'm sorry I can't be more help."

John wished he was surprised by Renee's theory, but he wasn't. Sam hadn't shown any outward talent, but John had long suspected that there was something different about him. He used to think that's what had attracted the thing that killed Mary, but then he'd begun to wonder if whatever had come into their house that night had done something to Sammy in his crib. John had been waiting for years for Sam to do something to prove one of the theories was correct, but so far, there had been nothing.

"Don't worry about it," John said, feeling tense. "I appreciate you telling us everything before going into hiding. Are you going to be all right?"

Renee shrugged, a sad smile on her face. "I don't know. But if I'm not, I have no one to blame but myself. I'm sorry, John. I really am. I didn't realize what this would turn into when I originally agreed to do it."

John could tell her remorse was genuine, but he couldn't bring himself to forgive her. Before he could think of something to say, a cold blast of air blew through the clearing where they stood. This time, the birds stopped singing and some were even startled from their hidden perches in the pine trees. John looked up as a dark black cloud rolled overhead.

"Get in your car and get out of here!" he yelled to Renee.

"What? Why?" The howling of the wind drowned out her words, but John grabbed her arm, practically dragging her to her car.

Once they'd reached her vehicle, John left Renee to fend for herself. The wind was getting stronger and tree limbs were flying around almost as if a tornado had touched down. The noise was deafening. John had to lean close to Leon to hear what he was saying, and even at that it, it was a struggle.

Yelling to one another to be heard, the two hunters decided the best course of action was to attempt to get down the mountain. John barely noticed that Renee had followed his directions, and had turned her car around. He was glad to see, however, that Aidan had managed to keep the boys inside the Impala.

"Good luck!" John yelled to Leon and both men ran for their cars. John slid behind the wheel of the Impala, ignoring the questioning looks from Aidan and his sons. "We're going to try to get down the mountain."

"What's going on, John? This isn't just a normal winter storm, is it?"

John shook his head, his jaw set. "I doubt it."

He got the Impala turned around, wishing he'd thought to do that ahead of time. He should have been ready for a quick get away. Snow began to fall from the ever-blackening sky and John had trouble seeing the road ahead of him. He had no idea how far Renee had gotten, but it didn't seem possible she could be that far ahead of him. He chanced a glance into the rearview mirror and barely saw Leon's headlights behind him.

The car radio crackled even though it hadn't been turned on, the lights on the dashboard panel blinked, and John was afraid the engine would just stop running.

"See if you can get Jack on the two-way," he said to Aidan. "Let him know we're trying to get to the motel."

Aidan picked up the radio from the seat, but there was too much static to get through to anyone. "Any idea how far we are from the highway?"

"Not really," John said over the screeching of the wind outside. "I can barely see a fucking thing!"

Just as the words had come from John's mouth, the road ahead of them lit up in a sudden burst of light. At first, he thought there had been a flash of lightning, but it soon became apparent that there had been an explosion. John navigated a curve in the gravel road and, even though he'd not been going that fast, had to slam on his brakes and swerve to avoid running into the flames.

"Oh my God," Aidan breathed. "Is that…?"

John looked into the rearview mirror as Leon skidded to a stop behind the Impala. Before he'd even turned his eyes back to the front, the sky suddenly brightened and the trees stopped shaking from the hard wind. There was now no denying that what they'd been watching was the destruction of Renee's car, but it was too late to do anything about it. It probably always had been.

-----

Aidan was able to make contact with Jack and Charley, who agreed to meet the group at a fast food restaurant on the highway. While they waited for their partners, John insisted that everyone try to eat something, though he knew no one felt like it. He knew if the adults didn't set the example, the boys wouldn't eat. As it was, they only picked at the burgers and fries they'd ordered.

The look on Sam's face worried John. This was the first time he'd ever seen someone die, though John suspected that Renee was dead long before they'd turned that corner. Sadly, Dean had experienced death before and in a much more personal way. When he was less than six years old, Dean picked up a gun to defend his father from something that had, at least, looked human at the time.

The hunters were the only customers in the place, though John could see a fairly steady stream of cars at the drive-through. After eating less than half his burger, Sam pushed away from the table and headed for the men's room without a word.

"I'll check on him," Dean said.

"No," John stopped him with a gentle hand on his wrist. "Let him be for a few minutes, and then I'll go after him."

Dean nodded, glancing at the next table where Aidan and Leon sat.

"You okay?" John asked.

Dean shrugged. "Sure."

John watched him for a moment. He was staring at his food on the table, dragging a fry through a puddle of ketchup. "Dean?"

Dean looked up, but instead of what John expected to see, Dean was angry. "I can't say I'm sorry she's dead, Dad. Not after what she did."

John nodded. "I can understand that."

"I've seen people die before, ya know. People I knew and cared about. I know you and Aidan looked, but there's no way to know for sure if she was even in that car when it blew."

"That's true."

"What do you think caused that storm, though? A demon? I mean, if that's what she was working for, it would have probably gotten pretty pissed off that she told us the plan.'

Dean sounded so calm and matter-of-fact, but John didn't quite believe he was as unaffected by the events as he pretended to be. John wasn't, so he didn't expect his kids to be. Dean was analytical, brave and was turning into an excellent hunter, but John had to continually remind himself that Dean was still just a boy. And right now he was worried about that boy.

"I think a demon, or maybe more than one, is the only thing that could have caused what we saw," John said, keeping his voice low.

"Why did it let us go?" John saw a momentary flash of fear in his son's eyes, and suddenly understood. Dean wasn't concerned about what had happened, but what was going to happen.

"I don't know, Dean. But Renee said her employer, the demon, I guess, wanted Daniel. If I'm still the best route to him, it makes sense the demon would let me – and the people with me – go."

"What's so important about Daniel?" Dean asked.

John tried to keep his expression neutral, but he felt the ice pellets in his belly. He knew what was important about Daniel, but he didn't want to give that piece of information to his sons quite yet. He'd finally had no choice but to believe the evidence gathered over the years that a demon had come into their home that night and it was a demon that had killed Mary. But he didn't want his sons to deal with that fact of life quite yet.

And since he didn't want them to know the truth about what killed their mother, John couldn't tell Dean that Daniel possessed a weapon that would kill anything – including a demon.

"I don't know," John finally answered. He struggled to keep eye contact with Dean, even though there was clear skepticism on his son's face. "I haven't seen him in a long time."

Dean apparently decided to take his father at his word, and picked up his drink cup. John looked toward the bathroom as Sam opened the door. He hesitated, clearly not wanting to come back to the table, but knowing he didn't have much of a choice. "I'm gonna go talk to your brother."

"Can we go for a walk?" Sam asked once John was close.

"You're not cold enough yet?" John asked with a small smile.

Sam shrugged and John pushed open the door. They walked quietly for a few minutes, then Sam suddenly stopped and looked at his dad. "What's wrong with me?"

John knew what had been on Sam's mind, but he hadn't expected that question. "Why would you think something's wrong with you?"

"What Renee said…."

"Sammy, the fact that you were difficult to influence is a good thing."

"But she said something felt different about me."

John put his arm around Sam's shoulders and pulled him close. "Different doesn't mean bad."

Sam didn't say anything, but John felt him lean his head against his side. Sam was becoming quite a tall young man, and like any teenager, he was starting to pull away and trying to find out who he really was. John had to get used to the idea that Sam wasn't his baby any more, and hadn't been for quite some time. But there were still rare moments, like this, when Sam let himself be vulnerable and still just wanted to be taken care of.

"Sammy," John said quietly. "There's nothing wrong with you. If I had your ability not to be mind-controlled, none of this would have happened. This is a strength, Son."

After a moment, Sam pulled away and looked at John. "You don't think it has anything to do with what happened….that night? In my nursery?"

John felt those ice pellets again, but he only shook his head. "That wasn't your fault, Sam."

"But maybe whatever killed Mom really wanted me. Maybe it couldn't get me, and that's why it killed her."

John looked at his son with concern. "You never said anything like that to me before."

Sam shrugged.

"How long have you felt that what happened to your mom was your fault?"

Sam shrugged again. "Dean says it wasn't my fault."

"Dean's right. Sammy, you were just a baby. You didn't have anything to do with what happened."

"But it happened in my nursery." Sam sounded miserable.

"Sammy, you were the most vulnerable. Maybe it's as simple as that." John wanted to believe that, but he didn't. He tried to believe it for a long time, but with everything he'd learned, it just became too difficult. He knew that Sam hadn't intentionally done anything to bring the monster to them, but John still thought something about Sam had attracted it. "If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. I should have protected your mother. I failed her, but I am so grateful that you and Dean got out of the house."

John didn't bother blinking away the tears, but he didn't let them fall. Sam looked at him, his eyes glistening with his own tears. After a long moment, he nodded, ending the conversation.

-----

Aidan watched John and Sam outside for a few minutes, then turned his attention to Dean. He was sitting with his back to the restaurant, which was unusual for him, and hadn't bothered to move when John left. He was staring out of the window, but there wasn't much to look at. Aidan moved to Dean's table and sat down.

"Looks like you've got a lot on your mind, Slick."

"Where do we go from here, man?"

"I don't know."

"Can't guard against mind control. This demon, if that's what it was, didn't get what it wanted. It'll just try again."

"It wants Daniel, not your dad."

"Yeah, but what's to say it won't go through Dad again?"

"It didn't work this time. Besides, he doesn't know where Daniel is. Renee told his intermediary as much."

"Are demons logical?" Dean asked.

"I imagine there are different kinds of demons, just like everything else. We'll talk to Bobby about it. And in the meantime, I'll make copies of the sketch and get it out to some hunters. Most likely it's some poor possessed bastard, but you never know."

-----

Twenty minutes later, Jack and Charley still hadn't arrived. When they didn't answer their cell phones or the two-way radio, the hunters got into their cars and headed in the direction they would have come from. At first, there didn't seem to be any sign of the men, but after a second pass through, Dean, who was riding with Leon, spotted a break in the foliage.

"Tracks show they went off that direction," John said after a thorough examination of the area. He nodded vaguely to the west.

"How the hell did they survive the wreck?" Aidan wondered aloud. The car had rolled over some brush after leaving the highway and smashed into the first tree in its path. The engine was sitting in the front seat, and the hood almost completely wrapped around the wide trunk. "It's amazing the thing didn't burst into flames."

"I have an idea, but you ain't gonna like it." Leon joined the group on the side of the road. "There's sulfur in the car."

"Demons?" Aidan groaned.

"Looks that way."

"Anyone happen to know a good exorcism?" Aidan asked.

"Call Bobby," John said. "Let's get our shit together and go after them."

Aidan and Leon exchanged a look, but Aidan pulled out his phone. John opened the trunk of the Impala and started going through the weapons they had. Dean moved to his side. "Dad –"

"Dean, I want you to take the car and get your brother out of here. Head to Jim's."

Dean hesitated and John thought he might protest, but a moment later he simply said. "Yes, sir."

-----

"We could help them!" Sam complained to Dean as the older brother drove toward Blue Earth, Minnesota.

Dean hadn't been happy about being sent away, but he understood their father's order. He knew Aidan and their dad didn't have any experience against a demon, and he didn't think Leon had, either. Dean realized that their father didn't want to have to worry about his sons on top of everything else.

"You can bitch all you want, Sammy, but we're going to Jim's."

"What if something happens to them?"

"What do you think we could do?"

"I don't know, but –"

"Exactly. Sam, this isn't a ghost or….look, Dad and the others have a lot more experience than we do, okay? Dad just wants us to be safe."

"Why do we do all this training if –"

"We've been through this a million times," Dean said exasperatedly. "We're getting ready. We're learning what we need to know….Hell, you've never even been on a real hunt and you want to fight a demon? No way, Sammy. I agree with Dad."

"No, you don't. I can tell you're as mad as I am."

"I'm not mad. I'm worried. But part of our training is to follow orders, and Dad told us to go."

Sam crossed his arms over his chest and slumped down in the seat. "Whatever."

Dean glanced at him, knowing the argument was over.

-----

"How long are we going to keep going?" Aidan asked. The three hunters had been on Jack and Charley's trail for almost four hours. Originally, the men had been concerned about a trap, but that didn't seem to be an issue.

"The way they're zig-zagging…." Leon paused. "It's almost like they're –"

"Just keeping us busy," John finished.

Leon shrugged. "Maybe."

"So, where should our attention be?" He looked at his companions. "I'm already worried enough about Sam and Dean, so there's no need to mention that."

"Maybe we should just get back to the car and head to Jim's ourselves. We can call the boys as soon as we get a cell signal." Aidan suggested. "I just don't see the logic in wandering around out here any longer."

John ran a gloved hand over his face and looked around. "Yeah. Let's go."

"You don't have to go to Minnesota," John said when they got to Leon's car an hour later. "Aidan's car is back at the motel, so you can just drop us there."

"I've been thinking about that," the large man said. "I don't have anything else going on. Besides, Jack and Charley are my friends."

John nodded. "Okay, then."

While Leon drove them back to the motel to get Aidan's car, John called Dean's cell phone.

"Dad?"

"Are you two all right?"

"Yes, sir. Nothing has happened here. What about there?"

"We were led through the woods, but never found Jack and Charley. We think we were being led around on purpose to keep us from being somewhere else."

"Where?"

"I have no idea. We're picking up Aidan's car, then coming your way. Have you talked to Jim?"

"Every hour, just like you told me to. Nothing unusual happening there, either."

"Okay. I'll call Bobby and check in with him. Keep your eyes open."

"Will do. Be safe, Dad."

-----

Aidan glanced to the passenger side of the car. John's head was resting against the window, and he looked far from comfortable, but seemed to be sound asleep. Aidan was glad for that because he had no idea what John had been through in the last few days. They had Renee's word about what had happened, but even taking that at face value, there was a lot of missing time. Aidan was sure that John hadn't slept much and even if he'd been healed by supernatural means, he probably still needed the rest.

It was a 12-hour drive to Jim Murphy's house and Aidan was glad the boys were so far ahead of them. Aidan hoped that whatever had led him, John and Leon on the merry chase through the frozen woods didn't have the brothers in its sights. He also hoped that they'd be able to somehow rescue Jack and Charley, but he knew that wasn't exactly realistic.

Aidan glanced toward John again when he heard the man shift in the seat. A moment later, he seemed to have settled down again; he didn't wake up.

-----

John didn't remember falling asleep, but when his eyes opened, he was in a dark room. It wasn't completely black; he could see the vague outline of furniture and thought he was in a motel room. For a moment, he was angry. It was a long drive to Jim's, but not one that required a motel stay. John realized that Aidan would have had to wake him up to get him into the room, and surely he would have protested. It occurred to John that he was again under some kind of mind control, but something about that didn't ring true.

He sat up and discovered that he'd been lying on a bed. As he looked around, John became aware that he wasn't alone.

"Who are you?" He struggled to see in the darkness, but he couldn't make out any details. The figure was standing across the room, and judging by the shape, it appeared to be male.

"You don't know my name."

"What do you want? Where am I?"

"You're dreaming."

"I'm dreaming." John was skeptical.

"More or less," the figure's tone was almost musical. "It was the easiest way for us to have a chat.'

"About what? Is Aidan all right?"

"I haven't done anything to him. Or to your children for that matter."

"What do you want with my sons?"

"Quite frankly, I don't want them at all."

"What does that mean?"

"Oh, come on, John. Surely you have an idea."

"Are you the thing that killed my wife?"

"That's quite accusatory." The figure laughed.

John wanted to lunge forward and attack whatever was standing across from him, but it wasn't good sense that kept him from doing it. When he tried to move, he found he was somehow pinned to the bed. "What do you want?"

"The weapon that Daniel Elkin has."

"He's never admitted to having it, and if he had, I sure as hell wouldn't help you get it."

"You might change your mind."

"Why? You're going to threaten my boys?"

"You're not going to believe this, but I'm not the enemy here."

"You're right, I don't believe it."

"I'm not the one who killed your wife, John." His tone was suddenly soft and he sounded completely sincere. "I know who did, though, and in the future your sons….well, Sam, anyway, will play a part in his plans.'

"What are you talking about?"

"He chose Sam."

"Chose him for what?"

"I don't know for sure, but Sam isn't the only one. He visited the bedrooms of children all over the world on the night of their six month birthday. Look into it and you'll find other nursery fires, but I don't think that killing the mother wasn't a part of the plan. The bottom line is that I don't want him to see his plan to fruition."

"Why not?'

"Let's just say that it wouldn't be in my best interest. There's a lot going on that you'll never understand. Most of it you'll never even know. Bottom line is that you need to find the weapon."

"And do what with it? Give it to you?"

"Not necessarily. You using it would provide the same result."

"Killing the thing that killed my wife?"

"Not to unduly cruel, but I don't care about your wife. She was a casualty in a war that started a long time ago. You're playing a part in that war and so will your sons. Your wife was a part of it, too."

"What do you mean?"

"She invited him into your house. She knew he would come. Granted, she didn't know why, but she knew it would happen."

"I don't understand."

The creature sighed deeply. "Your wife was a hunter, John. She came from a long line of hunters."

"I….I know that."

"Indeed."

"How did she know it would come to the house?"

"The night her parents died, she made a deal with him for your life."

"What?" John's mouth was suddenly dry.

"Surely you remember that night." The demon took a step forward. "You planned to propose to Mary, you were parked on the banks of the lake….And her father suddenly arrived. He pulled you out of the car…."

"I remember," John said, seeing the events in his mind. "But…."

"When you woke up you were lying on the ground, but your head was in Mary's lap and her father –"

"She told me it was an accident. I didn't remember anything and…." John looked at the dark figure across the room. "What are you saying?"

"Her father was already dead when he pulled you out of that car. He was possessed, and he killed you, John. That's why you didn't remember. And Mary made a deal for your life."

"She wouldn't have done that."

"You underestimate how much she loved you."

"How do I know you're telling me the truth?"

"You know I am."

"What was the deal?"

"He told her he'd come to her ten years from that night, and all she had to do was stay out of the way. He didn't tell her what he was going to do. I can give you the names of other people who had the same experience, but I don't know if they'll confirm what I've told you, or not."

"What did it do to my son? What did that bastard do to Sammy?" John tried to stand, but found he was still stuck to the bed.

"I don't know. And I don't know exactly what his plan is, but I can promise you that at some point, he plans to come back for the children whose homes he visited. So, back to your question. I want the weapon to give my side an advantage in the war. And like I said, you're welcome to be the one to use it."

John rubbed his face. "I don't even know where Daniel is."

"Uh-huh. I got that. Find him. Get the weapon. Kill the demon who killed your wife, give my side the advantage –"

"So, I'm supposed to assume you're the lesser of two evils?"

"You can see it any way you want to see it."

"Did you have anything to do with Jack and Charley's accident? Where are they?"

"That would have been my counterpart. Well, not directly, of course. I suspect the plan was to have them come back to the group, possessed, to gather information. The demons doing the possessing were sloppy, though. They're young and inexperienced."

John tried to focus his thoughts. "I don't know how to find….your counterpart. Even if I do get the weapon, I –"

The demon laughed. "Are you proposing a partnership?"

"That sounds like what you were proposing."

"Huh. Well, perhaps I was, after all."

"How long do I have?"

"Before he comes for your son?"

"Yes."

"I can't say for sure, but based on his past actions, you have a few years. He's done this many, many times before and with each generation, the children are older when he comes for them. Find Daniel, John. Get the weapon."

John's mind was reeling. He looked toward the figure, but he was alone in the room. John found he wasn't pinned to the bed any more, but when he stood up, the room started to spin.

-----

"John? You okay?"

John heard Aidan's voice, and opened his eyes. He was in the car, but it was parked on the side of the road. Feeling sick, John grabbed the door handle and practically fell out onto the dirt. He didn't notice the dusting of snow as he crawled away and began to vomit. There wasn't much in his stomach, but that didn't stop the dry heaves from torturing him.

"John." He felt Aidan's hand on his shoulder as he rolled onto his back and closed his eyes.

"I'm okay."

"I kinda think you're not. Have some water."

John opened his eyes slightly, seeing Aidan holding a bottle out to him. "Give me a minute." He closed his eyes again, grateful that Aidan stayed close to him. John wasn't sure how long he lay there before sitting up and taking the bottle of water.

"I thought you were having a nightmare," Aidan said simply as John took a swig of the water and spit it out.

"I don't think it was a dream," John said. He took a careful swallow.

"What does that mean?"

John shook his head and drank more of the water. His head was pounding, and even though he knew it was cold, he felt warm. "When was the last time you talked to the boys?"

"Just a little while ago. They're fine, John. What happened to you?"

John looked around. "We have to get going." He tried to stand, but a wave of dizziness overtook him and he fell back to the ground.

"Hold on, just give yourself a second." Aidan's voice was calming, but John was edgy. He wanted to get back on the road, he wanted to get to his sons. "Just sit there and get yourself together."

John scooted until he felt the car against his back. He didn't dare open his eyes, but he felt the bottle of water pushed into his hand and Aidan's voice. "Here."

"Thanks," John whispered. He patted his coat pocket. "Where's my phone?"

"It's in the car, but if you call the boys sounding like you do, you're gonna scare the shit out of them."

John silently agreed with Aidan. He took another sip of the water, and after a few long moments began to feel better. When he opened his eyes, he saw the trepidation on his friend's face. "I'm okay."

Aidan helped him to his feet and John walked in a small circle, taking deep breaths. He felt almost normal again when he turned to Aidan and told him about what he knew hadn't been a dream.

"Holy shi….but John, you looked like you were asleep. How can you be sure that –"

"I can't be sure of anything, Aidan. But I don't think this was just a simple dream."

Aidan seemed about to respond when his cell phone started to ring. It was Leon, checking on their progress having lost sight of them in his rearview mirror. After assuring him everything was all right and agreeing to meet up at the next gas station, Aidan and John got back into the car. While Aidan navigated back onto the highway, John called Dean.

-----

Jim Murphy knew the brothers wanted to stay awake until their father got there, but they didn't arrive until almost 3am and were already exhausted. Jim fed them and they took showers, but after a valiant effort, both fell asleep in his living room. After covering them with blankets, he stoked the fire, and then settled in a recliner across the room.

He had talked to John during one of his calls to the boys and now Jim was worried. As he thought about what John had told him, he knew it probably hadn't been a dream. He didn't want to admit that John had been visited by a demon, but there didn't seem to be another explanation. At least not that Jim thought was as reasonable. Jim had called Bobby, who was now on his way to Minnesota, and the demon expert was in agreement, too.

Sam shifted on the couch and Jim looked toward him. He continued to sleep, but the movement caused Dean to stir. He'd fallen asleep on the floor near his brother. Jim had wanted to wake him, so he could move to a more comfortable place, but he knew that Dean wouldn't want to be too far from Sam. Even in a place he knew to be safe, Dean was protective of his brother.

"It's all right, Dean." Jim's voice was quiet, but he knew the boy had heard him.

"What time is it?" Dean sat up, rubbed his eyes, then looked at Sam.

"It's about 6 in the morning."

"Has Dad called any more?"

"Every hour, as we agreed. They're on schedule to be here in a couple of hours. You should go back to sleep."

Dean leaned back against the couch and pulled the blanket up to his neck. "Look who's talking."

"If you're cold, there are more blankets."

"No, thanks, I'll be okay."

"I thought about waking you two and making you go to the guest room, but I figured if you were asleep, you had to be comfortable enough."

Dean smiled briefly. "Thanks for everything, Pastor Jim."

"There's no need to thank me. You're family."

Sam moaned softly in his sleep and Dean laid his head back against his brother's back. After a moment, he settled back down. Dean didn't move, but he called Jim's name softly.

"Yes, Dean?"

"Do you think Jack and Charley are all right?"

"I don't know."

"Dad and the others….they think Jack and Charley were possessed. There weren't any skid marks on the road. It's like Jack drove off the road on purpose, and judging from the crash site, he was going fast."

Jim hesitated, thinking about what he could say. John had never been overly truthful with his sons. He kept information from them if he felt they didn't need to know, but he never sugar-coated things. Dean knew more than Sam did, but he was still a child. Or, maybe that stopped the night his mother died, Jim thought and sighed to himself. He decided there was no point in being anything other than honest. "It sounds like that kind of crash would have killed them."

"Yeah," Dean's voice was quiet. "That's what I figured. The only reason they were able to walk away was because of the demons. Have you ever gone up against a demon?"

"No, I haven't. Most hunters have never encountered one."

"But Bobby has?"

"Yes, though most of his knowledge is academic and not personal experience. Demon possession is rare."

"Seems like one has my dad in its sights."

"Looks that way," Jim agreed. He'd suspected for years that Mary Winchester had been killed by a demon, but it took John a lot longer to come to terms with that idea. Of course, until the night she died, John hadn't known that there was any truth to the supernatural stories he'd heard. Like most people, he'd thought that ghosts and demons were only in the movies. "But Bobby's on his way and hopefully he'll be able to find a way to put an end to that."

"Demons are bad news."

Jim looked at Dean. There was only one small lamp lit, but with the fire burning, there was just enough light to see his expression. He looked young, but the maturity in his eyes made Jim sad. He'd begged John to let his sons stay children for as long as possible, but John had had other ideas. While he protected Sam, he'd insisted that he needed Dean to be capable of handling things in his absence. There'd been more than one argument about that, but Jim always knew how far he could push John. He knew John's temper, and he'd never been willing to risk the man taking his sons away forever.

"Somehow, Dean, we're going to get out from under this."

"I hope so."

A moment later, Sam stirred again, and this time he awoke with a start. Before Jim could even react, Sam saw his brother and immediately relaxed. It wasn't long until the trio moved to the kitchen.

Sam briefly thought about school, but he didn't expect that his family would go back to Denver for any other reason than to get the few belongings they'd left. Dean considered calling Lindsey, but decided it would be better to leave things as they were. Like Sam, he suspected their days in Denver were over. Their father called a couple more times to check in, but he and the others arrived on schedule just after 8am.

Bobby Singer, a demon expert who lived in South Dakota, had gotten on the road after finishing up some things at home and made it to Jim's not long after his friends. He and John had a tumultuous relationship, but each could be counted on when the other needed him.

Jim stayed busy making coffee and food. Despite the extreme circumstances, the group was hungry.

Epilogue

Dean had thought about that weekend a lot over the years. He'd never learned everything that happened to his father over those few days – if his memory ever came back, Dean didn't know.

But he'd realized that was when his father had discovered the truth, or the potential truth, about Sam and what was to come. Of course, the great John Winchester had never confided in Dean, other than to tell him he might have to kill his brother. Years later, over too many beers, Bobby had told him some what his father never had.

"We eventually found Jack and Charley," Bobby said, his words already slurring. "I came across some demon activity a few weeks later, and called your daddy to come with me to check it out. I did that a lot in those days. Once he'd accepted that he was after a demon, anyway. Turns out Jack and Charley weren't a part of any big plan any more, assuming they ever had been. A couple demons were just taking them out for a joyride."

"What were they doing?" Dean wondered. He and Bobby had been drinking for a couple of hours. He'd lost track of how many beers he'd finished, though there was an impressive number of empty bottles on the table in front of him.

Bobby waved away the question. "It don't much matter. Just causing some random trouble is all. Your daddy and I managed to exorcise the demons, then we burned the bodies."

"The demon that came to Dad, the one you told me about that wanted Dad to find the weapon….did he ever show up again?"

"Not in such a dramatic way, but yeah. It would come around every so often to give your dad information. It was never enough to ever really find the yellow-eyed bastard, but every little bit helped, I guess. But then it just stopped. It came to your father one last time right before Sam went off to college. From what John told me, it was a brief visit and the demon was on the run. I guess ol' Yellow Eyes was probably on its tail."

"That must have been why Dad was so freaked about Sammy leaving," Dean took a long swig from the bottle in his hand. "It would have been so much easier if Dad had just told us what was going on. I'll never understand the secrecy."

"Me, neither," Bobby agreed. "I can't tell you how many times Jim and I tried to get him to change his mind. Hell, Caleb, too for that matter. I still don't know what that man was thinking, but you know how he was. It was his way or the highway."

Dean snorted in response. After a moment of contemplation, he looked at his friend. "Why'd you stick with him?"

"Your dad?" Bobby asked. "He was a hunter, and we stick together. Sort of."

"That's it?"

Dean saw Bobby's face turn serious, and it seemed to him that years of memories were flashing in the man's eyes. "Your daddy was a hard man, Dean. He was a mean sonofabitch. But he was also one of the best friends I ever had. He loved you and your brother with a ferocity I'd never seen before, and probably will never see again."

Tears stung Dean's eyes. He finished off his beer, then reached into the cooler between his and Bobby's chair for another one.

"We all loved your daddy. Me, Jim, Caleb. Even that freak Joshua. No matter what was going on, we could count on him." Bobby looked at Dean. "But I guess sometimes that was at yours and Sam's expense."

"Hey, Bobby," Dean paused over another swallow. "Any chance it wasn't a demon that was helping you?"

"What do you mean? You think it was an angel?"

Dean shrugged. "I'm just askin'."

"Huh," Jim grunted. "I never thought about it. It's hard to remember the details, but I suppose it's possible we just assumed it was a demon. I can't say it ever said so for sure, but whatever it was taught us some things we never would have known. It definitely had its own agenda, though. We never did figure it out, and once the bastard had disappeared, I guess it just didn't matter. And now with Yellow-Eyes dead…."

Dean heard Bobby's voice, but he wasn't really listening any more. His thoughts had moved to his father, and countless childhood memories, but he knew he could drown it all out with a few more beers.

Dean knew there were other things to think about; more immediate things, and he wasn't sure how his thoughts had landed on that particular weekend. It seemed like forever ago; almost a different lifetime. He supposed that, in a way, it was. It was before Sam had died, before he'd made the deal to get him back, and before….Hell.

After a nod to the bartender, Dean had another tequila shot. He held the glass, contemplating the liquid for several moments before swallowing it and asking for another. He had no idea where Sam was, but Dean was sure he was with Ruby. He downed the shot, and shook his head when the bartender held up the bottle. After pulling some money from his pocket, Dean made his way to the bathroom.

For years, he'd held onto the hope that things would be better once the thing that had taken their mother's life was dead. He'd killed Azazel, but a lot of other things had taken his place. Dean stared into the mirror over the sink for several moments, then stood up straight and squared his shoulders.

"Get over it, Dean. You've got work to do."