Hey guys, sorry this has taken a while to post. I had a bit of an accident and have been on my back for a week :/ But hopefully I can get writing again. Here's the next chapter anyways! Thanks again for reading :)
Dean was coming up against dead-end after dead-end. He and Jessica had been at the library for nearly an hour now, asking staff and students whether they remembered seeing Sam yesterday afternoon. He clutched the photo Jessica had given him, holding it up for a speckle-faced boy to blink at.
"I haven't seen him," the boy stated.
Dean's frustration boiled. "Look harder." He pushed the photo closer. "You said you were here yesterday. Sam was here yesterday. This isn't a big library."
Irritation crossed the boy's face. "I said, I haven't seen him, I'm sorry. Now, if you don't mind-" He gestured to the papers and books sprawled on the table before him. "I have an extremely important assessment due tomorrow."
Dean blinked incredulously. His knuckles tingled. His brother was missing and all this kid cared about was some worthless assessment. He would have knocked the brat's head off, if Jessica hadn't placed a hand on his shoulder.
Her grip was firm, but warm. She was as anxious as he was, but seemed to draw strength from somewhere deep within her. "Dean," she said softly. She didn't need to say any more.
Dean pulled in a steadying breath and turned away from the kid. He loosened his grip on the photo, so that he didn't crush it, and followed her over to an empty study desk.
Once they were there she regarded him levelly. Her eyes were damp, but she didn't cry.
Dean fumbled for words. "There's got to be someone who saw him. I just need an idea of what time he left and which way he headed home. I can try to follow his steps and see if I can find any clues as to what might've taken him, where he-"
Jessica held up a hand and Dean bit off his sentence. "What do you mean, what might have taken him?"
Dean's heart hammered. Had he said that? He back-tracked. Yes. "Uh-" He shook his head, rubbing his temples. "Sorry. God, I can't even think clearly right now."
Her expression softened. She shook her head as well. "It's okay. I know." She folded her arms over her stomach and hugged herself tightly, letting his comment slide.
Dean let go of the breath he'd been holding. He had to watch his words.
"You know," she said, holding him with her gaze. "It almost seems like you've done this before."
She was bright. Observant. No wonder Sam liked her.
Dean twitched a nervous smile. "Well, you know. I've done some tracking. Our dad's always been into hunting." Monsters, demons, things most people refuse to believe in.
She accepted his explanation, seeming to latch onto another train of thought. "Have you told your father? I know he and Sam didn't have a very good relationship, but given the circumstances…"
Dean immediately regretted mentioning John. His anxiety ratcheted up a notch, and some of the blood must've drained from his face because Jessica caught his sudden shift in demeanour. He tore his gaze away from hers, casting it about the library as if looking for an escape route from their conversation.
"Dean?" She reclaimed his attention by filling her voice with concern.
He turned back to her, reluctantly. Who was he kidding? He couldn't keep John's disappearance a secret. She was going to find out eventually. She was his only help in finding Sam. If he was going to accept her help, then he had to trust her; at least with this. His voice took a long time coming up from the pit of his stomach. "Our dad…" he started.
She narrowed her eyes, possibly puzzled by his tone.
Say it. "Our dad-" he tried again. "Well, one of the reasons I was in the area was because I was coming to talk to Sam." He swallowed roughly. "Our dad's been missing for a few days now. He went out on a hunting trip, and didn't come home."
Jessica's expression shifted through many emotions as she processed what he was saying. Finally it settled on one. "Your father's missing too?" She wasn't angry, or upset; possibly somewhere in between. She was putting puzzle pieces together. "Why didn't you tell me? God, what if their disappearances are related?"
Dean held up a hand to slow her down. He couldn't let her come apart. Her strength was helping to keep him together right now. "I'm sorry." He grabbed her gaze, held it. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "I should have told you earlier. I just… I'm not sure that they're related." Not sure, or refuse to believe? "There are people looking for our father. I've reported it." Lies. "I just need to find Sam. When I find Sam and know he's safe, I'll worry about the rest. Please? Let's just focus on finding my brother."
His words, and the tone he used to form them, were unfamiliar to him. Dean Winchester didn't get scared. He was a soldier. A rock, like his father.
But Sammy was missing. There were no clues. The trail was cold.
Dean shot back to reality as Jessica grabbed his hand and squeezed it. Her touch was enough to dispel his fear, even if only momentarily.
She nodded, forgiving him in an instant. She was a rock, just like Sam and Dean's mother. "Okay," she said quietly. "Okay. Let's just concentrate on finding Sam."
Dean once again marvelled at her strength. When they found Sam, he'd tell his little brother how proud he was that he'd found someone so admirable. Sam deserved someone like her.
He pulled himself together. "Let's go outside," he decided. "Let's take a look around the building. Can you think which way he might have walked home? Let's try to retrace his steps. We might get lucky and find something." Although the rain had probably already washed away any footprints Sam may have left.
Her eyes travelled to the nearest window. Water droplets were running down the glass. Was she thinking the same thing?
Whatever her thoughts, she didn't voice them. She didn't argue against Dean's suggestion.
Dean followed her through the infuriatingly quiet library, out the main doors and down a flight of steps into the rain. He tucked the photo of him and Sam on the hood of the Impala into his pocket to keep it dry. The afternoon wasn't cold, but the rain felt icy against his skin. Clouds sagged.
Jessica veered to the left, along a path that led towards a parking lot. "Whenever we'd walk home together, we'd go this way."
Dean followed her steps, his gaze falling upon the path, the surrounding grass, the concrete, and finally the asphalt of the parking lot. It was going to be like finding a needle in a hay stack. If there was anything to find.
Jessica watched him. Silent, trusting.
"Walk me the way you'd normally go," he said, sweeping his surroundings for anything unusual; anything dropped, anything out of place. If someone had jumped Sam, there may have been a scuffle. He let his eyes race across the parking lot, following Jessica, passing her- ending up focused on a group of tall trees. "Is that where we're headed?" he asked her, pointing. If he was going to jump someone, it'd be in the shadows instead of out in the open. The parking lot was well-lit.
She followed his finger. "Yes."
Dean didn't waste time. He set off towards the trees at a jog. Once he got there, he examined the ground.
Jessica caught up. "What are we looking for?" she asked. "I can help." She was already mimicking his actions, scouring the damp earth.
There was mud. Grass. No clear path. It was a short-cut to the street beyond. There were footprints, heading in both directions, indicating it was well-used.
"Look for deep footprints," he explained, without looking up. "Look for any signs of a struggle. If Sam was taken here, it'll give us something to go by." Look for footprints that stand out; strange shapes, strange sizes. Look up at the trees, for claw marks, broken branches. He didn't explain to Jessica, but he wasn't necessarily looking for something human.
They searched. They scanned the entire patch of mud under the trees. Minutes passed by. The rain dripped from the leaves above, slowly soaking their clothes. Before long, they were shivering.
Jessica stopped first. She looked up at the sky through the branches, biting her lip.
Dean noticed, and stopped as well.
"It's hopeless," she whispered. "There's nothing here."
Seeing her begin to crumble was enough to shatter Dean. He reached for comforting words, but found nothing. His own optimism was wearing thin, but he refused to let it show. He couldn't afford to fall apart as well. But, without any clues as to where Sam had gone, or how he'd disappeared…
His cell phone rang, startling them both. With hands that refused to work properly, he wrestled it out of his jeans pocket.
Jessica was by his side, obviously hoping the same thing. Not many people called this number, only his father and his brother.
Dean's eyes fell upon the display. Disappointment filled him. Unknown number. He wanted to hurl the phone into the nearest tree trunk.
"Dean?" Jessica questioned anxiously.
Dean shook his head, sucking in a breath. Angrily he punched the button to take the call.
"Hello?" Dean repeated. He wasn't in the mood for games. His arm was stiff, frozen. He was about to hang up when a gravely voice met his ears.
Dean's stomach dropped at the tone. He lowered his voice and turned away from Jessica. "Who is this?"
There was another short silence, and then, "It doesn't matter who I am. All I care about is speaking to John Winchester." The voice was tense, frustrated. The words were short, sharp. Angry. "I'm tired of calling him and getting his voicemail, I'm tired of listening to his message to call you. I want to speak with him."
Dean bristled with annoyance. Who did this jerk think he was? He'd heard his father's voicemail; John's flat voice directing people to call Dean instead. It was etched into Dean's memory. He'd heard it so many God-damned times over the past few days. He was annoyed with his father for it. Whatever this guy's problem was, Dean couldn't help him. "I'm sorry," he stated through gritted teeth. "I don't know where he is."
There was a noise from the other end, like the man had hit something out of anger. Possibly bashed his fist against a table. "That's not good enough," he hissed.
Dean fumed. Not good enough? He began to walk away from Jessica so he could raise his voice. "Listen," he shot back, "I don't know who you are, or what you want, but I don't have time for you right now, so I suggest you-"
"I suggest you listen to me, boy."
Something about the man's words forced Dean to stop short. The hair on the back of his neck prickled.
"I have something of your's, so I'd advise you pay attention." Gravel. Ice. Malice.
Dean's mind reeled. What did the man just say?
"I have your brother."
Dean's stomach lurched. He suddenly felt sick. He forgot about hiding the conversation from Jessica and slammed his words down the line like knives. "You sick fuck, you put him on the line right now or-"
"Or what?" The man laughed cruelly. "I'm the one who gives orders here. You're the one who listens."
Dean couldn't catch his breath. "If you've hurt him, I swear-"
"You have until midnight. If I don't speak with John before then, Sam dies."
Dean was standing in the rain. He'd walked out from under the trees. Water was running down his face, into his eyes. Jessica was calling to him, but he barely heard her. "I told you," he repeated irritably. "I don't know where he is. Let me speak to my brother." He needed to know Sam was alive. This freak could be bluffing. Sam could be dead already.
Dean exploded. "You expect me to take you seriously?" His words came out more desperate than he'd intended. "Prove to me that you haven't hurt my brother and maybe I'll help you!"
There was shuffling. Silence. More shuffling.
The voice was strained, tired, hurting. But unmistakably Sam.
Before Dean had even had a chance to speak with his brother, the man with the gravely voice returned to the line. "Satisfied? Now find your father."
Dean felt the ground shift beneath him. The man wasn't bluffing. He managed to steady himself, swallowing bile. "I told you, I-"
"Find him," the man barked. "Tell him Frank wants to speak with him, before midnight. Or Sam dies."
Dean was on the verge of hyperventilating. He couldn't get enough air. Stay composed. Don't show fear. Do not show fear.
"If Sam dies, I'll hunt you down, you crazy bastard, I'll rip you-"
The line went dead.
Dean's shoulders were aching. His chest heaved. He stared at his phone. The rain fell upon the screen.
The man had hung up. The man had Sam. Sam was hurt. John was missing.
Dean was alone.
Jessica was beside him. Her face was panicked. She had been speaking to him this whole time but he'd been ignoring her. She was speaking to him now, desperately, but he was still ignoring her.
He spun around. He headed back into the trees. He walked left, right, backwards. He spun and punched a tree, drawing blood from his knuckles. He sank into the mud, vision swimming, mind red from anger.
"Dean?" Jessica was leaning over him. "Dean, talk to me. Please."
Dean caught her gaze, held it. Steadied himself. What was he supposed to tell her? "Someone has taken Sam," he said. His voice was wooden. Hollow. "They want to speak with our dad before midnight. Or Sam dies." It was the truth. Perhaps it would have been better to lie, but he didn't have the energy.
Jessica went pale. Her eyes widened in horror. A hand fluttered to her mouth. She didn't speak.
Dean cursed again. He planted his fist into the ground. Blood mixed with mud. He could try calling his father again, on the off-chance that John would pick up, but he already knew what the result would be.
John wouldn't answer.
He stared at his cell. He needed to know who Frank was. He needed to know where Frank might have taken Sam, and he needed to know before midnight.
"What are we supposed to do now?" Jessica whispered, distressed.
Dean battled with his cell phone. His fingers were stiff, not working. He struggled with his words. "I have someone I need to call." He scrolled through his address book, searching for the number. It had been years, but he hoped that their old family friend would answer.
"Can they help us?" Jessica asked.
Dean didn't know. But he hoped so. He found the number he was looking for, and pressed dial.
It rang. Once. Twice.
After the third ring, someone answered. "Hello?"
Dean took a deep breath, latching on to the old, familiar voice like it was a lifeline.
"Bobby?" he said, his voice unsteady. "It- it's Dean Winchester. Something's happened. I- I could really use your help."