A/N: I apologize sincerely that it has taken me this long to update. Thanks to the other half of my online-soul I have been able to write this chapter, without her I fear I would have dropped the story. It was her who told me to stop writing at some point when I just couldn't find any words anymore. She told me to get back to the story once I felt like writing again and, what can I say, it worked. Thank you, hun.
Betaed by Ghosty the Unstucker. :D Everything that reads good is thanks to her, everything that doesn't is my mistake. Enjoy!
Sam stops growling.
The sudden, unexpected absence of sound in a tense situation like this immediately sets John's teeth on edge. He had been in the middle of turning to the door, but the ominous silence draws his gaze to where his son was glaring at the splintered door. And Sam—
Sam is standing in the middle of the room, unmoving. His posture has changed dramatically, Sam's head is down, his nose almost touching the floor. His whole body is shaking, white foam gathering at his muzzle and dripping, eyes squeezed shut. His tail, twice as big as its normal size, is held rigid, not moving an inch despite the heavy trembling of his shoulder and back. For just a second, the posture, the way the wolf holds his head, the way his eyes are closed so tight, it makes John flash back to a human Sam with a familiar expression, eyes closed as Sam grimaces against pain so severe he can't make a sound. John's heart leaps into his throat, a sudden flash of panic cutting off his breath as he stares, he has never seen the wolf act like that, that human, that much like Sam, and for the first time in years, John has no idea how to handle the wolf.
He doesn't realize he's shouting his son's name, has to force himself to turn away from him, from his obvious agony to watch the door, gun raised to cover Sam from whatever creature is doing this to him—
The door is empty, there is nothing to see, it's just an open door with sunlight streaming through it. The car is parking next to the porch, completely undisturbed, there is no sound, no movement…
Keeping his gun trained on the empty opening, John slowly starts to inch toward his son, ears straining to pick up a sound that doesn't belong here, anything that would give him a hint as to where their attacker might be.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees Sam move, a shudder that runs through the tense body, stronger than the shaking. The wolf's head comes up, sharp teeth flashing in the sun, snapping at something John can't see from where he is standing. A hoarse, dark growl echoes through the large room and John has to fight against his instincts. He can't get to him, getting near Sam, right now, is the wrong thing to do, he will only put himself in danger if he gets too close, he has no idea how the wolf might react—
The voice comes out of nowhere; calm, soft, its peaceful tone a frightening contrast to the meaning of the words.
Sam's head swings around in a fluid movement, barely open eyes zeroing in on John's throat. It's the eyes that have him stumble back in alarm, they are nothing like Sam's eyes, what little he can see of them looks dead and that can't be, it has to be a trick of the light, this isn't Sam!
John has about a heartbeat to panic before the wolf leaps off the ground, straight at him, the move so sudden John draws back, bringing his gun up before he can stop himself, finger tightening on the trigger, a reflex he can't suppress.
In mid-jump, the wolf crashes to the floor, yelping in pain, a bloodcurdling sound that tears through John's soul and his blood runs cold as he swears he can feel the jerk of the gun recoiling in his hand. No! No no no nonono. He can't breathe, there's no air left in his lungs, his gun drops from nerveless fingers as he moves for his son, needing to get to his side, to help him.
He doesn't get far, something heavy crashes into the back of his legs, knocking him off his feet before he has taken more than a step. He's too focused on Sam to react in time, he tries to move, tries to roll to the side but there's the edge of the coffee-table too close to him and he is too slow to get out of the w—
Consciousness returns slowly, bit by bit. A sense of panic clings to him, follows him from the blackness of oblivion into the waking world, choking him before he gets the chance to figure out where—who he is. The feeling creeps into his bones and stays there, stubbornly refusing to let go of him, adding to the confusion that makes up his mind.
Even with his eyes still closed he feels as if he is floating, but at least it's not bad enough to upset his stomach. He has a vague idea that getting sick might be a bad thing, but why, he can't say. There's a concept—a word at the back of his mind, familiar, yet out of reach, he can't grasp it, but it gets stronger, drifts closer the longer he concentrates on it, ever closer, until—
—the wolf leaps off the ground, straight at him, his gun is up, finger tightening on the trigger—
He bolts upright with a panicked shout—"Sam!"—and immediately regrets it, there's a blinding flash of hot light and pain in his head and then he's falling… "Sam—" he gasps, not sure why his heart is slamming so hard against his ribs it feels like it wants to break out of his chest.
A voice, a presence beside him, close, too close! He lashes out, fist sailing through the air, ready to fight, to defend himself.
"Dad, stop, it's me, stop!"
Something closes around his wrist and pushes it down, holds it immobile. He starts to struggle against it, but there's no strength, he feels ridiculously weak and he can't be weak, not now, he wants—he needs to get free and look for him, for Sam, something has happened to him, something horrible…
Slowly, Sam's voice penetrates the fuzzy chaos in his head. John blinks and squints his eyes open. Sam's blurry face comes into view, gazing down at him, eyes wide and worried. One of his hands is still resting on John's wrist, trapping his arm against the floor. John looks up at him, dazed, mind reeling, fighting to make sense of it all.
"I— shot you?" he finally forces out, thinking he can't have but feeling so sure that's what happened.
Sam shakes his head. "No, you didn't, you didn't shoot me, I'm okay," he says, but that can't be true, John knows what he's seen—
"I saw you go down," he mumbles in a daze, gaze flicking to where the wolf had crashed to the floor. He expects to see blood, a lot of blood, but the floor is empty. A sharp tug at his arm brings his attention back to Sam.
"You didn't shoot me, I'm okay," Sam says, looking up at John's hairline. John becomes aware of something warm and wet then, it's running down his temple, dripping into his eye. "I think you've re-opened the head wound. Your concussion's back. You don't look…"
He doesn't feel good, not at all, a concussion would explain the confusion he just can't seem to shake off.
"What happened?" he asks, reaching up with his free hand to wipe at his eye.
Sam leans back, still watching him closely. And now that his heart has come back to its proper place and is no longer choking him to death, John can see that Sam is leaning against the couch for balance, almost clutching it as he answers.
"I don't know, I didn't see it, I think it knocked you into the coffee tab—"
Sam doesn't finish his sentence, suddenly his grip on John's arm tenses, fingers digging into John's wrist almost painfully. He makes a weird sound, somewhere between a hiss and a growl.
Sam ignores John's startled question, he whips around and snarls at something behind his back.
Panic and anger roll into one in Sam's voice and the underlying pain chases the last remaining feeling of disorientation out of his system. Ignoring the throbbing pain in his own head, John forces himself to sit up and follow Sam's gaze. The world immediately tilts before his eyes, starts to dim around the edges, but the sudden feeling of dread pushes it back, lets him focus on—
"It's still here…"
Sam's voice is strained and breathless and John looks back at him, noticing, for the first time, how bad Sam looks, he's pale and sweating, shaking uncontrollably. His eyes are clear and alert and he doesn't seem to be hurt, but the misery, the pain John can read in his hunched posture tugs at his heart.
"Where is it?"
Sam nods at one of the armchairs near the fireplace.
"It says it won't allow you to see it."
John frowns, turning his head in the direction. All he can make out is an empty chair.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Sam tenses, shifts slightly to the side. "I was hoping it was ly—aaah!"
John jumps in time with Sam when the kid suddenly cries out in pain and doubles over, curling into himself, his head smacking into John's chest as Sam starts trembling all over. John reaches out and pulls him close, moving his own body to shield him—from the empty chair.
"Leave him alone!" he bellows angrily, ignoring how the movement and his own raised voice echo painfully inside his head. "Stop it!"
There is no reaction from the chair, but Sam slumps in his hold, becomes limp for a second and wheezes in a deep breath, groaning.
"Fuck you …" he growls and sits up, turning again to focus on something behind them. "Forget it, I won't do it!"
John feels the familiar sliver of panic crawl down his back. "What's it saying?" he asks urgently, feeling way too exposed and useless and a sudden urge to move makes his legs twitch.
Sam turns back to him, wiping sweat out of his eyes.
"It wants me to turn, it can get into my head better when I turn, it wants me to do things, it's in my head all the time, I can hear it—"
"Can you block it out?"
If anyone can do that, it has to be Sam, kid's a master of not hearing something if he doesn't want to. Sam nods, but he doesn't look very convinced.
"It's getting stronger."
"Okay, then," John says and starts to get up—
Before he can so much as blink Sam is in front of him, drawing himself to his full height, standing before John as he has done so often in the past days, gaze fixed straight ahead, eyes darkening dangerously, posture tense and stiff.
John can't tell if his son is talking to him or addressing the other, but he feels the hairs on the back of his neck go up and he wants to glare at something, point his gun at the threat, do anything but stand helplessly in the middle of the room with his youngest acting as a human shield against a creature he can't fucking see.
Sam tenses, takes a step away from John, toward the wall. "Leave him alone," he all but growls, voice going cold and threatening.
John hates this, hates every second of it, his kid standing in front of him, apparently between the monster and John, ready to take the hit for him, it's more than he can tolerate.
"Sam, get back," he snaps, straightening, reaching out to pull his son behind him.
Sam doesn't seem to be hearing him; his eyes never leave whatever he is seeing.
"No, I won't," he spats in the direction of the empty chair, shaking his head for emphasis. "You can't make me, I won't—"
He doesn't get any further, suddenly Sam is yelling in pain, swaying, crumbling to the ground, arms going around his head as he starts panting, banging his head against the floor as he tries to curl up.
John's had enough; he searches the floor for his gun and bends down to grab it, ignoring the sharp pain his sore ribs shoot through his side. Just because he can't see the thing, doesn't mean he won't hit it. He has a pretty good idea where it should be right now. It's part training and part protest of his body that brings him down on one knee in front of Sam as he whirls around and sends a bullet right where Sam had been staring at—
And misses, the bullet hits the wall, shattering a framed picture behind the chair. Behind him, Sam flinches at the shot and reaches out blindly, grabbing a hold of John's shirt and tugging at it weakly.
"No, stop, don't—shoot—can't make me—"
The rest of his sentence is cut off when Sam cries out again, trembling heavily against John's side.
Barely fighting back the urge to fling his gun across the room in frustration, John lowers it reluctantly, thoughts racing, going over the facts he's found out so far, searching for a way out while he moves backwards carefully, getting himself between his son and the invisible threat. He rests a hand on top of Sam's trembling shoulder, squeezing it helplessly, racking his brain for a way to help him.
It's not the first time he's up against something invisible, it's tricky fighting against something you can't see, but it's doable, he just has to find out where its weak spot is.
The thing is in the room with them and that means there is a chance that they might be able to hurt it somehow. Most creatures he has hunted had had a talisman or a spell that would cover them. That spell would usually work against everyone in the vicinity, nobody would be able to look through it, they couldn't turn it off partially to allow a single person to see them. The thing being able to allow Sam to see it—or him not to see it—leads him to the assumption that it has to be some kind of psychic power that can be controlled and that, in turn, would mean it is an ongoing effect, something the thing would have to concentrate on to some extent to hold it up.
Psychic powers also mean that, in most cases, exorcisms or the usual weapons like salt or holy water are likely not to work. The good news is that most psychics are not immune to ordinary bullets. You just have to be able to see them, which brings him back to the most pressing problem they have at the moment.
He's shocked out of his thoughts when Sam once again slumps against him. Keeping the damned armchair in sight, he leans over his son.
Sam doesn't answer right away, he stays curled on his side and seems to concentrate on his breathing. After a few deep breaths he finally opens his eyes and squints up at John—and he is grinning, an amused, slightly crazy smirk that lights up his eyes and for a moment John fears his son's lost it.
"Are you okay?"
Instead of giving an answer, Sam slowly sits up, chuckling quietly as he catches his breath. "Oh, this is good…"
When he looks up, his eyes are still tearing up, but this time it seems to be from whatever is making him laugh instead of pain. John has no idea what to make of it, and instead of relaxing he shifts his weight nervously.
"What is it?"
Sam finally gets himself under control, running a hand through his hair as his laughter trails off.
"It wants me to attack you."
If this is supposed to be funny, John fails to see the humor. His confusion must show on his face because Sam frowns and cocks his head, looking at him as if he is missing something important.
"The spell? You know I can't attack you, Dad, the spell won't let me, for once the damned thing is actually useful…"
He sounds bitter and amused at the same time and John studies him for a moment.
He wants to feel relieved, he wants to be thankful that in a fucked up situation like this there is at least one thing working in their favor, one less threat to worry about… but he can't. And, for the life of him, he can't wrap his head around why Sam's words leave him with a strong sense of apprehension instead of the strangely jagged relief he can feel bounce off his son. He helps Sam sit up and his son leans against the couch. Despite the brief respite it becomes alarmingly clear that Sam isn't feeling well, he has trouble focusing and looks paler than before, his hands are shaking where they are resting on his knees. Fighting the thing's attempts to force him to change is taking a lot of energy out of the kid.
It's only then that John suddenly realizes that something about the whole situation is wrong.
"How can you be in this form?" he asks, finally catching up with the fact that Sam is in his human form even though there is a supernatural being close by.
Sam shrugs. "I have no idea, I woke up like this, but it's been trying to get me to change back from the moment I opened my eyes."
"What does it look like?"
"I can't see much, it has a cloak, a black cloak with a hood. It's about your height and—the eyes are glowing, kind of blue-ish. It has a claw, but with skin over it—Have you ever heard of anything like this before?"
John shakes his head. "No, nothing like this… How does it talk?"
Sam shudders. "It's in my head, it's so loud it hurts… It's English, but it sounds strange and—oh my god—"
He chokes out the last word and stiffens again, eyes going wide, then squeezing close as his body goes rigid.
"Not… again…" he gasps and brings his hands up, grinding the heels of them against his eyes.
John can't help it, his fingers tighten on the gun and he turns to the open room again, aiming the weapon at the armchair. "Stop it," he demands uselessly, helplessly, "stop it, he can't do it!"
There's no answer, whatever the thing is doing, it doesn't end, Sam doesn't stop moaning, doesn't stop curling further and further into himself.
"Leave him the hell alone, he can't attack me, he's fucking cursed," John roars at the empty seat, every cell of him screaming at him to do something already, help Sam, make it stop—
He can't, though, because the curse is stopping him, he's blocked because of it. Because John ordered him not to attack, and the thing ordered him to, and what Sam wants for his own body and mind and soul never figured into either command. And John watches as the conflict tears at his son and feels every twitch, every breathless gasp as a cut in his heart because this is half his doing, he could easily be whatever is in that chair—but he's not, he's NOT, he would never use Sam just because he can—
He isn't sure where the impulse comes from, but he acts on it; before he even knows what he is doing he is crouching over Sam, grabbing his arm and turning him so Sam is facing him. He shakes his shoulder, barking his name in a tense voice, willing Sam to open his eyes.
"Son, can you hear me?"
Sam is shaking so badly that maybe the short nod he gives might just be an involuntary twitch, but John doesn't care, he kneels down in front of his son and puts his hands on Sam's face, turning it toward him so he can have a better look at it. "Sam, open your eyes!"
Twisting and panting in his grasp, Sam manages to force his eyes open, the hazel of them barely visible through the slits. John takes a deep breath and concentrates, he's done this before and it never worked, but it's the only help he can offer. Keeping his voice as steady as he can he looks down at his son.
"Sam, don't change, stay in your human form, that's an order. You hear me, son? Stay in this form, don't change!"
He prays with all his might that this works, that with the order battling whatever is trying to influence his son Sam will no longer have to fight against it, will no longer be in agony right in front of his eyes.
And heaven—or whoever—seems to be listening.
Sam slumps against him as soon as the words have left John's mouth. Sam draws a shaky, deep breath and groans softly, leaning heavily against John's side as he gathers his strength. He's still shaking, gasping in air, he's still in pain, doesn't seem to be able to relax, and still, just being able to fight back, to stay human apparently makes everything manageable. For a moment, for just a second John lets himself admire the strength Sam shows in a situation like this, feels amazed that his son can pull through all of this and not break—
"Oh god, this sucks…" Sam groans and sits up, and the moment is gone. John watches silently how Sam runs a shaky hand through his hair. He looks sick, too pale, but after a moment of gathering his wits he looks up at John, offering the ghost of a smile. "Thanks…"
He's done it again, given Sam contradictory commands, and he knows it hurts… but if he can give Sam even a sliver of control…
Sam nods slowly, frowning. "It hurts, and I can still hear that fucker, but I'm still human, which means that I can still fight…"
There is a world of defiance in his voice and John, who has had that tone aimed in his direction too often, could almost feel sorry for the monster. Almost.
"I can still hear it… but it doesn't hurt anymore." Sam blinks a few times and his eyes clear, color slowly creeping back into his face.
"Is the pain…?"
"I can deal."
And the topic is closed, even as Sam struggles to stay upright, shaking and his eyes tearing from a pain John knows he can't begin to understand.
"Where is it now?"
Sam looks up and behind him—and freezes, body tensing in alarm.
"It's gone—I can't see it…" he gasps and sits up, slowly, gaze flicking around the room nervously.
Cursing, John gets to his feet, wavering slightly as his head protests against the sudden movement. He has his gun out, useful or not, and turns slowly, scanning everything he can see.
"It's still here," Sam says after a moment. "I can feel it, it's still in this room, but it won't let me see it…"
"That's it, we're leaving," John reaches down to help Sam get up from the floor. "Can you walk?"
Sam sways slightly on his feet, then pulls away from John, straightening. "I'm okay."
John nods, pushing Sam in front of him, glad that the door is only a few feet away, but Sam's steps falter before they really start moving and he stops, sucking in a strained breath.
"It's getting stronger…"
John pushes Sam toward the door, one hand on his shoulder to keep him moving, his body turned toward the room, gun raised. Behind him, Sam stumbles and John curses inwardly, the need to fight, to shoot at something already becoming so strong it's starting to make him itch. He needs to do something, fuck it, he needs to protect his kid from this—
Sam stops and whirls around, gasping out a horrified, "Dad, no—"
Suddenly all there is… is pain—
And John is no longer alone in his head.
It's a simple word, a short word, an order. It reverberates through his skull at full volume, it drowns out all other sound, every sensation. It feels like a punch to his brain, as if he has been struck by lightning. He loses complete control of his body, of everything; his vision goes black, all sound disappears, he can't tell whether he is upright anymore, if he is even breathing, the whole world ceases to exist—