Ring the Freedom Bell
By San Antonio Rose

Jim paced as he tried to recall the Secretary's briefing about the internal security officer in this backwater Soviet satellite with yet another tongue-twisting name. A sadist, like most of them. A master of psychological manipulation. A strong believer in the use of narcotics to break a prisoner's will. No word as to his weapons of choice, but Jim didn't have any reason to think hallucinogens were off limits.

He hated missions that went wrong like this.

It was bad enough when it happened to Cinnamon back in January. She'd recovered, somewhat, but it wasn't many months later that she and Rollin retired and married and settled down to teach fashion design and acting, respectively, at a small college in the middle of nowhere. She hadn't broken, and every time he thought of that incident, Jim thanked God that they'd gotten her out in time. But she was a seasoned agent by that point, more than prepared for the dangers of getting caught.

This time it was the new kid who'd been captured through no fault of his own. One of two new kids, really, a pair of brothers, and the other was clearly one tiny nudge away from bolting back to the State Security Building and going in with guns blazing. Willy was doing an admirable job of keeping Sam focused on strategy, and Barney was about to have some computer work for him to do, but Jim knew too well that those kinds of distractions would work for only so long.

Jim stopped pacing and sighed. They had to get Dean Winchester out alive... or he wouldn't be the only one disavowed.

He had no choice.

No, to be fair, he did have a choice as to how to proceed. On that point he had any number of options. But he had to get the Winchesters out of harm's way.

Out of his way.

And so, when the creature calling itself Eleanor Visyak escaped and called Bobby Singer for help, Castiel hid himself in the salvage yard and waited until Sam and Dean had gotten into their beloved Impala to follow Bobby to the rendezvous point. Then he gently placed his hand on the Impala's hood and sent both it and its occupants to a time and place where they would presumably be safe but could not easily return to the present.

The only way they could stop him now would be to stop everything, to change history once and for all. And really, Castiel thought wearily as he flew away from a cursing Bobby, that might be better still.

If Bobby hadn't been looking out the kitchen window when it happened, he wouldn't have known anything was unusual about the '67 Impala currently sitting in his salvage yard or the two men getting out of it, cursing loudly. He would have assumed they'd just driven up and were hot under the collar about something else.

But the car had appeared. One second there was only snow, and the next there was a car. And judging from the language, neither of its passengers had expected that any more than Bobby had.

Now, there was a chance that his gut was right and that these men were humans, victims of some kind of curse. There was a chance that the car was cursed. But there was also a chance that something more serious was at work and that the men weren't human at all. Bobby hadn't been hunting long, but he knew better than to take risks. So he grabbed his shotgun and a flask of holy water and went outside.

But he'd barely gotten out the door when the driver spotted him and gasped raggedly, like he was seeing a ghost. "Bobby?"

Bobby frowned. "Who's asking?"

The passenger didn't move except to lean forward earnestly and rest his arms on the roof of the car, both hands in plain sight. "This is gonna sound like a weird question, but—what's the date?"

"January 11."

"What year?"

"You been drunk, mister? It's 1969."

The passenger slumped in defeat as the driver's anguished curse echoed through the property.

Bobby was starting to trust his gut a lot more with this situation, and he lowered his shotgun. "Somethin' I can help you fellas with?"

"I dunno," said the driver, sounding absolutely wrecked. "Is your wife here?"

Bobby swallowed hard. "No. No, she, uh..."

"How long ago?" And damned if he didn't sound like he already knew what had happened to Karen.

"'Bout five months."

"Rufus," said the passenger wearily. "We gotta try Rufus."

Bobby blinked. "You know Rufus Turner?"

"Not yet," replied the driver. "But we will in about forty years."

Concerned and confused, Bobby walked up to the driver and offered him the flask of holy water. He nodded his thanks, drank, and passed the silver flask to the passenger, who did likewise and handed the flask back to Bobby. That test passed, Bobby felt a lot better about saying, "Look, you fellas look beat to hell. Why don't you come in, get some supper and some rest, and tell me what happened? Rufus is off in California, but I can give him a call tonight, let him know you're lookin' for him."

The driver gave a low, bitter chuckle. "Yeah, okay. Guess there's no point in hurryin' anymore. Thanks, Bobby."

"You got the advantage of me, mister."

He sighed. "Sorry. Name's Dean Winchester. This is m'brother Sam."

"Hey," Sam nodded.

"Good to know you," Bobby nodded back. "C'mon inside. It's damn cold out here."

Sam came around the car while Dean grabbed two duffles out of the back seat. Then they followed Bobby into the house, trudging like their bags held the weight of the world.

The prisoner was mumbling again, scratching some kind of symbols into the walls with an implement the camera couldn't see. Dr. Krasinski wasn't sure whether the man was hallucinating again or not.

He was American; that much he hadn't been able to conceal. But neither the truth serum nor the hallucinogen gave Krasinski any actionable information he could pass on to Major Vazhnikov. This prisoner gave a different name every time he was questioned. The usual methods of psychological torment, such as the collapsing ceiling, had no effect on him; he'd simply lain on the floor until the ceiling got close enough for him to scratch some kind of design on it. What did torment him were hallucinations far more terrible and vivid than any Krasinski had witnessed, and only rarely were those triggered by any outside influence such as recorded screams. The prisoner frequently hummed or sang tunes that sounded like American rock and roll but were not known to have been recorded. And his mutterings, when coherent, didn't make much sense, being mostly about angels and demons and assorted other monsters.

Four distinct hallucinations recurred and had names. "Lisa" seemed to be a girlfriend or wife. Sometimes the prisoner would weep uncontrollably, telling "Lisa" how sorry he was and how much he missed her; at other times, he either pleasured himself while calling her name or acted as if he were having sex with her. "Cas" appeared to be a past associate who had betrayed him; he alternated between calling out to Cas for help and cursing him for "going off the rails." "Bobby" was another associate, perhaps a father figure. The prisoner often asked him whether the "wards" were correct, complaining that he couldn't see straight enough to be sure he'd drawn them properly.

But the one name that crossed the prisoner's lips most often, in every stage of lucidity, in whispers or conversation or screams of terror, was "Sam."

Major Vazhnikov decided to try to take advantage of this fact while the prisoner was semi-lucid and turned on the microphone to wait for a cue. The prisoner would hear whatever voice he wanted to hear, but the words would be supplied by Vazhnikov.

"Hey, Sam?" the prisoner finally said, not looking away from his scratching.

"Yes?" Vazhnikov replied in English, trying to sound as American as possible.

The prisoner stilled briefly, as if recognizing that the word came from some source outside his own mind. Then he resumed his work. "Bring me some pie, would you?"

"Of course," said Vazhnikov. "But would you answer a question first?"

The prisoner stilled again, and Krasinski got the sense that he was growing suspicious. "Lay it on me, Geek Boy."

"What are we doing here?"

"Tryin' to get home, genius. What's the matter, you scratch the wall again?"

Vazhnikov blinked. "I thought that was what you were doing."

The prisoner was definitely suspicious now. "This is angel proofing. I'm talking about the Great Wall of Sam. The hell is wrong with you, dude?"

"Sorry, just... got kind of confused. Why are we here again?"

The prisoner shook his head and chuckled quietly. "Nice try, Alastair. Not fallin' for it this time. And you can't get in here to do anything worse." And he began humming as he went back to work on the wall, occasionally singing a snippet of lyrics: "Eli's a-comin'..."

Vazhnikov inhaled sharply and shut off the microphone, visibly disturbed.

"Major?" Krasinski asked, concerned.

"That song," Vazhnikov answered in Russian. "That album was released in America two days ago. But this man, he has been in this country for five days, yet he knows the song by heart. How? How does he know it? And who is this Alastair?"

Krasinski was rather more concerned about the "angel proofing" comment and whatever "the Great Wall of Sam" might be, whether it indicated another delusion on the prisoner's part or whether it meant something was seriously wrong with this person on whom the prisoner relied so heavily. But one thing was certain.

Whoever this man was, he was not a typical American agent.

Supper didn't go down well. Or rather, didn't stay down well.

Bobby'd been fixing chili when the Winchesters appeared, so that was what he offered them. Sam started to object, but Dean cut him off and insisted that chili would be fine. They ate like they'd been starved, not conversing much beyond prompting Bobby to fill them in on how his apprenticeship to Rufus was going and what was happening in the hunting world at the time. And then they adjourned to his living room with the intent of telling their own story.

But Bobby had just poured one tumbler of Jack when Dean turned green and started rubbing his stomach.

"Dean?" Sam prompted, clearly worried.

A few harsh pants were his only answer before Dean bolted up the stairs like he already knew where the bathroom was. Sam chased after him, as did Bobby, but they'd barely reached the top of the stairs when they heard Dean being noisily sick. Sam pushed in behind him and started rubbing Dean's back, hovering in a way that bespoke a lifetime of mutual caregiving.

"How can I help?" Bobby asked from the doorway.

"Gatorade," Sam replied as Dean stopped vomiting and collapsed back against his brother. "Ginger ale. Tomato rice soup once he's had some sleep."

Bobby nodded. "You mind takin' the guest room? There's only two twins in there."

"'Sfine," Dean groaned. "You're awesome, Bobby. Thanks."

As he went to make up the beds, Bobby had the strange feeling that this wasn't the first time the Winchesters had stayed with him... and he wondered if Rufus was the only hunter they'd know in forty years.

It took Rufus four days to wrap up his hunt in San Diego and get back to Sioux Falls. For three of those days, Dean was bedridden, too weak and nauseated to go further than the bathroom, and that only with Sam's help. He had shakes, too, but no fever—and although Bobby was too polite to say so, he could guess why.

"I'm sorry, Bobby," Sam sighed on the second day. "It's just been a really rough... well, life, really, but a rough few days. And Dean... I mean, we both kind of have, but Dean, especially, 's been running on fumes. I tried to warn him that chili wasn't a good idea with the stress and the whiskey and coffee and his not eating for a while, plus the phoenix ash and everything else, but... hell, he's always liked your chili."

"Will he be okay?" Bobby asked, filing away the 'phoenix ash' comment to ask about later.

Sam nodded. "Yeah. Eventually. We've lived through worse, both of us." He snorted. "We've not lived through worse, even. But this shouldn't kill him. Not this time. And maybe... maybe it'll get him to stop drinking so much."

Bobby frowned. "Sam... how long have you known me?"

Sam looked him in the eye and said flatly, "Pretty much all my life—and I haven't been born yet."

"What the... when were you born?"

"May 2, 1983."

Bobby's jaw dropped. This was taking "more things in heaven and earth, Horatio" to a whole new level. "What... how..."

Sam sighed. "Look, Bobby, maybe we'd better wait until Rufus gets here to have this conversation. It's a long story, and I'd rather not have to tell it twice."

"Sammy?" Dean called weakly then, and the conversation ended whether Bobby wanted it to or not.

By the time Rufus arrived, therefore, Bobby was dying both to hear the Winchesters' story and to eat something other than soup for a change. Dean was still weak and needing bland foods, but he didn't object to Rufus taking Bobby out for a steak while he and Sam had mashed potatoes and gravy. And Sam declined to come because, as he had been for the last couple of days, he was tapping furiously on a thing he said was a computer; his fingers moved as if he were using a typewriter, but Bobby couldn't see any keys. It looked like just a flat piece of plastic to him.

Rufus listened thoughtfully over supper as Bobby explained what little he'd gathered from the Winchesters. Then he nodded. "I'd call 'em crazy myself, if you hadn't seen the car appear out of nowhere. Guess they might still be cursed or confused somehow, but... until we hear 'em out, I don't know what to tell you."

"Is time travel even possible?"

"How the hell should I know, Bob? Ten years ago, people wouldn't have thought we could go to the moon. Ain't found lore on time travel, but I never had to look before."

They finished their meal in silence and hurried back to Bobby's house. And when they got there, Sam was feeding a stack of typing paper into some kind of miniaturized printing machine that was hooked up to his plastic dealie.

"Sorry for using up all your paper, Bobby," Sam shrugged. "I'll buy you some more tomorrow, when I go to get these bound."

Bobby blinked. "These?"

"Three copies. One for us, one for you, one for Rufus. I just... figured I should get it all down just in case."

"You're not makin' sense, Sam."

"Our story," Dean supplied from the couch. "We probably can't give you more than the short version tonight, but Sam's... Sam's been bringin' his—our journal up to date, just in case somethin' happens to us."

"Happens like how?" Rufus frowned.

"Anything from death to memory loss," Sam sighed. "We have no way of knowing what could still be gunning for us or how much just our being here will change things, whether that in turn will have any kind of effect on us. Not like we haven't tried before, but this time we might actually succeed."

"In doing what?"

"Changing history."

Rufus sighed. "You'd better start at the beginning."

Dean chuckled. "It all started in a convent three years from now. How's that for a first line?"

Rufus and Bobby exchanged a look, and Bobby got out the Jack. Then they settled in to listen... and even the short version made Bobby's hair curl. Angels conspiring with demons. Demons corrupting little kids with their own blood. The Apocalypse started, stopped, and cause of a civil war between angels who wanted it back on and angels who didn't. Monsters gone haywire. Purgatory potentially breaking open because of another angel who'd lost his way. And in the middle of it all were these two brothers who'd lost everything but each other and their car simply because they were born to the wrong bloodline.

The Winchesters didn't drink a drop. Bobby and Rufus finished the bottle between them. Yet no sooner had the brothers finished their story than they both fell fast asleep, Dean resting his head on Sam's shoulder and Sam resting his cheek on Dean's head. Bobby and Rufus sat staring at them for a long moment, still in shock from what they'd just heard.

Finally, Bobby staggered to his feet and wrapped a blanket around his guests. Then he turned back to Rufus and whispered, "What the hell do we do now?"

Rufus sighed and shook his head. "I dunno. I just don't know."

"I had the weirdest dream last night," Sam said to Dean over breakfast. "We were in this club, chasing some vampires, and... for some reason, I let you get turned. Like, it seemed like the coolest thing ever—which is just bizarre. I mean, it was you. I should have been freaked."

"Wasn't a dream," Dean returned flatly.

Sam blinked. "Really? That happened? When?"

Dean started to answer, then blinked. "I... I don't remember. Wasn't you, though, it was RoboSam."

Sam shuddered.

Dean was instantly alert. "Sam? You okay?"

"Yeah. It's just... disturbing."

"Tell me about it. You didn't have to live with the freak." Dean blinked again. "Why did I just think you were gonna have a seizure?"

"'Cause of the one I had in Bristol?"

"... When was that?"

Sam frowned. "I don't remember. I know it happened, but..."

Dean cursed and buried his face in his hands. "It's starting."

"What's starting?" Bobby and Rufus asked at the same time.

Sam's frown deepened. "But we haven't..."

Dean dropped his hands. "Yeah, Sam. We have. We're here and we told Bobby and Rufus what was gonna happen. Unless Zach's already onto us and does a complete mind-wipe, we've already changed things. We're startin' to forget because those things never happened."

"... Yes, they did, Dean."

"Yeah, to us." Dean leaned forward, suddenly looking more alive than Bobby had seen him yet. "Dude, it's 1969. We can fix this."

"How? Dad's still in 'Nam."

"No, we steer clear of Mom and Dad if we can, at least for now. The first thing we gotta do is find Azazel."

Rufus frowned. "Thought you wanted to get home, stop this Purgatory business."

Dean turned to him. "Can we?"

"I don't know yet. I'll have to do some research. How'd it work the last time?"

Sam sighed. "So far the only thing we've encountered capable of bending time is an angel. But unless Balthazar comes looking for us, we might be sunk. I don't know if trying to summon Cas from this era would be a good idea, and if we tried to summon Balthazar, we might get the wrong one. And we don't know too many other angels we can trust."

Dean bit his lip as he thought, and then his eyes lit up. "We know one."

Sam frowned slightly, then seemed to catch Dean's drift. "You think he'd actually help us? He's not exactly interested in Michael's affairs right now."

"We sold him once. Now we know the right buttons to push."

"Dean, this is a bad idea."

"I'm not sayin' we try it now. I'm sayin' we find the ritual in case we need him. 'Cause if there is any chance at all that we can stop Azazel before he can even get to St. Mary's?"

Sam nodded slowly. "Yeah. If none of it happens, none of it happens—not the fire, not the Apocalypse, not Purgatory."

"Wait," said Bobby. "What do you want, a demon, an angel, or a way home?"

"Yes," said the Winchesters.

As the only member of the team who hadn't been seen in this country and potentially connected with Dean, Jim bluffed his way into the State Security Building as a member of the NKVD. He found Vazhnikov pacing in his office, ranting to his juniors about their inability to locate any foreign interrogator by the name of Alastair or to explain how Dean was aware of things that had happened in the outside world since his arrest. Vazhnikov evidently made a point of keeping tabs on the American music scene in order to trip up suspected spies and Western sympathizers, and Dean had done something to rattle the man. Jim cleared his throat and interrupted the rant—they needed to get Dean out as soon as possible.

It quickly became apparent that Dean's psyche held far more secrets than just his working for the IMF. Jim didn't know what to make of the profile Vazhnikov had put together, but the good and important news was that Dean hadn't cracked yet. The bad news was that he sounded more prone to a psychotic break than an information break, and Jim said as much.

Vazhnikov ran a hand through his hair. "You may be right, Colonel. We'll stop the mescaline now; he seems to be torturing himself quite well without our help."

"Good. And perhaps there will be sufficient withdrawal for him to be willing to tell us what we want to know."

"Let us hope so."

Jim stood. "I will consult with my superiors on this matter. They may wish for him to be transferred for psychiatric treatment before the interrogations resume."

And after a final exchange of pleasantries, Jim left.

Sam pounced on Jim the moment he walked through the hotel room door and nearly pulled his hair out when Jim mentioned the mescaline and the hallucination called Alastair. "We gotta get him out of there. It's been three days—he probably thinks it's been a full year."

"Sam, calm down. Exaggerating—"

"No, Jim, I'm serious. If he thinks he's back in Hell, three days is literally a year to him. The time dilation ratio is 120 to 1."

Willy and Barney exchanged a disturbed look at that.

Jim nodded warily. "All right. All right, we'll get him out as soon as we can find a reasonable cover story to get him transferred to my custody. I did mention psychiatric treatment, but I'm not sure that'll help us if we can't find someone to play a psychiatrist."

Sam took a deep breath and let it out again as he thought, then looked Jim in the eye. "There's someone I can contact. I was hoping not to have to because he may not be willing to help. He's deep undercover, and I don't even know where he is right now. But he's probably our best shot at getting Dean out before..." He couldn't make himself finish the thought.

"Who is it?"

"His codename is Loki."

The Winchesters did their best to track down every book they remembered Bobby having owned in the future, and Rufus ransacked his own considerable library. And when those resources were exhausted, they headed to Illinois to try to beg their way into the Campbells' family stash of lore. Sam had a pleading look that put Bobby's mutt McNamara to shame, but it still barely got them in the door, and the family's librarian was stricter and more watchful than the harshest archivist Bobby'd ever met on a college campus.

And in the end, they came up one for three. There was zero lore to be found on time travel, apparently, and demonic omens in the US were minimal. But the summoning ritual the boys needed was buried in the journal of one Jedediah Campbell, according to Dean's vague memory of having read it once, and Sam was able to find it and squirrel away a copy before the Campbell librarian could catch him.

Dean wasn't terribly encouraged by this news.

Sam sighed. "Okay, assuming we're stuck here, and assuming we can't catch up to Azazel before St. Mary's. Granted, that still gives us three years to figure out how to convince Daniel Elkins to give us the Colt, but... what do we do in the meantime? Do we hunt? Do we get a job?"

Dean snorted. "Yeah, no records and a weird set of skills. Real marketable, Sam."

"What, then, Dean? Unless you want to—"

"No, I don't want to summon him yet. We need better leverage, I'm thinkin'. Holy oil, at least."

"And how do we get to Jerusalem with no money? And don't bring up Microsoft; even if it existed yet, which it doesn't, we'd need money to buy the stock in the first place."

"Apple? IBM? Hewlett-Packard?"


Rufus cleared his throat. "This might just be a rumor, but I hear there's a government agency that's not too picky about who they hire. Felons, doctors, restaurateurs... as long as you got a skill they can use and you're willing to go where they send you, you're in."

Dean blinked. "What, like the CIA?"

"Similar. I think it's called the Impossible Mission Force."

The brothers looked at each other, then back at Rufus, and chorused, "Seriously?"

Dr. Krasinski escorted the NKVD's specialist, Dr. Mikaelovich, to the prisoner's cell, briefing him on the case as they went. The prisoner had calmed somewhat now that he was no longer receiving the mescaline and the hallucinations had stopped, but he still kept looking at his marks on the walls and humming strange tunes—or whistling, in the case of one protest song about "the wind of change." Mikaelovich nodded thoughtfully but did not comment until they got to the cell. Then he asked Krasinski to go on to the observation room and waited to proceed until he had given Krasinski time to get there.

"Well, well," said the prisoner, sitting up as Mikaelovich entered the room. "If it isn't Dr. Sexy."

Mikaelovich snorted and sat down at the foot of the bed. "The American sense of humor. My name is Dr. Mikaelovich, Mr..."

"Page. Jimmy Page."

"You play the guitar very well."

The prisoner laughed. "James Page is a common name, Doc. It's not like Quentin Tarantino."

"So tell me, Mr. Page, why are you here?"

Page—assuming that was his name—snorted. "Got shanghaied by a friend. We were practically brothers, but then... hell, I dunno. Cas was pretty much an angel, but he got in with some real fiends, and he wouldn't let me help him find a way out."

Mikaelovich rubbed his chin. "Do you have a brother? A real one?"

Page leaned forward. "You want to talk about brothers, Doc? Really? 'Cause I got a story you might like."

"Tell me."

"Big family. The best and the brightest is also a spoiled brat. Dad brings home the new baby, Luke can't stand not being the favorite anymore. Rebels, decides he's gonna bring down the family business. Dad kicks him out, has him locked up. But it doesn't stop the fighting. Mike swears he's gonna kill Luke one of these days. Gabe can't take it any longer, decides to disappear. Sooner or later, so does Dad. And nothing's resolved yet.

"Mike tells Zach to find a way to end it. Turns out, Luke's already got a plan for that. And when Az finds a way to get a message to Luke, Luke tells him to find a patsy. Zach decides Mike needs a patsy, too—brother kills brother, everything ends. But a lot of people are gonna die... and there's the little problem of getting the patsies to play ball.

"This soundin' familiar, Doc?"

Krasinski couldn't see Mikaelovich's face, but his voice revealed no emotion when he said, "Do go on."

Page nodded. "The patsies find Gabe, talk him into standing up to his family. Gabe knows what his brothers are doing is wrong, but he's been too desperate for the fighting to stop. But now he tries to stop it himself by killing Luke... only Luke kills him first. Finally Luke's patsy finally finds a way to shove Luke and Mike back into prison—but even that doesn't fix things, because Raph wants 'em out and the baby brother they thought was dead is so desperate to stop Raph that he'll do anything—and I mean anything. Even if it means making a deal with the devil and selling out the people he wanted to protect. Now if Gabe hadn't ditched, who's to say how many lives and how many people's sanity could have been saved?"

Mikaelovich nodded slowly, then stood and walked over to one of the walls. "This is very intricate work," he said, running a hand over the scratches.

Page leaned back on the bed. "Was too stoned to see straight. And now I can't remember if I did it all right. Something tells me I didn't, though—you got in."

"It will serve its purpose." And the camera image went to snow for a brief moment before Mikaelovich knocked on the door to summon the guard.

"What, no questions about daddy issues?" Page sneered.

"This is only the first session, Mr. Page. We can discuss your family later."

"Oh, joy."

"Your brother is worried about you."

"My brother was never born."

"Your parents, then."

"I have no family."

Mikaelovich let out a soft huff, and the door opened. "Until later, Mr. Page."

Krasinski met Mikaelovich in the hall. "What was that all about? That story?"

Mikaelovich shot a strange look at the closed cell door before shaking his head. "A horror film that will not now be produced."

A haunting popped up in Langley, Virginia, of all places, in the middle of February. The boys—and Bobby had no idea why he'd started thinking of them as such, considering that they were physically older than he was—went with Bobby and Rufus to help out with the salt-n-burn, and while they were there they hit up the Library of Congress and somehow found out exactly who to contact about the Impossible Mission Force. The Library of Congress wasn't much help on the lore they were looking for, but they came back from speaking to the contact in Langley with a stack of paperwork and a host of speculation as to why there would be movies made about the IMF in the future. And Bobby soon discovered that the boys had managed to find census records at the Library of Congress that gave them the information they needed to concoct a cover story explaining just how they had survived for 33 and 29 years, respectively, without Washington knowing of their existence.

Lo and behold, the IMF bought it.

They had to do some orientation stuff while they were still in Virginia, and there were all kinds of manuals that they "didn't read" and skills tests that they passed with flying colors. But after that, the feds told them to go back to Sioux Falls and wait to be contacted.

So Dean helped Bobby around the salvage yard as much as he could while Sam took a job at a bar, and together they built bookcases and drew sigils and essentially turned Bobby's house into the supernatural equivalent of Fort Knox. They took a few hunts, too, hauntings and monsters and pagan gods that they knew wouldn't have shifted in location. And every time they changed something significant, they passed out and woke up with more memories having slipped away—not gone completely, in most cases, but reduced to only the knowledge that an event had happened.

And neither one of them would drink more than a beer or two. Sam's rationale was that they couldn't afford to have another (!) alcoholic spell while they were waiting to be called for a mission. Dean's was that it was a waste of time getting plastered over things that never happened; working proactively to change the future was doing more to help them heal and forget than self-medicating could.

When they had nightmares, Bobby could only pray that Dean was right.

As the spring wore on with no calls from Langley and no clear signs of Azazel, they started getting restless, Dean complaining about the lack of 'modern' amenities and Sam seeming to feel like there was something they still needed to do before their quest could actually start. Finally, one day in late May, Sam went into town and came back with two spiral-bound volumes like the copy of the brothers' account that he'd given Bobby in January. Bobby was working on some very tricky repairs and thus didn't hear the conversation that must have ensued between Sam and Dean, but when he finally went back in the house, he found them both passed out with a box, the two bound volumes, and a long letter on the kitchen table. A quick glance at the box showed that it was addressed to Mary Campbell.

Bobby felt a little awkward for wanting to snoop, but he did already know the story, so he skimmed the letter, which alternated between Sam's and Dean's handwriting and bore both their signatures (though not their last name). Without saying too much, the brothers had poured their hearts out to their mother and told her repeatedly that while John was a good man, he would need her alive to keep him balanced if they married, and that while she could live without him, she would never survive a deal. Fighting tears, Bobby then sneaked a peek at the two volumes. Sure enough, one was their journal, and the other was a photocopy of their father's journal, from the first entries after Mary's death to the last entries before John traded his soul for Dean's life.

He boxed it all up and mailed it, return receipt, before the boys could wake up and change their minds. Breaking the girl's heart now seemed like a small price to pay for avoiding the gallons of blood and tears that would be shed later if she wasn't warned. And when the boys finally did wake up, they agreed that the "hell of a hangover" they were feeling was an equally small price to pay.

No sooner did the receipt arrive than the IMF called.

Bobby drove the boys to the airport, and when he dropped them off, Dean solemnly handed him the keys to the Impala. "If we don't come back," he said, "take care of my baby. She's a good car, a hunter's car, and she'll take you anywhere you want to go."

It took a moment and a couple of sniffles before Bobby could answer, "Sure, Dean. That's a promise. But I gotta say... I hope I do see you again."

They each gave him a hug and walked into the airport without looking back.

"More questions, Doc?"

Dr. Krasinski jumped when he heard Page's voice. He'd been so intent on examining the prisoner's bloodwork that he hadn't even been aware of Dr. Mikaelovich's presence in the building, never mind in Page's cell. He hadn't even heard the cell door open.

"I have been thinking about our conversation," Mikaelovich replied. "Supposing Gabe found a way to stop Az before he could find Luke and to ensure that no one else can contact Luke the same way."

"Keep talking."

"Gabe's not sorry for running away. He likes the life he's made for himself, and he doesn't really care about most of the people involved. But Sam and Dean are... very persuasive. What his brothers are doing is unjust. And whatever else Gabe might be, he is still an agent of justice."

Page shifted. "He's got a strange definition of it sometimes. And a weird sense of humor." Mikaelovich snorted, but Page looked him in the eye and continued, "But as annoying as Gabe can be, I think Dean trusts him... at least a little."

Mikaelovich nodded slowly... and when he spoke again, his accent was gone. "Okay, then, Deano. Let's blow this popsicle stand."

Then he snapped his fingers, and everything went black.

Krasinski woke sometime later in the infirmary to the sounds of major chaos. Somehow Page and Mikaelovich had vanished without a trace, without opening the cell door or opening an exit within the cell, and some kind of power surge had knocked out not only all the personnel on the floor where Page had been held but all of the electronic equipment as well.

Major Vazhnikov shot himself three days later. And the mystery haunted Krasinski to the end of his days.