"Down by the river, by the boat
Where everybody goes to be alone
Where you won't see any rising sun
Down to the river, we will run"
- "Riverside" by Agnes Obel
"Chapter Four: Down by the River"
November 2, 1985
Hunting is a dangerous gig. The life expectancy of a hunter is dramatically lower than that of the average person. It involves constantly putting your life on the line, constantly fighting monsters whose first instinct is to maul you to death. Therefore, when John Winchester burned up in his wife's dream house because of a demon, Mary was faced with a decision: hit the road to become a hunter once again or to stay down the straight and narrow path of an ordinary life?
Mary chose something in-between. She bought a house in Ainsworth with the insurance money from her old home. She got a nine to five job as a paralegal in a little law office to make ends meet. Most importantly, she decided to keep her hunting skills sharp and relay them to her children so they could also protect themselves.
On the anniversary of John's death, Mary took off work. She sat in the living room with a large three-fold poster board laid out in front of her. On the poster board was everything she knew about the yellow-eyed demon that claimed her father's life and her husband's life. In her lap was a notebook filled with everything she knew about demons. On the very last page was an entry about a mythological gun crafted by Samuel Colt that could kill anything.
Growing up, the tales of Samuel Colt had been her father's version of a bedtime story. The tales were so legendary that as Mary grew older she doubted that they could possibly be real. When her faith wavered, her father showed her his journals to make her believe the stories from childhood. The gun was mentioned half a dozen times on various pages. It seemed too good to be true.
Looking up from the research, Mary watched her two-year-old son piling blocks on top of one another. A look of unwavering concentration was painted clearly across his face. His bottom lip was situated securely between his baby teeth.
Outside the house, bright lights flashed. Closing the poster, Mary stood up to see a giant, yellow bus idly outside her home. Dean walked through the bus's gliding door, his Thundercats backpack shrugged around his shoulders. His head was down, his blonde fringe covering his eyes.
Mary opened the front door, which immediately peeked Sammy's interest. The blocks were long forgotten as his favorite person arrived home. The toddler pushed passed his mother and ran as fast as his little legs would carry him. A wide, toothy smile spread across his lips as he squealed, "Deeeean!" His little arms wrapped around his brother's waist. Dean enveloped the kid into a hug.
A soft chuckle escaped Mary's lips as she propped her side against the doorframe. She watched Dean pull away from the hug and grip his brother's sticky hand into his own. They walked slowly towards the house, Sammy talking a mile a minute. Dean merely listened, his head nodding and interjecting a word here and there.
"How was school?" questioned Mary as they made their way up the couple porch steps.
"Boring," he replied as Sammy leaned into his side.
"I builded a fort! Deeean," the toddler tugged on his big brother's jacket.
"Come on, boys, get inside the house. Sammy doesn't have a coat on."
Dean ushered his kid brother into the house and their mother snapped the door shut behind them. Pushing the deadbolt into place, she turned towards her children to see them looking at the fort made out of blocks. Dean told Sammy that he did a great job as he shrugged off his backpack and jacket.
Mary told her children to play as she fixed dinner. It wasn't long before Dean came ambling into the kitchen and struggled slightly to sit on the barstool. His arms were crossed on top of the counter and chin rested on his arms.
"I thought about Daddy all day," he admitted in a tiny voice. "He died today."
A tightening occurred within Mary's chest as she watched the sad child in front of her. The second of November was forever branded within Dean's mind as the worst day of his life. Mary did not know what to say to make it all better.
"He did. I miss him too, Sweetie."
"Did someone start the fire?"
Mary's heart beat fast in her chest. Why in the world would her oldest ask her that question? A lump formed in her throat as she tried to figure out how to answer the question in a way a six year old would comprehend.
"In school we learned 'bout how people set fires. They aren't all accidents."
Taking a few steps forward, Mary sank down on a barstool next to her son. She surveyed him, wondering if six was too young to tell him the truth. More than anything, she wished her mother was still alive to give her advice. She tried to recall when she was told the truth, how her parents had told her. There was only a giant blank. Hunting and monsters were all she had ever known. There was nothing else. In that moment, Mary knew she was going to take away Dean's innocence.
"There are some not so nice things in the world, Dean…"
Sam leaned back into the leather seat of the Impala as he drove down Route 7. He didn't really know how he managed to convince his brother to lend him the Impala for the day. He made up some bullshit story saying that he wanted to go to their mom's house and look for clues. Knowing Dean would not want to go back there, it gave him the perfect opportunity to pick up Jessica from the airport and have a long overdue conversation.
The prospect of the conversation only made his anxiety levels rise. He had no idea what to fully expect. He knew she was a witch, but there had to be more to the story than just that. Sam didn't exactly know how one would go about gaining supernatural witch powers, but he doubted it was all rainbows and puppies.
When she walked through the gates, her blonde hair cascading down in her usual curls, Sam couldn't help but smile. So what if she was a witch? She was the love of his life. He knew it from the moment he met her move-in weekend of freshman year. He had helped her carry up boxes to her dorm room. It had never occurred to him until that moment that no family had ever helped her move in. She had been alone and was tight-lipped around her family.
They closed the distance between them. Jessica dropped her bag and threw her arms around Sam, her face burying into the crook of his neck. He held her close to his body, his lips gingerly touching her temple. Pulling away, he grabbed her bag and led her to the Impala.
"So you're… a witch?" asked Sam as soon as they situated into the front seat of the car.
"I don't blame you for not believing me. It's a lot to take in. Honestly, I couldn't blame you if you were mad that I didn't tell you sooner."
Sam signed as he fiddled with the keys. A sigh escaped his lips as he contemplated how to tell her that he came from a long line of hunters without scaring her. Telling her the truth would be liberating. He had always wanted to spill the beans about how his father died, about what his brother really did, about how monsters were real. It was a secret that ate away at him more than he was willing to admit.
"I can't be mad at you," confessed Sam. "I've been keeping an equally weird secret from you."
"Don't tell me you're a witch too."
"No, a hunter."
He looked up at her to see a frown etched into her brow and her eyes wide. She looked like a trapped animal, not sure where to go. Sam forced a reassuring smile onto his lips.
"My mom came from a family of hunters. She gave up the life when she met my dad. Except, a demon killed my dad. She trained Dean and me. Nothing crazy, but she wanted us to be able to protect ourselves if something came for us. I was satisfied with that. Dean… he hunts regularly now. Our mom was taken by a demon. I came here to hunt with him, to find her."
Jessica's bottom lip found its way between her teeth as she stared at her boyfriend long and hard. After assessing he was no danger to her, she eased into her seat. Her azure eyes glanced out the front window.
"There's this lore that says witches are born when they sell their soul to a demon. My great-grandmother had a diary where she claimed she sold her soul for power. Every first-born female on my mother's side has had power too. My mother thinks that my great-grandmother damned us all. That we're all going to hell after death for our so-called gift."
"You know all about demons then."
She glanced at him, a small chuckle escaped her lips. She glanced out of the front window. A family with two little girls passed the car.
"More than I care to." She glanced back at him. "Sam, I just wanted a normal life. I don't practice witchcraft. I don't want the gift. It's more of a nuisance than anything."
"I don't want to ask you to do something you're not comfortable doing."
"If I was ever to do witchcraft again, I'd want to do it for something like this. I can't guarantee I'll get it right the first time. I'm out of practice, but I'll keep trying until I get it right."
His mind wandered to Dean who had just finished hunting a witch. The last thing he would want to do is work with a witch. In fact, Dean had the mentality that everything was black and white. There was no shade of grey that Jessica could be put in. Part of him wondered if his big brother would be open to the idea of Jessica being a witch and casting a spell to find their mother's whereabouts.
Sam turned over the engine to the Impala. He pulled out of the airport and hit the highway. He started back to Dunning with his mind running a million miles a minute. This was their best chance at finding their mother. Without Jessica, they had no leads and nowhere to go. Sam knew that they would never find their mother or the demon possessing her unless the demon wanted to be found. That thought was scarier than he could admit.
Dean leaned over the small table in the motel room. His journal lay out in front of him. In the very back was a whole section solely on demons. At the top of the second page, was a drawing of two yellow eyes. His mother had told him all about the yellow-eyed demon who had claimed more than just one life in their family.
There was a knock at the door, and Dean furrowed his brow. Sam wouldn't knock. Bobby said he was heading back to Sioux Falls to dig through some old books and find out if any contacts found a pretty blonde woman possessed by a demon. Therefore, he thought of all the people who knew he was staying in Dunning. The list was limited, so he imagined it would be Ellen. The person had the door was the last person he wanted to talk to.
Jo Harvelle stood on the other side of the door with her arms crossed over her chest and a small smirk playing on her lips. A groaned worked its way up in Dean's throat. He didn't really have time to play whatever game Jo wanted to play. In any other circumstance, he probably would have played just to win the prize. Except, he didn't really want the prize at the moment. There was too much other shit going on to worry about.
"How'd you know I was here?"
"Well, there's one motel in all of Dunning. I took a chance that maybe you would be here." She lowered her voice and continued, "Plus, I'm a hunter. I know how to investigate."
"You're more like Nancy Drew."
She scowled but bit back her response. Instead, she asked to enter the motel. Dean stepped to the side and allowed her entrance. She glanced around the room, her eyes lingering on the journal on the table.
"I'm sorry that Rick was an asshat to you," she commented as she turned her attention to him. "He likes to think I'm his property or something. Must be the reason we broke up."
"Look, Nancy, you seem like a really nice gal, but I'm not boyfriend material. I was never interested in you like that."
"Don't flatter yourself, Joe Hardy, because I think you're repulsive."
A chuckle escaped Dean's lips as he leaned against the nearest wall. She wasn't so bad in an annoying, little sister type of way. Growing up, Dean never cared much for friends. They were just people who would backstab or disappoint you the first chance that they got. The only ones you could trust were family. They would never let you down. He could, however, see himself being friends with Jo… maybe.
"Is that all you came here for?"
"No, I wanted to let you know that if you need backup with the demon who took your mom, I'd be more than happy to come on the hunt."
"Thanks, but no thanks," replied Dean as he cleared his throat. "I think your mother would kill me."
She quirked an eyebrow elegantly up. A smile danced on her face as her eyes sparkled in mirth. Dean smiled sheepishly.
"Are you scared of my mom?"
"Terrified actually," he responded seriously. "She's a bar owning, gun-carrying woman."
Jo laughed, her eyes rolling. Dean bit his bottom lip, trying to contain his own smirk. He couldn't help but think how nice it was to talk about hunting with someone else other than his mom. Mary Winchester belittled hunting whenever she got the chance, and Sammy would rather talk about college and academia than hunting. It felt nice to know another hunter.
"You must scare easily then."
"Oh, everything scares me. I don't know how I'm a hunter, because I nearly wet myself every time," he tried to say with a straight face. "It's a hard job, but somebody's gotta do it."
Jo merely smirked. Her eyes trailed from Dean's face to the table where all of the information he had on demons resided. He stiffened and made his way to the mass of papers. He scrambled them together, shoving them in folders to hide the information from view. He didn't want Jo involved. She was young and inexperienced. Plus, her mother was damn right terrifying. He didn't want to get entangled within the Harvelle family.
"I think it's best if you probably go," commented Dean.
"Yeah, I was just…" she trailed off and glanced up at the man. "I just wanted to offer my support if you needed it."
"Look, my brother and I got this. If we need backup, we got Bobby."
She nodded. Making her way to the door, her finger curled around the knob. She faltered. Suddenly she whipped around, her blonde ponytail bouncing.
"I know what it's like to lose your dad," she started. "I know what it's like to have a mom who is petrified of her kid hunting. If my mom was out there possessed by a demon, I would take help from whomever I could."
"You seem like a great kid, Jo, but you're inexperienced. I don't want to have to worry about your ass while hunting. I got bigger things to worry about."
"Whatever, Dean. Good luck."
With that, Jo was gone. Dean sank into the chair at the table to bury himself in research again. If he couldn't hunt, he needed to do something. Research was about the only thing he could do without Sam jumping on his ass.
The sun had set when Sam returned back to the motel room. Except, he wasn't alone. Dean bit back bitter comments when he saw Jessica Moore entering the room behind his kid brother. She was a nice gal. In fact, his mother had taken a special liking to the girl. Dean knew he had to play nice with Jessica or else face losing Sammy in the process. Except, Sam had lectured Dean about coping with their mother's disappearance by hunting. Yet, he was bringing in his sunshine girlfriend into the equation. What were they supposed to tell her about the disappearance? They had not gone to the police or followed any missing person protocol. She'd think they were insane.
"What is she doing here?" Dean asked Sam.
"Listen, Dean, I wouldn't have her here if she couldn't help."
"She's going to help?"
Dean turned towards Jessica and gave her an apologetic smile for what he was about to say.
"Help? Blondie is going to help? How? She going to put up missing posters?" snapped Dean.
"She's a witch, Dean! She knows all about hunters and demons! She can help us here!"
Narrowing his eyes, he glanced over at Jessica. In the several times he had interacted with her, he never would have pegged that she had a deep, dark secret that involved witchcraft and knowing about the hunting world. It didn't make any sense.
"Oh, well, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were Samantha Stephens in disguise," he bit sarcastically.
"Would you stop being an ass?" commented Sam.
"Not only has she lied to you for the past year and a half, she's a freakin' witch! She's the type of thing we hunt!"
"I lied to her too for the past year and a half!" he retorted. "She's not evil! Not everything is black and white!"
Dean sighed, his arms crossing over his chest. The last thing he wanted to deal with was this whole situation. He counted to five and tried to calm down. Never in his life had he heard of a good witch. They only existed in fairytales. In real life, witches were consumed with power and wrecked havoc – especially when they didn't get their way.
"I can cast a spell and figure out where your mother is," commented Jessica. "I need a map and something of hers. I can pinpoint where she is. I haven't done that spell before, so it might take me a few tries, but I can do it."
"Well, isn't that just a nifty trick?" Dean said with sarcasm lacing his words.
"This may be our only chance to find Mom alive! We're racing against time to find her before the demon does her in or another hunter shoots first and asks questions later," explained Sam.
"I don't feel comfortable using witchcraft to find her! How do you know she's not working for the demon?"
Sam let out a scoff, his eyes rolling. Dean stood his ground. How did they know Jessica was on their side? He read once in their mother's journal that witches gained their power through making deals with demons. If Jessica was a witch, then she had to of have contact with a demon in the past and possibly now. She was damned because of what she was. Dean wasn't going to allow her take his family down with her.
"No, Sam, it's okay," Jessica interrupted. "My great-grandmother… she made a deal with a demon to be a witch. At least, that's what we think. Except, she didn't just make the deal for herself, she made it for all of the first-born women in her line. I've never met a demon before. I only know about them."
Dean ran a hand down his face. He didn't know what to do. Using Jessica's power would be the quickest way to find their mother. He just hoped that it wasn't some sort of trap. If he was, he wouldn't hesitate to kill the bitch. Glancing from his kid brother to Jessica, his mind reeled with the possibilities. More than ever before, he wished their mom could tell them what to do.
"Dean, we need to find Mom fast before it's too late. If you got any better ideas, I'm all ears, Man. Right now, though, Jessica is our best bet to finding Mom."
"I want to find Mom too."
"I'm going to give you guys some time alone," Jessica announced. "I just want you to know, Dean, that I just want to help. That's all. Your mother has been incredibly nice to me. I don't want anything to happen to her. That's why I'm here."
Sam leaned down and kissed her temple gently.. He gave her a reassuring smile. Reaching down, she grabbed her saddlebag situated on her suitcase. Slinging it over her shoulder, she waved goodbye briefly before exiting.
Jessica slipped out of the motel room and took a walk to pass the time. It didn't take long until she was down by the river. There was a lone man sitting by the water, his jeans rolled up and feet resting within the cool water. With a smirk, Jessica walked towards him.
"What are you doing out here this late at night alone?" she asked.
The man whipped around. He was young, perhaps in his mid-twenties. He had brown hair that was combed over. A button-down shirt clad his chest. He looked like a bible thumper. He was perfect. She smiled sweetly, her blonde hair cascading over her right shoulder. The moonlight hit her just right, marking her a vision. The man stood up, a quirk of a smile tugging on his own lips.
"I-I come here to think," he commented. "I don't think I've ever seen you around here."
"I'm not from around here."
"Where are you from?"
"California," she replied with a smirk and took a step forward beneath a shadow of a tree.
"Nebraska is a long ways from home."
"I don't mind."
Running a hand behind her, she pulled out a sheath covering a knife that was situated between the band of her jeans and the small of her back. The young man didn't notice as he was staring at her face like a lost puppy dog that found a new owner who would feed him scraps. Taking a step forward, the sheath fell to the ground silently.
"You know, I'm usually a really nice girl," she said in a soft voice. "I bet you're a really nice guy too. You got those dewy, Bambi eyes."
In one swift movement, the knife sliced across the man's throat. He choked on his own blood, his hands flying up to the wound. His eyes glossed over nearly immediately, pleading pathetically for the blonde to help him. Instead of helping, she unzipped her bag and pulled out a bowl with engravings covering the outside. The man fell to the ground with a loud thump! Jessica knelt beside him and allowed the blood to pour in the bowl.
In smooth Latin, Jessica spoke in silky tones. The blood bubbled and darkened. The Latin stopped flowing as a sigh escaped her ruby lips.
"I'm in. When do you want me to lead them straight to your baby girl?"
Jessica's eyes clouded over black as the corners of her mouth quirked up. Nothing had ever been so easy. She had Sammy Winchester wrapped around her little finger. That effectively meant that she also had Dean Winchester, because he was wrapped so tightly around his kid brother's finger that he would go along with anything he said.
Author's Notes –I have enjoyed writing this story so much that I have contemplated whether or not to make it into a series of stories. This would include writing stories that follow the events of Backfire as well as writing stories from when the boys were younger. Therefore, I need your feedback. Would you like to read more in this AU verse or would you rather I just finished the story the way I had planned? So, please, leave a review, because the amount of positive reviews I get will be the deciding factor on whether or not I continue in this verse.