A/N: This story is the first in a series that's a sequel to "When the Badger Grows Horns" and that explores what happened to Sam and Dean in the gap between the third chapter and the epilogue. I won't be touching on every episode, but I did think the gap needed filling. I can't promise how quickly I'll be able to continue, but here's this much for now. The cover image is by Amberdreams. Also, apologies if some of the characters don't show up properly on your computer; a box that appears after an accented vowel should be a hook under the vowel.
The Dark Wind: Bi'ee' Łigai
By San Antonio Rose
Dean reached his destination, one of the many trailer parks around Bryan/College Station inhabited by the students of Texas A&M University, and waited in the shadows until Sam and Jess had left for their party before using the spare key Sam had given him to let himself into their single-wide. He didn't feel like ruining their evening, and besides, he'd driven all the way from New Orleans and didn't think he could discuss this problem civilly with Sam until he'd had a nap and some coffee. He got both while they were gone and was at the kitchen table working on his second cup when they walked in.
"Yáát'ééh," he said with a smirk as they stared at him.
Jess recovered first. "Oh, hello, Dean."
"What the hell are you doing in our kitchen?!" Sam demanded.
Dean raised his mug. "Drinkin' coffee. Woulda had a beer, but you're out."
"Need to talk to you, Sammy. In private."
"We can talk in front of Jess. You know that."
Dean took a deep breath and let it out again. "Athair air an t-sealg tà, agus 'sa trì seachdain mi na chuala bhuaidh."
Sam froze. "Jess, will you excuse us?"
Jess nodded. "Sure. You staying a few days, Dean?"
"Dunno yet," Dean shrugged and shot her a smile. "Maybe for breakfast, anyway."
"Okay, then. Good night."
Sam managed to keep the anger out of his face until the bedroom door closed behind Jess. Dean still didn't understand what had happened between his father and younger brother on Midsummer's Eve, but whatever it was, Sam had all but shut Dad out of his life and could barely be civil about him even to Dean. And he'd made it clear to both of them that he wanted nothing more to do with hunting.
"This is about Bináá' łitso, isn't it?" Sam said quietly.
"Might be," Dean allowed before switching back to Gaelic. "Like I said, I hadn't heard from him in three weeks until this morning. He was checking out a haunting in Buda, I thought, bunch of men disappearing on a certain stretch of highway; he'd sent me to check out some voodoo thing in New Orleans that got stirred up by Katrina. But today he called, left a cryptic message, and disappeared. I tried to call him back and got nothing, not even voice mail."
Dean pulled out his phone and called up the message, then played it for Sam on the speaker. The volume was low enough that Jess wouldn't be able to overhear, and even if she could, most of the few words came through the static were in Navajo:
"Dean... haidzaa... dinits'a', doo ts'íí 'át'ée da... ... hazhó'ógo. Doo t'áá 'ádzaái da, Dean, whatever it is."
Sam frowned. "You know there's EVP on that," he said in Gaelic as the message ended.
Dean chuckled and pulled a Walkman out of his pocket. "Ran it through Goldwave, cleaned it up. Here."
He pressed Play, and they heard a woman's voice say in English, "I can never go home..."
Sam chewed his lip thoughtfully for a moment after Dean stopped the tape. Then he sighed. "So what," he resumed in Gaelic, "you think this ghost woman got Dad, or Yellow Eyes, or what?"
"I don't know, Sammy," Dean confessed. "But he's in real trouble, if he's not dead already. I can feel it. And whatever's going on, especially if it is Yellow Eyes... I can't go after him alone. Not this time."
Sam scoffed. "Yes, you can."
"I don't want to."
They looked at each other for a long moment before Sam said, "I've got an interview with Baylor Law on Thursday."
"I'll have you back Wednesday night. Scout's honor. I can even drive you up to Waco on Thursday, if you want Jess to have the car."
After another long moment, Sam nodded. "All right, I'll go. I'll help you find him."
Dean nodded back. "Buda's only about two hours from here. We can leave early, give you time to pack, all that."
"All right. Thanks."
"You set the salt lines tonight yet?"
Sam huffed. "Dean. We're in College Station. What could happen?"
"Stranger things have happened in smaller towns, Sammy." And without waiting for permission, Dean pulled open the pantry and retrieved the salt canister.
"What am I supposed to tell Jess when she sees salt everywhere?"
"Kót'ée ga' Diné bikéyahdi," Dean replied with a shrug and started with a salt line just inside the front door. "Sometimes the rez has its benefits," he continued in Gaelic.
He didn't have to see Sam's face to know that Sam rolled his eyes at that statement. "Right, because we spend so much time in Arizona."
"I'll take the blame, Thousand Books. But I don't like the idea of leaving Jess unprotected, not now. Not that I think you should keep hiding the fact that you're a hunter from her. What happens if you two get married?"
"Dean, I told you, I'm done. I never liked it anyway, but after what happened at Midsummer..."
"What did happen at Midsummer? We torched a rawhead; I sacked out; and when I woke up, you and Dad were barely on speaking terms. He's been on edge about you ever since."
Sam sighed heavily. "I keep having this nightmare about Jess, burning to death on the ceiling. Like Mom did. I... I told Dad about it when the first one hit, at Midsummer. He acted like I'd chosen the Witchery Way."
Dean frowned, finished the line he was pouring, and turned back to Sam. "That was it? Just a nightmare?"
Sam shrugged eloquently.
"There was a huge rainstorm that night... maybe he thought there was an omen? Hell, I don't know. Guess we should ask him when we see him."
Sam huffed. "Like he'd tell us. The man takes 'need to know' to a whole new level."
Dean grimaced in acknowledgement. Then he paused. "Listen, Sam... I don't know what Dad's been thinking. But on the outside chance that this wasn't just a nightmare—"
Sam blinked. "Wait, what? You... you think I'm having a dream-vision or something?"
"I don't know, maybe? In our family, anything's possible. Amá Sání Chee has dreams that come true sometimes. But if that's what this is, don't you think it's a good idea to make sure Jess has a little protection, just in case? I mean, in two days, it'll be twenty-two years, and you know how these things like anniversaries."
Sam clearly wasn't happy about the idea, but he nodded. "So my superstitious brother wants her to keep the house warded against evil spirits through the Day of the Dead, is that it?"
"If that's what you want to tell her, that is fine by me." Dean held out the salt canister. "Just ward that bedroom window, huh?"
Sam pulled a face and took it from him. "You fine on the couch?" he asked in English.
"Unless you two had plans," Dean replied in kind with a smirk.
Sam huffed. "Good night, Dean."
Dean waited until Sam had gone into the bedroom and shut the door before pulling a chair over in front of the front door. Then he pulled out his pocket knife, paused to call up the memory of a drawing he'd seen in one of Bobby's books a long time ago, and climbed up on the chair to carve a devil's trap on the ceiling above the door. He planned to flank it with yeii, too, just in case.
Sam might be willing to take his chances where Bináá' łitso was concerned. Dean wasn't. Not now.
There turned out not to be much to the case in Buda. The ghost Dad had been after was a woman in white, and Sam figured out how to dispatch it without much fuss. But Dad had left his journal behind with nothing more than a set of coordinates for what was likely another hunt somewhere in Colorado, and there were no other clues to show where he'd gone. Frustrated, the brothers headed back to College Station to discuss their next move, whether to try to follow the coordinates or to try some other means of figuring out where Dad had gone.
They were just about to Stone City, however, when Sam's phone rang.
"Sam!" Jess half-sobbed when he answered. "There's this prowler outside; he keeps looking in the windows, walking all around the house like he's trying to find a way in! What should I do?!"
Sam's blood ran cold. "Is the salt still in place?"
"Yes. Yes, I scuffed the line by the door, but I fixed it, just 'cause... 'cause Dean asked."
"Good. Okay. Just stay inside, all right?"
"All the doors and windows locked?"
"Yes. I'm... I'm hiding under the table right now."
"All right. Could you see who it was?"
"No, it just looked like a man."
"Okay. We're, like, ten miles out. We'll be there pretty soon."
"Okay, when I hang up, I want you to call the police. I mean, if it's a robber, they'll want to catch him right away, right, before he breaks in?"
"Yeah." Jess sounded calmer, but her voice was still quavering. "Yeah, that... that makes—" She broke off with a terrified gasp.
"It's Brady—what's wrong with his eyes?!"
Sam looked at Dean in horror. "His eyes?! What about his eyes?!"
"Sam, they're black! They're like—like—" Then there was a muffled whompf, and Jess screamed.
Dean heard it and slammed his foot down on the gas.
"JESS!" Sam cried.
"Fire! He's—the whole house is on fire!"
"All right, all right, stay low, okay? We're coming!" Sam looked back at Dean. "Demon—tha an lann ag losgadh e."
Dean pulled out his own phone and started dialing 911 while Sam stayed on the line with Jess, talking her through how to stay away from the flames and low enough not to be overcome by the smoke. The Impala reached the house less than a minute after the fire truck and ambulance arrived, and Dean had to practically sit on Sam to keep him from charging in after the firefighters to get Jess out. But get her out they did, though she was barely conscious when Sam and Dean were finally allowed to approach the ambulance. She was burned and wearing an oxygen mask, but she managed to feebly squeeze Sam's hand before the EMTs whisked her off to the local hospital to be stabilized before being Lifeflighted to a burn unit in Houston. Then there was nothing to do but answer questions from the police and watch as the firefighters battled in vain to put out the blaze. The house burned to the ground.
Finally, Dean put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "C'mon. Let's head on to Houston."
Sam shook his head. "No. Not yet. I'm not family; they wouldn't let us in before morning. And there's something I need to do here in town first."
"She told me who the demon was in," Sam stated in Gaelic, turning to Dean. "And it wasn't Yellow Eyes this time. But my dream would have come true if... if you hadn't..." He broke off, shaking his head as he tried to get his anger and regret under control.
"For the record," Dean replied in the same language quietly, "I wasn't going to say 'I told you so.'"
Sam huffed. "Thanks. But I just... I need answers, Dean. I need to know what the hell is going on here. He was going to kill Jess—she's got nothing to do with what happened to Mom!"
Dean nodded. "All right. All right. I've got your back. What do you need?"
"Let's... let's get to a motel room. And then it's a tracking spell I want, I think."
Sam's duffle was still in the car, so he had a change of clothes and all the toiletries he needed, but they still made a Walmart run before checking into a motel for the night and warding it well. But as Sam set out the supplies for his tracking spell, Dean cleared his throat.
Sam looked up at him. "Ciod è'?"
"You said Jess told you who the demon was in."
"So it was someone you know."
"So... you're not trying the phone first because?"
Sam froze, then grimaced and reached for his phone. Calling hadn't even occurred to him. But not too surprisingly, the call went straight to voice mail; the demon must have known Jess had seen him.
Dean shrugged when Sam hung up. "Oh, well. Can't be right all the time."
Sam huffed in amusement and got on with the spell. Again, not too surprisingly, the spell pegged his location as being near the hospital. Sam had no way of knowing whether Jess were still there or whether she were already safely on her way to Houston, so the brothers booked it to the hospital and began searching the grounds for Brady, starting at the ER waiting room and moving outside when a quick scan of the room told Sam that Brady wasn't there.
They finally found Brady hidden in the shadows between two of the buildings, sitting against a wall with a syringe falling out of his hand, a fresh needle mark on his arm, and a thoroughly stoned expression on his face. Sam swore as he dropped to Brady's side. He'd never caught Brady doing anything harder than pot, and he couldn't tell whether this incident was Brady's reaction to having been possessed or the demon's attempt to abuse the host.
At the sound of his voice, Brady let his head loll to the side to look at Sam, then huffed and smiled. "Heyyy, Sam. Sammy, Sammy. Sammy the Boy King."
"Dammit, Brady, what did you take? Why?"
"Wasn' s'posed to happen this way. I was s'posed to kill your pretty Jessie; she's s'posed to burn, like your Mama Mary. Sister Golden Hair Surprise. But she's not, she lived, he'll kill me for failing—or worse, y'know? So... one las' high, 'fore I get Downstairs, 'cause the sauna gets hoooot."
"He? Who's he?"
Brady chuckled. "Sammy, Sammy. Like you don't know." And his glazed blue eyes turned an oily black from corner to corner, though his stoned demeanor didn't change. "Oh, riiight, maybe you don't. Daddy do'n't tell you anything, does he? Not about the fire, not about yourself. 'S why you ran, innit? But law school, picket fence, Jess'ca... wouldn't do, not for us. Gotta burn your future down, get you back on the road, lookin' for revenge."
Sam didn't know whether he was horrified or infuriated.
"What's the punchline?" Dean demanded from behind Sam. "Why Sam? Why us? What are you after?"
Brady—or the demon in Brady—huffed in amusement, then started chuckling in a way that made Sam's skin crawl. "Night, boys." Then Brady's back arched and his head fell back, and a cloud of black smoke came roaring out of his mouth. When it was gone, his body slumped back against the wall and his head fell forward; he was unconscious and barely breathing.
Sam swore again and scooped Brady up into his arms. "Dean, get the syringe. We gotta get him into the ER."
Dean nodded and whipped out a handkerchief as Sam raced back around the building to the ER. By the time the doctors had gotten Brady into an examining room, Dean had arrived and cautiously handed off the syringe, being careful to neither stick anyone with the needle nor disturb the fingerprints that the police might well need. Sam had just gotten the paperwork filled out for Brady when word came that the helicopter was about to take Jess to Houston.
Sam wasn't sure whether to stay with his friend or go after the love of his life and felt a little guilty that he cared less about Brady, given that he'd known Brady longer than Jess. The dilemma was temporarily solved for him when the police arrived to ask more questions and Sam had to confess that Jess had seen Brady hanging around just before the fire. No sooner had that finished than the ER doctor reported that they had been able to reverse the massive heroin overdose the demon had given Brady, but his respiratory distress was such that they'd had to intubate him and take him to ICU. The doctor urged the Winchesters to go home, since there wouldn't be anything they could do for Brady that night. So Dean took Sam back to the motel, since their stuff was still there, and the adrenaline crash hit just about the time they arrived.
They sat in the car for a long moment before Dean reached over and rubbed Sam's shoulder. "Come on. Let's get some sleep."
"The Boy King," Sam replied. "The demon called me the Boy King. What... what does that even mean? King of what? What does this demon have to do with Bináá' łitso? Why does it matter that I hunt? Why can't I marry Jess?! I... I don't..."
"D' an aithne," Dean returned quietly. "After all, demons lie; I don't know if the damn thing being stoned makes any difference. But I don't think we'll get any more answers tonight. C'mon."
Sam sighed and followed Dean into the motel room.
Neither brother talked much in any language the next day after Sam called Baylor Law School during breakfast to cancel his interview. The drive to Houston was silent apart from the radio, and apart from wheedling their way into Jess' room and getting an update from her doctor, they didn't have much to say at the hospital, either. Jess had suffered only second-degree burns, but they were extensive, and the painkiller was keeping her asleep more than she was awake. After they'd thanked the doctor and seen him out of the room, Sam and Dean each pulled a chair up to the bedside and settled in to keep vigil until Jess awoke. She did wake a couple of times during the morning, but never more than long enough to see Sam and smile at him before falling asleep again.
Dean had just about decided to drag Sam out for some lunch when the door opened and someone gasped loudly. Both brothers turned to see an older man and woman standing frozen just inside the doorway, staring—not at Jess... at them. Dean looked over at Sam, who shrugged his eyebrows a little and stood, so Dean followed suit.
"Mr. and Mrs. Moore?" Sam asked quietly.
That shocked the woman into speech. "Who—who are you?"
"Sam Winchester, ma'am. This is my brother Dean."
"Ma'am, sir," Dean said with a nod.
The woman—Mrs. Moore—shook her head. "No. No, no, you can't be Sam. Sam's not..."
Dean frowned and looked Sam over, wondering what in the world could be troubling the woman. All he saw was his brother, the 6'4" beanpole college boy, his chestnut hair hanging loose and hitting him about mid-back, a healthy tan—not as dark as their cousins, but not bad for a bookworm; he wouldn't pass for white—normal T-shirt, normal jacket, normal jeans...
Sam looked puzzled, too. "Didn't Jess send you pictures after Christmas, after we got back from Arizona, when we went to see my dad's family? She told me she was going to."
Mrs. Moore nodded. "There—there was a boy named Sam in those—but that... that wasn't... you can't be her boyfriend, you can't!" Her voice rose hysterically. "My baby wouldn't—she couldn't—marry one of you people!"
"What?!" Dean and Sam chorused, now thoroughly confused. Jess hadn't made a secret of the fact that they were Diné, had she? So what was the deal?
"You can't be Sam," Mr. Moore repeated quietly, still staring. "Sam's not a half-breed."
There was a long moment of awful silence after that. Then Sam replied, in the deadly quiet tone that meant he was furious, "Lie to yourselves all you want. But my name is Sam Winchester, and I do intend to marry your daughter."
"Over my dead body," growled Mr. Moore.
"I don't recall asking your permission."
"Get out. Get out! And never contact my daughter again, do you hear me?!"
Dean could sense Sam getting ready to do something they'd all regret, so he held up a hand and turned to face Sam. "So, so. Falbhamaid. Is nàimdheil a thà iad."
"That... that sounded like Gaelic," said Mrs. Moore, sounding like she was having even more trouble reconciling that language with Dean's skin tone and the buckskin jacket he'd gotten as a hand-me-down from Dad.
The short haircut was sort of a hand-me-down from Dad, too, but they'd never believe Dad was a Marine even if Dean felt the need to explain. But Gaelic was indirectly all they had left of Mom, and Dean was going to show off the fact that he spoke three languages if he damn well pleased. And he pleased all the more because two of those were ones the Moores didn't know.
He turned back to them and shrugged. "Dóone'é Campbell ei' niniidli, Ashiihi bá shíníílchíín," he replied with a smirk that he knew would draw attention to his green eyes. "C'mon, Sammy. Sołtį'. Hágoónee'," he added with a nod to the Moores.
Still seething silently, Sam followed Dean past Jess' gobsmacked parents, out of the room, and out of the hospital before exploding in a torrent of profanity in three or four languages Dean didn't know.
"Well, don't hold back, Thousand Books," Dean snarked. "Tell me how you really feel."
"I just—I can't—believe them!" Sam growled. "Acting like it's my fault they're delusional! Calling us you people, like we're not even human!"
"I know, I know. C'mon, let's go eat, figure out what we should do."
Mouth still pinched in fury, Sam got in the car and slammed the door. Dean got in after him and drove to a nearby Chinese place.
It took most of the meal for Sam to calm down enough that Dean felt safe broaching the subject of what to do next. When the coast did seem clear, however, he began in Gaelic, "So here's what I'm thinking. We can stay here and risk another explosion with the Moores, which won't do Jess any favors. We can go back to College Station and hang out for Brady's sake, but it sounded like he was going to be in ICU for a while." Sam huffed in agreement, and Dean went on. "We can try to figure out where Dad went when he left Buda, which won't be so easy if his phone doesn't have GPS. If it does, he's probably got it blocked."
"We can go check out these coordinates in Colorado, on the assumption that Dad's sending us there for a reason and that maybe that's the place to start looking for him."
"Or we go to Colorado by way of Arizona."
Sam frowned. "Go through the rez? Why?"
Dean shrugged. "Maybe he told 'Análíke and Amá Sání something. Hell, maybe Amá Sání's seen something. Maybe she can tell you what the deal was with your dream."
Sam leaned back and inclined his head thoughtfully. "Huh. I hadn't thought about it, but... you may be right." He paused. "And I haven't seen Aggie since Christmas. She'll probably refuse to talk to me for two days."
Dean snorted. "Nah, not that horse. She'll probably eat your hair, Samantha."
"Hey!" But there wasn't any heat to the objection.
Dean chuckled. "So is that it? Are we good to go?"
Sam sighed. "No. No, I... I want to say goodbye to Jess first."
Dean nodded slowly. "All right. But you know we can't go in there now."
"I know. When her parents leave to get supper. We don't have to stay long, but... she's going to wonder if I don't."
"Sure. Sure, we can do that."
So they found a park with a wi-fi hotspot and hung out there for the afternoon. Dean engaged in some people-watching while Sam researched the mysterious deaths near Blackwater Ridge—victims of a wendigo, he concluded, which led to some mutual griping about having to clean up other nations' monsters. Dean declared that he'd really rather pass a wendigo on to an Ojibwa hunter, since the wendigos were an Ojibwa mess, but Sam noted that they hadn't met any Ojibwa hunters—or Sioux or Cheyenne, for that matter.
Dean huffed. "Y'know, for all the kids who want to get back to the old ways, and especially the ones who want to get into shamanism, you'd think there'd be a few who'd take up hunting, at least in their own territory."
"Maybe there are some, and we just haven't met them. Or maybe Dad knows some and doesn't want us working with them—or they don't want to work with us. Remember that one hunt up at Pine Ridge? I hadn't gotten that many stares since third grade."
Dean shook his head. "I've said it before, I'll say it again. Chindí diishts'a'. Diné dadiigis."
"Well, if you said it in English, people might understand you."
Dean grinned. After a moment, so did Sam.
They ate early before going back to the hospital and finding a good surveillance point from which to watch Jess' room. It took a while, but her parents did finally leave the room, and they didn't shut the door behind them, which the Winchesters took to mean that Jess was awake. So as soon as the Moores were safely on the elevator, the brothers casually strolled back into the room.
Jess had her eyes closed when they got there, but she stirred as soon as Sam sat down on the edge of the bed. "Sam! Where were you?" she asked in a hoarse whisper.
"Your dad kicked me out," Sam whispered back. "He told me never to see you again."
Jess sniffled. "I'm sorry. Dad... they're..."
"Hey, it's okay. My dad can be the king of denial, too, when he wants."
"Are you gonna stay?"
"No, Jess. I can't. I want to, but I don't want to hurt you by fighting with your parents."
Jess sniffled again but nodded even as a tear rolled down her blistered cheek. "Sam, what happened? What was wrong with Brady? And why... why did he..."
"He was possessed."
Sam nodded. "Yeah. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. The demon was supposed to kill you to get at me."
"I dunno, chiquita. But that's... that's what I'm going to do, is find out what's going on. Find out how to stop it. I don't know how long it'll take, but... I'll do it. We'll do it, me and Dean. And maybe by the time I do, your dad will have changed his mind."
More tears spilled from Jess' eyes. "Is... is there someplace I can write? Mom knows all my passwords, and Dad won't let me call, I'm sure, but..."
"You remember my grandfather's address?"
"I think so."
"Okay. You can write there, or you can write to Bobby Singer at Singer Salvage Yard in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or Pastor Jim Murphy at Sacrament Lutheran Church in Blue Earth, Minnesota. They'll get word to me."
"Okay. Okay. Bobby Singer in Sioux Falls or Jim Murphy in Blue Earth. Got it."
Sam leaned forward and brushed a tender kiss on her forehead. "I love you, my angel."
"I love you, querido. Be careful."
"I promise. You get well. I'll be in touch when I can." He kissed her again.
"Sorry about all this, Jess," Dean said sadly. "I'll bring him back in one piece, though, promise."
Jess hiccupped a laugh. "Thanks, Dean."
Then Dean poked Sam. "C'mon. Let's get out of here before they get back."
Sam stood reluctantly. "Bye, sweetheart."
"Bye, Sam," Jess whispered just barely loud enough for either of them to hear.
Then Dean all but dragged Sam down to the car, the fringe on his jacket flying in his haste to get Sam out and avoid another incident. No sooner had Sam closed his door than Dean started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot as quickly as legally possible.
"Dude!" Sam objected.
"Sammy, this whole thing was getting way too Victorian. I mean, one last goodbye, that was one thing, but once you start talkin' love letters..."
"Besides, the one thing we do not need right now is any more attention from 5-O. Houston PD figures to be a lot harder to shake than the average country cop."
Sam shook his head. "A amhadan."
"A ghalla," Dean shot back fondly and started looking for the best way to get to I-45 without taking any toll roads.
Even though they made it to Corsicana before deciding to stop for the night, the trip to their grandparents' house took another two long days of driving. Dean radioed ahead as soon as they were in CB range, so Grandfather was outside waiting for them when they drove up.
"You're early," he teased. "Thanksgiving's not for another two weeks; we haven't even caught the turkey yet!"
Sam shook his head, but Dean chuckled.
"Don't you still have classes, Sam? I thought this was going to be your last semester."
"I need to take some time off," Sam replied.
Grandfather's smile vanished. "Haidzaa?"
"A demon tried to kill Jess, burned our house down. Bináá' łitso sent him, we think. She's just hurt, should recover just fine, but... I need to know why. And we need to stop it."
"So why are you here? Why don't you ask John?"
"That's just it," Dean said. "Dad's disappeared, and he won't answer his phone. We thought maybe you and Grandmother or Amá Sání might know something."
Grandfather sighed and shook his head. "No. No, he hadn't told us anything; he hasn't been here since July. Come on inside."
The brothers started to comply when they heard their great-grandmother call to them. They turned and met her halfway between her hogan and Grandmother's, and after exchanging hugs and their usual pleasantries, they explained why they were there.
Amá Sání looked grim. "'Átahálo. We should not talk about it tonight. But I have something to give you in the morning—something that belonged to your mother."
Sam and Dean exchanged a look, then nodded. "Hágoshį́į́," said Dean. "Ahéhee', shimásání."
It was hard to wait for daylight, but Dean did understand Amá Sání's reason. Diné taboos aside, some topics simply were better not discussed after dark, at least around civilians. But as soon after breakfast as they could politely leave, the brothers made their way through the frosty morning air to Amá Sání's hogan. Amá Sání had the coffee pot and a covered basket sitting out for them, and after coffee and conversation, she finally got around to picking up the basket.
"As I said last night," she began, "these belonged to your mother. Before the fire, she left them here for John. When he was here in July, he left them with me again and told me that if you boys asked, I was to give them to you." She chuckled. "He didn't tell me what you were to ask, but I think it's safe to assume that he would want you to have them now." And she handed the basket to Sam.
Sam carefully took off the lid to reveal several leather-bound volumes. "Huh."
Dean frowned. "What are they?"
Amá Sání shook her head. "I don't know. John used to take them up into the hills to read them, before Mr. Singer answered his letter. I've never looked at them."
Sam ran a hand over the cover of one of the books. "Guess we ought to do the same—just in case. Ahéhee."
After several minutes more of coffee and conversation, Sam and Dean took their leave and headed over to the corral. While Sam saddled Aggie and Dean's favorite horse, a black mustang named Ozzy, Dean stood at the corral entrance with the basket of books and tried to recall which way Dad had usually gone.
"Dean?" Sam finally prompted.
"I dunno, Sam," Dean replied. "It's not like I paid that much attention when he said he was going off to think. But I think... I think he went that way." He pointed to a route that led more or less westward.
"Okay. You think there's a chance he left something out there?"
"Hard to say. We can go look."
"How far do you think we ought to go?"
"Not too far. We don't have a whole lot of daylight, and I don't feel like camping out tonight."
Sam nodded and handed Dean Ozzy's reins.
It didn't take them long to find a sheltered niche on a hillside that was still within sight of the ranch and came complete with a good-sized rock that was just the right height and shape to serve as a seat. Sam dismounted and looked around for a moment. "Well, somebody comes here, all right. The stone's worn from someone sitting on it."
Dean dismounted and tied both horses to a nearby bush. "Look like he left anything?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't think so. Let's just start with Mom's books."
They sat down together on the stone seat, and Dean opened the basket and picked up a volume. "All right. Let's see what Mom wanted Dad to have."
Then he opened the cover and almost stopped breathing when he saw the handwritten title page:
This journal belongs to
Mary Campbell Winchester
May 1, 1970 – December 24, 1982
Sam cursed under his breath. "You think—"
"Dad always said he was in the family business now—Clan Campbell's business," Dean replied in a whisper. "I always wondered how he knew." Then he swallowed hard and turned the page.
And all he could do was stare when his eyes hit the third entry down: 5-10: Djinn, East St. Louis.
"Mom... Mom was..." Sam stammered.
"Yeah," Dean breathed, struggling to reconcile his memories of their warm, gentle mother with the hard life of a hunter.
Eventually he forced his eyes to keep moving: Skinwalkers, Shiprock, NM... Rawhead, Tulsa... Werewolves in Vancouver. Dad and Uncle Robert keep arguing over who should take it. Lucky for me, I don't have a passport, so I can't go either way. Just as well, since I've got a history test Monday.
"Sounds like she hated it," Sam murmured on reading that entry.
"Mm," was Dean's only reply.
Time constraints being what they were, the brothers could only skim for keywords, but even that painted a radically different picture of Mom's past than Dean had imagined. There were entries about hunts, about the family that had gone on to shun the Winchesters, about school and Mom's dreams of going to college that were dashed by her father's insistence that she start hunting full time after she graduated. There were entries about how she met Dad that Dean noted to read more carefully later.
And then there was an entry that brought him up short because several words and phrases, and later whole lines, had been carefully and precisely smudged into complete illegibility.
"What the hell?" Sam whispered.
Dean examined the page carefully from both sides, held the page up to the light, and ran his finger over the page before. "Nothin'," he whispered back. "No pen marks, no ink lines, nothing. Something wanted to make damn sure whatever she wrote there was hidden."
"From us or from Dad?"
"Hell if I know. Maybe both."
"Here. Let's see what we can get from the context."
So they read about the hunt at the Whitshire farm for a man with yellow eyes, Mom's musings about whether her father was trying to convince her not to say yes when Dad proposed, the horrible events of May 2, 1973.
And then came a line that caused Dean's brain to sputter and stall: May God forgive me—I made the deal.
Dean was dimly aware of Sam jumping to his feet in palpable rage and storming away from him, then hoofbeats riding rapidly away, as he continued to stare at the page in shock. What jolted him back to full awareness was an indignant whinny from... Aggie?
He shook his head and looked around. Sure enough, Aggie was still tied to the bush, glaring up the trail. Sam had been so upset that he evidently didn't realize he'd grabbed the wrong horse, even though Dean's stirrups normally sat quiet a bit shorter than Sam's.
Dean couldn't help chuckling. "Whaddaya think, girl? Do we go after him?"
Still dazed, Dean gently closed the journal, put it back in the basket, and covered the basket again. Then his eyes slipped shut as a tidal wave of memories came roaring back from the summer Sammy was born. This explained so much, and yet... "Oh, Mom," he breathed, fighting tears.
He wasn't sure how much time passed—not long, he thought—before Ozzy's hoofbeats drew near again, and he had pretty well pulled himself together by the time Sam, still visibly furious, approached.
"Let's go gank that damn wendigo," Sam said as he rode past, not even slowing down.
Aggie whinnied again in protest.
Dean sighed and stood, picking up the basket of journals as he did so. "He'll get over it, Ags. I'll take you back."
Aggie huffed and stamped but stayed obediently still as Dean shortened the stirrups, untied her, and hauled himself into the saddle. Once both feet were in the stirrups, however, she bolted down the trail after Sam and Ozzy, and Dean let her have her head.
By the time they caught up, Ozzy was already back in the corral, and Sam was stalking toward the car. But Ozzy still had his saddle on and was looking from Sam to Dean in confusion. That worried Dean more than anything; Sam had never been one to treat a horse like a motorcycle.
"HEY!" Dean yelled, and Aggie neighed in almost perfect unison. "You gonna steal my horse, dude, least you could do is take care of him!"
Sam looked over, frowning, but didn't stop walking. "The hell do you mean, steal your—" Then he stopped cold, eyes widening as it finally registered that Dean was on Aggie. He looked over at Ozzy, grimaced, and stomped back to the corral, cursing under his breath in what Dean thought might be German.
Dean rode over to the Impala and put the basket in the trunk before walking Aggie back to the corral. By that time, Sam had Ozzy's saddle and blanket off and was headed to put them away.
"Thanks," Dean said with a nod. "Grab our bags, too, would you? I'll take care of Ags."
Sam nodded back. "Sure. Sorry, girl," he added, reaching over to pat Aggie's side as they passed.
Aggie huffed, and Dean had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He hadn't realized horses could get jealous. She stood still while he put the stirrups back and unsaddled her, though, and then nuzzled his shoulder as if to apologize for being in a bad mood.
He rubbed her nose. "Don't worry, girl. I'll set him straight for you."
She pushed her nose against his hand and whickered softly. He scratched her between the eyes and went to put Sam's saddle away.
The wendigo hunt went off with only one hitch, and even that was easy enough to overcome thanks to Dean's trail-of-M&Ms idea. Dad wasn't there, though; from the looks of things, he never had been there. That lead was a dead end. Dean had been the one to fire the fatal flare and kill the wendigo. And even though they'd saved the kids who'd been out looking for their brother, the hunt clearly hadn't been what Sam had wanted it to be. He sat glowering out the window as they drove back toward Tuba City, mouth pinched in ill-concealed anger.
Finally, Dean had had enough. "What?"
"She sold me, Dean," came the unexpected answer.
Dean frowned. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Sam turned. "May 2, 1973, Mom made a deal with Bináá' łitso. Exactly ten years later, I was born. You think that's just a coincidence?"
"No, but you saw what she wrote. Bináá' łitso wouldn't tell her what she was selling; he just said he'd be back in ten years to collect. She didn't know."
"And you believe that?"
"Yeah, I do." Dean pulled over so that he could turn to face Sam and look him in the eye. "I believe it because that wasn't the part that something erased. And I believe it because I remember what happened when you were born."
Sam blinked. "What do you mean?"
"Mom was..." Dean sighed and shook his head. "She was in a bad way, Sammy. She was so sad all the time—barely ate, didn't want to play, didn't go to my tee-ball games, anything. I tried everything, but I could barely even get her to smile. I was scared. Dad was, too. Finally, we came back to Arizona for a Nidáá."
Sam's eyes went wide. "A Nidáá? That's... dude. That's serious medicine."
Dean nodded. "The hand-trembler wanted Mom to keep you with her the whole time. She didn't even argue. And when it was over, she... she was so happy, Sammy, it was like she didn't even remember why she'd been sad."
"She thought I was safe." Sam slumped back in his seat, staring out the windshield in shock. "She thought she'd beaten the deal."
Dean nodded. "Yeah. It all makes sense now."
Sam looked back at Dean. "So what the hell is Bináá' łitso if a Nidáá wasn't enough to throw him off? And why the hell did he come back when I was six months old?"
"I dunno, Sam. But I think Dad's been asking himself the same thing ever since."
Sam just looked at Dean for a long moment, and Dean suddenly recognized his expression from when Sammy was five and Dean was nine and Dad was in the hospital with double pneumonia: totally lost and scared to death. Dean couldn't blame him. He kind of felt the same way.
Then Sam sort of folded in on himself and said softly, "Diné bikéyahdigóó diit'ash."
Dean reached over to squeeze Sam's shoulder. "Hágoshį́į́." Then he pulled back onto the highway and tried not to speed too much as they fled back to the warmth of the family they had left.
They tried to settle in at Grandmother's, to wait for word from Dad. They tried not to wonder about the journals, what other secrets might lie hidden there. But that lasted all of one weekend, before the itch got too great for both of them and Dean found a hunt in Wisconsin that turned out to be a vengeful spirit. That got them by through Thanksgiving, when everybody came to Grandmother's and wanted to hear all about the wendigo hunt and started calling Dean Naayéé' Neizgháníi, Monster Slayer.
Everyone but Dad.
Nobody'd seen him. Nobody'd heard from him. Nobody had any clue where to start looking.
The brothers started to despair that he was even alive until they ventured into town to get groceries for Amá Sání and got a call from one of Dad's contacts regarding a phantom traveler. It turned out to be a demon that taunted Sam about Jess. After the hunt, Jerry confessed that he'd gotten Dean's phone number from Dad's voice mail—which, when the boys tried it, suddenly worked.
"Bił nihił nijilne', shizhé'é," Dean snapped at the beep. "Jess nearly died, you missed Thanksgiving, and we've gone through three hunts now looking—where the hell are you?" Then he hung up and got back in the car, seething as much as Sam was, and drove away from the airport, headed back to Arizona.
It was a full day's drive. Dean's phone never rang before they left cell range.
They arrived to find out that the high school where Adam, their second cousin, was a freshman was having some sort of Christmas party to which the whole family was invited. Neither Dean nor Sam felt particularly sociable, but everyone else was going, so they went along as well and did their best to smile and make small talk.
It didn't fool Amá Sání, who found them after about an hour. "So," she said with a gently amused smile. "Have you finished your reading?"
Sam looked sheepish, and Dean grimaced. "No, shimásání, we haven't gotten back to it yet."
Dean shook his head. "He's alive, but he won't answer his phone."
"We tried," Sam added.
"And you are torn," she observed. "You don't know where to look first, whether to follow your mother or your father."
"I... guess you could put it like that," Dean replied.
She nodded slowly, then put one hand on Dean's arm and one hand on Sam's and squeezed. "Go, my grandsons. Go and learn from your mother. We will be here when you do."
"Hágoshį́į́," they replied at the same time. Then they each hugged her and left the building.
"Motel?" Sam asked as they got back in the Impala.
Dean sighed. "No. No, if Dad's gone off the grid... well, maybe we should, too."
They looked at each other for a long moment, and then Sam sighed and nodded. "First light?"
They drove back to the ranch in silence, stopping only to pick up supplies enough to last them at least three weeks.
Grandfather brought the mail when he and Grandmother returned later, and in the stack was a card addressed to Sam. Sam accepted it with a nod and tucked it into his duffle. Then at first light, as agreed, the brothers saddled their horses, loaded a travois with supplies, and headed into the hills, bypassing Dad's thinking spot in favor of another decently large flat space. Once they got there, they put up a hogan with the door facing east and a lean-to for the horses, then warded the hogan carefully, with salt across the doorway and corn pollen in every corner. Sam set up the cooking stuff and the bedrolls while Dean got the fire going. Dean fixed lunch, and Sam read the card—from Jess, dictated to their friend Luis. She was well enough to be out of the hospital but not healed enough to do much with her hands yet, and her parents had her pretty well on lockdown at home. A postscript from Luis informed them that Brady had recovered from the possession physically but had been placed in long-term psychiatric care, apparently due to more than confessing that he'd been possessed. Over lunch, Sam and Dean discussed whether to go back and try to ward Brady's room, ultimately concluding that it probably wasn't worth the risk that Brady would freak out at the sight of Sam.
Then they settled in to read Mom's journal.
They took their time, sometimes reading silently together, sometimes one brother reading aloud to the other. Some entries they would stop and discuss. Some erasures—and there were more of them after the entry about the deal—they would speculate about the contents, never getting very close to a satisfactory guess. Some details made them laugh; some made them nearly cry. But as much as they needed answers, the process hurt, a dull ache that seemed to build as the story of their mother's last ten years rolled on. Dean found himself missing Mom more than he had in years, and he suspected that Sam felt the same way.
One snowy evening about a week in, while Dean was reading entries from May of 1978, Sam pulled his blanket up around his shoulders and curled up facing the fire, his head pillowed on Dean's leg, the way he used to do when they were little and Dean was reading Sammy stories in the back seat of the Impala. Dean stifled a sigh. They were grown men; they shouldn't need this... except that Sammy clearly did, and as loath as Dean would be to admit it out loud, he kind of needed it, too.
He let one hand fall to smooth Sammy's hair back from his face and kept reading:
Something happened last night. I don't know if it was supernatural or not. Apparently we went somewhere, because the car had been driven, but neither John nor I can remember a thing after he got home from work. Then this morning, Mike called. Mr. Woodsen is dead; the garage is trashed; someone else had been stabbed; and some odd blood sigil was burned on the wall. I guess some hunter caught something that had come after John... or maybe it wasn't. I'm so confused, I hardly know what to think. I worry about what's out there, what could be after John and me, and our baby. (Yes, I'm pregnant.) But there's one idea that will not leave me: angels are watching over us.
Dean had to pause there to get the lump out of his throat, and as he stared at the fire, he felt a couple of hot tears hit his leg and soak into his jeans.
"That... that was the last thing she ever said to me," Dean confessed, his voice breaking. "'Remember, shiye', angels are watching over you.' And then she died. Where the hell were they when she died?!" His words were angry, but they didn't stop the tears that rolled down his cheeks.
"It's all wrong, Dean," Sam replied quietly. "This whole thing—it's all wrong. It doesn't make any damn sense. Why us? Why Mom? Why would something take her memory that way? It's like... like..." He stopped.
Dean finally looked down at Sam. "What?"
Sam looked up at him. "Like something wanted her to die."
It was all Dean could do to keep from hurling the journal into the fire. He didn't want any of it to be true, and yet... he couldn't deny Sam's logic.
Sam reached up and grabbed Dean's hand. "Let's stop for tonight," he said in Gaelic.
Dean nodded and replied in kind. "Yes. Good idea."
Sam shifted to let Dean get up and put the journal back in the basket, then got up himself to bank the coals. They both went to sleep without much discussion.
But try as he might, Dean couldn't keep away the nightmares of Mom burning on the nursery ceiling.
The process of reading through the last five years was just as slow, just as painful, though there were quite a few more laughs at Dean's expense once they got to stories of things he'd gotten up to as an infant and toddler. Many of those gave Sam a new appreciation of his brother, especially the ones that talked about how eager Dean had been to learn anything and everything and to help both Mom and Dad around the house. Some of what Sam had dismissed as Dean being Dad's "good little soldier" suddenly made a lot more sense now and didn't seem nearly as much of a weakness.
The melancholy was never far away, though, especially once they started seeing more and more entries in 1981 and 1982 in which Mom lamented the erasures from both her mind and her journal. The deal comes due in a year, she noted in May of 1982, and someone warned me of something to come in 1983—but I can't remember whether it was something I should do or not do, whether something was coming for me or whether it had designs on the rest of the family. There's no way to keep the demon from getting in the house when the deal is due, but how do I protect John and Dean if I don't know what I'm fighting?
Dean sighed. "I wish she'd said something. I wish she'd tried."
"Dean, you were three years old," Sam countered. "What could you have done to save her?"
"She could have told Dad!"
"You think he would have believed her? You know Dad. He barely even believes that the Holy People exist, and he's killed five pagan gods, at least."
Dean didn't look happy to accept the point, but he didn't argue, either.
The tone became even more worried once Mary found out she was pregnant again and due in May. I can't see this as pure coincidence, she wrote. And the prospect terrifies me: does the demon want this child? If so, why? How can I keep my baby safe if I can't lock the demon out? I never dreamed I'd be putting my children at risk by taking this deal, and part of me wishes I could go back and undo what's been done. What's dead should stay dead. But oh, my heart still twists at the thought of life without John... even knowing what I do, could I make a different choice now? My head says yes, but my heart says no, as if it lies under a spell that cannot be broken.
"Love potion?" Sam speculated.
Dean shook his head. "Hell if I know. Don't potions wear off?"
"The one in Tristan and Isolde didn't."
"'Scuse me, Thousand Books."
They reached the final entry a few days before Christmas; it was a long letter to Dad, of the 'if you're reading this, I'm dead' variety. I'm giving all of my journals to Grandmother Chee tomorrow morning, Mom concluded. If anything goes wrong, you may need them. If we all survive until next Christmas, though, I'll ask her to give them back. The demon did swear that if he wasn't interrupted, no one would get hurt. But demons do lie. Oh, how I wish I could remember what that warning was! Dear God and all you angels, please, please don't let him hurt my babies. And God, I pray you, have mercy on my soul.
Sam wept bitterly after the final word was read, and Dean even shed more than a few silent tears. Even when the crying jag was over, neither of them said anything for the rest of the day. The grief was far too deep for words.
Finally, after breakfast the next day, Sam ventured, "Dean? Was I due on May 2?"
Dean shook his head. "You were early."
"Not a coincidence, then."
"Mom couldn't know beforehand. But she had to have figured it out—hence the depression and the Enemy Way."
Dean nodded slowly.
"Bináá' łitso came back, though, when I was exactly six months old, and Mom caught him in the nursery."
Sam shivered. "So he did something to me, and Mom interrupted him."
"We don't know that."
"It's logical, though."
"Someone warned her. Someone warned her not to go into that room. And something made her forget." Sam didn't know whether to break something or cry.
Dean looked like he was leaning more toward tears. "Sammy..."
"Something wanted her dead, Dean. Something wanted us hunting, bad enough to kill Mom, to try to kill Jess."
Dean didn't reply.
"It's not gonna stop, is it? It's going to kill everyone if we don't do what it wants."
"Yeah, well. You know how I feel about blackmail."
"But what are our choices? Stay off the grid, hole up and hide? The whole family could die, Dean, even Dad. And if we hide, we'll never find out what it is and how to stop it."
Dean sighed and looked away. "Look, let's get through Christmas. We have this place for now. Maybe Dad'll show up, tell us what to do."
"And if he doesn't?"
Dean shook his head. "I dunno."
After cleaning up the remains of breakfast, they silently packed their gear, saddled Aggie and Ozzy, and rode slowly back toward Grandmother's hogan. However, as they rounded a bend that gave them a good view of the snow-covered ranch, they paused and just watched for a long moment. The place was so quiet, so peaceful, so innocent, and to Sam, it was the closest thing to home he'd ever known.
And then he looked at the Impala, big and black and familiar even under its covering of snow, and recalled the entry where Mom had recorded a vision Amá Sání had had—Sam and Dean on a big black horse, followed by a crippled white man and a weakened yei, surrounded by good and evil forces at war and bearing Apocalypse omens. Sam couldn't be sure what it meant, but if it meant something was trying to force them to start the Apocalypse (or anything like that)... they needed to know.
The brothers sighed and looked at each other at the same time. And just like that, they knew that after Christmas, they had to leave, maybe stay gone for a while. They had to find Dad. They had to figure out what was trying to manipulate them and why. They had to stop Bináá' łitso, break his hold on Sam and stop his plans—whatever they were—from coming to fruition.
They had to save their family.
"First light?" Sam asked.
"Day after," Dean agreed.
Sam nodded, and they started down the hill once more.
Bi'ee' Łigai – Her Clothes Are White
Yáát'ééh – Greetings
Athair air an t-sealg tà, agus 'sa trì seachdain mi na chuala bhuaidh. – Dad's hunting, and I haven't heard from him in three weeks.
Bináá' łitso – Yellow Eyes
... haidzaa... dinits'a', doo ts'íí 'át'ée da... hazhó'ógo. Doo t'áá 'ádzaái da – ... what happened... listen to me, it's very dangerous... careful. It's not just some random occurrence (it's important)
Kót'ée ga' Diné bikéyahdi – That's the way it is in Navajo country
Amá Sání / Shimásání – Grandmother (maternal)
yeii – healing/protective spirits
tha an lann ag losgadh e – he's burning the house
Ciod è? – What is it?
D' an aithne – Who knows
So, so. Falbhamaid. Is nàimdheil a thà iad. – Come, come. Let's go. They're hostile.
Dóone'é Campbell ei' niniidli, Ashiihi bá shíníílchíín. – We are both born to the Campbell Clan; we are both born for the Salt Clan.
Sołtį' – Let's go
Hágoónee' – Goodbye
'Análíke – paternal grandparents
Chindí diishts'a'. Diné dadiigis. – Demons I get. People are crazy.
Łeechąą'i / A ghalla – Dog
'Áhályání / A amhadan – Fool
'Átahálo – Wait
Hágoshį́į́ – Okay
Ahéhee' – Thank you
Nidáá – Enemy Way ceremony, intended to exorcise the ghosts of aliens and the effects of violence; frequently sung for returning veterans
Diné bikéyahdigóó diit'ash – Let's go to Navajo country.
Bił nihił nijilne', shizhé'é – Talk to us, Dad
shiye' – my son