A/N: So, I know it's been about a year since I've published anything here, is anyone still waiting for a fic update somewhere? I apologize a lot if that were the case. I haven't had the motivation to write anything and this is my first fic this year. I'll try my best to finally finish up my fics *fingers crossed* But I do provide more updates over at my LJ, which I have a link to in my profile page.
Anyway, this is written in response to a fic exchange over at LJ. The prompt is written after the story below. Enjoy my meager offering!
Disclaimer: I still don't own them. There, I said it. Happy?
Sam knew how to choose his time, and he had suggested this hunt just after breakfast, when Dean was full of pancakes and sausages and was just sitting back in the booth enjoying his coffee. He should have suspected something when Sam was being so agreeable this morning.
Dean thought he would have more time to relax on the down low, right after that frankly traumatic flight experience to and from Scotland. If not for Bobby, he wouldn't even contemplate taking a plane to another freaking continent just to threaten the King of Hell. And not to mention the roads! Why they would drive on the wrong side of the road remained a mystery that would baffle him until he died.
They had touched down two days before, and the older Winchester was still having residual fear and exhaustion from the flight. It didn't help that they had a moment of anxiety when the customs officer spent a slightly longer time than usual scrutinizing the fake passports that they had gotten from Bobby's forger friend.
Dean had schooled his face to affect boredom, even though he was hyperventilating inside. He was let through, finally, and spent another minute pointedly not freaking out when it was Sam's turn.
So pardon him for wanting to take the next week off, aimlessly driving to an unknown destination, maybe grabbing a few Biggerson's burgers along the way, stopping in the middle of nowhere and having an impromptu picnic under the stars. It might sound too romantic, but hell, ain't he supposed to be bonding back with his baby brother? Sam would appreciate it, the big geek.
After retrieving the Impala from the long-term parking lot he drove over 200 miles away to this little town where they had been laying low since, and Sam seemed to be humoring him, not talking about hunts until today.
And speaking of Sam, there was something not quite right, something that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Dean found himself observing him at random. Physically, there was the same freakish height, the same peek-a-boo dimples, the same floppy hair. Mentally, it seemed that Sam still possessed the same rational logic that he kept applying to the hunts. He had the same moves that Dean and Dad had taught him years ago, plus some new ones he had acquired along the way. But he seemed to have become more ruthless, his smiles were more polished and less genuine, his interrogation techniques were more effective but lacking in tact.
And this was the person who once cringed at Dean for wanting to poke an old woman with a stick to find out if she was still alive.
"Dean, are you listening to me?" Sam waved his hand in front of him, snapping him out of his inner musings. He halfheartedly swiped the hand away from his face.
Sam made a face. It looked like all the other faces that he had made over the years but there was something lacking. It felt like he had learned to make that expression instead of doing it naturally. Which couldn't be right, since Dad had once swore that he was born with it.
"Come on, Dean, this is serious. I thought you would have wanted to save those kids?"
At the mention of kids, Dean, who had been trying to get a waitress to fill his empty cup, turned his head sharply. "Kids? What kids? You didn't mention anything about any kids earlier."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Here, why not you read this for yourself." He handed over a newspaper and Dean took it gingerly, wanting to know, but not really.
The newspaper was dated about a week ago, The article at the page facing him came with a face shot collage of five children. Dean scanned through it rapidly, his stomach tightening with apprehension and anger. The children in the picture between ages eight to ten, had gone missing on the same day, and police suspected that all five of them were abducted by the same person or group of people. The kids were last seen at home, which led to speculation that they had sneaked away out of their beds at night, intending to meet up somewhere. Their rooms were searched, their parents were questioned separately, but were so far deemed by the police as not involved. The Amber alert was set in motion.
Dean read all of that without a word, then looked up to his brother, who was waiting patiently with a not-quite smirk gracing his face.
"So what do you think, changelings again?"
Sam shrugged. "Maybe. Maybe not. Take a look at their names."
Dean returned to the article and looked through the list of names Their first names didn't rouse any suspicions, but their last names had him scratching his head. Francis Kaufmann. Serene Jameson. Sarah Himmel. David Andersen. William Meyer. All but one of them sounded more European than American. Of course, this country was such a melting pot of cultures that it might not mean anything. Dean shot a confused look at his brother.
"Are you referring to their last names? I mean, they are unusual, I'll give you that, but I don't think they're enough to raise any red flags."
"I was doing some research yesterday while you were sleeping," Sam began, ruffling through the little stack of papers in his hand, finally plucking one out from the middle of the pile, "and came across something very interesting. The last names of the children, save for Serene Jameson, can be traced back to their ancestors all the way to Germany in the 14th century. Specifically, a little town called Hamelin." He stared at Dean expectantly.
Dean waited for the punch line. He didn't get it.
"Hamelin? You know, from the legend The Pied Piper of Hamelin? In the story, the village was overrun by rats and they paid a piper to get rid of them. He used his magical flute, or pipe as they called it, to get all the rats to follow him to the river and then drowned them. But when he returned to claim his reward the villagers wouldn't pay him and chased him out. In retaliation, he used his his pipe to play a song that enchanted the town's children to follow him, and all of them disappeared."
The elder Winchester frowned. "So, you're saying that the Pied Piper is now in town to get back at the descendants whose ancestors had screwed him over?"
Sam shrugged. That gesture was oddly stiff, unnatural, and the elusive feeling of wrongness struck Dean again.
"It's possible," Sam replied, oblivious to Dean's thoughts. "It's connected to the legend of the Pied Piper anyway. The names are too similar to be a coincidence."
"I don't know Sam, what if it was something else?"
"Then we find out what it was and kill it. Same thing."
Dean leaned back on his seat, thinking it through. On one hand, he was tired to his bones, because he had been out of the hunting circle for over a year, and was still finding his rhythm. He also missed Lisa and Ben, and was considering a visit. He wanted to touch base with Bobby, swing by the junkyard to check if everything was really all right. Oh, and did he mention he was tired?
On the other hand, children were missing, possibly dead, and there might be other potential victims.
Dean sighed. It wasn't a contest at all.
They arrived in the town of Brownsville, population eight thousand and ninety-three, a day later. They would have arrived earlier, if not for Dean insisting that they should stock up on supplies before tearing into a town that was possibly cursed.
"After all, we aren't even sure if the piper's behind this kidnapping, and even if he was, we don' know how to kill it. Better safe than sorry," he said to Sam as they grabbed some rock salt, some gasoline and a 20-feet long rope.
It was dark by the time they arrived, so by rote they looked for supper and lodgings, in that order. The menu in the diner had boasted weird food such as sauerbraten and schweinbraten, which were, according to Sam, typical of Western European cuisines. Dean had stuck with burger with fries, because he wasn't in a mood to try anything more exotic. Sam followed suit. The meal was a silent affair, Dean lost in his thoughts and Sam pulling up some websites, to try to figure out whatever was behind the abductions.
There was this niggling feeling at the back of Dean's mind that kept tugging at him since they started out for the town, and it was only later, as they checked into the lone motel in town, that Dean realized what had been nagging at him.
Sam mentioned that he was researching the hunt while Dean was sleeping. Dean knew he was sleeping maybe about four hours each day since returning back from Scotland, and he knew Sam was awake when he fell asleep and was awake when he woke up in the morning, which Dean had translated to Sam having less sleep than usual. That couldn't be good.
The last time Sam had slept so poorly was the months following Jessica's death. What was keeping him awake now?
The next day, they went to the police station, disguised as FBI agents. Sam had cautioned that since the Amber alert went out there might be State Police officers around, so the plan was to get copies of those files and talk to the families as discreetly as possible. They had no luck in their research yesterday, so Sam had emailed Samuel and Bobby to get some help. Dean didn't have faith in his grandfather not to stab them in the back, but at least they had Bobby.
The acquisition of the files were easy, even by their standards. The officers in that small town were eager to help, and within an hour all the testimonies from the parents and witnesses were copied and passed over to them. Over lunch in the same diner, they perused the copies, looking for inconsistencies that might give them something to go on to.
"So you think that whatever it was is disguised as a normal human?" Dean asked as he chewed on his burger.
Sam thought about that for a moment, then shook his head. "I don't think so. This town is so small, a stranger sticks out like a sore thumb. Those officers would have remembered any stranger that was loitering around."
Dean hummed his agreement. "So, how do you want to do this? Split up for the interviews and meet up later?"
I'll take these three, the Andersens, the Kaufmanns and Mrs. Himmel. They live in the same neighbourhood. You take the Meyers and the Jamesons."
Dean nodded and finished off his coffee. He needed to cut down on the coffee; he was becoming jittery.
"All right then, I'll drop you off first. Let's go." He dropped a twenty onto the table and slid out of the booth. Sam was already in front of him striding out of the door.
"It's definitely the Piper." Sam announced as soon as Dean hit the 'Answer' button on his phone.
Dean nodded even though Sam couldn't see him. "Yup, it's definitely him. The Meyers' younger son Jacob was awake that night, said he heard beautiful music coming from outside his house, calling him out. But fortunately for him, his leg was in a cast, so he couldn't move that fast. By the time he got to his front door, he couldn't hear the music anymore."
"And so he went back to his bedroom and the next day found out that his older brother was missing?" Sam finished the story for him.
"Yahtzee. He told his parents, but they assumed it was just a vivid dream. What did you find out at your end?"
"I found out from the Mr. Kaufmann that four teenagers were arrested for trespassing and for almost starting a forest fire two days before the children went missing. So I went back to the police station and got hold of that report. All four claimed that a stranger had started the fire, not them, but I think there's more of the story that they didn't let on."
"You think that they had something to do with what's going on?" Dean wasn't exactly surprised. Teenagers did the darnest things, to paraphrase that old TV show. "So we got to find them. Do you have their addresses?"
"Yes, it's in the report. But I think I know where to find them. Pick me up, I'm at the police station."
Dean turned the Impala around, heading towards the meeting place. "Ten minutes."
Ten minutes later, Sam slid into the passenger seat. Dean glanced at him and asked, "So, you were saying that you know where they are?"
They picked all four of them from the only local high school. An hour later, they were at the same diner they had frequented for the past two days, squeezed into a booth at the back, with Sam and Dean taking one side and four of them taking the other. They were wearing identical nervous expressions.
"Talk." Sam commanded, his voice brooking no argument. Dean spared him a glance, slightly surprised but not showing it. He usually played the 'bad cop' role in this scenario.
"And don't even think of lying," the younger Winchester added, his mouth curved into an unpleasant smile.
Dean had a sudden flashback to the time when Sam-who-was-really-Lucifer wore a white suit with that same smile, and could barely contain his shiver. Thankfully, no one else seemed to notice.
The girls looked at each other, while the only male in the group swallowed convulsively, looking like a goldfish. There was some secret nudging going on under the table, and after a minute, Molly Gibbs, the shortest girl of the trio, spoke up.
"Well, we were just playing around, you know? Jules," she pointed to the gaunt-looking brunette on her left, "found a book of spells in the attic of her house, belonging to her great-grandmother. We didn't really believe that it would work. We just," her voice wavered, before she continued, "we didn't know that a man would suddenly appear in the midst of the flames."
The third girl picked up the story. "He was just suddenly there, growling and hissing, thanking us for summoning him, so he could seek his revenge at last, then in a blink, he vanished. Right in front of us!" She raised her voice at the end.
Dean decided to cut the hysteria off before it blew up. "So how did this man look like?"
All of them frowned. Molly answered hesitantly, "Very thin, maybe as tall as you?" She gestured to Dean. "Dark skin, and he spoke with a European accent, I think."
"And he held a wand in his hand."
Everyone stared at the guy who volunteered this information. Shawn Gibbs, Molly's twin brother, looked bewildered at all the attention.
"A wand you say?" Dean repeated, just to make sure he hadn't mistaken what he had just heard.
Shawn nodded. Still bewildered. "Yup, a long wooden stick, he was holding it in his hand. It has little holes in it, all in a row. Looks like -"
"A pipe? It looks more like a flute or a pipe than a wand, maybe?" Sam suggested, his tone making it sound like a finality rather than a suggestion.
The guy nodded slowly.
"Where's the book of spells now?" Dean asked Julie Scholes, She had been quiet so far, preferring to let the others do the talking. She hesitated for a second, then opened the flap of her bag. She drew out a thin volume of book, yellowed with age and cracked at the binding. She handed the book to Dean, who took it and opened to the first page.
The Book of Spells, as translated by Anna Schulz.
"Julie, your great-grandmother was German?" Dean asked, closing the book and laid it on the table, resisting the urge to hit the teenagers on the head with it.
"Most of the people here can traced their roots back to Germany or Austria," Julie answered, frowning at the question. "My grandmother's maiden name is Schulz, before she married my grandfather. I think Molly and Shawn still have relatives back in Germany."
The twins nodded, confused.
"Alright, so this book goes with us," Sam announced, and grabbed the book from the table. He stood up and Dean prepared to stand up as well, when something struck him. He turned to the teenagers. "Is there a waterfall somewhere in this area?"
"A waterfall? Uh, there's a river in the north of the woods, and it flows across some rocks and drops into a small pond, but you can hardly call that a waterfall. Why are you -"
Dean interrupted Molly's question. "Right, okay. Thanks. Stay out of any more trouble."
And with that he jogged a little to catch up with Sam, who looked at him, askance.
"So you remember when you forced me to read several versions of the Pied Piper fairytale last night? In one version, when all those kids followed him, he led them to a waterfall and they walked behind it and didn't emerge? The children might still be alive, and that the Piper had hid them?"
Sam's brows furrowed. "But I'm sure the police had already searched the area."
Dean shrugged. "Magic, maybe? Something to make them invisible, or to tie them to the place so they couldn't escape? If we kill him, the enchantment may be lifted."
"All right, so all we got to do is to figure out how to kill him."
"So have you figured out how to kill him yet?" Dean asked, four hours later, as he rummaged through his backpack to find a relatively clean shirt. He made a mental note to visit a Laundromat after this hunt was over.
"Not yet. All I can deduce from the scribblings in this book is that the piper's some sort of pagan god."
Dean groaned and sat down on his bed. "No, no more gods please. I have enough of gods, Pagan or otherwise. Give me vampires, ghouls, spirits, the clever dinosaurs from the Jurassic Park flicks, anything, but a god."
They had gone to the river and had followed it's flow downstream, to reach the curtain of falling water that could technically pass as a waterfall. An hour of poking around had yielded nothing, although they could sense a heavy feeling in the air, further reinforcing Dean's theory that the children are somewhere there, hidden from the naked eye by magic.
They were now back at their room, preparing to face the Piper when they summoned him later that night.
Sam ignored him and carried on. "There's nothing to indicate how we could kill him, but I spoke to Samuel just now -"
"Samuel, yes, good source there," Dean murmured, still unwilling to give their grandfather his full trust.
"- and he thinks that the pipe is the source of his power. If we managed to break it, then he might might be banished back to wherever he belong."
Dean huffed out a snort. "So all we got to do is to get the pipe away from the Piper, who is, incidentally, a god. That's simple."
Okay, type of monster found, check. A way to kill the monster, or at least banish it, check. Location of the victims, check. He stood up and began to pace.
"All right, so we know who our enemy is, we know how to kill him, normally that's enough for me, but why? Why is he here? If that legend or fairytale, is real, why wait till the 21st century to take revenge?"
Sam looked unconcerned over his inquiry. "Maybe he wasn't summoned before? Why are you over-complicating things? He's a Pagan god, he kidnapped the kids, he's bad. We summoned him, we get the pipe away from him. End of story."
Dean stared at his brother. Never in a million years would Sam be accusing him of over-thinking.
The lead in his stomach grew.
It was rather anti-climatic in the end. Using the book they confiscated from Julie Scholes, they re-created the ritual, close to where the initial summoning had taken place. The Piper appeared, and fell for the old look-over-there-what-is-that method of distraction - which only proved that gods were as gullible as any of them - and Sam snatched the pipe away from him. Dean looked over as his younger brother broke the pipe, and there was such a vicious look of satisfaction on his face that Dean almost felt sorry for the Piper.
Almost, because the god was a kidnapper after all. And had almost strangled Dean during the struggle.
Said god screamed as the pipe broke into a thousand pieces, and there was a bright light which caused Dean to turn away to shield his eyes, and when he looked back after the light had faded, there was nothing there.
Dean blinked repeatedly, trying to get rid of the circles of light spotting his vision. He could sense Sam beside him stumbling around, possibly trying to do the same.
"That was rather simple," Dean rasped, rubbing his eyes, and his abused neck.
"Aren't you glad we're not fighting those smart dinosaurs then? We'd have a much harder time than this, I bet," Sam replied.
Dean snickered, the image of them battling those extinct creatures playing out in his mind while he took a brief respite.
After a minute, when his sight was mostly restored to normal and his throat didn't felt like it was on fire, Dean wasted no time in picking up the shotgun that they had hidden behind a nearby tree - just in case - and striding towards the woods.
"Wait, where are you going?" Sam asked.
"We're going to get the kids, what else, Sam? Hurry up, before anything else happens!" Dean called out without turning around.
And then very nearly tripped when something - or more accurately, someone - tugged the collar of his shirt from behind.
"The Piper's banished, so the spell's broken. The kids can find their way home," Sam said.
What?" Now it was Dean's turn to look at his brother in disbelief. "We're here to save the children, Sam. They're probably lost in the woods somewhere, or huddled down in the hiding place not knowing they could escape."
"Oh." There was a pause. "Right. Didn't think about that. Let's go then." And he passed Dean, leading the way. Dean could only stare at Sam's back before shaking himself, and continuing on.
They returned to the 'waterfall' and almost immediately they could see an opening, a cave of some sort, right behind the sheet of water. It was too small for either of them to crawl through, so they had resorted to yelling out for the children.
Or at least, Sam had done the yelling. Dean's throat was still sore, because that damn Piper had a really strong grip. But it was forgotten when, after five minutes, a small face popped out from the opening. Dean had recognized Sarah Himmel from the pictures, and as non-threatening as possible, gestured for her to come out.
She had squirreled back into the cave, and there was a near moment of panic from Dean, but a few moments later she returned, and when she crawled out of the cave, four other small bodies had followed right behind her. Dean was so relieved, he might have let out a whoop of joy. A quick glance and a short Q-and-A session determined that apart from exhaustion and fear, they were none the worse for wear. According to Sarah, the oldest of the bunch, it felt like they were missing for hours, not days.
They had carried the smaller children out of the woods and back into their car, where they had driven them straight to their homes. Sam had suggested to drop them off at the police station, but Dean vetoed the idea, saying that the police could have just detained them, and wouldn't he want to just go home after going through an ordeal like this?
Sam had also wanted to coach the kids on what to say when they were questioned, but Dean took one look at them and shook his head. It would be of no use, because they were so tired he was sure the instructions wouldn't stick. They would just have to get out of dodge right after they sent the children home, leaving the town as fast as they could without attracting more attention.
Business as usual, basically.
It took them until almost dawn to send the last child, Sarah Himmel, home, acceding to her request to send the younger ones first. Dean stopped the Impala across the street from her house, and smiled at her as she opened the door to let herself out. After this, they would go back to the motel and grabbed their things, and leave the town in their rear view mirror. And Dean planned not to take a job for the next two days at least, Sam's pleading be damned. He watched as Sarah stood by, ready to cross the street.
Before she did, however, she turned, nodded and waved at the brothers. Dean returned the gesture, and he could feel Sam doing the same.
"Brave kid," Sam commented. Dean concurred.
"Now it's our turn to go home, or at least, back to the motel so that we can get out of here," Sam continued.
"We're already home, Sam," Dean replied, smiling softly. patting the steering wheel fondly while stepping on the accelerator, gaining speed.
Sam shook his head, his face a study in exasperation. "You're too attached. It's a car, Dean. Nothing else."
Dean's smile dimmed, and his uneasiness grew into a heavy ball of lead in his stomach.
There really was something wrong with Sam. And Dean resolved to find out exactly what it was.
Prompt: Story of any genre set during the time when Sam is soulless and hunting with Dean. I've thrown in a little dinosaur joke there, requested by the prompter Missyjack. :)
Thanks for taking the time to read!