Summary: Hours before the Pilot – Mary, John, Baby Sammy, Kid Dean – One way or another, everything was going to change tonight. And no one even knew it yet – except her...and the demon.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: Maybe vague spoilers for events in the Pilot, plus usual language.
A/N: This story has been in the works for a loooong time, but it seemed appropriate to wait until today (November 2nd) to begin posting it. Thus far it has three chapters already done. We'll see where it goes from there...
Wait until that deal come 'round. Don't you let that deal go down. ~ Grateful Dead
Her first clue on that Wednesday afternoon in November was the unmistakable stench of rotten eggs.
But having happily – gratefully – been out of the hunter's life for several years now, Mary Campbell Winchester simply wrinkled her nose against the odor and suspiciously eyed the Styrofoam egg cartons stacked in the refrigerated crates.
"Something smells a little off, huh?" she commented to her six-month old baby.
Mary smiled when Sam babbled, seemingly in agreement, and then lifted his chubby arms up to her from where he sat in the seat of the grocery cart; his dimpled smile matching his father's.
Knowing what her baby wanted, Mary shook her head; her blond hair pulled back on either side of her face and fastened with a tortoiseshell clip; the long, loose strands skimming her shoulders and brushing against the collar of her light brown coat.
"Mommy can't hold you right now, Sammy," Mary told her baby, reaching into the cart for something to distract her six-month old; still annoyed with herself for leaving his favorite toy – a floppy stuffed moose – back at the house.
Sam turned where he sat, curiously watching as his mother's hand hovered over several items in the crowded cart and finally grasped the only thing that made noise and was baby-friendly – the container of salt meant to refill the shakers at home.
"Here..." Mary said, offering the small round container to Sam and waiting for him to take it; briefly remembering a time when salt meant more to her than just being a condiment; when it meant safety and protection; when a line of those tiny white particles literally separated life and death.
But those days – those hunting days – were over.
She hadn't salted anything except food in years.
Mary sighed, inwardly shaking herself – because salt was just salt to a normal wife and mother like herself – and smiled encouragingly at her six-month old.
"Take it, Sammy," she told him, still holding the salt container within the baby's reach.
Sam did so hesitantly, accepting the salt refill with both hands; his fat little fingers wrapping around the cardboard packaging even as his forehead remained wrinkled in confusion.
"It's okay," Mary assured, smiling as Sam frowned at the little girl in the yellow dress holding an umbrella on the container in his hands. "Just play with it for a minute," she further encouraged, readjusting her purse strap across her shoulder. "Mommy's almost done, and then we'll go home and see what Daddy and Dean are up to, okay?"
Sam smiled at the mention of his brother's name and flailed his arms excitedly, pausing when he realized there was noise coming from the salt container he held.
Sam turned wide eyes to Mary as if to make sure his mother had heard.
Mary smiled. "I knooow," she agreed, drawing out the word theatrically; her blue eyes wide as she nodded at her baby. "Pretty cool, huh?"
Sam squealed his delighted agreement and shook the container again.
Mary laughed and affectionately squeezed her baby's sock-clad foot before checking her watch; frowning when she realized it had apparently stopped; its second hand no longer ticking.
"Huh..." Mary mused, slightly irritated – having just recently replaced the watch's battery – and hoped she hadn't been in the store longer than she had intended; knowing she needed to get home and cook dinner before both her kids and her husband got cranky.
Mary smiled to herself at the thought – knowing John would probably already be cranky enough from trying to work on his car while keeping an eye on Dean as well.
"Bet Daddy will be happy to see us," she told her six-month old and then turned back to inspect the eggs even as the rotten smell – sulfur, her instincts reminded her – persisted...maybe even intensified.
Mary wrinkled her nose again and glanced at the list in her hand; trying to remember how many eggs were still in the carton at home in the fridge and thinking maybe she would skip getting another carton this week.
Beside her in the cart, Sam happily babbled to himself; repeating the same sounds over and over in his own unintelligible language while continuing to shake the salt container like a maraca.
Mary smiled warmly at the sounds of her sweet baby and then glanced up at the ceiling as the grocery store's lights briefly flickered.
"Hi there, buddy," a man suddenly called from beside her – from right beside her – and Mary startled; wondering how she could not have noticed a stranger getting so close to her – and to her baby – so quickly; briefly remembering a time when no one would have been able to sneak up on her no matter how fast they had moved.
When you get comfortable, you get sloppy her dad used to tell her when talking about hunting skills...and it seemed he was right.
Not that it mattered.
Because Mary was no longer a hunter.
She was a wife and a mother and a very satisfied inhabitant of normal.
But it still bothered her that this man had approached her without her noticing, and she could picture her father's disapproving scowl even now, almost ten years after his death.
...and your deal, Mary's conscience reminded, never missing an opportunity to haunt her with the memory of what she had sealed with a kiss that night back in '73.
Mary blinked – scattering the image of those yellow eyes that had glowed at her from her father's face ten years ago – and shifted where she stood; uncomfortable with the man's continued proximity and with the way he was looking at her baby.
"Cute kid," he remarked and smiled; his expression overly friendly, overly familiar.
"Thanks," Mary returned, the word courteous but her tone hesitant and wary; increasingly uneasy with the way the stranger continued to stare at her...and at Sam. "Do I know you?"
The man shrugged. "Maybe. I never forget a face."
Mary swallowed, feeling even more anxious – even more suspicious – at the intentionally vague answer and then glanced at her six-month old as Sam suddenly started to cry in that high-pitched wail he always did when he was scared.
"Awww..." the man drawled and frowned at Sam; reaching toward him as though to comfort the screaming child. "What's wrong, buddy?"
Sam's cry only intensified as the man stepped forward, and Mary moved on instinct, placing herself between the stranger and her baby with speed she had forgotten she possessed.
"He's fine," Mary assured, her smile polite but her tone warning as she held the stranger's gaze; daring him to touch her child.
The man withdrew his arm – no longer reaching toward Sam – and stared at Mary; a strange, almost amused expression on his face...as though he had been testing her in some way and now wasn't sure how to rate her reaction.
Mary tilted her head; suddenly feeling as though she should know the man standing mere inches away – because he certainly seemed to know her.
Behind her, Sam continued to wail; throwing the salt refill to the floor in his distress – the seal of the cardboard container breaking open on impact – and frantically reaching for his mother.
Mary felt Sam's little fingers grabbing at the back of her coat, and she turned; stuffing her grocery list back in her purse and kicking the open container of salt as she spun around, scattering its contents across the tiled floor.
The man arched an eyebrow at the white crystallized particles unintentionally flung in his direction and took a cautious step back.
"Shhh..." Mary soothed her distraught baby; lifting Sam into her arms and rubbing his shuddering back through his denim blue coat.
Sam's face scrunched as he continued to cry; tears rolling down his chubby, flushed cheeks.
Mary sighed, feeling her heart twist; hating it when Sam was this upset and had worked himself into being almost inconsolable.
"It's okay," she quietly assured her six-month old; her hand continuing to lightly pat Sam's small back as she gently bounced him in her arms. "It's okay..."
"You're good with him," the man commented approvingly and smiled when Mary turned to face him again.
Mary said nothing but held her baby tighter as she felt Sam bury his face into her shoulder; his tears dampening the collar of her coat along with the collar of her white shirt underneath.
"How old is he?" the man asked conversationally, continuing to stare at Sam as the baby clung to his mother; his small hands fisting the light brown fabric of her coat.
Mary didn't answer; instead narrowing her eyes at the realization that the stranger was no longer standing so close; that he had moved back; that he was now several steps away from her...and from the line of salt between them.
Mary felt her heart begin to beat faster; years of being a hunter – of intentionally laying salt lines – instantly rushing back to her, reminding her of which supernatural being didn't like salt – demons – and what they smelled like.
Mary glanced at the stacks of egg cartons in the refrigerated case to her right and then back at the stranger; remembering that sulfur was often described as smelling like rotten eggs...and that sulfur was one of the hallmark signs of demons.
Along with stopped watches and flickering lights – like had happened seconds before the man's approach...
Mary swallowed, quietly shushing Sam as he seemed to become more agitated; the baby undoubtedly reacting to the slight tremble of her hands and to the feel of her heart hammering beneath him as she held her six-month old protectively against her chest and remembered the conditions of her deal.
In ten years, I need to swing by your house for a little something, the yellow-eyed demon had casually told her that night in '73 while possessing her father's corpse...and she had thought about the meaning, the implication of those words every day since.
She would lie awake at night – beside the man she had loved enough to make a proverbial deal with the devil – and would wonder how the demon would find her so many years later and what he would come back to claim.
Mary had especially lived every moment of this year – 1983 – looking over her shoulder.
And now it seemed she had finally come face-to-face with what she had been looking for – or rather...what had been looking for her.
Mary swallowed again, feeling the familiar mix of paranoia and fear creep over her; that emotional cocktail with an extra shot of adrenaline that always accompanied a hunt.
"Christo," she whispered as she stared at the stranger standing across from her and waited for a reaction.
But there was nothing.
The man's eyes did not flash black...or any other color.
But he did smile at Mary amusedly – knowingly – like he was aware of what she was doing, of what she had expected to happen.
"Say what?" he asked her, keeping up the pretense.
Mary shook her head and rubbed her baby's back as Sam took a hiccupping breath against her shoulder. "Crisco," she recovered smoothly, having always been a good liar. "I just remembered I forgot the Crisco."
The man chuckled, watching as Mary held her child and walked parallel to the line of salt on the floor; wondering if the young mother knew the white particles really had no effect on him; that he was above such a simple ward; that he had only stepped away from the salt to further give Mary a clue as to who he was, to see if she remembered.
And judging from her reactions, she did...which was good – because he always enjoyed a worthy opponent in his game of Finders, Keepers.
The stranger smiled. "Going somewhere?" he asked her.
"Just going to grab the Crisco before I forget again," Mary reported casually, even as she was already scanning the neighboring aisles for a quick escape from the grocery store. "Watch my cart?"
The man nodded, even though his expression told her that he knew she wasn't coming back. "Sure," he agreed.
Mary's gaze lingered on him; visually cataloging his hair color, eye color, height, clothing, and the features of his face; determined to remember every single detail in case she saw him again...because she somehow knew she would.
Sam shifted in her arms, having calmed from how initially upset he was but still whimpering and restless as he squirmed against her chest.
"It's okay," Mary soothed her baby. "Mommy's got you," she assured him, still lightly patting the six-month old's back as she warningly glared at the stranger and then disappeared down the bread aisle.
The man remained where he was, kicking the salt line with the toe of his boot as he watched her walk away.
"See you 'round, Mary," he promised under his breath. "And your little Sammy, too," he added, chuckling at his cleverness and at the thought of his plan for later that night.