(it's been a while. the words went away. now they came back. this is a sequel to nicnivin, raido and a midsummer night's dream. will probably not make a lot of sense without them. as always, i don't own anything but my turns of phrase, and no insult was intended.)

The Lost Boys

"if wolf would repay my kindness it could be pork on friday fish on the sabbath"

"So," Sam says, "how long is 'a few days',Dad?"

He can't help the pointed emphasis on Dad, falling into old patterns oh so very quickly, but John doesn't rise to the bait. It bugs him, that maybe in these years his Dad has changed more than he has.

"Six...maybe seven. Months."

And maybe he hasn't.

A man walks into a bar.

Correction, a man walks into her bar.

Young, pretty, leather jacket, worn jeans and scuffed boots, he looks like someone trying to look lost. Those eyes are too sharp, though, too green. Too aware of the reflexively stiffening backs around him. Too...amused? He's not lost.

He's not quite anything she's ever seen. But he passed straight over salt lines and Devil's Traps, and now he's drinking bourbon laced with holy water without even the slightest twitch. He wants something here. And she wants to know what.

Her fingers slide absently over the comforting chill of the shotgun stashed under the counter. It's the only good luck charm she'll ever need.

"Can I bring my dog inside? He just hates waiting in the car."

He smiles like an accident, like angles within angles, mirror glass and sharp turns.

She stares him down for a moment, to see if that smile slips. It doesn't. "Same rules for dogs and men. Any mess and you're out on your ass."

"He's very well behaved. Ma'am."

"That so?" she says, keeping her voice and gaze level. "Well, he's not the one I'm worried about."

Jessica says talk to me, Sam! and you can't just take off like this and this isn't like you, Sam! and Sam is shoving clothes into a duffle bag and hasn't he done this before? Déja vu, all over again.

He says "I have to find my brother, Jess."

She is reasonable, always, and that is one of the things that makes him love her. She asks, very reasonably, what the police have found (and that is what apple pie people do, he knows, if someone goes missing they report it to the police, but his gut reaction is still that the police is something to hide from) and this, he'll always remember, is the first time he lies to her outright, not just by omission. He looks her in the eye and tells her "They haven't got anything."

And then she asks what he could possibly hope to find when the police came up empty. As if having a badge makes them infallible. As if you should just sit down on your ass and wait for rescue.

Suddenly he is as angry as he used to get when Dean asked why he bothered with his homework. "Well, they didn't exactly spend a lot of time looking, Jess! My brother's a drifter, okay?" I'm sorry, Dean. I'm sorry. "He's got no home address. He just points his car in whatever direction and drives until he runs out of money. They're not going to spend much resources on that."

She is golden and beautiful, everything he's ever wanted, and he's going to make her cry.

"Sam, I-"

"I have to find Dean."

The dog is huge.

Like a cross between a wolfhound and a rottweiler, with a dash of dobermann sleekness. Albino. It isn't wearing a leash, and it doesn't have a collar to attach one to. It briefly eyes her bar and its occupants with bored disdain, and then dismisses them to focus entirely on its master.

"Well behaved, you said," she reminds him.

"Don't worry. He always behaves exactly the way I want."

Which isn't actually the same thing at all.

John has a truck now. It's big and black, and distinctly not the Impala. Sam doesn't know why he's surprised – of course the Impala would be with Dean. But stepping up into the passenger seat is jarring, and even though it's comfortable, he isn't. He looks straight ahead, quiet as they pull out of the parking lot, quiet as the miles start stretching like a rubber band in either direction, with them in the middle and far away from everything no matter how you look at it. He suddenly realizes he has no idea where they're going.

"Why'd you let him hunt by himself, anyway?" The question has been bugging him. It doesn't rhyme with the Dad, Sir! he remembers, ordering his little unit around.

John looks at him then, raises an eyebrow. "Sam. He's twenty six years old." He sighs. "And there were things I didn't want him involved in. The demon- I thought he'd be safer on his own for a while."

And don't those words sound painfully familiar? I'm doing this for you, Dean! Dean didn't buy that shit back then, the fact that Sam's here, now, with John, says that Dean's sure as hell not buying it now; and if there's bitterness in his voice it's equally aimed at John and himself. "Yeah. Look how well that turned out."

He's taken his glass of bourbon and installed himself at the table in the far corner, dog at his feet, scanning through a pile of newspapers. Like a proper hunter. It looks ingrained, the way he taps the pen and skips page two (there's never anything there).

It doesn't make her relax, not precisely. She just lets her focus broaden a bit – this is a hunter bar, and every hunter worth their rock salt knows not to stare themselves blind at an obvious threat.

And she's got other things to worry about, too. Like the too-thin kid with the manic gleam in his eyes that's hanging on every word that comes out of Gordon Walker's mouth. She doesn't care for fanatics of any persuasion, and Gordon doesn't need another disciple. She's never seen him in action, but Bill had, and he thought Gordon's teaching methods left something to be desired. Trial by fire. He's brought several aspiring hunters here over the years – most, she's seen once, and then never again.

She doesn't think it's likely they all suddenly had a change of heart and went back to their old lives.

Most hunters get into the game because something happened to them. Sure, there are hunter families, like her own, or the Campbells, who do what they do out of family pride and a sense of duty, but most people, they hunt because they want revenge.

Revenge doesn't leave a whole lot of room for clear thinking. Doesn't leave much of anything, really, except 'the end justifies the means'. She's a very practical woman, but she's never been a believer of that expression. Gordon is, though, and he's not above aiming someone's hate where he thinks it should go. Looks like he's doing a bang-up job with the kid.

The stranger is watching them as intently as she is, brows furrowed and an undecipherable twist to his mouth. When they start making motions to leave, he unhurriedly downs the rest of his drink, collects his things, and saunters towards the door with the dog at his heels. He smiles at her again as he passes, then holds the door open with exaggerated courtesy for Gordon and the kid to shoulder past before he rolls his eyes and follows them into the settling dusk.

It shouldn't be strangely reassuring. She tries to fight the feeling, but it's stubborn and smirking, just like its instigator. Relax. I've got this.

*** to be continued.