AN: As of this writing, the actual whereabouts and dead-ish-ness of Chuck are unestablished. That may change before I'm done. I don't particularly care, as death on Supernatural is like chlamydia: it's undesirable, even painful, but no one really expects it to be permanent. Warnings include: really shitty parenting, violence, profanity, substance abuse, and food spoilage.

Given the specific nature of this piece, the chapter lengths will be highly irregular, but I'm going to combine where possible just to make it a little less ridiculous.

Thank you to those who read and review – I have a rare disease called Human Emotion Ingestion Syndrome which causes me to be powerfully reinforced by attention from strangers. (If you think you too suffer from HEIS, I'd like to invite you to join my support group. It's called the internet and it meets all the fucking time.)


PRELUDE:

I don't know who will read this. I don't know if anyone will read this. The first thing you need to understand is that I didn't know I was a prophet at first. I just thought I was a shitty writer who managed to generate stories with migraines instead of weed or absinthe or lattes or whatever the actual literati use these days.

The second thing you need to understand is that life does not make a particularly good book. Life has lots of irrelevant details, lots of boring bits, lots of blind alleys and false starts, the sorts of things that leave readers accusing you of putting in red herrings. In stories, A causes B causes C. In real life, A happens first and then B happens, but there was all this other stuff in between that could have stopped it and C probably would have happened regardless. In books, the villains never get too likable and the heroes are never too weak. In books, each unit of plot is just long enough to be satisfying. In books, it all makes sense.

I tried to make life into a book, so I left things out. I changed details here and there to make the visions into stories.

Now I'm starting to think that was wrong. I don't know where I am and I don't know how long I have, but I'm thinking it's about time I write everything down.

Everything.


CHAPTER 1: Why Sam is Afraid of Clowns, Why Dean is Afraid of Flying, and A Few Other Things

Why the Winchesters Left Kentucky

When Dean is six years old, the Winchester family moves into a ratty, laminate efficiency in Taylorsville, Kentucky, right off Route 44. It's one room with one bed – they all share, except sometimes Sammy sleeps on a couple of pillows laid out in the bathroom because he gets a lot of ear infections and he wakes at every little sound.

Life is pretty good in Kentucky. The waitress at the diner across the street has a soft spot for a single dad, so she gives Dean and Sammy extra pancakes and she "forgets" to add John's coffee to the check. The weather is mild and there's a thrift store not half a mile away that has a good stock of toys and housewares, not just clothes. John Winchester buys a toaster oven and promises himself that the boys will have something hot for dinner at least a couple of times per week, even if it's just Texas toast and tomato soup.

Dean knows his dad is a hunter and he's already helping, learning the trade. He's learned to take care of a gun, to clean it, reload it, and fire at soda cans. If you had asked Dean to explain the methods, the technology of a hunter, he would have said – in simpler words of course – that the goal seemed to be that you take something good and pure and weaponize it.

John signs Dean up for first grade. Dean doesn't much like school. First of all, it seems pointless. More to the point, though, Sammy isn't there, and Dean just isn't comfortable being away from Sammy for too long. How can he protect Sammy when he's at school and Sammy's at home?

At school, they are learning about inventions. The teacher sends the students to their desks with instructions to draw their own idea for an invention. After a short delay, she calls them up one at a time, to share with the class. There is a predictable string of room-cleaning robots and flying cars before it's Dean's turn.

The teacher has had her eye on Dean. He keeps to himself, he's serious and dismissive. His hair is often dirty and he sometimes arrives without a lunch.

Dean holds up his picture. He's used very little color – mostly blacks and browns. "It's a dove cannon," says Dean. "And that's my Dad. He's using it to shoot doves at monsters." Dean points to grey blob in the corner and adds helpfully, "That's a ghoul. You can tell because he's feasting on human flesh."

Dean soon finds himself in the school psychologist's office.

A social worker decides to pay the family a visit.

And that is why the Winchester family left Taylorsville, Kentucky.


Interlude I

"Motherfucker," said Castiel, without inflection and apropos of nothing. "Cunt."

Dean slammed on the brakes and swerved to the right. "Wha-?!"

"I had hoped," said Cas calmly, "that if I gave voice to some of your cruder profanities, it would lessen your self-consciousness about my status as an angel."

"Yeah, well, you were pretty freaking far off the mark there, pal."


Why Sam is Afraid of Clowns

This story starts when Sammy is six.

John spends the day with a book of mythology he swiped from a university library and a bottle of Jack Daniels. When he gets up to use the can or to grab something to eat, he steps around the drawings Sammy has left scattered around the floor.

The boys will get home from school soon.

The phone rings. John is startled and he knocks over his drink. Maybe he's a little uncoordinated because maybe he's a little tipsy. It's just Caleb looking for an update – John tells him that he still doesn't know what the damn thing was, but rock salt and holy water killed it.

John settles back on the motel bed and falls asleep. He's awakened twenty minutes later by Sammy's indignant yelp.

"It was a present for Dean for his birthday!" cries Sammy, looking at his ruined drawings. "I was gonna give him roads for his cars!"

John shifts on the bed, so the duvet blocks the noise from assaulting at least one ear. Dean's birthday. Damnit. If John Winchester is honest with himself, he would admit that he forgot Dean's birthday, but searing self-reflection is not John's virtue and so he instead thinks that birthdays are frivolous. He doesn't forget, he just knows better than to waste his time on that crap.

Except John hadn't even looked at Sammy's drawings until that moment. Each page is a piece of road, surrounded by grass and trees and buildings – a play mat for Dean's toy cars, even though Dean thinks of them as models, not toys, and hardly ever "plays", per se. The whole scene makes a feeling uncomfortably like guilt rise in John's throat.

So they celebrate Dean's birthday. They go to the diner across town, the one with the best pie and Dean makes himself sick gorging on three pieces in a row. When they get back to the motel, John lets Dean pick a movie on the Pay-per-View, or rather, John lets him order a movie, because there's really only one remotely viable choice: a comedy called Problem Child 2 which details the hilarious misbehaviors of a recently-adopted, emotionally disturbed orphan. (The other options are some godawful chick-flick and a low-budget production called Backdoor Girls 2: Anal Adventures).

Dean's laughing, watching the movie, and there's still a little bit of cherry goo on the side of his face. It occurs to John that Dean tells a lot of jokes, but he doesn't laugh very much.

Sammy is half-asleep through much of the film, but at least he's awake for the funniest part when the little boy walks into his bedroom which is now covered in clown memorabilia and screams, "Clowns? I hate clowns!" Sammy laughs.

It's a week later when John goes hunting again. He brings Dean along and he leaves Sammy with Pastor Jim.

Pastor Jim knows that John Winchester is not a religious man and he respects that. He doesn't try to convert Sammy and Dean, but he does include the boys in whatever is going on at the church, because it seems kinder than excluding them.

There's a church picnic on Saturday. With a clown.

This is before any of them know about Azazel and before any of them know about the demons he will plant in Sammy's life. All Sammy knows is that being cool means being like Dean and being like Dean means saying the lines from movies whenever you can. So when he sees the clown, Sammy blurts out, "Clowns? I hate clowns!"

Sammy must have startled the demon, who expected no resistance. Just for an instant, Sammy sees the clown change. It has a horrible face that is not a face and a horrible mouth that is nothing like a mouth should be. It flickers and writhes and emanates a field of rage and terror.

The clown is now offering to make balloon animals for the children. Sammy gapes. It's a normal clown again, but Sammy knows what he saw.

And that is why Sammy is afraid of clowns.


Interlude II

Dean waved a hand dismissively. "Don't worry, Cas, we're not counting on you for trash talk backup."

"I'm familiar with trash talk," said Castiel.

"Really?" Dean sounded amused and tolerant, the tone a parent would use when talking to an overly ambitious child.

"I have observed it for millennia. It's essentially a verbal form of the physical posturing observed in male pack animals."

"Okay," said Dean, in a tone that communicated less skepticism and more flat-out disbelief. "Lay it on me. How about a 'your mom' joke?"

Castiel turned his head to the left for a moment before staring directly at Dean. "It would be unkind to cast aspersions on your mother, as she is deceased and meant a great deal to you, but nonetheless, I have on good authority that she was an unusually poor driver."

Dean sighed. "We've got to show you some Don Rickles."


Why Dean is Afraid of Flying

He just is. There isn't a reason. Sorry.


How the Whole Mess Got Started

John Winchester set Sammy down in the portable crib their neighbors had been kind enough to scrounge up for him. John didn't want their pity or their charity, but most everything they owned had been destroyed by the fire, and he couldn't exactly lay a six-month-old baby down to sleep on the dingy motel bed.

John looked across the room at Dean, who was sitting on the floor – not doing anything, just sitting and staring at nothing. Four was a terrible age to lose a parent, because Dean, unlike Sammy, was old enough to feel the loss, to remember the smell and feel of the fire. But four was young enough that Dean didn't really understand death yet, didn't understand that it was permanent and irreversible. Dean suspected on some level that his mother and his things were all being hidden from him as part of some horrible punishment or prank.

"It's time for bed, Dean," said John. It was technically a little early, but it wasn't like the kid was actually making good use of his time awake, and John felt exhausted. The fire, the wake, the funeral, the burial. And it wasn't just losing Mary, it was the impossible things he had seen: a fire billowing above him, the blood dripping down, his wife pinned to the ceiling.

John couldn't sleep and he didn't particularly want to, but that didn't mean he was all that overjoyed about being awake.

"It's time for bed," he repeated.

"I want my Snoopy," said Dean, not bothering to look up.

John sighed. They'd had this argument last night, too. "It'll be a while before we can get you a new Snoopy doll. You'll just have be a tough guy tonight, okay?"

"Don't want a new Snoopy. I want my Snoopy."

"Well, that's not going to happen." John reached down and grabbed Dean's arm, pulling the boy to his feet. "Come on, it's bed time."

"I want Mommy to put me to bed," said Dean, with the oblivious stubbornness that only a preschooler can muster. He stamped his feet. Dean was tired, too.

"Well, that's really not going to happen," hissed John. He went to help Dean out of his sweatshirt, but Dean jerked away.

"No!" shouted Dean. "I want Mommy to do it!"

John glanced back and, sure enough, the shout had woken Sammy. The baby's lips were curling outward in preparation for a wail. Sammy shrieked.

"Dean," said John, in his most threatening voice, "you get in that bed right now."

Dean was normally very well-behaved, but he was four years old and he wasn't at his house and he was eating strange food and his Mommy still wasn't back from being dead and nobody would give him back his toys or his house and Sammy was crying and he felt like wrinkling his nose at burning things every time he shut his eyes.

Dean flopped down on the floor and kicked at the bedframe, pounding his fists on whatever was nearby. "I want Mommy!" he howled. "I want my Mommy back!"

John looked back at Sammy, trying to decide which of his screaming sons to deal with first. Sammy's tiny hands were curled into fists and it seemed unfair to John that his baby could be bothered by such mundane things as noise and hunger when Mary had just died, especially the whole fire was Sammy's fault in the first- Wait, that was ridiculous. Why was he thinking that?

Dean was still yelling, Sammy was still crying.

John had an urge, so strong he could almost see it, to smack both boys across the face as hard as he could. He put Sammy down in the crib and said, "Go to bed, Dean," in a flat and quiet voice. He had no particular expectation that he would be obeyed. He grabbed his jacket and he left the room, calm on the outside, raging on the inside.

He was about to settle to the curb outside when he saw a man a few yards away, leaning on a truck and smoking a cigarette. The man raised his brow in a way that looked more sympathetic than pitying. "You look like you've got a lot on your mind."

John snorted. "I'm trying to figure out if I can drive to the liquor store and back before I officially count as a bad father."

The man chuckled.

"You were at the funeral," said John in a sudden burst of recognition. There had been about a dozen strange people there, seemingly unrelated to one another, but who all seemed to know Mary, or know of her at least. Some of them had tried to talk to John. A black man had offered to set up a "drop point" so to pass on any information he encountered about the phenomenon. John had stammered a non-committal response and shuffled away in search of the bottle of gin one of the boys at the garage had given him.

"I was," acknowledged the man, nodding. "And I'm sorry if any of the others approached you back there. I've told Rufus time and again there's a time and a place for these things." The man shook his head. "How's about this? I've got an unopened bottle of scotch in the truck. We can toast your wife's memory and you can keep an ear out for your boys?"

John breathed in sharply. "I think…I think I would like that." As the man dug a tin cup out of a box in the passenger seat, John added, "I don't think I got your name."

"It's Bobby. Bobby Singer."