A/N: So here is chapter two. I know it's a day late, but hopefully it's not a dollar short. Enjoy!
Things Not Seen
Dean's heard the term "blind panic" before, but he didn't realize it would refer to stumbling around a dim motel room on Christmas with salt in your eyes.
In the eloquent words of Bobby Singer, balls.
Still. Some nights you have to take good news where you can find it. The wind, for example, has stopped. And the snow outside is falling down, not up. If not for the snow accumulated on the undersides of branches, you'd never know the laws of gravity had, for a little while, been merely a suggestion.
Dean is almost to the door when he veers mid-step, as if drawn, to check the window. He tugs the curtains open to reveal the wide, dark, yawning expanse of glass. Cold comes off it in waves. The images of outside – quiet parking lot, snow-covered cars, trees without leaves – are distorted as though they are reflected in water.
The window glass itself is fraught with reflections. The red light blinking on the space heater, signaling an impending safety shut-off to avoid overheating. The green of the digital clock reading Oh-Christmas-Thirty. The dingy crack of light at the bathroom door.
And of course there's Dean, reflected along one side, standing tall, trying not to look terrified. Even in his reflection he can practically see his own pounding heart.
Reflected next to him is Sam.
"Sam!" Dean whirls, but he is still alone inside the room. He glances back to look at his brother in the window. The child is no longer spinning with his arms out, catching upside-down snowflakes on the underside of his tongue. He is standing still, arms clutched across his stomach. His eyes are huge. His cheeks are wet.
He's staring right at Dean.
The older boy's mind narrows into focus. Check the closet. Check the bathroom. Check under the beds. Reflections have to be cast. Sam can't have disappeared, if his reflection is still in the window. Sam must still be in the room.
Dean rubs his eyes and checks the pile of blankets, although after nine years he knows the difference between an empty pile of blankets and one that's hiding his burrowing brother. He checks behind the TV cabinet. Behind the sink. Behind the filthy towels slung over the coat bar. Urgency makes his movements clumsy. He leaves a messy trail behind him, blankets in a snarl, TV overturned, towels strewn on the floor.
He finds Sam almost completely concealed beneath the nightstand, curled up small and wedged into a space meant for an overnight bag, not a whole entire kid. Emotions slam through Dean too fast to name, and he drops to his knees in front of his brother, roughly tugging Sam's elbow, which is the only part of the kid he can reach.
"Jesus Christ, Sam! You scared the crap out of me! What did you think you were doing?"
It is Sam's voice. It is.
It isn't coming from the person under the nightstand.
Dean startles, whirls to standing, and finds the Sam-flection in the window still staring at him, face desperate and familiar.
"Dean, that's not me! That's not -"
He turns back to the Sam under the nightstand and it's looking at him.
Grinning at him.
It is not a face that could ever come from Sam. Dean scoots back so fast he trips, crab-walks away from the abomination with his brother's features until he can get his feet under him again.
"Dean!" the window calls.
"Little busy," Dean grunts, backing up against the far wall. The thing that isn't Sam is creeping toward him, slowly. Almost leisurely. It unfolds itself from the space under the nightstand, and when it stands, it is taller than his brother. Much taller. It should not have been able to fit in the small hiding space.
Then again, it should not have been able to come inside and trap his brother in the window glass. There are rules tonight that don't apply.
"Dean!" He hears pure panic in his kid brother's voice.
"Dean can't come to the phone right now!" Dean growls. He's got both hands out in front of him to try to ward off the … what? Could this thing possibly still just be a thought form? Although it's approaching slowly, Dean can't imagine that it would be any more terrifying if it were to rush him and attack. The thing is moving … wrong. Jerky motions. Parts of it moving faster than others, legs dragging, arms akimbo. It makes eye contact with him and he sees his own reflection in its very un-Sam-like pupils. It never stops grinning.
Dean spares a glance to his brother in the window and his heart attempts to escape through his chest.
"Sam!" he shouts. "Behind you!"
The Sam in the window whirls to face the thing behind him – the thing that could be Dean's reflection, if it weren't advancing slowly on Sam.
For several seconds, there is only the sound of breathing and footsteps and that damn incessant buzzing outside. Sam's footfalls tap like fingers on glass. The wind returns. Dean feels the air move against his skin, hears grains of salt being flung wide.
He cannot panic.
He knows it falls to him to correct this situation. But besides praying for his dad to get the ritual done, and pronto, he has no idea what he's supposed to do. He can't shoot something with Sam's face, can he? What if he's wrong about it being separate from Sam? What if it's only possessing his brother? And shooting won't kill it anyway, he knows that from his research. Nothing will kill it besides the ritual, and his dad is taking care of that.
"Any time, Dad," he mutters.
"Dean," the thing in front of him says, in a voice that sounds for all the world like Sam. "Dean, help me." Although the voice is a reflection of the nine-year-old's, all innocence and fright and the weight of the world, the mouth that speaks it is still stretched wide, too-white teeth in a too-broad smile.
Then, from the window, an echo. "Dean! Help me!"
Dean doesn't know where to look. What to think. What to do. He sees his brother's reflection, backed up against the edge of the window frame. He swears he hears the wood frame start to give, sees the window's structure buckle as reflection-Sam presses his back against it. Dean's own back touches the wall. There isn't anywhere else to go, for either of them. Sam is trapped by Dean's reflection, just like Dean is trapped by Sam's.
"This is not how Christmas is supposed to go down!" Dean growls.
"Tell me about it!" both Sams say.
"You've got to be friggin' kiddin' me," Dean mutters.
The creature steps so close to him that Dean can feel its toes against his. Everything in him screams at him to fight, but he doesn't know what might happen if he hurts the thing. What happens to a person happens to their reflection, right? What if, in hurting this beast, he hurts Sam?
So he stands, head turned to the side, with a shudder. He does not fight, even when it closes its warm, sticky fingers around his wrists, and leans close into his face, searching eyes only inches from his own. He can feel its breath on his skin. He is no longer reflected in its pupils, because it no longer has anything of the sort. There is nothing human about the eyes now. They are empty, like window glass.
"Windows to the lack of soul," Dean thinks darkly.
He closes his eyes for a second, trying to breathe through the panic, and when he opens them, he is making eye contact with his brother's reflection in the window. Behind Sam – no, through Sam – he can see the snow falling heavier. Headlights pass, far away, on the interstate. Sam is nothing more than light on glass. But he is looking at his brother with eyes far older than nine, and far more solid than reflections on a window pane.
He is looking at Dean like he knows something.
Dean tilts his head slightly, a quarter inch, studying his brother. Sam's onto something. He knows that look, would know it anywhere. That's the look Sam gets when he figures out a tough homework problem, when he figures out his next move in the prank war, when he beats Pastor Jim at chess.
Pride swells in Dean's chest. Sam's got this.
Sam inclines his head a hair's breadth toward window-Dean, flicks his eyes toward the thing in the motel room that's taken Sam's place. He screws up his forehead as if in thought.
His mouth moves. A brief word, one syllable, with maybe an "i" or "e" sound in the middle.
"Did you just call me a dick?" Dean mutters.
Sam rolls his eyes, moves his lips again, more clearly this time. Taps his temple with a finger.
All at once, Dean gets it. Sam's saying "Think."
Which is how these evil bastards were created in the first place.
For a while there, things get sketchy.
Dean tries for all he's worth to ignore the creepy-ass fugly in his face, to focus on that handsome devil he calls his reflection. He knows without looking that Sam's focusing on the thing that's holding Dean's arms and stinking up his airspace.
But nothing is happening.
No matter how hard Dean focuses – no matter how hard he visualizes the creature backing away from Sam, turning tail and running back to whatever evil dead guy's thoughts created it in the first place – nothing happens for a while. He tries to conjure up John Winchester – mind over matter – focus on the job at hand – while he feels nails biting into his forearms and a shudder goes through him. The creature's touch is wrong. He feels as though he's being studied. As though he himself is one of Bobby's books, being researched. He has new sympathy for pages.
And the thing he's supposed to be thinking away from his brother, the thing that he's supposed to control, continues to advance, over there in the window, barely visible against the blizzard outside while it reaches for his Sammy.
It's when the thing's hands actually touch Sam that the tables turn.
Sam's concentration wavers and Dean feels the grip of the thing holding him get stronger, the eyes darker. He doesn't care. Doesn't care about anything except his brother, who is being pulled into a dark embrace, wrapped in long arms that might cause who knows what kind of harm.
"C'm'ere, Sam," Dean's reflection in the window says, in Dean's own voice.
Rage and panic beat a twin course through Dean's chest. "Back off him," he warns, voice dangerous.
But it continues to press toward Sam, and Dean feels the fingers on his wrists grow hotter, sharper, as his brother's gaze falters and his concentration wavers. A fierce protectiveness surges through Dean, sparking like electricity, as he sees Sam get pulled off his feet.
"Back the hell off him!" he roars.
The creature lets go of his brother, looking shocked, and turns to stare right at Dean.
Then it backs up a step.
Dean screws up his face, focuses past all the clutter in his brain – girls, pie, other hunts, Dad's car, distant memories of Mom – and draws at the thought that is always at the forefront: Keep Sam safe.He forces the thought-form another step from his brother.
"Get off him, you son of a bitch!" Dean booms, voice coming out like Dad's instead of his own.
It backs up another step. Another. Tripping backwards to crab-walk the way Dean himself had done only moments before. It scurries away from Sam, pressed by Dean's thoughts, until its back meets the other side of the window frame, pressing against the wood, looking for a way out.
It isn't in reach of Sam anymore, and Sam has refocused on the thing in front of Dean. Dean feels its fingers go cool, feels them slip from his arm. It backs away from him. One step. Another. Until it is all the way back against the far wall, against the nightstand.
It bumps the lamp, which topples to the floor. The light bulb explodes with an unpleasant pop.
Outside, the first three letters of the VACANCY sign also pop, sparks arcing out and down, like fiery snowflakes, melting the drifts below. Window-Sam spins to look in the direction of the VACANCY sign, while Dean jumps a mile and glances at the broken lamp.
The room and its window go dark.
"Sam?" Dean calls. "Sammy!" He can hear the groaning wood of the window frame, can only hope it's the monster trying to escape and not his brother being grabbed again. In the dark, he moves in the direction of the window.
"Stay back!" Sam hollers.
Dean does. He feels sick. Was that really Sam telling him to stay back, or was it the creature in the room with him? He closes his eyes, focuses on the voice. It's Sam, he knows Sam, he'd know Sam if he didn't know anything else. He trusts the voice, waits.
"Dean, help me!"
Now, that – that wasn't Sam. One breath in. One out. It is so hard to stand still when something with your little brother's voice is asking you to help. But Sam said stay back. Sam's got this.
The window frame groans. Dean focuses on the sound, focuses all his energy on pushing that evil bastard right back out through the window. It's thoughts, is all it is, and the combined minds of the Winchester brothers are stronger than any old thought-form.
For long moments, there is only the sound of groaning wood and sparking electric and a low whine, like something being hurt. Please don't be Sam, Dean thinks.
Then there is the sound of shattering glass, and all goes silent.
Outside, you would never know anything had gone wrong tonight. Snow falls softly from a gentle sky, dancing to the ground and drifting against parked cars, leafless trees, and tired children.
On the hill above the Sleep Easy Motor Lodge – well away from panes of glass - two brothers sit in the snow. The oldest is absentmindedly scrawling naughty words in the snow with a stick. The youngest has rolled two snowballs up in his hands and is patting them together into a shape.
Neither boy speaks. Not about how they conquered an evil thought form tonight with the power of their own minds. Not about how in a few hours the sun will rise on Christmas morning, and a lot of normal nine-and-thirteen-year-olds all over will gather around the tree, still warm and safe in pajamas and slippers, to open packages containing new toys, new games, new distractions from their boring lives.
Not about how none of those normal kids has probably ever defeated an evil thought form with the power of their own minds.
They don't have to say it.
As Bobby's truck finally comes into sight at the head of the road, fishtailing in their uncle's haste to reach them – a fact which warms both boys' hearts – Sam stretches out his hand toward Dean. In his palm is the snow sculpture he's been busily creating.
It's Dad's Impala, and not a bad likeness, either.
"Merry Christmas, Dean," Sam says. Dean listens for the stain of bitterness he'd detected last night, but he doesn't hear it. Tired, he hears. Maybe a residual trace of fear. But mostly he hears calm. And strong. And proud.
If he were a girl, or the sort of boy his brother was, he would hug the kid right now, he's so stinkin' proud of him. Not just for being able to sculpt a '67 Chevy out of a clump of frozen water, but for figuring out the answer tonight, and for following through with such courage and strength. And, moreover, for coming out of it still able to be a kid, to give his brother a present for Christmas. Dad's raising a good hunter, there's no doubt about it.
But Dean, he's raising a good person, and his heart swells till he doesn't think he can contain it. He has to react somehow, has to do something to tell Sam how proud he is of him.
He does the only thing he can think to do.
He smashes the '67 Impala Snowball down the neck of Sam's jacket.
When Bobby reaches them, disgruntled – and by that, he means so stinkin' proud – that he's nearly killed himself twice trying to come to the rescue and here they've gone and destroyed the threat all on their own, he finds two kids on Christmas, engaged in an all-out snowball battle.
He knows John Winchester will return soon, probably confused as hell why there didn't turn out to be anything to kill at the site of the thought form's creation. He knows the four of them will have Christmas breakfast in some crappy diner and that, likely, the only presents the boys will get will be the ones he's got hidden in the truck. He knows these boys lead hard lives and there is little he can do to make them better.
But at this moment, there is one thing he knows above all else, and he moves in to take care of it.
Somebody's got to teach Sam Winchester how to throw a proper snowball.
A/N: And that's it! I hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading!