Title: Just a Shadow of Myself
Author: Disasteriffic Kaz
Info: Dean has vanished and a shadow portrait is the only lead Sam and Bobby have to follow. Post 3x10 "DaLDoM and Tagged to "Stone Cold Crazy" the usual hurt/limp/awesome!Sam/Dean with a dash of awesome!Bobby for taste.
Author's note: This story is a direct continuation of the end of "Stone Cold Crazy". I suppose you could read this without that but…why would you want to and miss part of the story? :D
Do please Review once you've read. :D Every comment and vote of support helps keep me writing. Not to mention if I've pooched anything, someone can always tell me. :P
Beta'd by the always awesome JaniceC678 :D – Friend and Muse's co-conspirator.
**Follow me on Facebook as "Disasteriffic Kaz" for frequent fic updates or just to chat!
With the Basilisk and Margerie, the witch dead, they had decided to spend a couple days at Bobby's salvage yard to give Sam's leg a chance to heal properly. Sam opened the Impala's trunk and tossed his bag in then shivered as a sudden chill passed over his entire body. He looked up as Bobby came out of the room next to theirs and shook it off. "Hey Bobby."
"Where's princess? Still gettin' his beauty sleep?"
Sam grinned at him. "Bathroom."
"Well tell him to move his ass." Bobby smiled at Sam and climbed up into the cab of his truck. "I ain't spendin' another day in there with those creepy shadow portraits."
Sam chuckled. "I'll get him." He limped back into the room and sighed, seeing the bathroom door still closed. He rolled his eyes. "Dean! Bobby's waiting on us." He went to the door and banged on it. "Dude, we can leave without you." He waited for Dean's rant and frowned when it didn't come. "Dean?" Sam knocked on the door again, then put his ear to it and listened. He heard nothing. "Ok, not funny. Dean!" Sam banged on the door and took the knob. "I'm coming in. Last warning." He waited and when he heard nothing, turned the knob and pushed it open…onto an empty room.
"Dean?" Sam stepped into the bathroom and swallowed hard as fear rose up to choke him. There was no sign of his brother. "What's going on?" There was no window in the bathroom for him to have left by. Sam stumbled back into the bedroom and looked around in confusion. "Dean!" He'd been outside. There was no way Dean had left the room and not been seen.
Sam ran to the door and looked out into the parking lot, again seeing no sign of his brother; only Bobby as the truck's engine rumbled to life. He turned back and stared at the room. "This isn't happening. This is not…Dean? Come on, where are you?" He stepped out of the door to get Bobby and froze. Sam turned back to the room slowly as shock coursed through him and walked in a stumbling step across the carpeted floor to the wall. Sam raised a shaking hand to the row of shadow portraits on the wall and let his fingers ghost over the profile of a portrait he knew had not been there ten minutes earlier. He would know that profile anywhere and the impossibility of seeing it there now strangled him with terror.
Sam stood frozen with his fingers resting lightly on the cool glass over the shadow portrait that somehow…impossibly…was his brother. "Dean," he whispered, horrified, to Dean's profile. "This isn't possible." The sound of a truck's engine jerked him into motion. Sam spun and ran out of the room. Bobby's truck was just starting to pull away and Sam staggered out in front, slapping his hands on the hood as Bobby squealed to a stop.
"What the hell are you thinkin'? Sam! I could've…" Bobby didn't finish the thought and threw the truck into park and jumped out. He ran around to the front and reached out as Sam grabbed his shoulders. The look on Sam's face was one of sheer panic. "Sam? What's wrong?"
"He's gone! Bobby, Dean's gone and he's on the wall!" Sam stammered and could hear himself close to hyperventilating but was unable to stop it.
"Whoa! You're not makin' any sense here. Sam, where's your brother?" Bobby took his arm and pulled him toward the room and inside. "Dean! Get out here!" He yelled.
"He's gone," Sam went to the wall and took down the shadow portrait, holding it as though it would break and showed it to Bobby. "Look. This can't be…how is this…"
Bobby stared at the picture in complete confusion. "Sam, what…" He narrowed his eyes as something about the creepy black portrait caught his eye, a certain turn of the jaw line and then he saw the nose, the brow line and his eyes opened wide as shock blew through him. "Oh, my God."
Sam pulled the picture back and stared down at it. "Bobby…"
"Easy, son." Bobby took Sam's shoulders and pushed him down into a chair. His mind was spinning in confusion, and Sam…he looked close to absolute panic. "Take a breath. We'll…we'll figure this out…somehow."
Sam just sat with the picture in his lap in a fog. He should be doing…something, he thought but couldn't get his mind to cooperate. He couldn't resolve the knowledge that he had been speaking to his brother only moments before and now…he stared back down at the portrait. As he looked at his brother's profile, Margerie's last words came back to him…
"Don't think...this means...you're safe…" Margerie whispered brokenly as she smiled at Sam and her eyes glazed over as death took her.
"Margerie." Sam looked up at Bobby. "She knew this was going to happen."
"Sam, she's dead." Bobby shook his head and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Salted and burned the bitch myself. She didn't have anything to do with this."
"No. She knew. She told me before she died." Sam set the portrait gently on the bed and stood. "Maybe the housekeepers know something. Watch him…the…the portrait." He ran from the room.
Bobby picked up the picture and stared sadly down at it. "Dean. Dammit, what the hell happened to you?"
Sam ran down the length of the motel to the rental office and slammed inside. "Hello?" He banged the bell on the counter but no one answered. His eyes caught on more of the shadow portraits hung in the office. He went around the counter and stuck his head in the back room; it too was empty but for more portraits. "Dammit." He ran back outside and banged on the door of the first motel room, glancing briefly at the car parked out in front of it. When no one answered he went to the next room and the next. "Where the hell is everyone?" He limped at a run back down the length of the building to the laundry room and inside.
"Hello? Anyone?" Sam checked the three connected rooms and found no one…only more portraits hung on the walls.
"Sam?" Bobby stuck his head in the door as Sam came back out and frowned at how pale his face was. "You find anyone?"
"No," Sam came outside and didn't argue when Bobby took his arm to steady him as he limped on his sore leg. "Bobby, there's no one. How can there be no one here?"
"I dunno, but you need to get off that leg already." Bobby pulled him along to the room and inside, letting him sit on Dean's bed. "I'm gonna check the other rooms. You just…on second thought, come here. Take that." He waited for Sam to pick up the portrait and got him back on his feet. "You're not staying in here on your own." Bobby took Sam outside and got him in the passenger seat of the Impala, figuring he'd be more comfortable there. "Be right back."
Sam nodded, in a daze and couldn't stop staring at his brother's profile in black paper on white under the glass. "Dean, where are you?" He looked up and watched Bobby pick the lock on the room next to theirs and vanish inside. Sam held his breath and released it in a whoosh of relief when Bobby reappeared a moment later, giving him a wave before he moved to the next room.
Bobby's agitation grew as he went down the building and found each room as empty as the next except for a growing collection of shadow portraits lining the walls of every room. He reached the first room next to the office and picked the door open, not even bothering to knock. He was starting to have a very bad feeling. The car parked in front of the room had grass sprouting around its tires and the tires themselves looked as though they were slowly deflating from disuse. He pushed the door open and flicked the light on. A bag lay open on the bed with the clothes still inside and a travel cup of coffee sat on the bedside table. He picked it up, pried the lid off and wrinkled his nose. The coffee inside had long solidified and started to dry, leaving a brown stain down the inside of the mug.
"What the hell is going on?" Bobby ran a finger over the table and left a line in the layer of dust. He went to the wall and looked at the shadow portraits hanging there. He had the sudden feeling of being watched and it made his skin crawl. He left the room and went out and into the rental office next door. He had spoken to the clerk when he'd come in; a younger man with a lip ring that had made Bobby curl his lip. Bobby looked at the portraits on the wall and went closer, around the desk, to peer at the one closest to the door. There was the clear outline of a lip ring on the profile of the man in the picture.
"Holy crap," Bobby breathed. He backed out of the office and jogged back to the Impala and Sam. He went to the passenger side, opened the door and knelt down to look in at him. "How you doin', Sam?"
Sam looked over at him and nodded. "I'm alright. Sorry about…before. Lost it a little."
"Understandable." Bobby smiled for him. "There's a motel down the street. You good enough to follow me?"
"What? We're not leaving," Sam said in surprise. "No way. We're not leaving until we find him. Bobby, I can't!"
"Sam!" Bobby took a firm grip on his arm. "We can't stay here. I got a bad feeling that anyone who stays here ends up on the damn walls. Hell, I'm startin' to wonder if the desk clerk or those housekeepers were ever even here." He gentled his voice. "We're not leaving him, but we need to figure this out and we can't do it from here. Not yet, now slide over and follow me." He shut the door and didn't leave Sam time to argue.
Sam scowled at Bobby's back as he got into his truck but after a moment, he slid over behind the wheel and set Dean's portrait on the passenger seat. It hit a little too close to home; having only the portrait of his brother in the car. The lack of his presence and being behind the wheel where Dean belonged made Sam's chest ache with the loss. He looked down at the ignition and choked back the sob that tried to break free. Dean had the keys. Sam closed his eyes and took a deep breath then bent down to hotwire the car with a whispered apology to his brother, wherever he was.
Dean blinked furiously as a bright light overtook him and then shook himself. "What the hell was that? Sam?" He called and looked around. He was standing outside. "How'd I get out here?" He whipped his head around at the sound of Bobby's voice and looked over to see the older Hunter putting his brother in the car. "Bobby! Sam! What's going on?" Dean went over to them and frowned, looking around the parking lot and to the street beyond. The world seemed to have been covered over with a grey film. He blinked again, trying to clear it and growled when it didn't work.
"Be right back." Bobby told Sam and Dean watched him shut the passenger and walk back to the motel.
Dean stared in confusion. "Bobby!" The older man didn't so much as twitch with Dean's voice. He turned instead to his brother and went to the passenger door. "Sam?" Sam didn't look up at him. Dean reached for the door handle and jerked in shock as his hand passed through it. "Whoa…what the…Sam?" He tried to touch the handle again and sucked in a fearful breath when nothing happened. "Shit, am I….no. I can't be dead." Dean looked around wildly in a panic. "If I were dead I'd be in…" He ran to their room and inside, looking for his own body. He heaved a breath in relief when he didn't find himself lying dead somewhere. In spite of the circumstances, he couldn't help shaking his head as he recalled Sam's rueful, "Our lives are weird, man" comment made during a hunt a while back. Yeah…looking for your own dead body as a logical course of action definitely fell right in line with that particular observation.
"Ok. Not dead. That's good." Dean went back out to the car, looking down the building and saw Bobby pick the lock on a room door and go inside. He went to the Impala and looked in at his brother again. Sam sat in the passenger seat with his eyes glued to one of those shadow portraits in his lap. "Sam, what the hell is happening?" Dean leaned in further, trying not to freak out as his head passed through the window, and he stared at the picture. Something about it was familiar, and the way Sam was cradling it in his hands told him he should recognize the person.
"Sam?" Dean took a moment to study his brother's face. It was pale and drawn and there was a clear look of barely contained panic around his eyes, and his hitched breathing as he held the picture told Dean that whatever was wrong was bad…very bad. He looked back down at the portrait and, the moment he saw it, he jerked back is if physically struck.
"No." Dean reared back from the car. "No way." It was his own profile he was looking at in the portrait. "No fuckin' way! Sam! I'm right here!" Dean shouted and shouted in frustration as his hands passed through the hood of the car and Sam made no sign that he'd heard or seen him. He looked up as Bobby came back to the car and shivered, stepping clear as Bobby passed right through him and opened the door to kneel beside his brother. He listened to them talk, to Bobby telling Sam they were going to a different motel, and when Bobby shut the door on Sam's argument and got in his truck, Dean hurriedly took a breath and slid through the closed door of the Impala into the passenger seat.
"What? I can't touch anything but I can sit on a damn seat? Really?" Dean shouted angrily and looked down, realizing he was sitting on his portrait. He watched Sam grip the steering wheel and look down; saw him choke back what could only be a sob. "I'm right here, kiddo," Dean said softly and reached a hand out to him, wishing he could touch him and let him know. He frowned when Sam bent under the dash and his eyes widened. Dean dug in his pocket and came out with the keys.
"Son of a bitch!" Dean yelled as his little brother hotwired his baby, shaking his head in frustration as he heard Sam's murmured apology.
Sam leaned back from the stack of papers Bobby had brought back from the library and rubbed his eyes. His head was splitting, his leg throbbing, and he wanted sleep. One glance at the shadow portrait of his brother, however, had him leaning back to the research with a sigh.
"Dammit, Sammy. You need sleep," Dean grumbled at his brother from where he stood over his shoulder. "Oughta kick your ass." He sighed and rolled his eyes. "If I could kick your ass right now. Makin' a note; kick your ass later." He waved uselessly as Bobby came back in to the room. It was a step up on their former room. The walls and carpet were a nice, warm blue, the bedspreads a non-descript beige and no creepy ass pictures on the walls.
"Sam. You need to get some sleep," Bobby said as he set a bag and two coffees on the table in front of the young man.
"Yes! That's what I've been tryin' to tell the geek." Dean threw his arms out in frustration, growling as his right passed through the wall. "This sucks!"
"Not gonna find your brother if you fall asleep." Bobby smiled at Sam's shadowed eyes.
"I'm good, Bobby. I can handle it." Sam picked up one of the coffees and took a sip. "We have to find him." He pulled a couple sheets he'd marked out and pushed them across the table. "I found a few references to the motel and disappearances about twenty years ago."
"Saw those too," Bobby nodded and sat across from him. "Cops thought it was a serial killer taking people but they could never prove it."
"Well, definitely wasn't a serial killer." Sam leaned back again. "How can no one have noticed an entire motel where people just go missing?"
Bobby shrugged. "I don't know. I'm still tryin' to wrap my head around that." He nodded to the shadow portrait on the bed that would normally be Dean's. "That is some serious black mojo, and I haven't found anyone yet in this town who could do that…or still be doing it…and not one Hunter has noticed."
"Maybe it's more insidious than that." Sam looked up at him and then over at his brother's profile. "We saw a desk clerk. We talked to him. And then there's the cleaning crew I heard the first day we came in. Whatever…whoever has done this, they obviously have some level of control over the people that are…trapped."
"Or dead." Bobby added and then groaned as Sam shot him an angry glare. "Sam, I'm sorry. He's not dead."
"No. He's alive, somewhere, and we're going to find him."
"Damn right, Sammy." Dean smiled at the fierce expression on his brother's face. "Faster would be better. I'm friggin' starvin'." He watched Bobby pull a burger out of the bag and drooled. "Great. It's not bad enough I'm pullin' a Swayze, here but I'm gonna starve while I'm at it?" He scowled at Sam when he pushed away the salad Bobby shoved in front of him. "Stubborn ass."
"Not hungry," Sam muttered and kept his eyes on the papers in front him. He didn't need to see the disapproving look in Bobby's eyes. He sighed suddenly and pulled the salad back as if he could hear Dean nagging him. "Thanks, Bobby."
Bobby swallowed past the lump of emotion in his throat. He knew Sam was struggling with the suffocating terror that Dean was already dead and in Hell months ahead of schedule. "We'll find him, Sam. We will."
"I know," Sam nodded and took a bite of the salad, chewing and swallowing though it made his stomach turn. He moved on to the next stack of papers and scanned down the text. He dropped his fork and leaned forward, staring at the grainy, Xeroxed picture on the page. "Bobby."
"You find something?" Bobby moved around behind him and looked over his shoulder.
"What? Tell me you figured this out," Dean said and stood over Sam's other shoulder to look down. There was a fuzzy picture of their motel and, beside it, another picture of an old woman holding one of the shadow portraits up for the camera.
"This is it. It has to be," Sam whispered and read the article in earnest. Josephine Grant had made a name for herself at the age of seventy-two cutting shadow portraits of the people who stayed in her motel. At her grandson's behest, she had gathered them all and taken them to the big city to put them on display in a gallery. Contrary to what she had expected, her portraits had been ripped apart in the press as childish displays of mediocre art at its worst. Josephine had come home in disgrace with still more articles saying they thought the showing had been a joke rather than a serious display. The townsfolk had not been any kinder. On learning how badly the showing had gone, the motel became disused as people avoided it and the dark cloud that seemed to hang over it. For her part, Josephine had made a very public threat that someday people would understand her work.
"She cursed the place," Bobby said and leaned back. "Somehow, that crazy old bat cursed the motel and her damn shadow portraits."
"This was over twenty years ago, Bobby." Sam looked up at him. "Right around the time Margerie's grandmother was still active. What are the odds?"
"Slim and none. Dammit." Bobby ran a hand through his hair under his hat. "Not a damn person left we can ask for information about her."
"Well, there better be SOMEone you can ask!" Dean shouted. He stalked across the room and glared down at his portrait. "Crazy old bitch! What did you to me?" He slammed his hand down toward the portrait and reared back in surprise as it shook on the bed.
Sam and Bobby's eyes snapped to the bed in shock as the portrait shook where it lay. Sam rose slowly from the chair and limped over to it, looking down with wide eyes.
"Careful, Sam," Bobby warned him.
"No." Sam took the portrait up in his hands and stared at his brother's profile. "It's him. It's Dean."
"You can't be sure of that."
"Yes, I can," Sam whispered and looked up and around the room. "Dean? Are you here?" He gasped in a breath as the picture shook suddenly in his hands and felt tears sting at his eyes. "Dean."
"Right here, Sammy," Dean said quietly, keeping one hand on the edge of the frame as he watched his brother struggle with his emotions. "I'm right here."
To Be Continued…
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