Summary: Sam's drunk, Dean's afflicted by it...and what's that in the closet? Answers lead to more questions and once upon a time, Sam was alone in his head with a boogeyman for two weeks. And it knows things now. It knows everything.
So so so so sorry for long time no update. School. It's a bitch, am I right? Thanks for hanging in. Sometimes it's nice to go back in time to simpler things...even when they're totally...complicated. Er...You know. Like season 2 Sam and Dean.
Once again, thanks to beta reader/muse/SamtomyDean Agelade who writes season 9 AU fanfic, a little thing called "Lustra," (currently in episode 5) and you should go read it because everything I can do, she can do better. She can do everything better than me.
p.s. Anyone who wants to write out the whole Eastern State case can feel free to do so.
p.p.s. The boogeyman scares me...
April 8, 2007
You don't just go to a job and forget that your brother is being head-hunted by a demon and is actively trying to track down the boogeyman. No. And yet, in retrospect, Dean would have to hand it to his brother: he sure knew how to pick distracting jobs-weird, deadly, and totally absorbing.
And painful. Extremely painful.
Timeline of Dean's fantastic weekend so far:
Friday - Sam's plan to drive across Pennsylvania to deal with a trio of dead ghost-chasers at Eastern State Penitentiary led to-
Sam manipulating Dean into stopping along the way in some place called Greensburg to talk to Amber's mom to learn that her kid was, apparently, psychic (not happy coincidence) led to-
Friday evening having to detour three hours later in Harrisburg to deal with a demon stalker bitch and a revelation that, apparently, Yellow Eyes and the boogeyman were in competition for his psychic little brother which led to-
An exciting little Friday night in Philly of Sam being slammed into a wall, a floor, and a radiator when Dean wasn't having fun flying into everything else. Ever try to get a name or an inmate number from a ghost who wants to kill the world? Not easy.
Their investigation paid off: two bodies and two names were narrowed down as suspects, leading to a laboriously painful salt and burn in a crappy cemetery. Sam insisted on Saturday night for a walk through (or more accurately, "limp" through) "just to be sure" because the guy had apparently bled all over his cell when he was jumped by three inmates and a guard. But something like that would have been scrubbed, right? Cleaned up? No little pieces of a homicidal maniac could be left after a renovation, right? Waste of time, right?
Sometimes Dean hated Sam's attention to detail.
Round two with Mr. Anger Management was what necessitated a redecoration of cell 698. With a can of gasoline and another perfectly good lighter.
Seemed like they were always running from burning buildings.
But hey, whatever. The fire was contained. The place was fixable. And it would eventually be reopened because this was America, and every American deserved the right to be amateurs and pad through miles of potentially lethal supernatural activity for the chance to catch a crappy EVP.
Philadelphia was safely in the rearview mirror before Dean considered stopping, even though Sam was still bleeding through bandages. The kid was always trying to keep stride, trying to push through the pain, and he was just a massive walking blood bag with millions of feet of surface area that gathered cuts and bruises.
Dean pushed through the motel door with a bag of supplies, takeout from Biggerson's, and half a Payday in his mouth. His shoulder still ached from the cement. As in, the cement floor a seriously hulked out vengeful Eastern State spirit with an incriminating left-legged limp had thrown him against in an effort to kill him.
To be fair, Dean hadn't thought about demons or the boogeyman once in at least 24 hours.
He set the bag down and started to pull things out while he ripped off another chunk of peanutty goodness. "Tylenol, Ibuprofin..." he shook the medicine bottle and fished out a fresh roll of bandages. "A cocktail of these and anything that still hurts just proves your bitch status, Sam."
Dean stopped chewing. "What?"
"Cute little...fluffy rabbits. Small...small rodents. Mammals..."
Dean turned around. Sam was sitting on the side of his bed, unsteady. Clearly drunk. So very, very drunk. What the hell? Dean had been gone an hour, tops.
"Dude, what the hell are you babbling about?" Dean swallowed his concern-and the rest of his candybar-and eyed a familiar liquor bottle on Sam's bedside stand. And then he did a doubletake, crossed the room, and picked it up.
Old Grand-Dad bourbon whiskey. Specifically, their father's brand and specifically the sight and smell that had always put Sam on edge. He never liked dad's drinking. He never liked Dean's drinking. Sam didn't usually drink seriously himself, and when he did it was when he was low. Really low. And yet, even in those handful of moments when it got him to the point of picking up a bottle, it would never have been this one.
And it was already three fourths gone. What the hell? Not good.
"Sam, what is this?"
"W...whiskey, dumbass ."
Dean rolled his eyes. "I mean, where'd you get it?"
"The Tooth Fairy."
"Jesus, Sammy. Couldn't just wait for the pain pills?"
Sam made an exaggerated act of blowing out a laugh with enough accelerant to burn down the building. "Because that will make it all go away."
Dean leaned down to touch the bandage on Sam's head. Yeah, he had taken a pretty good crack from their Eastern State adversary. Maybe it was worse than Dean thought.
"Dean...answer...answer the question."
"Oh, excuse me, Drunky McDrunkerson, I didn't hear the question. "
Sam snatched the bottle of whiskey from his hand with a speed and dexterity that momentary belied his pathetically wobbly exterior. "Do I look like a rabbit t'you?"
"Bottom of the food chain..." Sam waggled his fingers along an imaginary ground and managed to get another swig of whiskey before Dean could seize it and wrench it out of his grip.
"Rabbits and little mammals...you never watched Nova with me," Sam complained petulantly. "Or grass. That's the lowest. Grass. Everything eats grass. Am I...Am I grass? What use is grass, really?"
"If you'd ever have smoked it, you'd know."
"Drugs. Drugs're dumb."
"What are you, a friggin' poster child now? Jesus. We'll put you up in a middle school gymnasium tomorrow. Promise. Turn off the PSA and go to sleep," Dean tried.
"No. Don' wanna. Talk to me, Dean."
Aw fuck, Sammy.
Dean pulled the bottle behind him before Sam could snatch it back.
"You have exactly 30 seconds before you either puke or pass out. Your dime."
Sam said nothing for too long. He fixed Dean with eyes that were glazed with tears and some kind of dump truck of unspoken things threatening on the precipice. There was that fucking look of total resignation again, as if Dean already had the barrel to his forehead.
Dean had to, yes, seriously, will himself not to finish the rest of this bottle himself, because, yes, Sam was going there. His only hope was that his little brother would pass out before he really started. The last time this had happened, in that old hotel with the ghost girl and the people Sam couldn't save, he had managed to exact a promise that Dean would shoot him if he got out of control, if he turned into the monster his father had foreseen. Dean regretted that night.
The sentiment bore repeating.
"You know...you know how easy...it's easy to cut the grass...burn it...get rid of it."
Still with the grass?
"God, dude, how can you be metaphorical when you're this drunk? Thirty seconds are up-time for bed." Dean put the bottle far out of Sam's reach and then bent down to take him by the shoulders (Carefully. Sam had bandages there too) and tried to tilt him so he would lay down.
Sam was a mess-a boneless, floppy mess-and then he captured Dean's arms with sudden urgency.
"Dad knew, Dean...he knew it."
"Sam, you're not thinkin' right. God, why do you even start? You suck at drinking."
"Dean...Dean he brought me to Osseo. He knew about the boogeyman. He wanted to take me there and...and he wanted to... he wanted to let that monster take care of it. Didn't he? That's why..."
Dean's stomach lurched. That fucking bitch demon whore and all the shit. All the shit. Sam had warned him about her getting inside Dean's head. Three guesses where it was really lodged, and the first two didn't count.
"Sam, d'you know how much of a babbling idiot you sound like right now? Nothing more than light beer for you from now on."
Sam's eyes spilled over and, Jesus, just no regard for the fact that he was a boy, and boys don't do this. Boys don't weep. Dad didn't weep. Dad always ended the tears because boys didn't break.
Fuck you, Dad because this wasn't about Sam breaking down, this was about Sam's tears always breaking Dean down, and one of them had to be sober and level and say he wasn't going to shoot anybody, dammit.
"He...he hated me, Dean. Because this thing. Because of...things," Sam's voice was slurry. "Because of mom...because I'm bad. I'm bad, Dean."
Okay, that was enough. Too much. This from the kid who splinted hurt baby bird wings with the latex gloves they kept in the med kits so "I won't get my smell on it. So the mama bird will take it back."
"Sam, you're not bad. You're a friggin' saint. Trust me." Dean sighed and pushed against him, but Sam was summoning up Drunk Strength to resist.
Sam shook his head. "No...I'm bad. Dad knew. He had a chance...and then...when I was gone it would have been my fault too. Because I wasn't strong and should just get eaten." Sam laughed against the tears on his cheeks, against the soul-crushing devastation peeling him through.
"Sam," Dean grabbed his shirt front, not careful anymore because, what the hell, Sam wasn't feeling that kind of pain anyway at the moment. "You're drunk, okay? This is Dad's whiskey talkin', and none of it's real. Do you understand me?"
Sam wobbled his head in a vague facsimile of a head shake. "You think...you think I didn't figure it out...when I was sober?"
Dean's eyebrows twitched.
"Why couldn't it make sense, huh? It did. It does. It does. That's why...Dad..." Sam looked past his brother, reached out pathetically for the bottle.
What was it? Some kind of desperate boy's divining spell? Immerse himself in his guilt about their father, his guilt about his life, his guilt about his shortcomings, and just literally drown in that familiar smell, that poison, to understand the truth? Is this what Sam had been driven to? Not the books, not the computer, not his intellect, but the exact same process every other fucked up Winchester male he knew had handled their problems with reality?
Not on his watch.
Dean grabbed Sam's hand and forced their eyes to meet.
"You listen to me, you friggin' idiot. If Dad was here right now, I'd punch him in the face."
That seemed to get Sam's attention.
"I'd punch him in the face, I swear to you, Sammy, because we didn't deserve it. But he's gone now and it's just me, okay? It's just me. I'm the one here, and right now you need to knock this crap off because I am doin' my damndest to keep you safe. I'm the one working and you are chasing ghosts, and if you don't look at your feet, where you're headed, you're gonna become one."
Sam blinked. He swallowed. He was listening with his whole heart laid open and bare on his alcohol-drenched sleeve and the tears spilled over again and all Dean wanted was to make the kid stop.
"...And if you do that, so help me Sam, I don't know what I'll do. So, pull your head out of your ass." Dean's heart was pounding and his eyes were hard.
"Why do you make me say that crap? You're seriously a pain, little brother."
Sam's eyes were carved out by eyebrows that did something to make him look ten again. And it wasn't right or healthy and maybe this was why it was bad when Sam drank himself filterless. Sam's gaze hovered over his brother's face, searching for truth. He hesitantly tugged at Dean's shirt front, an impossible expression of relief and gratitude finally smearing his face.
"Dean, man, I love you. Sorry...m'sorry."
"Yeah, yeah." This time it was easy to push Sam back onto the bed, "you'll be pretty damn sorry in the morning when I'm describing breakfast and you're puking your throat raw."
"I mean it..." Sam's hand fell to his brother's shirttail when Dean turned to pull a blanket half up his brother's huge body.
"Dean...you saved me that night."
Dean frowned. Sam caught it.
"I mean it, okay? I was...was scared. It wasn't your fault. You were...so...so cool, man." Sam's voice was thick, wobbling, but heart-piercingly earnest.
Dean swallowed and sighed. So, there he was. Deep down, somewhere inside where only torrents of alcohol could reach, the little brother he knew was still clinging to life.
...Or just dying slowly.
"Go to sleep, Sammy." He examined his brother's shoulder bandage and sighed. "Gotta wake your massive body up in about four hours to change this."
Sam nodded compliantly.
"Will you...will you watch it again?"
Sam turned his head.
"Yeah, Sammy. Nothin' will come get you. Just stop talkin' and sleep." Dean extricated his shirt from Sam's grip reluctantly and sat heavily on his own bed. By the time he could look at his brother's face again, Sam was asleep.
It was going to be a long night.
Dean shivered awake. He had dozed off, but the cold had woken him up.
Light from outside illuminated a cloud of frosty breath, and that was when he saw it. The open closet door-the little girl in a pink night gown, shimmering, edges shaking, approaching Sam's bed.
Dean's eyes went wide. No, he really hadn't expected this. He should have taken Sam more seriously about the closet watching, even for being crazy drunk. Even for it being over a decade ago. He should have just known.
"M'sorry..." Sam was mumbling. Dean edged out of his bed slowly, every muscle tensed, staring at the ghost as his brain tried to calculate what he had in the motel, right now, that was going to...going to...
Salt. Always carry around an ass-ton of salt. If not for ghosts, then for shitty townie takeout food...
And then he saw Sam's face. And Sam was awake. His eyes were open. Or maybe he wasn't awake? Maybe he was gone again-lost inside the way he was back then.
Dean darted for his duffle and shoved down the paralyzing fear. It was a ghost and Dean knew how to deal with a freaking ghost. It was in here, the brown leather bag. Shit shit.
"Amber...Where are you? Where are you now?"
It was a whisper. Sam was talking.
"Just remember to call me, Sam. Sam..."
God...that voice. Horror movies couldn't capture the nuance of it, the resonance of it. Every hair on the back of Dean's neck stood on end like it was their job. He saw her face-way too young, way too kind, way too...reaching for his brother, saying fucked up freaky shit...
He grabbed the bag by the bottom and sprayed its contents as hard and as accurately at that apparition as he could. She looked up at him, at Dean, and she wasn't angry...and then she was gone.
Sam was crawling backward and up the headboard, a muffled exhalation of surprise and half-drunk fear christening the early morning air.
"Sammy!" Dean grabbed him, looked him in the eyes, searched for him...
"Dean...she...she was a ghost. That was...you saw her?" His little brother was clearly surprised. Very surprised. Surprised and aware. Still here. Not blank. Sam eyes all wide and confused. Thank you, god.
"What? Yes, God, Sam, is that what you've been seeing at night? That wasn't a dream, Sam. That was a straight up haunting! That little girl is gaslighting you! She's gonna to drive you to...shit."
Dean noticed the blood seeping through his brother's bandages, and Sam looked so shocked, so stricken. He smacked his brother's face lightly. "Hey, Einstein, are you with me here at all or are you in drunk land?"
"No. I'm...I'm here I just..."
Dean took a deep breath and blew it out, letting the terror of the moment go with it as he turned on the bedside lamp.
Sam's voice was not fearful-it was full of actual, bonafide wonder. "That can't be possible. If that was her ghost...it's been following us."
Dean had gone to the bag to get the bandages and then stopped shortly at that.
He turned around. "Sam, if it's following you, then you know what that means."
His brother's face was so sad. Goddammit.
"Where is it?"
"Dammit, Sam. She's hanging onto something of hers that you have. You need to get rid of it now. What about this isn't clear?" Seriously, this kid. How long had they been doing these kinds of jobs? They just left one, for Christ's sake. He should have thrown that thing away a long time ago.
"No, Dean. It's not what you think."
Dean allowed himself that exaggerated expression of disbelief.
"Are you listening to yourself right now?"
Sam scanned the floor while he thought. He was putting something together. Obviously putting something together wrong because no, Sam. Bad. Danger!
"Yes, and I'm telling you, she hasn't hurt me, Dean. She's not vengeful. I think...I think she's trying to...to tell me something. I think she...I think she needs me."
Dean pressed both hands to his face and wiped it, "Holy crap. Listen to yourself. You can't be objective about this, Sam. She has you all twisted up. Whatever sense you had is just gone now, out the door, but I'll be damned if I sit by and watch you commit this kind of suicide."
Dean picked up Sam's duffel and began to root in it. Where the hell was the cursed little black and red thing?
Sam sighed. "You won't find it."
"Wanna bet me?"
"Sure. But before you really get started, could you toss me the bandages? I've got, like, two of these T-shirts left, and I'd like to keep something clean."
Sam held his hand out. His face was impassive, sober, committed.
Dean put his palm to his forehead.
"You don't know what the hell you're doing."
"I don't have the whole picture, not yet, but I'm putting the map together. I get it. I get what this looks like, but you aren't where I am."
"Sammy, if I was where you are, a whole lot of shit would be goin' differently." He was angry, yes, and his brother hadn't learned a damn thing and it was time he knew that.
Sam's face fell. "Yeah, it would. Look, that wasn't what I expected, her...ghost-" Only his eyes looked up at Dean, "-but I think it's important. Think about it, Dean. She was taken away, and part of the problem is that we don't know where that is. We don't know how the boogeyman gets around, where it comes from."
Dean closed his eyes, his jaw worked. "If she's a ghost, then she's dead, Sam. She's not anywhere waiting for a phonecall."
And all at once, the resounding silence sent a wave of adrenaline to Dean's stomach. The jittery feeling was his body letting him know he'd hit Sam's nerve. And that was what it always was. Dean could speak plain to any human on the planet without repercussion, but Sam?
Problem was that the warning was always too late. Or when it wouldn't matter because shit had to be said. Like now.
Sam looked him square. He nodded. His lips formed a thin line.
"Her body was gone, but her spirit must have come from somewhere. It's not like that hair tie has been out of my possession for 14 years, so why now? Why come to me now? Something must have triggered it. This isn't a usual haunting."
"So, what, you're just gonna let yourself be haunted until...until..hell no." Dean felt the blood in his veins burning him up from inside.
Sam sighed and licked his bottom lip as he stared at the closet.
"Dean, I'll take care of it. Please, just...give me the bandages."
There was no way in hell this conversation was over...
It wasn't over.
Neither of them got anymore sleep, and the disagreement nearly turned into a full-on fist fight by noon. It likely would have, had both of them not been so beat up and exhausted from two nights of ghost hunting earlier, and if Sam hadn't been so hungover and vomiting every half an hour. There was a lull between two and three pm when they helped change each other's bandages. But by 7pm a lamp was broken, and after the manager pounded on their door to tell them that he was going to call the cops if they didn't shut the hell up, Dean left. He left to clear his head, to get a drink in a dive somewhere and get into a nice, understandable bar brawl with a stranger, who, yes, was a specimen of large, hairy, drunk stupidity.
When he jumped into the Impala to get out before the cops showed, Dean thought about Sam. Stupid. Freaking. Sam. Running towards unknown monsters, hung up over a girl he knew for, what, two days? And yeah, yes there was something sinister there interfering with Sam dealing with it, but shouldn't that mean that she, and all of it, were trouble? What about that didn't he get? This whole "facing it and finishing it for good" crap that Sam had been rambling on and on about was a load of idealistic garbage. Dad didn't expect him to finish it because Dad was dead. Dad was dead and who the hell cared what he was thinking when he brought them to Osseo, what he was thinking when he told Sam to shoot him with the Colt all those years later, what he was thinking when he spent his last minutes on earth telling Dean he might have to kill that once-clingy little brother?
By the time Dean got back to the motel around midnight, he was working himself up for round ten with his inexplicably stubborn brother. He opened the door, ready to just say all of that, and more, when reality stabbed him in the gut.
Sam was gone.
His bed was made, the lamp was cleaned up, everything that had been tossed about during their arguments was exactly the way it would be if a freaking maid who was paid to clean the room had been in. Except Dean's stuff was right where he left it.
Holy shit. He had done it. And now Sam was...was out there, taking on this crap alone with a ghost and a boogeyman and psychic visions and demons with plans.
Check with the hotel manager. Call his damn phone. Beg that he answers. Beg!
Dean whipped around. Sam stood innocently behind him, a bucket of ice in his hand.
"Sonovabitch," Dean breathed. And then, yes, before thinking he punched Sam square in the jaw, just managing to pull it slightly at the last minute. Ice fell all over the ground, and the plastic container skittered into the parking lot.
"Ow! What the hell, Dean!" Sam staggered back, grabbing at his face in dismay. But he didn't have much time to react because Dean was hugging him. Hard.
"You stupid son of a bitch."
Sam half laughed the way one would do nervously at the antics of a lovable crazy person, but his whole body was tense, as if expecting more pain. Dean let him go, somewhat ashamed by the realization, then promptly grabbed his brother's shirt front and pulled him into the room, closing the door.
"You thought I left?"
"It's..." Dean waved at the room.
"What, because I cleaned up I obviously left? I just went to get ice for the bruises."
"Yeah, well, add one to the list and stop being a bitch." Dean swallowed, tried to make himself feel calm.
"I will, when you stop being a jerk," Sam threw a bag with the last of the ice in it at Dean who caught it. Sam pointed to his left eye and then to Dean's which was starting to blacken from that fight with "Hairy" earlier. "You should stop taking your aggression out on random people, Dean. It's not healthy."
Good old Sammy. Always worried about the well-being of people he had never met-would never meet.
"He'll live," Dean muttered.
"Dude, I mean not healthy for you."
"Thanks, but if anyone needs some kind of psychobabble analysis, it's you."
"Dean." His name was a capitulation and the reason was obvious: Sam was tired. They both were. Somehow the brat still managed a weak smile. "Did you at least make a friend?"
He didn't want to fight anymore either. Dean mentally counted-this was at least the third time Sam had tried to end this relentless battle with neither side gaining ground, and Dean had refused to let it go for obvious reasons here.
"Yeah. We're getting married next week. I've already signed you up to be the flower girl." Dean touched the ice to his eye as a show of good faith. Sam hadn't left, and this would acknowledge that. For now. Just for now. He shrugged off his coat and lay back on the bed, ice to his face.
"Sorry for asking, but I gotta know. Who's wearing the dress?" Sam drawled as he sat down on the edge of his own bed.
"Not me, that's for damn sure. I haven't shaved."
Sam raised both eyebrows.
"Shut up. I punch brothers for awkward moments."
Ironically, Sam flashed one of those real smiles-the one with teeth and crinkles at the corner of his lips.
"Yeah. I noticed." Sam took a deep breath, glanced at the sunset-orange carpet, and then back to Dean. The smile was gone like that .
"She won't come again."
Dean peered at him. Narrowed his eyes.
"What d'you mean? Did you burn it?"
Sam pursed his lips. "Something close enough. It's sealed. I called Bobby."
It sounded suspicious, but there was a resignation to Sam's eyes that suggested he had said some kind of farewell. Maybe. Or maybe not. Dean didn't have any proof that Sam was telling the truth and he didn't like it.
"Are you bullshitting me?"
"No. But I can't throw away pieces of the puzzle when I'm still looking for the big picture. It's sealed. Ask Bobby if you don't believe me."
Dean sat up. He searched his brother's face, but the little boy who didn't lie was very far away. This Sam could hold things back-he seemed to have an infinite capacity for that.
"Let me see it."
Sam shook his head again. "You have to just trust me."
"Then trust me and let me see it. If it's like you said, I won't do anything to it, I swear."
Sam's jaw moved. He fixed his eyes on something in the distance before saying quietly, "I trust you, Dean. I trust you to always do whatever you think is best. That's how you prioritize. That's why you got into bed that night and kept the boogeyman at bay."
So, that was what this was all about. Of course Sam knew he'd chuck that damn thing into the fire the first chance he got, take the consequences from Sam's sad face, if it would keep his brother fucking safe from this bullshit.
Like he could read minds, Sam continued. "I get it. Okay? I get it. But I can't sacrifice this. I'm trying my damndest to compromise so we can both sleep. Can we sleep tonight?"
And here we are again, Sammy. The place where I'm the good brother and you tie that noose right in front of my goddamn face...or you'll do it someplace I may never find you.
"You swear to me, no more ghost of Christmas Past?" Dean pushed. He said it like he was compromising, but he was mentally going through every place Sam might have stashed it. Already thinking of ways to separate Sam from his stuff because come on, Sam.
Sam shrugged his shoulders. "I sealed the only thing of hers I have. If she comes back, then it's something else we haven't accounted for, and I can't be responsible for things I don't know."
"Sammy, the list of crap we don't know is getting longer, not shorter," Dean warned.
"I'm aware of that." Sam turned and laid down heavily. "You're right. If the situation were reversed, I'd be just as pissed as you are." He let his eyes drift shut.
Dean closed his eyes and then opened them again.
"Sam, you had a dream confused with a haunting..."
If he did. If he had...
"Dean, you've said it a hundred times..."
"Okay, this is time 101. If you keep that thing..."
"Please...please...just..." Sam's eyebrows furrowed. The plea sounded like it was taking the last breath of his body.
Dean's jaw clenched.
Sam yawned, turned slightly.
"Yeah. 'Night, Sam."
A low mumble that sounded grateful, dammit.
When the dark of the room began to color to a deep grey signalling the dawn, when no unearthly guest had appeared to stalk his brother in the night, Dean finally allowed himself to fall asleep too.
Damn, Dean loved to sleep in. He loved it-waking up on a Saturday whenever, and Sammy being a good kid and watching cartoons, and sugar cereal. The bottomless bowl of sugar cereal in Dad's mess kit. The Real Ghostbusters and Scooby Doo were Dean's favorites, and Sam appreciated watching those Care Bears do the Care Bear Stare because he was, like, three, and a certain amount of wussiness was allowed at that age. Oh man, that Tenderheart Bear, though. He was kind of a badass, not that Dean would admit it.
Yeah. Tenderheart Bear knew the deal.
Dean woke up with a start. At some point Sam had thrown his jacket over him, a kind of olive branch. Dean's teeth felt fuzzy.
"You know, I envy you. I always have. I wish I could sleep like that."
The elder Winchester blinked up at Sam who watched him over a large paper cup of some coffee concoction and his laptop.
"What? What time is it?"
"Past checkout. I hit them for another night. Coffee?"
"Pee." Dean muttered and stumbled out of bed.
Forty-five minutes later Dean was clean and shaved, all bandages had been replaced, and the two brothers ordered a late lunch at the diner down the street. Dean was starving but he felt incredible somehow. Yeah, he was still aching from bruises, but he could live with bruises. Had always somehow lived with them. Amazing what some sleep could do, and there was pot roast and pie to look forward to. Hot damn, maybe today would be a good day. If only.
"Hey, how're you?" Dean asked nonchalantly as he put the glorious black liquid to his lips while his gaze checked Sam's color. The bandage on his forehead was noticeable, but it wasn't actively bleeding. Yeah, it was a decent day when no one was actively bleeding .
Sam nodded. "I'm...good, actually. Nothing woke me up, I swear."
"Mmhmm." Dean put his cup down. Sam didn't need to know that he already had confirmation.
"And I spent all morning doing research."
"Research on what?"
Sam pulled out his notebook and stopped halfway. "If you don't want to know, say so now."
Dean realized he was making a face. Maybe he spoke too soon about the "decent day" thing.
"I want to know."
Sam nodded, and he was charged up with that kind of Sammy Researchy energy that seemed to come about from investigations that lead him somewhere. It was usually contagious, even if Dean never showed it. But this morning all it was doing was putting him on edge.
"So, I used what we know of the boogeyman's profile-his taste for psychic children, May 2nd, and Osseo, Wisconsin-and I searched the newspapers, police records, and medical records for the last 50 years."
"Medical records?" The hand on the coffee cup pointed a pinky at his brother's laptop. "You can get those on there?"
"Y-yeah. I mean, they aren't open to the public. Luckily for us, we're not the public." Sam's tone alone conveyed it: I had to do some illegal technical computery stuff. Just go with it.
"Right. Go on."
Sam nodded. "Luckily Osseo is a small town, so it didn't take long but...I think I've got something."
"There are reported disappearances of kids under the age of 13 on May 2nd in 2000, 1993, 1986, 1979, 1972, 1965, and 1958." Sam's eyes glittered.
Dean looked at the ceiling and did a quick calculation.
"Every seven years."
"Exactly. And when I cross referenced the kids with online medical records, not only did their birthdays match, but there were indications that these kids were having issues." Sam flipped through his notebook, his green eyes scanning the page. "Here. Patrick Dulin, age 11, born May 2nd. When he was eight he fell into a frozen creek and was dead on the table for ten minutes before he could be revived. On April 28th, 2000 he was admitted to the hospital for 'fatigue' where he received fluids and medication and was released."
"Yeah. Not sleeping? As in..."
Dean nodded, getting it. He remembered Sam two days before the boogeyman. He remembered every second of those days. "And on May 2nd he disappeared."
"And that happened in 2000?"
"Yeah." Sam flipped the pages in his notebook. "There's something on almost all of these kids, at least as far back as the medical records have been kept online."
"Jesus. For a guy who has such specific, discriminating tastes, it sure gets fed. I mean, like you said, Osseo is a small town. The fact that there are all these psychic kids born on just the right day seems completely weird, doesn't it?"
Sam took a deep breath.
"Yeah. About that."
Dean was suddenly on full alert.
"What? What about that, Sam?"
"You have to promise me you'll stay calm."
Dean narrowed his eyes. Whose idea was it to come to this public place for lunch? Oh yes. That would be Sam.
"I make no such promises. Tell me anyway."
"According to the medical records, after Patrick Dulin was revived from his near-death experience when he was 8 he told the doctors that he walked out onto the creek because there was another boy he didn't recognize urging him to go play."
"So, just before he fell in, Patrick said the boy just...disappeared."
"Okay. Wow. That isn't...super creepy. So, you think...not a coincidence?"
"One other missing girl, Emily Jacobs in 1986, was brought back after, get this, a suicide attempt at age 10."
Dean made a face. "Isn't that a little young to..."
"That's how it was listed officially in the report, but her psych eval was a bit more involved. She said another girl told her to jump out of her second story window and that she could fly."
"What? Ten? Come on. At ten everyone knows they can't fl-"
"Yeah, but Emily said she saw this other girl do it."
Dean stopped. "She saw a ghost too..."
"Seems like it. The rest of her medical history is...painful to read." Sam's face fell. "She was institutionalized in a private facility just outside of Osseo for two years and swore the entire time that she could hear the damned screaming in hell."
"Jesus. Poor kid." Dean didn't care much for people other than his surrogate family, but kids were a different story. Kids who had tough lives-he especially had a soft spot for them.
"And then, May 2nd, she disappeared. It was ruled an escape, but she fit the profile to a startling degree. When it comes to a psychic background before she vanished, she was the real deal." Sam closed his notebook and looked up at his brother as a matronly waitress set their meals in front of them.
"Nothing else like that on the others?"
Sam shook his head quickly and then shrugged. "It got harder after that. Not every kid had an accident in their childhood, and not every kid who had an accident necessarily experienced anything supernatural."
"So...what are you thinking here, Sam?"
His brother took a deep breath.
"I think you're right. For a small town, there were a lot of psychic kids born on May 2nd...and I don't think they were all born that way."
"You think the boogeyman somehow set things up to create psychic kids if there weren't any hanging around for chow time every seven years?" The case just got creepier and weirder.
"This is only what I found in four hours, but yeah. I think if I go deeper, that's what I'll find."
What the holy hell?
"If this thing is somehow setting kids up for ghost attacks, then we have some cases..."
"No, Dean, that's just it. There's not a single record of a child drowning in that creek or jumping out of a bedroom in the entire town. Not a single one. It's about the furthest thing from a usual haunting as you can get."
Dean was baffled. "So, if the pickings are slim, this creature somehow transplants ghosts from other places to almost kill these kids so that they get their brains opened up to the wonderful world of Miss Cleo. And then, on their birthdays, he comes out of their closets or under their beds and makes them the birthday cake. Otherwise he just takes his psychic snack from the local population? Doesn't that sound like a lot of fucking work? Far-fetched?"
Sam shrugged. "Tell that to Patrick and Emily."
Patrick and Emily...and Amber and Sam...
Fuck everything. He was going to eat this pot roast and it was going to be delicious. Dean stabbed a gravy-laden mound of meat and shoved it into his mouth.
Sam watched the fork go down down a second and third time.
"I think that this is roughly what Dad found out, this connection, but he wouldn't have had as much access to medical information fourteen years ago."
Well, congrats, Sammy.
"You know what's not comforting about this, besides everything?" Dean's fork and knife hovered over his plate and he leveled his gaze at Sam. "The fact that you were apparently always a tasty psychic snack in the making, but you're still being haunted. Also, your 24th birthday is a scheduled feeding day."
That back-eyed bitch said one more birthday, Sammy.
Dean winced and then picked up the thread before he unraveled. "I told you that girl was gaslighting you, leading you off to God knows what, and now you're pretty much telling me that it's par for the course, that the boogeyman's been doing this for years to get what he wants. Do you not ever want me to let you date?"
Sam licked his lips and gently touched his salad with a fork. Just touched it.
"Frankly, you're taking that particular part a little better than I thought you would."
If you only knew...
"Yeah? Well, I'm full of surprises. And I have pot roast. And there's pie here." He pointed a fork at Sam, "and you aren't hiding anything, right?"
Sam waltzed his own fork around a piece of orange or something and then finally trapped it with a leafy green. He made a face at Dean's persistent stare.
"Yeah. I think you must have accepted you were a rabbit a long time ago." He pointed to the salad.
Sam gave him a wilted look. "That's the longest set up for the worst joke...ever."
Dean's mouth grinned around his mashed potatoes but his eyes were hard. "What are you talkin' about? I'm hilarious."
Sam - 10yrs
Comfortable? Rested? It's not so bad here it's actually not
It is it's cold
You're feet don't hurt eyes don't hurt heart doesn't hurt-Not so bad Sam
But I hear them-don't like it
Who? The screams of the damned the sighs in heaven? They can't all hear-they won't all hear because Sammy is special
Can't move-why am I-
Why why is your face like that?
You made my face this way Sam you made it. Trying to run? Hard to run. What are you running on?
So slippery-so cold. Don't be brave no reason to be brave-It's scary you should be scared. You hear so many things-see so many things
I don't look. I don't look-can't look. I see it all don't smile don't smile please god don't smile
Smile when you're happy Sammy cry when you're sad run run run when you're scared
Can you hear them? The screaming of the damned the sighs in heaven? You're full of wisdomfearheat
Can't hear you
Can't hear you won't hear you and you don't hear what you don't want to hear-Don' t see what you don't want to see
I see you-I don't want to see you
That's why you see me-that's why I am
You lost you lost I know it
Didn't lose-not yet
Don't smile please please don't smile at me
Can't help it you make me smile. I can hear them too now thank you Sammy. I hear them and everything in hell and in heaven-You should listen they're talking about you
I know I know I know
So many plans for Sammy
I know don't want to know I won't know
Just listen to them. You think I'm bad-I'm not so bad
No no everyone is bad-everything is bad
Are you bad?
They'll make you bad
Can Dean save you?
Screams of the damned sighs in heaven all for Sammy-all for us to hear. Tried for a long time-long time I've tried and now here's Sammy for a little while-maybe to stay
Cold cold I hate it. Dean-
Can't hear you-not here-you left him and you left everyone
They'll all make you bad so stay Sam-it's better here you won't have to do any of it for them
I don't want to do any of it
Stay with me stay-scary yes scary and cold but everyone's safe from Sam everyone- Dean, Dad safe from Sam safe from screams in hell and sighs in heaven
I hate your face I hate your eyes don't ever look at me-stop smiling
Keep crying and running Sam-you know you know what they want but they'll be safe
They'll be safe if you are in a place only scary things are
We can hear it all together Sammy-come back to me before its too late to not be bad
Dean Dean Dean
Can't hear you
Dean shook Sam. He shook him hard. He all but rattled him like they tell you never to rattle a person because of head stuff but fuck fuck!
For five minutes straight, in the dark, on the bed, in the night, Sam had done nothing but shout his name. Shouted it like he was on another planet, another continent, like he was dying like he was dying.
And then, again, back to this complete emptiness. Totally silent. Gone. But for five minutes Sam had tried to get help and his eyes had been fucking silvery shiny and it was his little brother's voice, for sure, and he was lost.
But with a lamp on in an empty room Sam's eyes were hazel again. And he was staring at the ceiling. And his fingers were frozen, so Dean grabbed them and held them and fuck, what the fuck, Dad needed to be here for this, to see this. But when he got back he was going to get a report in detail about it and Dean was going to be fucking calm.
He'd be calm later.
And no one was here now. Not even Sam. And no one could say anything, and no one could judge, so when he pulled Sam into his arms and cried onto his smaller shoulder with powerful, soul-shaking sobs, it meant nothing to no one.
It meant nothing to no one.
(to be continued...)