Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing. It’s all Kripke’s and the CW’s and blah blah blah. We all know who the real brain trust is around here.
Spoilers: General for the series. Takes place in two time periods, one pre-series and the other situated at some point between 3x04 (Sin City) and 3x05 (Bedtime Stories).
Summary: The Winchesters never stay, and when they go they leave more than burned corpses behind them.
Author’s Notes: One chapter will be posted a week, until it’s finished. I’ll put up my full notes at the end, but there are a few people I have to thank right off the bat. First, always and forever, is hiyacynth who chivvied and encouraged me at every turn. This is as much her story as it is mine, and all the better for it. I never would’ve written it without her. I also must thank quellefromage who generously volunteered to beta my little story and made it immeasurably better. She was willing to ask the hard questions, and for that I truly thank her. Also indispensable was the Baylor Sister who has listened to me ramble about this since before there was an actual plot, just a couple vivid scenes and a character or two. And, a multitude of thanks to baylorsr, if only for saying, “More, please,” at several key intervals when my confidence was at its lowest. This story is a milestone for me, in a lot of ways, and I never would have reached it without these amazing people. Thank you all so very, very much.
November 23, 1996
The car rolled to a grumbling stop in front of an innocuous house on a suburban street lined with winter dead trees. A strange loaded silence hummed between its occupants. Outside the world was gray and dim, the early morning light unable to break through the low-hanging ceiling of clouds. A tension sparked down Dean’s nerves that was exactly like and completely different from the usual post-hunt buzz.
He cut a glance over to his dad in the driver’s seat. John was filthy, streaked with mud and dead leaves, just like they all were, exhaustion apparent in the off-kilter cant of his head. Dad always looked his worst right after a kill, all of his adrenaline used up and burned out and he was left running on too many days without sleep and stale caffeine. His left hand gripped tight to the steering wheel while his right gently eased the key from the ignition. It was too quiet in the car without the drone of the engine for accompaniment.
Dad glanced in the rearview mirror and his eyes tightened. Most people wouldn’t have noticed the breath he took, almost a sigh, or his split-second hesitation before turning to the back seat.
“You all set?” Dad asked the girl in the back, less gruffly than Dean expected.
“Yeah,” was the quiet reply. He turned his head slightly and caught a glimpse of her huddled by the door. Her hair was a mess, half still pulled back into a braid with the other half flying around her head in slimy clumps. Old tear tracks streaked the dirt on her face but the skin underneath was pale. She looked older than most seventeen year-olds he knew, nearly as old as Dean felt most days.
She looked up and caught his gaze. His head jerked straight and he blinked. He needed to get back to the house, back to Sammy.
The back door creaked wearily open a second later, the springs in the seat squeaking.
“I-” Her voice was tense and dry. She cleared her throat with an awkward cough. “Thank you.”
She jumped out of the car and slammed the door resolutely before anyone could reply.
Dad turned forward, his eyes focused on some point beyond the windshield. The engine turned over with a growl, the power of it settling some jangling chord in the back of Dean’s mind. He glanced in the side mirror and saw her standing there, still as a statue, watching the car with unblinking eyes. As they pulled away from the curb he caught a flash of white and blonde as her nightgown-clad little sister slipped up behind her and grabbed her around the waist. He wasn’t entirely sure which was holding the other upright.
Dean watched them shrink in the distance until the road curved and they disappeared from view.
September 13, 2007
The noise and clatter of the morning rush hummed around their table. Sam tapped away at his laptop, utterly oblivious to the eggs congealing on his plate or the waitress refilling his coffee cup.
Dean kicked him underneath the table, a quick jostle of boot to ankle. Sam’s head shot up, eyes narrowed in annoyance.
“Dude,” Dean said. “She was totally into you.”
Sam grunted and turned back to his websearch. The pattern that he thought he’d seen during the job with Chuck up in Iron Mountain — and had slotted into the ‘Future Hunts’ folder at the back of his brain — was starting to piece itself together. He just needed a few more uninterrupted seconds to double-check a couple last things.
He jerked, slamming his knee into the underside of the table with a muffled thud. Dean, the fucker, had nailed him in the shin with one of those steel toes. He glared at Dean who beamed unrepentantly back at him, a piece of bacon hanging out of his mouth.
“What?” Sam snapped.
Dean only frowned and finished chewing his bacon, the index finger of his right hand tapping out a rhythm in the general proximity of Sam’s plate. Sam expressionlessly pushed his plate over. He wouldn’t be surprised if half the diner heard the rapturous noises his brother was making around the heaping forkfuls of hashbrowns he shoveled into his mouth. At least he’d eased off the whole ‘all bacon double cheeseburgers all the time’ diet. Too much of a good thing must really exist, even for a Winchester.
Sam clicked on one last link. The immediate grin that spread over his face was proof enough that the internet had brought him exactly what he needed.
“You figure out our next hunt there, Columbo?” Dean asked around a mouthful of potato. He swallowed and reached for his coffee mug. He leaned back in the red-checkered booth and stretched his arm out idly along its top.
“Six people have gone missing in the past month and a half.” Sam glanced back at the laptop screen and flipped from the web browser to his notes. “They head out into the woods, for whatever reason, and disappear.”
Dean involuntarily reached for the laptop and Sam pulled it out of his reach. Screw that pissy little look, Dean knew the rule about getting grease on the keyboard.
“You sure it’s our kinda gig?” Dean asked while wiping his hands on his thighs, like that was any kind of grease solution. “People get themselves lost in the forest all of the time without any otherworldly help. Hell, dumbass drunken hunting accidents could probably account for the whole thing.”
“They could, except I checked and hunting season doesn’t start for another month.” He continued on in spite of Dean’s skeptically raised eyebrow. “And I checked the statistics on disappearances in that area for the season. It’s the middle of nowhere but it’s not like some Stephen King novel, people don’t generally tend to disappear. There might be a few missing persons a season but not in these numbers and not under these circumstances.”
He handed Dean the print-outs he’d put together earlier that morning. “The first disappearance was Shauna Leischman. She and her boyfriend were tourists from Washington state. The boyfriend, Ryan, reported that they had pulled over to fix a flat tire in the middle of the afternoon. One second she was handing him lugnuts and the next she was gone. The next two disappearances were natives of the area: Mike Heyse was a high school teacher who was last seen leaving his neighbors’ house one evening and Danny Owen’s parents put him to bed one night only to find it empty the next morning.” Sam started ticking off occurrences on his fingers. “Heather Nelson was visiting friends when she went for a morning run and never came back and Jack Saunders went on a late night grocery store run and never actually made it to the store. The latest, Hector Garces, was a day laborer picking blueberries when he vanished. When interviewed his fellow workers said the last time they saw him he was going behind the tree line for a quick break.”
Dean hummed under his breath and flipped from page to page. He raised a quizzical eyebrow over the top of the papers. “You sure this isn’t another group of wackos like in Minnesota? Cause I’d hate to be stuck in Deliverance-territory for real this time.”
Sam shrugged. “If it is they’re not being particularly careful about their activities.” He shook his head with a frown. “Plus, the records don’t bear out. In Hibbings there were years of abductions and the missing persons statistics were completely out of whack with the surrounding areas.” He glanced back down at his notes to quickly double check. “Everything about these disappearances is anomalous; there’s no historical pattern. Until this year things around there looked pretty much the same as everywhere else.”
“And where is ‘there’, exactly?”
Sam pulled out the map and pointed to an area a bit further south. “Here. They’re all situated in a five mile area a couple miles north of Hart.”
Dean gave Sam a long, assessing look. Sam knew that look, and knew that behind his slightly squinted eyes Dean was carefully slotting all of the information into place. Sam held his brother’s gaze, certain down to his toes that this was something they had to look in to. Dean smirked and slapped his hands down on the table. “Well, hell, Sammy. Sounds good enough for me. Maybe we’ll even meet up with Fred Bear while we’re at it.”
Sam stared at Dean’s back as he followed him out of the diner, thinking about all of the things they hadn’t said. They’d been running from hunt to hunt since Wyoming because neither of them wanted to stop. As long as they had something to occupy their time, to fill the long empty road with purpose, they wouldn’t have to listen to that clock that ticked down the seconds they had left.
September 13, 2007
East Lansing, MI
The knot in Angela’s stomach drew tighter as the phone on the other end of the line rang again and again and again with no answer. When the voicemail picked up for the ten millionth time she flipped her phone shut on her sister’s bland pre-recorded voice. She had to physically restrain herself from picking up her heaviest text book and throwing it across the room.
“Damn it, Gillian, where the hell are you?” she growled, fear and frustration roping around each other in her throat.
“She still not answering?” Her roommate Christa asked from amidst her scattered chem notes. She was seated at the tiny table they’d been able to squeeze into the nook between the living room and kitchen of their miniscule one-bedroom apartment. It was small but neither of them had nearly enough for a bigger place. The glamorous life of grad student chic had gotten old awfully fast.
“No.” Angela crossed the room and plopped down in the other straight-backed kitchen chair, her back to the bulk of the apartment. “And it’s not like her. She’s not the greatest communicator in the world but she’s never not called me back.” She scrubbed her hand through her dark blonde hair. “Something’s wrong. I know it is.”
“Have you asked your mom?” Christa asked in that calm, reasonable voice that Angela both envied and hated. “Maybe she’s heard from her.”
Angela shook her head and grimaced. “I don’t want to worry her.” She shrugged. “Anyway, Gillian never calls home, at least, not voluntarily.” She stood up and paced over to the sliding doors that opened onto their minuscule second floor balcony. She stared out at the cars speeding by on the road underneath. “She’s probably fine, probably neck deep in another one of her wild goose chases or half a week into the next three week bender.” She sighed and leaned against the smooth glass doors. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve gotta go up there and make sure.”
“Are you positive?” Christa came over to stand beside her. “The term just started and you’re gonna miss at least a couple days of class. You and I both know that midterms’ll be on us before we know it.” She put a hand on Angela’s shoulder. “Like you said, she’s probably fine. And it’s not like she can’t take care of herself.”
“I know, but-“ Angela swallowed and looked helplessly at her friend. “I have to go. She’s my sister.”
Christa sighed and nodded, heroically not voicing her practical Gillian-shaped concerns. “Well, if you’re going you’d better take my car. Your POS wouldn’t make it to Grand Ledge, let alone Hart.”
Angela grabbed her hand and squeezed. “Thanks,” she whispered. She took a deep breath and tried to will away the panic that was spinning around in her chest. It had always been her and Gillian against the world. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for her big sister.