Characters: John, Dean, Sam, Bobby
Word Count: 7600
Rating: R (language)
Warnings: Spoilers through 6X16; AU from that point on
Author's Notes: This story follows Clean Slate, Killing Time, and Backseat Driver in my resurrected!John verse. It is not necessary to read those stories first, but it would probably be helpful. This may or may not be the last part, seeing as how long it took me to write this one. :)
I am so grateful to callistosh65 for being such a talented, insightful beta. Also, a big thank you to saberivojo for her cheerleading and help along the way.
Summary: John Winchester is still back from the dead, Sam’s hell-wall still stands, but Dean does not trust his father to watch their backs, and Sam is keeping secrets of his own. The Winchesters are finally hunting together again, but nothing is the same….
John does his best not to stagger, but every bone in his body is screaming he’s too old for this crap. Sam and Dean didn’t want to bring him along in the first place, and he’s not giving them the satisfaction or the ammunition by admitting they were right. Hunting has always been a young man’s game, yet the three of them have centuries of Hell between them. None of them have been young…not for a long, long time. He keeps up even though his gait is decidedly zombie-like.
“Dad, do you need to sit down?” Sam asks, when John finally makes it across the parking lot in front the motel office.
“I’m fine,” he snaps. It comes out harsher than he meant it, but Sam just shrugs and goes back to rifling through his wallet.
“Sam, this is stupid,” Dean says wearily. “Just pick a damn card.”
Sam scowls at Dean. “You were the one who didn’t want to wait around at Bobby’s for the new ones to come in. They’re all maxed out.”
“Oh for God’s sake….” Dean yanks out his own wallet and immediately pulls out a card, handing it over to Sam.
Sam frowns, turning it over. “I thought Kent Randolph was finished.”
Dean shrugs and then flinches from the motion, obviously hurting. John’s surprised that Dean is even on his feet. That thing, whatever it was, threw Dean hard. “There’s a little left… enough for this dump anyway.” He digs into his wallet again and pulls out a driver’s license. “Here…now you’re officially Kent. You know you want to be.”
Sam rolls his eyes but takes the card. John catches a glimpse of the picture on the ID and frowns, irritated. His boys are getting sloppy—they didn’t even bother forging a card with an updated picture. Sam looks a decade younger in that photo, even though it’s most likely more current than that. Probably doesn’t matter. It’s not likely that the stoned kid behind the motel desk is going to be comparing cards. Especially since the smell of pot lingers in the air outside the door.
Sam straightens his bloodied shirt, as if that alone will make him presentable. “Should I get one room or two?” he asks uncertainly, hand on the doorknob.
John and Dean both chorus “one” and John is sure it kills Dean to actually agree, let alone share a room. But they can’t afford two rooms. At this point, John doesn’t care if he’s sleeping on the floor. This hunt kicked his ass, almost got them killed, and he needs to get some shut-eye. A couple shots of Jack wouldn’t hurt either.
Dean just looks wiped. “Come on, Sam, just get a move on. Someone’s gonna call the cops if we stand out here much longer bleeding on the freakin’ sidewalk.”
John snorts…that’s true. They look pretty bad. Sam is the least battered among them—for whatever reason, the monster liked him. The sonofabitch zeroed in on John and Dean like they were its midnight snack, but Sam came out of the fight mostly unscathed…except for the fact that his eyes look like they are a thousand miles away and Dean keeps giving him these worried once-overs that tell John he’s not imagining things.
“Stay out of the light and no one will see you.” Sam says. Chimes clatter unpleasantly as he walks through the door.
John sighs deeply.
“You okay?” Dean asks.
“Fine,” John says and rests his head against the stucco wall, even though Sam was right—they really should stay in the shadows where they won’t be seen. But he feels tired and achy and uninterested in moving, and suicidal moths keep martyring themselves against the bare light bulb over his head.
“C’mon, Sammy, hurry it up,” Dean mutters, wiping even more blood out of his eyes. John notes the bleeding isn’t slowing down.
“That needs to be stitched,” John says flatly.
Dean shrugs. “Sam can take a look.”
Not you. At least this time, the words go unspoken.
John should let it go, but he can’t help pushing. “Hope Sam’s stitching is better than it used to be.” He can remember a time when Sam could barely keep his hand steady enough to thread a needle, always panicked that Dean would bleed out while he tied the knot.
Dean regards him steadily. “Sammy’s good. He’s had plenty of experience.”
God help him, John is glad for that, even though he’d rather be spared the details.
“You didn’t have to come,” Dean adds. “We could have handled it.”
John is getting sick of this game he’s been playing with Dean lately, and he runs his fingers through hair that’s gritty with dried blood. “Kids were getting hurt. It was only a matter of time before someone got killed. No way you were leaving me behind on this one.”
“Me and Sammy…we’ve saved kids before. Hell, we saved kids when we were kids.”
John flinches… that one actually hurt.
“I know you don’t need my help—that’s how I raised you,” he says roughly. “But I’m not going to sit on the sidelines and watch you two. Like it or not, you’re stuck with me for the time being, so you’re just gonna have to make the best of it.”
Dean shakes his head. “You want to hunt with us, then you better have our backs.” More to the point, he continues, “You better have Sam’s back.”
John feels his anger rising, overcoming his previous exhaustion. He stands menacingly close and jabs his finger at Dean’s chest. “You don’t talk to me like that. You got something to say to me, you better just say it.”
They are in each other’s face, playing chicken to see who backs down first. John has an advantage though—he’s damn good at this game after eighteen years of playing it with Sam. Sure enough, Dean breaks first and looks away.
“Okay, tell me what the hell this is about,” John says, trying to tamp down on his anger. He seriously has no idea. He can’t think of a time he didn’t have Sam’s back. It’s not like he and Dean have always been on the same page after his unexpected resurrection, but John had honestly thought things were getting better between them.
Apparently, he was being unduly optimistic.
“You let Sam go in first,” Dean says, jutting his chin up defiantly again.
Whatever John was expecting to hear, it wasn’t that. “What are you talking about?”
“You told Sam to go in that kid’s bedroom first…you didn’t know what was in there. It was like you were offering him up on a silver platter to that thing. You had no right to put him in the line of fire like that.”
Dumbfounded, John shakes his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Sam wanted to go in first.”
“Sam always wants to go in first. That doesn’t mean you let him.”
John takes a step back out of Dean’s space. “Sam isn’t a kid. He’s a damn fine hunter, and you know it. He came out of that fight in better shape than either one of us.”
Dean holds his ground. “You didn’t know that would happen going in, and you let him take the lead. You listen to me…that wall in his head is real, and we have no fucking clue what’s gonna bring it down. How can you tell me you’re willing to take chances like that?”
John is about to tell him to watch his mouth, when Sam comes through the door with the key in hand. He stops short when he sees them.
“Not again,” he groans. “I was only gone a minute.”
John says in a low voice, “Back off, Sam. Everything is fine.”
Dean doesn’t say a thing.
Sam’s mouth flattens into an unhappy line. “Great,” he says sourly and heaves the duffel over his shoulder. He starts walking away, but John doesn’t miss the fact that Sam is overcompensating with his left shoulder, and he wonders how Sam got hurt. Even though the monster didn’t hurl Sam across the room, it fought back before Sam had a chance to kill it. And yet this gets John thinking…
How the hell did Sam kill the monster?
John honestly can’t remember. He was there, conscious, but his memory is fuzzier than it should be, no doubt thanks to the vicious blow to the head he’d taken.
He shakes his head now, trying to clear it, and realizes Dean is still standing there, waiting.
“You got something else to say?” John asks testily.
Dean doesn’t back off. “Protecting Sam should be your instinct. Anything less is unacceptable.”
With that, Dean takes off after Sam, and John watches them go, walking shoulder to shoulder.
The night has left John feeling like he’s been sucker-punched. With a huff, he picks up his bag and sets off after his boys, stumbling somewhat. This time, he chooses haste over dignity. Nobody cares if he’s staggering anyway.
John has to admit that Dean was right. Sam’s skills have improved considerably since he was a kid. John never believed Sam would actually get the hang of it. Because Sam is still a perfectionist, it took a while to clean and disinfect the wound on John’s forehead, but he did an excellent job with the sutures. Neat, economic stitches. All the emergency first aid drills he’d run them through when they were boys paid off with dividends…Sam could have made a fine medic.
John rubs the back of his neck, trying to work some of the kinks out. He’s in line for the shower, but Dean has been in there long enough to use up all the hot water in the one-stoplight town, let alone the motel. Dean had remained in a funk while Sam stitched him up but he calmed down soon after. Dean always did have a temper, although it was nothing compared to Sam’s drama as a kid.
Sam hasn’t yet mentioned the fact that he’s managed to screw up his shoulder, even though he keeps rolling it, rubbing it, trying to stretch it out, when he thinks nobody is watching. But these are tight quarters, and John can’t pretend not to notice.
“Sam, let me look at it.”
Sam barely looks up. “It’s fine…just a little sore.”
“More than a little sore by the way you’re messing with it. I’m thinking the best case is you’ve got a pulled tendon. Worst case is it’s a torn ligament and—”
“It’s not torn,” Sam says, cutting him off.
“How do you know?”
“I tore a ligament in college. Had to have surgery on it…I know what ‘torn’ feels like.”
John frowns. He didn’t know anything about Sam having surgery in college, which is disconcerting to say the least. “How the hell did you tear a ligament in college?”
Right then, the bathroom door opens, and Dean comes out, bare-assed and still dripping. The sour smell of the motel room is immediately overwhelmed by the perfume of cheap soap.
Dean says offhandedly, “The idiot was playing Ultimate Frisbee. Don’t tell me you don’t remember…it was his sophomore year. You made me do a background check on the surgeon.”
Somehow, that rings a bell with John. “The sports medicine surgeon?”
“Yeah…Sam had to do PT for a month. Wuss.”
Now Sam is staring, wide-eyed, at both of them. “You did a background check on my arthroscopic surgeon? Seriously?”
Dean shrugs. “Shoulder injuries are a bitch if they don’t heal right. So what’s going on, Sammy?”
“Pulled a muscle, no big deal.”
“Bullshit. Let me take a look. Same shoulder?”
Sam sighs but takes off his shirt, no doubt used to losing this battle. Dean prods at the shoulder carefully and orders Sam to raise and lower it slowly.
“Pulled tendon,” Dean says decisively after his inspection. “Ice and ibuprofen,” Dean pronounces. “You’ll be good as new, no big deal.”
“I never said it was a big deal,” Sam retorts, but he seems to relax a little anyway. Sam always did trust Dean more than anyone else.
Dean sits heavily on the bed next to Sam.
“Dude, seriously get dressed,” Sam says, but Dean ignores him. “I have to sleep in that bed too.”
Dean says. “Go get some ice.”
“I don’t need to get it right now.” Obviously provoking him, Dean stretches out on the bed, arms behind his head. “That’s disgusting. You don’t even know if that bedspread has been washed…like ever.”
“I’ll get up after you go get your fucking ice.”
Sam grabs the ice bucket and slams the door behind him.
John sits down on the opposite bed and meets Dean’s gaze levelly. Dean just glares, doesn’t say a word. But he does get up and reach for his jeans.
“Are we going to talk about this?” John asks testily.
“Talk about what?” Dean winces as he pulls on his jeans.
“What you said outside. When you accused me of trying to get your brother killed.”
Dean reaches for his shirt but then hesitates and sets it aside. He’s got one hell of a bruise spreading across his ribs, but Sam checked him out thoroughly and said nothing was broken.
“Look,” Dean says after a long moment’s silence. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just…I never know what’s gonna set him off, and he might act like everything’s normal, but it’s not. That wall cracks, he goes down, and he’s dead. I don’t even want him hunting, but you try telling him that. The idiot says as long as Eve’s out there, we gotta keep fighting. He says we owe it to Rufus and Gwen.” John notes that Dean doesn’t include Samuel, that goddamn sonofabitch who John wouldn’t hesitate to kill if he’d had the chance.
“Sam’s a good hunter,” John says. “You’re going to have to trust him. He handled himself pretty well tonight.”
Dean takes the bait. “Sam’s tough. Don’t get me wrong…anyone else would’ve broken, surviving what he’s been through.”
John tries out a smile for the first time that night and clears his throat. “Hey, how about filling me in on what you remember from tonight. I’m kind of shaky on the details back in the kid’s room…do you remember what happened?”
“What do you mean what happened?”
“What happened to the monster,” John persists. “I didn’t even get a good look at it. Do you remember how it died?”
Dean stares. “We killed it. Are you all right, Dad?”
John clarifies, “We didn’t kill the monster. Sam did.”
“Same thing. What’s the problem?”
“Do you remember how Sam killed it?
“Well, he just…” Dean begins and then stops, frowning. “I’m not sure. Did he exorcise it?”
John keeps trying to remember just that…he has a vague recollection of Sam chanting something incomprehensible. Not Latin…not any language he’s heard before. The rest is just a blur. “No exorcism that I know of. But…”
For a moment, he hesitates, but John has never been one to back down from an uncomfortable truth.
He puts words to the thing he is afraid of. “Did Sam use his powers to kill that thing?”
Dean sets his jaw. “No. No fucking way. I can’t believe you.”
“You have to admit it’s a possibility,” John says, his voice rising
Dean’s eyes narrow, and he jabs a finger at John. “You’re just looking for trouble. I knew we shouldn’t bring you along. I told Sam—.”
“Told me what?” The door swings open, and Sam is standing there. Clearly disgruntled, he holds up the ice bucket and holds it upside down as if to prove it’s empty. “I looked everywhere. No ice machine. What kind of motel gives you an ice bucket and no ice?”
They both stare. Neither John nor Dean has an answer…for anything.
“I’ll get your damn ice.” John grabs the ice bucket from Sam, who doesn’t look terribly convinced, and stalks out the door to search for the wayward ice machine himself.
If there’s one thing John hates, it’s a mystery.
They’ve been driving all day with no clear agenda where they’re going next, Dean humming under his breath, Sam sacked out, riding shotgun. Bobby has been tracking down rumors about possible Eve sightings but nothing has panned out as a sure thing. There’s been an outbreak of poltergeist activity in Illinois, so Dean has them turned in that direction, but there’s no indication that Eve is behind it.
Physically, they’re still recovering. Dean starting throwing up in the middle of the night after the attack but kept insisting it was no big deal…just got his eggs scrambled, no biggie. All the same, the lump on his forehead is turning spectacular colors of green and blue, and his ribs are giving him trouble, even though he won’t admit it to anyone, least of all John.
John is a mess, mostly contusions, aches and pains…nothing he can’t handle. The concussion left him with a headache, but that’s par for the course. Sam keeps icing his shoulder and popping ibuprofen every few hours. He was always disciplined about that sort of thing. So yeah, all things considered, they made out pretty well.
But John keeps thinking about the things that don’t add up about the case they’ve just finished.
The attacks all took place in a single small town in Iowa. The targets were young boys, most around seven or eight years old. None had been killed, but one was still in critical condition after having his leg amputated. The injured boys all told the police the same thing—a monster that crawled out from underneath their bed, threw them against a wall, and started to eat them. Fortunately, each boy was rescued by parents who rushed in when they heard screaming. Turning on the light made the monster disappear, but it didn’t kill it.
There was no description of the monster…not one of the boys could describe what it looked like.
The last victim was a six-year-old who differed from the others in that he’d escaped with nothing more than a cracked elbow from being tossed across his room and that he had influential parents who demanded answers. The parents had called in the media after the police couldn’t tell them anything, which is how Dean found the case online in the first place. He hadn’t wanted to start hunting again—not with John anyway—but this one involved children. And Dean had always let his heart get in the way, when it came to cases involving little kids.
It hadn’t taken much to convince the family to move into a hotel for a night. The little boy hadn’t been able to sleep since the night of the attack, and they were all exhausted.
Decamped in the family room, John, Dean, and Sam passed the time eating microwave popcorn, drinking beer, and watching TV…waiting for the monster to show up. John hated waiting, almost as much as he hated monsters, and he was fairly convinced this stakeout was pointless. They had little reason to believe the creature would return to the house and even less reason to believe it would appear in front of a bunch of adults. That wasn’t its MO.
But Sam was adamant that they had to try. Looking back, it was almost like he had inside information.
It was almost midnight when Sam heard something in the kid’s room. John hadn’t heard a thing. But he took off at a near-run down the long hall, shotgun in hand, Dean and Sam at his heels. Right before he opened the door to the bedroom, Sam grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Let me go first,” Sam hissed with enough urgency that John stepped aside without thinking. Dean shouted at Sam to wait, but Sam plunged through that door, pulling out his gun.
And all hell broke loose.
John isn’t clear on the details of the attack. He can’t really say what the thing looked like, but he smelled it before he even entered the room, more like burning tar than sulfur, but thick and viscously malevolent, the stuff of fire and brimstones.
John and Dean hurled themselves into the room, guns drawn. There was a blast of hot, sour air that seemed to blow Sam out of the way, knocking him against the metal bunk bed, like it was saving him for last, before turning its fury against the two of them. John didn’t feel it physically touch him, but he smelled its breath, and suddenly he was flying through the air, slamming with bone-crunching force into the wall. For a second, the wind was knocked out of him, and then he heard a loud thump of impact and a loud groan. He realized later it was Dean hitting the wall next to him.
Sam screamed, “NO!” And then he heard a voice, Sam’s voice, shouting words that John had never heard before. There was a horrible hiss and then a howl, like any garden-variety demon going back to Hell. Only this was no demon.
By the time Sam turned the lights on, the monster was dead, nothing more than a stain of black ectoplasm in the middle of the carpeted floor.
John’s vision was graying at the edges, and Dean was barely lifting his head. But they were alive. They had won.
Except John didn’t know how their victory had happened. Sam hadn’t offered up details and had looked decidedly uncomfortable every time John asked. Dean refused to ask his brother for more information, and he’d made it clear that if John pushed Sam on it, Dean wouldn’t hesitate to leave John’s ass on the side of the road.
It was as simple as that.
But John never closed a case that he couldn’t explain.
He sighs and looks out the window, watches familiar scenery passing by. He’s been through this part of the country many times before. He figures they’re less than a day’s drive from Windom, Minnesota, and he thinks about Kate and wonders how she’s doing. Because he is weak, he also thinks about Adam and wonders if he’s graduated yet. Wonders if he’s on his way to being a doctor yet.
John has tried Kate Milligan’s number several times since he’s been back. He let the phone ring on and on and on, but there was no answering machine, not even an electronic voice telling him the number was disconnected, that he should hang up and get on with this screwed up life he’s been given. He keeps telling himself it’s just as well. Kate and Adam are better off without him, Adam especially. Bobby always told him he was a coward that way.
John rubs his hand over his face and studies Dean and Sam in the front seat. He wonders if he’ll ever tell them they have a younger brother, how they’d react. It’s probably better all around that they never know.
They are passing through another town that looks exactly like the last one they passed through. Sam is starting to mumble in his sleep, and Dean slaps him hard on the leg. Sam doesn’t wake up gracefully. He blinks and sputters and then glares at Dean, wiping drool from his mouth.
Dean grins. “Gross, dude.”
“Shut up, man… Where are we? God, I’m starved.”
“You’re always starved.”
Sam yawns. “If you’d let me eat in the damn car, then I wouldn’t be hungry.”
“You’re a freakin’ slob. I told you never again after that time with the burrito.”
“If you hadn’t slammed on the brakes—”
“Yeah, yeah. My baby still smells like refried beans.”
“Shut up, it does not. That was over a month ago. Hey, there’s a diner. Pull over.”
“That’s not a diner…that’s a chain.” Dean pronounces the word like it’s something they should kill.
“Which means it’s predictable. They have salads. Pull over.”
Dean sighs. “Fine. But it’s people like you who are putting all the mom and pop places out of business.”
Sam snorts. “Dean, we’re paying for our meal with stolen credit. We’re putting everyone out of business.”
“You are such a killjoy,” Dean says, as he pulls into the space. “I’m holding you responsible if they don’t have pie.”
Sam just smiles and runs a hand through his hair, checking his reflection out in the mirror.
They shut their doors behind them, and John is left with the distinct impression they have forgotten he’s in the car. It wouldn’t be the first time.
But then Sam leans in through the open window. “You coming, Dad?”
Yeah, he’s coming. But John could make the case that his boys would be better off hitting the road without him. He orders himself to stop wallowing in self pity, and he gets out of the car.
“Something wrong with your burger?”
Startled, John looks up. The waitress is standing by their booth, arms crossed and decidedly not amused that he hasn’t eaten. John just keeps mulling over the hunt…trying to figure out what he’s missing. But the waitress doesn’t care about that, so John picks up the burger and takes a big bite. Nods at her, even though the burger tastes like crap and she probably knows it.
Appeased, she walks away, but Dean tells Sam, “I told you we should have chosen a diner.”
“Give it a rest, Dean. Told you so is getting old.” Sam is sitting next to him, poking around at his iceberg salad. John has no idea why Sam is always insisting he’s hungry when he so rarely eats.
“Sam, eat the freakin’ lettuce, don’t play with it,” Dean orders, before taking a huge bite of his burger and chewing for a while.
Sam glares at him but he takes a bite. Sam has also seemed absent-minded since the hunt. No seizures…no signs that the wall in his head is falling down, but something isn’t right. It takes a lot of food to keep a body that size going. But Sam only actually seems to eat if Dean reminds him.
Sam opens a package of saltines and stuffs one in his mouth, chewing exaggeratedly. “Happy?” Dean snatches the wrapper and flicks it at his face. It lands in the salad.
Dean has his mouth full of his own monstrosity—some triple patty, cheese, bacon deal—and does look happy, but John puts his hamburger down and says slowly and clearly, “We’re missing something.”
Dean swallows and says, “I’m missing my pie. I was right, it’s not on the menu. Sammy, you owe me.” But he’s looking at John when he says it, and his meaning is clear.
Leave it alone.
John feels his own frustration growing. Dean has made it very clear he doesn’t want to talk about what happened in that little boy’s bedroom, mostly because he is convinced Sam is avoiding the subject for a good reason. Dean’s bottom line is that if Sam doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t have to. End of story.
Sam puts his fork down and looks away.
Dean rolls his eyes, swallows, and demands, “Okay—what?”
Sam looks over at his brother. “What?” he parrots back.
“What’s wrong with your salad? I swear, it’s like you’re thirteen, back to being a moody bitch. I had to go through puberty with you once, don’t make me do it again.”
“Asshole,” Sam retorts, and then adds, “Nothing’s wrong with the salad.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. I just feel like we shouldn’t have left so quickly…maybe we should have stuck around to make sure there weren’t any more of those—whatever they were—still around.”
John is surprised. He didn’t realize Sam was also having doubts about the case.
Dean takes another bite of his burger and mumbles, “You killed the sonofabitch, Sammy. It’s over.”
“But what if there were more?” Sam persists. “What if it wasn’t an isolated case?”
“What makes you think there might be more?” John asks carefully.
Sam shrugs, looks unhappy. “The monster isn’t like anything we’ve seen before. It just seems like Eve’s handwriting on the wall to me…new monster comes out of nowhere. It doesn’t seem like she would just create one.”
John nods, considering this. He has also been considering the possibility that Eve is behind this and is glad Sam’s on the same page. “I’m also thinking ghouls.” Sam and Dean glance quickly at each other with a look he can’t quite interpret. “What?”
But then Dean clears his throat and says, “No way. Nothing like ghouls.”
“It fits the pattern,” John insists. “They target children. They like to hide under beds. You have to admit it makes sense.”
Dean takes a huge bite of his burger, almost defiantly, and doesn’t respond.
But Sam puts down his fork and says quietly, “Ghouls go after the dead. Unless they have a reason not to.”
“Not always, trust me,” John insists. “Ghouls are scavengers. Scavengers feed wherever they can, wherever it’s easy.”
Mouth still full, Dean says defiantly, “Sam got a good look at the thing and says it’s not a ghoul. Besides, you saw what was left of it. Not a ghoul. This was something different.”
“You boys run up against any ghouls while I was gone?” John asks, picking up his burger again. It’s unlikely, but not impossible.
Sam looks down, stabs a chunk of iceberg with his fork, and stuffs it in his mouth.
But Dean shakes his head and says, “No. We didn’t.”
Slowly, John takes a bite of his burger, not taking his eyes off his boys. They’re both lying.
He just doesn’t understand why.
The fire crackles and pops, and John stares into it, trying to put down his doubts the way you would a lycanthrope-bitten man…swiftly, yet not without mercy.
Dean is sitting next to him, profile highlighted by the flames and the waxing moon overhead. Sam is across from them, staring into the flames, occasionally prodding the wood into a smoky blaze. Embers rise and shatter. John’s clothing reeks of smoke. But at least his head is feeling better.
John has always hated camping.
But they’re in the middle of nowhere and out of cash…out of credit as well. Camping has often been a necessity in his life, but John has never been able to understand why anyone would sleep outside for recreation.
Dean suddenly looks over at Sam. “Hey, are we out of beer?”
“I told you we were out,” Sam says. “We have been for a couple days.”
“You should have told me when we got gas. It sucks being stuck out here all night without a six pack.”
“We’re out of money,” Sam says morosely. “It’s nothing but water until we get back to Bobby’s.”
Dean taps a smoldering log with the toe of his boot, and it hisses and pops. “Did Bobby say if the new credit cards came in?”
“Two of them did, but not the platinum ones. We’re still waiting on ‘Frank Fisher’ and ‘Grayson Keller’. I swear, dude, what’s with the names?”
“I like those,” Dean says with a smirk. “You make a good ‘Frank.’.”
“Does that mean you’re ‘Grayson’?” Sam asks, smirking right back at them.
John sits back and watches them. Times like these, it feels like not much has changed since they were on the road together, before Stanford, hunting together, a real family. But it’s only a façade propped up by wishful thinking—everything changed while he was dead. Everything.
He closes his eyes and tries to keep his mind on the job. He keeps coming back to Eve and her hideous children. She’s making them up as she goes, but he doesn’t know why. There’s got to be a reason. This is no natural selection—it’s intelligent design in its purest form.
That’s when it hits him like a kick in the gut. His head jerks up, and he stares hard at Sam.
“What is it, Dad?” Dean asks, but it sounds more like a threat than a question.
John directs his statement at Sam. “You knew what it was.”
In the flickering light of the campfire, Sam almost looks diabolical with the flames reflecting eerily in his eyes.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sam says, and Dean sits up straight, on full alert.
But John trusts his instincts. He’s going to pursue this, whether Dean wants him to or not. “That thing. That monster. You recognized it, and that’s how you knew how to kill it.”
John stands up and Dean stands up to face off with him, shoulders back, fists clenched.
Dean tells him, “That’s crap. We all went in there cold—you were there, you saw what went down.”
John knows what he saw and what’s really been bothering him. Sam had known exactly what to do…had known how to kill it. It was almost like he and the monster had history together.
“Tell the truth, Sammy,” John says quietly, looking down. “You tell us what you know.”
“This is bullshit,” Dean says, furiously. “I knew we couldn’t trust you, knew we shouldn’t bring you along.”
“You keep saying that,” John says mildly, but Sam stands and takes hold of his brother’s arm.
“Dad’s right, Dean.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Dean asks, not taking his eyes off John.
“Dad’s right. I did know what that thing was. I knew how to kill it.” They both turn to look at Sam as he continues, “But I didn’t know what it was before I got there, I swear it. I would have told you if I had any idea what we were walking into.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Dean asks, clearly unsettled.
Sam only shrugs. “I…I didn’t want to give her more ammunition. The last thing I want is her making more monsters for my benefit. I wasn’t sure how she found out about this one in the first place.”
“Who?” John asks roughly, but he’s pretty sure he already knows.
Sam sits back down and rests his hands on his knees. “Eve. I think Eve was the one who created the monster. But she got the idea from me.”
Dean demands, “What the hell are you talking about? Which monster to create? Why from you?”
Sam says, “I don’t know. I’m trying to make sense of it, same as you were. But there were things—specific details—about how it went down…I just think she had to get them out of my head…”
John nods, piecing it together with Sam, but Dean persists, “Why? What does she get out of it?”
Sam simply shrugs, but John is considering the possibilities. “Do you think she’s trying to trap you?” he asks.
Sam bites his lip and then says, “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
“Why?” John persists.
Sam says quietly, “I think it’s to get back at me. For what I did when I was with Samuel.”
“That wasn’t even you. That was soulless you,” Dean says stubbornly, and Sam shoots him a bemused smile.
“I seriously doubt the mother of all monsters is really scouring the fine print, Dean.”
Dean swears under his breath. “Doesn’t matter. We’re gonna gank that bitch, I swear.”
John looks at Sam levelly. “So this was a monster you had…thought of? But it didn’t really exist?”
“Yes, sir.” Sam returns his gaze.
“How did she find out about it? Any theories?”
Sam hesitates, bites his lip, before he admits, “I think maybe Lucifer told her. Maybe he got it out of me when I was in Hell. Or maybe even Crowley before Cas killed him.”
Dean swears under his breath. “Shut up, Sam… I don’t want you talking about Hell, not here, not now. Don’t you dare go trying to remember!” He glares at John. “This is why we don’t go poking around in the first place.”
But Sam insists, “I’m not trying to remember Hell. That’s why I haven’t been talking about it.”
John tilts his head, looking down at him. “You recognized it. It had personal significance to you. What type of monster is it? Does it have a name?”
Sam stares down again, starts scuffing his foot in the dirt. “It doesn’t matter any more…it’s dead.”
Dean is really starting to look unnerved. “Damnit, Sammy… I know you better than anyone, and you’re just stalling. Whatever it is, we can take care of it. Nothing’s gonna be messing with you, not while Dad and I are around.”
Not while Dad and I are around…
John looks up sharply and takes a deep breath. It has been a long time since he heard Dean say something like that.
Sam sighs heavily, laces his fingers together, and hooks them on his knee. “Fine. But I need you both to sit down.”
Dean swallows nervously. “It’s the kind of thing I have to sit down for?”
“No, you’re hurting my neck looking up at you. Just sit down, all right?”
John sits down a few feet away. Still looking worried, Dean sits between them. Dean asks, “What was the monster’s name, Sam?”
It’s hard to tell in the half-light, but John could swear Sam is blushing. He mumbles something indecipherable under his breath.
John says, “Speak up, Sam, I couldn’t hear you.”
Sam takes a deep breath. “The boogeyman...it was the boogeyman, which is why I didn’t want to tell you.”
“What the hell?” John begins, but Dean lets out a laugh so startling that Sam almost falls off the log.
“The boogeyman? Seriously, dude?”
“Shut up,” Sam says darkly. “I hate you.”
John’s head is spinning, as he tries to draw upon what little lore he knows. There’s never been a documented case of an actual boogeyman attack before. As far as John knows, the boogeyman is a myth, an amorphous imaginary being used to frighten children into behaving. It doesn’t even have a specific appearance…from what he remembers, conceptions can vary dramatically from region to region, culture to culture. It is simply the non-specific embodiment of terror.
The boogeyman doesn’t exist outside the fears of little kids. That’s the point—it’s make-believe.
Softly, John asks Sam, “Why didn’t you tell me? If you were scared when you were little, you should have told me.”
Sam gives him a tight-lipped smile. “I told you I was scared of the thing in my closet, and you gave me a .45.”
“Yeah, but that was real,” Dean protests. “There’s no such thing as a boogeyman, Sam.”
“It was just a stupid kid thing,” Sam says. “It wasn’t a big deal…”
“Except that it was,” John says shortly. “There was a reason why Eve chose it.”
“Maybe it was to lure me in,” Sam says. “Either that, or Eve simply has a warped sense of humor.”
“Would one of you please friggin’ enlighten me? I’m still not following.” Dean has his arms crossed tightly against his chest, fists clenched.
John rubs his hands over his eyes before explaining, “In some cultures, ‘boogeyman’ is another word for ‘devil.’”
Sam leans forward. “That’s what I’ve been able to get from my research.”
“And you were planning to share with the class…when, Sam? ” Dean grumbles.
John knows that Dean has never liked being out of the loop.
“It’s kind of embarrassing…and I didn’t want her getting anything else out of my head.”
John frowns, still trying to connect all the dots. Despite the fact that back in the day, he would have kicked Sam’s ass for concealing important intel, he is now considerably relieved it isn’t something worse. Nothing having to do with Lucifer…nothing having to do with that crumbling wall holding back Hell in his head, nothing to do with demon blood or returning psychic powers. He can sense that Dean, next to him, is coming to the same conclusion by the way his shoulders drop and his jaw relaxes.
But he still has questions he wants answered. Sternly John says, “You need to tell us everything you know.”
“I’ve already told you—“
John cuts him off, “You’ve told us what it is, but not what you did to kill it. We need to know what to do for the next time. For all we know, boogeymen could be popping up all over the world.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Sam says.
“Why not?” Dean asks.
Sam sighs. “It’s because of what I said to kill it…. I don’t think it would work for anyone but me. It was kind of…my own private boogeyman.”
“Your own private boogeyman,” John echoes, hoping he never had to say those words ever again. “What did you say to kill it?”
Sam sighs heavily. Wearily. He takes a deep breath, like he’s steeling himself for the inevitable fallout.
Then he recites flawlessly, “Ymay ad'sday onnagay illkay ouyay.”
“What the hell is that?” Dean demands, looking freaked.
“That’s what killed it.”
“How?” John persists. “How did that kill it?”
Sam shrugs. “Don’t know. It kind of froze for a second like it was stunned, and then it screamed…I guess it just sort of…melted. After that, I turned on the lights, and it had liquefied.”
Dean looks baffled. “Is that Russian? It sounds like Russian.”
Sam blinks. “Honestly, Dean, I worry about you.”
John is wracking his brain, trying to remember the dozens of ancient languages he’s been exposed to, including the demonic ones, but none of them come close. And yet there’s something about Sam’s words that sound vaguely familiar…
He is about to venture a guess… something related to Sumerian prophecies…when Sam finally says with a peeved huff, “For God’s sake, it’s Pig Latin.”
John and Dean stare blankly.
“What the hell is Pig Latin?” Dean asks.
Sam waves his hand imploringly. “C’mon…Pig Latin. You know. Pig. Latin.”
Dean blurts out, “There’s no such thing. Dad, tell him there’s no such thing.”
But John’s mind is racing. John has read all the ancient accounts involving possessed swine, but doesn’t remember anything about a dedicated subtype of Latin. “Is it used for exorcising pigs?”
“Oh my God,” Sam sputters, he turns away, and then his shoulders start heaving. For an awful moment, John is terrified it’s another seizure and the Hell-wall is breaking down, but Sam turns back and he realizes that Sam is laughing. “How can you not know about Pig Latin? Everyone knows about Pig Latin. It’s like both of you are culturally tone deaf.”
“How can something called Pig Latin be cultural?” Dean demands, but Sam only starts laughing harder.
Dean reaches over and smacks Sam on the back of his head. Sam shoves at him, Dean shoves back, and for a moment, it looks like they’re going to knock each other into the fire.
John has had about all the nonsense he can take. “Enough roughhousing, boys,” he orders, before looking hard at Sam. “What does it mean?”
Sam rubs the back of his head, glaring at Dean. “What does what mean?”
John tries to maintain his patience. “The Pig Latin, Sam. What’s does it mean?
Sam tries again, “Everyone knows what it means. It’s a language kids use.”
John takes a quick breath. Sam can be so stubborn.
“He wants you to translate it, dumbass,” Dean says, unabashed fondness now in his voice. “You’re such a geek.”
Sam ducks his head and looks embarrassed again. “It’s what used to work when I was little…back when I was a kid. When I thought it was coming out from underneath my bed, I’d just flip on the lights and I’d say in Pig Latin…”
Sam hesitates, and John presses, “What—what would you say?” He’s not sure why, but it’s important that he knows.
There’s a long pause, punctuated by the crackling of the fire and a rustle nearby. John looks up and sees a stream of bats flying through the treetops overhead. For a second, it looks so much like a swarm of demons that he’s reaching for his gun. But they are only bats, foraging for insects in the trees. For once, nothing sinister…
Sam clears his throat. “I …I would always say, ‘my dad’s gonna kill you!’ It was the only thing I could think of that would scare anything bad away.” He huffs out a quiet breath. “It was the only thing that worked.”
Sam stares quietly into the fire, and Dean is quiet as well. Dean’s eyes look suspiciously full, but it could be from all the smoke. He can see the scared little boy when he looks into Sam’s face. And damn…suddenly John can’t swallow, and his own eyes are stinging.
He has always been given so much more than he deserves.
Then Dean lets out a short laugh. He slugs Sam on his good shoulder. “Hey, that was a pretty kickass thing to come up with for a little kid. But dude, you should have told me the boogeyman was after you. I’d have taken care of it for you.”
“The boogeyman was never real, Dean,” Sam reminds him pointedly, before adding sheepishly, “Until now. Sorry about that, by the way.”
“Not your fault,” Dean says and grins mischievously. “But you could have come up with a more original name …but oh yeah…Cookie Monster was already taken. Good thing Eve didn’t know about him. Now that’s some scary shit.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Sam retorts, but he’s trying to hide his smile.
“How do you say that in Pig Latin?” Dean wants to know.
Sam tells him. Twice. Dean tries to parrot it back, and then they’re both choking with laughter.
John stifles his smile but doesn’t join in. He takes a long, deep breath. He is still stuck on the threat that worked.
My dad’s gonna kill you.
It’s a promise born from childish faith, and it humbles him. The truth is John has never deserved that kind of devotion. Not then and sure as hell not now.
The worst monsters are the ones inside your own head.
Eve understood that…it’s what she was counting on. It’s the worldview shared by every evil sonofabitch that has ever come after them, but it’s not the whole picture.
They have always underestimated John and his boys.