Chapter 11. Family
Chapter 11. Family
"Dean…My baby, my beautiful baby. It's been a long time."
"You had to forget about me before you could come back?"
"It…It wasn't like that."
"But all those times, when you were a child. You didn't want to come in. As much as I called you, you stayed outside. Didn't you hear me?"
"I did. But I was scared."
"Scared of me? Why?"
"Because I didn't understand why you were still here. Because you had…died."
"And now, you understand?"
"Yes, Mom. I do."
"But you're still scared. Is it because you don't love me anymore?"
"That's not true. I love you."
"But you've come to kill me. Honey, I can't let you kill me."
The mild air of the night caressed the hunter's skin which had become heated by the effort of carrying Jennifer's body outside. The breeze that should have been refreshing made him shiver instead. His limbs were still heavy after having been deprived of oxygen and then brusquely brought back to life just a few minutes ago. Probably for the same reason, his head felt funny. The moment he got out of the house, a sensation of coldness, difficult to locate and impossible to grasp, took over him. Holding his breath, he turned around. His brother hadn't come out of the house yet, and Sam narrowed his eyes to watch Dean through the opened doorway of the house. His older brother was standing in the hall, biting his lower lip. Unmoving.
"Dean?" Sam asked, frowning.
When he took in the sadness of Dean's expression, a chill ran across his spine. He tried to fool himself into believing that Dean was simply hanging back to make sure that nothing followed from the inside, and that nobody saw them from the outside. But the truth was that even while his brain was coming up with that rational justification, his voice was faltering at the sight of Dean's face. It was as if his unconscious perception knew better than any conscious attempt to convince himself that Dean wasn't staying behind willingly.
The door closed with a sudden bang, and Sam's cry caught painfully inside his throat when the wave of energy that had caused the door to slam reached his senses and crushed him off balance. Groaning, the hunter set a knee on the ground and balanced Jennifer against his chest until the sensation subsided. For a couple of seconds, he was petrified. He simply couldn't bring his mind to process what had happened and somehow, he still expected that Dean would step out as if nothing had happened, and it had only been a gust of wind that had closed the door.
No, no, no…
Jennifer moaned weakly, and Sam eased the woman's body to the ground. He felt her forehead and kept his hand there without tearing his eyes from the front door.
"Dean!" Sam called his brother again.
Jumping to his feet, Sam was back at the door in a heartbeat, only to crash into solid wood that refused to open regardless of how hard he pushed it. His efforts fruitless, Sam tried to break the lock open, but discovered that the door was actually unlocked. It seemed like the door was rather blocked from the inside, but by what or by who, Sam didn't know.
"Open the door!" Sam ordered, his voice edging into hysterics. "Open the door! Goddammit, Dean, don't do this!"
The younger hunter pounded the door hard, over and over, as tears started to sting in the corners of his eyes. It was impossible that Dean didn't hear him. Damn him! He wanted to scream, and he wanted to cry. Over all he wanted to punch Dean with all his goddamn might and yell at him. Who the hell did Dean think he was to decide that Sam wasn't allowed to say good-bye to him, especially when Dean felt entitled to make his little brother live with a farewell smile engraved on his retina for the rest of his life?
But the rest of the neighborhood would hear him if he didn't get a hold of himself. And since they would be less likely to ignore his yelling than his brother would at this point and were probably much readier to call the police, Sam swallowed the rage and stepped back, determined to calm down and think. By his side, Jennifer was starting to stir and regain some color back, but her breath was still irregular. Although her life wasn't in danger anymore, she still needed a hospital. Who knew what Mary had really done to her?
The problem was that right now, Sam could only think of Dean.
Hesitant, Sam eyed the Impala parked down the street, and then took Jennifer in his arms and quickly crossed the road to head towards the car. Once there, he managed to open the back door and carefully placed Jennifer lying across the back seat.
"You'll be okay," Sam whispered. "I'll be back."
The hunter closed the door and stared at the unconscious woman for a second before running back to the house. His heart was pounding wildly against his ribs, and he could feel the blood beating in his temples so hard that the previous dizziness was rapidly turning into pain. He needed to find a way in before dizziness, headache or panic got in the way of sense.
Think, Sam, think.
The windows were barred, so he wouldn't be able to break through one of them. He tried to get hold of Dean by phone, but for some reason there was no signal. The back door was also closed. The thought of climbing inside the Impala and crashing it into the wall as he had done in Jericho crossed his mind.
Yeah, like that is not going to wake the neighbors up.
Regardless, Constance's old house in Jericho had been barely standing when he crashed the car into its walls. On the contrary, Jennifer's house was strongly built, and Sam had serious doubts about whether it would be the house or the Impala that would give way if he was forced to take a chance and find out.
Or his neck, for that matter.
Feeling helpless, Sam hit the door once more, and his previous reflective composure shattered against the wooden surface.
The hunter ended up pressing his head against the door with his fists raw and hurting. He closed his eyes tightly and tried to focus on whatever powers he was supposed to have, whatever force that had allowed him to connect with Dean before.
"Dean…Dean, please. Can you hear me? Don't do this to me. Not again," Sam muttered.
We're in this together…
Those words of his, uttered before entering the house earlier that night, seemed now nothing but a joke. A useless joke, just as his so-called powers were. Just as he was.
Sam jolted and turned to find Missouri standing behind him, her big, dark eyes wide with worry.
"Missouri!" Sam exclaimed.
Or rather sobbed, because he was unable to stop his voice from breaking. The younger Winchester went to her, grasped her small hands strongly, and looked at her with despair. He couldn't care less why and how she had come. He was simply too happy to see her.
"Missouri, I need your help," he pleaded fervently, almost dragging the older woman up the stairs of the porch.
"What happened?" the woman asked quickly, scared at the young's man distress.
"We were finishing the ritual, but…Jennifer came and…Dean…he…" Sam babbled uncontrollably.
"Jennifer? Is she alright?"
"Yeah, she's…she was on the floor, and…her pulse…I don't know. I took her, but Dean…" Sam trailed off, his voice falling, as if he was left with no wind to talk.
"You're not breathing, honey," Missouri soothed. "Please, calm down."
Sam swallowed and closed his eyes in an attempt to gain control. He was aware that he wasn't making any sense, and if he wanted to help Dean, he was going to need to behave as hunter, instead of the panicked child he was acting like now.
After breathing in and out a couple of times, Sam got a grip on himself, and although it was a feeble one he knew it was as strong as it was going to get given the circumstances. At least, and with a bit of luck, it would be strong enough to render him able to fill Missouri in and then get her to help him. That was all that he wanted, and the only thing he could think of at the moment. If Missouri helped him, everything would be okay.
"Jennifer's in the car," Sam explained hoarsely, as soon as he got some air back in his lungs. "She's unconscious, but otherwise I think she's fine."
Her face paling, Missouri turned around hastily and glanced towards the Impala. Sam squeezed the psychic's hands tighter to stop her from rushing to the car. Missouri noticed the pressure and locked eyes with Sam quizzically. Her expression shone with fear and understanding.
"Dean's still inside?"
"Yes," Sam growled. "But, I can't open the door. Something's blocking it. I…I think that she has him."
"I don't know!" Sam yelled in frustration.
He quickly chastised himself, but he could sense himself losing it with every passing second. Missouri flinched and appeared physically shaken by the young man's emotions.
"Missouri," Sam went on. "You said I could connect with him. I need to do that now. I have to help him."
"Whatever you did in your house, what you did to me, I need you to do it again now," Sam said emphatically, shaking the woman's hands inside his grasp.
"Sam…I don't know if it's a good idea," she said, hesitating.
"Why?" he snapped, feeling the bile rising inside his throat.
The woman had spent the last two days prompting him to embrace a "gift" he hated, and now that he needed it to work, she intended to back down?
Missouri pursed her lips.
"You're not ready, Sam. At my place, you were safe, and I made sure that the connection lasted less than a minute. And yet, you collapsed after that. To try it here, now, like this, it's too dangerous."
"I don't care!"
"Please," Sam begged. "I've tried to do it myself, but I don't know how. He's alone in there, and I need to reach him. I just…he's my brother. Please."
The psychic gave a squeeze of her own to the hunter's hands and took a deep breath.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes. Yes, I'm sure," Sam said, nodding.
Missouri eyed him a bit longer, piercing his soul with sharp, intent eyes, until she seemed to realize Sam was serious about his decision and wouldn't back down. She closed her eyes and Sam felt induced to do the same. As soon as he did, he felt strongly shaken, as if hit by a giant wave. Sam gasped, and his body fought the connection.
"Sam…" he overheard Missouri's concerned voice.
Sam realized that he was shaking badly. There was too much energy around, both inside his weakened body and outside his whirling mind. But when Missouri tried to let go of him, Sam held her tighter.
"No…" he hissed through clenched teeth.
"Sam, don't. It's rejecting you."
"I can do it," he croaked.
Let me in.
The energy emanating from the house turned stronger, more violent and suffocated him as it wrapped invisible fingers around the hunter. Sam moaned, feeling his mind ripped and flooded with darkness he had never experienced before. Missouri paled, when she felt the echo of the pain the young man was enduring. That echo alone was enough to make her head throb.
"She won't let you. She's too powerful," the woman said in between gasps for air.
"I can do it!" Sam repeated.
But even while he said those words, his knees buckled.
Dean, let me in…Let.Me.In.
Sam focused on his brother, thought about him with all his might. Despite the pain, despite everything, he was going to reach Dean.
And she wasn't going to stop him.
Dean walked in a haze, allowing his body to be drawn to his mother's warmth. The scent of roses was no longer sickening, but lulling. He felt drunk, a bit number with every sickly sweet mouthful of air he took in, and every step he made. He relished the sensation and wondered why he had been so scared of it for all of those years. Losing himself wasn't that terrible. After all, he wasn't up to much.
"Come here," he heard Mary's soft whisper when she wrapped her arms around him.
Dean complied, closed his eyes and sank his face into the crook of her neck.
"Mom," he murmured dazedly. He wasn't sure if it was voiced as a needy call, a greeting or an attempt to confirm her presence by prompting her to answer.
Mary rocked him against her. It was comforting, although her flesh wasn't exactly solid. Leaning onto her was like resting against a soft pillow that gave way under the pressure but nevertheless supported his weight. It felt good. At least it did if he ignored the tingling of his body beneath the dullness. He remembered how Mary's proximity had affected him before, and how it had come close to killing Jennifer. He knew that he was walking the line of consciousness by letting go in her arms. It was like falling deeper and deeper, but he somewhat expected that his mother's embrace would cushion the fall.
The rest wasn't important anymore.
Dean knew that his brother was calling him. He could hear Sam in the distance as a frightened little voice nagging him in the back of his mind. Dean tried to shut it off, instead focusing on the fact that Sam was safe. He had made sure of that. But ignoring Sam turned out to be harder than expected. Dean couldn't ignore his little brother when the kid was scared.
"Shhh, it's okay now," Mary hushed.
She started humming next to his ear, a monotonous lullaby that succeeded in erasing Sam's desperate cry from Dean's consciousness and soothed her firstborn into a sort of trance. The older hunter didn't realize that his knees were giving way until Mary's spirit had to tighten its hold on him. He did notice, however, when Mary disentangled herself from him to cup his face in her hands.
"Mom?" Dean muttered, his glazed eyes drowning into hers.
This time, it was a question.
"Come with me," she replied, gently guiding him upstairs.
Dean allowed her to lead him, vaguely registering that his surroundings were changing as they climbed the steps. Once moment they were in Jennifer's house, and the next the walls flickered, the furniture changed, and Dean was walking the corridors of his old house, as it had been when the Winchester family lived there.
"What's going on?"
Dean licked his lips, swallowed, and felt satisfied with that simple answer. It made sense. And anyway, before he had time to give it any more thought, Dean found himself in his old room, blinking in confusion.
"Do you like it?" Mary asked cheerfully.
She had moved to one of the corners right next to Dean's bed and was waving her arms around, pointing at the blue-painted walls, the toys and the light-wood furniture with a glowing smile. Dean tilted his head without understanding, until the smell of fresh paint filled his nostrils. He remembered then, that exact day, the first time he had seen his new room. John and Mary had been working on it for a week, but they had wanted to keep it as a surprise. Looking back now, Dean imagined Mary had been already pregnant with Sam at the time, and his parents had naturally been preparing Dean's old room, the room closer to theirs, to be little Sammy's nursery. Dean had only been three years old then and had known nothing about his little brother coming yet. He had merely been excited, because as his mother had said, he was a grown boy and was moving from his old room next door, to this bigger one. By the time Sammy had been born, Dean had practically forgotten his nursery had ever been his, and he hadn't felt displaced by the newborn.
The hunter walked to the middle of the room and turned around to gape at it. He chose not to pay attention when the vision of the chamber shone unsteadily, as if he was looking at it through a steamed up glass.
"You said you liked blue, right?" Mary asked. "Have you seen the curtains? I thought you'd like the planes…"
Dean smiled at the little red and blue planes that trimmed the curtains, and he suddenly felt a bit warmer inside. Seeing his mother so happy was like a dream and knowing that her happiness was due to him was overwhelming. He couldn't remember anybody ever being so happy to see him, or so excited by the mere prospect of pleasing him.
"I love it, Mom. Thanks."
She beamed and took Dean's hand between hers, dragging him playfully around to show him where she had put the toys, the clothes… The toys and clothes of a child.
"Are you hungry?" Mary asked. "Wait here, and Mommy will make you some pancakes."
The second she offered, Dean swore he could really smell them.
"Can I have them with chocolate?" he heard himself questioning. His voice sounded weird, younger…not quite his.
Mary's lips tugged in a familiar mischievous smile while she nodded. The next second, Dean was alone in his bedroom, although he didn't remember having seen Mary actually leave through the door. Consciously refusing to give it too much thought, Dean ran his fingers over the soft surface of the dresser before going out to the corridor. He distractedly walked the second floor, peeking into rooms he had no idea he remembered so well until the moment he was inside them and realized he knew their every detail.
Only one door was closed, that of the room next to Dean's. As Dean stopped in front of it, he felt a pang of longing sparkling somewhere inside him. Dean bit his lip and fingered the knob.
"Dean?" he heard Mary behind him.
Startled, Dean turned around. At doing so, something else caught his attention out of the corner of his eye.
"Hey…" Dean muttered.
Mini-Dean was staring at him from his bedroom threshold with a look of curiosity on his face.
"I thought I'd never see you again," Dean continued, his own voice sounding distant.
The child grinned and rushed to Mary, who stood next to the stairs. She took him, held him with automatic familiarity, one arm over her hip and petting his hair with her free hand. Both fit together so perfectly that Dean couldn't help but ache watching them: his mother, and her four-year old child.
"Wanna play?" the child enticed Dean innocently.
Dean swallowed thickly.
"Not before dinner," Mary chided gently. "Plus, I believe I told you to tidy up your room, didn't I, young man?"
Dean wasn't sure whether she was talking to the kid or to him, because Mary's eyes were locked with his…But then, he wasn't a little child anymore.
"You're right," Dean said. "We can play later. But I, huh…" he hesitated, tearing himself from Mary's intoxicating eyes. "Can I have one of those pancakes and tidy up the room afterwards?"
Mary smiled, her eyes sparkling.
"Okay, sweetie, but we won't tell Dad."
Dean smiled back weakly.
No, we won't. We won't.
"Fine, I'll be right back."
Dean made his way towards the stairs, passing by Mary's side and then stumbled his way down and into the kitchen, where he leaned heavily against the table to steady himself. Every step he made, ever since Mary had appeared, was harder than the one before. On top of that, although at first the dizziness came only when she was around, now Dean was starting to feel drained and his vision was blurry all the time. He couldn't tell whether it was because of her or out of exhaustion. He had to hurry while he was still in control of his thoughts, because he knew he was about to collapse any minute, and he feared once he gave in he wouldn't be able to get his bearings anymore. Looking around, Dean scanned the kitchen. That room looked like it had once been as well, so homey and normal that Sam would flip out.
Why he allowed himself to think of Sam at that moment, he didn't know. Maybe it was the knowledge that he was closer now, just across the hall. Just behind the front door.
Snap out of it!
Dean squeezed his eyes shut. He tried to focus so hard that his head, that had been blissfully numb for the last ten or fifteen minutes, started pounding.
When the hunter opened his eyes, the vision of the old kitchen faltered but didn't vanish.
Fighting the glamour proved to be more painful than Dean had expected. He clenched his teeth and took a deep breath with a tense smile.
If there was one thing the older Winchester could deal with, it was pain.
"One…" he started, his voice nothing but a low groan.
By five, Dean was barely able to walk, but he had spotted what he needed. He made a last effort and propped himself up with the help of the table edge before staggering to the corner next to the counter. There, his legs wobbled, and Dean slid down to the floor.
Dean's heart jumped when he looked up and saw Mary before him.
"I'm sorry, Mom," he choked.
His hand grasped the rock salt gun he had dropped earlier on the floor next to Jennifer.
"I really am."
He pointed the gun at her. And then pulled the trigger.
The load of salt went off with a blast, and Mary screamed in agony when the crystals reached her, pierced her body, and sent her against the wall.
"Dean!" she cried.
Disbelief, dejection, hurt. Her voice was so heavy with those emotions that Dean had to avert his eyes, unable to watch.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he repeated. "God, I'm so sorry…"
"Yeah, me too."
The hunter felt his throat tightening so hard that he practically stopped breathing. Reluctantly, he looked up and shook his head in confusion at the sight of his mother getting up unharmed.
"No…" Dean shook his head, no longer able to blink back the tears. "Why…how…?" he croaked.
Dejected, Mary glared at him and ignored his questions.
"I wanted to make it right for you, Dean. I wanted to make a home for us. We could have been happy."
"Why?" he asked again.
Despair was noticeable in his tone, as he no longer talked to her really, but sobbed the word quietly to himself.
"I wanted you to stay with me. I thought you wanted that too," Mary said, pursing her lips. "I guess I was wrong. We're different now. We're no longer a family."
Dean didn't retort. He didn't look capable of saying anything to anybody at that point. He just looked at her wide-eyed.
"But I know how to fix it," Mary continued. "I know what it'll take to make us the same again. For us to be together again."
Dean gasped and pressed himself against the wall as a blaze of fire, born out of nothing, suddenly rose around them.
The fire crept up the walls and advanced across the floor, cornering Dean, enveloping him in a coffin of flame and smoke.
"Don't worry, baby. It'll only hurt at first. And then…It'll be okay. You'll be okay."
Dean coughed and squirmed but couldn't find the strength to fight. Pulling that trigger had been the hardest thing he'd ever done, and now he was simply expended in every possible sense. His body had already decided to give up, and his mind couldn't find anything left worth clinging to. Since his eyes stung from the smoke, Dean closed them and let darkness appease the burning sensation that told him that he was going to die. After a little while, he wasn't able to remember why that was such a bad thing when it was exactly how it had been meant to be.
Twenty-two years ago.