Chapter 6. Scared.
Chapter 6. Scared.
Dean woke up slowly. Very slowly. His chest woke first and initiated a tingling feeling that crawled its way to numbness. His brain then sent a drowsy order to his hand to raise and rub the tickling skin, but his arm felt heavy and refused to obey. Trying to make sense of all of the confusing and contradicting sensations, Dean frowned slightly in his sleep. He unthinkingly took a deep breath before he realized that any such movement could prove to be a bad idea. Immediately, he felt a sharp pain tightening his lungs. The young man let out a groan and instinctively tried to move, which did nothing but make the ache in his chest worse. Alarmed, he cracked his eyes open and found himself staring at a white ceiling.
Where am I?
While his body was still reluctant to respond, the hunter in him forced his mind awake. He tried to remember the previous day in order to figure out why he was hurting so much. Suddenly the images of the house, Mary, Missouri and the bar fight flooded back to him. Honestly wishing that he could drift into oblivion again, Dean shut his eyes.
"Sam?" Dean called, instead of succumbing to sleep.
He waited for a moment, but heard no response. Distraught and grinding his teeth to keep the ache at bay, the older Winchester tried to prop himself up. To a certain point, he succeeded, since he was able to sit down with nothing more than a tense, pained hiss escaping his lips. Resting his head back against the headboard, he swore under his breath and tried to relax. Then, blinking to adjust his eyes to the daylight that seeped through the window, Dean scanned the room and felt a cold lump in his throat as he gradually became aware of the little hints that told him his brother was gone. Hints such as no sounds coming out of the bathroom or Sam's jacket missing from the back of the chair.
Besides, the change of position was making his stomach lurch. For a moment Dean struggled between the need to fight the nausea by inhaling some air and the certainty that a sharp intake of breath would only make the pain worse. Closing his eyes again, he breathed evenly for a couple of minutes, and eventually his stomach eased. The relief he felt from successfully ridding himself of the nausea; however, was tempered by the pounding in his head. Dean didn't even think it was possible for his head to throb so badly and still remain attached to the rest of his body. He pressed the heel of his hands against his eye-sockets and dazedly followed the white spots that popped up and danced in his field of vision. He had been beaten up countless times before and on many of those occasions, he had faced the aftermath in a far worse condition. However, he currently couldn't remember feeling worse in his whole life. And he certainly had never felt more stupid.
"Are you fucking out of your mind? You take off without saying a word, don't answer the phone, get drunk in a hole and pick a fight with four guys!"
Well, yeah, maybe he hadn't been acting intelligently last night, but at the time it had all made perfect sense. It had made sense to go back to the house alone and force himself to stand up against what he already knew was inside. And when he had failed, it had made sense to go to that filthy bar down the road, because he remembered that his father used to go there before they made their trips to their old, burned home. And while John had never seemed quite determined to go onto the property before entering the bar, he had always displayed an unwavering resolution when he had left it. That resolution had remained burned in his expression every time he had returned to the car where little Dean and been told to wait for him. And it had remained when John had unfailingly driven them to their old property with his eyes shining and his cheeks flushed.
It had made sense to expect to find John at that bar, and when he hadn't, it had then made sense to down beer after beer while perched on an unsteady stool. In a twisted way it had made him feel closer to John than ever, and that had felt right for a while.
Finally, it had made sense to provoke those jerks. After all, if he wasn't able to knock down a couple of punks when he was tanked, how was he going to be able to confront his mother's ghost when he was petrified? If he wasn't going to be able to stop from falling, at least he'd make damn sure he was the one who controlled the jump.
He really needed to learn to fly.
It did make sense…didn't it? At least it had last night. Now it was harder to find the point of it all now. Punching Sam had also made sense last night, because the kid had been acting like an ass and had insisted on hovering over Dean.
Yeah, Dean's head must have been really screwed up if anything he had done during the previous day had seemed reasonable to him. No wonder Sam was mad at him. No wonder he had left. A voice in his mind told him to get over it all and embrace the regained solitude; it probably was for the best.
But the rest of him was barely keeping it together, because he had woken up feeling like crap, and his little brother wasn't there to be his usual puppy eyed pain in the ass self who believed Dean needed to be told that everything would be okay. Besides Dean had no idea where said little brother had gone off to or when he was coming back, if at all.
But then Dean tossed a look around him again, and relief grabbed him in a fierce hold, as he gradually realized that the little hints that had told him Sam was gone were also telling him that his brother wasn't gone for good. Hints like Sam's duffle bag still on the opposite bed or his favourite T-shirt left over the radiator to dry.
Hints like the glass of water waiting for Dean on the bedside table, along with a couple of aspirins and a short scribbled note saying: 'Back in a while.'
Sam stood in front of the door to Missouri's house, brought a hand to the knocker, but then hesitated. Unsure of what to do, he had ended up just standing there for the last couple of minutes. He was certain that knocking on that door was about the last thing he wanted to do, but he also knew he didn't have much of a choice.
"There's no way those could be my memories, Sam…she was just showing hers. They were her memories. It was Mom."
Remembering his brother's words and the broken way in which they had been spoken, Sam sighed. Those words gave him the strength to make up his mind and put his own qualms aside. Bracing himself, Sam grabbed the knocker firmly and lifted it, but just when he was about to let it go against the plate, the door opened from the inside. Startled, Sam stepped aside as a tall black man left the house, and Missouri called from down the hallway.
"…don't you worry about a thing. Your wife is crazy about you."
The man seemed relieved and thanked Missouri effusively. When he noticed Sam, the man nodded a greeting in his direction and headed to his car. The younger Winchester grunted something similar to "Morning…" and watched him walk away. Suddenly entering the threshold of the doorway, Missouri stood to watch the departing man and began shaking her head sympathetically.
"Oh, poor bastard," she cooed. "His woman is cheating on him with the gardener…as we speak."
With a mix of astonishment and relief, Sam turned around to look at her, and Missouri sighed as her eyes continued to follow her client. Then she focused on Sam and although her face softened, she didn't show the slightest shadow of surprise at finding the younger Winchester on her doorstep.
"Come inside, son," she invited.
His body tense and alert for what he might find behind the door, Sam complied in silence.
"Don't worry, I left the crystal ball in the basement," Missouri commented casually, hoping to lighten the mood.
Not wanting to admit to himself that Missouri had just read his mind, Sam only glared and pursed his lips at her comment. A second later he allowed himself to consider the possibility that she had actually read him, in a non-metaphorical sense, and the thought wasn't exactly reassuring. More conscious than ever of not having Dean by his side, Sam's thoughts flew to his sleeping brother. He chuckled to himself as he realized that it was usually Dean who was the wary one, whereas Sam tended to trust people, often too much and too fast for their father's liking. And now it was funny, that although he had finally met a person that apparently was worthy of John's immediate trust, even more, a psychic he probably had more in common with than anyone else, he couldn't help but be on guard around her.
The woman seemed to sense his uneasiness just like she had at their old house and didn't push further down the humour road. Instead, she waited patiently for Sam to take a seat in the living room and gave him some time to make himself comfortable with the place. The young man observed the living room with unconcealed curiosity; it was a pretty cozy room, sunny and smelling of comfort food. Definitely not what he had expected. Focusing on Missouri again, he noticed the woman's eyes lingered on his split lip for an instant before meeting his.
"You look tired, my dear," she fussed.
"Didn't sleep well last night," Sam said, shrugging.
It was the typical Winchester understatement for "didn't sleep at all," but after all, wasn't she a mind reader? Sam had no reason to hand all of the truth to her on a plate.
"Are you hungry? It would only take me a minute to fix a little breakfast for you."
"I'm good, thanks," Sam replied automatically.
At the same time, though, he realized he should be hungry. When was the last time he had eaten something? That donut from the gas station seemed like a decade ago. He wondered if Dean had eaten while he was wandering Lawrence on his own. He doubted it.
"How is Dean?" Missouri interrupted his rambling thoughts.
He blinked and looked away.
"He's fine," Sam answered.
And he wasn't exactly lying to her, since the unspoken coda "As far as you're concerned" dwelled unmistakably in his words. Sam didn't want Missouri around Dean now any more than he had yesterday. Missouri had no problem picking up on his feelings, and she nodded acceptingly.
"So?" she started, her voice calm and her look understanding. "Sam, what can I do for you?"
Feeling suddenly too tired to keep pretending he was the tough one and fight her inherent kindness, Sam raised his eyes almost unwillingly and let out a ragged breath. Missouri stood up quietly and sat next to him on the couch and was happy when the young man allowed her to do so.
"I…I just…" Sam stammered, then paused and swallowed hard. He fixed his eyes on her, and Missouri saw that they held the most vulnerable look that she had seen in a long time. Unable to stop herself, the woman placed her hand on Sam's knee and felt him shivering beneath the thick fabric of the jeans. "I have to know," he finished with a thin voice.
Missouri squeezed Sam's knee gently.
"What did Dean tell you?" she asked.
Sam took a deep breath, the first steady one of the last minute, and Missouri squeezed his knee again. When she became aware that the young hunter had gotten a grip on himself, she released her hold and then rested both her hands on her lap. Then Sam briefly filled her in with what Dean had kept to himself the previous morning. He told her how his brother had seen Mary standing in front of him as real and solid as Sam was seeing Missouri now, of how she had talked to Dean and then had done something to him. He also told her what Dean remembered of his last vision, as well as the reason why he thought the memories were their mother's instead of his own. Missouri listened to Sam until the end. She didn't cut him off once but only nodded supportively here and there. When Sam finished there was a moment of silence in which the ticking of an old clock from somewhere down the corridor was the only audible sound in the room.
"I see," Missouri sighed. "I had imagined something like that."
"I need to know, Missouri", Sam repeated, shaking his head, "What happened? What is that thing?"
The woman bit her lip and set her gaze off into the distance.
"I told you what it was, Sam, a restless soul. Your brother called it a haunted spirit, and I guess that's right too. As you know most spirits are born out of a violent death and get bound to the living world by their unfinished business. I can't know for sure how it happened, dear, but I can give you my opinion. On the night your mother died, a great evilness came to your house, one of an extraordinary power. It was cruel and vicious, Sam. You know it. You've seen what it does."
The image of the fire and of Jessica pinned to the ceiling flashed through Sam's mind, and he nodded slowly. Missouri shivered a bit, as if the image had been passed on to her.
"Mary met a terrible death, my dear," she continued ruefully. "And in the moment of passing away, the instant when her heart stopped beating and her soul left us, there was a huge energy around her. That power, that same evil power that took her away, probably merged with her desire to stay and sealed the pact. A pact she didn't ask for, the poor baby, no more than she deserved that death. And thus, she became a restless soul."
"But you… you said something about unfinished business"
"Her children, Sam. You and Dean. You were her family. She refused to leave you under such awful circumstances. She refused to leave her family."
Sam felt his eyes watering, and he unconsciously tightened his clenched fists until his nails left marks on his palms. Unsure if he would be able to breathe without sobbing, he found himself unwilling to breathe at all.
"Then it's her?" he hissed. "My mom?"
"Sam," Missouri reminded him with a stern voice. "Your mother is dead. She died 22 years ago, please do not forget that," she stressed. "She's gone, and whatever is left of her is not…well, her."
"And yet, it is."
Missouri released a sorrowful sigh.
"And yet, it is," she echoed.
As he made the exhausting effort to keep from crying like a child, Sam nodded. Noticing how hard the struggle with his emotions was, he realized how badly he wanted Dean. He wanted his big brother then and there, even if it was only to scowl at him for being such a girl.
I'm really a selfish bastard, aren't I?
When he felt Missouri's hand on his shoulder he shook his head no, and raised one hand to stop the woman's attempt of comfort. She complied and gave him a moment to collect himself.
"What does she want now?" he asked hoarsely after a while.
Moved by Sam's strength and his firm, unfaltering search for answers regardless of how painful they could turn out to be, Missouri smiled at him. He wasn't likely to notice it himself, but Sam was by far one of the bravest persons Missouri had ever met.
"I mean why would she attack Jennifer?" Sam elaborated. "The flickering lights, the sounds…they've been going on for years, right? Why would she want to hurt somebody now? And why Jennifer?"
Missouri chewed her lip and decided to answer his questions as honestly as possible, if for no other reason than to honour Sam's courage. However, she wasn't made of steel, and the thought of how he may be affected by her words gave her pause. Sam noticed the psychic's hesitation and felt a chill run down his spine.
"Well, dear, she wants to recover her family. That's what she's been trying to do for all of these years."
"Recover her family? What do you mean?"
"Jenny has two little children, Sam. The spirit wants her. Wants her life."
Dean took the aspirins Sam had left for him and felt instantaneous relief as the cool water he drank with the medication eased his throat. He greedily drank the rest of the water and then let himself slip from the headboard to lie on his back again. With a tired sigh, Dean spaced out and waited for the painkillers to kick in. He was perfectly aware that, pills or no pills, after his gloriously drunken fight he was going to be aching for a couple of days. At least the aspirins would counteract the worst inconveniences of the hangover. The headache, for starters.
After a while, Dean was still feeling a bit under the weather, but he sensibly realized that it wasn't going to get much better anytime soon. Aspirin only went so far to ease the results of his stupidity; the rest would only be taken care of by time. Therefore, he sat up on the bed and flung his legs over the edge to stand up. On his third attempt he actually succeeded but still swayed a little when he regained a vertical position.
"Whoa…" Dean mumbled, reaching out to grab the bedside table.
As he did so, he knocked over the glass, and it rolled over the edge of the table to fall on the carpet. It didn't break, but it spilled some residual drops of water onto Sam's note. For some reason, the soggy image of Sam's handwriting was disheartening to Dean, and even as the hunter mentally said to himself that it was just a stupid note, he couldn't help picking it up to place it on something dry.
Despite the fact that his sense of balance was screaming at him not to bend down, Dean crouched to pick the glass up too. He saw it beneath Sam's bed, but as he was reaching out for it something else caught his attention. His father's journal was on the floor in the space between the bedside table and the bed. Dean picked it up with a surprised frown and sat back on his bed with the journal on his lap. What was their dad's journal doing on the floor? And how was it possible that Sam hadn't seen it when he had made his bed?
Dean sighed as he distractedly rubbed the part of his chest closest to his heart, the part that was suddenly feeling colder than the rest of him. He distantly recalled a warm pressure there during the night that had prevented his world from spinning away. Maybe he had just dreamt it. But the fact remained that Sam's bed seemed not made, but rather like it had never been unmade in the first place. Not sleeping a wink in order to look over his incapacitated brother was definitely one of Sam's more aggravating character traits.
He also remembered that Sam had been upset about something in the journal. Flipping through the pages, he came across a crumpled one and scanned his father's notes. When he found John's references to Missouri, it all made perfect sense. The hunter put the journal aside and squeezed the bridge of his nose.
Calm down, Dean. Calm down.
Maybe if he tried to get a hold of his father again, the man would pick up the phone. However, the idea made him want to laugh. What if John actually did answer the phone this time? What was Dean going to tell him? "Dad, I went back to our old house and I was so freaked out that I barely made it to the front door, just like in the old times?" "By the way, you know that friend of yours, Missouri, who you've never mentioned to us? So she's convinced that Mom is haunting the house. And guess what? I…I'm convinced of it too, because she's haunting me." "Ah, how did we get here? Well, you see, Sammy had a vision. Yeah, a vision. Cool, huh? No? He doesn't think so either." "You promised her, you old bastard. You promised her you wouldn't turn us into soldiers!"
Jesus, Mom…I've missed you so fucking much.
Dean also suddenly understood how the journal had ended up on the floor. Because, right now, he felt the strong urge to hurl it against the wall too.
Sam frowned, and although his lips trembled he uttered no words. Missouri sensed the silent plea for further elaboration and complied.
"Your mothers' spirit has been living in the house since her death, and she's been waiting for her chance to come back to life by using someone else's body," Missouri explained. "For years, she has spooked away any other tenant until a family similar to the one that she was forced to leave, a family with two children, moved into the house. Do you understand, Sam? By taking over Jennifer's body, she would replace her and be able to steal her life. Mary would get something back that is similar to what was once hers."
"But that doesn't make any sense," Sam objected. "Are you saying she wants to possess Jennifer?"
"Something like that. But it's more likely that she wants to completely expel Jenny's spirit and then take her place."
"Can that be done?"
"I don't know, honey. But any doubts that Mary might have are probably not going to stop her from trying to steal back her life again."
"What? Wait…" Sam said, turning pale. "She's tried before?"
Missouri didn't answer but only looked at him with sad, dark eyes.
"Marcia," Sam muttered. "Marcia Johnson, the woman that died three years ago. She had two children also. Are you saying that…?"
"Marcia was a sweet girl," Missouri said, sniffling and wiping her eyes. "A young woman who was so full of life. But her body couldn't stand it. I…I couldn't help her."
Still in shock, Sam witnessed Missouri breaking into muffled sobs. At a loss of words, he reached out to hold her hand. Missouri patted Sam's hand gently and forced a smile.
"I'm sorry, honey," she apologized. When Sam shook his head, she insisted, "I really am. I just wish you and your brother didn't have to go through this."
At mention of his brother, Sam jolted.
"What does she want from Dean?" he asked, in a tone that clearly showed he was afraid of the answer.
"She knows you're here to hunt her, Sam. She's just…well, she's protecting herself. I know it's difficult to understand, but spirits aren't human anymore. They don't think like humans do. Instead, they're single-minded in their actions. All Mary can focus on is gaining some semblance of her life back. And she'll do whatever she has to do and use everything she's got to stop you, even though you and your brother are both part of the life she once had."
"Like messing with my brother?"
"Like messing with your brother."
"But why not me?" Sam frowned. "I'm the…the 'psychic' one, right?"
"Yes, baby, but with you it's different."
Sam shook his head in denial and with a hint of despair. Even if they were not intended to be harsh, Missouri's words were already tearing him apart bit by bit as they slowly sank in him.
"I'm not like you! This is not going to be my life!"
"Well, you have a responsibility."
"To Dad? And his crusade? If it weren't for pictures, I wouldn't even know what Mom looked like. What difference would it make? Even if we do find the thing that killed her, Mom's gone, and she isn't coming back."
"Don't talk about her like that!"
"Unfortunately, she didn't have the chance to know you, dear. Or you to know her." Missouri continued. "She can't use her memories against you, not in the way she can use them against Dean. Or your father."
Sam's expression changed.
"My Dad… He knows?"
For the first time, it was Missouri who averted her eyes. Sam grasped the woman's hand before she had time to move it away.
"Missouri?" Sam coaxed.
"Sam, you must understand…"
"Understand what!" he exclaimed. "That he's known about this for this whole time and didn't tell us? That he…"
"Oh, God! Marcia…he knew about Marcia, right?" the young Winchester felt his heart pounding wildly.
"Son, listen to me. He…we couldn't save her."
"He couldn't or…" Sam was almost unable to say it. It was too hard, too horrible. "Or he wouldn't?"
Missouri's eyes became moist again. Sam's pained expression was unbearable, and she toyed with the idea of lying to him. But from psychic to psychic, it was impossible to lie, even by remaining silent.
"No…No," Sam mumbled, as he buried his face in his hands.
"Sam, he tried. He went there to save her. He went there to finish Mary. But he…"
"But he didn't!" Sam cried out. "He let Marcia die!"
"Don't you dare judge your father so lightly, young man!" Missouri scolded him. "You have no idea of what he went through!"
Taken aback, Sam shut up and fixed Missouri with a hurt look, but she didn't recoil.
"He tried hard, Sam, and I can tell you he wasn't the same after he failed. But you must understand," Missouri implored. "Your father is a good man, but he's spent the last twenty years on a crusade that's become his whole life. All he is now, Sam, comes from his quest to avenge your mother. He loved her to death, honey, beyond death. Killing her, even knowing that she wasn't Mary anymore, was something he couldn't do. It would have destroyed him. It would have destroyed him completely, my dear, to an extent that neither you nor I can start to comprehend."
"As it would destroy Dean?" Sam whispered.
His tone made Missouri's heart shatter into a million pieces.
"Honey, I don't know," she answered honestly. "I don't know Dean as well as you do."
Sam let out a dry laugh and stood up with his hands shoved inside his pockets.
"I wouldn't say that much."
Sam fixed his eyes past the window of the living room and stubbornly refused to meet Missouri's gaze even when she stood up to and walked to his side.
"Sam?" she called the boy gently but got no reply. "Sam, what is it?"
"I should have known better, Missouri," the young hunter said brokenly. "I didn't see this coming. Geez, I must be the worst psychic on Earth."
Missouri smiled kindly and made no comment when he reached out to wipe at a stray tear.
"I don't know what to do," Sam muttered broken-hearted. "He's falling apart in front of me, and I don't know what to do."
Dean unhurriedly walked to the bathroom and leaned on the sink. Eyes closed, he turned on the faucet and let the water run cold before splashing it over his burning face. Although he had to be extra careful of several sore spots, the water felt good on his skin and helped him clear his head. After a couple of deep breaths, the hunter looked up and confronted his image in the mirror.
Dean winced at the sight of a black eye, swollen lip, and the tender wound next to his hairline on his forehead. He didn't remember exactly how and when he had gotten any of these injuries, because he was finding it quite hard to focus on the brawl. Still, the sound of a low thud and his head clashing against a table echoed painfully in the back of his mind. Probably that had been what caused the gash over his temple, he mused absently as he prodded around the wound. He ground his teeth in response to the pain he felt at his own touch and to the frightening image of bruising blues and purples that currently discolored his face.
Oh, yeah, he remembered it now. Remembered the stab of pain to his skull when those punks had finally brought him to the floor and started kicking him. Swallowing a sudden metallic taste in his mouth that was brought on by the memory, Dean unconsciously raised a hand and placed it protectively over his stomach.
"Son of a bitch," Dean hissed.
However, his anger would be far more useful as an outlet if he could actually vent it on someone. And, to be honest, every time he tried to visualize the faces of his aggressors, he clashed against a blurry wall of fog. Anyhow, the graze on his forehead was the most serious of his wounds, and, truth to be told, it didn't look too bad. Dean had expected to find it more swollen, but Sam had done a good job cleaning and fixing it the previous night. As long as he didn't poke at them too much, the cuts on his face only felt taut and mildly sore.
Carefully, Dean took his T-shirt off and assessed the condition of his battered torso. It was easy to see which bruises would take longer to heal. Some of them had already taken on a yellowish color, and would disappear soon, but the hunter winced noticeably when his hands reached the darkest ones. The idea crossed his mind to test how long he could bear the pain if he pressed on the sensitive spots, but he didn't dare start the familiar counting drill, just in case he failed again.
Dean vaguely realized that his hands were also sore, and that his knuckles felt pretty raw. Obviously, he hadn't been the only one taking blows, although once more, he was unable to remember punching anybody at the bar. Anyone that is, except for one person: Sam.
He could clearly see Sam's face when his fist had connected with his brother's jaw. He frowned at the memory of Sam's expression of total shock and the hurt look on those big deep always questioning eyes. Dean relived the scene in his mind over and over, until his throat tightened so hard it practically cut off his air supply. He had deliberately and intentionally taken a swing at Sam. Dean had wanted to harm him. Dean had wanted to be harmed. Dean had lost control, and as a result, Sammy was hurt. Over damn car keys.
He was going to be sick.
"Sammy!" a four-year old Dean called, leaning on tiptoes over Sam's crib.
Baby Sammy looked up, giggled and then began waving his little hands towards Dean, who was barely able to stick his nose over the crib. Dean smiled when Sammy recognized him and showed his little brother a red ball.
"Hi, Sammy! Look what I have!" Dean said enthusiastically.
Sam babbled cheerfully and reached for the ball. Dean gave a soft laugh and stood on tiptoes again so that he could pass his arm over the crib to let his brother touch the toy. The baby seemed delighted, and Dean was thrilled to know that he was the one who was making Sammy smile.
"I know you can't play yet, because you're little," Dean explained in his best sensible, adult tone. "But when you grow up, I'll teach you. You'll see."
Sam kept on babbling, and Dean giggled. He had always thought that it was very funny when Sammy babbled to him, because it was as if they were having a conversation. His mother had told him once that Sam would be able to understand him soon, as long as Dean was patient and tender and took the time to talk to his little brother. That's why Dean slipped into Sam's room when Mom was busy on the first floor. It was the perfect time to talk to his little brother and tell him all kind of stories or speak about what they would do when Sammy got bigger. It was funny, but tiring too, since Dean had to make a big effort to lean over the crib's crosspieces, and Mom and Dad had told him not to climb onto the chairs…
His arm aching, the four-years old child suddenly lost his grip on the ball, and it fell on Sam's head with a thud. Dean jolted back as Sammy blinked in surprise, fixed his eyes on Dean's, and then let out an aggravated cry.
"S-Sammy?" little Dean stammered.
The baby's cry grew louder and more distressed as his skin flushed, and tears ran freely over his cheeks.
"Sammy…Sa-Sammy," Dean cried, giving way to his own tears.
"What happened?" his mother exclaimed as she suddenly came rushing into the room.
Dean stepped back to the corner of the bedroom and curled himself into a tiny shivering ball as his mom glanced over him and then quickly to the crib.
"Sammy, shhh, what's wrong baby?" she hushed.
Her eyes lingered over the red ball next to the baby's head and then, accompanied by an arching eyebrow, turned to Dean. Absolutely terrified, her elder son pulled his legs even tighter to his chest and broke into pitiful sobs. Unable to look up, he only got to overhear his brother's disconsolate crying and his mother's soothing words aimed at Sam.
Little by little, Sam's crying subsided under their mother's soft humming, but Dean still couldn't stop sobbing. Finally Sam stopped crying completely, and his mom stopped humming. Dean remained still, hiccupping quietly.
"Dean?" his mother called.
The child didn't answer.
"Dean," she repeated, her voice firm. "Dean, what happened?"
Convinced that his mother was angry with him because he had hurt Sammy and that meant that he had been bad, Dean shivered and cried even harder. But his mother wasn't using an angry tone, just an even voice. Out of the blue, Dean threw himself into her chest and sobbed his heart out onto her shoulder.
"I'm sorry Mommy," he cried miserably, his young voice absolutely broken. "I didn't mean to! I let it drop but I didn't mean to!"
His mom sighed and took her first born in her arms. She held him lovingly and rubbed soothing circles on her shaking son's back.
"Dean? Now listen to me, okay?" she said and then waited for the child to nod before continuing. "You have to be more careful."
"I didn't mean to…" Dean said, sniffling loudly.
"I know that, sweetheart," she said in an attempt to reassure him. "I'm not angry with you, okay? But I need you to understand that you've got to be careful with your brother. You're the older one, and that means you're always going to be a little bit stronger than him. Besides, he's still very little."
"I know, Mommy…I'm sorry…"
"It's okay now, don't cry," his mother said and shifted to accommodate Dean over her hip. She held him with one arm and wiped his tears with her free hand. "Much better," she said, smiling. "Now, let's go see your brother."
"No!" Dean yelled, stiffening in his mother's arms. "I hurt him."
"No, you didn't. You just startled him. Here."
Mother and son went to the crib's side. Sammy was still flushed after his little tantrum, but he seemed completely at ease and was happily playing with the red ball that had landed on him just a couple of minutes before. Dean didn't dare look at him, and buried his face in his mother's neck.
"Sammy," their mother called. "Look who's here! You've given your big brother a scare, young man!"
Sam's eyes flew towards his mother and Dean, and he giggled happily at them both. Wide-eyed, Dean sniffed and stared at the baby.
"He's not mad at me?" the older child asked in a small voice.
His mom laughed softly and kissed Dean's hair.
"Ah, of course not, honey. He loves you."
She left Dean on the floor and squeezed his shoulder.
"I have to go back downstairs. Do you mind watching him for a while?"
"Of course you can."
"Okay, Mommy, I'll take care of him."
His mother smiled lightly and tugged Dean's hair.
"I know you will," she whispered before leaving.
Dean rubbed his eyes and watched Sam as the baby babbled at him and played with the ball.
"Do you like it?" Dean asked softly. The grin on his brother's face was the best answer he could have expected. "I'm sorry, Sammy. Can you forgive me?"
Still shaking from the dry heaves that had brought back up what little food he had gotten into his body during the last two days, Dean flushed the toilet and rested his forehead on the porcelain. Weak and woozy again, he choked back bile and wrapped his arms around his stomach. If he had thought he knew what it was to feel like hell before, he certainly knew now that he had been absolutely wrong.
Sam, forgive me. Please just…just come back, okay?
Regardless of the clothes he still had on, Dean crawled inside the shower, sat on the floor and let the water fall over him. He held onto the image of his baby brother's face inside that crib as a lifeline. It was a bittersweet memory, because it was a recollection of a happier time that was lost forever.
But at least, this time the memory hadn't been one of Mary's. It belonged to him. And only to him.
"Is my dad here?"
"No, honey. Not anymore."
"But he was here, right?" Sam half-asked, half-asserted. "When did he leave?"
"Yesterday morning. Before you got here."
"Where did he go?"
"I don't know exactly. He said he had a lead, something about an Egyptian ritual to recover a lost soul and guide it back to the light. He asked me to keep an eye on you until he got back."
Sam arched an eyebrow.
He tilted his head prompting Missouri to go on, but the psychic woman sounded as unconvinced as her next sigh sounded tired. She didn't mean to get Sam's hopes up.
"He's been trying for years to find another way to, you know, end this, but so far, everything we've tried has failed. It's like clutching at straws. He just can't face the truth."
"That Mary is gone, and nothing will bring her back. And that if her spirit isn't stopped, Jennifer is going to die, and maybe more people after her."
Sam closed his eyes and pressed his head against the curtains.
"Sam," Missouri spoke sternly, reading the young man's thoughts. "You cannot wait for your father. The ritual won't work, and even if it did, he wouldn't make it back in time. You've seen it. It's coming for Jenny, and it's coming tonight."
The young hunter's hazel eyes popped open and challenged Missouri's dark ones. He wanted to protest, and he knew he could adduce dozens of reasons and arguments that would be perfectly rational, sensible and true. Like the fact that there was no indication of time in his vision other than the danger coming at nightfall. Or that John could be back sooner than Missouri thought. Besides, experience had taught him that Egyptian rituals weren't to be underestimated.
However, his heart had started to beat faster, and as much as he wanted to deny it, he knew she was right. Somehow, like a vibration in his spine that had refused to leave him since morning, he could sense the truthfulness at the center of her argument.
"And what are we supposed to do?"
"I'm afraid that's up to you, son"
"That's just not fair"
"I know. I know, and I'm sorry"
Sam stared at the window for a few seconds more and then took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes tiredly.
"I..." he paused and gulped. "I need to think about all of this."
I need Dean.
"He needs you too."
Sam eyed the mind reader, and found himself still unused to her abilities, and mortified by his own inability to block his thoughts.
"He doesn't," Sam said, shrugging and remembering his helplessness when Dean, beaten and boozed, pulled away from him at the back of a grubby bar.
"Of course he does. You're his brother."
"Well, he's definitely better at the brother thing than I am. I can tell you I suck."
"Watch your language, boy," Missouri retorted. "And stop doing this to yourself. You will be of no use to Dean or anybody else if you keep feeling guilty about things you cannot control."
"I was the one that brought us here in the first place. And you know what? This shining or whatever it is, I don't want it," he said, his voice quivering at the end. Sam hated how whiny he sounded, but he was desperate. "I wish I wouldn't have had that vision. I wish none of this had happened."
"I understand that, but what about Jennifer, Sam? Your vision could save her and other people too."
At what cost?
Saying nothing, Missouri looked at him in the eye for a long while, and Sam fidgeted nervously with the sensation that he was being analyzed under a microscope. Finally, she gave him a little smile.
"You are special, Sam."
The young hunter cringed as he became overwhelmed by feelings of longing and fear, and the words 'normal' and 'freak' floated in his mind for Missouri to catch.
"But that's not a bad thing," she continued calmly. "I know you don't see it that way now, but as I told you yesterday, you've been given a great power. And you could use it to do so much good in the world."
"I'm not so sure about that," he retorted.
"You have to look inside of yourself. I can help you if you'd like."
Missouri held out her hand. Sam looked at it warily and then back up to read her expression. Her gaze was intense and enticing. But when she motioned closer, a chill ran down Sam's spine, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end.
"Let me help you," Missouri's voice turned a bit huskier. "Let me show you."
Suddenly, the room seemed full of a crackling energy that was concentrated between himself and Missouri. As images of Jessica and Jennifer flashed in front of his eyes, a smoldering pulsation pounded somewhere inside Sam. And when Missouri's hand met his, that power rushed over his body as a roaring wave, yearning to be unleashed. The air was sucked out of his lungs, and his head felt about to split in two. Confused, Sam snapped the psychic's hand away and shrank back. But at the moment he lost her touch the room seemed to disappear and was replaced by a cloud of chaos. Sam moaned and felt his knees giving way.
No, Dean…help me.
Cold, water, pain…Sam's mind was flooded with sensations and emotions he couldn't locate or control. Among the chaos, though, an image flashed in front of his closed eyes. His brother was curled up inside the shower, half-dressed and trembling under the cold water. Sam's shoulders started shaking, and he choked, as he perceived Dean's unreleased sobs. His stomach clenched at the vision of his older brother's refusal to let his sorrow and confusion flow, even when he was alone.
Dean raised his head abruptly. His heart was pounding hard in his ears, and the throb mixed with the sound of the running water. He wasn't sure of how long he had been sitting there, but apparently the hot water had run out a while ago, because he was shivering uncontrollably under a cold shower. Anyway, he could swear he had heard Sam calling him. But the only sounds he now heard were his own heavy breathing, and the quiet patter of the water as it hit the shower floor. He hadn't heard the outside door to the hotel room open and close, and the normal sounds of Sam's presence were also noticeably absent. He was hunter enough to have never let those noises slip through his consciousness, regardless of how upset he was. But despite all of this evidence against him having heard Sam, he knew he would never mistake his little brother's voice.
Dean made a move to stand up and leaned his forehead on the tiles. He had to get a grip on himself, get out of the bathroom and call Sam. Maybe Sam wasn't back in the room yet, and perhaps the reason why Dean was starting to hear voices in his head was because he was going crazy. But he didn't care, because he knew his brother and had recognized his tone.
Sammy was scared.
"Sam?" a woman's voice was calling his attention back. "Sam, calm down."
Prompted by the woman's tone, Sam struggled to come around. Somewhere, he thought he heard his cell phone ringing, but the sound was far away.
"Honey? That's it. Breathe for me."
Sam blinked and focused gradually on Missouri's face. He realized then that he was half-lying on the living room couch, and that Missouri was very close. Sam gasped and jerked away.
"Easy, son. It's okay."
"What did you do to me?" Sam questioned, still shivering although the tingling sensation was gone.
"Nothing, sweetie. Here," Missouri said, handing him a glass of water.
Sam sat up straight, took the glass and downed it in one go.
"What did you see?" Missouri asked.
"I saw…" Sam panted and thankfully accepted a refill. "I saw Jessica and Jennifer. I saw them dying and I…" Sam's eyed grew wide and shone with fear. "Oh my God, I saw my brother! I saw Dean! What does that mean?"
"It probably means nothing, honey. That wasn't a vision."
"Most possibly you were thinking about your brother, so you connected with him. You're capable of that, and more than that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I just gave you a glimpse into your potential. If only you knew what you could…"
"What I could become?" the young man breathed.
"No!" Missouri quickly answered, narrowing her eyes. "No, Sam. What you could achieve."
Sam shook his head frantically and wiped away the sweat that had accumulated on his upper lip. He didn't want to hear her words, because he simply couldn't deal with what they implied. Not now, with everything that was going on in his life. As a matter of fact, not ever. At least not when he was alone, without his brother having his back.
"I have to go, Missouri," Sam muttered.
"I understand," she said, smiling affectionately and giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze. "But remember, Jennifer hasn't much time, Sam."
"I know. I just…I need to talk to my brother. I-I'll call you later, after Dean and I…"
Trying to stop his chin from trembling, Sam swallowed and scrubbed his face.
"Are you alright?"
Sam shook his head weakly.
"I saw him, Missouri. Dammit, I've never seen him like that."
"Scared," Sam whispered. "I've never seen him so scared."