Dean Winchester had seen a lot of things in his lifetime, but it still threw him for a loop that he was allying himself with witches, male witches that could appear out of thin air in a swirl of blue lights no less. He couldn’t help but wonder what his father would think of his decision. His father wasn’t one known for asking for help – then again, he never really needed to – and his father would never trust a supernatural being. But Dean didn’t have much of a choice at the moment. Sam had gone into a cave and disappeared in a flash of light. Sam was missing.
Dean still wasn’t sure how Sam managed to fucking disappear on him yet again. The only thing Dean knew was that they weren’t dealing with humans this time because he would’ve seen someone in the cave. It was definitely supernatural, but nothing was showing up on any of Dean’s equipment – no movement on the EMF monitor at all – and Dean realized he couldn’t handle this alone.
So Dean once again proved that he would go to any lengths to keep his brother safe – he stood next to his car, feeling more than a little ridiculous, and called out for Wyatt or Chris.
Within seconds, Wyatt Halliwell stood before him with a stoic expression. Dean was about to introduce himself again, when Wyatt’s face twisted with recognition and the guy smiled in Dean’s direction. Wyatt patted Dean on the arm (boy, weren’t witches just the friendly type) and said, “Dean, right? It’s good to see you, man.” Wyatt paused and glanced around the area as though ready to launch an attack and added, “Though bumping into you usually means trouble.”
“Yeah, well, there is trouble, otherwise I wouldn’t have called for you.”
“What kind of demon?”
“I’m not sure if it’s even a demon or a pissed off spirit or what, but we need to find out fast. It has Sam. I figured I should get some back-up before going back into the cave.”
“Start at the beginning. We need to know what we’re dealing with before we go storming into some cave in the middle of nowhere.”
“We don’t have time for that.”
“Look, I understand that you need to find your brother, but we can’t help him if we’re not properly prepared.”
Normally, that was exactly the type of thing Dean would tell someone – you have to know what you’re getting into – but like everything else, logic never worked when it came to dealing with Sam. Dean took a deep breath and said, “There have been a few stories in the past couple of months about travelers going missing in this area. The only sign that they even stopped in that area is the abandoned cars, but otherwise there is no sign of them. Nothing at all, as though they vanished into thin air. My brother and I decided to check out the caverns this afternoon to see if we could spot anything out of the ordinary.”
“And I’m guessing you found it.”
Dean shrugged. “I don’t know, man. It happened so fast and there was no evidence after it was over. The only thing I remember is a gust of wind knocking me down, and next thing I know Sam’s gone.”
“And you’re sure he didn’t leave to get help?”
“I can barely get him to give me enough space to take a leak sometimes. Sam definitely wouldn’t leave me alone in a cavern where there was suspected monster activity.”
“They’re not monsters,” Wyatt replied. He met Dean’s gaze and said, “They’re not exactly nice guys, demons and ghosts, but they aren’t monsters. They exist for a reason.”
“Save the labels-are-bad lecture, Buddha. I just need to find my brother and then we can toast whatever the hell is taking these people.”
“If I help you, you have to follow my rules.”
“I don’t do rules, especially where my brother is concerned.”
Wyatt nodded and said, “I’d be the same way if it was Chris, but I need you to promise me that you’ll at least try to listen to me.”
“I’m serious. I get that you and your brother have been doing this a long time, but trust me when I say that you don’t know the half of what’s out there. You’re going to see some stuff that you aren’t supposed to and I need to know that you can follow my lead if the situation calls for it.”
“Fine, but not a lot freaks me out.”
Wyatt shot him a look and said, “I totally freak you out. Not that you’ll admit fear to me.”
Could this guy read minds on top of everything else? Dean sighed, “Are we going to actually do something or do you plan to stand here talking all night?”
Wyatt reached out and grabbed onto Dean’s arms. The familiar rush off air and energy crackled around him, and before Dean could process what was happening he was standing in the middle of a room. He glanced around and asked, “Am I in an attic?”
Wyatt nodded and Dean asked, “Why am I in an attic when we need to be in a cave?”
“We need to know what we’re up against and get some potions ready in case of an attack. If there is one thing that my father has drilled into my head it’s not to walk into any situation blind. We’re not going to start today.”
Dean nodded and said, “Sounds like my father.”
“Are you and your dad close?”
Dean glanced around the room and replied, “I guess.”
Wyatt seemed to pick up on Dean’s lack of enthusiasm for the topic. He walked over to a lectern and began flipping through the pages of an old book. He said, “My father is great – he can be completely overprotective and has this annoying habit of always being right about things, but I’m pretty lucky.”
Dean resisted the urge to throw up. He wasn’t in the mood to talk about father/son relationships or family dynamics. He knew his family was fucked up, but it was all he knew and he loved them. Not enough to spill his life story to Wyatt though. Dean moved over behind the lectern, glancing down at the book over Wyatt’s shoulder, and said, “What the hell is this thing?”
“It’s called the Book of Shadows. If anyone in my family history has ever dealt with anything similar to what you were describing, it will be in this book, along with a way to vanquish it.”
“Okay…but we don’t even know what we’re dealing with and we won’t unless we go back to the caves.”
“A lot of times caves are used as ways to break through various dimensions. It could be that your brother isn’t actually in the cave.”
“Gee, that makes me feel so much better.”
“All I’m saying is that we need to do some research.”
“You can do research. I need to find my brother.”
Wyatt crossed his arms and turned to face Dean. He said, “I’m a big brother too. And I have an annoying little brother that attracts trouble like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I know that you have to find your brother and we will, okay?”
Dean shrugged. He was beginning to regret calling out for help. He was more than capable of holding his own in any supernatural fight. The problem, he knew, was that Sam was the victim in this case and that made things more complicated. Dean had learned a long time ago that emotions got in the way of things, made him clumsy, and it was better to avoid them at all costs. There were days that it was difficult – like right then – and Dean knew that he needed Wyatt’s help for that very reason. He just needed to keep reminding himself of that or he was likely to kill himself.
Wyatt looked like he was going to continue on the topic of little brothers, but before he could there was a commotion on the stairs. Wyatt groaned and muttered, “Shit. You’re not supposed...”
“Wyatt, where did you disappear to…” an older woman stared from Dean to Wyatt and back to Dean before continuing, “Oh…company...by the book.”
“Mom, I can explain.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
“He’s no danger to the book. He wouldn’t be allowed near it if he was.”
She held up her hand and said, “I’m not asking anything, Wy. I’m going to trust that there is a good reason for this and that it involves the reason you disappeared from your cousin’s birthday party.”
“There is and it does.”
The woman moved across the room and extended her hand to Dean. She said, “I’m Piper Halliwell, Wyatt’s mom.”
“Dean. Dean Winchester.”
“Nice to meet you, Dean,” Piper replied with a smile, though Dean could tell that she wasn’t exactly pleased to see him. He might’ve lacked in a lot of areas, but Dean was great at reading people. Piper was a mother who didn’t know what to make of her son’s new friend. He’d seen those looks enough growing up. It was part of the reason he stopped hanging with classmates when he was younger.
Piper turned to face Wyatt and placed her hand on his arm. She asked, “Do the two of you need any help?”
“Actually yeah,” Wyatt replied, garnering a dirty look from Dean.
By all means, let’s make this a family affair, Dean thought.
Wyatt didn’t seem to notice or he couldn’t really read minds because he continued, “Dean’s brother disappeared in some cave in…where was the cave located?”
“In New Mexico.”
“That narrows it down,” Piper commented. She glanced at the book, “Any luck with the Book of Shadows?”
“Not so far. But we’re not really sure what we’re looking for yet.”
“What’s the demon’s ammo?” Piper asked.
“Did I hear mention of demons? Never a day off…” Dean glanced to the attic doorway and Chris entered followed by an older man.
Dean felt a twinge of worry upon seeing the way Wyatt's eyes immediately found Chris without even thinking – his little brother was out there with god knows what – and jealousy. He never really missed the idea of normal the way that Sam did, but he couldn’t deny that the idea of fighting side-by-side with his entire family was something he truly wanted. Dean pushed those thoughts from his mind and said, “Wyatt, maybe I should go back to the caves and finish looking around?”
“You’re not going in there alone, not after your brother disappeared.”
Chris moved over to the book, joining Piper and Wyatt, and asked, “Your brother disappeared?”
“Not really. I just like to make up elaborate stories to spend time with you guys.”
Chris rolled his eyes. He motioned to Dean and said, “Dad, this is the guy I was telling you about.”
“You told your dad about me?”
“I tell my dad everything,” Chris replied.
“Dude, either you're lying or you have a very sad life.”
Chris shot him an annoyed look while the older man laughed and extended his hand to Dean. This family sure was friendly to complete strangers. “I’m Leo.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Dad, do you remember anything about a demon using caves in New Mexico from when you were a whitelighter or elder?” Wyatt asked.
“There was a situation where the Source used ancient burial grounds to collect souls. Whether or not the Source was doing his own dirty work or had a lower level demon handling it, we never found out. One day it just stopped happening.”
“Well, it’s happening again and my brother is missing,” Dean stated. He pretended not to notice how everyone’s gazes shifted to him. Wyatt’s parents had looks of sympathy etched on their faces as though they were about to hug him or something. Even Chris, who had spent most of the time Dean had known him glaring in his direction, seemed concerned. It was enough to make Dean throw up. He wasn’t a baby who needed protecting or pity, what he needed was to find his brother and kill the son of a bitch that took him.
“If it is a demon collecting souls then they’re being taken to the underworld. We’ll have to go down there and I’ll see if I can sense him.”
“The underworld? As in hell?”
“As in the underworld, where the demons live,” Wyatt countered.
“I’ll come as back-up,” Chris replied.
Dean held up his hand and said, “So wait, demons have their own like…neighborhood?”
“Are you going to be okay? Chris and I can handle this. Get your—”
“I didn’t say I couldn’t handle it,” Dean countered. He forced a tough expression onto his face and said, “You’re not leaving me behind.”
“Then we’ll head to the underworld and go from there,” Wyatt said.
“Is that going to be enough? Do you boys think you need the power of three?” Piper asked.
“Mom, we can handle it. We’ve handled plenty of demons on our own.”
“But if it involves the Source or—”
“—Piper, honey, the boys will call for help if they need it. They know what they’re doing,” Leo interrupted.
Piper waved her hand in mock surrender and said, “Fine, but the minute something doesn’t feel right, you come get help.”
Wyatt nodded and said, “We know the drill by now.” Wyatt turned his attention to Dean and asked, “Are you ready to go?”
“I’ll do whatever it takes to get my brother back.”
Wyatt grabbed Dean’s arm and they orbbed out of the attic. Dean groaned inwardly when his feet hit the ground. Not that it was nearly as bad as the first two times, but that worried him even more. Last thing Dean wanted was to develop an enjoyment of freaky magical shit.
When Dean managed to get his bearings, he looked around the immediate area. Considering it was the supposed underworld, it didn’t look too demented or scary. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all made of rock, the type that echoed footsteps and caused voices to carry. If Dean didn’t know better, he would think he was simply in another part of the cave from earlier. No ominous sensations, no weird noises and no trophies from demon conquests anywhere in sight. The only thing that was out of the ordinary was the two horned midgets heading their way.
“What the hell are those things?”
“Nothing much,” Wyatt stated.
“I got it covered,” Wyatt replied. He extended his hand and within seconds a large flash of light coursed through the air and struck both the creatures in the chest. A small fire appeared around them and they disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Wyatt grinned and said, “Like I said. Nothing much at all.”
Chris nudged Wyatt in the side and said, “Could you try not showing off for even a few seconds?”
“Can I help it if I’m an all-powerful demon killing machine?”
“An egotistic ass is more like it. There was no need to expel that much energy on simple dwarf demons.”
“Dwarf demons? There are actually dwarf demons?” Dean questioned aloud.
Both Wyatt and Chris turned to face him and Wyatt said, “There are thousands of types of demons in the underworld. Most don’t brave entering the main world like the things you’re used to hunting. Their evils are much more subtle than that.”
“Right. Sure,” Dean replied. He stepped back against the rock wall and added, “Let’s avoid the singing demons. I hate karaoke.”
Chris shook his head and said, “Can we get this over with? We need to hurry before every demon senses us.”
“I’m working on it,” Wyatt replied, closing his eyes.
It didn’t take Wyatt very long to sense Sam’s presence in the underworld. Dean avoided being freaked out by Wyatt’s weird ability to locate people and instead focused on the good news that his brother was alive. So long as he could get Sammy back, he could deal with the fact that Wyatt and Chris were taking responsibility for destroying the demon.
Dean would’ve loved to kill the thing that had taken his brother, but contrary to popular belief, Dean didn’t have a death wish. Even Dean could admit he was a bit out of his element in the underworld. He wasn’t the type to get scared of demons, ghosts, or whatever this was, but he was used to fighting them on his turf, back in his dimension with his guns and his brother watching his back.
Wyatt stopped moving outside the entrance to another cavern. He motioned for Dean and Chris to huddle in closer and, once they did, he said, “Okay, here’s the plan.”
Chris groaned and replied, “Your plans always end badly for me.”
“Are you trying to insinuate that I get you into trouble, little brother?”
“Flat out stating it, Wy. Your plans always involve me pissing off the demon and you saving the day.”
Wyatt swatted at him and said, “The benefit of being the older brother, right Dean?”
Dean tried to ignore the teasing between the two brothers. It reminded him too much of his relationship with Sam, and that was something he didn’t want clouding his mind until he could get Sam out of this damn place. Dean tried to steer the conversation back in the right direction. “I’ll be more than willing to agree with you about the awesomeness that are older brothers, but could we get my little brother back first. Otherwise, I’m not so awesome.”
“We’ll get him back. The Halliwell annoy-and-blast method of vanquishing never fails.”
“Except that time with the Tiger Demon,” Chris added. Chris glanced at Dean and explained, “It seems that eyebrows can’t be healed. I walked around for over a month with no eyebrows.”
“Who knew a Tiger demon could breathe fire? You need to let that go already, Chris,” Wyatt replied. He patted Dean’s back as though that would allay Dean’s current worries and said, “Chris and I can handle the demons. Once we’ve got them cornered and distracted, you get your brother. But stay put. The second we’ve vanquished the demons, I’ll grab you guys and we’ll orb out. The last thing we want are a lot of pissed off demons gunning for us.”
Dean nodded and tried to keep his skepticism in check. He knew that plans had a nasty habit of getting fucked up where it concerned supernatural entities. He just needed to be ready for anything. He could handle it so long as he kept himself focused.
Easier said than done though, considering all he could think about was something happening to Sammy.
Once again, as though reading Dean’s mind, Wyatt replied, “Your brother’s going to be fine. We always win.”
Dean smirked. He couldn’t deny that he admired Wyatt’s take on the hunt. After months of woe-is-Sam’s cries for normal, it was nice to find a kindred spirit. So much so that he found himself reciprocating the friendly pat on the arm and saying, “Let’s kill this sucker.”
“Let’s kill this sucker,” Chris said, mimicking Dean before bending over in a fit of laughter. He clutched his stomach and said, “I felt like I was stuck in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.”
Dean rolled his eyes and plotted Chris’ death while chewing on one of the muffins Piper had flung at him and Sam upon returning from the underworld. Apparently the Halliwell’s enjoyed a good killing as much as the next family. He swallowed down his food and said, “I’m not the one who was shrieking like a little girl.”
“That’s because I was the one distracting the stupid thing. And it slimed me,” Chris said, shuddering for effect.
“Who knew that the Phinx demon sprayed slime?” Wyatt replied with a laugh.
Chris tossed the remainder of his muffin at Wyatt’s head. Wyatt ducked and it hit Sam in the chest as he entered the kitchen. Chris, Wyatt, and Dean all shared a laugh while Sam shook his head and glared in his brother’s direction. Dean had a feeling he was going to have a lot to explain in the car.
Dean glanced up at his brother and asked, “How are you feeling?”
“Great. It was nice of you guys to let me shower and steal some clothes. Mine were covered in slime.”
“Don’t mention slime around, Chris. It’s a sore subject,” Dean replied.
Chris rolled his eyes and said, “Because the world needed another guy just like my older brother.” Wyatt and Dean exchanged glances and smirked. Chris simply shook his head and said, “I pity you, Sam. At least I have my parents and aunts as a buffer from this lunatic.”
Sam messed up Dean’s hair and said, “Oh, he’s not so bad when I remember to duct tape his mouth shut.”
“Actually, I’m pretty sure that I was the one who used the duct tape on you and as I recall it didn’t involve your mouth, but…”
Dean shrugged and stood up. He glanced at Wyatt and Chris and said, “Thanks for all the help with finding Sam and getting rid of that thing.”
“It’s what we do,” Wyatt replied.
Dean nodded and said, “Do you think you can send us back to my car? I’ve left it by those caverns for too long. I don’t want it to get towed.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner? My mom is a great cook,” Wyatt offered.
“I’m not really a family dinner sort of guy,” Dean replied.
Wyatt smiled in understanding. He stood up and said, “It’s cool. If you ever need help again, you know how to reach me.”
“Don’t you have a cellphone I can call? It’s a lot less embarrassing,” Dean replied.
“Cellphones are for amateurs,” Wyatt replied. Wyatt grabbed onto Dean’s arm and said, “Grab your brother’s hand.”
Dean wanted to argue that he stopped holding his brother’s hand fifteen years ago, but decided that New Mexico was a long walk from San Francisco and it was best not to upset the guy who could orb. He took his brother’s hand, pretending not to notice the amused look on Sam’s face, and shut his eyes in preparation for traveling.
And this time, unlike all the others, he didn’t feel anything. It was like walking in a slight breeze, nothing more. Dean wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He was no longer uncomfortable around Wyatt or Chris. He was completely sure that they were the good guys, but he had been raised to mistrust everything, including witches, whether they claimed to be good or not.
“Dean, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Dean replied. He opened his eyes and met his brother’s gaze. When he realized he was still holding his brother’s hand, he immediately pulled back and said, “Dude, you shouldn’t need my help crossing the street.”
“It wasn’t my idea to hold your hand. It was your friend’s.”
“He’s not my friend.”
“We’re two guys fighting on the same side. That’s all.”
“Because god forbid Dean Winchester form any emotional ties.”
“Dude, you weren’t around that family long enough to understand. They’re like the magical Brady Bunch. They all get along and fight demons together and go on freaking picnics to the park.”
Sam shrugged, “Doesn’t sound so bad to me.”
Dean glared at him as he walked toward his car. He ran his eyes over the exterior of the car, verifying that there were no scratches or dings. He glanced at his brother before sliding into the driver’s seat and said, “I’m so not in the mood for the Sam wants a normal life spiel right now. You scared the hell out of me…again.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“Yeah, because my idea of a good time is falling through an invisible portal into a Phinx demon’s booby trap.”
Dean snickered. “You said booby.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Always thinking with the mind of a twelve year old.”
“I’m rubber, you’re glue, Sammy.” Dean started the car, revving the engine before pulling out onto the highway. He turned on his music, allowing the calming sounds of Metallica to comfort him until Sam turned it off. Dean shot him a dirty look and said, “And why did I bother to save you yet again?”
“Because you love me.”
“And I’m the only one who can tolerate you for large chunks of time.”
“I like being a loner.”
“That’s not what it looked like back at that house.”
“Don’t worry, Sam. You’ll always be number one in my book, even if it means I’m constantly saving your sorry ass.”