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Treading in the Darkness

Chapter Text

Stevens Point Wisconsin
December 14th 1992
11.27 PM

John Winchester sighed in exhaustion as his vision shifted to his sons sleeping peacefully in the rear seat of the Impala. It had been another successful hunt but as always, it was never good to hang around a town too long after desecrating multiple graves. Rosetta Bean had been a particularly hard ghost to track down, having been buried under her maiden name Stoddard. Papers at the time attributed her husband George's death up to a sawmill accident but John new different. He knew the woman had poisoned the man. The incident chalked up as dizzy spell due to the days heat, which caused George to fall into one of the saws. ‘All that for the mans insurance policy’ John huffed to himself.

George must not have liked that as far as John could figure, considering seven months later on her way from the church with her new husband- Henry Potter- the pair had died on the bridge in a horrific accident. Her twisted life leaving Rosetta to take her anger out on passing vehicles over the years. She had caused a hell of a lot of injuries and a few deaths on the small stretch of road. Occasionally sighted with a male ghost, John had been unsure if it was Henry or George so they had salted and burned all 3 for good measure. He was sore as hell himself and could only imagine how his eldest felt. Dean hadn't come along on too many hunts with him so far but this one was routine enough he let him tag along. And truthfully he needed the help with all the grave digging they got done in the past two days. The kid would be sleeping until they arrived at Bobby's no doubt. Leaving another small town in his rearview mirror as the Impala's steady rumble comforted his sleeping sons.

The smooth black 1967 Chevy suddenly lurched, sliding dangerous close to kissing the guardrail. A sudden snow squall surged over the highway 66 bridge. White knuckled John drew the Impala to a stop “Fuck” he exhaled.

“Dad…” Dean trailed off woken by the sudden jolt, as he watched the flickering ghostly woman standing on the bridge. Rosetta was almost imperceivable against the squall if not for the deep red blotches adoring her gown.

“Stay in the car boys” John ordered and quickly grabbed his Smith & Wesson 4505 luckily still loaded with consecrated iron from earlier- good he thought opening the door and off loading a shot into the ghostly figure. Rosetta flickered away and John made a mad dash for the trunk of the Impala.

“Dean” Sam whispered as the ghost flickered back into reality as Rosetta began a staggered approach to the Impala.

“Shhhh Sammy” Dean replied as he kept watch on the ghost out the front windshield, using his peripheral vision and the rearview mirror he glanced at his father until the deck lid obscured his line of sight. He focused his full attention to the approaching apparition, hoping his father was fast enough.

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“Fucking Bitch” John muttered quickly as he popped the deck lid, pulling up the trunks false bottom not bothering to prop open the compartment in his haste. He grabbed for the two sawed off shotguns, a box of salt rounds and a container of rock salt. Letting the false bottom drop quickly as he shut the trunk. His feet slid as he made it back to the driver side door. “Dean” He called tossing the rock salt and Ithaca 37 to the boy. Grabbing a handful of rounds out of the box and threw the rest to his oldest as well, shutting the Impalas door. John's hand just left the door frame before he was thrown. Wincing as he struck the cold black road 20 feet away from the car -ice and gravel scraped his leather jacket and jeans as pain flooded his body.

John had lost his grip on the Remington 870 when his elbow struck the ground. The shotgun had skittered away from him, and now lay out of reach. Somehow he had managed to hold onto most of the salt rounds, but they would be useless without the gun. “Fuck” he grunted, his feet trying to find purchase-right before he was sent tumbling by Rosetta once more.

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Sam's eyes were wide and wet as he watched his father's body sail from the Impala “Dean” he cried as he found his voice through the terror that now etched his features. While he had been aware on an intellectual level for many months of what his father did. Sam had very rarely seen the man in action and none of those times had been on a hunt. The monsters John faced were no more tangible then Saturday morning cartoons. Sure he'd read some of the research, seen his father's crude drawings, witnessed the man come back injured more times then he could count. However the aftermath and the imagined battles in his young mind paled to the scene before him. Reality was ineffable and dangerous, giving a sudden twist to his insides. It was fear Sam realised, knowing now that he had never really fathomed his father's work before this moment. In the shock of these realizations he registered only too late the rock salt Dean had thrust into his hands.

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Cold swept into the Impala as he opened the door nimbly maneuvering from the back seat with the Ithaca 37. It had been loaded in milliseconds after John handed him the ammo, a few extra rounds jammed into his pocket a moment later. Dean shut the door quickly despite his brothers incoherent protests, he needed to help Dad. The ghost bitch Rosetta now held the eldest Winchester by his throat against the bridge glaring at the man. Dean advanced towards the pair knowing he had to be closer. There wasn't going to be time for a clean shot he thought as he double wrapped the strap around his arm having seen his father lose the shotgun. As Dean came within range a brief hope fluttered across his mind that John would not be too angry with him for the friendly fire that would soon pelt his father's flesh. Either way it was unavoidable, he needed to act now. Dean fired and the ghost disappeared leaving John to drop to the pavement. “Dad” he called out rushing to his father's aid.

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John's vision swam with dark spots as the ghost pressed against him. He was out of air and his lungs strained, ‘Shit’ he thought knowing he was going to pass out. A hand clawed for his Smith & Wesson 4505 as he started to fade. The shot and the impact felt as one as salt peppered his body. John winced as several of the chunks embedded into his flesh and he sank to the ground. He drew a deep breath to clear his vision and looked up. A moment of pride flashed through him as he caught sight of his oldest yelling to him and closing the distance.

Dean was almost to his father before Rosetta appeared in a flash behind him. Before John could utter a syllable of warning her anger struck. The boy flew with a surprised grunt into and over the guardrail, tumbling into the icy black water below. A crunching ice splash the only sound as Rosette gave him a wicked grin and flickered away. John raised himself to the rail searching over the dark waters for Dean to surface. It was a moment that would later haunt John Winchester's dreams for years to come.

Chapter Text

Stevens Point Wisconsin
December 14th 1992
11.39 PM

The snow twisted and swirled in the pale moonlight, casting shadowy figures over the bridge. Haunting visages formed in his mind. But the ghost did not return. He was alone. Sam sat in shock, wrapped in the scratchy military blanket his father kept in the Impala. They had fucked up and Rosetta was still here. John's cry of “DEAN!” before his impulsive jump-still echoed through Sam's body. Their father was over the rail a few seconds behind his eldest. Seconds crawled into agonizing minutes as Sam waited. The forgotten container of salt still clutched in his hands.

John emerged from the side of the bridge soaked and without Dean. He barked to Sam to dial 911 on his cell. Sam held the clunky Nokia 1011 with shaking hands as he pressed the buttons. He waited hoping for reception on the damn thing. John quickly gathered the guns, and threw them under the front seat before sitting down.

The operator had droned in his ear 3 times before he found the words to speak. “911 please state your emergency.”

“My br..brother..” Sam stuttered as John revved the Impala to life. His father pulled a tight U-turn and a sharp right onto Water Street. “He fell off the bridge into the water, we can't find him.”

“What is your location?”

“Highway 66 Bridge and Water Street Stevens Point, Wisconsin.” Sam rattled out as his father slammed the Impala to a stop, using her headlights to illuminate the river.

“Stay here Sam.” John ordered as he dashed back down to the river bed with a flashlight, sweeping arcs of light across the surface for any sign of Dean.

“EMS will be with you shortly, please stay on the line until they arrive.”

“o...ok.” Sam answered mechanically, the operator kept talking but the sounds were foreign to his mind. All he could do was watch his father's frenzied actions as sirens sounded in the distance.

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Stevens Point Wisconsin
December 15th 1992
1.52 AM

Two gut wrenching hours had passed. The golden hour long over, this wouldn't be a rescue. Police and other responders still searched the river's edge. Divers were on site and in the water 20 minutes after the 911 was dispatched. Still the boy had not yet been found. Sheriff Donnelly knew with a heavy heart he needed to let the family know, waiting would just make it worse. He approached the father and son pair, things like this never got any easier. “Sir” he addressed the Man. “There is a window of time for rescue in cases like your son. We are looking at the recovery phase now, I'm sorry.”

Sheriff Donnelly found himself unprepared, as he received a fist full of John Winchester to the face. Deputy Smith came running, the Sheriff held his hand up as he staggered- but managed to remain on his feet. His Deputy wasn't happy about it but the man stopped a distance back from John. There was no reason both of them should be sporting a shiner the next few days. The Sheriff couldn't blame the man, couldn't say he would do any better if it was his son in the river. John had risked severe hypothermia himself until he had been forced away from the water by first responders.

A mixture of anger and grief spurring his exhausted body to continue. His movements were jerky and violent, as he paced back and forth. Seething and ready to strike. One word spoken by a small voice stopped him cold “Dad…” John turned to look at his youngest son, and something inside him shifted.

Sam reached a hand out to his father as John came closer pulling his son into a hug. “We'll find him.”

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Stevens Point Wisconsin
December 14th 1992
11.33 PM

The air rushed by and the world was a blur until his body connected with the guardrail.

Then there was only darkness.

It was still dark.

His arms don't want to move.

Something soft in his fingers.

His face is against stone.

It's so cold.

Pressure on his chest.

Like a cinderblock on his heart.

He coughs hard.

His heart strains.

His body heaves.

He vomits.

He takes in a sharp breath.

Its thick, he tastes dirt.

His chest hurts.

Hard to move.

He exhales.

His heart calms.

He breathes in.

His chest hurts less.

It's still cold.

He exhales.

He tastes blood.

The pain is fading.

Doesn't mind the cold.

It's only dark.

January 24th 1979.

He was born Aquarius.

December 14th 1992.

He returned to water.

Chapter Text

Stevens Point, Wisconsin
December 29th 1992

The words of Sheriff Donnelly were etched in his mind -that those who drown usually don't go more than a few hundred yards from where they sink. Words that sickened Sam to hear. Dean wasn't a fucking lead fishing weight, he was a person. Sam still wasn't sure how the man had avoided another black eye for that revelation. But his father while clearly angry was focused. Find Dean, no other thought or need drove the man. John barely ate or slept, and only did when forced. The sacrifice of his own needs leaving his face drawn and looking older than his years. At John's pressing the search went a full 2 miles down the bank, more than Dean could have traveled by police estimates. The sheriffs black eye more than John's diplomatic nature had persuaded rescuers. But as persuasive as he was the underwater search had been ended. They were told that they could only wait and hope for Dean to surface.

Bobby Singer and Pastor Jim had both come out to aid the search within the first 8 hours. Sam wasn't sure when his father had called the men, but Jim had been the first to reach Stevens Point. Sam was still salty that he had been passed off to the Pastor when the man arrived. He loved Jim like an uncle, he and Dean had spent much time with the man over the years. But he was old enough to realize he was being benched from the search. The irrational part of his mind not willing to accept there was not much a 9 year old would be able to contribute.

Two weeks had gone by, such a short time but it felt like an eternity. Sam sat in the Impala, a compromise brokered with Bobby's help the 4th day of the search. He still wasn't allowed to help, but he was freed from the restless wait of sitting at the motel. It left all 3 hunters the ability to help with the search while still keeping an eye on Sam. Tightening his grip on the scratchy blanket he once hated, he inhaled the last vestiges of his brother the green cloth contained. It was one of the few comforts that persevered through his family's latest tragedy. The loss he experienced was beyond anything his short years had brought him. While the death of his mother saddened him she was abstract, not like Dean who protected and comforted him when he was scared. His amazing big brother who was stubborn but so loving. Even when Dean was mad at him, Sam had never felt alone. But now Sam was alone, and the harsh nature of the situation had left him raw.

Sam knew the Hunters search was not limited to the ways of the responders, but the older men would tell him little. By night they searched old tomes for spells: divination, tracking, anything that might be able to help them find Dean. There were some things that John wanted to try that lead to fights Sam didn't understand. Mentions of cross roads and black cat bones seemed to be a particularly heated argument between the men. But no matter what the Hunters tried, they still couldn't find Dean.

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Stevens Point, WI
January 8th 1993
12.40 am

The gravel had shifted from the snow plows that had passed, obscuring his work. Boots walked the empty stretch, 9 feet from the edge he used the shovel to make a mark. He walked back to the other side of the road, 9 feet to the center and made another mark. He eyed the lines and found the point they crossed. Placed his boot on the back of the shovel, and forced it into the cold ground. Using the handle for leverage he coaxed the shovel of gravel out. He set it to the side and dug further into his freshly started hole. The sound of metal on metal a few seconds later stopped him. He knelt by the hole reaching in for the small box. He opened it up, the items seemed without change.

“I still don't think this is a good idea John.” A voice spoke to the man.

“I didn't ask you Bobby.” Came John's curt reply as he stood up and used the shovel to push the pile back into its hole. He stepped down on it a few times to flatten it before turning back toward the Impala.

“Nothing good comes from crossroads.”

“I didn't make a deal, or summon one of those fuckers. I promised I wouldn't and I haven't. I don't need the mother hen routine.”

“We aren't even sure this is going to work, I couldn't exactly find all we needed”

“It will have to do, the spell needs done tonight or I will have to wait another month.” John threw the shovel in the trunk of the Impala and shut the deck lid.

“John this ain't like ordering up a burger and the waitress forgetting the pickles.” Bobby said as he slid into the passenger side of the Chevy.

“Are you helping me or not.” John asked as he took the driver's seat.

“I'm helping you, for Dean and Sam.” Bobby affirmed. “Someone needs to keep you from being an idjit for their sake. Don't mean I have to agree with all the things your doing.”

“I know Bobby” came the reply it was the closest to a thank you Bobby Singer would ever get out of John Winchester.

 

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Stevens Point, WI
January 8th 1993
2.50 am

 

The altar was set- willow branches laid in a Pentacle over the white cloth. In the center pentagon waits an earthen bowl half filled with water strewn with rowan petals. Beside the small metal box. The smell of burning mugwort drifts together with the candle smoke. He swallows down the Yarrow tea, the mixture tastes like crap but he's had worse. He sits before the bowl and opens the box pulling out the silk wrapped object. Removing the silk he grabs hold of the smooth black oval. He sets the silk to the side as he begins the ritual.

“Videre volo.” he recites placing the stone in the water. Drawing his knife across his palm, “Speculum ortum” he lets the blood drip onto the stone. “Volo scire secretum.” Tendrils start spreading through the water from the stone, “Ostende mihi filius meus primogenitus meus.” they are pitch black and without reflection. “Speculum ortum. Ostende mihi filius meus primogenitus meus.” The black water becomes agitated and he strains to see something in its surface, but there is only the matte fluid. “Ostende mihi filius meus primogenitus meus.” He commands. The liquid starts to boil violently and he is pulled back by a firm hand seconds before the earthen bowl explodes spraying the room with ceramic bits and black fluid. “Damn it.”***¹

“I told you, can't just go picking and choosing what you put in a spell like this.”

“Shut up Bobby.” John replies rubbing his hands over his face.

“John.”

“I said shut up Bobby.”

“John.” Bobby persists.

He looked up in irritation, acerbic words on the tip of his tongue but they stay in his mouth. His eyes follow the older man's gesture, the white altar cloth. Black fluid still crawls unnaturally on its surface. He returns to the altar bushing away the bits of ceramic. The ink follows him briefly almost like a magnet as he touches the cloth. He ignores his discomfort and focuses on the words that have formed. “Circumdantibus spirituum. Indutus luti. Puer dormit in aqua. What the fuck is that suppose to mean.”***²

“Well my latin ain't the best” Bobby mused “But it looks like it's saying hes sleeping in the water with spirits and wearing clay britches. Which don't make a lick of sense and is probably some spiritual gibberish, cause we didn't use what we oughta.”

“None of the other spells have worked, maybe there is a reason why Bobby….”

“Well this one didn't work either. It's suppose to show you not write latin enigmas.”

“It's given us more than anything else we've done.”

“Or maybe it's given us less John, we don't know if this means anything. And I don't think we should be putting much faith in creepy moving ink that's speaking in riddles.

“Sleeping in the water? And that doesn't mean anything?” John shouted.

“Damn it John it's past 3am, hollering at me ain't gonna do nothing but wake the whole motel. We ain't giving up but we cant do anything with this right now.”

“Like hell we can't.” John roared as he grabbed his leather jacket and stormed out of the motel room.

“Damn it John” Bobby sighed picking up his coat as he followed his friend out into the cold. There would be no sleep tonight and he knew it.

Chapter Text

Stevens Point, Wisconsin
January 10th 1993

Sheriff Donnelly felt as cold as the day. He had informed the Winchester family that the search for Dean's remains had officially been called off. Told them after 25 days it was unlikely the boys remains would ever surface. They were devastated and angry but he didn't make any excuses. Didn't need to tell them the search was more then was typically given, that he had been told last week to call it off but hadn't. None of that would help them grieve. Donnelly just hoped the father would sort himself quickly, if not for himself for his son. The man had been a goddamn mess from the start, barely sleeping or eating. Lucky the boy seemed to have good folk to look after him, even if wasn't blood.

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Stevens Point, Wisconsin
January 20th 1993

Pastor Jim had returned to Blue Earth today. He'd offered for John and Sam come and stay with him for a while. His father had declined. Sam knew that Bobby and Jim had come to the conclusion Dean would not be found, that he was dead. He knew his father did not accept this. He wasn't sure he did either, a small part of him screamed at him to believe his father. ‘If he was dead we would have found him.’ the words of John's argument repeated in his head.

Their investigation had come to a halt with no indication an outside force was at work, no sulfur or unusual of drownings. Outside of the accidents caused by Rosetta there was nothing. At some level the Hunters all knew that this was not a hunt. It was painful to admit but Dean was gone, and his remains would not be found.

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Stevens Point, Wisconsin
January 22th 1993

Bobby had tracked down a Doll that had been made with Rosettes hair. John took the honor of soaking the handmade doll with a whole bottle of lighter fluid and container of salt before lighting it up. As the effigy crackled and smoked in the flame the last ties of Rosettes soul to this world was extinguished. Sam watched his father from the Impala, taking in their Pyrrhic victory over the ghost. It was over.

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Stevens Point, Wisconsin
January 25th 1993

The Winchesters and Bobby Singer left Stevens Point forever.

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Sioux Falls, North Dakota
February 6th 1993
7.30 am

Bobby Singer looked around his living room in disgust. Splatters of matte black fluid speckled the room. “Damn it John, couldn't you have done this shit in the barn.” He grumbled, figured ‘Fuck it.’ as he turned heading for the kitchen to start up some coffee. ‘Going to take a hell of a lot of caffeine to get the son of a bitch up off my couch.’ Bobby thought as he sure as shit wasn't cleaning that mess himself.

With the coffee started he returned to the living room. The one positive thing he could note was none of that black shit seemed to be moving anymore. As he began to survey the damage he noticed the white altar cloth gripped in John's right hand. Doubting the spell had produced anything useful, but curiosity getting the better of him Bobby approached John. With a bit more forceful of a tug then he would have liked Bobby freed the fabric from John's hand. One statement was written over and over. ‘Vita et more una.’

With a renewed sadness Bobby took in his friends exhausted features. The dark circles under his eyes, the lines of worry that had found a permanent home on the man's face. But what pulled at him the most was through the inky smears was the undeniable track of dried tears. John's Latin had improved and the meaning the man took from ‘Vita et mors una.’ was undeniable. They had sourced all the right components since the last moon. The spell was intended to track any human. Bobby understood why the spell did not work right, would never work right. It could not track those who where no longer on Earth, it could not track the dead. Today was going to be a hard day, but Bobby hoped it would mark the beginning of healing for the Winchester family.

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Sioux Falls, North Dakota
February 27st 1993
10.05 am

“John get your head out of your ass and think about this….”

“He's my son damn it.”

“Well maybe you should act like it.” Bobby shouted. “That boy has suffered a lot of hurt and he could benefit from some stability.”

“We'll be leaving tonight.” John yelled slamming the door on his way out of the house.

“You can come on down now” Bobby stated giving a look to the staircase “I know you heard all that, no way you couldn't have.” Sam slowly came down the stairs from where he was sitting. “You have any say on this matter for yourself?”

Sam looked down as he answered “I know you don't agree, but I want to go with Dad.”

“Boy look at me. ” Bobby sighed in exasperation. Sam tilted his eyes up to look at the older Hunter. “I know you love your Daddy, even if he's not always done right by you boys. He loves you as well, but Hunting is his life. It's dangerous and bloody, best case you might end up my age. Most hunters ain't so lucky, we all eventually die at the hands of something we are hunting. Your Daddy ain't going to stop hunting. One of these days it's gonna be the death of him, Maybe the death of you.”

“That's why I have to go.” Sam quietly answered “I know he fucked up and he's the reason Dean is…..is dead. Part of me hates him for it, but I can't let him go back out alone. It's not what Dean would have done- it's not what he would have wanted. Dads all I have left, I can't lose him too.”

“Sam,” Bobby exclaimed pulling the boy into a hug “We might not be blood but we are kin. My door will always be open to you, and I know Pastor Jim would never turn you away either. We both love you so don't go acting like we don't. You Winchesters are stubborn folk and I ain't likely to change your mind but I'm here for you no matter what you decide. So don't you prattle on about how you only got your Daddy.”

“I love you too Bobby”

“We done with all this feelings shit?” Bobby asked eliciting a slight nod from Sam. “Good, let's get that pot roast going. Might be the last decent meal you get for a while knowing your Daddy's cooking.” The boy smiled maybe, just maybe they would be ok.

Chapter Text

Necedah Wisconsin
May 26th 1994

Mrs. Molly Connolly's Boarding house was an old blue trimmed victorian on the corner of Division and Birch Street. At one time the house was a fine sight no doubt, but that time was long past. The cedar shake roof leaked when it rained hard. The dragon's tooth, scroll work and other gingerbread that once adorn every archway and edge was now weathered and warped. Stepping inside while it was clean, spidering cracks ran over many of the old plaster walls where wallpaper gave no disguise. The walls that were lucky enough to have been hung with paper were yellowed with age and a touch of tobacco from the late Mr. Max Connolly. The motifs ranged from flowers to county scenes that had not been in style for half a century. In this place Hunter Barrens found himself home, at least as home as he felt anywhere in his short life.

Hunter dragged his fingers across his face and stared with bleary eyes at his small digital alarm 5.45. ‘10 minutes before the alarm, shit at least its Friday.’ he groused internally. With a groan he stretched cat like, nearly touching the two opposing walls of his small room. Walk in closet, maybe a servants quarters originally? He wasn't sure what the room was intended for when the house was constructed but he had barely enough room for his twin bed and his small nightstand. Most of his meager possessions were stashed under his bed between two laundry baskets. The options were clean or dirty, not that he owned enough clothes to fill both.

Hunter knew he should count himself lucky, in foster care he didn't even have half of what he owned now. He suffered a year before convincing the courts that emancipation was the best course for him. His freedom was granted on his 17th birthday, or at least the 17th birthday the state had assigned. It really was in everyone's best interests, he had burned through all the system ‘regulars’ in his time. Insincere people looking to make a paycheck. Abusive asshats looking for a punching bag or to fill other disgusting urges. And families looking to adopt? Yeah they wanted little pink faced babies not a fully grown teen. Hey, he understood that in a way. But it didn't stop his feelings of abandonment every time some ‘nice’ family told him he wasn't the right fit. Everytime his existence was boiled down to how much money he was worth a month. Didn't sooth him every night he sat awake watching and waiting. Didn't stop the worried his door would swing open and he would have to defend himself.

The buzz of the alarm sounded 5.55, Hunter sighed as he set about his morning routine: Bathroom, grabbing a random clothes to get dressed, boots on and lace, and backpack all check. He set down the steps at a slight sideways swagger. They were one of the most creak filled areas of the house. Noise you would expect more from a poorly oiled door in some horror flick. Guaranteed to wake people up if you didn't know where to step. Hunter had figured it out in his first week, learning to walk quieter than anyone else in the house. A part of him realized it was childish, making a game out of how quietly he could travel the stairs. He didn't need to be half as quiet as he was, and he couldn't place why he even felt the need to play this game of stealth.

“Morning Hunter.” Mrs Connolly greeted him as he rounded into the kitchen, the smell of eggs, sausage and waffles permeated the room.

“Morning Mrs C.” Hunter replied walking over to the fridge to pull out his lunch. A simple brown bag affair that he pushed into his half zipped pack, and started out the door.

“Hey,” Mrs Connolly chided with a smile. “I didn't cook all this for myself.”

“Sorry Mrs. C.” Hunter replied grabbing a waffle and wrapping it around two sausage links before jamming it in his mouth.

“One of these days you're gonna choke doing that...” Mrs Connolly sighed.

“RyNuhhh.” Hunter murmured through his full mouth and a grin as he set out the door to his bike. He had to work quickly against the lock as saliva filled his mouth around the unchewed food. Straddling his bike he steered down Division as he chewed his breakfast driving one handed. Hanging a sharp right onto west 3rd he spotted his adversarya quarter mile down the road. Hunter gulped down the last of his food and pumped hard down on the pedals. He crossed Plum, approaching Harvey street he evaluated the light ‘just in time’ he thought as he took a sharp left across 3rd reaching the opposite side in a fluid motion. He skidded slightly on the gravel as approached the white multi port garage. Slowing he popped of the bike and set it against the inside wall in the garage.

“Morning Hunter.” a voice called out.

“Morning Jacob, see you this afternoon.” He answered over his shoulder as he raced across the parking lot back to the sidewalk, his adversary just moments away. A flicker of yellow lights came on as the vehicle slowed. As it edged up to the corner and a small grown escaped the 15 ton beast as it stopped. The lights became red as the door swung wide.

“Good Morning Hunter” the bus driver greeted Hunter with a smile as he stepped up onto the flat nosed Bluebird. “Decided to cut it close this morning I see.”

“Naw Miss Kate didn't you see me waiting for you?” Hunter answered back with one of his famous smiles.

“Come on, get seated” Miss Kate chuckled.“I need to get you guys to school.”

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Necedah Wisconsin
May 26th 1994
12.07 PM

“How we doing Sammy?” John asked as the slick black Chevy rolled southeast on interstate 94.

“It's Sam.” the youngest Winchester huffed as he looked over the road atlas on his lap “...somewhere between 70 and 80 miles before we need to turn onto 21.”

John rolled his shoulders trying to loosen the tension that had built up over the past 11 hours. Tagus North Dakota had been a bit farther away from Necedah Wisconsin then he thought. By the time they got to the town John was going to be wiped he knew it. The black dog in Tagus had been a relatively straight forward hunt, but it had been a bitch to take down by himself. They had packed up and left just shy of 1 am, fuck was he tired but there was an advantage to exhaustion. Drive yourself hard enough and you don't dream and for John no dreams meant no nightmares. A few hours of nothing to soothe the ache in his chest. Sammy was looking at him, John was unsure how long he was lost in his own thoughts, so he spoke. “Yeah kiddo?”

“It's about 100 miles total, how long do you think?”

“Uh…” John stated as he mentally pounded his brains math center into gear from its slumber. “Bout an hour and a half I would guess.”

“So what are we hunting?” Sam inquired still regarding his father with a calculated expression.

“Not sure yet.” John stated as he attempted to fish a water bottle from the back seat. Sam took notice leaning over to help guide the bottle to his father's searching fingers. John gave a slight nod of thanks as he uncapped the bottle downing 1/3rd of the liquid in a go. He swallowed and continued “11 people have showed up dead over the past three years. 4 of those have been in the past 10 months so whatever this is its stepping up. Not enough to grab the attention of higher authorities yet; but enough to catch Bobby's attention to have someone check it out.” taking another swig of water, “Most victims have been found a few days later a few have been found closer to a week after they were reported missing. All the victims had some kind of skull fracture leaving the cavity open on top of their heads. Their brains having been missing or removed in every case. The body's have been found throughout Buckhorn State Park and the adjoining Yellow River Wildlife Area. Most have been found more inland, but a couple were found in the barrens by the water.” he finished.

“So like a Ghoul?” Pulling his Dad's journal from beside him, Sam started to flip the pages.

“No” John answered as he strung his memory of the creatures together “ A Ghoul would pick the bones clean maybe even eat them, and they usually hang around cemeteries or other places to scavenge. While they will attack the living, they don't actively hunt like this thing is doing.

“What about a Skinwalker?”

“Doubted, they like hearts not brains. I've never known them to be picky eaters. Whatever this is it, doesn't always finishing its supper. Which sets it apart from most creatures Bobby and I have run across.”

Sam gave a sour frown, like he had just dumped the remainder of a bag of sour patch kids into his mouth-getting all the extra citric acid on the way. He didn't always care for the blasé way his dad would talk about the monsters the man hunted. As if he was indifferent to the horrible things he recited, no more emotion than if he were discussing the weather. A hunter needed to be detached to survive, emotions could get you killed Sam understood. But his father seemed increasingly callous anymore, ever since….ever since they lost Dean. Sam worried the man would self destruction if not for his own existence. Even though Sam's choice to continue with his dad rather than to settle down at Bobby's curbed a fair share of John's reckless nature, he was not the man he once was.

Sam sometimes wondered if this was like how broken John was over his mother's death. Wondered how his 4 year old brother stood the long periods of silence, the distance. Not that he had ever known his father to be much for sharing emotions before they lost Dean. He knew he was loved, but there was something stiff and automatic that now laced through every action of the man. Another part of John Winchester had died, and that weight seemed only to increase in every day that passed. Sam sat quietly watching the road and fields roll by to his right, unable to find words that would reach his father's broken heart.

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Necedah Wisconsin
May 26th 1994

John hung a U-turn and got back on route 80 north. He and Sam had scoped out the bones of the town earlier. It was always important to get the lay of the land in the places they stayed, one of the first things they did every hunt. Out of the towns with jackdidilly in them Necedah may take the cake for places he'd ever set up shop. The town had a few bars, 3 motels, a gas station and a pizza joint. The closest grocery store was a 20 minute drive from the motel to the next town over. Which was going to be a pain for stocking food other then take out for Sammy. Normally he liked to set up somewhere Sam could access the necessities in the worse case scenario, but he would work with what he had. John settled on the motel closest to the school because that was the only feature that made a lick of difference. If nothing else Sam could walk to the school until he figured out what the hell he was hunting. He would worry about more permanent housing and enrolling Sam in the school after this weekends research. A trip to the local library usual gave him a good ballpark of how long they would be on a particular case.

They decided on pizza for the night, John had ordered up two pies from Andy's pizza Rama hoping it wouldn't suck. He had dropped Sam at the Sunrise Motel to start setting things up in the room. It wasn't bad for short term there were two luxuries they rarely had- a mini fridge and a microwave, enough to get them through a few days to a week if needed.

Rather than wait in the pizza shop he decided to fuel up the Impala down the street. The Black Beauty was down to 1/8th a tank practically running on fumes. He knew it was bad for the car, risked sucking up all sorts of trash from the bottom of the tank into the fuel filter. Tank trash could kill a car's fuel pump. John had often needed to do the repair for others in his time working as a mechanic. No reason to cause himself needless problems and let her run dry.

John turned left onto East 3rd and grumbled at the slow moving cars in front of him and caught sight of the yellowjacket. Glancing at the clock he saw it was 2.35 “that time of the day” he muttered to himself as he came to a stop along with the other cars to wait on the lumbering diesel. He watched out of restlessness rather than interest in the students that filed off the traffic menace. John's heart dropped as a young man exited the bus. The teen turned round, two steps off from the side of the bus waiting for someone else to exit. One word of recognition caught in the eldest Winchester's throat ‘Dean’.

Chapter Text

Necedah Wisconsin
May 26th 1994
2.36 PM

It was his boy. Taller and less lanky then his 13 year old self, but even from a distance John caught the hints of Mary in the boys features. He swallowed hard as he watched his son and 2 other students cross in front of the bus. His heart pounded as he watched with rapt attention as the three boys reached the corner curb. They stood chatting as the school bus shut down its red lights and signaled its intent to turn left onto 3rd as the students continued to talk. John was filled with trepidation as he inched forward desperate to get to his lost son. The bus turned obscuring Dean from his view for a few moments. When it completed its turn Dean was gone. Just the two students remained chatting to each other before breaking off in their separate directions home. John was not sure he could be more heartbroken then he was this minute. It wasn't the first time his mind had created a mirage of his son. Making him face the reality that Dean was gone. It had been over a year since that night and despite all his efforts his boy remained lost.

A loud honk jarred John out of his dark thoughts. The man behind him was yelling out his window “MOVE IT ASSHOLE!” John normally would have flipped the guy off but he was too crestfallen to care. He drove the short distance remaining to the gas station a parade of honks announcing his arrival. John turned right into the gas station, parking at one of the pumps. He bent down his head, resting his forehead on the wheel as his shoulders slumped trying to gather himself before he stepped out of his sanctuary.

 

Necedah Wisconsin
May 26th 1994
2.35 pm

“Hey Hunter wait up!” Reggie asked, obliging Hunter stepped a bit off the side so as not to block the exit as he waited on his friend. “I wanted to ask you about the auditions.”

“I already told you man it ain't my thing.” Hunter sighed as they crossed in front of the bus towards Jacob's Garage. “Besides it's not like I got the time anyway, you know I got to work, grind the bones to make my bread and all that shit.”

“I know you have to work dude but I'm sure Mr. Rauch will work with you to figure it out.”

“Answers still no Reggie.” Hunter replied giving a quick hand gesture indicating Reggie should forget it as he turned to go off to work.

“Hunter…” Reggie called out to his friends form as Hunter disappeared into a garage bay.

“Told you he wouldn't go for it.” Thomas interjected.

“Man, you saw his face light up when they announced it, don't tell me you didn't.”

“Hunter has a lot on his plate. He's still planning on dusting this town as soon as we graduate. Can't say as I blame him either.”

“Yeah I know...” Reggie replied in resignation. “I just…..I just wish he could spend more time with us before he's gone.”

“Hunters gonna do what he's gonna do you know how stubborn he is when he sets to it.” Thomas shrugged. “Anyway I gotta jet, I'm still not finished with my science project. Catch you tomorrow?”

“Yeah dude, peace.” Reggie answered as he turned, and started walking towards his house.

 

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A litany of honks and curses could be heard from the road catching Hunters attention. “Dude looks like that guy and his car have tourettes.”

“Hunter that's offensive to people with tourettes.” Jacob admonished.

“Sorry Jacob” Hunter acknowledged as he walked nearer the shop door curious at what had the honking man so bent. When he spotted the black Impala he gave a low whistle. “Would you look at that beauty, sucker must be jealous he's driving a shitty Saturn.”

“Maybe,” Jacob chuckled. “now get back over here, I need a second set of hands.

“Yes Sir.”

 

Necedah Wisconsin
May 27th 1994

Sam was bored out of his skull they had already been at the library 2 hours. Had he been a normal kid he would have been expecting a barbecue this weekend, fireworks, and swimming. Basic things that were in full swing for normal people with the holiday, except his dad was a Hunter. Sam was lucky if the man remembered Christmas and his birthday let alone puff ones like Memorial Day. The man's only reaction was being grumpy when he learned the library would be closed come Monday.

John had been going through the microfiche for the town. He had started with the past 5 years and expanded his search to 1963. Currently they had over 30 articles that may be related to the hunt. Strange deaths and disappearances in the area. John had also pulled articles weird unexplained things that had happened. Most were probably unrelated but it was better to have the bigger picture to narrow things down. Sometimes it was those stupid unexplained things that broke a case.

The pages under his fingers told of a native legend, two brothers known as the twin heroes. These mythical boys were born when their pregnant mother was murdered by a monster. Having been ripped from their mothers womb the boys possessed strong magic. One grew up sheltered in civilization the other grew in the wild alone. When they finally reunited they avenged their mothers death and continued on hunting monsters in the world together. The legend hurt…. Every day he was reminded of Dean, of things he wished to share with his brother. But he knew his life was not myth. Still the similarities in their story and the myth disturbed him. He cursed himself for being so ignorant. Demons had always existed and the world was old, he shouldn't find the coincidence bothering. How could a world so old hold new stories? All new works simply were retellings of everything that had come before.

Sam leaned back in his chair and rubbed his face. He had already browsed through some of the regional legends. There was plenty of folklore but none of that would help, until John narrowed down a pattern of what they were hunting. The library only had one microfilm reader so he they were limited to John's slow pace. This left him to roam among the racks aimlessly. Sam sighed as he shut the book before him, something told him this was going to be a long hunt.