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The Absence Versus The Gain

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True silence never really existed. Even if the room seemed to hold no sound, there was always something humming a low tune within the walls that people often tuned out. Pipelines, air conditioning, bumps and scuffles from other rooms. People often refer to a room with no spoken words as a quiet room, but they’re never truly right. Even one’s own breath is a noise in and of itself.

This was something Dean had known for a long, long time. A room was never really empty of noise. The key was learning what noises belonged to what, and under what circumstances did they happen. Some pipes never hissed unless full of steam. The walls never creaked unless there were high winds outside. The vents never rattled unless something was crawling through them. Or someone, in his own case.

He pulled his coat closer with a huff. No matter what the season or how he dressed, the vents were always cold. It didn’t matter that he could produce his own body heat, even his clothes seemed to lose their warmth in these passages. He’d love to simply forgo using them if they weren’t the best vantage points to survey a room. It was common practice to use the vents for people like him.

Dropping down with a soft thunk, Dean leaned over the vent covering. The room below was ordinary for a motel room. One queen-sized bed with a nightstand, a tv on a dresser, and a small three-man table pushed up by a window. The floor looked hastily vacuumed while the bed comforter was neatly tucked under the mattress. Typical of the maids. Trails West never paid them enough to actually do a thorough cleaning, or so he had heard them say. While unlucky for future room occupants, it was exactly what he needed. With a grunt, he pulled himself back into the main vent passage and made his way towards the vent that dropped to the floor.

Heights were never his thing, even before the incident. Even looking at a plane could make him quesy, never mind climbing. That had always been more of Sam’s thing. Now he had to act like it was second nature. He still hated the height, but he no longer felt the need to lose his lunch over them. One simply couldn’t when the world was made so much bigger than you. There were so many other things to be afraid of now anyways.

Once on solid ground again, he flicked the string of his “grapple” and caught the hook as it came down. The old fishing hook he’d found during one of his first trips out was now a faithful companion, and he feared the day it might be lost or broken. After rewrapping the string, Dean softly made his way to the vent opening.

It was quiet. Not silent, as he had come to learn, just quiet. No footsteps shaking the ground, no gusts of breath overhead. Just quiet, everyday noises of a motel. Looking at as much of the room as he could, he smirked. Perfect. Now for the fun part.

The one thing Dean never got used to was the sheer size of everything. The nightstand to his left, having once only come to his hip, now towered over him like a skyscraper. The threads of the carpet now seemed to swallow his boots whole. It was like looking through a telescope backwards. Sucking in a breath, he began his journey under the bed.

Every day he lived like this was a constant reminder of what he used to have. It wasn’t much, he knew, but it was a life. He could move as he pleased, never fearing being stepped on or stolen away. He could even go outside whenever he felt the need. He could smell the fresh air, feel the grass and the sun on his skin. Could ruffle his brother's hair and poke him teasingly as he pleased.

God, he missed Sammy. That little mess of a boy had been his world since he was four, and he was reminded every day that he’d never know if he was ok. Fifteen years of worry and reminiscing, and he still had more to go. All because he hadn’t been strong enough. All because of that one fateful night when that witch broke down their motel door.

It all happened too fast. He didn’t even remember what was happening before she’d appeared. She was just there and she was gonna hit Sammy with one of her nasty spells and he’d just jumped. No other thoughts, just “get her away from him”. Woke up a week later a twelfth of his size in the home of people he didn’t know and his family already gone. His dad’s big black Impala was never seen again, no matter how many times he waited on the roof to see if they’d come back. He didn’t even care if they didn’t come back for him. He just wanted to know they were ok. If Sam was ok.

Huffing silently, Dean stopped just inside of the bed’s shadow. For once, it seemed the maids had gotten to the crumbs before he could. That meant he had to leave the safety of the bed to check the table and dresser. Once again, he closed his eyes and listened. The rustle of the leaves outside. Traffic farther off. The click of the air conditioning turning on. Good. He still had time.

The hair on the back of his neck suddenly stood. Dean stopped midstep, eyes suddenly wide. While the witch had taken his life from him, he wasn’t left without. Upon some testing, he found that he had this innate sense of knowing when he was close to something he was looking for. He’d used it to track food on multiple occasions, and tended to find trinkets for his adoptive mother when he had the time. Mallory always enjoyed the gifts.

This was different though. Usually, he had to want to use this so-called knack for it to work. Rarely did it go off on its own. That meant whatever this was was important. Backtracking into the shadows, he took another look around the room. Dust bunnies, dirty carpet, table legs, there.

A backpack rested in one of the chairs by the table with one of its adjustable straps hanging over the floor. It was the perfect way onto the table, and there? An open laptop, screen glowing and cooling system buzzing. He was surprised he hadn’t picked up on it before with how loud it was.

Normally, this was a red flag. That meant humans. Humans were the number one on “things to avoid” for his people, right next to rats. They were giants compared to him, never watching their step and too grabby for anyone’s liking. Walt and Mallory’s own child had been taken by humans before they had saved him all those years ago. He should leave, never come back until the room was once again cleared out and abandoned of use.

But he couldn’t. Walt would kill him later, he knew. John would kill him for this if he ever learned of his son’s current situation. The laptop was right there though. It was on and ready for use and there wasn’t a human to be heard or seen. Hell, his knack was almost burning the back of his neck. That had to be a sign, right?

No. He was leaving. There was too much of a risk. Too high of a chance. He could get injured or, worse, grabbed and taken. He only came for food, and since none seemed present and there was a new threat around, he should leave. No point in risking his life.

…Walt was definitely going to kill him for this.

He took a running leap before latching onto the backpack strap and starting his climb. It was almost like climbing a rope with how the strings were made, bulky and loosely threaded. It was a quick climb until he reached the seat of the chair. Luckily, the book bag was leaning against the tabletop and created a ramp up for him. The touchpad of the laptop was soon laying at his feet.

While he had never personally used a laptop before, he’d seen plenty of humans use them while he’d scoped out the rooms. Never had one been left out like this though. Left out, sure, but open and on without someone nearby? This was like a golden opportunity! Finally, he could see if there were any signs of Sam or his dad being alive.

It took both his hands on the touchpad, but the Google search tab was quickly opened and ready for use. With a few hops around the keyboard, Dean hit enter on his search.

Every entry there ever was of a Sam Winchester popped up on the screen. Picture after picture, article after article, website after website, but none of them were about the right one. Dean didn’t know whether to feel worry or relief. If there were no articles on him, that means he was still alive and safe, right? He would have seen some mention of his death if he had died, he was sure.

Searching “John Winchester” was even worse. A couple of articles of a house fire left a sour taste in his mouth, but that wasn’t anything new. That was 25 years ago. Anything past that wasn’t about the John Winchester he was after. If he used the same logic as he used with Sam, that meant John was ok though. He was a strong man, and a damn good hunter. He had to be fine.

His last search once again provided very little. There wasn’t just one black Impala anyways. One might say he was desperate, but Dean was simply checking all of his bases while he had the chance. A look through the pictures, a few read articles. Nothing.

Sighing, he slumped over in defeat. Dean knew he shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up. Hunters were never ones to look for the spotlight. That would get them arrested or let the world know about the supernatural. The latter would probably cause mass panic and hysteria. John made it a point to never be noticed, wherever he went. Fake aliases, cash instead of credit, never stayed in one spot for too long. Sam more than likely grew up much the same. Even the most powerful search engines in the world wouldn’t be able to find them if they didn’t want to be found.

He should have known.

The hair on the back of his neck suddenly stood, this time for an entirely separate reason as before. Just as he was about to exit the browser, there was a click. It wasn’t soft, like the air conditioning or something small hitting the window. This was the distinct click of a door unlocking.

Dean froze, all his muscles tensing and his blood suddenly roaring in his veins. Here he was, out in the open, and the only thing separating him from the view of the door was a laptop screen. He couldn’t use his hook to get down, the door would be open by then and he’d be spotted. Same for if he tried to use the same passage up as a way back down. Humans happened to have sharp eyes when they wanted. He’d be spotted in a second. It hit him like a ton of bricks, stealing his breath. He was trapped.

It was all too soon when the door swung open. A soft, feminine grunt followed as bags were set down, then a sigh as the door was closed. Slowly, Dean crouched down and looked around the edge of the monitor. There stood a woman, late teens to early twenties if he was right. Long red hair fell past her shoulders as green eyes lazily looked over the room. If he was still human, he might have said she was on the shorter side, but now? She towered over him. One hand or misplaced step could still end his life. It was almost as fascinating as it was horrifying.

He quickly pushed back into his hiding spot when she began moving again. His eyes darted about, trying to find a more suitable place while at the same time trying to keep an eye on the human’s movements. His head was almost a constant montra of hide, hide, hide. Each step seemed to make his heart beat ten times faster.

Another click echoed through the room.

The bathroom door had closed. The bathroom door had closed. He had been in the same room as a human, possibly within reaching distance, and she had simply walked into the bathroom without noticing anything. If he believed in a god, he’d be sending a prayer of thanks right this very moment.

Whipping the hook back out from his duffle, Dean raced for the edge of the table. If he had a stopwatch, this probably would be his best time yet. He one quick check to make sure the hook wouldn’t come loose and he was down the rope like a rocket. Don’t breathe, don’t think, just run.

He didn’t wait to roll the string back up until he was safely back in the vent. His lungs burned as if on fire, legs ached like he’d run a mile, but he almost had to hold his breath to not laugh. Too close, he thought to himself, too close.

Note to self. Never, ever, do that again.