Chapter 1: Prologue
Oscar couldn't exactly say he was disappointed. He hadn't really wanted to find them still there when he went back to check their room. He watched from one of his entrances to the worn down motel room as the maids (the real maids this time, not witches pretending to be the help) quickly cleaned up. They didn't do the best job, but even so Oscar sighed as the last remains of the discarded pizza went into the large trash cart. That stuff had been delicious.
Oscar pursed his lips. It'd be better to put the pizza out of his mind. He'd probably never eat that well again. After all, he didn't think Sam and Dean would be coming back anytime soon. Dean was the only human Oscar knew of that would freely give him food like that.
The maids argued overhead in Spanish, some laughter in their voices indicating that they weren't really fighting. It was the same routine as always. Oscar listened in and out, catching some words here and there as he waited for them to finish up. They always had a lot to say about harmless, innocuous things.
Needless to say, it was much less alarming than the last time Oscar had eavesdropped on this particular room.
Last time, he'd witnessed a couple of witches sneaking into the room to plant a dangerous magical bundle behind the bed. It targeted Dean Winchester, the hunter staying there, with a curse. Oscar had been unable to just leave the guy to a fate like that, but he'd also been unable to do anything about the hexbag. Until Dean had caught him, of course, in one of the most terrifying moments of his entire life.
Of course, meeting Sam, Dean's little (very little) brother, had helped clear up some of Oscar's worries. Some of them.
Sam was a whole four inches tall, which was very impressive for the little folk that lived in the motel's walls. Oscar's highest hope was three and a quarter inches, entirely underwhelming compared to Sam and his colossal brother. But at least they'd been nice.
And then, they figured out that Oscar happened to know what a hexbag was already. Dean, paranoid hunter that he was, had reacted to the news by dangling Oscar by his shirt over the table. That was the other most terrifying moment of Oscar's entire life. They worked it out in the end, but that human was scary when he wanted to be.
When one of the maids mused about how muy guapo Dean was, Oscar could only roll his eyes.
Finally, they were gone. They'd made the beds and done a cursory cleaning of the bathroom area. They didn't even vacuum today. Oscar smirked, hoping that would mean he'd find crumbs left over from the human's food. Living in a motel like this one, with very relaxed cleaning services, was an absolute Godsend for people like Oscar. It was hard enough to scrape by without someone going and picking up all the crumbs they needed just to survive.
He waited several extra minutes to make sure they were gone before slipping out of the vent. Oscar’s eyes flitted this way and that, and his cloth shoes didn’t make a sound as he crept along the wall. He scanned around for things he could take, musing to himself that this was his plan just the day before when he’d been in the room.
Right before the fake maids came in and ruined his day, of course.
Oscar’s sweep of the room wasn’t as fruitful as he’d hoped. He found some crumbs here and there, and he even found a bit of salt leftover from Dean’s absolute arsenal of it; this he bundled in cloth so he wouldn’t lose it.
When he made his way around to the nightstand between the beds, Oscar tilted his head curiously. The books that had blocked off the shelf underneath were still set up. Oscar remembered hiding in there and finding that Sam’s “room” was underneath, hidden from view.
He couldn’t help but wander right up to it, hoisting himself up onto the shelf with kicking legs and a grunt of effort. The space had seemed so much like a normal room, with Sam’s bed and desk tucked tidily away. Oscar peered over his shoulder at the wide expanse of the real motel room before creeping up to the opening.
It wasn’t as he remembered it when he’d attempted his mad dash past Sam, only to have a hand wrap around him completely. The terrifying moment was still fresh in his mind, but the scene was very different. There was no bed, no desk, and no bag of Sam’s clothes. There was certainly no Sam there either.
But there was an entire wrapped granola bar and a business card nearly Oscar’s length propped against it.
Oscar huffed and rolled his eyes. This was why the books were left up; so the maids wouldn’t notice the card and the food Dean left behind. Oscar crept up to it and knelt to read the blocky, handwritten note. He sighed in resigned frustration almost right away at how it began.
Oz, if there’s ever any trouble, call the number on the other side of the card and Sam and me will come help. -D.W.
Of course, even after he’d already left, Dean couldn’t get past the stupid nickname he’d picked out for Oscar. Oscar eyed the card skeptically before moving it aside to get a better look at the granola bar.
It was more than his weight in food. That didn’t take much, but still. The granola bar was bigger than Oscar was, and could easily account for weeks of meals. The only issue would be dragging it back home. It was a minor problem considering the reward.
“Thanks,” he muttered aloud, before setting to the task of bringing food home, dragging the business card along, too.
He doubted he’d ever call, but the thought was nice all the same.
Oscar had a pretty typical routine. Wake up, make sure his bag was filled with supplies, head out to find food. He did the same thing every day, hoping to bring back enough that he’d be able to store some of it. Finding just enough for a meal wasn’t a net loss, but it wasn’t a gain, either. If he could save off a little food here and there, his survival would be a little easier.
Of course, lately, things were more plentiful than they’d been in a long time. He still had quite a bit of a granola bar left from months ago. Sam and Dean’s gift was not going to waste, but he was pacing himself.
He may have paid for it with a full day of immense stress, but food was food, and Oscar hadn’t gone to bed hungry in months because of it.
Today’s trip was promising. Oscar had found scraps from a sandwich near a trash bin in one of the rooms he checked. There was even a sliver of ham stuck to the bread. The smell still stuck out in his memory. It was nothing like pizza, but it would definitely do. Oscar had it wrapped up in a spare swatch of cloth in his bag as he made his way home.
That was when he heard it. Sobbing and raised voices. Oscar winced. It wasn’t the first time his motel was the chosen battleground for a lover’s spat. From the sounds of things, the couple in the room nearest where he walked was ending things.
Oscar walked on, resigned to the voices growing louder and louder as he got closer to home. They were so loud. It almost seemed like he’d be eating his lucky find to the background of more human drama.
“Dinner and a show,” he muttered to himself. He knew no one would ever hear him over the woman begging forgiveness and the man gruffly telling her off. From the sounds of things, Oscar had heard this fight so many times, he could probably predict every turn it took.
Even so, when he passed a sliver of light that marked an opening into that room, he couldn’t help but pause to peek through it. He had to pay some amount of attention to the angry or emotional humans, after all. They were the ones most likely to throw things or punch the wall, and Oscar didn’t want to be caught off guard by something so catastrophic.
The scene was pretty typical. The woman sat on the edge of one of the beds, her tear-streaked face angled towards the floor. Oscar could only see her clearly from his vantage point through the slit in the wallpaper, and he wasn’t about to make the opening wider to look for more. There was no reward for a risk like that.
He flinched when long, jean-clad legs stomped by his opening and out of sight again as the man paced. The floor trembled and the human kept moving. He seemed a lot bigger than the woman he was berating so much. Oscar caught accusations of cheating and questions of loyalty amidst the enraged sputtering.
Oscar frowned. The woman didn’t seem like she had any left in her to argue or defend herself. He couldn’t look away, but he sincerely hoped he wasn’t about to watch someone get hurt. He couldn’t help.
That was when things became horrifying.
Oscar frowned at one of the vents high in the wall behind the bed. Even as the man came to a stop in front of the tearful woman, blocking her from Oscar’s sight, he could still see that vent. It looked almost like the shadows within were roiling and agitated, before they slipped out.
He watched with both fascination and fear as, unbeknownst to the arguing humans, the shadows slithered down the walls like a mass of living black smoke. Oscar’s breath caught in his throat when it reached the bed. He couldn’t see it anymore, but he could tell it must be aiming for the humans.
Why hadn’t they seen it? It was right there!
There was a strange gasp from the woman. Oscar saw one of her legs shift into view as she stiffened and planted her foot to brace herself. Her hand gripped the covers she sat on. The man faltered and fell silent.
“What the fu-” he started to say, and then there was a sickening crack and the sound of something colliding with flesh. Oscar flinched when the human pitched over to the side and crashed to the ground clumsily. He never saw it coming. That woman was a lot stronger than she looked.
A shadow moved around in the room. Oscar couldn’t get a good enough angle no matter how hard he tried, and the man on the ground was too dazed to know what was happening either. He was barely pushing himself up off the floor when the chair swung into view and connected with his skull.
Oscar nearly cried out right then and there. He staggered back from the opening, staring at the light and the way it shifted each time the woman lifted the chair and brought it back down again, making a more disgusting noise every time.
He’s dead he’s dead he’s dead she killed him he’s dead!
Oscar covered his mouth with one hand, and his eyes were wide with shock. In all his years at the motel, he’d never seen anything so violent. He’d been unable to do anything to prevent it, and just like that someone was smashed open on the floor out there. He wanted to be sick. No one deserved something like that.
The room fell silent.
All he could hear was a ragged panting. Oscar winced but he knew he had to see. He crept forward, silent as he’d ever been, to peek out into the motel room once more. The coppery scent of blood almost made him gag, but the woman looming over the ravaged remains of her former lover caught his attention.
She was calm, even as she breathed hard from exertion. She was as covered in blood as the rest of the room. The chair slumped out of her grip, hitting the floor with a bang that didn’t faze her.
Her eyes were completely black.
Oscar had never seen anything like it. It chilled him to the core to look up and see such a gruesome thing. The woman’s face was still tear streaked and her makeup was still running, but there was nothing but cold, casual malice in those abyssal eyes.
He backed away, heart pounding. Oscar didn’t know what he’d just seen. But he knew there was something wrong with that woman. It had to have something to do with those moving shadows he saw creeping into the room. The black smoke must have done something.
Oscar ran silently through the walls. He had to get home. Soon enough, the police would arrive to investigate the murder of the man in that room. There was no way he wouldn’t be found, and fast. They wouldn’t know what had happened, because the only witness was more likely to be tossed in a jar and sent away than actually listened to.
Oscar knew who this would be a job for. He just couldn’t believe he actually needed to call them so soon.
There was always something about coming back to the motel after finishing up a case. The rooms were always shabby and worn and Dean definitely didn’t waste too much thought about how well the cleaning service washed everything. So long as the TV worked and the shower had enough pressure, he wasn’t going to complain.
Coming back victorious, though, made even the cheapest motels into an executive suite. The pride that they’d solved another case and wasted another evil son of a bitch lifted Dean’s spirits even as exhaustion tried to drag him down.
“You did pretty good there, pint-size,” Dean commented wryly as he set down his keys and wallet on the table. While he stretched his arms over his head, he felt a stirring in his chest pocket.
Right on cue, the pocket flap lifted up and revealed Sam’s bitchface. “Oh, you mean before or after I saved your ass?” he griped. Dean made sure he didn’t jostle his little brother as he climbed out of the pocket and up towards his customary spot on a shoulder. He’d had to hide for the walk up to the door, and looked glad to be free of the pocket once more.
“First that doppelganger, then the scarecrow cultists, and now this? Almost tossed aside by a plain old vengeful spirit? I think you’re getting soft, Dean,” Sam continued, his smug voice loud and clear now that he was right next to Dean’s head.
“Laugh it up, short stack,” Dean groused, shrugging just enough to toss Sam against his neck. He ditched his duffel bag on the spare bed and shucked off his jacket, careful not to jostle Sam. Or at least, careful not to jostle him more. He’d never forgive himself if he knocked Sam to the ground, but a little teasing was always good to keep the little guy from getting too hotheaded.
Dean grabbed a beer from the minifridge and went over to the bed, settling down carefully so he was propped up on the pillows. Sam had a good vantage point where he sat, and Dean set to popping the cap off the beer with his ring before pouring a little for Sam. Ever since falling in his beer, Sam was a lot more cautious about his drinking.
That done, Dean snatched up the remote. “Time to see what’s on,” he announced, flicking on the TV. It gave a flash of light and a low whine of electricity, but didn’t give up and blared to life.
“Tell me you’re not planning to put on Dr. Sexy again,” Sam groaned.
“You got a better idea?” Dean shot back.
The following silence drew out longer than Dean meant to. He felt his ears turning a little pink at the reminder that No, of course Sam doesn’t have a better idea. He didn’t get to watch much TV for over half of his life, and he’d only been back with Dean for several months. The kid was still getting used to the idea that he could pick a favorite TV show.
Dean could just imagine the sheepish look on Sam’s face, and decided to release them both from the awkward moment. “I’ll just surf around for now, since princess Sam over here can’t handle the good doctor.”
“Thanks, Dean,” came the soft voice.
“Hey, man, your opinion of Dr. Sexy may be blasphemy, but at least you recognize some of the classics, like Godzilla vs. Mothra.You get a pass this time. Lemme know if something catches your eye, pint-size,” Dean replied, flipping channels and settling in a little more.
Oscar knew how phones worked, of course, but he’d never used one before. He never thought he’d need it. When he was a very young child he used to pretend he’d climb up to one someday and order food. He’d imagined a feast being brought right to him, more food than he could even eat. All for him
He wished this was something so simple.
With a terse sigh, Oscar propped his business card against the alarm clock so the numbers written on it in blocky handwriting were visible. He marched up to the phone with his arms crossed, glaring at the large curve of plastic in its cradle.
It would be heavy and cumbersome, especially with Oscar occasionally shaking from nerves over what he witnessed. But he needed to call for help. No one else around his motel would know what had really happened. Oscar had a feeling that Sam and Dean would know. It was their job to fight monsters and the unexplained in the world.
That black smoke was certainly unexplained.
The base of the phone was over half his height. He clambered up onto it, kicking his legs briefly for balance. He had a little trouble on the unfamiliar surface until he reached up and grabbed one of the many buttons arrayed on the machine.
Oscar dragged himself up onto a phone for the first time in his life. He’d never had to do it before; no one ever left food on it and it was a precarious place to stand anyway. With a grunt of effort, he got his hands under the handset and heaved upwards, turning it over with a heavy clatter onto the nightstand. The light blinked at him and he heard a tone out of the earpiece. Oscar’s heart pounded at the thought of what he was actually doing.
He almost didn’t see the note taped to the phone by management: Outgoing calls dial 9* before the number. He sighed. The last thing he wanted was to call the front desk from an unoccupied room. That would bring up a thousand problems that he didn’t need to add to his already growing list.
Oscar had to lean his weight into his steps when he began to push buttons on the phone. He was almost too light to dial the number, constantly referencing the card he’d propped up. After months, the thick piece of paper had become dusty and had a fold at one corner from Oscar keeping it tucked away in his spare closet. He never imagined he’d actually use it.
Now, it was his one tie to someone that might be able to come and help. More people could die like the poor man in room 17, and Oscar was the only witness to what had really happened.
Oscar finished the last number and heard the dial tone out of the phone receiver. He had to stomp several times on the volume up button before he hopped down to wait near the mouthpiece. Oscar fidgeted with his hands and stared at the holes in the cheap plastic, behind which a microphone waited.
After the phone rang five times, a deep voice growled out of the receiver, and Oscar flinched despite being several inches away from it. “Hello? Who is this?”
It sounded like Dean just woke up, which didn’t surprise Oscar in the least. It was the middle of the night. Even knowing the human was miles away didn’t stop the shudder from running up Oscar’s spine. Friend or not, he was intimidating and Oscar wassmall.
“How’d you get this number?” barked out of the phone, reminding Oscar that he needed to actually say something.
“Uhm, w-well,” he began, before being cut off.
“What? You’ll have to speak up,” Dean said, sounding more tired than impatient.
Oscar cleared his throat and leaned closer to the mouthpiece of the phone, bracing his hands on the edge. “Hello? D-Dean? Can you hear me?” Using a phone shouldn’t be this difficult. The damn humans did it all the time!
“That’s better, now who are you? How’d you know that name?” Dean asked impatiently, slowly working the growl of sleep out of his voice so he could replace it with the growl of suspicion.
“What other name would I use?!” Oscar blurted out, before he caught up with himself. He sighed and continued before the human’s voice could override his own again. “I used the card you left me, it’s Oscar.”
Dean’s voice, when he spoke next, was noticeably warmer. “Oz! Good to hear from ya. Just a sec, lemme get Sam.” Oscar didn’t respond, instead listening intently to the sounds that followed. The phone clattered as though Dean set it down, and then there was a creak of furniture and what Oscar vaguely recognized as books being moved out of the way.
He heard Sammy, wake up, Oz is calling, but didn’t hear the reply. Sam was either too tired or too far away from wherever Dean had put the phone down. Then, Don’t try to blame me when you fell outta bed all on your own, I was just bringin’ the news. Now come on.
Oscar waited for a few more seconds before another familiar voice came through the receiver, this one softer than Dean’s and masking his annoyance much more gracefully. “Oscar?”
“Hi, Sam,” he replied. There was a weird echo of feedback, just the slightest sound of his voice, as speakerphone picked up his answer.
“What’s new, Oz?” Dean chimed in, and Oscar rolled his eyes even though the human couldn’t see. “Everything alright there? You didn’t find any more witches, did you?”
Oscar sighed. “W-well, I don’t really know what I found,” he admitted. “But someone died here in the motel and they’ve been investigating and stuff but I’m the only one who was around to see what happened and it didn’t make any sense at all so I’ve been trying to figure out if something like this is normal but I don’t think it is, so-”
Sam cut him off before he could ramble any further. “Oscar,” his voice was steady, calm. “Slow down. What happened? Who died, and what did you see?”
“Okay,” Oscar said, anchoring his thoughts. He took a breath, and explained what he’d seen from the wall. The brothers remained silent on the other end, and he could practically see them exchanging a look with each other while he spoke. He finished with “So … am I going crazy?”
“You’re not going crazy,” Sam assured him.
“Oz, this is very important, did it see you? Does it know there are people like you living in the motel?” Dean asked, his intensity coming through the phone enough to make Oscar’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise.
“I, um, don’t think so,” he answered. “The smoke came out of a different vent and then after … after, the lady just left.”
“Good. We’re coming to you to help sort this out, Oz. What room should we try to meet you in?” Dean’s voice was determined now, and lacked all signs of fatigue.
“Uh, well, I guess room 8,” Oscar replied, remembering that most of the rooms were empty now that someone had been murdered in the motel. Room 8 was easiest for him to access from his home, and he knew for certain that it was vacant.
“We’ll see you sometime tomorrow, Oscar,” Sam told him, before there was a short cry of surprise. Oscar got the distinct feeling that Sam had just been retrieved along with the phone in Dean’s haste. Sam blurting ”Dean!” confirmed the theory.
“Seeya, Oz,” Dean said, ignoring Sam’s grumbling before disconnecting the call.
Oscar sat in front of the phone’s handset, staring blankly at it for several more seconds. He had almost forgotten how peculiar those two really were. And now he’d called them back.
“Oh, boy,” he muttered to himself.
Sam reclined against Dean’s neck while the Impala ate up the miles to Breckenridge. After receiving a call from Oscar of all people, neither Winchester wanted to leave this case hanging. Sam knew how much it must have taken the tiny little guy to work up the courage to call Dean back after their first case with him.
A few times, even Sam had been a little alarmed by Dean’s intensity. He knew without a doubt that Dean would never have hurt an innocent. But seeing Oscar so frightened and Dean so intense after days of spinning their wheels had reminded Sam that Dean knew how to intimidate with minimal effort.
And yet, here they were, heading back after Oscar called them, his quiet voice trembling and nervous as it often was. Sam had noticed before and he stood by his thought: Oscar was braver than he thought he was.
“Oscar’s turning into a pretty good scout for cases for us,” Sam remarked, breaking the amiable silence between the brothers.
Dean nodded his head once, as always careful not to upset Sam’s perch with his movements. “I’m kinda surprised,” he admitted. “After I … after last time, I figured he’d just take something like this and keep quiet. He didn’t owe us a call.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “He’s probably still scared, but he’s also smart. If police started looking into that murder too much, they could find evidence of the people living in that motel’s walls.”
Dean hummed thoughtfully, the soft sound vibrating behind Sam’s back. Once again, it seemed like Sam had surprised Dean with the way the smaller folk living in hiding had to think. The threat of humans finding them was always there, and they always had to do what they could to keep the secret.
“We’ll just havta help out again, then. Keep all of ‘em safe and get rid of a demon at the same time,” Dean decided. Sam couldn’t help a soft smile at the conviction in the voice that rumbled behind him. He was proud of his big brother.
Oscar waited in the vent that led to room 8, leaning against the side and listening for the sound of someone approaching the door. He tried to remember the last time he’d seen Dean sauntering into a room at the Knight’s Inn. He didn’t even realize at the time that Sam existed. It was just another tall human drifting in with a heavy duffel bag.
That was somewhere around four months ago. Oscar never kept track. He didn’t have a calendar and living day to day like he did meant that dates counted very little on his priority list.
He had to wonder what kind of dangerous adventures the Winchester brothers had gotten themselves into since last he saw them. With their line of work (one that he’d played helpful witness for twice now), he was ready for anything. Or so he told himself. They were still crazy, in his book.
A distant machine groaned and the vent corridor shuddered around Oscar as the air conditioning kicked on. Oscar pursed his lips, indecision gripping him. He wanted to keep a close watch for Dean’s arrival, but he knew the cool air in the vent would freeze him out.
Only one option leapt to mind, drawing a resigned sigh from him. Oscar peered out into the room, listening carefully for any signs of a human within. Just in case. He had checked from different angles before, and he knew there wasn’t anyone in there.
But it only took one mistake. If he had been captured by a human other than Dean those months ago, he might not be free now. Oscar might not even be alive.
After ensuring that he heard no slow, deep breaths of a human, Oscar slipped into the room on stealthy feet, his cloth bag held close to himself. He crept along the baseboard, swift, graceful movements minimizing his chance of being spotted without any cover. In no time at all, he was behind the dresser in the room.
He fetched his safety pin from his bag, uncoiling the thread attached to it. He’d been using the same pin and thread since he was just a kid. He never did grow heavy enough to need an upgrade. Occasionally he thought with envy of Sam’s three-pronged fishhook. But, Oscar’s pin caught on the edge of the dresser just fine, and it did the job just as well. He didn’t need as versatile of a hook anyway.
Oscar was a fast climber, at least. He hadn’t been able to show off his skills the last time Sam and Dean were around. He’d spent a lot of his time trapped up on the table while his pin was left behind. He clenched his jaw while he climbed, picturing the way everything went so dark when Dean grabbed him.
Unable to move, scarcely able to breathe through his terror, Oscar was whisked right into the air. He remembered panicking until the all-encompassing hand released him to the table. Up there, he couldn’t climb down on his own very easily, and he spent the rest of the case waiting there.
This time, at least, Dean probably wouldn’t go grabbing him. “Just gotta deal with him being really really tall,” he muttered.
Oscar pulled himself over the edge of the dresser, glad for the heavy shadow cast by the TV and the lamp resting on it. He hurried to the lamp, settling himself down behind it to wait. He’d told them room 8, though he wasn’t sure if they’d remember or if the management would let them claim a specific room.
He’d have to wait a while, and, if they didn’t show up, he could go and peek into the other rooms to find the gigantic hunter.
Oscar didn’t know when exactly he dozed off, but he definitely woke with a start. The familiar scrape of a metal key in the door lock drew him to alertness immediately. Oscar slept light, even when he didn’t mean to sleep. It was instinct.
He scrambled to his feet and sidled around the lamp, just enough to glimpse the door from where he hid on the dresser. He couldn’t risk assuming the human checking in would be the one he knew.
Oscar was crazy enough to trust a human at all, but he wasn’t that crazy.
The door swung open with a familiar creak of the old hinges and a rush of fresh air from the outdoors. Oscar caught a glimpse of the sky out there, and of a lush green tree, laden with spring leaves.
But, of course, his focus was drawn to the human.
He was tall, and the casual spike of his hair added an inch or two of height that he really didn’t need. He swaggered into the room with a heavy duffel bag slung over one shoulder and a plastic bag of unknown contents in the other hand. He nudged the door shut behind him with a well-worn boot.
If all that didn’t convince Oscar that it was Dean, the small man sitting on his shoulder, hidden near the collar, did the trick.
Oscar recognized Sam’s tall form. Sam might be one of the small folk like him, but he stood at a whole four inches tall, and he was bulkier than Oscar by far. Oscar blinked shyly while Dean discarded the duffel bag first, and then set the plastic bag on the table.
“Think he’s here already?” Dean rumbled, his green eyes scanning the room even as he talked to Sam.
“He probably knows we’re here, yeah,” came Sam’s much softer voice.
Oscar sighed. There was nothing for it. He couldn’t delay this for too long or he might psych himself out and lose the nerve.
Even though it went against everything he ever knew, Oscar shuffled out into view of the towering human.
His eyes were fixed upwards, and even though he had mentally prepared himself for this for hours, he still stiffened when those sharp eyes honed in on him immediately. He swallowed thickly even as a grin as wide as he was tall broke over Dean’s face.
“Hey, Oz!” he greeted, stepping over to the dresser. Oscar took several deep breaths and stood his ground despite really wanting to run while the human closed the distance between them. Soon, Dean was kneeling in front of the dresser and Oscar was within reaching distance. He blinked rapidly and told himself that that didn’t matter.
It helped to argue. “M-my name is still Oscar, not Oz, “ he pointed out.
Dean almost looked saddened by the tremor in Oscar’s voice. Oscar couldn’t be sure he really saw it, because soon enough there was a grin back on Dean’s face and he was chuckling. The booming noise echoed around them. “Sure thing, Oz,” he replied, looking pleased with the frown it earned him.
Sam waved from his spot on the shoulder. “Hi, Oscar!” he greeted. Oscar waved back weakly. At least one of them used his name right. “It’s good to see you’re doing alright.”
“L-likewise,” Oscar called back.
There was a short, awkward pause before Sam piped up again. “So … did you want to come to the table?” he waved his arm vaguely at the plastic bag Dean had left there. “You can tell us what’s going on while we all eat, if you want. We brought food.”
If there was one surefire way to Oscar’s heart, it was food. The fear and trepidation of standing there in full view of a human were pushed aside as memories of the last time he’d had warm food came rushing to the fore of his mind. His stomach grumbled in appreciation of the memory and hope of more.
“Is it pizza?” he asked, actually taking a step away from the lamp and towards the edge of the dresser.
Dean’s eyes crinkled a little at the edges from his smile. “Nope. This time you get to try a burger, Oz,” he told him.
Sam rolled his eyes. “Or you could also try some salad, if you want something healthy,” he said with a teasing jab of an elbow in Dean’s neck.
Oscar paused, thinking about it. “I’ll try both,” he decided, taking another hesitant step forward.
“Attaboy,” Dean replied. He moved, and Oscar stopped. Soon, a hand came into view and settled a few inches in front of him. It waited patiently, just like the last time Dean had offered a hand.
Oscar was determined not to be so afraid this time around. He knew the Winchesters were strange, but good people. So he took a steeling breath before walking forward.
He was careful with each step after he put a shoe up on Dean’s fingertip. The surface beneath him had more give than he expected, though Oscar could scarcely remember if it had surprised him just as much last time. The shock that he was walking right onto a hand that could hide him effortlessly in a fist overrode the musings.
Oscar looked up at Dean once he was centered on the palm, his hands clasped in front of himself. “Okay,” he said, letting the human know that he was ready. As ready as he’d ever be.
Dean smirked faintly, and soon everything shifted. The hand lifted up and Dean did too, rising to his full standing height. Sam remained up on the shoulder, sitting there casually and keeping an eye on Oscar.
It was over in no time. Oscar stumbled hastily off of Dean’s hand onto the table, and by the time he turned back Sam was already making his way down the ramp Dean created with his arm. He was nimble and quick, and almost made it look normal to walk around on a human like that.
With his passengers safely on the solid surface of the table, Dean was free to drag the plastic bag of food closer. Sam and Oscar made sure to keep out of the way as the big white styrofoam boxes emerged from the plastic. A wall of scent hit them, and Oscar’s mouth watered.
“Uh … thanks for offering to let me have some of that,” Oscar said, slightly dazed at the sight of the burger when Dean flipped open the lid of the first container. The second was full of leafy greens with a splash of orange here and there from tomatoes, but Oscar was fixated on the heat haze.
“Can’t leave our honorary hunter without some grub,” Dean quipped, gesturing with a hand towards the boxes.
Oscar raised his eyebrows as Sam marched right up to the salad without further prompting, but soon got the lead out of his own shoes and crept towards the boxed up burger and fries. Part of him was barking caution! but it was being stifled by the part of him insisting food.
“I dunno about ‘honorary hunter,’ “ he answered even as he reached the box and placed his hands on the edge to peer inside. He looked up at Dean. “All I did was see something weird.”
Dean took mercy on Oscar and reached out to tear off pieces of the burger, clumsily forming a miniature version of the sandwich and handing it to Oscar so he wouldn’t have to reach into the box too far or climb in to get the food. Once he got the overlarge portion of food into Oscar’s hands he replied, “Close enough, Oz. Once again your information might save some lives.”
“We might not have known about anything going on until another killing, if at all” Sam pointed out, already nibbling on a torn part of a spinach leaf.
Oscar felt the heat in his face and focused on reshaping the haphazard mini-burger that Dean had given him. There was a small, fleeting swell of pride in his chest. Last time, he’d helped the brothers figure out the ringleader of a group of witches to save some kidnapped children.
He winced when he remembered what had happened to the poor, unsuspecting man in the motel room, and hoped he might have spared someone else from a similar, gruesome fate. “...Maybe,” he relented, stepping away from the food box to give Dean plenty of room to eat his own food.
The three of them ate in a surprisingly companionable silence. Oscar managed to finish off the portion of a burger that Dean gave him, which mildly impressed the human considering how big it had looked in Oscar’s hands. He let Oscar stash some pieces of a french fry in his bag, something to carry home and store in his pantry.
Oscar tried some salad, too. It was good, as most food was good, but it wasn’t nearly as flavorful as the burger. He nibbled on his lettuce all the same, grateful to have it and even more grateful that Sam let him take an entire crouton for his bag.
When they’d had their fill, the food boxes were put away and Oscar was left sitting on a book with Sam seated next to him. He had his journal resting on his lap and a stub of pencil lead in hand, and Oscar knew what was coming next.
“Alright, Oscar, I know you already told us on the phone, but I need you to tell me again what you saw. Anything at all can be useful in tracking this thing down.”
Oscar sighed. “What even is this thing? All I saw was that black smoke coming in and … then …” he trailed off and shuddered.
Dean folded his arms on the table and rested his chin on them. “That black smoke means it was probably a demon,” he replied, while Sam noted Oscar’s words in his journal. “So it’s a good thing it didn’t see you. We don’t need those sons a bitches finding out about your folk.”
Oscar nodded. Then, seeing Sam’s expectant look, recounted what he saw in more detail than he cared to use. He was visibly cringing by the time he described the woman’s violent murder of the man in the other room, and Sam let him gloss over it to the end. “She just left after that, I think. The police said there wasn’t any evidence, they just know it was a woman because of the yelling. Some other customer heard the argument through the walls but didn’t care.”
Dean sighed, and the breeze ruffled through Oscar and Sam’s hair. Sam placed a hand on his page so it wouldn’t flutter over and make him lose his place. “Sadly, that sounds like most people,” Dean admitted. “Don’t wanna think about a problem ‘til it’s theirproblem. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but sometimes people get hurt.”
Oscar looked down, thinking. His shoes swung lightly back and forth, thanks to the height of the book he sat on. He could be the same way. Most of the time, human problems didn’t really show up on his radar. He was too busy making sure he had enough food for himself, and could survive another week.
He also thought about the last time he’d met the Winchesters. Dean had terrified him, and yet when it came down to it, Oscar had information that could help them solve their case. He’d even saved Dean’s life, because while the witches were good at covering their trail, they simply hadn’t accounted for a witness that stood barely over three inches tall.
“W-well,” he said, entirely unsure of what he was about to offer. “If I can help somehow, I should.”
Sam looked up at him. “Oscar, you’ve already given us plenty to go off of. We can look around and figure out who-”
“But what if she kills someone again?” Oscar interrupted. “I-I know what the lady sounds like and kinda what she looks like. Maybe I can help you find her faster. Maybe …”
His voice tapered off yet again when he saw the looks on Sam and Dean’s faces. They were as surprised as he was by his sudden conviction. For a second, Oscar thought about taking back his offer before they could tell him it was too dangerous again. They didn’t need him along when they could do the job just fine on their own.
Sam smiled, closing his book gently. “Okay, Oscar, but if you want to go with us you have to be safe. We don’t want you getting hurt because of us.”
Dean grinned and reached out a hand to ruffle Oscar’s hair with a finger. Oscar tried to fix it and sent the human a flat look, but only got a wider grin in response.
“Welcome to the team, Oz.”
Oscar was as a statue, huddled in Dean’s pocket opposite Sam while the human thanked someone and turned away from the latest interview. It was the third person Dean had talked to so far, and Sam saw Oscar breathe a quiet sigh of relief. The many voices of other humans had worn on his nerves, but he hadn’t complained so far.
He was really doing his best in spite of everything that he’d already seen. Sam kept an eye on his small friend, hoping they’d be able to solve things quickly and without too much excitement for the little guy. Sam knew Dean was thinking the same thing; neither of them wanted Oscar in danger after what he’d done for them.
The pocket was hardly more cramped than normal. Oscar took up so little space anyway, and he was putting in his best effort to be the size of a marble shooter, Sam noticed.
“Trust me, from out there they just see a fold in the fabric,” he said quietly.
Oscar’s keen brown eyes met Sam’s sympathetic hazel ones. “Y-yeah,” he replied, his voice hitching in time with a sway of Dean’s steps. “Yeah. It’s just. Weird, I guess,” he whispered back. Dean kept walking, looking for every coworker that knew the guy who died, and asking around for any of his friends.
Sam paid attention to Oscar instead of the woman telling Dean about a girl who was totally having an affair with the vic. Dean could find the next interviewee without a problem.
“It’s almost like you’re exposed, away from the walls,” Sam supplied, and, after a pause, Oscar nodded. “And Dean’s in control.”
Oscar was more sheepish. “Yeah. I can’t … if I wanna get out, he’s gotta let me …” he said quietly.
Sam smiled encouragingly at him as Dean continued walking. “Just remember, Oscar, Dean will never keep you trapped against your will. Same as when he picks us up on his hand, Dean gives us the control.” There was no room for doubt in Sam’s mind. Even though he understood the nerves Oscar felt, and he sometimes felt a little out of place himself, out here instead of in the walls, Sam trusted his big brother with everything he had, and knew they’d be okay so long as he was around.
Oscar paused, and then nodded. He opened his mouth to say something, and then froze. His eyes slid to the side, though he couldn’t see through the wall of fabric that was Dean’s pocket. Dean was talking to another woman that worked at the same warehouse as the man who died.
Sam stared at Oscar, his own eyes wide. He could swear he saw recognition on his face. “Oscar?” he whispered in the lowest voice he could.
The other man glanced over and nodded, his already-pale skin going white as a sheet as the woman’s voice reminded him of the gruesome event he saw.
Sam wasted no more time and jabbed Dean in the chest with his elbow, as hard as he could.
It was lucky Dean wasn’t talking, because the little stab of a tiny elbow in his chest most certainly would have made him falter mid-word. He didn’t need to ask Sam what that meant. They’d already been over the signal. Oscar recognized the woman’s voice.
Dean still nodded sympathetically as the woman tearfully finished up her story about how sad she was, and how she had justbarely made it through the police questioning already, and all she could think to do was come to work while the shock wore off.
Dean had one quick way to check if Oscar’s intuition was correct. He lifted his arm to his face, turning his head as if masking a cough. In order to look casual with other employees milling around, he covered up his hissed “Cristo!” in a fake cough.
The woman blinked. She didn’t flinch, to her credit, but for an instant, Dean saw what he needed to see. Black eyes, glinting eerily and not reflecting as much light as they absorbed, glared at him with intent malice before she blinked again and her light brown eyes were back. But the facade was broken. Dean made hard eye contact with her again, and they both knew it.
One of her arms swung at him and Dean had to dodge back wildly to avoid risking Sam and Oscar being crushed in his pocket. With him off balance, the demon turned and bolted.
“Hang on, guys,” Dean muttered, before giving chase. The demon shoved people out of the way as it made for the exit, and Dean didn’t have time to help them up as he ran past. Instead, he bellowed “FBI! Stop!” to explain his chase after their coworker.
Soon, he burst out the door to the warehouse and onto the street. The few other people milling about in confusion gave him an idea of where to look, and indeed, at the end of the block, he saw the woman round a corner. He swore and a nearby woman gaped at him and pointedly covered her child’s ears, but Dean didn’t have time to be polite.
He hurried to where he’d parked the Impala, throwing the door open wide and all but diving into the driver seat. He felt Sam and Oscar bounce a little in his pocket, and glanced down once to make sure he hadn’t hurt them.
“She’s gettting away-”
“Just go, we’re fine!” Sam interrupted him. Dean sighed and slammed the door, throwing the car into gear and taking off down the street with a roar from the Impala’s powerful engine. He heard a squeak of fear that could only be Oscar, but resisted the urge to put a hand over the pocket to reassure his small passengers.
Even when things got tough, he’d never let his guard down enough to put Sam or Oscar in danger.
The Impala rounded the corner in time for Dean to see the woman possessed by the demon hopping into another car and all but leaping away from the curb in a manner similar to what he’d just done only moments ago. He drove his boot down on the gas pedal, and the Impala surged forward after the other car like a tiger lunging after its prey.
Though Dean chased the demon for a while, traffic did him in. Somehow, instead of cutting a path of destruction wherever it went, the demon was smart enough to merge into traffic. Soon enough, the nondescript little silver sedan was lost among other cars. Dean followed the same street for a while, his green eyes scanning left and right for it.
“Sonovabitch,” he muttered, pulling onto a less busy side street.
“What happened?” There was motion from his pocket, and once Dean had the Impala pulled over, he chanced a look down. He was in time to see Sam push up the flap of the pocket before grabbing the collar of Oscar’s shirt to haul him up. The little guy was too short to stand in the pocket and see out, so he clung to the edge with his arms over the side.
“She gave me the slip,” Dean admitted, an intent frown on his brow. He saw Oscar staring at him wide-eyed, and tried to modify his expression. It didn’t quite work; the adrenaline was simply too high. “She coulda gone anywhere and I lost her,” Dean groused, looking up to scan the side street as if the silver sedan might miraculously appear.
Sam pursed his lips and glanced to the side. “We’ll find her, Dean. Before she kills anyone else. We can just take Oscar back to the motel, since we know who to look for now, and-”
“But, w-won’t that give her more time?” Oscar interrupted. “To get away, I mean.”
“Oz,” Dean said, looking back down at him. “You don’t need to go along with the rest of this chase. You’ve done enough already.”
Oscar huffed, a quiet little sound that was surprisingly determined and Dean shut his mouth to hear him out. “L-look, I know I’m always acting scared and stuff, b-but this is important,” he reasoned. “I can handle some running around if it means helping. S-so go find the demon!”
Dean stared down at his pocket in surprise. Sam’s expression mirrored his. Oscar’s face was set, but his trembling gave him away. He was still scared, and more than just acting like he’d said. But he still insisted.
“Okay,” Dean answered. “Just hang on for a bit longer, then.”
He put the Impala in gear again, ready to continue his search for at least the car the demon had taken. Sam and Oscar sank back into his pocket. This time, Dean couldn’t resist the urge to reach up and place a hand over the pocket concealing his little brother and their friend who was braver than he gave himself credit for. Even Dean hadn’t truly seen it until that moment staring down at the determined little face.
Then, both hands were on the wheel and one foot was on the gas, and they were off.
The Impala rumbled around them while Dean searched. Sam sat in the pocket once more, keeping his eye on Oscar. The little guy may have insisted that they continue, but Sam could tell that the stress grated on him.
How could it not?
Dean just walking to the car from the room with them in his pocket was enough to take Oscar farther from home than he’d ever been. The outside world was simply a vast unknown to people like him, growing up and living his entire life hidden away. Sam understood. For more than half of his life, that was the simple truth for him, too.
If not for Sam losing track of time watching an old Godzilla movie, he’d still be back in the walls at Trails West, and Dean wouldn’t even have caught wind of this case yet. If he was still alive; Sam had saved his big brother’s ass multiple times since reuniting with him.
The Impala turned, and Sam and Oscar swayed in the pocket. Oscar let out a slow breath and glanced up. Every move Dean made was out of their control. That was a hard reality to come to terms with. Sam could almost see the gears turning in Oscar’s head.
“Oscar, if we find where the demon went, I’m going to find you a safe spot to hide while we take care of it, okay?” Sam spoke.
Oscar glanced over at him. “Huh? But … that thing is smoke. It can get in the walls.”
Sam shook his head. “It still won’t be able to get to you if it makes a run for it that way. There’s a symbol called a Devil’s Trap and demons can’t cross it. So long as you stay inside the symbol I draw for ya, you’ll be safe and sound.”
Oscar was pensive for a second, before nodding. He’d given up on disbelieving them a while back, Sam had noticed. “Sure,” the little guy replied. “I’ll wait there for you guys to … take care of it.” Sam smiled and nodded, letting him know that the self-narration was correct.
No more than fifteen minutes passed, with Dean combing the streets looking for the car. Sam was about to stand up and suggest they regroup after all when he heard Dean gasp. Air sucked into the huge lungs mere inches away, and the Impala pulled over to a stop.
“Found her,” Dean muttered.
Sam scrambled to stand in the pocket, pushing the flap out of the way, and peered around.
Dean had chosen a curb a block away from a large building with no cars parked near it except for one. The single car pointed at the curb at a haphazard angle, abandoned. Even from where Dean parked, both brothers could see the smashed front window of the building, and the sign in front of it made them both glad it was a Saturday.
The demon was hiding out in an elementary school of all places. Plenty of rooms and hallways to duck behind. Dean could walk into a trap at any point, but he could also set one of his own.
“Think you can-” Sam began, but Dean interrupted him.
“I’m gonna take a shot at it,” he growled. “We’ll find a room where I can distract it while you hide somewhere and read off an exorcism.” Sam stared up at his brother and nodded when he glanced down, confirming his plan.
“Just let me and Oscar into a vent before you draw it closer,” he replied, and Dean nodded back.
Dean picked a classroom near the end of one wing of the school building, so he’d have a better idea of the demon’s approach if she came looking for him. Sam and Oscar stood in one of the vents just down the hall from where Dean waited, and Oscar watched as Sam stooped over to draw on the floor beneath them with a hand-sized piece of chalk.
Neither Sam nor Oscar had any difficulty seeing the symbol as it took form. Oscar couldn’t make sense of most of the squiggles, but Sam clearly knew what he was doing. While he drew, he reminded Oscar again that he was not to leave the circle, and he’d be safe from the demon.
The buzz of nerves turned Sam’s voice into background noise. Even with the apparently demon-proof circle, Oscar’s heart pounded with fear. Fear for what would happen, fear for something going wrong with the symbol.
Fear for his friends.
Once Oscar stepped into the circle, Sam clapped him on the shoulder. “All good?” He asked. Oscar recovered and looked up at him with a nod. Sam smiled. “Don’t worry. We’ve done this before. We’ll take care of it and I’ll be back to getcha in no time. You’ll be back in your motel before check in time.”
Oscar chuckled dryly. “Yeah, alright.” If I don’t have a heart attack first.
He didn’t regret giving them what little head start he could. But Oscar’s nerves, trained for years and years to be wary of everything, were fracturing. It was far more excitement than he’d ever had to deal with.
While Sam walked away towards the vent opening into the classroom, Oscar’s imagination summoned up the notion that it could be the last time he saw him. A brave little person, climbing into the light to face his enemy, placed himself at high risk for strangers. Most of them wouldn’t even know, and they probably wouldn’t respect him as a person if they found out about him. People like Sam and Oscar and others were curiosities, objects, pets. Sam was putting his life on the line knowing it wouldn’t change any of that.
Oscar had no idea where bravery like that came from, but he took a deep breath and tried to find at least a shade of it in himself. If Sam could do all that, Oscar could wait for the fight to end without fear.
He listened for a long time and nothing happened. Then, far away down at the other end of the hall, a trek of an hour for Oscar, he heard it. Footsteps.
Whoever it was didn’t bother concealing their approach. There was one way out of that hall over than the windows, and they blocked it. Not long after Oscar heard them walking, the muffled sound of Dean’s voice in the nearby classroom fell quiet. The hunter shifted. Oscar heard his steps fall silent, felt the vibrations from them cease.
Oscar quaked. He could scarcely imagine the scene as the classroom door swung open and the demon strode in, taunting Dean for cornering himself.
“I thought being found by a hunter was going to ruin my fun before it started. But here you are, trapping yourself just for me,” the voice filled the room beyond, boastful and confident, and she sounded nothing like the sobbing woman Oscar had first heard in the motel room.
“Had to get your attention somehow,” Dean shot back. Oscar couldn’t see what happened. But he heard one of the student desks shift on the tile floor, and wondered if one of them had tried to make a quick lunge at the other. The demon snickered and Dean scoffed. Nothing big happened yet.
Suddenly, Oscar wished Sam had drawn his Devil’s trap closer to the vent. Not being able to see what was going on drove him nuts, much more than it would with normal human foot traffic. This was a fight with a demon, something that really shouldn’t exist but he knew always had. Sam and Dean had explained it to him months ago.
He took a terse breath. There was a tremor in the ground from a heavier step, one of the giants in the room stumbling or stomping for effect. Oscar’s face flushed as he thought about himself or Sam being caught under a stomp like that.
He had to hope that hadn’t just happened.
Dean was playing it safe in there. No sounds of a scuffle started up. Oscar, agonized by the wait, shuffled his feet and stared down at the Devil’s trap Sam had drawn for him. The white lines were supposedly keeping him safe, but there was nothing keeping Sam or Dean safe. It didn’t seem quite right.
He took a slow breath, and then another. After several deep sighs, Oscar stepped out of his safe circle and crept towards the vent to see what was happening in the room.
Sam kept himself hidden under the desk at the front of the classroom while Dean and the demon circled each other. He took a slow breath and released it, glad that Oscar was tucked away in the air ducts where he didn’t have to watch the enormous shoes stepping around and around in a wide circle. At least the little guy was safe from the tough part of the case.
Sam had his journal open and propped on one arm. The words on the page, Latin words copied from his father’s journal, would exorcise the demon and send it back where it belonged. Sam only needed the right moment to creep forward and read them off, and the deed would be done. Sam could go and check on Oscar, and they could close up another case before it got uglier.
“Listen, bright-eyes, as entertaining as this dance is, you killed that man. Your kinda fun counts as a one-way pass back to Hell,” Dean’s voice rumbled from above. Distracting the demon, keeping its attention away from the fact that it hadn’t caught Dean in its trap.
It was quite the opposite.
Huge leather boots stalked past, only a few feet from the desk. Sam caught a glimpse of scratches and scuffs in the leather, and dirt on the sides from the many steps Dean had taken in his hunting career. Despite the weight of those boots, the steps were light, and Sam knew he only felt them because of his small size.
The demon’s shoes were a pair of practical running shoes. Supportive and comfortable for the woman it was wearing, so she could handle the long days at her job standing and carrying things. Her steps were still heavier than Dean’s, lacking the hunter’s practice.
Sam flinched when those shoes, positioned near the student desks, suddenly sprang forward. The leather boots opposite them shifted their angle immediately before pushing Dean into a sidestep. They faltered a bit with the accompanying sound of a fist glancing off of Dean’s chest.
The boots braced on the floor once again with the shrill sound of rubber on linoleum, and Sam held his breath as he watched the fight of titans get underway. Droplets of water hit the floor, and the sound of sizzling reached Sam’s ears, the telltale sign of Dean throwing holy water on his foe.
The shoes all shifted weight again and the floor rumbled before suddenly, with a lunge from Dean’s trusty leather boots, the demon was thrown back towards the smaller desks. The force made a resounding crack as the demon hit, knocking a thick textbook to the floor. She fell to her hands and knees in surprise and the cold linoleum greeted her harshly. Sam could almost feel the malice wafting off the possessed woman.
He crept forward a few steps. Dean stepped towards the demon to follow up on his attack, and Sam reached the edge of his hiding place under the teacher’s desk in time to peer up and see the focused intensity on his brother’s face.
There was a reason Dean was such a formidable hunter before he ever stumbled across Sam hiding in his room at Trails West. He faced each enemy with a determination that earned him every success behind him.
He was a man that even monsters feared, and the demon was no exception as her black eyes widened. Dean lifted her harshly from the floor, and that was Sam’s chance. The demon was well distracted by Dean’s furious attack.
He took another step forward before glancing away from the fight to the words on his journal page. Wasting no more precious time, Sam began the exorcism.
“Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus-”
He wasn’t sure what happened next. He heard both the giants above him grunting with the effort of grappling one another, and he heard more of that shrill sound of shoes on the tile. There was another impact of fist on flesh, and then the ground rumbled from a stomp, accompanied by more squeaking.
Sam broke his concentration to glance up, and it felt like time slowed to a molasses crawl. His hazel eyes went wide as the demon managed to squirm herself to a better angle despite Dean’s constant efforts to keep her attention on him alone..
And kick the textbook with all she had right towards the desk.
The book skidded right at him. Sam only caught a flash of Dean’s worried glance his way before he had to turn and run. He dashed away from the edge as fast as he could.
The book plowed into him like a truck, even after slowing down from the initial kick, and knocked his legs out from under him. Sam didn’t have a hope of outrunning or dodging the impact, and he fell backwards. His arms flew up and flailed, trying to keep his balance, but he toppled and the back of his head hit the hard cover of the book.
Things went dark.
Another second later, and the demon broke free of Dean’s hold like she’d never been bothered by it. She grabbed the front of his jacket, and whirled him around to throw him against the chalkboard with a painful-sounding thwack! Oscar winced. Things were going bad out there, quickly. He had to do something, but he had no idea what he could do.
Oscar’s legs hadn’t caught up with his doubts. He was already climbing out of the vent and into the classroom, dashing across the floor between empty desks that towered over him. He prayed over and over that the demon wouldn’t see him running along the floor while he came up with a plan.
Dean coughed from his slam into the wall, and the demon laughed mockingly at him. Oscar almost regretted tagging along when he heard that laugh. The black eyed thing, the demon, was making a mockery of Dean. One of the most terrifying humans Oscar had ever seen was being batted around like a crumpled piece of paper.
Oscar could only hope Sam was staying out of trouble wherever he was hiding, but after the scuffle had started, Oscar had no idea where he was. He had no idea if Sam was okay.
Oscar felt the rumbling in the ground and wished he’d listened. They’d said he’d be safe in that Devil’s trap even if they failed. It’d stop a demon in its tracks.
Oscar should have stayed.
He didn’t know what made him do it. But Oscar wanted to help, and he even had a half-formed plan in his head for how to do so. Normally he never would have been so adamant.
He’d just have to blame Sam if this didn’t work. He was the one who inspired such bold actions out of Oscar.
He spotted the one thing in the room that might help him. It put him close to the fight, and it was up on a cart, but it was his one shot. He was already digging his safety pin out of his bag when he changed direction and charged right for it.
He had to try.
Sam woke only seconds later to a pounding pain in his head and the sound of giants fighting. He could feel tremors in the ground around him and he heard the harsh squeal of the rubber soles of Dean’s boots against the waxy linoleum tiles.
Sam rolled over from where he’d fallen, looking around. He was still under the desk, thankfully out of range of the stomping shoes he could see out there. His head throbbed as if to remind him of how close things had been. He could have been knocked out for much longer, and he could be waking up to the sight of a motionless body lying out there.
There was still a chance.
He realized that, while he was still on the book, his journal was no longer in his hands. He got to his feet in hasty, jerky motions, and his gaze snapped side to side, seeking out the all-important book. He tried to ignore the floor quaking underneath him as he did.
Dean could handle himself just a little longer. Sam had his own job to do.
He spotted the journal near the leg of the desk, lying splayed on the floor. Sam bounded for it, darting across the book the demon had kicked. His focus was unbreakable.
Or so he thought until he stooped to pick up the journal. Sam happened to glance across the floor, aiming to keep track of the massive shoes out there as Dean and the demon circled each other. But a different, far more subtle movement captured Sam’s attention and wouldn’t let go.
Oscar was darting across the floor and between desks as quickly as his truly tiny legs would carry him.
“Oscar, no!” Sam cried, his eyes widening. Naturally, he was too far away for Oscar to hear.
If the demon saw him, it could change course. Decide to snuff out the little guy just because it could. Oscar should be safe back in the Devil’s trap!
Sam tensed, filled with indecision. He could try to run and get Oscar back to safety, or he could try to continue the exorcism. Dean was unable to do either. The choice was on Sam, but his brow furrowed as he watched Oscar.
The little guy, a lot speedier than he looked like he could be, darted towards a cart nestled between two desks. Sam watched as the safety pin in his hand glinted in the sparse light.
When Oscar threw his pin upwards, Sam broke out of his daze. Oscar was brave and resourceful, more than the little guy knew. His boldness showed in unexpected moments, even if the moment he chose this time was giving Sam a friggin’ heart attack.
Trusting in his judgment, Sam turned his gaze back to his journal to seek out the exorcism again even as Oscar darted up his sturdy string climbing line.
Oscar knew he didn’t have much time. He hauled himself hand over hand on the string, climbing inch after inch to the top of the dusty metal cart. The string quivered with every step the demon or Dean took. They were feet away, but Oscar didn’t stop.
He climbed over the edge of the cart, abandoning his safety pin where it latched on. Oscar’s cloth shoes made no sound as he darted to the side of the bulky machine occupying the cart. Oscar had no word for the thing, but he had seen them in use on the TV before.
He really hoped things hadn’t been too embellished.
The vents on the side formed the perfect ladder for him, and Oscar wasted no time climbing up onto the plastic machine. He ignored the enormous beings when he reached the top, instead scanning the wide, clear plastic expanse. His eyes fell on a long, thin marker, and he dashed for it. There was no time to celebrate, no time to even think.
That demon could gain an upper hand on Dean at any moment. Oscar needed to buy him time.
He struggled with the marker at first, considering the cap was nearly as long as his body. Oscar strained against it with all he had. His teeth clenched and he groaned with the effort until it slid loose. The sudden lack of resistance knocked him on his back.
The smell of the marker nearly made Oscar gag. He had to pull his shirt up to cover his mouth while he hefted the thing, turning the point towards the glass top of the machine. Praying he remembered things correctly, he began to draw, imitating the Devil’s trap Sam had drawn for him back in the vent.
It was shaky, and he very nearly lost control of the marker thanks to the tremors in the ground beneath him, but soon enough Oscar had what he remembered. He tossed the marker aside and twisted around to check on Dean.
The demon was toying with the human. They circled each other, Dean too wary to charge forward and risk losing any advantage. The hunter was breathing heavily and his green eyes were filled with a fighter’s focus, despite one of them already showing signs of a bruise around it.
Oscar watched with wide eyes and a pounding heart, waiting for the exact moment.
Just a few more steps …
Oscar scrambled towards the “on” switch, a faded red-orange square that he could curl up on. He dove at it, throwing as much of his weight into the plastic as he could.
The switch didn’t give.
“Dammit!” Oscar hissed, jumping to his feet. He backed up and primed himself for another run, ready to try again.
Deep breaths. In, out. The demon laughed. Oscar shuddered. More deep breaths. He sprinted forward again.
Oscar jumped as high as he could, tucking his legs in at the peak of his jump. As he fell back towards the switch, he kicked them downward again, praying against all odds that his small weight would be enough.
Dean grimaced as a sudden brilliance filled the front of the classroom. The overhead projector, aimed at both combatants, had switched on with a buzz of electricity and drawn both of them out of their back and forth baiting.
At first, he thought the demon caused it somehow, with a surge of energy or something. But the look on her face said it all. Dean’s opponent knew no more than he did.
In fact, her face twisted into a confused rage and she squirmed in place. While her frustration grew, Dean cautiously straightened.
“Throw off your groove, there, bright eyes?” Dean taunted. He ignored the grumbled cussing and sidled around his adversary to investigate. His eyebrows shot up when he discovered why the demon was rooted to the spot.
There was a devil’s trap projected onto her back from the overhead projector. Dean grinned at the sight of the culprit standing in awe on the power switch, staring up at his handiwork. Oscar looked like he was in a daze.
Dean saw the demon turning around in the corner of his eye. He heard a hiss of rage before she lurched towards the projector, the only direction she could go.
Dean was quicker than the swipe aiming to knock Oscar to the floor. While the little guy staggered back, Dean reached out and grabbed him, scooping him into a protective fist.
He felt bad for startling the small hero of the case. Dean heard a yelp and felt surprised squirms against his fingers. But this was better than risking the demon being able to reach him, after he’d done such a good job restraining the monster.
All on his own. Dean was starting to see what Sam had meant. Oscar might be timid, but he was brave when it really counted.
Dean held the hand with Oscar secure inside closer to his chest, loosening his grasp. He smirked down at the surprised little face peeking between his fingers, glad to see him okay. Oscar actually relaxed in Dean’s grasp when he saw who had him, which surprised the hunter quite a bit. He’d always, always known the little guy to be skittish around him.
Now it looked like he trusted Dean, and that alone brought a smile to his eyes.
With that encouraging thought in mind, it was time to find Sam and make sure he was alright. Dean walked around the demon at a brisk pace that looked more casual than he felt, and his green eyes scanned the floor around the desk.
Before Dean could take another step towards the desk and check to see if his brother dodged the kicked book, Sam emerged from just under the shadow. Dean smiled again, relieved to see Sam okay. His journal was propped on one arm and his small voice was shouting out in Latin.
Oz had given him a safe moment to come out and chant the exorcism. Dean stood to the side, watching Sam’s confident strides into the open. Those tiny hazel eyes were fixed upwards on the demon, who writhed against the projected devil’s trap to no avail. She was stuck, grimacing and keening, while the ritual started to take effect.
When the demon’s host shrieked a ghastly shriek and threw her head back, Dean knew it was the moment. Oscar flinched in his hand from the noise while black smoke burst forth from the woman’s mouth, cast out by the holy words. The host collapsed onto the floor with an almost relieved sigh.
Dean took a few steps to close the distance between himself and his brother, and dropped carefully into a kneel to offer Sam a hand. “Great work, Sammy!” he said, getting a proud grin from the small hunter as he climbed on. Dean lifted him safely off the floor and cupped both hands next to each other.
Oscar tumbled onto his back on Dean’s palm, but soon Sam was right by his side, helping him up. Sam was beaming at the smaller man and clapped him on the shoulder, making him stumble a little. “Oscar’s quick thinking sure helped out,” Sam admitted. Oscar’s face and ears burned red and he shuffled his little cloth shoes on the hand beneath him.
“Don’t be shy, Oz, you really saved our bacon there. I couldn’t risk an all out brawl or we could have knocked Sam around here. I’m glad the friggin’ book didn’t do any damage.”
Sam chuckled sheepishly. “Yep, no trouble here,” he said, glancing over Oscar again for any injuries. Dean raised an eyebrow, knowing Sam’s hiding-something face any day. He’d have to look into it later. For now …
“I say it’s high time we get this lady home, then head back. Oz, you earned yourself a slice of pie,” Dean insisted.
He couldn’t help the grin that took over his face at the sight of Oscar’s wide, awestruck eyes.
On the way back to the motel, Dean stopped at a diner. Oscar huddled as far in the bottom of Dean’s pocket as he could. Above, Dean ordered a slice of pie to go. Oscar didn’t have it in him to be embarrassed for cowering. He could hear so many other humans out there, and it was no less stressful than before.
They survived the brief stop and Dean left with pie in hand. Oscar breathed easier after that. He might never understand how Sam was so calm about this all the time.
Not that Oscar could call Sam reckless anymore, after his deeds in the school.
Upon returning to the motel, the pie was set aside while Dean let Sam and Oscar onto the table. “Okay, guys, what’s the damage?” he asked as he sat at the table, peering intently down at them.
Oscar glanced over himself briefly before shrugging. “Nothing much, I’m just worn out from running so much.” He saw Dean’s gaze trail over his small form before the human nodded in acceptance of his words.
“Looks like I’m good, too,” Sam chimed in after a cursory glance over himself. He held his arms out from his sides. “Looks like we all made it, except for that shiner you got,” he said up to Dean with a wavering smirk.
“Not so fast, pint-size,” Dean countered with a raised eyebrow. Sam opened his mouth to argue, but Dean cut him off. “You’ve been favoring a leg since you walked out from under that desk. That book hit you, didn’t it?” He leaned forward, his chin practically on the table as he watched his little brother with concern in his intense green eyes.
Sam’s ears turned red. “It barely clipped me, I’m totally fine, Dean! Worry about your black eye!”
Dean didn’t waver. He was too protective of his little brother to worry about himself first. Oscar hung back, watching the exchange quietly. He knew when to avoid getting involved. Most of the time, it was better to mind his own business.
“Sam,” Dean spoke again, his gruff voice quiet and earnest. Almost pleading. “What kinda brother would I be if I didn’t help you out when you got hurt?” He reached over their heads and dragged a book closer. “Just sit down and lemme get you some ice atleast. “
Sam looked almost like he wanted to argue, but Oscar saw his expression soften. “Fine, Dean,” he grumbled, stalking over to the book to flop down to a seat. “But I’m not that bad.”
Oscar smiled faintly and hauled himself onto the book, too. His cloth shoes brushed against the tabletop as his legs swung back and forth. Dean vacated his own seat to go about improvising an ice pack for Sam. Oscar let himself relax, even going so far as to close his eyes as he sat there. He heard Dean return and he heard Sam grumble about it under his breath.
“Ready for that pie you earned, Oz?” Dean said, and Oscar opened his eyes in surprise. He looked up to see the human fixing a bemused look on him as he picked up the to-go container of pie.
“It’s … “ Oscar sighed, giving up on correcting the human. It wouldn’t work. “Yeah. I am,” he said instead, his eyes falling to the flaky crust and gooey filling as soon as the styrofoam lid was out of the way. It looked delicious.
Soon enough, he had fished some aluminum foil out of his bag, hastily shaping it into a plate he could use. Sam did the same, and they had their portions of pie with their knives at the ready to serve as utensils. Oscar took a slow breath, smelling the aroma of the food before he tried it.
For a long time, Oscar thought that pizza would be the most flavorful thing that he had a chance to eat. The first warm food he’d ever had in his life, he still remembered the taste of the sauce and garlic and cheese in that irresistible blend. Oscar assumed it would be his favorite food until the day he died, it was so good.
Now, he wasn’t so sure.
The pie’s sweet, fruity flavor was like a bolt of electricity flickering through him. It was the third time he’d received fresh food from Sam and Dean, and the burst of flavor still caught him off guard. Every bite was heavenly and he regretted that more humans didn’t bring pie around the motel. If they did, he’d have to make an effort to get it.
After finishing his portion and filling his bag with as many crumbs of the flaky crust as he could, Oscar glanced towards his vent. “I should probably go home,” he said wearily. The excitement of the day combined with his mad dash finally caught up to him, and with the case over, the brothers likely needed to sleep, too.
Dean glanced behind him, those keen eyes finding the vent almost right away. “If you want, Oz,” he said. “You earned a rest.”
“You should stop by tomorrow morning before we head out,” Sam interjected. “You can grab some extra food.” His voice bore the signs of exhaustion as much as Oscar’s did.
Oscar smiled. “Y-yeah … I might.”
A huge hand settled on the table near his seat on the book. Oscar stared at it before looking up at Dean, who arched his eyebrows. “Lemme give you a lift. It’s the least I can do for our very own demon-tracker.”
Oscar blinked, and then chuckled sheepishly. “I just got lucky, that’s all,” he mumbled back, slipping off the book and stepping up onto Dean’s palm. It only struck him after Dean grinned that he’d done so without hesitation.
As Oscar lifted up into the air on a hand bigger than his bed back home, he thought that he’d certainly come a long way since the last time they were there. He straightened to wave at Sam before Dean turned towards the wall, and the smaller hunter waved back at him with a grin.
In no time at all, long strides had carried Dean and Oscar to the vent near the dresser, and Dean knelt to let Oscar onto the floor.
“Get some rest, Oz,” Dean said, ruffling the poof of hair on top of his head with a fingertip. Oscar hunched in surprise from the contact and Dean grinned. “Stay outta trouble.”
“I’ll do my best,” Oscar said flatly, before brushing at his hopeless hair and slipping into the vent and leaving the room behind. He was well on his way home before Dean’s rumbling voice could barely be heard through the wall, probably answering some quip from Sam. Even though Oscar couldn’t hear the words, he smirked faintly.
Who’d have ever thought that Oscar, small, timid Oscar, would be friends with a human?
Chapter 8: Epilogue, "Breakfast of Champions"
Oscar was invited back for breakfast the morning after his first successful hunt with the Winchester brothers. He can't miss out on his friends before they journey on to find another case.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It was unusual for Oscar to care about how much he overslept. His routine for his entire life had been to sleep when he was tired, and after helping Sam and Dean Winchester hunt down a demon, he’d gone to bed exhausted. The day before ran together in a long chain of scary events, many of which he’d witnessed from inside a pocket.
Oscar hadn’t yet had time to come to terms with everything, and he was already in the vents, wandering back toward that room. Back to the odd pair of brothers he’d befriended despite how crazy they could be.
If his memories were to be believed, their insanity had rubbed off on him.
In spite of himself, he was glad to hear a familiar gruff voice filtering into the air ducts. They were still there, even though he’d slept into the morning. He found that he wouldn’t even mind if breakfast was gone already. He could at least see them off before they left.
He reached the vent into the room and paused to survey the situation within. From there, he could easily spot one of the beds and most of the other. To the side, the dresser loomed high against the wall. The nightstand, nestled between the two beds, still had books stacked on the bottom shelf. Oscar knew well how much space there was back behind those books.
That very same nightstand was the place where he’d first met Sam and his big brother. Hiding away, he hadn’t had any idea what would happen if they found him.
Luckily for Dean, they had.
Oscar’s gaze drifted away from the nightstand and found what he could see of the table. Dean was seated there, his back blocking view of most of the table. It was his voice Oscar had heard from the walls, and Oscar could imagine Sam standing on the table talking back in a voice that wouldn’t carry across the room.
He waited an extra beat before slipping through the metal opening. Even when Oscar was sure they were the only ones there, his instincts demanded caution. It was the only thing that’d keep him alive in the long run. He landed deftly on the carpet, silent in his every move.
From there, he had a trek ahead. He put the rumble of Dean’s voice out of mind. He could only hear one side of the conversation between the brothers anyway. He could focus instead on getting to that table to greet them.
He had to dart across the open floor for a heart pounding minute. No matter how many times he’d done that since he was a small child, the feeling of the motel room looming all around him never failed to get under his skin. Every time, his nerves reminded him of all the directions a threat could pop out from.
He made it to a bed, and from there his journey was easy. Oscar’s heart calmed as he jogged among the dust bunnies toward the table.
He paused to peek out from the shadows, but he hadn’t been noticed yet. There were only a few feet of open floor left to cross, and as he went, Oscar retrieved his pin from his bag. He threaded the sturdy string through his fingers to prepare. The sooner he climbed the table, the better.
The pin glinted in the air when he tossed it up as hard as he could. Despite knowing the effect it would have, Oscar couldn’t help but stiffen as the thin piece of metal clattered to the table top and cut off the conversation up above. He’d been noticed.
Even as Oscar tugged at the string to tease his safety pin hook into place, the boots resting under the table shifted. He glanced up, ready to see Dean leaning over to watch his climb, but the moment didn’t come. Sam’s voice, still too quiet to hear, said something and Dean paused.
There was only one way to make sure he could hear the smaller of the two Winchester’s. Oscar gave his string one last testing tug, and then hoisted himself up off the floor.
Oscar might not be as tall or as fast as Sam, but he was a skillful climber in his own right. He pulled himself up the string hand over hand as swiftly as ever, leaving the floor behind in no time. His cloth shoes clamped securely around the string and his grip was sure, not minding the sway in the least.
He glanced up when he was halfway to the goal, just in time for a shadow to creep over the edge of the table where his pin was secured. Oscar couldn’t hold back a surprised squeak as Dean’s hand appeared overhead. While Sam called out a scold, two fingers more powerful than Oscar would ever be pinched tightly around the pin.
Oscar frowned in confusion, and then squeaked again as the hook and string were lifted up with him in tow. He tightened his grip on the string, clinging like he never had before, as Dean lifted him the rest of the way to the table.
The floor dropped away quickly, but not enough to risk Oscar losing his grip. He turned his frown upwards as the rising string brought him past level with the table. Dean had a mischievous grin on his face by the time Oscar was eye level with him, still clinging to his string as he dangled over the table. He shot the human an exasperated look before glancing down.
Sam stood there looking up, a bitchface aimed at Dean. His sturdy boots, made of leather and contrasting with Oscar’s cloth wraps, were planted on the surface and his arms were crossed. Oscar blinked down at him, surprised by the view of his tall friend from above.
“Dean,” Sam warned.
Dean’s grin widened. “What, I’m just helping out,” he defended. Oscar looked back up at him, as if asking why he needed to be so high above the table for it to count as helping. Dean’s smile remained and he raised his eyebrows. “Mornin’, Oz,” he greeted at last.
Oscar pursed his lips in a flat look, but didn’t bother correcting the name. That never worked on Dean. Instead, he sent a glance down to the table, a pointed look at solid ground. “H-hi, guys,” he said, then sighed tersely. “Came back to see you off before you go. Guess I’m a little late.” His cursory glance over the table showed no signs of a breakfast plate. No leftovers.
At least he had still made it. He might have missed breakfast, but he hadn’t missed out on his friends.
He clung tighter to his rope when he found himself lowering slowly. Dean let him down onto the table at last, waiting for him to find his footing before finally handing back his pin.
“You’re not late,” Sam assured him with a dimpled smile. Oscar had to tilt his head up to make eye contact even with Sam, now that he was on the table. “We’re still here.”
“Didn’t think we’d just take off on you, didja?” Dean chimed in. He folded his arms and rested them on the table, and Oscar felt every vibration from the casual motion.
“W-well I don’t know,” Oscar answered, shrugging. “I dunno where you gotta go next after you finish a hunt.”
Dean smirked, brushing right past the flustered admission. “Besides, now that you’re here, I can go grab some breakfast so it’s fresh.”
Oscar’s mouth dropped open as the surprise sank in. “Oh, you were waiting on me?!” Waiting to sit and have breakfast with him. He could hardly process the thought.
It was Sam’s turn to grin. “We still owe you, Oscar. Besides, it’s nice having someone around to help me outnumber this guy for once.” He jerked a thumb at Dean and resolutely ignored the face Dean made in retaliation.
“I guess that makes sense,” Oscar replied with a shy smile of his own. “Okay.”
Dean’s grin returned in full force in a flash. “That’s what I wanted to hear. One fresh continental breakfast coming right up.”
This was done as a one-word prompt from my writing tumblr. The prompt was to include Oscar and Dean and the word was "Cling." I decided it would make a great epilogue to Salads and Sulfur, since I never actually wrote anything for Oscar going back to claim his breakfast. Enjoy!