Mink (minkmix) wrote,
Mink
minkmix

SPN Fic: Receding part 3/7

Two Three days and no posting! What the deuce! ;) Well, it's because "Receding" was eating my brain and making itself all sorts of long. So here ya go, an extra huge chapter...
-Mink


Title: Receding part 1part 2 - part 3 - part 4 - part 5 - part 6 - part 7 - Completed
Authors: Mink & Jink
Rating: PG
Spoilers: None
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.



It had been easy to cast it off as exhaustion.

Sam had seen his brother do stranger things to his honed routine and look a lot worse after a week with less than one night of sleep. Sam himself sometimes had to actually think for a few seconds before he knew which toothbrush sitting on the sink was his every now and then. His mind was frequently so many places at once he was surprised he made it out the door with clothes on sometimes.

But when he saw the look on Dean’s face after the photograph he knew he’d really fucked up. This time his brother hadn’t lost a motel room or missed an exit on the freeway. This time he’d misplaced an entire person. All the bits and pieces fell together in Sam’s head. The behavior all making a weird sense when there was some reasoning behind it to tie it all together.

But fatigue could do quite a bit to the human mind.

Dean had told him that night that he wasn’t sure when it had gotten to be more than not being able to find his keys. He had told him that there was no real moment that he was sure when it had really started to change. By its very nature Sam supposed it made perfect sense that he wouldn’t. When he had had a night’s sleep to mull it over he figured that maybe they both just needed a time out. In fact, a few days at a stand still to get some rest might be just the thing both of them needed more than anything at all.

Sam said that to himself anyway. Then he’d remember the sound of his brother’s voice when he said he thought he was going crazy. Without telling his brother what he was doing because of the response he knew he’d get, Sam made the soonest possible appointment he could find in the area with a doctor for that week.

Until then, they’d get some sleep and just relax.











After another day went by Sam began to notice things now that he knew there was maybe anything to look for.

The first time he actually witnessed it happening with his own eyes he thought Dean was making another really bad joke. It had been almost mid conversation about what town they should move onto next when suddenly his brother couldn’t recall any city named Lone Pine. In fact, he didn’t seem to even know they had been guests of the fair town of Lone Pine for almost five days.

Following that episode, Sam had started watching out for it.

It seemed to creep over his brother and leave waves of sickness in its wake. After a time the surges of nausea that seemed to accompany bouts of uncertainty were the only thing Sam could use to gauge when if maybe Dean had somehow lost a little bit more. But lost what? Some P.O Box number out in Des Moines or the name of a baseball player from the 1960s? You couldn’t ask someone what they may have forgotten. The entire situation had been strange, but at its worst it had only been inconvenient and exasperating.

But then, the very next day, it suddenly had become a lot more than that.










It had been a good long while since Sam had taken a forty-five minute shower.

He thought it was pretty nice to just lay in the warm tub and let the hot water hit his face and closed eyes. Even nicer was the fact that the temperature never wavered or did that god awful gradual crawl down to icy climes like it did in most places they crashed in. Sam twisted the shower water off one nuzzle at a time, momentarily scalding himself when the cold went first. The white towel was stiff and abrasive as he rubbed his face. It was nice though, to slow down for a change and to just breathe. But time sure did fly when all you did was sleep in until noon and wonder when to eat.

It had only been three days after the incident with the photograph and one day away from Dean’s date with a doctor. He still wasn't sure how he was going to make that final step and get his brother to go through the doors that were usually avoided at all costs. He'd have to set up a fake errand and then just keep it under wraps until they were parked in front of the office. Maybe he could even just say that it was he himself that required the visit and then do the old switch-a-roo inside the place and just block the exits as best he could.

He laughed a little bit as he wondered if it might actually come down to that.

Emerging back out into the shared bedroom, he found the television still on but the room empty. Dean’s wallet and phone were still sitting on the cluttered table that sat under the window. His jacket was slung over the back of a chair.

Suspecting that Dean had made a break for the coke machine, Sam dug through his bag looking for something clean to wear. Hitching up his jeans and sliding on a shirt he kept waiting for the door to swing open and his brother to appear. When he was all dressed and that still hadn’t occurred, he decided he’d make a quick check outside and take a look for him just in case he’d gotten his numbers mixed up again.

But the parking lot was completely empty.

A stop at the motel desk revealed that they had not had seen anyone wandering around. The maid on staff with her cart parked right next to the soda machine hadn’t noticed a man of his brother’s description either. With his concern shifting to apprehension, Sam got into the car and started looking around the surrounding neighborhood. When that brought no results he widened his circle and just started turning down random streets and avenues. He even swung by the motel intermittently to see if Dean had just come back on his own. Almost six hours later, Sam was thumbing his phone and seriously considering contacting the police department.

It was in that exact moment that he finally spotted his brother. He was sitting alone on a bench at a bus stop.

The stop was practically on the opposite side and nearly out of town. Dean looked almost about as relieved as Sam felt as the car pulled up to the corner right in front of him. Sam watched Dean try to explain that he was just about to head back, fumbling badly through some bullshit cover about how he was just fine. He was just taking a walk. He would have been back at any minute. But Sam could see something new had happened. Dean hadn’t forgotten the room number.

Dean had forgotten there had even been a motel.

All of this was much worse than Sam had thought it was. Knowing that it had been going on to this extent right in front of his eyes and how Dean had managed to keep it from him made him almost sick to his stomach.

How could he not have noticed that his brother was slowly filling full of holes this wide?

While Dean continued to insist he could have gotten back just perfectly on his own power, Sam hauled him back to the car and tossed him into the passenger seat. It was right about then that Sam decided to skip the appointment he had made for his brother the next morning.

As he pulled out into the traffic he thought that the seeing a doctor right this moment might be a much better idea.












If someone were to ask Sam just what exactly his brother’s greatest talent was, he would have to say that one of them was the art of making oneself comfortable anywhere and at any time.

Dean dozed in retaining cells, rested breezily in church pews, and never took the phrase "make yourself at home" for granted. A lifetime of never ending residences had erased any outside inhibitions. He melded into his surroundings or his surroundings became him.

But not at the moment.

Maybe a stark white room filled with medical equipment and a table covered in paper could take that ease out of just about anyone. Sam sat up in his plastic chair when the doctor finally appeared with a practiced smile and folder. He gave a smile back while Dean watched on distrustfully from his seat on the table. Sam was really glad they had only had to wait one day for the test results. Any longer and he wasn’t sure he would have been able to handle Dean’s complaining that he had had to go in at all in the first place.

But they both listened carefully to what was read from the neat stack of papers in the doctor’s hands. Strange colored maps of the contents of his brother’s head. Dean had looked at them with an odd expression. Almost offended that someone had been able to take these layered precise images of what he kept in his mind.

Loss of peripheral vision? No.
Loss of sleep? No.
Memory lapse. Well...yes.

Years of medical dodging had trained them well. At this stage in his career, Sam knew exactly what and what not to say to doctors. Only this time, he was about as honest as he could be. And the results? Surprising.

MRI: Unremarkable.

Sam asked a few questions about the possibility of anything missed. He asked if there were any other tests besides those that had been taken that may reveal something that they still hadn’t spotted. The doctor shook his head, his tone shifting as he set the results aside and gave Dean a good look in the eye.

“Mr. Kilmister, have you… have you been under any kind of undue stress lately?”

Any undue stress lately.

That almost made Sam laugh out loud. That was always the next direction after you got a clear bill of health right? If it wasn’t something physical, then it was something mental.

He could see and almost feel his older brother’s entire demeanor shut down at the start of the accusation and suggestion that he was somehow doing this to himself. Sam was fairly certain that it didn’t help much that his brother would prefer to hear he’d an inoperable brain tumor than have a professional confirm his own fear that he was becoming a lunatic. In fact, without even answering the doctor, Dean had already stood up to shrug on his jacket. Sam gave the doctor a shake of the hand and a small apologetic smile before following his brother out of the hospital clinic.

Sam had known going in that either way the outcome turned out that it wouldn’t exactly be good news. If it wasn’t one thing than it had to be another. And in their line of work Sam could place a pretty good bet that whatever that was happening to his brother wasn’t due to mismanagement of stress. Cursing under his breath, he walked a little faster when he realized his brother was out of view.

He caught up to Dean by the car. It looked like he’d saved his agitation for the privacy of the parking lot. He had his fists jammed in his front jean pockets and was pacing back and forth along the driver side.

"Hear that? $2000 says I'm unremarkable." Dean grumbled.

"Yeah."

"It’s a damn good thing that they'll have to find us first before they can bill us."

"I can drive if you want." Sam offered.

His brother’s uncertain pause made him frown.

"I can drive." Dean muttered angrily, rubbing the space between his eyes. "I still know how to do that don’t I?"

"Okay. Okay." Sam said slowly, trying not to push what was left of his brother’s raw nerves off the deep end.

Dean’s phone was ringing but he was ignoring it.

“Aren’t you gonna get that?” Sam asked as he swung his door shut.

Dean shrugged as he settled behind the wheel. “Nah. It’s a wrong number.”

Sam looked back over at him. “You don’t get too many of those.”

“This is a new one.” He laughed a little. “Phone spam. Bunch of numbers.”

Sam paused.

He took the phone out of Dean’s hand and scrolled down to his incoming saved calls.

“It was dad.”

Dean looked over at him hard. “What?”

It had started to really pain him to see Dean fight to try to remember something that had might as well never been there in the first place. But the startled look on his older brother’s face was enough to make Sam’s gut churn.

“He sends us coordinates.” Sam swallowed back the lump in his throat. “For jobs.”

Dean's eyes were darting frantically across the small display screen, visibly struggling to retain their meaning.

But Sam knew with something cold and terrible twisting in his stomach that these numbers were now nothing but nonsense to him. There was very little about their father that fell out from under Dean’s realm of knowledge. The realization seemed to affect Dean like a physical blow.

“I remember him.” Dean said almost defiantly. “His voice. His face. Every job we’ve ever done Sam. I remember everything.”

“I know you do.” Sam tried to assure him but he felt like right about now he could use some assurances himself. He forced his voice to sound dismissive. “It’s just some text messaging, no big deal.”

“Sam…” Dean’s hands were gripping his knees, his head was bowed down a little bit.

“It’s fine man.” Sam didn’t like the lost sound that was in his older brother’s voice. “It’ll be fine Dean, we’ll figure it out, we’ll just have to sit down and just figure it all out.”

He wasn’t sure who he was trying to comfort, his brother or himself.

“We can make a few calls now. Maybe we can reach out to that guy down in Georgia, you know that reader down in Savannah? He helped out that time with that job a couple years back—“

“Sammy?” Dean cut him off.

“W-What is it?”

“What’s Dad’s name?”

Sam’s chest heaved as he fought himself from sounding as stunned as he felt.

“John.”

Dean had a look of profound relief when the name seemed to mean something to him. Like the look in his eyes when he saw the motel number on the door when Sam lead him to the right one. That moment of: Oh yeah, how could I have forgotten that? It was all right there just beyond his grasp until something nudged it back for him.

“John Winchester.” Dean said like some kind of mantra.

“Yeah.” Sam said numbly. “You got it.”











The muffled hissing sound of the shower behind the door helped him think. Dean had retreated without a word into the bathroom, leaving him to sort his thoughts. Sam was kind of glad. It gave Dean time alone and it gave Sam the secure knowledge of just exactly where he was. It gave him time to think. And all he could think of was one thing.

This was not a case for the books.

In fact, it wasn’t much of a case for what he had indexed and collected in the memory of their laptop either. Not to say there weren’t plenty of examples of these types of things, but there were so many that it left it open to about a dozen more questions to every single answer. Sam felt a headache coming on that had nothing to do with anything but the inability to figure out where he should even start.

With a sigh, he sat back in his chair, Dean’s leather jacket draped on its back and digging into his shoulder blades. Irritated, he yanked it out from behind him and was ready to toss it aside on the bed when something caught his eye.

Slips of paper were stuffed into the inside pockets of the coat. Sam pulled one out and read it.

room #145
car: kaz-2y5
brentwood, ca


Sam looked through several more. Addresses. Room numbers. Cell phone numbers. Some things jotted down made no sense at all. Little reminders that maybe Dean used for some daily checklist of what needed to be accomplished.

“Havin’ fun?”

His brother was standing in the bathroom doorway buttoning up his shirt, his hair damp. He was looking down at the paper Sam had in his hands.

“Dean I—“ Sam tried not to see the muscle in Dean's jaw clench.

“You said dad sent us a job.” He said quickly, evenly. "So when do we start?"

“No way Dean.” Sam shook his head, the paper in his hand trembling slightly. “We already got a job.”

“What’s that?”

“You.”

The hardness in Dean's eyes was palatable. “We have work to do.”

Sam held up the square of paper. His brother stared at the scribbled numbers of his own car’s plates on it.

"Where are you going?" Sam sighed when Dean snatched the leather jacket out of his hands.

"Out drivin'." Dean muttered.

"I'm going too."

"Just lay offa me, Sam. I mean it." His voice was low with threat.

"Dean, look calm down. Neither of us know what's going on. I think we should just--"

"I don't need you following me around!"

"Dean, if you go out there..." He paused, choosing his words carefully. "...we don't know what'll happen."

Silence.

They couldn't send a barrage of bullets crashing into this job until it bled and died. They couldn’t even touch or see it. They didn’t even know what It was. His brother wasn’t a man that experienced the sensation of helplessness very often. He was scared. And Sam knew that being scared really pissed Dean off.

"I know." Sam said finally and very quietly. “I know okay?”

Dean looked up sharply. "Yeah? What the fuck do you know?“

"Black outs. Memory loss. Thoughts that aren't even yours? Think I don't know what that's like?"

Sam could see Dean's muscles tense, fists clenching and unclenching at his sides, his jaw working as the thousand things he wanted to say flared and died on his lips. The air between them seemed to almost thrum with the heat of Dean’s frustration.

"Give me the keys Sam."

"No."

Sam watched his brother's face slowly contort from anger to full-blown rage and knew what was coming next. All he could do was brace himself and get ready for the explosion. He just hoped that whatever his brother decided to take his wrath out on wouldn’t be his face.

He waited for the possible blow but none came.

Instead, Dean turned swiftly around and hauled back his clenched fist.

The sound of Dean's hand connecting with the drywall made Sam flinch. It left a decent sized gaping hole in the poorly painted plaster, nicely smeared red with knuckles skinned and bloody. There were three more strikes before Dean stopped with a mutter of incoherent swearing. Catching his breath, he remained hunched over, his other hand pressed up on the door jam to support himself.

Sam felt his shoulders go slack, letting out a held breath as he dug the keys out of his jeans.

"Ok Dean." He said, quiet enough to hide the tremor in his voice. The car keys jangled softly in his hand. “You can have them. You can go and do whatever you want.”

Panting, Dean turned towards him, one good hand clutching the other that had just made repeated trips through the wall.

“Just tell me one thing?” Sam said.

Dean waited, his adrenaline making him shake where he stood.

"All you have to do first is tell me your license plate number."

Color rose to Dean's face, his anger now tinged sharp with shame. When the door slammed hard enough to send dust clouds from the hole in the wall, Sam did not want to move. Dean needed to cool off. Be alone.

Had this been any other fight he would have let him go. But he couldn't.

Cursing he shoved the keys back into his pocket, grabbed his jacket and followed. It didn’t take long to find Dean at the end of the parking lot, at the edge of a dry field bordering the highway. Seated on the curb, his head was in his hands and he was breathing deeply. Sam waited a good distance away until his older brother finally looked up and acknowledged his presence. And Sam wanted to say all sorts of things. He wanted some words to make his brother feel as if this wasn’t that bad. That everything would work out just fine. So he did. He heard himself talking as Dean got slowly back onto his feet. Blood dripped down his wrist from the torn skin across his hand.

Sam kept talking as he followed Dean back across the parking lot.

Come on. Let's sleep on it. We'll get to the bottom of this.

It'll be okay. It'll be okay...

Another mantra.











There was music.

Faint and coy.

Playful but off. A record revolving too slowly under a needle.

The dry hiss of sand washed somewhere outside with the rush and pull of the wind.

A long room flared in and out of darkness, the sick flames of the bulbs pulsed like a lingering heartbeat. They grew brighter and brighter until each mirror that lined its walls could be seen.

All empty of reflections.

But one.

The still image in the last mirror, there grew a perfect outline of a man. The line of his jaw, the frame of his chest and fall of his arm. Dusty black T-shirt and the rip across the knee on his faded jeans. The image began to solidify. Piece by piece by piece…

A low moan sounded in the dusty silence and the mirrors all started to shake slightly, and then vibrate. The moan became louder, rising into a groan as the mirrors went from vibrating to violently rocking and striking the walls and the floor. The groan turned scream and as the sound reached its pinnacle all of the mirrors save one began to split and fracture. An explosion of silver shards blew outwards as the rows of mirrors shattered in every direction.

When all had settled into piles of gleaming dust, only one was left standing. The figure behind the glass unmoving, eyes wide open and staring, as though searching, lips slightly parted in a silent expression of pain. The dark settled like a sentence, the silence swiftly pouring back over the room with a howl of wind.


Sam…

The soft green glow of eyes flared desperately, flickering weakly for a moment from somewhere in the gloom. Just as quickly as they had appeared, the dim light began to be swallowed back into the black and started to fade away.

Sam…?

Fading until it was completely and utterly gone.

Sam!










Sam sat up in bed with a gasp.

The front of his T-shirt was clinging to his chest with his sweat, the acrid scent of a far off desert burning thick in his lungs. He clutched his damp hair, the sound of his name still pounding in his head.

It was as if Dean had just shouted as loud as he could right into his ear.

Sam quickly looked over at the other bed. But his brother was in a comfortable sprawl as last he'd seen him and sleeping soundly. He swallowed, taking a minute to collect himself. The echoes ringing in his head soon faded to a high pitched buzz, heart slowing to normal. When he regained silence and momentum, he pushed himself up and off the bed, rummaging clumsily for his laptop. The wash of bright light from the monitor blinded him, blinking rapidly at the screen while Dean continued to sleep undisturbed. Fragments of images, whispers of unconnected words raced in his head like a film on fast forward. His fingers flew across the keyboard, struggling to keep his thoughts in check.

He clicked the file for the old theme park they had left in their tail lights so many days ago. Looking hard at the list of files that made up his notes and research of when they had been in the area, he searched for a particular one. From out of everything they had heard about the abandoned park it had still all been an assortment of pieces that hadn’t made any kind of picture. But of all the rumors and stories they’d been told, one had suddenly struck a chord.

Sam clicked the file open when he found it. It wasn’t very large or even very detailed but its contents still gave him a small flare of hope that he had found the lead he had needed. One witness claimed that their father, a highway surveyor who had done work near the park, had “lost his mind.” At the time Sam had assumed it meant what it usually meant. Someone had gone crazy, acted irrationally and without pre-empt. Those were classic signs of psychosis. But what if they had meant it literally? Dean hadn’t lost the ability to dress himself or shave. He could drive a car and look both ways before crossing a street. What was going bit by bit seemed very selective. It wasn’t any of his basic skills…

The people he knew. The details and footnotes that made up how and what he did. Things that surrounded and defined him. His life. That was all the stuff that was vanishing. Sam was certain as he clicked the laptop shut that they had to get back to that park. They had somehow missed something important.

And it had to do with a mirror.











The place was crowded.

Sam figured he might as well get his fill of noisy civilization before they cast themselves back over the California border into no man’s land once again.

He tried to ignore it when his brother ordered something that would normally not even be considered actual food unless there was a question of starvation involved. Some fish with rice concoction. It was something that he’d usually make a joke about before promptly investigating whether or not the joint made a decent pastrami sandwich. It was comforting however, that when Dean got his dinner, the first bite he took caused him to immediately make a vaguely disgusted face.

Dean was still there. There was something of what his brother was made of that wasn’t completely drifting away along with all his details.

Not yet anyway.

If this… process had been going on for almost two weeks and it had certainly gotten worse, than what exactly was next? It had even seemed to have even accelerated. But accelerate to what? It made him stare down at the food he was trying to eat when he let himself think what actually might be at the end of this road.

Sam talked into his coffee cup to avoid broadcasting any uneasiness that may be in his eyes.

“So I was thinking, when we get there that maybe we can hit some of those local Navajo that we never got to. Like the resident medicine man—“

Sam’s words died when he looked up again at his brother. Something was wrong.

Dean wasn’t moving, his stare glazed and unblinking. It was as if he had fallen asleep with his eyes open and sitting up like some blank mannequin. A flash of cold ran through Sam as he reached out to grab Dean’s wrist just to confirm it was still warm and alive.

Dean??

His brother suddenly blinked once and yanked his wrist out of the sudden feel of a grip. Meeting Sam’s expectant look, he realized Sam was waiting for him to say something.

“What??” His voice automatically reflected the alarm he saw in his younger brother’s face.

“Are-Are you okay? You tuned out there for a second…”

“I’m fine.” Dean grumbled, pressing his fingertips against the side of his head. “Just tired.”

Sam realized that Dean had no idea he had just zoned out. It resembled some kind of petit mal seizure that his brother was apparently too healthy to be experiencing.

Fantastic. Something new.

With a look around, Sam wondered if he should get them out of here. These moments where something seemed to surface and take another fragment away seemed to be often accompanied with his brother becoming physically ill. But he seemed to be fine this time. A little pale but not much else. Sam thought about how everything usually occurred in stages and wondered if his brother had maybe just entered a new one.

Dean glanced out the window and his surroundings before looking back down at his plate. His hand worked on his fork as he pushed his food around.

“I don’t- I uh, I’m not sure...”

Sam clenched his jaw.

“We’re on the Cali border, just out side of Death Valley.” He told him softly. “We’re going back to Nevada.”

Dean stabbed another piece of fish and choked it down.

“Nevada?” He repeated back thoughtfully. “Why?”

Sam sighed.

At least it was nice that Dean wasn’t puking.












Having started out in the morning they hit the park by sunset.

It was strange being there at almost the same set of conditions as they had before.

Well almost.

“I love it when there are no lines.” His brother managed to joke as he spun a rusty turnstile that sat in front of the remains of a child’s size train track.

Sam had been half expecting Dean to ask him where the hell they were. The lack of the question and the ambiguous remark were good enough for Sam to just take it as a good sign that the place wasn’t completely alien to him.

Since it hadn’t changed much in the decades of its shut down, Sam hadn’t expected much else would have within the few weeks they had checked it out. And he appeared to be right so far. Except this time it was dark. No glitter and flash of the lights for this visit. No hiss and hum of strained electricity moving lethargically through frayed cables and burning up aged filaments.

“Let’s take a walk.” Sam suggested.

He resisted asking Dean if he could remember what exactly he had done when he had been here last. Asking questions like that given the circumstances seemed kind of pointless.

How were you supposed to remember if there was nothing to remember?

Sam decided to let his brother take the lead. There was still that person inside of him, outside his preferences and song lyrics, people and faces, the part of him that would take the same path while on a job. The side of him that would retrace his steps without even conscious thought. Somewhere alongside how to start the car and to lace his boots, there was the hunter that functioned without and despite the sum of his experiences.

Dean was shining his flashlight within the confines of a low enclosed sag of an over hang. Its former use was a mystery, but its walls were now covered in manic graffiti several layers thick from the adventurous souls that came here late at night to get a cheap scare that wasn’t off a movie screen.

“They should tear this all down.” Dean murmured as the beam of his light briefly flickered up the single and questionable support girder.

Sam considered the condemned rot of the park’s structures and silently agreed.

“Some kid’s more likely to get nailed by a roof cave in than by a—“ Dean suddenly stopped.

Sam halted and watched his brother carefully.

“Shouldn’t… shouldn’t go inside just any old place…” With a slightly confused look, Dean turned and looked around at the buildings near by.

“Dean?"

“Hear that?”

"What?"

Dean shook his head.

"Nah. Just...thought I heard music."

“Here?” Sam looked around them too. “Where?”

Dean’s dazed look faded and his face screwed into frustration. “I- I don’t know.”

“It’s ok, it’s fine.” Sam quickly said. He didn’t want Dean to lose whatever small shred he had retrieved or found in his head. Especially if he dared beyond hope that there might be a little more to find.

Music. All he remembered that night hearing was the wind and a lot of it.

“Do you know what kind of music?”

“Some old record.” Dean easily said, as if the fact that he could remember such a detail was not strange.

Sam froze, his dream ringing and resounding in his memory. There had been music… and then the mirrors. What better place to have a mirror than a fun house?

The one Dean had said he had never gone into.

Sam swung around to look over in its direction. He couldn’t see it with the park’s power out, no colorful lights on this time to twinkle in the guise of another brief resurrection. But he knew it was sitting out there in the dark, quiet and maybe not as empty as it had appeared. That had to be it. That is where it must have started. He would check it out.

But not tonight.

He had to find out a little bit more about that place before he went strolling right into it.

“I was thinking…” Dean said softly from beside him.

Sam felt the joke he would have normally automatically made when his older brother set himself up with words like that, but he wasn’t feeling particularly funny at the moment.

“I don’t even know what I don’t know anymore.” Dean picked up a rock and tossed it against a plywood façade, a dull echo of its contact loud in the silence. “I'm not even sure what's left to lose.”

Sam thought maybe that was the only merciful thing about it.









When they got back to motel they were staying at, the very same one with the cactus lamps, there was a message waiting.

Sam smiled at the contact’s name. It was friend of the family who happened to be an elder of the Navajo nation and lived near by. Just yesterday he had warned Sam over the phone that the man they were looking for might not even return a call let alone see anyone in person. In fact, they’d be lucky if they got near the guy’s trailer without getting shot at.

Seemed like it was Sam’s lucky day.

“Good news.” He said. “Looks like we have an appointment tomorrow. Maybe get some answers.”

Dean didn’t look as excited as Sam felt, but he managed a small smile probably just for Sam’s sake.

Sam didn’t mind. He could be hopeful enough for the both of them.











It was odd when he knew he was dreaming.

Odder still when he could choose his own path and footsteps. It was vague and indistinct but assuredly the desert floor under his feet. The wind was no cooler or warmer than his own blood, the sky and horizon all shades of the same red. The cactus stood all around him and he could hear the soft whispering voices of men they had once been. He heard his brother’s voice recite the old story of how that could ever come to be. The sun was an oblong distorted oval hovering just at the meeting of earth and air.

Walking towards it, he wondered if it was a sunset or sunrise. As he grew closer to maybe even touch its burning smoldering shape, it faltered…

Waking, he swiftly shed the dream and emerged back into the musty motel room. Dawn was far off and it was still dark but there was plenty of light from the parking lot lamps to leak through the curtains.

Blinking, Sam looked up uncertainly.

It didn’t take him long to see the business end of a shotgun aimed directly at the center of his forehead.

“Holy sh—“

“The car…” Dean said in a low voice.

His older brother was holding the barrel steady, his face relatively calm but not very collected.

Sam realized he had raised his own hands up slowly in a gesture of compliance.

“That car is fucking full of this shit.” Dean’s gaze flickered down and off the weapon in his hands.

“It’s-It’s okay Dean.” Sam stuttered. “You’ve- you’ve been--”

Forgetting things.

Remember? Don’t you remember how you are not remembering? Sam’s frustration burned, his mouth working trying to figure out how to phrase anything at all to someone who probably felt like he just woke up into the world right at this very moment.

Who the fuck are you?” Dean demanded.

Sam felt a horrible chill spread over him like ice water.

Before he could form a single rational thought he heard something that forced him to get his shit together whether he wanted to or not. The gentle slide and clack of the shells entering the barrel were all he needed to refocus. It seemed his brother’s handle on how to operate and utilize firearms still remained perfectly intact.

Easy enough to get the weapon out of his face but not as easy to avoid the following upward strike of its butt up into his jaw.

He reached out and grabbed the weapon as it discharged deafeningly up into the ceiling, simultaneously swinging his knee up to knock his brother backwards at the same time. Flinging the rifle behind him, an elbow came up brutally against the side of his head. Seeing stars, he went crashing down back over the side of his bed.

Sam was up back on his feet just in time for a fist to catch him right in the middle of his face. The flimsy table he fell on top of gave under his weight and momentum. The lamp that sat on top of it was shattered against the corner of the jutting metal window frame. He tossed an arm up as it showered down on him with sharp shards of thick porcelain.

A booted foot came down on his chest, the agony making him wheeze for the air that was abruptly forced from his lungs. His vision flared white and for one horrible moment he thought he might pass out. When several seconds passed and he hadn’t, he began to wonder why he wasn’t being pummeled to death in the mean time.

He struggled to get up, ignoring the jagged pieces of lamp that cut into his bare knees. Head spinning and unable to get his bearings, the sudden pause in the attack made him wary of what exactly was going to happen next.

By the time Sam had managed to get back onto his feet, the room was silent of everything but his own rapid gasping breaths. He looked around in dazed confusion and saw the rifle flung in the corner.

The motel door was wide open.

Dean was gone.


To be continued…

part 4
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