grianchloch: (victor)
[personal profile] grianchloch


Back to Part One

Victor sat in his motel room going over his notes from the interviews at The Bean. He’d been glad when Reidy hadn’t suggested grabbing a beer because he really wasn’t in the mood.

“Dean’s been a wonderful employee,” Darcy had sniffled. “And Sammy’s never been any trouble.”

“You’ve met Dean’s brother?” Victor asked

“Oh yes. Most nights, when Dean’s working a shift, Sam comes by and waits for him to finish up. He does his homework at a quiet table.”

“And then Dean drives him home?”

“Sometimes, but mostly their father comes for them. We don’t see a lot of him, but he’s always very polite when he does pop in.” It was obvious that Darcy would have liked to see more of the elusive John Armstrong, as would Victor, but for very different reasons.

“Did Dean supply you with references before he started work?”

“Yes he did.”

“We’ll need to see copies of those.”

Darcy nodded.

“And is there anything else about the family you can tell me? Anything that stands out? Anything at all?”

Darcy thought for a moment then shook her head. “No, they were a nice family. There’s nothing else I can think of.”

“Thanks for your time.”

Victor and Reidy left after ordering more coffee. They walked along the marina towards their car.

“Well, that was a bust,” Reidy grumbled. “So who’s next? The landlady?”

“Yeah, sure.” Victor watched the boats bobbing in the harbour and sipped his latte.

“A little more enthusiasm? We’re on John Winchester’s tail here.”

“We won’t find him, not here. He and his boys charmed this town into believing they were regular people, and we have no idea why. There’s no motive, they weren’t running a scam, and the timings of the abductions is all wrong for Winchester to be involved. You know what I think? I think that Sam Winchester died in those woods.”

“You think Winchester killed him?”

“No, I don’t. Everything we know about him says he’s protective of those kids. Whatever else he’s done, he’s always kept them close. I think the three of them were out there and something happened, bad enough to kill Sam and put Dean in the hospital. Maybe they came across whoever’s been abducting people. I don’t know. This place is giving me a headache.” Victor pinched the bridge of his nose.

Mrs Curtis was polite and completely uninformative. She’d hired John to do some work on the house, and the family living in it had been part of the deal. He was a quiet, polite man, who adored his children, and that was why she’d given a stranger a chance. Because she believed in helping others, and the family clearly needed a fresh start.

It seemed too rehearsed to Victor, and he wondered if she knew more than she was letting on or if he was being completely paranoid and in need of a long vacation.

Now stuck in his room with plenty of channels to surf and nothing of interest playing on any of them, he switched off the lights and wandered over to the window. The curtains were open, and he could see down the hill to the lights of the marina. He thought briefly about calling Carla, but he didn’t want to get into another fight, and that was all they did now. Fight and fuck. There’d never been a problem in the bedroom, but that had turned out to be the only place they were compatible and he didn’t think it was enough to keep their marriage together.

He stared down over the town and wondered where John Winchester was right at that moment.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Doctor Bob came and went the next day, leaving Dean with plenty of antibiotics to ward off any infection, pain meds and a warning to get plenty of rest. From what Sam had seen, that wouldn’t be a problem because Dean hadn’t shown any urge to get out of bed. He also advised no exercise and definitely no hunting for at least six weeks, and that he’d be back then to give Dean the all clear.

Sam spent the rest of the morning trying to turn the pages of a book that he’d found lying open under the bed. Now he could touch things, he wanted to hone that skill. He couldn’t pick things up yet, and turning pages seemed like a good place to start. He flicked his hand across the paper, concentrating on the motion and in keeping his hand solid.

“Sam?”

Sam yelped at the female voice, and jerked his head up, banging it in the underside of the bed. He guessed that was preferable to sticking his head up into the mattress. He crawled out to find Tessa the reaper waiting for him, arms crossed.

“I’m not going with you,” he snapped, glaring at her.

“Well that saves me asking if you’d changed your mind.” Tessa looked around the room, her gaze softening when it landed on Dean.

“Why can’t he see me?” Sam asked.

“Living people can’t usually see the dead. You know that more than most, Sam.”

“Yeah, I do, but he needs to be able to see me. He can hear me sometimes but he thinks he’s hallucinating.”

Dean lay on the bed, oblivious to the conversation going on in the corner of the room. Sam had seen him wounded, exhausted, dead on his feet, but he’d never seen him so bereft. Dull eyes gazed at the TV at the bottom of the bed but from the way he was letting the same infomercials cycle round and round, Sam doubted he was watching it.

“He’ll feel better if he can see me,” Sam insisted.

“Sam, he can feel you, and the longer you stay, the worse it’ll be for him. When someone dies, the ones they leave behind slowly move on with their lives, but Dean can’t do that while you’re still here.”

Sam bit his lip. They’d made a pact, sworn an oath, and he couldn’t break it. He walked over to the bed and waved his hand in front of Dean’s eyes. It went un-noticed, so Sam reached out and touched Dean’s shoulder, squeezing it.

Immediately, Dean blinked, focusing on the TV. His fingers twitched towards the remote lying on the worn blue quilt and closed around it.

“Give it a rest, George,” Dean grunted and changed the channel.

“Huh.”

Sam heard the soft sound behind him and spun around to face Tessa.

“See? If he could see me, he would feel even better,” Sam pleaded.

“I can’t make him see you, Sam. Only you can do that.”

“But how?”

She was gone before he could ask more questions. Something slinked around his ankles and he jumped away, staring around, wide eyed. A small ginger cat stared back at him.

“Hey kitty. You can see me, right?”

As if in answer, the cat trotted over on delicate paws and rubbed its head on his shin. Sam crouched down and ran a hand over her fur. He was rewarded with a throaty purr.

“Are you a ghost too?”

The cat butted his hand, then jumped onto the bed.

“What the … where did you come from?” Dean asked the cat as it padded up the bed towards him. As soon as it was in reach, he smoothed his hand over the same patch of fur Sam had touched seconds earlier.

“He can see you!”

Sam watched as Dean petted her and scratched behind her ears. She looked over at Sam, a smug smile on her face as she gave herself up to Dean’s attentions.

Sam was almost certain that Dean hadn’t been able to see the cat until she’d jumped on the bed. Until she’d wanted him too. Sam concentrated, thought about being solid, imagined that he was becoming visible, but Dean didn’t see him. When Dean found a movie to watch, some old western, he eased himself down onto his side. Sam jumped up on the bed behind him, and curled against his back as the cat curled up in front of him.

Dean dozed, watched over by two ghosts.


John didn’t get back until after dark, and Dean woke up as he came through the door.

“I brought pizza.”

John lay the offering on the bed. A still sleepy Dean opened the box, and took out a slice, biting off the corner and chewing it slowly.

That, to Sam, was another sign that Dean wasn’t himself. Dean always wolfed pizza down. Sam suddenly realized that he’d never taste pizza again. He sat down on the floor with a thud that only he heard. He’d never taste anything again. Not creamy ice cream or salty popcorn or sticky sweet pie. Nothing. Sam put his head in his hands. He’d never eat or drink or shit or piss again. He didn’t need sleep and the only person he could talk to was a reaper. Sam lowered his hands, pressing them against shoulders that didn’t really exist, then he wrapped his arms around his waist which wasn’t real either.
He didn’t realize he was crying until he hiccupped out a sob, hysteria bubbling in his chest because none of it was real now, he didn’t need to breathe, he probably didn’t even have lungs in his figment of a body, and he sure as hell couldn’t be producing real tears.

John stood up, and as he turned to go, he almost stepped right through Sam, who scooted away and looked up at his father. It was as though he was four again, looking up the long length of his Dad’s legs. Sam reached up, hands begging to catch John’s attention, for John to smile down at him and scoop him up, sit him on his hip and let him crush his face against his neck. Sam would have given anything to be safe in John’s arms again, knowing that nothing could hurt him, but that was something else that was gone forever.

Chest heaving, he let his arms fall back to his sides, and stared down at the old blue carpet. Above his head, the conversation went on, a conversation he couldn’t be part of.

“Yell if you need anything,” John instructed Dean.

“Can I have a beer?”

“You know you can’t, not yet.”

“I’m counting down the days.”

“G’d night, Dean.”

Dean didn’t answer.

By the time John left the room, Sam was back on the bed, shivering against Dean’s side, craving acknowledgement. Something, anything would do, but he didn’t know how to prompt it. He sank through the bedcovers, thinking it might soothe him, but it wasn’t the same as having a body to burrow underneath them with. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it didn’t feel right either, so he stopped trying and settled on top instead.

“I miss you, Dean,” he whispered, his heart breaking as he realized that this was how Dean must feel. Loss and grief pulling him further and further down.

“Miss you too, Sammy,” Dean mumbled.

A flicker of hope sparked in Sam’s chest. Dean might think he was hallucinating, but Sam knew better. He pushed away the hopelessness that had begun to smother him and resolved that however long it took, he’d make Dean see him.


For the first few days, John changed Dean’s dressings, but after that, Dean was able to manage it himself. Sam watched intently each time, needing the reassurance of seeing the wounds looking a little better every day.

And once John knew that Dean was okay on his own, he started hunting again and was away from the place more than he was there. The first time he left, Sam took a perverse pleasure in yelling at him, letting out all the frustrations and anger that had built up over the years, but his ranting came to an abrupt halt when John turned and looked back at the apartment. The depth of the sadness Sam saw in his eyes threatened to drag Sam back down again, but he couldn’t let that happen. He watched John leave, determined to make Dean see him, to show his brother that it was okay, he was still around. If he could do that, maybe it would help them all begin to heal.

So while Dean watched TV, gradually getting restless as the days went by, Sam threw himself into studying, only this time it wasn’t math or history or chemistry, it was himself. He left Dean alone, and worked in the rest of the house, so if he was successful in moving things, Dean wouldn’t see until Sam was ready for him to.

The small ginger cat often joined him, purring around his ankles and putting up with being picked up and cuddled when Sam managed to knock a spoon onto the floor. Its fur was warm, and Sam could feel the rumble of a purr in its small chest, which led him to more questions. Was it alive, and if so, the fact he could pick it up must be a major victory. Or was it dead like he was? Sam swung round, and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror that hung on the wall out in the hall. He walked towards it, still carrying the cat, and looked at himself, scrutinising every hair, every pose, every wrinkle in the fabric of the clothes he was wearing. Why could he see himself? How was that different from other people seeing him? He turned so the cat could also see herself. Inscrutable green eyes met their counterpart in the mirror, blinked, and she was gone. Sam was left with empty arms and no answers to his growing list of questions.

“Tessa?” Sam yelled, then again, then he decided it might not be the best of ideas to summon a reaper in case she got the wrong idea.

Sam went back to his practice, and by the end of the week, he could pick the spoon up. Not only that, but he could feel it in his hand as if both of them were solid and real. He let out a whoop of joy, brandishing the spoon as he leapt into the air. He landed, then looked around as if someone might have seen him being a dork. The fact that no-one could see him didn’t throw him into despair this time, it gave him a sense of freedom. He jumped up again, spoon still firmly in his fist, turning as he landed and shaking his butt. With a grin, he ran down the corridor that led to the bedrooms then back again, sliding to a halt on the polished tiles, and twisting his hips so he faced into the kitchen again. He laughed, not bothering about how loud he was being, and took a running jump onto the couch, rolling into a ball, and falling off onto the floor which only made him laugh harder.

He jumped back on the couch, bouncing up and down as hard as he could, arms waving, knees pulled up to his chest as if he were on a trampoline. Up and down and round and round until he began to feel dizzy, which only spurred him on to leap from the couch onto one of the chairs and back again.

“Dad? You back?”

Sam saw a half asleep Dean standing in the hall, and not expecting him to be up and about, Sam misjudged his next leap. He ended up in an ungainly heap at Dean’s feet. The spoon clattered to the floor, the noise drawing both their attentions. Sam instinctively reached for it, just as Dean bent down to pick it up, and their hands met.

It was different this time. Sam’s fingers closed around the spoon, then Dean’s closed around his. Sam’s face was only inches away from Dean’s and he saw the exact moment when Dean realised that there was something else there, not just the spoon. Dean’s eyes widened and he let go as if he’d been stung, rubbing his fingers on his sweatpants.

Dean straightened up and backed off, eyeing the spoon as if it was a cobra, tensed to strike again. He walked back towards his bedroom, but went into John’s instead, and when he came out, he had an EMF meter in his hand.

“No, no, no,” Sam whispered, and slunk off to hide behind the couch. Not that it would hide him, but he felt better putting it between them.

He wasn’t ready. If Dean didn’t know it was him, he might try to rid the house of spirits, and end up banishing Sam in the process.

Dean flicked the switch, and the meter flared into life, screeching and lighting up like a Christmas tree. Sam slowly stood up, and watched as Dean pointed the meter at the spoon, then back into the room. He looked around, eyes flicking over the corner Sam was in without seeing him. Sam braced himself. Now Dean would call Caleb, see if the place had a record of haunting or he would call John, and make sure they had enough supplies in to deal with it.

Sam didn’t expect Dean to switch off the meter, take it back to where it had come from, and wander back to the kitchen to make himself a coffee. Dean sipped on the hot black liquid, looking out of the window and off into the trees. Sam wondered if they stirred the same memories in Dean as they did in himself. Of the day their lives changed forever. When Dean shuddered and looked away, Sam got his answer.

Dean spent the day looking through the pile of books John had stacked in the corner of the room. He’d glanced at the current research that John had pinned on the wall, but had turned away from it, and Sam worried that something inside Dean was broken altogether. He’d never shown so little interest in a hunt. And after spending the afternoon reading up on ghosts, he tidied all the books but one away instead of leaving them in a sprawl on the table as he usually would. From that, Sam took it that Dean didn’t want John to know what he was researching. Another first.

Sam didn’t take much notice when Dean rang in an order to have pizza delivered. He was too busy reading the book Dean had left on the table. With supreme effort, he managed to turn a page, then spent the next few minutes working on turning it back again in case Dean noticed the difference.

When the pizza arrived, Dean’s face fell when he opened the box. Black olives littered half of it, and Sam realised that Dean must have been on autopilot when he ordered it. Dean hated black olives. They were Sam’s favourite. Dean ate the untainted half of the pizza, then picked them off, leaving a small, sad pile of olives in the corner of the pizza box.

Dean turned the TV on, but seeing South Park had Dean flicking away from it, then flicking back a couple of minutes later. Sam curled up on the couch close to Dean and pretended it was before he died, when they would watch it together.

Dean took his meds before he headed to bed, and stared out of the window again as he turned off the lights.

“It’s too quiet,” he whispered to the room, then raised his voice. “It’s too damned quiet!” he yelled.

Sam waited on the bed as Dean used the bathroom and slammed into the bedroom.

“Fuck, fuck,” he muttered to himself.

Sam got it. When there was no-one around to hear, you eventually gave up and started talking to yourself.

That night, he tried to sleep. It ended up being more like switching off, and he startled out of it when Dean woke up the next morning, thrashing about in the throes of a nightmare.

He pushed aside his concerns about how he would have snapped out of his off state if there hadn’t been anything to shock him out of it, and tried to calm a still half asleep Dean down.

“It’s okay, Dean, it’s not real.”

“It was real. You died.”

“You can hear me?” Sam shot upright, staring at his brother.

“Course I can hear you.”

“But why can’t you see me?”

“Because you’re not really here, squirt. Dreamin’.”

“I am, Dean! I’m right here!” Sam waved his hand in front of Dean’s eyes. But Dean had fallen back to sleep.

“FUCK!!” Sam grabbed handfuls of his hair and pulled on it, the frustration enough to drive anyone crazy. He jumped off the bed, ran through the door and went to mess with the cutlery again, using the rage to fuel his efforts. He was beginning to understand how ghosts got so mad at everyone.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Victor and Reidy left Albion swarming with cops and feds and rangers and headed back to DC.

“Carla?” Victor shouted as he let himself into his apartment.

“Vic, I wasn’t expecting you back so soon.”

“They brought us back to work on another organized crime case ...” Victor trailed off as he found her in the living room, surrounded by boxes. He dropped his bag and shook his head. “So you were leaving me while I was out of town? Real classy.”

“I’m sorry Vic, but we’ve talked about this.”

“Talked, yes, but ... never mind. Just, leave me enough to make coffee in the morning. That’s all I ask.”

He picked up his bag and took it into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. When he emerged later, fresh from a long shower, an old pair of sweats hanging low on his hips, Carla and her boxes were gone. There was a pink post it note stick to the fridge door with “Call me” scrawled on it. Victor pulled it off, scrunched it up into a little ball and threw it in the direction of the waste basket. He grabbed a cold beer and a bag of chips and threw himself down on the couch, thankful she’d left the TV. He found a baseball game to watch which reminded him that it was a while since he’d called his folks. Even longer since he’d visited. He decided to put off the call home until he’d had a few days to process that his marriage just disintegrated. Right now he was surprised that he felt relieved that it was over without another fight.

He still cared for Carla, but as their relationship had begun to unravel, Victor had found himself more aware of the alternative. He’d never have cheated on Carla, but he wasn’t blind. He saw the looks a guy at the gym gave him, sizing him up, lingering on his ass. The last time, he’d picked the treadmill next to Victor’s despite there being plenty of free machines in the row. He’d smiled and nodded, pushing his blond hair back from his face as he began to run. Victor stole a glance or two, admiring the view, but had cut his run short and left for the showers with an almost apologetic shrug. Now, there wasn’t anything to stop him taking up offers if he felt like it. He’d not touched another man since before the academy, but maybe, he mused, it was exactly what he needed.

After another handful of beers, he fell asleep sprawled over the bed. Morning brought a mild hangover, and in a small act of rebellion against himself, he left the bed unmade when he headed out to work. One of his faults, according to Carla, was that he was too much of a neat freak. He grudgingly had to agree that she might have been right when it bugged him all the way to the office that he’d be sleeping in an unmade bed that night.

“We’re going to California!” Reidy greeted him when he arrived.

Victor eyed him. “Not until I’ve had another coffee and why are we going?” he grumbled.

“John Winchester’s been spotted by the local field office.” Reidy produced a picture which showed a man with a beard coming out of a store.

Victor snatched it off him and studied it. “Yeah, that’s definitely him. Have they picked him up yet?”

“No, they lost him, but the AD is confident that they’ll have him by the end of the day.”

Victor started to laugh. He put the picture on his desk and looked up at Reidy. “They won’t find him. He’ll be long gone by now. There’s only one reason he’d be out there. As a distraction. The family he took with him when he dropped off the grid is in tatters. One dead son, one badly injured, and he’s sunning himself out in California? I don’t buy it. And he knew he was being watched.”

“How can you know that?”

“Because he’s looking straight at the camera.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Two days later, John arrived home with a big new truck, and Caleb behind the wheel of the Impala.

Dean’s spirits lifted at having people around to talk to and at having the Impala back. John dropped the keys into his hand and gave him a fleeting smile.

“She’s all yours. Take care of her.”

“You know I will.” Dean smiled, the first time Sam had seen him smile since before the accident.

He headed for the door, Sam in tow as always, even if Dean didn’t know he was there.

“You can’t drive for another couple of weeks, Dean,” John reminded him.

“I know, I just wanna make sure she’s okay.”

He walked slowly down the stairs from the apartment to the parking lot, then paused as he reached for the door handle.

“Hey baby,” Dean whispered. “It’s good to have you back.”

Sam watched Dean’s fingers linger there for another few minutes as he looked her over. Finally he pulled open the door. The creak of the door opening was so familiar that Sam felt as if he was home. He dived in and sat in the passenger seat as Dean eased himself behind the wheel. Dean turned the engine over and let her purr while he dug out a tape to slip into the player. He let out a soft sigh, and let his head drop back to rest against the leather.

One hand slipped across the seat, to where Sam’s would usually lie if he were sitting in his usual place. Sam obliged, shifting around until it felt like it had before when he and Dean had the car to themselves. He slipped his hand under Dean’s and could have sworn Dean’s fingers tightened around it.

The next thing Sam knew was a rapping sound on the window, and Caleb peering in at Dean. Dean woke up, stretching and wincing when he forgot to take his stitches into account. Caleb pulled the door open and grinned at him.

“Something told me you’d be communing with her. Anyone ever tell you that being this attached to a car was unnatural?”

“Bite me,” Dean growled, but with the hint of a smile. “It’s good to have her back,”

“I know, man. Listen, I didn’t get the chance to say it before, but I’m sorry, about Sam. How you holding up?”

“I ... I guess I’ll be okay,” Dean muttered, then forced a smile. “Better now she’s back and she’s mine. Feels less like I’ve lost everything,” Dean admitted.

Caleb nodded. “Listen, Bobby was asking how you were. He’s got a whole pile of junkers in the yard and no time to work on them. I think he could do with some help.”

“Yeah?”

“Now John’s thrown himself back in the game, it can’t be much fun being here on your own.”

Sam wanted to hug Caleb. Sam couldn’t blame John for hunting again. It was how he dealt with things, losing himself in his work, but Dean needed someone to talk to. Dean didn’t do well on his own, Sam knew that, and he was glad someone else who cared about him knew that too.

Caleb came by more often after that. Sometimes to watch a movie, sometimes to take Dean down to a local bar, on the understanding he couldn’t drink for at least another couple of weeks.

On the odd night John stayed at the apartment, it was as if neither him nor Dean knew what to say to each other anymore. The loss of Sam hung between them, and Sam could only watch from the outside as they drifted further apart.

On Doctor Bob’s next visit he confirmed that the wounds had healed well and that Dean could ease back into working out and eventually hunting once he was back up to full strength.

“Remember, take it easy. Nothing too strenuous for a few weeks. You’ll have to build your strength back up.”

“Sure thing, Doc.” Dean grinned for the first time in weeks.

Doctor Bob rolled his eyes, shook Dean’s hand and left, muttering about the impetuousness of youth.

Dean set himself a training program. Running morning and evening, weights, kickboxing and strength training in between. Sam jogged along with him, and watched as he threw himself into getting back into shape.

He mentioned going hunting one night to John, and Sam expected him to agree straight away, but John didn’t. His suggestion that Dean find a job in town for a while was met with shock, and Dean sat stony faced for the rest of the night.

The next morning, there was breakfast and coffee from the nearby diner waiting for Dean on the table. John sat sipping his and going through a couple of manuscripts. Sam slipped onto a spare chair as Dean sat down and reached for his coffee.

“I’m going to head to Bobby’s for a few weeks,” Dean announced.

John looked up from his reading. He nodded slowly.

“Okay.”

“Okay? I was expecting to have to put up more of a fight.”

“It might do you good, taking a break from all this. And … I can’t lose you too.” John looked away, and it was Dean’s turn to nod.

“What about the poltergeist?” Dean pointed at the papers on the table.

“I’ll bring Caleb in on it.”

“Okay then.”

Sam didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed that John let Dean go so easily. And he wondered if Dean felt the same.

After breakfast, John helped Dean pack the car, and gave him a hug before he left that was longer than Sam could remember John’s rare hugs being.

“One thing,” John said. “Leave whatever’s in Albion to me. I screwed up, so it’s down to me. I’ll call you if I find out anything.”

Dean nodded and Sam wondered if John would call.

Dean took his time getting to South Dakota, letting the Impala have her head and sleeping late in run down motels after nights of hustling pool and poker. Sam rode shotgun and watched over Dean while he was sleeping. Now he knew what all those people he’d met over the years had meant when they said that they felt their dear departed loved ones were watching over them. And increasingly, Sam got the feeling that Dean really did know he was around, even though he wouldn’t acknowledge it.

When Dean slowed his journey down and picked up a girl in the next town, Sam stayed in the Impala until she left at dawn. Sam peeked his head into the room, but the sight of Dean in an ungainly sprawl across the bed, a contented smile on his face, was enough to send Sam out again and he spent the morning exploring the small town. After overhearing several private conversations more by accident than design, he thought that being a ghost held some advantages when it came to hunting. He’d be able to find out all kinds of things that people usually kept to themselves.

The next night, in a different town, Dean drank too much and wove his way back to the motel, stubbing his toe on the bed frame as he stumbled about pulling his clothes off. He fell onto the bed still more than half dressed, one boot on, one boot off.

Sam put his training into practice. When Dean woke up in the morning, he was tucked under the covers, both boots sitting neatly by the bed, his jeans and shirt folded at the bottom of the bed. He scrubbed a hand over his face and shook his head.

“I’m a neat freak in my sleep?” he wondered to himself.

Sam grinned, and set himself a goal. Before Dean left Bobby’s, he would be able to see Sam.

Finally, there was nothing to keep Dean from arriving at Bobby’s and when he did, he cried like a baby while Bobby held him. When he was done, Bobby fed him and made sure he knew he could stay as long as he liked and that he’d always have a roof over his head if he needed one.

Sam hugged Bobby and thanked him for being there to look after Dean. He may not have been able to make himself heard yet, but he hoped that some of the gratitude he felt would find Bobby in some way or other.

Sam could see the tension in Dean easing as he helped out around the place. He fixed up a car or two while he gave the Impala a once over, and manned the phones for Bobby now and then. Sam now had plenty of space to practice, and he ran around the yard, hollering and whooping just like he’d done when he was a little kid.

He skidded to a halt when he saw a dog sitting in the middle of the yard, it’s tongue lolling out of its mouth.

“Buster?”

Buster yipped, picked up a toy that was lying by his paws and trotted over to Sam, dropping it by his feet and looking up at him hopefully. Sam bent down and patted him, making Buster squirm happily, then he threw the toy and Buster went chasing after it.

“I see I’ve been sending you the wrong tutors. Cats can be very cryptic but dogs are much more literal.”

“Tessa.” Sam wasn’t sure how he felt about the reaper turning up, but found himself glad to have someone to talk to. “It’s kind of good to see you.”

“Just kind of?” She grinned.

“Why’s Buster still here? He died years ago.”

“He’s waiting for Bobby. Dogs do that. Cats are more fluid. It has something to do with them having nine lives.”

“You said they’re cryptic. What did you mean?”

“Remember last time I told you that there are some things you have to work out for yourself? All I can say is that cats can come and go anywhere they choose at any time. They aren’t bound to life or afterlife like humans are. That’s one of the reasons they were worshiped in certain cultures.”

“Huh.” That was a lot for Sam to take in.

“How are you really, Sam? You know if you ever want to cross over, all you have to do is call for me.”

“I know, and thanks, but I’m fine, honestly. I can move stuff, and touch things, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be able to see me soon.”

“Good.” Her smile was kind, but Sam could see the sadness behind it. He wondered what it would be like, helping dead people crossover all the time.

“Do you give everyone this one on one treatment?”

“No, mostly those that choose not to cross over are left alone.”

“So why me?”

“Maybe I’ve got a soft spot for you.” She smiled again, and then she was gone.

Buster came charging back, and Sam got caught up in the game of fetch. On the far side of the yard, Dean was working on a car, putting his weight behind loosening a bolt. As the game progressed, Sam and Buster wove their way towards him.

As they rounded the corner of a pile of cars, Sam threw the toy which landed by the car Dean was working on. Dean jerked his head up, hitting it on the underside of the car’s hood. He turned around to see where the noise had come from and Sam saw him bend down to pick up the toy, and turn around. He knew the second Dean saw him because he visibly paled and dropped the toy to the ground. It squeaked again as it landed, and Dean yelped as Buster barreled towards it and snatched it up, racing back to where Sam stood. Dean shook his head and after a moment, he went back to work.

“Dean,” Sam called softly, but Dean ignored him. "Dean!" He yelled, his voice edged with annoyance.

Dean stood up straight, still refusing to turn around.

"I know you can see me and you can ignore me all you like, but I'm not going anywhere."

Sam stomped over to the car and stood with his arms folded. Slowly, Dean turned, dropping the wrench he'd picked up.

“Sammy?”

"'bout time." Sam grumbled.

Buster bounced around, still waiting for Sam to throw his toy. Sam obliged, and the dog bounded after it with a happy bark.

"Is that … Buster?" Dean asked, wide eyed.

Sam grinned. Of all the thing he’d thought Dean would say when he knew Sam was still around, Sam couldn’t have guessed it would be that.

"You can see him too? Cool! He's waiting for Bobby. That's what dogs do. They wait around for their owners to die, then they cross over with them. Dog ghosts aren't the same as human ghosts." Sam explained, matter of factly. "Cats are different though. Tessa says cats can come and go as they please."

"Tessa?" Dean choked out.

Sam nodded.

"Tessa's a reaper. She was there the night of the accident. You saw her before you went back. Don’t you remember?"

Dean shook his head. “Not really. I thought it was a nightmare. There was a dark haired woman who wanted to take you away.”

“That’s Tessa. I’ve told her I don’t want to cross over, but she keeps tabs on me anyway.”

"Sammy," Dean finally croaked out. "You're a … ghost?"

"Duh." Sam rolled his eyes.

"Where've you been?"

"Wherever you've been." Sam shrugged. "It's taken me this long to learn how to appear, and to do other stuff. I talked to you, when you were in hospital, but you didn’t answer me."

"Why didn't you cross over?"

"We swore to each other that we'd stay together, remember? I couldn't leave you, so I stayed."

Dean tentatively reached out. His fingertips touched Sam's shoulder, solid and flannel covered. Dean snatched his hand back, cradling it as if he'd been burnt.

"Neat, huh?" Sam grinned.

"Neat? Sam, Sammy, this is so fucked up."

"It doesn't have to be." Sam insisted.

"You should have gone with the reaper."

"If it had been the other way round, would you have gone?"

"No!" Dean yelled, then added softly, "No, I wouldn't."

"Then don't be such a hypocrite."

Buster arrived back, biting down on the toy in his mouth and making it squeak. Sam took it from him and threw it again.

"And it's not so bad. I get to have dogs. I always wanted a pet."

"But what happens now? What are you going to do?"

"What are you gonna do?" Sam shot back.

"I don’t know. Stay here for a while ‘til I figure things out, I guess, then head out. Dad gave me the Impala.”

“I know, I was there, and I came here with you.”

Realization dawned on Dean’s face. “You put me to bed that night!”

“And I slept in the car the night before.” Sam scrunched his nose up in distaste, then grinned as Dean blushed. "I'll come with you, when you go." Sam made it sound so easy.

"Will Bobby be able to see you?" Dean asked, looking fearful that Sam could be taken away from him again.

"I don't know. Why don't we find out?"

Sam ran off towards the house, Buster following behind, barking happily.

"Sam, damn it, come back!" Dean yelled.

"What's all the racket for, boy?" Bobby emerged from the house onto the porch.

"Um, nothing," Dean stammered as Sam danced around Bobby who walked down the steps and picked up the squeaky toy lying at the bottom of them.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say old Buster was haunting this place." He picked it up, and threw it, much further than Sam had. With a yip, Buster took off, chasing away through the cars.

Dean looked up at Bobby and wondered if he should tell him that Sam was dancing around on the porch, making faces at him. He decided against it.



~*~*~*~*~*~*~


The first time Dean saw another ghost, he completely freaked out, which Sam found hilarious, given that Dean was a big bad hunter and all.

Dean had offered to pick up some supplies Bobby needed from a contact a couple of states over. Sam knew he was itching to take the Impala out on a long run. Sam rode shotgun, singing along to AC/DC. When Dean got hungry, they stopped in the next town and were looking for somewhere to eat when they walked past a graveyard. A freshly dug grave sat neatly at the bottom of a grassy bank and a man was standing beside it, looking down. He seemed confused, and Sam wandered towards him. Dean followed, grumbling about boy scouts and good deeds and wondering what Sam thought he could do for him anyway.

The man turned towards them, and glanced down at Sam, smiling and ruffling his hair. Sam smiled back, but Dean panicked.

“He can see you? He can see you! How the hell can he see you?”

“Because he’s like me. He’s a ghost, not long dead. A reaper will come for him soon.”

“So how can I see him?” Dean asked, paling. Sam supposed that although Dean had seen ghosts before, usually they were howling about, or throwing things, or threatening lives. None of them had just been standing around as if they were waiting for a bus.

“Maybe because you almost crossed over too, the night I … the night of the hunt,” Sam mused. “He’s here, but he’s also there, where we were. Remember the shadows and the quiet? He’s waiting, but he’s lingering here too.”

Sam reached out and took Dean’s hand, his eyes wide. Dean squeezed it, a reassurance that he was safe, that everything was okay.

“The reaper’s come for him,” Sam whispered.

The old man turned, face lit by a light that Dean couldn’t see. Sam noticed that the man wasn’t quite solid. If he concentrated hard, he could see the grass and flowers through him. The man smiled and nodded, and as Sam and Dean watched, he reached out, and slowly began to disintegrate on the breeze into a host of little lights which dissipated into the sunlight. Then they were alone in the grave yard again.

“Has the reaper gone?” Dean asked, worry in his voice.

“Yeah. No-one bothers me now but Tessa, and I know she only does it because she’s got a soft spot for me.” Sam smiled, but he shivered. “She won’t tell me what’s on the other side.” He pulled his hand from Dean’s and ran off, whooping through the grave yard. “And I don’t want to know!!” He yelled at the top of his lungs. He didn’t know himself if it was in defiance towards reapers or if he was making the most of not being able to be heard.

On their way back to Bobby’s, with a trunk full of boxes, Dean booked into a motel for a couple of nights. It felt almost like being home, Dean lying on the bed nearest the door, Sam on the other, watching bad movies and laughing together. On Saturday morning, Dean sat in a decent diner in the middle of town, sipping coffee and minding his own business.

Sam left him to it, wandering into a second hand book store a couple of doors down. He lost himself in the book stacks, hiding towards the back and pulling a couple off the shelf to flick through.

“Sam.”

Sam heard Dean’s whispered summons, impressed that he could hear Dean from where he was. He put down the book on ancient spirits he’d been reading and thought his way to where Dean was sitting. His brother was finishing his coffee, and smirked at Sam.

“You done? I’m bored.” Sam swung his legs, kicking the underside of the table.

Dean settled up, smiling at the waitress, and they wandered out into the sunshine.

“So I’m thinking once we get the stuff back to Bobby, it’s time we moved on.”

“Are we hunting again?” Sam bounced on the balls of his feet.

“I don’t know,” Dean sighed.

“So what? We’ll travel around and if anything supernatural happens to be around, we deal with it? How is that not hunting?”

“You’re a wise ass with a smart mouth.” Dean grumbled and stalked off.

“I learned from the best!” Sam yelled at Dean’s retreating back and ran to catch up. “You didn’t kill me, Dean, neither did Dad. It was the monster. Hunting’s what we do.”

“I know,” Dean huffed.

Sam walked side by side with Dean and dug his hand into Dean’s pocket, threading his fingers through his brother’s. Dean held on tight all the way back to the motel.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Back at Bobby’s, the debate raged over whether to tell him about Sam or not before they left.

“What if he sends me away?”

“He won’t, and if he tries, well, we’ll leave and not come back.”

Sam bit his lip, and nodded reluctantly.

They picked their time. After dinner one night, Dean got out the shot glasses and a bottle of decent whiskey that he’d picked up on the supply run.

“I need to tell you something.”

“I’m all ears.” Bobby watched as Dean poured them both a shot, and sat down opposite him.

“Sam’s here. Well, I mean he’s … well, he’s a ghost.” Dean spat out, slumping in the chair.

“You don’t say.” Bobby raised an eyebrow and downed his shot.

“Wait, what? You knew?”

“I had an inkling. It’s been kind of noisy around here since you moved in.”

“Oh, right.”

“Is he here now?”

Sam picked the shot glass off the table and tossed it from one hand to the other before placing it back where he got it from.

“Hi Sam.” Bobby smiled at Dean.

“I was worried that you might …”

“Want to get rid of him? No, boy. When it comes to your brother, I know there’s nothing on heaven or earth or even in hell that could keep the two of you apart.”

“Thanks Bobby.” Dean knocked back another shot.

“So what do you plan on doing?”

“Go back to hunting, I guess. It’s what I know. And Sam may be small. Ow!” Dean winced away as Sam swatted his head. “But he’ll be useful in a fight.”

“Just … be careful. And I don’t just mean with hunting. You know what hunters are like. Most of them see the world in black and white and if they get a whiff of a ghost, they ain’t gonna ask if it’s friendly before they try and deal with it. If you deal with other hunters, make sure Sam stays clear.”

Dean nodded, and Bobby went on.

“What’s he tied to?”

Sam looked at Dean. It was one thing they’d not discussed yet and he wondered what Dean thought.

“At first, I thought it was the Impala. He bled over her seats plenty of times, for all he was only fourteen years old.”

Bobby nodded. “Sounds about right.”

“But she was nowhere near the hospital when I was in there, and Dad took her on hunts while I was laid up. I think he’s tied to me.”

“That’s a rare thing, but you kids never did anything else by the book, so why would this be any different?”

Dean nodded with a smile and listened as Bobby gave him leads on a couple of small hunts.

“So you can ease your way back to it.” Bobby grinned.

Sam left them to it and spent the rest of the evening playing with Buster.

The next morning, Bobby helped Dean stock the Impala up with supplies.

“So we’ll maybe swing by in a couple of weeks?”

“Any time, you know that son.” Bobby hugged him, and waved them off.

As they drove away, Sam glanced back at the porch where Buster sat, his ears drooping as he watched Sam drive away. But Bobby picked up the squeaky toy and threw it. As Buster bounced around happily, and bounded away after it, Sam wondered if Bobby did know Buster was waiting for him after all.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


It was a year before they had another brush with the FBI. Sam was checking out the other cars in the parking lot of the motel when he saw Victor first. The tall man flashed his badge at Mr. Anderson, the motel owner, and showed him a photograph of Dean. For once, the motel owner was invested in keeping Dean safe. It had been his family that they’d saved from a poltergeist. He shook his head, shrugging when Victor asked him to make sure he hadn’t seen him.

“Try the diner a few blocks over,” Sam heard him say. “They get a lot of passing trade.”

Sam waited until they left, then focused on Dean and he was back in the room. He shook his brother’s shoulder.

“Dean, the Feds are poking around, asking about you. Mr. Anderson’s on his way to warn you too.”

“Sammy?”

“Move, Dean. Now.”

Dean shot out of bed and started pulling his stuff together. There was a soft knock at the door.

“Dean, open the door.” Mr. Anderson hissed. As soon as Dean did so, he slipped into the room. “There was an FBI agent looking for you. I got rid of him, but he was very persistent.”

“It’s okay, I was outta here anyway.”

“I sent Pete to open the back gate, save you driving onto main street.”

“Thanks. I’ll be gone in a few minutes and he won’t bother you again.”

“Okay. And thanks. Again. For everything.”

Dean managed a smile. “No problem. It’s in the job description.”

In the corner, Sam was hopping from foot to foot, waiting for Mr. Anderson to leave.

Dean shook hands with him, and the man slipped back out the door.

“He had a copy of your mug shot. We need to get out of here.”

“Okay squirt, quit bouncing around and go and start the car. We’ll head to Bobby’s. Lay low for a while.” Dean moved towards his bag, throwing the last of his clothes into it. He scoured the room, leaving it only when he knew there was nothing left to tie him to the place.

Outside, the Impala sprang to life. Dean ran out, pulling the door open. Sam teaching himself to mentally hotwire the Impala had been one of his best ideas. Minutes later, they were leaving the motel behind and heading towards South Dakota.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


When Dean stayed at Bobby’s, Sam liked having the run of the house. After Bobby and Dean fell asleep, he’d often hit the books, helping either or both of them with the research he knew his brother hated. But the last few hours of darkness were always spent the same way. While Dean slept in the single bed in one of Bobby’s rooms, with Sam curled against him. Sam didn’t sleep, but his presence soothed Dean, so he stayed with him.

Sometimes, Tessa would sit on the end of the bed, watching, trying to persuade Sam to cross over. Sam always asked the same thing.

“What is there for me to do there?”

And he always got the same answer.

“You know I can’t tell you.”

“Then I’m staying here.”

Sam liked it at Bobby’s. There was Buster, and Sam enjoyed running round the yard, yelling as Buster barked, no need to keep quiet. He’d never had a dog growing up and had always wanted one. It had been one of the drawbacks of living on the road. He often played with others that Tessa brought with her when he and Dean were on the road. They missed their owners and he was happy to be able to make the wait a little better for them.

He liked the cats too, but for a different reason. They intrigued him, the way they could cross over and come back between whichever life whichever life they happened to be living and the next one. The idea fascinated him. He wondered why they had that ability, one that would make things so much simpler for him. He watched as they slinked out of one world into the next and he envied them and he wondered if he tied a small camera around their necks, if they’d come back and reveal the secrets of the ages.

He was sitting on the roof of Bobby’s shed, watching Dean work on a car that looked as if it might run again, given a little attention. Sam liked that he could be anywhere he wanted to be, and not have to be afraid of falling off or getting hurt. That part of being a ghost was cool. He felt a tickle on his arm, and looked down to see a small black cat nudging him and purring. He smiled and petted it, scratching behind it’s ears. The cat purred louder, and looked up at him with green eyes slitted against the sun.

“Wonder what you were called,” he mused. “Or maybe you’re not a ghost.”

She mewed and jumped into his lap, curling up and settling there. As he stroked her, he got the vaguest impression of a kitchen, bright and clean, old wooden doors. He shook his head, but it was still there, even when he closed his eyes. In one corner was a small bowl on the floor, and he could just make out what was written on it.

“Lucky,” Sam said out loud.

The small cat stood up, and nuzzled her head against his chest, her purr now a deep grumble, as if she was pleased with him.

“Did you just show me your name?”

Again, he was softly butted and he stroked her fur. He sat very still and wondered at the possibilities. If he could learn a cat’s name, maybe he could learn more. He glanced down at his brother before lying back and letting the cat settle on his chest, wondering what else she had to show him.

After that, when he encountered cats, he played with them, petted them, and asked them their secrets. Some of them shared slivers of knowledge with him, some of them didn’t, and Sam didn’t know how to put it all together. Again and again, he watched as they moved backwards and forwards, smiles on their faces, and a sharp light in their eyes. If he could master that, if he could come and go as he pleased, then he could cross over, as the pull and tug always wanted him to do, but he could come back.

He asked Tessa about it once, if it was something he could learn to do, but she shook her head.

“It’s a gift they are born with, it can’t be taught.”

But Sam wondered anyway.

Part Three

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