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Fic: Looking Through Windows 1/3

Title: Looking Through Windows
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Background Dean/Lisa and Sam/Jess
Summary: Sam Winchester had turned his back on his father's world, but now something has taken his son and he'll do anything to get it back. Including calling his brother.

Sam had always been a light sleeper, mostly because of his upbringing. It was just as much Dean as his father when it came time to place blame for that little quirk; Dean had loved to start up prank wars, usually with a beginning round of putting Sam’s hand in a bowl of warm water while he slept. It paid to stay aware of your surroundings. Even four years at college hadn’t taken the edge off of that ability.

There was a slight scraping sound as the window moved up the sash. All the windows in the place were stiff, something that Sam liked, since it meant they made noise when someone tried to open them. Then, just as Sam was opening his eyes, he heard a muffled thump that could only be made by something or someone dropping onto the floor.

He didn’t spare a thought to wonder who in the world would be breaking into the apartment of two mostly broke college students. There had been three break-ins over the last month or so in the area, one committed by a couple of drunk frat boys and the other two done in what Sam could identify as a professional manner by reading between the lines. There wasn’t much worth stealing in their apartment, but Sam wasn’t about to just stay in bed and let anyone rifle through his meager possessions. He grabbed the baseball bat he kept on the floor next to his bed, not wanting to risk the exposure and questions that the gun hidden behind the bed frame would bring.

The apartment was quiet and dark. Whoever it was, they were being stealthy about it. The only things in the apartment really worth stealing were their laptops and both of them were tucked away in the bedroom. He had no intention of letting this thief get that far.

The living room was empty, though the window was still open and the cold autumn air was seeping into the room. Sam didn’t bother to close it. It was an unnecessary distraction at the moment. Someone was in the apartment and he had to find him.

There was a slight creak from the kitchen, and Sam instantly stopped in his tracks. His heart was pounding in his chest. This was the most action he’d had since he stopped that mugger last year, but some instincts didn’t go away no matter what you did. He listened carefully for any indication of what the thief was doing in his kitchen, of all places, but he didn’t hear anything else. The light was off in there, too, but Sam was planning on using that to his advantage. He slid his left hand through the doorway, finding the light switch with the ease of long practice and familiarity, and in one smooth motion flicked the light on at the same moment that he kicked the door open, bringing the baseball bat up in a defensive move.

Dean sat at his kitchen table, an open bottle of whiskey at his right hand. “If I’d been a burglar with a gun, you’d probably be dead by now Sammy,” he said. His voice was rougher than Sam remembered, deeper.

Sam looked down at him with shock. “Dean?”

“Hey, Sammy. Hope you don’t mind, I let myself in.”

He looked his brother over critically. “You look like shit.” It was true. Dean looked haggard, older than he should, with dark circles under his eyes and the kind of pallor that meant his brother had probably spent some time in the hospital. There were fading bruises on Dean’s neck that looked disturbingly like they would fit a pair of hands and a neat row of stitches that stretched across his right forearm.

“Come on, you know that’s not true. I’m the good-looking one in this family.” The words should have been spoken with a bit of cockiness and a fair dose of humor, but they came across as flat, rote.

“Why are you here, Dean?” Sam knew that whatever it was, the result wouldn’t be good.

The half-hearted smile slid off his brother’s face. “We need to talk.”

“You couldn’t call?”

“You never answer.” There was bitterness in Dean’s voice at this statement. “And this is something I couldn’t tell you on a voice mail that you might not even listen to.”

“What’s wrong, Dean?”

Dean reached for the whiskey bottle next to him. “A lot of stuff is wrong, Sam.” He tipped the bottle up and drank straight from it rather than get a glass. The words that came out of his mouth once he was done swallowing sounded like they’d been dragged out of his throat with pliers. “Dad’s dead.”

Sam stared at him. He had to have heard wrong. “What?”

“You heard me.” There was another long swallow from the whiskey bottle. “He’s dead. Died three days ago. I just finished taking care of the body.”

Salt and burn the bones, Sam thought. “What happened?”

“We caught up to something bad and it took out Dad before I finished it off,” Dean said. “I just figured you’d want to know.” He stood up, a little unsteadily, and winced just the tiniest bit. He was probably hiding more injuries beneath his clothing and that damned leather jacket. “See you around, Sammy. I’ve got to get on the road.”

“No, you’re not going anywhere,” Sam snapped out, his mind whirling. Dad couldn’t be dead. John Winchester was way too tough to be taken out like that.

Dean’s eyes glittered and he suddenly looked less like Sam’s pain-in-the-ass big brother and more like the incredibly dangerous man he’d been raised to be. “I’m pretty sure you can’t stop me, Sam.”

“Bullshit. You’re drunk and you’re injured. My girlfriend could probably take you out.”

“Your girlfriend, maybe. Definitely not you, though.” He ducked past Sam and headed back into the living room, going back to the window despite the fact that Sam was awake and he could use the door now.

Jess was standing in the doorway, blinking sleepily at the two of them. “What’s going on?” she asked, obviously only half awake but making an effort to change that.

Sam rapidly recalculated. Dean was currently at a level of intoxication that he’d never seen in his brother, he was clearly grieving, and he was injured. This was not the kind of situation he wanted for when Jessica met his brother. “It’s nothing, Jess. Go back to bed, I’ll explain later.”

Dean snorted. “Sure you will. That should give you enough time to make up something that sounds a little normal.” He had made it to the window by now and was concentrating a little too hard on the view outside. Sam had a feeling that he didn’t want to go out by the door and he didn’t want Jess to see him leave through the window.

“Dean, come on. Don’t be an idiot.”

His brother’s back stiffened a little. “That’s enough, Sam. I’m gone.” There was one last glance at Jess that Sam couldn’t read and then Dean was through the window with no visible sign that he was injured.

Sam let him go and turned his attention back to Jess. Dean would hold for the time being, but his girlfriend would not. She was staring at the open window in shock. A tiny corner of his mind admitted that it was a typical reaction to Dean. “Who was that?” she asked.

“That was Dean,” he said, dropping down onto the couch with a sigh. He needed to process what Dean had told him, but Jess needed some kind of explanation first.

“Your brother Dean?”

“Yeah.” There was more that he needed to say, but he couldn’t make his mouth form the words. His brother had dropped a bomb on his head and disappeared. He wanted to say it was typical Dean, but his brother had never left him in the lurch like this. He felt abandoned and alone. It was worse than when he left for Stanford with his father’s words ringing in his ears.

“Why didn’t he use the door?”

Sam laughed, but it was shallow and short-lived. “Why use a door when there’s a window handy?” At her alarmed expression, he patted the couch cushion next to him. “Dean likes to think he’s Batman sometimes.”

She nodded, absorbing the information. “What did he want?”

Sam swallowed down the lump in his throat. “My father is dead. He died a few days ago.”

“Oh, Sam,” Jess murmured. She sat down next to him and put her arms around him, and Sam just let go. He didn’t cry for long, though it felt like forever. He knew he had to be freaking Jess out. She’d never seen him cry. He’d never had a reason until now.

“When’s the funeral?” she asked once he’d settled down a little. “I’ll start calling around and letting people know we’ll be gone.”

He shook his head. “No funeral. Dad didn’t want any kind of service or burial. Just cremation.” It was the closest thing to the truth that he could say. There was no explaining the odd ceremony of a hunter’s funeral pyre.

“I’m guessing your brother was closer to him than you were,” Jess said. It felt like she was fishing for something to say, something that would make this easier. This was how normal people grieved, after all. They had a funeral and a memorial service and the survivors all spent time talking. “Did he say what happened?”

“Some kind of hunting accident,” Sam said, stretching the truth just a little. “I don’t think Dean was in any position to be talking about it yet.”

“You’ll talk to him when he’s ready,” she promised, hugging him again. Sam relaxed into her embrace, letting it sooth him.

“I’ll call him when he’s had a chance to cool down.”


“Lets go through it one more time,” the man said, his voice neutral. “Run through your day yesterday, leading to when you discovered your son was missing this morning.”

Sam knew it was their job to ask questions. Knew that asking variations of the same question could unlock some unconscious memory, and that the detectives just wanted to help him find Peter as soon as possible. With all that said, if someone didn’t stop asking him stupid, repetitive questions and give him something to do there might be violence. They were all just standing around talking, and Peter was out there, scared and away from him and probably hurt. Sam’s heart was pounding so hard it was making him a little dizzy.

“I picked him up from day care at around three,” he said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Went to tae kwon do class, picked up some takeout, and headed home. Peter did his homework after dinner, I worked on some casefiles, and then we watched a movie together before Peter went to bed around nine. I stayed up ‘til about eleven thirty to get a little more work done, checked on him before I went to bed. When I got up at six, his room was like that.”

He gestured toward the small bedroom. The window was gone, not broken or open but simply removed, leaving a gaping hole in the wall. Peter’s pillow sat forlornly at the head of the twin bed and the blankets were in a pile at the foot. Sam knew that his son had been taken, knew that nothing human would have been able to take out the window without waking him up and that no human would need to go so far to take Peter.

Eventually, the detectives finished up their questions and set up the wiretap in case the kidnapper calls to ask for ransom, and Sam escaped their watchful eyes with the simple task of asking to be left alone for a while. He promised to call if the kidnappers contacted him and escorted them from his apartment.

Once he was alone, Sam moved to the doorway of his son’s bedroom and remembered. Jessica had been beautiful holding their newborn son. Granted, he might be biased since he had also found her beautiful when he was cursing like a sailor and clutching at his hand so tightly that it took hours to regain all the feeling. “You ready to hold him?” she had asked, and Sam had swallowed and held out his hands. She passed their son over to him carefully and Sam had settled the infant in the crook of his arm the way they’d practiced. Peter had been tiny, just over seven pounds, with a soft cap of dark hair that fell out and grew back in blond when he was six months old. Sam had promised himself that he would do better than his father, that he would protect his son and make sure that Peter was happy.

And then his father’s world had reached out with greedy, horrible fingers to grab one more Winchester.

There was a throwaway cell tucked into his desk drawer. It was habit to keep one around for emergencies, even years after he’d been hunting. Sam retrieved it, sat down at his desk and made a call he was dreading.

“Singer,” the voice on the other end of the line said, and Sam swallowed back the memories that gruff salutation brought up to the surface.

“Bobby, it’s Sam Winchester.”

There was a long, dreadful pause. “Sam,” the older man finally drawled out. “Haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“Yeah, I know.” A little more than a decade, honestly, but who was counting? “Um, sorry?”

Bobby sighed into the receiver. “So what is it you want, boy?”

“Something took my son,” Sam said. He meant for it to come out quiet and collected, like the lawyer he was. It was a total surprise when he heard John Winchester’s growl come out of his mouth.

“You’re sure it’s something and not someone?”

Sam thought about the gaping hole in the wall of his fourteenth-story apartment. “I’m sure, Bobby.”

“You call your brother?”

Sam thought of the last time he’d seen Dean, weaving unsteadily in the funeral home parking lot. “Wasn’t planning on it.”

“I’m not getting in the middle of Winchester bullshit, Sam. Call Dean, you idjit. He’s the guy you should be talking to, anyway.” There was the sound of a door closing and then Bobby’s voice came through a little more clearly. “He’s been handling things that go after kids pretty much exclusively the last couple of years. We’d be saving a whole lot of time just going straight to him. You know how much that means when you’re looking for a missing kid.”

Sam scrubbed at his face with his free hand. “Yeah, I know.” It was one of the ways that the supernatural world paralleled his normal, safe one: when a child goes missing, the first twenty-four hours are critical. He switched hands and grabbed a pen. “Go ahead and give me his number.”

Bobby’s voice, when it replied, was oddly, carefully neutral. “You don’t have your brother’s phone number?”

Damn it, he did not have time for this. “I haven’t talked to Dean since he showed up drunk at Jess’ funeral,” he said bluntly. “Tossed his number and changed mine.”

There was a sigh on the other end of the line. “I’m way too old for this crap.” He rattled off a phone number, complete with area code. “Call your brother, Sam.”

There was a click as Bobby hung up on his end, and Sam glared at both the phone and the hastily scribbled number for a second before dialing with more force than necessary. It rang twice before a low-pitched, quiet female voice whispered a quiet, “Hello?”

Great. Sam really didn’t need to talk to one of Dean’s five-minute girlfriends. “I need to talk to Dean.”

“Is this an emergency?” Whatever woman was speaking, she sounded cautious and a little weary.

“Yes,” Sam gritted out. “Tell him Sam is calling.” It was ten in the morning. Was his brother hung over or something? He had to be pretty out of it to let a one-night-stand answer his phone.

“Just a minute,” she said, and he heard murmuring before his brother’s voice came on the line, rough with morning gravel.


Sam, despite what he had said to Bobby earlier, had a hundred different things he wanted to tell his brother. He skipped all of them and went straight to the point. “Something took my son. Something, not someone. Will you come?”

There was a dull rasping sound on the other end, likely Dean rubbing at his face. “You still just outside of Denver?”

“Yeah, same apartment.” He hadn’t been able to bear moving away from where Jess had lived. The fact that Dean knew where he lived was unsurprising and unimportant.

“I can get there sometime around midnight, probably. Let me get on the road and I’ll call you in an hour, get the details.” And with that he hung up.


Dean watched from across the street until the female silhouette melted to join his brother’s shadow. Sam would be fine. His girlfriend seemed like a nice chick, not to mention way out of Sam’s league, and she would take care of him. Dean had a good feeling about her.

He’d left the bottle of whiskey in Sam’s apartment, though, and right now he was too short on cash to get another one. It had been stupid, drinking on top of the minor concussion he was nursing, but it was the only way he could even begin to handle being around Sam for this task.

The things the demon had spouted off about Sam were lies. They had to be. Sam was the kind of guy who rescued kittens from being flattened in traffic. There was no way in hell he was leading an army of demons or consenting to be a host for the devil. And even if it had been telling the truth about what it did to Sam on the night their mom died, that didn’t mean anything. Sam was twenty-two years old. If something like that was going to be a problem, it should have showed up by now. None of that mattered, of course. The things the demon had said had taken root and until he managed to pull them out it wasn’t safe for him to be around his brother.

He waited until the downstairs light was turned off before climbing wearily into the Impala. He didn’t know where he was going, exactly, just that it was going to be away from here. He wanted to bury himself in hunting and alcohol and women until the pain disappeared.

With one last glance at the dark window of the apartment, Dean started the engine and drove away.


Dean closed the phone and tossed it down onto the bed. He very much wanted to join it, but if he laid back down he wouldn’t get be getting up any time soon. “I’m heading back out,” he told the woman hovering in the doorway. “Sam’s son was taken. He needs me there.” God, he wasn’t sure how he was going to handle his brother. The last actual conversation they had was when Dad had died. After that it had all been pointed accusations at each other.

Lisa bit her lip, and Dean knew she was holding back a biting comment about how he just got back. “Do you have time for a shower and some food?” she asked instead, and Dean was immensely grateful for the woman he loved.

“Yeah,” he answered. “I should spend some of it with Ben, too. I was really looking forward to spending some time with him.”

There was another long pause, one he’d come to identify as Lisa making a decision. She was very good at split-second, possibly life-altering decisions. “You could take him with you,” she said. “It’s Sam who called, right? Your brother? Maybe this would be a good time to mend fences. Ben should know more of your family than your friend Bobby.”

Dean thought about it for a second while Lisa came over and sat down next to him on the edge of the bed. “It’s a good idea,” he admitted. Ben didn’t start school for three more weeks, and while he didn’t want his son anywhere out in the field this promised to be a lot of research, held safely indoors. “Ben could get a good look at how boring some of this stuff is. Maybe it’ll make him back off the idea of being a hunter.” He’d put his foot down at the first sign of Ben’s interest and gotten Lisa’s approval and backing: no hunting until Ben graduated high school a year from now. He could help with research, and both Ben and Lisa had learned gun safety, but Dean wasn’t making the same mistakes his father had. Kids should be allowed to have a childhood.

Lisa smiled and wrapped her arms around his waist. “I think that ship has long ago sailed, Dean.”

“Yeah, well, I can try,” Dean grumbled. He pulled her in close to him, kissing the top of her head. “I should get up. I need to get Ben moving if we’re going to get on the road.”

“Five minutes,” she said. “I’ll make them worth your while.”

It was more like ten, but Dean counted it as time well spent. Lisa took a lot of shit from his lifestyle and she didn’t ask for much in return, so he would gladly give in to just about any of her demands.

He headed down to the mudroom first, intent on moving the load of laundry he’d tossed into the washing machine last night when he got home into the dryer only to find that Lisa had taken care of that for him. Once they found Sammy’s kid and he and Ben got back, Dean was taking her out to her favorite restaurant and possibly buying her diamonds. This woman was way better than he deserved.

Ben was playing video games in the living room. Dean got his attention with the simple expedient method of turning off the television, making the boy turn his head and give a mock scowl.

“I’m heading back out on the road in an hour. Want to come with me?”

The teenager’s eyes lit up even as he schooled his features into a mask of perfect teenage boredom. “Where are we going?”

“Colorado. Your cousin is missing and we’re going to help find him.” There was no hesitation in naming Peter Winchester as Ben’s cousin. It might not be by blood, but Ben was Dean’s son nonetheless.

“Is this a hunt?” The excitement was practically tangible, and Dean was torn between slapping down a resounding ‘NO’ and basking in the emotions his son was radiating.

“It might be,” he finally admitted. “What’s important is that your cousin is missing and Sam needs us. I’m going to need you to listen to me and obey me when I tell you to do something. Can you do that for me?”

“Yes!” The control for the Wii dropped onto the coffee table and Ben bolted upstairs.

“One bag only, Ben! Pack mostly clothes,” Dean shouted after him. “You will not be needing video games on this trip.” There was no way he was carting a game system around in the car. Ben would be helping with research this trip.

He climbed the stairs behind the boy, mind on things like shower and packing his own bag. It would have been nice to linger under the hot water, but Dean sucked it up and made it through in record time. He packed his bag with familiar efficiency, plucking soft, warm, freshly laundered t-shirts out of the basket and rolling them up so they took less space in his duffle, and then headed down into the kitchen. Lisa had a pot of coffee ready, bless her generous soul, and Dean gulped down a scalding hot cup without taking the time for sugar or cream. Sandwiches were the easiest food to put together, so he dug out the lunchmeat and bread and other things and started assembling. Ben dropped his bag by the door and joined him, throwing together lettuce and tomato and turkey onto the whole wheat bread that Lisa insisted they all use. “Eat fast,” Dean told him. “We need to get on the road in twenty minutes.”

Ben obligingly wolfed down two sandwiches while Dean savored his one. Lisa watched the two of them eat, sipping coffee and teasing them both in turns. “You’ll call when you get there?” she asked once the food had disappeared.

“Before we even walk in the door,” Dean reassured her. “Sammy probably won’t let me get a word in edgewise once we’re in, so I don’t know when I’ll be able to call after that.”

“Just try, for my sake.” She gave Ben a hug, which the lanky teenager returned with interest, and then embraced Dean, tugging his head down for a kiss.

“Come on, guys,” Ben protested. Dean waved him off and pulled Lisa closer, relishing in her warmth and comfort.

“Something to think about while you’re at your brother’s,” she said, staying pressed against him for another moment before stepping back reluctantly. “You two be careful.”

“Hey, it’s me,” Dean said, smiling.

“I know,” she agreed. “That’s what has me worried.”


The few times he had pictured anything like this, Sam had always imagined that Dean would be at his side, acting as best man. His brother would charm and flirt with the bridesmaids and make the bride smile and generally help Sam through this minefield, like he’d helped with all of the hurdles of Sam’s childhood.

There was nothing wrong with Brian, of course. He was a great guy, pretty much Sam’s closest friend these days. It was hard sometimes that the man didn’t really know him, but Sam was prepared to deal with that. Someday the normal guy mask would be real. All it would take is practice.

This was the latest step. He and Jess were getting married in less than ten minutes. There would be a short honeymoon in San Francisco and then they’d move into the small apartment they’d found near the law school. Jess was finishing up her undergrad and then hopefully going for a Master’s in Education. They were already planning on kids once grad school was completed. The future looked perfect.

The only thing marring his perfect day was Dean’s absence. The number Sam had for his brother was disconnected and none of his father’s old contacts could (or possibly would) give him the current one. He couldn’t ask any of them to pass along the message because they weren’t invited. This was a clean break from hunting. The only one he wanted here from that life was his brother, and Dean would be expected to leave the shop talk at the door.

Brian cleared his throat. “It’s time, man. Can’t make the people too nervous.”

Sam stood up and followed his best man. Today would be the happiest day of his life. He wouldn’t let the fact that his brother wouldn’t be here cloud it. Today was about him and Jessica, no one else.


Sam stared at his own phone for a second before closing it. The phone call to Dean had gone a little differently from what he’d expected. There had been no fuss or dramatics from his brother, and that left him oddly at loose ends.

He filled the time waiting for his brother to call back with data collection, trying to figure out as much as he could before Dean came bumbling into the situation. Dean had never liked the research part of hunting, and as much as Sam resented doing it he wanted his son back as quickly as possible.

The rumble of the Impala’s engine was audible beneath his brother’s voice when he called back. It made Sam just slightly nostalgic, which in turn pissed him off a little. “So Pete’s seven and in, what, second grade?”

“His name is Peter, and they advanced him to third,” Sam said, a little stiffly.

“Yeah, sure, whatever you say Sammy,” he brother replied. “Tell me what happened.”

“It’s Sam,” he countered before he detailed everything he had observed so far. “I was thinking a rawhead or a changeling.”

“If it was changelings, you wouldn’t know your kid was missing yet. They swap kids on you, leave behind a double that’ll feed on you nice and slow. And a rawhead only goes after bad kids who present easy targets, which I’m betting your kid was not. Is it clear to go into the room?”

“Yeah, cops are gone right now.”

“All right. You said the window was removed. Frame too?”

“Frame’s still there, but everything else is gone.”

There was muttering off the line. “Anything suspicious in the building history?”

“I would never have moved here if there had been,” Sam said crossly.

“Hard to let go of the training, huh Sammy?” Sam heard the rustling of the pages and more indistinct speech.

“Are you reading and driving at the same time?” he demanded, a little worried.

“You kidding me? You know I can’t read in the car. Listen, Sammy, try to get some sleep. I should be there in twelve hours, give or take.” His voice turned surprisingly gentle. “We’ll find him, Sammy. We’ll find your son. Get some rest. We’ll dive in as soon as I get there.”

Sam was the one who hung up this time, unsure of what to say. He’d purposefully cut ties with Dean and most of the time he didn’t regret it. His brother lived in a world that Sam didn’t want to claim anymore, and his presence would have dragged that life back in no matter what Sam did to prevent it.

Except now his father’s world had crept in and stolen his son. Sam would deal with the devil himself if it would bring Peter home safe and sound. He was beginning to understand what his father had been doing all those years.

He spent the next several hours doing research and fielding phone calls before the stress and weariness of the day caught up to him and he crashed on the couch. The half-formed dreams kept him from going too deep, every horror that his memory could dredge up chasing after Peter. Sam woke up from his son’s terrified face to his burn cell ringing, realizing with slightly groggy confusion that it was almost one in the morning. “Yeah?”

“Open the door, will ya? You’ve got too many neighbors for me to pick the lock, and they’re starting to get curious.”

Sam cautiously sat up and went to the door. A peek through the peephole didn’t really clear anything up, since all he could see was a beat-up leather jacket. “Dean?”

“In the flesh, Sammy. Open the damn door already.”

Sam did as he was asked, rolling his eyes at his brother’s attitude. “You know, normal people knock.”

Dean walked in, a familiar duffle slung over one shoulder and another in one hand. Sam moved to shut the door when a lanky teenager that was similarly laden with bags followed his brother in. His brother looked scruffy and tired and older than Sam would have thought could be possible. “We did knock, Sam. You didn’t answer. Figured you were asleep.”

“Who is this?” Dean knew better than to bring strangers into family business.

“Ben, this is my brother Sam,” Dean said, turning to the teenager and jerking his head toward Sam. “Sam, this is my son Ben.”


He showed up for Sam’s wedding, of course. That was something that the kid should have taken for granted. He lurked in the shadows, more like an ex-boyfriend than a family member, and watched while his brother promised to love, honor, and cherish Jessica. Once Sam moved in for the kiss Dean headed for the door. He needed to be gone before they headed back down the aisle. There was no way in the world he was going to interfere with his brother’s attempt at normal.

He drove east, back to the comforting familiarity of the Midwest and back roads and small towns with kitschy motels. There were a half-dozen possible hunts laid out in the notebook on the passenger seat, and all Dean needed to do was pick one. Usually when he didn’t choose a case, something found him and it was best to try and avoid that if possible. Dean had made more than a few top-ten most wanted lists, though thankfully none of them belonging to any sort of law enforcement. There were a lot of things out there that wanted him dead, usually for a lot of different reasons.

At first, Dean wasn’t even aware that the hunts he was choosing kept leading him further away from California and his brother, but he started making those choices deliberately once he realized it. He salted and burned graves across Nevada, Utah, and Colorado before making a detour around the state of Kansas and up into Nebraska. Ellen Harvelle at the Roadhouse divested him of some of his case files and talked him in to staying for a week or so, most of which was spent working on a couple of projects with Ash. Dean promised to keep working on the database after he left. He wasn’t sure if it would work the way Ash hoped, but it couldn’t hurt to try. He had nothing but time most days.

Bobby’s place was next on his list, with a handful of items that needed a more secure location than the trunk of someone’s car. Dean would have been surprised at how many people treated the place like a safety deposit box, but he’d done the same a time or two.

This time it took two weeks to get back on the road. His baby needed a little scheduled maintenance and Bobby had a handful of cars that could be fixed with stuff in the junkyard and turned around for a quick profit. Dean could always use a little extra cash. Credit card fraud was getting more difficult these days.

There was an aswang in Iowa, which was a bit of a change and more than a bit of a surprise. Iowa wasn’t exactly known for its Filipino population, and monsters tended to stay around the people groups that they were connected to. There was something odd about the way monsters had been migrating recently, something that he really should look into a little more closely.

A report of actual goblins lead him to Illinois, but it turned out to be a hoax. He found a couple more salt and burns in the state before crossing the border into Indiana.

When he read the news story about the man killed by a table saw, the name of the town pinged in Dean’s memory and he smiled despite the macabre reading material. Cicero, Indiana, home to Lisa Braeden, the most memorable weekend of his life. He folded up the paper, wondering if she still lived there and if she would still be interested in a little fun.

It couldn’t hurt to look her up while he was digging into the case.


Dean supposed he should feel bad for dumping that particular nugget of information on his brother. He’d taken his brother’s radio silence for a sign that Sam wasn’t interested in Dean’s life and didn’t particularly want Dean in his normal, orderly existence, and so he’d never bothered to tell Sam about Lisa and Ben and his odd semi-settled lifestyle. And then Sam had exploded at his wife’s funeral and apparently changed his number. Dean could take a hint with the best of them.

He used the opportunity of Sam’s apparently stupefied silence to study his brother covertly. Dean hadn’t seen Sam in five years, since Jessica’s funeral, and before that he’d only had a glimpse or two when he stopped by to check on him.

Sam had gotten a little softer over the years, courtesy of a desk job, though he was probably in much better shape than the guys he worked with. His hair was cut much shorter than it had been back when he was in Stanford, and even on a day like today he was wearing much nicer clothes than Dean even owned. Same bitchy expression, though, the one he’d been giving pretty much everyone since he hit puberty. Given that particular facial cue, he should have been expecting the derisive snort that came from Sam. “You have a kid?”

There was an eyeroll from Ben, but the teenager managed to keep his mouth shut. There was no telling how long that would last. Better to put this particular discussion off until the current crisis was settled. “Yeah, Sam. I do. We’re wasting time. Can I see Pete’s room?”

“His name is Peter,” Sam announced before apparently realizing that he was supposed to be the adult here. “Come on, in here.” He led them down a narrow, short hall and into a dark blue kids bedroom. “Do you have any ideas?”

Dean made a noncommittal noise. “Got a theory, need to check it out.”

“What kind of theory?”

Dean sighed. He’d talked the case out with Ben on the long car ride, in between swapping out cassette tapes and giving his son a little time behind the wheel of the Impala. There weren’t many things that could have removed the window, even fewer that would have, and most of them wouldn’t have been willing to leave Sam asleep and unharmed in the room next door. “The kind that needs a little research to support it, Sam.” He walked through the room and over to the window.

“What are we looking for?”

“Reach outside and touch the wall about six inches from the window. If I’m right there should be gray dust there. It’ll be very fine, possibly shaped like a handprint.”

Sam did as he was asked (definitely asked, and not told, because he would never do something his brother told him to again). “Got it.”

“All right, bring it back into the light. See anything?”

All three of them watched as Sam examined the powder underneath the dim overhead light. “It’s sparkling,” Sam said, an oddly aggrieved expression on his face. “It’s sparkly gray dust. Did Edward Cullen take Peter?”

“Sparkly emo vampires don’t really exist, Sammy. The real ones have no problem with sunlight. No, I think we’ve got bigger problems.” Dean hadn’t wanted to be right on this one. It would be a bitch to crack. “I think Pete was taken by a child thief.”

“I’ve never heard of it.” There was that expression on Sam’s face again, the one he used to make when Dean would tell Sam that girls were really aliens.

“Child thief’s just what I call them. It’s the spirit of some kid who died of neglect. They usually go to other children in the night, looking for companionship. Peter Pan was based on one that the author encountered once.” He had no idea why they left the dust behind, just that they did. His current working theory was that it had to do with the dirt where they were buried.

Ben was nodding along now. “It got all mixed up with the idea of fairy changelings, but that’s not how real changelings operate.” He rubbed the faint scar on the back of his neck, a mark that several of his friends shared.

“Right.” Dean spared a quick and hopefully reassuring smile for his son. Sam had a sour expression on his face, the kind that gave Dean flashbacks to when his brother was the kind of angsty, emo teenager that gave other teenagers a bad name. Thank God Ben skipped over that stage. Once was enough for that kind of shit. “The problem is that this particular spirit doesn’t seem to be tied to any one specific location. It can apparently pop up pretty much anywhere within a general area, since I can’t find any bad history for at least a mile radius.”

“This area doesn’t have any history of disappearing kids.”

“That you know of,” Dean pointed out. “It usually takes kids who are feeling lonely and neglected. If it played it smart, no one would know or care that kid was missing. Chalk it up to some foster kid running away and everyone moves on with their lives.”

Sam was practically bristling with indignation, probably seeing Dean’s info dump as a smack on his parenting skills, and Dean was suddenly much too tired to put up with anything right now. “Coffee,” he said, working to keep his tone civil. He knew there was no way Sam would be letting them sleep, not with his son on the line. It was why he’d made Ben sleep for part of the drive. One of them should at least be well-rested. “We’ll sit down and make a plan for the research we’re going to need to do.”

“Please tell me you know how to catch it,” Sam said, practically pleading.

“It’s a spirit, Sammy. Bound by the same rules, when you boil it all down. Figure out who it used to be, find the bones, salt and burn. Pete should be somewhere around the body.” He grabbed the bag with the laptop and headed for the small kitchen table.

“Just because I haven’t hunted in a while doesn’t mean I’m stupid,” Sam huffed. “It’s never that simple.”

“Of course it isn’t,” Dean agreed. “Just figuring out who this kid was is going to be a bitch. Depending on how long its been active, we’ll have to separate out its possible victims. And there’s a pretty good possibility that the kid was never properly buried in the first place.”

Ben’s eyes widened at the ever-increasing list of questions they would need to research and he hurried over to the table, pulling his chair up next to Dean’s. “Let’s get started, then,” he said, a tinge of excitement in his voice that Dean hoped his brother would overlook right now.

By the time the sky started to lighten in the east, the bloom was definitely off the rose when it came to Ben’s approach to hunting. The teenager was sacked out on the couch, breathing deeply and evenly with the kind of effortless sleep only the young can truly pull off, and Dean envied him. He found it nearly impossible to do anything similar with his brother’s wounded, worried eyes looking at him, but if he didn’t make some kind of move beyond coffee he was going to be almost worthless. He pushed up from his chair, wincing as knees popped, and cracked his neck. “I’m going for a run,” he told his brother.

“We’ve still got a ton of stuff to go through,” Sam protested, just like Dean thought he would.

“I’ve got to do something right now,” Dean told him. “We don’t have time for me to sleep, but if I don’t step away from the computer and do something else for a while my mind’s going to shut down completely.” He nudged Ben on his way to the bathroom. “Going for a run in five,” he told him.

“I’m coming,” Ben said in a sleepy grumble. He was still dressed in shorts and a T-shirt from the drive, which gave him a three-minute reprieve while Dean changed out of his jeans and into the track pants that Lisa had bought for him with the insistence that he quit killing himself with sweats in August if he wasn’t going to wear shorts. Dean just didn’t like the idea of the scars on his legs displayed for everyone in the world to see. That kind of thing was no one’s business but his own, and maybe Lisa’s.

Sam gave them a baleful look over the computer screen when headed outside before returning to his research. Dean could sympathize; if something had happened to Ben he would move heaven and earth to help his son.

The neighborhood was still relatively cool and quiet. School hadn’t started yet, so other than a few kids who probably had some kind of pre-season sports practice and people with early jobs the streets were empty. Ben allowed Dean to set the pace, which he appreciated. Dean was a distance runner who was built for endurance and could run just about anyone he knew into the ground given time, but Ben had about three inches on him and could outstrip him when it came to sprints.

“Sam’s not what I was expecting,” Ben said, once they were a block or so away.

“Yeah? What did you think he’d be like?”

“Like you,” the boy said frankly.

“Sorry, kiddo,” Dean told him. “Sam’s always been more like my dad than me. But it works for him. Besides, I wouldn’t seem nearly so awesome if everyone was just like me.”

Ben made a scoffing sound. “Why doesn’t he like me?”

“Sam’s got issues with me. That’s fine, I’ve got problems with him too, and someday we’ll get those all worked out. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you.”

“He hasn’t actually said anything to me yet,” Ben pointed. “Not even, ‘hey, hand me that book.’”

“He’s distracted, Ben. He’s got a right to be. If something had taken you I doubt your mom or me would notice if a nun came into the house and started a striptease.”

“Ew, Dad. Too much information.”

“Hey, sometimes the young ones are kind of hot,” Dean defended. They jogged past the entrance to a local park and then made a loop and headed inside. “The point is, don’t be too hard on my brother. He’s spent most of his life trying to make his life fit into a nice, neat box labeled normal. You didn’t fit his definition of me.”

Ben was quiet as they pounded down the dirt path, dodging tree roots and overhanging branches. “Why didn’t you tell him about me?” he asked after a while.

“By the time I came to you and your mom, Sam made it clear that I didn’t fit into his world. He ran away from the hunting circus to become a lawyer and he was happy, and the blood and salt and sulfur of hunting didn’t match what he wanted.” Dean glanced at his son, a smile forming. “Besides, I think this little adventure has proven that Sam can’t handle the awesomeness that is Benjamin Isaac Braeden.” Not yet, at least. Dean had hopes for the future. It felt good having his two families in one place.

There was a snort. “His loss.”

“Damn straight.” He picked up the rhythm a little, Ben catching up smoothly. “We’re going to have to go straight to the research,” he said. “There’s too much that we can’t get over the Internet. You mind doing the eager high school student?”

“Dude, I am the eager high school student.” Ben was beaming now, trying to play down his excitement to be a part of the hunt.

“All right,” Dean said. They made another circuit of the park in silence before heading back towards Sam’s apartment building. “Race you,” Dean said, pouring on the speed. This was probably going to be a mistake, but Ben smiled as he sprinted ahead of him and he couldn’t regret it.

Part Two