A Magnificent Seven - ATF / Supernatural crossover
Disclaimer: Kripke and the alphabet brigade hold the deeds; I'm just borrowing the characters of Magnificent Seven and Supernatural. I make no profit off any of this, and mean no infringement.
Rating: Probably FRT
Warnings: Violence, primarily of the supernatural kind. Language.
Notes: This takes place in the ATF AU of Magnificent Seven. I place the brothers Winchester during the first season. I've taken some liberties with both fanon and canon, so please forgive me!
Synopsis: It's snowing. Dean and Sam Winchester are in Colorado, and run across Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner in trouble.
The black truck moved over the moonlit, snow-swept roads with a grace belied by its size. Most of that came from the skill of the man behind the wheel. The man who was staring out the windshield as if he was issuing the world a challenge. Beside him, on the other side of the front seat in the king cab, sat a second man. That man was sporting a bandage on the back of his neck, placed there earlier that evening just before he was released from the hospital. Released to the man driving the truck.
The man who was angry at him.
He had tried during the first part of their journey to justify the actions that had led him to being bashed over the head with a 2x4. Nothing had worked, and he ended up just slouching down in the seat, staring out the side window, his head resting on his arm, which in turn rested on the door.
They were traveling along a long, straight stretch of road; the only sounds the crunch of tires on snow and the deep-throated purr of the Ram. They were traveling one of the few areas where the landscape stretched out on either side of the road, rather than vicious drop offs or barren rock faces. The snow was dancing in swirls on the constant wind that marked this area. A tranquil scene that was a stark contrast to the tension filling the Ram's cab.
A hand slipped over, turning the stereo on. As soon as it retreated another hand reached out and turned it back off. This was not a time to listen to anything even remotely happy or upbeat. A single sigh rang loudly in the silence, but the radio remained silent.
Then, suddenly, a loud, emotion filled exclamation. "SON OF A BITCH!!"
Two figures appeared beside the road; first a small one, the size of a child, nothing more than a silhouette. Then came a second, much bigger figure, chasing the smaller.
The driver, jolted by the cry, stomped on the brake, fighting the wheel to keep from going off the edge of the road. Finally stopping, he turned to his companion. "What in the FUCK, Tanner?!?"
"I saw somethin'... a kid... a man. Looked like the guy was after the kid and the kid was runnin' hard." Looking over at his friend, he could read what the man was thinking. "I wasn't dreamin', Chris."
"Vin, seven hours ago you were in the hospital, unconscious, knocked out by some idiot you crossed paths with in Purgatorio. You have a concussion; you're only out of the hospital because you're coming home with me... because I'm going to be babysitting your sorry ass for the weekend. There wasn't anyone on the road, near the road, or crossing the road. I would have seen them. You were asleep. Why don't you go on back to sleep -"
"I wasn't sleepin'!" Angry now, Vin opened the door, stepping out onto the road. He staggered as the sudden movement caused a wave of nausea and vertigo. He was shocked to find himself on his knees, black spots swimming before his eyes. Then Chris was there, strong hands on his shoulders.
"Vin, come on, now. You were sleeping. Let's get you back in the truck, you're shivering."
He knew the tremors were anger and fear, not the cold. "I'm goin' back there. That kid needs help, I know it."
"Pard, think about it. You were talking out of your head when the EMTs found you. That was at three this afternoon. It's eleven now. You were sleeping and what you experienced was a dream. If someone had crossed the road in front of us, I'd have seen them."
"Damn it... I know what yer sayin'. But I know what I saw, and there was a kid and some devil followin' 'im." It was a sure indication that he was becoming stressed, as his Texan drawl grew deeper.
Worried, Chris knew that there was only one way to prove reality to his friend. "Okay, look, let's go back there and take a look. I'll show you there are no footprints." With that, he helped the other man to his feet and guided him back along the road. They walked slowly, backtracking until they reached the area that Vin identified as the place where the mysterious figures had been. There, despite the sharpshooter's keen eye and the help of the full moon, there was no sign of footprints.
"Mebbe the wind - "
"Vin," Larabee spoke softly now, concern for his friend outweighing his earlier anger. "This is going to seem like nothing but a dream in the morning, okay? Now, come on, let's get back to the truck, and get you into a warm bed."
Together the two men turned, both mouths opening as they registered the same thing at the same second.
The truck was gone.
"Snow? Jesus, it's only the first of October, and there's snow?"
Sam Winchester smirked at his brother's diatribe. Dean was driving the Impala, which was no easy job considering the road conditions.
"Well, why don't we find a hotel and see how much of this job we can do from the room?"
"Yeah, right." Dean turned on the wipers, succeeding only in smearing the windshield. "Shit."
"Whoa! Look out!" Sam called out as he caught movement in their headlights.
The older Winchester son swerved, slowing as he did, to avoid hitting the two men walking along the side of the road. The big, black car slowed and then stopped, the two men inside watching the two outside. They were moving slowly, the slightly bigger one had his arms wrapped around the smaller of the two, who seemed to be having some trouble keeping his feet under him. The taller man was dressed in black, which made it even more difficult to see him. The shorter of the two, although bent as he was he could have been just as tall as the other man, was dressed like something out of a Western. Buckskin coat, complete with fringe, and even a neckerchief rather than a scarf.
"What do you think?"
"Looks like a pair of lovebirds out for a stroll."
"Right. At midnight, while it's snowing, on a dark road."
Dean shrugged, "Hey, you asked what I thought, I told you. If you don't wanna know, then - "
"Shut up." Sam said, a tone of irritation in his voice. He shoved he door open and stepped out into the cold. The men were about ten feet away; the one dressed in a black duster, his blond hair gleaming in the moonlight, looked up and acknowledged him.
"Car trouble?" The young man called out.
"Could say that." The man took a little firmer grasp on his companion, speeding up their pace. "Think you could give us a lift? My place is only about five miles up the road."
"Sure, no problem." He opened the back door, helping guide the darker haired man into the car. As he did, he noticed the white bandage. "Problem?"
"Yeah, he thinks he's Robin Hood," The blond growled as he slid in beside his friend.
The tall man closed the back door, climbed into the front, and leaned over the seat. "I'm Sam, this is my brother Dean."
With a hint of what could have been seen as a smile, the blond said, "Chris Larabee. This is Vin Tanner."
"So, where to?" Dean asked in a near-monotone that didn't show his irritation at his brother's actions. It wasn't that he wouldn't help a fellow human being, but history had taught him that human form didn't guarantee a human being beneath.
"About five miles up the road, I'll let you know when we reach the turn off."
With a brief nod, the young man put the car in drive and started off down the road once more. As they traveled, the snow began to come down heavier, the flakes joining until they were almost a sheet of white that the wipers had little chance of defeating. "Shit, this is ridiculous! It's early October for Christ's sake!"
"You're not from around here, are you?" Larabee asked, leaning forward to take in what little they could see before them.
"Just passing through, Mr. Larabee," Sam offered, earning himself another glare from his brother.
"It's Chris." Turning to the driver, he said, "This isn't unusual for this time of year, up here. Just keep the speed down and you should be fine."
Dean shot the older man an irritated look, but kept the speed down.
Larabee turned to where his friend was slumped down in the seat. "Right here, Pard."
"Don't feel... so... g- so good."
"Shit." The blond spotted a fast food bag on the floor of the car. Hefting it and finding it empty of anything but wrappers, he held it for the injured man. Slipping an arm around Vin's shoulders, he said, "Take it easy."
The brothers kept their eyes glued to the windshield, but couldn't help but hear the sounds of retching in the backseat.
"Oh man, the upholstery," Dean muttered.
"Jesus, have some compassion. Hell, we've cleaned blood off it, this won't be any worse than that."
Chris spared time for a frown at the taller brother's comment. Blood?
Sam glanced in the rearview mirror and caught that look, knowing that he'd slipped up. Trying to cover his tracks, he added, "Hey, you were the one that insisted on carrying that dog we hit to a vet, without anything to cover the seat. Don't go calling me bitch."
"What?" The older brother asked, puzzled. Fortunately he caught Sam's look and read it correctly. "Dude, I'll call you a bitch when you act like a bitch."
The exchange lost Larabee's interest as his friend leaned against him, panting. Keeping an arm around Vin, he managed to roll down the window and toss out the bag, littering be damned. Rolling it up again, he leaned back in the seat, bringing Tanner with him. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew his flask, opened it and held it under the Texan's nose. "Take a drink. A small drink."
Vin obliged him, allowing himself only a small swallow.
Another glance in the mirror had Sam wondering. The two men seemed very comfortable huddled together back there. Cowboy? Pard? He had to wonder...
"See that light post up there on the right? There's a road right on the other side of it. Take it, and it'll take you to my place."
Nodding, Dean did as instructed, taking the turn slowly, even more uncertain of where they were going now. The snow was coming down heavier, if that was possible. Damn, he wished they hadn't come looking for a job up here. Why hadn't they gone to Louisiana? Florida? Texas? But no, they were in hell's refrigerator. He smirked to himself.
It was nearly another five minutes before they spotted the house, a rambling, single level ranch, two car garage attached, and the outline of a barn beyond. Pulling up to the garage, Dean said, "So, exactly why were you guys walking out in this mess?"
"Someone stole my truck, couldn't get a signal on my cell to call for help," Chris grumbled as he opened the back door. Then, almost an afterthought, he said, "Look, it's not fit to drive out there right now if you don't know the area. Why don't you guys stay here to wait it out?"
The Winchester brothers considered the offer, considered the alternative, and made a mutual decision with nothing but a look. Together they said, "Sounds great."
Larabee was out of the car, guiding Tanner out as well. The younger of the two men was nearly limp; the head injury, the long walk in the snow, the bout of sickness, none of it had done him any good. He didn't argue as Chris pulled him up, wrapping an arm around him once more.
Dean stepped around to the trunk, pulling it open with a creak and the crackle of displaced ice and snow. Pulling a duffle bag out of the depths and using the motion to grab a gun as well, he saw that Sam was grabbing up his laptop. Slamming the trunk, he moved to catch up with their slowly moving benefactor and his companion.
Chris Larabee stepped out of the master bedroom, closing the door behind him. On the other side of that door, Vin was curled up in the big bed, dressed now in sweats and huddled under a mound of blankets. Padding down the hall, he entered the kitchen, where the two young men had been left with the invitation to make themselves at home. The shorter one was hovering near the microwave; the unmistakable smell of some of Buck's chili coming from the machine. The taller of the two young men was busy making sandwiches at the counter, a variety of ingredients spread before him.
"Can I fix you a sandwich, Mr. Lara - Chris?" Sam asked.
"Sounds good, just slap a little of everything on it." That said, he picked up the phone and called the police station. "Yeah, Dave? Chris Larabee. Hey, someone stole my Ram... Yeah, yeah, lay it on... I know, Badass Larabee lost his wheels.... Yeah, even the ATF needs assistance..."
Dean startled at the overheard, one-sided conversation. Turning to lock gazes with his little brother, he saw the same concern reflected in those hazel eyes. The last place in the world they wanted to be was in the home of a Federal Agent. Looking outside, he saw nothing but snow. Leaving right now would be more deadly than staying. At least he was armed.
"Look, when you idiots stop laughing... just see if you can find the Ram... really? It's snowing? Imagine that. And you've lived here how long? Just... yeah, fine, just do what you can, as soon as you can... fine!" He slammed the handset into its cradle, cursing under his breath. Turning, he found the two young men watching him. With a sigh, he said, "Sorry for the drama. The local boys - "
Larabee turned to find Tanner standing in the doorway, watching him. "You should be in bed."
"Got hungry. Thought some toast might settle my stomach. That okay with you?" He gave his friend a lopsided, cocky grin.
You're always hungry, smart ass. Fine, go settle in the den, I'll bring you some."
"Mebbe some coffee, too?" Vin drawled.
"Milk." Seeing the next question in slightly unfocused blue eyes, he sighed and added, "Chocolate."
The four men had settled in the den. Vin was stretched out on the couch, gingerly nibbling at a piece of toast and drinking a tall glass of chocolate milk. Chris sat at the end of the couch eating the sandwich Sam had made him, and drinking a beer.
The two Winchester men were sitting in the recliners, Dean washing down a bowl of chili with beer, while Sam's followed a large sandwich. They were all watching a re-broadcast of the game Larabee had missed while at the hospital with his friend. His mood wasn't improved as he watched his team lose.
"Well, reckon ya didn't miss much after all, Cowboy."
"Yeah, it was so much better watching you toss your cookies down the front of that nurse," Chris replied sarcastically. Then remembering his company when one of the visitors coughed, he said, "Sorry."
"No problem," Dean said, managing to grin evilly around a mouthful of chili, enjoying Sam's somewhat green complexion, "doesn't bother me a bit."
"Hey, can I ask you guys somethin'?" Vin questioned.
Shrugging, Dean said, "I guess," in a non-committal tone.
"You see anything - "
"Vin," Larabee's tone was exasperated.
" - strange out there?"
"Strange? You mean like snow in October and two men walking in it at midnight?"
"Yeah, 'sides that." Vin's tone was even.
"No, no we didn't." The older brother couldn't help sounding relieved. He had truly been concerned that these two 'cowboys' were going to ask he and Sam to become their little cowpokes!
"Vin... Jesus! I told you, you were asleep!"
"And I told ya, I wasn't. I know what I saw. And answer me this, Chris Larabee. Just who took yer truck?" when the blond simply looked away, the muscles of his jaw tightening, Tanner added, "If, like ya said, there wasn't anyone else out there but me and you, then who took the truck?"
"Damn it! I don't know. If I knew, I'd have sent DPD after them."
"Uh-huh, and when ya talked to DPD, did ya mention that neither of us heard the truck take off?"
"We were upwind - "
"Yeah, and no more than 15 feet away. One of us would have heard somethin'. And we never did find any tracks."
"You're concused, I was wor - we were arguing. We weren't paying attention. It's possible that... well, maybe there was someone... look, I don't know what happened. DPD can figure it out."
When the two agents finally grew quiet, Sam asked, "Mr. Tanner, what did you see?"
"Ah, hell!" Chris exclaimed, "don't encourage him!"
Ignoring the volatile blond, Vin said, "Didn't see anything clear. Looked like a kid, maybe six or seven, followed by a man."
"Where were they?"
"Came outta the dark, along side the road. Thought they..." trailing off, Vin shrugged, "I don't know. They just sort 'a... they just weren't there any more."
"Which should have been your first clue that it wasn't real," Chris pointed out.
"Look, I don't know what happened. All I know is I saw 'em. It wasn't a dream!"
"Okay, look, you're getting wound up, and neither of us wants that. You need to relax before you get sick. Again."
"Don't go tellin' me what ta do, Larabee." Tanner was growing more agitated, the pinched look on his face speaking plainly of the pain he was in.
"I'm sorry," Sam apologized. "I didn't mean to cause a problem between you. I was just... well, curious about what had happened."
"Hell, it don't take much ta set him off," Vin grumbled, finishing off his toast and milk. "Anyway, I'm goin' back ta bed." He rose, then staggered as vertigo took over once more.
Chris was at the injured man's side in a heartbeat, taking hold of him just before his knees buckled. The anger was gone as he said softly, "Come on, let's get you to bed, then."
The brothers watched the interaction, somewhat perplexed at how quickly things changed between the two. Nothing was said; both men recognized the fraternal undertone between the agents.
"So, what do you think?" Sam asked after the two men left the room.
"Dude, do you ever pay attention? About what Tanner saw."
Shrugging, Dean said, "Could have been a concussion dream, a hallucination, or..."
"Or it could have been real."
"Maybe. We'll check it out, later." Just then the phone rang, cutting off the conversation. The Winchesters looked at one another, deciding what to do. The ringing stopped on the second ring and they could hear a muted conversation taking place in another part of the house. The moment having disappeared, they returned to watching the game in companionable silence. A few minutes passed, and then two voices were raised briefly, sounding like an argument. When silence once more ruled the house, they heard footsteps coming down the hall and Larabee appeared in the doorway, a serious expression on his face.
"Problem?" Dean asked.
"Maybe. DPD just got a report; sounds like my truck, abandoned about two miles from here."
"They gonna check it out?" Sam asked.
Chris sighed. "In the morning. They've got a massive pile up out on the interstate, so this is low priority right now."
Weighing his desire to stay warm against the look on the blond's face, Dean was silent for several seconds. He understood the worry he saw there. The expression of a man who took pride in his vehicle. "You want to see if we can find it?"
Larabee contemplated the offer. If they destroyed the crime scene, he'd never be able to file charges against... well, whoever had taken the Ram. However, it wouldn't hurt to go check, in the event that whoever took it was still around. He could make certain that they didn't go any farther with his vehicle. "You sure?"
"Wouldn't offer if I wasn't."
"Okay, thanks." Turning to the younger man, he asked, "You mind staying here with Vin? He needs to be watched and waken every hour or so."
"Sure, no problem." Sam wasn't that keen on going back into the snow any time soon.
"Well, let's roll then."
Chris prayed they'd survive the short trip to where DPD reported his truck sighted. The young man behind the wheel was impatient, sliding far too much for the treacherous, mountain roads. And he was doing it all to the strains of heavy metal. "Look, son, why don't you let me drive? I know the terrain; I can get us there a little easier."
"Nobody else drive's my - shit! - car."
"Great, then nobody else will plow your car down the side of a ravine."
"We could go back to your place and forget about the - HOLY SHIT!" Dean slammed on the brakes, barely keeping the big vehicle under control. Both men stared out the windshield as a figure coalesced in the headlights. It was small, waifish and, when they could see the face, frightened.
"Adam? Adam!" Chris screamed as he bolted from the car.
"Larabee! Shit!" Winchester growled as he slammed the car into park and followed the blond onto the snow-covered road. By the time he reached the other man, Chris was on his knees before the ghostly figure of a child.
"Adam? Oh my God! Sweet boy... is it really you?"
"Papa?" The boy's voice was faint, as if he were speaking from a distance, rather than a few inches. The tiny figure was translucent, a fact which seemed to evade the agent.
"Yes, sweetheart, it's your Papa."
"Mr. Larabee - "
Chris continued as if Dean hadn't spoken. "Adam, how? Where did you..."
"Papa! Help me, please! That man... he wants to hurt me! He-he said I have to go back into the house, but it's burning! Help me, Papa! Mama's crying! No! He's coming! Papa!" The little boy screamed hysterically and began running once again.
"Adam!" Chris screamed as he rose and started after the ghostly figure of his dead son.
"Son of a bitch!" Dean cursed as he moved to follow the other man. Just as he did, there was a scream of pure rage, accompanied by a violent explosion that sent him through the air, to be caught by darkness.
Sam gasped as he woke from a nightmare that left him watching his brother and the blond agent disappeared beyond an ocean of flame. He had to orient himself, remembering that he was stretched out on the couch in Chris Larabee's den. Scrubbing a hand over his face, he took a deep breath.
The younger Winchester brother startled at the voice, finding Tanner slouched down in one of the recliners. "How long have you been sitting there?"
"'Bout the time you started mumblin' in your sleep. Looked like you were havin' a pretty intense dream."
"You could say that."
"Wanna talk about it? Could help ya figure it out."
Smiling, Sam replied, "That's okay. I'm pretty good at figuring them out. Are you okay? Could I get you something?"
"Hoping Chris told ya where he hid my pain meds."
"Yeah, I'll get them." Sam left the room, returning quickly with a glass of water and a pill bottle; he shook a pill into Tanner's hand and handed over the glass. He noticed that the injured man was having trouble focusing. "Concussions stink, huh?"
"Wouldn't recommend it ta anyone." Vin handed back the glass and slouched back down in the seat.
"You should really go back to bed."
"Stay there much longer and I'll take root. Hear anything from Chris or yer brother?"
"How long's it been?"
Checking his watch, Winchester responded, "About an hour."
Frowning, Vin said, "They were only goin' a couple miles. Should 'a heard somethin' from 'em by now."
"Maybe they can't get a signal? The storm?"
"Maybe." He wasn't convinced. His concern for the handsome blond was overtaken, however, when his headache suddenly escalated to a migraine. With a grunt he pressed his fingers to his forehead.
"Hey, look, I think the best place for you would be back in bed. You need a hand?" Unconsciously he reached out toward the seated man.
"Boy, 'less yer gonna shake my hand, ya better back up a step."
Suppressing a grin at the man's stubbornness, Sam said only, "Sorry."
Sounding a little less angry, Tanner said, "Could ya do me a favor and hand me the phone?"
Retrieving the handset from the kitchen, Winchester handed it over to the Texan. Showing his grin this time he said, "Calling for a pizza?"
"Don't tell me yer a stand-up comedian," Vin grumbled as he took the phone. Punching in a number, he listened for a few seconds, then his face paled. Dropping the phone to his lap, he stared up at the younger man.
"Mister Tanner? Vin? What's wrong?"
Shaking his head the agent said, "I must be hearin' things."
"Tell me... please." He could read it in the other man's face. It was the beginning of his nightmare.
"There was... it sounded like, anyway, a voice. Man's voice. Deep. Cold."
"What did the voice say?"
"Said... 'it's too late, I've finally got Chris Larabee'."
Chris Larabee woke to an almost paralyzing numbness that he very slowly recognized as cold. He was freezing. Fighting the lethargy that accompanied the cold, he opened his eyes. That was his first mistake. The second came when he attempted to move. He couldn't stop the cries of pain that forced their way through gritted teeth.
"Dude!" Dean's voice rang out of the darkness when the cries quieted. "Turn it down a notch!"
"God... what... what happened?"
"You'll be the first to know, when I figure it out." There was the sound of shuffling, uneven footsteps and the younger man appeared beside the blond. Managing to drop to his knees with nothing more than a grunt, Dean peered rather owlishly at his companion. "How bad you hurt?"
Shifting slightly and grunting with pain, Chris grated out, "Think... maybe my... le-legs."
"Both of them?" When Larabee nodded in response, he cursed. "Shit. Okay, I'm gonna take a look around."
"Wait. We should... st-stay together. Be-besides, you don't look in good... good shape yourself."
"Oh hell, I've been busted up worse than this before. We need to figure out who... or what... we're up against."
Chris rubbed a trembling hand over his pale and haggard face. "I... I don't understand. What... what's going on? What I saw... what I saw out there... it... it isn't possible."
"What did you see out there?"
Larabee shook his head, regretting the action as pain battered his skull. "It couldn't have been what I thought. Couldn't... couldn't have..."
"Couldn't have?" Dean prompted when it seemed the other man wouldn't continue.
"My son... he died eight years ago... along with my wife." Larabee seemed to be talking to himself as he spoke softly. "That couldn't have been my son that I saw out there."
Chris stared into the other man's eyes as if reading his soul. "But... it was."
Vin pushed himself up from where he had been leaning over the toilet. He tried to tell himself that it was the head injury, but he couldn't silence the niggling little voice that said otherwise. The one that said something was very wrong.
Straightening, he moved to the sink, where he rinsed the foul taste out of his mouth and washed his face. Still feeling wobbly, he left the bathroom; Sam was in the hallway, a concerned look on his face.
"Yeah, I think so. Don't do well with pain meds a lotta the time."
Winchester nodded, knowing that there would be no use arguing the point. He simply followed Tanner back down the hall and dropped down onto the couch, while the other man paced. "That's really not going to help anything."
He received nothing more than a grunt. With a sigh, he sat back and simply watched.
"How long they been gone now?"
"A little over two hours. Maybe the car was stuck and they're having to dig it out."
"Chris carries emergency supplies for that."
"Maybe it won't start."
"Just had it winterized."
"Well... " he paused, out of 'logical' suggestions.
"Reckon we ought ta go lookin'."
The younger man paused, torn as to what to do. If they went out there and there was no reason, he'd never hear the end of it. On the other hand, his dream... "I think you're right."
Chris stared around them in the darkness. There was something familiar about where they were, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Between the pain encompassing his body, and the darkness, it was difficult to focus on their surroundings. "Can you see anything?"
"Not much, brick walls, so we're in a building of some sort. Probably a basement - OW!"
"What?" Larabee started to move instinctively, causing the pain to ratchet up again.
"Nothing, just hit a... cabinet I think. Caught a sharp edge. Damn! That smarts!"
"Hope your tetanus shot's up to date," the blond mused.
Any response Dean was about to make was drown out by an intense sound. It took them both a moment to recognize the sound of a roaring fire. It seemed to be right on top of them, the acrid smell of burning wood making them both cough. But there was no light or heat; no flames.
"Ah, hell, this can't be good," Dean muttered.
Chris looked around, trying to find the source of the sound. "Where's that coming from?"
"Don't know, but I think we need to get out of here." He turned toward Larabee, worry in his face as he remembered the blond's condition. Truth be told, he wasn't faring well himself, although he didn't think anything was broken.
Shaking his head, the older man said, "You go, get out of here and bring back help. I'll be fine."
"No, you won't." Winchester turned as ice seemed to fill the air behind him. He looked as a figure materialized nearby. "Shit."
Not answering, the young man moved over to where his injured companion sat with his back against the wall, injured legs stretched out before him. He faced the spirit. "What do you want?"
"That's not for you to be concerned about, boy," the figure growled, the sound of flames echoing in his voice.
"Yeah, well, you see, it does, so whatever you want, you can tell me."
"Shut up!" The translucent figure swung his arm, watching as Winchester flew backward through the air, to land in a heap near the far wall.
"Dean!" Try as he might, Chris couldn't manage to pull himself off the floor. Cursing in impotent rage, he yelled, "Leave him alone! If you want me, here I am, you son of a bitch!"
With an unearthly scream, the vision turned on him, flying toward the helpless man. "You bastard! This is all your fault! I wasn't meant to die here; it's all your fault!"
By the time they reached the garage and Tanner's jeep, the Texan was struggling and had nearly fallen twice. Sam stood between the shorter man and his vehicle, hand out. "There's no way you're well enough to drive, give 'em over."
Vin considered the situation for a brief moment, then handed over his keys, the overhead light glinting off the silver seven that hung on his key ring. Moving as quickly as he could, he rounded the jeep and climbed into the passenger seat.
Sam slid behind the wheel and started the jeep. Letting the engine warm, he familiarized himself to the vehicle before putting it into gear and starting off. They made it down the long drive, stopping at the end. Winchester put on the brake and sat looking right and left. "Two miles, but which direction?"
"Right", Vin informed him, startling the younger man.
"How do you know?"
"'Cause we came in from the left, we didn't pass the truck, and..."
Pointing to the right, Tanner said, "And then that's what she's tellin' me."
Looking in the direction the other man was pointing in, Sam saw a young woman standing in the road, dressed only in a gown, long, dark hair drifting lazily as if in a breeze. Her appearance was completely incongruous on the cold, windswept, winter road. Absently he asked, "Who is she?"
"Reckon I've got a worse concussion than I thought, 'cause that sure looks like Sarah Larabee."
Larabee struggled against the specter that stood over him. Even though the thing wasn't touching him, it felt as if he was being strangled in an icy grip. The pain had ratcheted up a dozen notches, leaving that in his broken legs to become part of the chorus rather than the headliner. He gasped out, "who... are... y-you?" What do... you... want?"
"I want your life!" Suddenly a blast erupted nearby, and the specter seemed to disintegrate.
Chris coughed as he was released from the unseen hold. he slumped back against the wall, wheezing as he fought to draw air into his tortured lungs once more. Blinking away tears of pain, he managed to focus on the figure of Dean Winchester, standing nearby, just lowering a sidearm. "Wha..." he stopped, coughed, cleared his aching throat, and rasped out, "What the hell was that?"
"What that was, was a ghost. Who it was, I can't answer. Not for certain, anyway."
"What do you... SHIT!... mean?" Chris gasped as, trying to shift himself, he managed to jar his legs.
Sighing, Dean knelt beside the other man. "You're probably not going to believe this - "
"Hey, I've seen my dead child, and I was just damn near strangled by something that... disintegrated?... when you shot it. I may wake up and find this was all a dream but, for now at least, I could believe anything."
"All right. My brother and I, we're a special kind of hunter; we hunt down things like this; ghosts, demons... whatever. Anything that's dangerous. We got a tip, from a friend, that there was a yearly paranormal event here. Two ghosts appear on the road, that of a child, being chased by a man."
"Then why haven't I heard about this before?"
With a chuckle, Dean said, "It's not typically the stuff that makes the headlines."
"Then how do you find out?"
Straightening slowly, feeling ribs shift unnaturally, Dean groaned before he said, "Like I said, a tip. People we know... other hunters... well, there's a pretty extensive, underground network. And if not that, then we do research. Long, tedious, research."
Chris just shook his head, hoping that he would, indeed, wake up to find he was having a nightmare.
"Look, I'll tell you more later, but right now, we've gotta figure where we are, and how we get outta here."
With a sigh, leaning more heavily against the brick wall, Chris said, "I think... well, I'm pretty certain, that I know where we are."
"Well, don't keep it to yourself."
"I think we're in the basement of my old house."
They were creeping along the snow-covered road, just over 20 miles per hour. Despite the speed, however, the specter of Sarah Connolly Larabee stayed a few yards ahead of them.
"Ya make a livin' doin' stuff like this?" Vin asked. Sam had just explained the Winchesters work as hunters to him.
"Well, yes and no. There's not much money in it."
"Then how do ya get by?"
Sam grinned. "Since you're a Federal Agent, I think I'll pass on answering that, okay?"
Chuckling as well, Vin nodded. He was well aware of some of the less law-abiding ways people could use to get by.
"She's pointing," Sam mentioned. He watched as the ghostly figure motioned for them to turn onto a little used side road. As they turned, a chill washed through the jeep, and a soft voice came to them from the back seat. "He needs your help... they both do. The man... he hurt them both."
Vin turned, regarding the ghostly image behind them. "Yer Sarah Larabee." It wasn't a question, he had seen enough pictures to recognize he. When she smiled and nodded, he asked, "Who was it? Who hurt Chris and Dean?"
"I don't know." Her voice was sad. "He was one of the men... that night."
"One of the men? The ones that... the ones that killed you and Adam?"
"Yes. He... he went after Adam... when they discovered I had managed to get Adam out the back way. I... I was already... they had shot me... I couldn't make it, I knew that. But Adam could..." She broke off, weeping.
Vin watched, transfixed, as blood appeared on her white gown. When she looked up, her eyes were filled with pain and hollow with loss at the same time.
"But that man... he brought him back... dragged him into the house and... and threw him across the room. I could only watch... my body was dying, I couldn't make it move. But then... the fire... it erupted, caught the man. There was a sound... he disappeared... through the floor I think."
"Lord, God," Vin groaned. "Sarah, I am so, so sorry."
She managed a smile, despite the tears still streaming down her face. "It's not for you to apologize, Vin. You, Buck... the others, you've given Chris back that part of his soul I feared he'd never reclaim."
Sam spoke for the first time since Sarah had appeared in the back seat. "Mrs. Larabee, why is Adam here? We heard from someone that his ghost appears every year on this date, being chased across the road."
"Yes, that's true. I've tried to... to reach him, so that he can leave this all behind..."
"The man. His power is so much stronger than mine, and it's fueled by such rage... I've never been able to get past him to reach my son."
Turning toward Sam, Vin asked, "Is there anything we can do?"
"Maybe. Looks like we're here."
Tanner wasn't certain what shocked him more; the fact that Sarah was once more outside the vehicle, or that Winchester didn't seem to find it unusual. Then he realized where they were. "Ah, hell."
"What is it?"
Nodding toward the overgrown and barely visible, burned out shell of a house, Tanner explained, "Buck brought me here once, right after I joined the team. Wanted me to understand why Chris gets in a mood sometimes." Nodding toward the scene before him, the Texan explained, "He won't allow it ta be torn down. That's where Sarah and Adam died."
Using his lighter and Larabee's memory, Dean had finally located the basement stairs. He'd managed to climb to the top, despite four of the steps almost giving way beneath him. At the top he found himself defeated, however, when the door wouldn't budge. He finally reconciled himself to the fact that all he was accomplishing was aggravating his injuries.
"The upstairs was almost completely destroyed... in the fire," Chris explained when Dean returned to his side. "They... Buck and some of our other friends... when the investigation was completed... they blocked off as much as they could."
"Why not just tear it down?" Finding himself under one of the blond's glares, he said only, "Sorry."
Larabee couldn't tell the young man that he couldn't bear the thought of demolishing the place where he and Sarah had begun their life together. The place where they had watched Adam grow from tiny, helpless infant to cheerful toddler and, later, adventurous boy. The house he lived in now had been their dream home, the place they wanted to grow old together in. How ironic that he had used the insurance money collected after losing his family and his dreams to put a down payment on that same homestead.
The silence returned, as Dean moved away once more to search. He found a metal cabinet and, miraculously, inside was an old camp lantern, with enough oil in its reservoir to give them some light. Lighting it and seeing clearly the grief on Larabee's face, the younger man dropped any more questions about the house for now. Changing the subject, Winchester said, "Look, we've got to get out of here before that evil son of a bitch comes back."
With a shake of his head, Larabee said, "There's no way I can get out of here, son, you go."
"No way. I'm not gonna leave you here alone." Dean replied adamantly.
"So, you're gonna sit here and die, too? Think about it, Dean, you need to get out of here and find help. It would be senseless to simply sit here and wait."
Winchester sighed, grimacing as the action caused pain to spread rapidly across his chest.
"Yeah, just some cracked ribs."
"Shit, you need to be careful - "
Holding up a hand, the younger man said, "Dude, save the lecture. Been there, done that, got the tee shirt."
Larabee smiled. "Yeah, you seem like the wild-and-woolly type."
"Wild-and-woolly?" Dean smirked.
"Sorry, been hanging around a certain Texan too long."
Winchester went back to searching for a way out. "You guys do seem close."
"Gets that way in our line of work."
"Been together for a while, huh?"
"Team's been together about... four years or so. Vin's been working with us just over three years."
"How many - " Dean broke off as a glow appeared in the middle of their prison. He went on the defensive with a rasped, "Shit!"
Chris' response was different, however, when he recognized the figure coalescing before him. "Sarah!"
Sam surveyed the remains of the Larabee home. The windows and doors had been boarded up, the openings tightly closed against entry. "Well, this isn't going to be easy."
Vin, standing just outside the jeep, asked, "How the hell did they get in there, if they are there? I mean, even if whatever took 'em is a ghost, Chris and yer brother are flesh and blood."
"I don't know but, considering some of the things I've seen over the years..." slapping in frustration at a tightly nailed board, he cursed and turned toward the other man as he finished with, "anything's possible."
"Sarah, sweet woman, oh God!" Chris managed, openly weeping as he beheld the vision of his wife. He didn't understand any of it and, being a practical man, he should have questioned his sanity. But something made it all make sense. It all seemed almost normal.
"Chris," Sarah smiled, the beautiful, soft smile he remembered so well. "I've waited to see you... to talk to you... for so long. Darlin' man I miss you!"
"Sh," she knelt beside him. "We haven't time. The man will be back soon, we need to get you both out of here. Help is near. Please, you must get out of here."
"Sarah... Adam... Vin saw him earlier, being chased. I don't understand." As his wife told him the same story she had shared with Tanner earlier, he alternated between sorrow and rage. By the time she finished, he was trembling. "Oh, my sweet woman, I am so... so sorry!"
Managing another smile, Sarah shook her head. "Don't, please. There was nothing you could have done."
"Yes, there was -"
"Uh, look," Dean interrupted. "I hate to cut in here, but we've got to get out of here.
"No, not until I get my son out of... whatever... we have to find Adam!"
The two men watched as Sarah Larabee appeared nearby once more. Vin straightened from where he was leaning against the jeep. "Sarah, are they here?"
"Yes... in the basement. They're both injured. We need to get the out of there. Vin, you need to convince Chris to leave."
Tanner couldn't help but smirk. "He's bein' stubborn."
Nodding the ghostly form explained, "He's bound and determined to rescue Adam but his legs... they're broken."
"Both of 'em?" When Sarah nodded, he cursed, "shit. Okay, we'll get 'em both out, then go after Adam. We'll do whatever we have to, to make sure you're both safe."
"Ma'am, how's my brother?"
"He's not as badly hurt, but he is injured."
"All right, then it's like Vin said. We get them out, and then we help your son get free. But, first, we've got to figure out how to get into the house."
"Come with me," Sarah turned, gliding through the snowy night as if she was moving through a spring garden. The two men followed, Sam surreptitiously keeping an eye on Vin. They moved to the far side of the home, the ruins having been taken over by nature. The ghost of Chris' wife moved unerringly to a particular spot, pointing into the wild growth. "You can reach the basement through here; the outside door is hidden beyond here. The lock is rusted; you should be able to break it. Be careful, it can be treacherous."
With twin nods, the two men pushed their way into the icy undergrowth.
Dean once more circled the room, trying his best to find a way out. He climbed the creaking stairs and once more tried the door at the top. Chris told him that it led to the pantry and on into the kitchen. It, too, defied his efforts to open it and, it too had been secured from the outside. He had tried it in earnest before, but found it steady against his attempt. Despite the age and damage, the wood was intact and the owner informed him that it had been locked from the outside in an effort to keep trespassers from entering the basement.
Reaching the opposite wall, he tried the door that was the outside entrance to the basement. With a sigh, he leaned back against the door then, to his shock and surprise, he found himself tumbling backward, his fall abruptly stopped by a pair of string arms. Tensing, the young man craned his head back, smiling when he saw a familiar face. "Hey, Sammy! I'm glad to see you!"
Standing his older brother back on his feet, the younger man said, "You, too. where are you hurt?"
"Ah, I'm fi"
"Dean," Sam warned sternly.
"Okay, a few cracked ribs, maybe a concussion."
Pushing away from his sibling, Dean grumbled as he led the way back to the basement. "Some cuts and bruises. Let it go, Sam. I'll live."
"Look, warm family reunion and all, but where's Chris?" Vin asked bringing up the rear.
"Vin?" Chris called from where he sat on the basement floor.
"Hey, Cowboy!" Tanner sounded as relieved as he felt. Moving past the brothers, he knelt beside the badly injured man. Laying a hand on one broad shoulder, he said, "Ya look like hell, Pard."
Managing a wan smile, Larabee replied, "Thanks. Gotta say, you're a sight for sore eyes." He grunted as a slight movement once more caused pain to explore through his body.
Worry consuming his face now, the Texan said, "We've gotta get you outta here and to a hospital."
Pushing the other man's hand away, Chris said, "No. Not until we release Adam from... that bastard."
"Chris, please, you need to get to safety. Adam and I can wait."
"No, you can't," Sam disagreed. When the others looked at him, he continued. "The sightings have all been on this date - "
"The date they... di... died," Larabee stammered, emotion flooding his voice.
"Yeah. If we don't release Adam's spirit tonight, then that... thing... will haunt him for another year, somewhere beyond our reach."
"Damn it!" Chris grumbled. Turning to Vin he said, "You see? We've got to do this now."
Looking his friend over, Vin saw the pale, pinched features and the tremble that ran the length of the lean, well-muscled body. Then, he looked into tear-filled, hazel-green eyes, and the pain he saw there. "Yeah," he said softly, squeezing the other man's shoulder, "Okay."
"Okay then, we need to do this." Dean said. "The first thing we need to do is get Adam here, with us."
"How do we do that?"
"I can help."
The four men found the spirit of Sarah Larabee coalescing once more before them. Chris said, "Sarah, what do you mean?"
"We need to call him. You and I. He'll hear our voices."
Without hesitation, the blond nodded and, in chorus with his wife he called, "Adam!"
Several minutes later, a tiny form appeared taking shape between Chris and Sarah. "Mama! Papa!"
Sarah gathered the child into her arms. "Oh, my sweet baby!"
"Mama!" Adam buried his face into his mother's arms, sobbing.
"He... he hasn't been with you?" Chris asked.
Lifting her head, tears gleaming in dark eyes, she explained, "No. He's been lost... trapped here, with that... that monster."
"Chris, the man who's spirit is chasing Adam. Was his body ever found?"
Tearing his attention away from his family, his heart breaking at the thought of his only child trapped in a nightmare without either parent for so long, Larabee looked at Dean. "No. Only... only two bodies were recovered."
"He fell through the floor," Sarah offered.
"Do you remember where?" Sam asked.
"In the back, near the back door. The fire... the floor gave way, he was trapped. He tried to jump to safety but... he didn't make it."
Pointing, Chris said, "He'd be back there, about... maybe fifteen - twenty feet."
Turning to Dean, Sam held out his hand toward his brother. "I need to get some stuff out of our car."
"Our car?!" Dean replied as he dug the keys out of his jeans.
"Shut up," The younger man's tone was exasperated. Taking the keys, he added, "I'll be right back."
"Want a hand?" Vin asked.
"Uh, no. No, I'm okay."
"Sammy, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have someone watch your back."
Once more squeezing Chris' shoulder, Vin rose carefully. Still suffering from the effects of the concussion, he recognized that he was in better shape than the other two men. Smiling at the apparition of Larabee's wife, he quipped, "Reckon if anyone can keep that mule settled, it's you, ma'am."
Sarah smiled in return. "I don't know if that's truly possible, but the two broken legs should help.
Tanner's laughter followed him as he, in turn, followed Sam Winchester from the cold, dark room.
Behind the two departing men, Sarah and Adam came to sit near Chris. The visions of his wife and son brought tears once more to the man's eyes. He couldn't keep from staring at the two of them. "My God, I've missed you both so... so much."
"I know sweetheart, I tried to get through to you in the beginning," Sarah replied softly. "But you weren't ready to hear me."
"No, I guess not. I was pretty messed up."
"I'm so glad that Buck was there for you, sweet man. And now Vin and the others. I'm happy that they've helped you..."
"Pull my head out of my - "
Sarah cleared her throat, glancing meaningfully at the spirit of their child. "Yes, that. I'm glad that you've been able to... find your way back."
"I'd still give anything if you... both of you... could be with me again."
"Silly man," Sarah scolded, reaching out, translucent hand stroking the air near Larabee's face. "I've been near... I always will be. And Adam," she drew their child to her once more, "Now that we've found him, I'll keep him close as well."
Chris nodded, tears streaming harder by the second. Unable to speak, he simply gazed at the beloved apparitions.
A few minutes later, they heard approach coming from two different directions. Chris and Sarah gasped at the same time, eyes widening as they turned toward the frightening sound of violence coming toward them, hidden from the man's eyes by the darkness. His wife, however, could see what was coming clearly. Adam screamed and clutched at his mother, pleading for his father to save him.
"Papa! Papa, please!"
"Dean! What do we do?"
"Dean!" The man was called now by another, much more familiar voice.
"Sammy! Hurry up!"
Sam Winchester and Vin Tanner appeared from the shadows, both of them carrying several packages. Quickly the Winchester brothers went into action, their movements coordinated as if they had been choreographed.
"Vin, you stay here. If it goes to hell, get Chris out of here!" Dean yelled the orders, uncaring that he was the subject of one of the blond's glares. With his brother at his side, he moved toward the rear of the basement. Beside him, small flashlight directed toward the book he was carrying, Sam began praying in Latin.
"Chris!" Sarah's eyes were focused into the distance. She was watching as the apparition moved closer, eyes filled with hatred-fueled fire. "Chris we have to keep him away from Adam!"
Vin wasn't certain what he could do, but he moved between his friend, the two spirits, and whatever it was Sarah was watching. Knowing that he couldn't physically interact with the angry ghost heading toward them, he reached inside his shirts and withdrew a tiny, silver cross. It was the only thing he had kept of his mother's and he had long drawn strength and comfort from it. Staring straight ahead into the darkness, he began reciting every prayer he had ever known.
The air began to spark and crackle with energy, the still air suddenly stirring into a violent storm that threw dirt and debris into their faces. Blinded by it, Vin shielded his eyes with one hand, while the other continued to finger the tiny cross. Time and again he had to stop, the storm taking his breath away.
Sam and Dean were scouring the basement with their flashlights, hoping against hope that they would find the remains of the man stalking the Larabee family. Their lights came across a jumble of burned and rotting wood, coaxing them closer.
Looking at one another, satisfaction on both faces, the brothers quickly pulled the wood away, bringing down a rain of loose dirt but nothing more. Their lights found the dust covered bones of their target. Dean tossed accelerant over the bones, Sam quickly following that with salt. The sound of a match strike, and the entire thing began to burn rapidly.
"Come on, let's get out of here!" Sam called out. The storm was spreading, heading their way now.
Vin, Chris, Sarah and Adam watched as the evil apparition screamed, the sound reverberating off the walls. All four of them covered their ears as the scream threatened to deafen them.
Then... it was over.
Blinking the dirt out of his eyes, Chris looked around. With a shocked expression, he stared at his wife. "Sarah, is it over?"
Relief filled her beautiful face. "I think so. Yes, it's over. He's gone." Looking down into Adam's face she said, "It's over. Baby, you're safe now."
"It's gone? I'm... I can leave?"
"Yes, son, you can leave now." Larabee felt his heart breaking at those words, but he continued. "You can go with your Mama now, son."
"But... Papa? Mama, can Papa come with us?"
"No, sweetheart, not yet."
"But, I want Papa to come with us!"
Reaching down, Sarah tipped the child's face up. "Your Papa still has work to do here, darling. He'll be with us... later. For now him, Uncle Buck, Vin and the rest of their friends have a job to do." Turning toward Chris she smiled, tears falling at the same time. "But, when he's ready, you and I will be waiting for him. All right?"
Sounding on the verge of tears himself, the little boy said, "All right." Turning toward his father, Adam said, "I miss you, Papa."
"I miss you, too, son. Now, you... you and your mama need to... you need to go."
Vin had come over and was once more kneeling beside the blond. Reaching out, he wrapped an arm around the other man's shoulders. Turning toward Sarah and Adam, who both seemed more transparent now, he said, "I'll do my best ta take care of him, ma'am."
As she faded into the darkness, her son beside her now, she replied, "I'll count on you, Vin Tanner."
Dean and Sam Winchester had entered the room, until now standing to the side so as not to interfere with anything, came over to the other men. Dean looked down at them. "We need to get out of here. That fire's likely to burn for a while."
They all saw the despair that filled Larabee's face, but he said only, "Let's go."
Seeing no other way around it, Sam said "wish we had time to splint your legs, but there's no time," as he leaned down and drew the injured man into his arms. Chris screamed as the pain overwhelmed him. Before Winchester could stand, he passed out, limp, dead weight in the younger man's embrace.
The fire was casting a faint light around them now. Seeing that, Dean said, "Let's get out of here!"
Epilog: Two Days Later
Chris Larabee looked up from his hospital bed as someone entered the room. He managed a smile as the two brothers entered. Dean looked better than he had the last time he'd seen the young man and both men looked well rested. He had insisted that they stay at his ranch long enough to recuperate from the ordeal. "Good to see you boys. Looks like my ranch agrees with you."
"It's great!" Dean exuded. "Wish we could stay a while longer."
"You're welcome to stay as long as you want," Chris reminded them.
"We'd love to," Sam interjected. He had spent quite a bit of time in the man's Jacuzzi over the last two days. "But, we can't."
"Yeah, something's come up. There's a job, up near the Canadian border." Dean said, his voice wistful. "We've got to go."
Nodding, Larabee said, "Well, any time you boys are in the neighborhood, stop by." He saw the looks in the two young man's faces, recognizing something there. He didn't know much about the two young men but his senses, honed by years in the military and law enforcement, told him that they had a reason to fear being around him or Vin. With an encouraging smile he added, "No one has to know you're around of course."
Relaxing now, Dean said, "We'll keep that in mind."
"I can't tell you boys how much what you did means to me. If I had known earlier..." His eyes misted over, but he cleared his throat and continued. "Anyway, I owe you both a huge debt. You can count on me to help you out, any time you need me."
The two men smiled. Sam said, "We appreciate that."
"Chris, take care of yourself, okay?" Dean waved and, Sam beside him, the two Winchester men left the room.
A few minutes later Vin, Buck and Ezra entered the room. Vin looked angry, but he didn't seem to be upset with Chris.
"Stud, you seen them two boys?" Buck asked.
"We've learned some very disturbing things about Mssers Winchester," Ezra said matter of factly. "It seems that - "
Chris held up a hand. "Wasn't them."
"What?" Buck and Ezra responded in unison, their tones shocked.
"Wasn't them. End of story. And, if you two value your lives, this had better be the end of it."
Standish and Wilmington frowned, exchanging looks of confusion. Then they turned to regard both Tanner and Larabee. They had yet to learn much about what had happened two days ago. All they knew was that Chris had been injured when he and Dean Winchester had gone to find his Ram. Vin had been injured earlier. And, somewhere amongst all the injuries, the rest of the Larabee home had burned down, leaving nothing but scorched earth.
Shrugging, Buck said, "Okay... but sometime down the road, one of you boys are gonna tell us what happened."
Vin and Chris said nothing, the two men simply smiling non-committally. They watched as their friends left the room, and then Tanner settled on the foot of Larabee's bed, a hand resting gently on one cast covered leg. "They gone?"
"Figured as much. When I woke up earlier, their stuff was gone. Wish I'd had a chance ta tell them bye."
"I don't think they hear that much," Chris mused.
"Cowboy, I've gotta tell ya. I'm not real certain what all happened back there. Sometimes I think maybe my head injury was worse than I thought."
Shrugging, the blond said, "Might be better if you left it just like that."
"Well..." Vin paused, "I am glad that... whatever happened... happened."
"Well, just thought I'd check in on ya. Need anything?"
His eyes drawn to the family portrait Tanner had brought to him from the ranch, Chris could only shake his head. "No... I've got everything I need."
November 23, 2007