Thank you for reading the last chapter and for the reviews, I appreciate it so much.
Hope you enjoy this chapter.
Stacey Winchester, MD
Chapter Three: On The Road Again
Harvelle's Roadhouse — Central Nebraska — 11:23AM
The stern frown at Dean's brow was so deeply furrowed that Stacey wasn't sure her brother remembered quite how to relax his facial muscles. It proved that he was anything but impressed as he pulled up outside an old, depleted building in a beat-up, lime green, and poorly maintained minivan. It squeaked as he drove, and it seemed to creak louder with every corner he forced it to turn, as though the vehicle itself could feel physical pain and it cried out to come to a final and permanent halt. Something, she assumed, Dean would have been all too happy to comply with. Each sound that it made appeared to only increase the eldest sibling's annoyance with the whole situation, and, had the circumstances been different, she might have found it amusing. He threw it into park and sat back against the uncomfortable and lumpy seat, giving a look of disgust to the old and fraying fabric around him.
"This is humiliating." he muttered, more to himself than to either of his siblings, because they didn't seem to care, and he threw open his door with a loud creak. "I feel like a friggin' soccer mom!"
Sam huffed a laugh, amused, as he and Stacey followed his lead and climbed from the van. "It's the only car Bobby had running." he offered, apologetic, as though that was supposed to make the situation any less painful for him.
"I think it suits you." Stacey observed, and she offered him a bright smile of encouragement.
"I think you better watch your mouth." Dean countered, and he threw her a look of warning simply on principle.
Sam approached the door of the large building before them, and, as he curiously glanced around, it crossed his mind that they seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. The area was quiet, secluded, deserted. It occurred to him that they hadn't seen another person or car for a long while. The air was dusty, and the light breeze did nothing to shield them from the warmth of the sun above. He gave a weak shake of the handle, and shook his head in indication to his siblings that it was locked. He wasn't sure why he had assumed their luck was going to start today.
"Hello?" he called through the thin and dirty glass, but there was no sign of anybody inside. "Anyone here?!"
Dean and Stacey wandered around the edge of the building, but, again, there was no sign of anybody living there.
"Maybe this was a bust." Dean muttered, nonchalant, as he peered through one of the back windows.
She shrugged, unconcerned. "Least it got us out of the house." she quipped, and there was a note of optimism in her words. About what, he wasn't sure.
Stacey raised an eyebrow when he said nothing, because she noted he didn't appear to be at all disheartened by the thought of them chasing a dead lead. She knew, if he had his way, they would head straight back to Bobby's where he could continue to work on the Impala in peace. Away from the subject of their father, and away from the constant concerned stare of his younger brother. Back there, he could grieve for their dad in his own way, without needing to explain himself to anybody. Here, he was only an inch away from being faced with questions and conversations he simply didn't want to engage in.
"Hey," Sam called, and the two of them headed back towards him. "Did you bring the, uh..." He trailed off, and Dean shot him a look as though to say it had been a stupid question. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a lock picking kit, and he almost held it out towards his brother, but he paused.
His eyes wandered towards the girl beside him, and a smirk came to his face. "Show us what you've got, rookie."
Stacey huffed, and she took the kit from him with a look that promised not to expect any miracles. It had been years since she had picked a lock, and, in all honestly, she wasn't sure she remembered where to start. It had been a skill that she had once excelled in, but it was also one that she hadn't needed to rely on in a long time. It occurred to her in that moment, maybe she was more out of the game than she had initially realized. She couldn't remember the last time she had fired a gun, or even loaded one. She struggled to recall the last time she had held a knife for something other than cooking dinner, or the last time she had smelt the bitterness of blood outside of an emergency room.
Dean watched her closely, monitoring her every move, but he remained silent. She crouched until she was eye level with the lock, and there was a concentrated frown set at her perfectly waxed eyebrows. He considered asking if she needed some help, but the sound of a loud click rang through the air, and a smile came to his face.
"Nice job." he mused, and there was a note of pride in his words as he ruffled her brown hair affectionately. "I knew there was still some of that little criminal left in you."
Careful not to make a sound, Sam pushed open the door, and the three of them headed inside. The saloon was quiet, and the only sound was made by a small fly that buzzed around the ceiling. Three sets of eyes followed it as it headed towards a blue light in the corner, and it was zapped with a loud crackle of a bug light. The place was smaller than it had appeared on the outside, yet there was something about it that felt somewhat homely. There was a small bar to their right, and a few tables were scattered around in no particular order. They were clean, dusted, and the faint smell of lemon cleaning products lingered in the air. Someone was taking care of that place. Maybe their journey hadn't been a waste. Towards the back of the room was a large pool table, and atop it was the form of a man, passed out and snoring lightly.
"Hey, buddy?" Sam called towards him. They approached, wary, but the man didn't stir. "I'm guessing that isn't Ellen."
Dean huffed. "Yeah."
Sam gave a slow shake of his head, and he made his way towards the closed door behind the bar before he disappeared through it.
Stacey opened her mouth to say something, but the sound of a loud buzzing within the back pocket of her jeans distracted her. She pulled out her phone, curious, and closed her eyes. The name that flashed up on the screen made something in the pit of her stomach turn, and a fresh wave of guilt and sorrow washed right through her entire body. Without a word, she declined the call and switched off the phone before she returned it to her jeans.
"Still ignoring Matt, huh?" Dean pondered, and he glanced down at her, expectant. "Where does he think you are, Stace?"
"I told him that my dad died. I told him that I needed some space with my family to sort things out. He said he understood." She shrugged, but he didn't miss how the fingers of her right hand instinctively twisted the large diamonds around her third finger. "I really don't know what else I can tell him. It's complicated."
"By time with your family, you mean he thinks you're with Sam and Bobby, right?" he pressed knowingly. "Look, I'm not here to judge, Stacey. But, you can't carry on like this forever. What are you gonna do when he gets sick of calling and he shows up at Bobby's place looking for you? Because he will, sis. Eventually, he's gonna wanna talk to you. And you're gonna have to say something."
Stacey opened her mouth to reply, unsure on what she intended to say, but she didn't get the chance. As she turned to lean against the table behind her, prepared to have this conversation with him if she really had to, her green eyes widened, as did Dean's. He felt something hard press against the middle of his back, and he closed his eyes at the sound of a gun being cocked.
"Oh, god, please let that be a rifle." he breathed, and he looked ahead to his sister. She stood with her hands held up, eyes fixed upon the mystery person behind him who held the weapon.
"No, I'm just real happy to see you." A female voice countered, sarcastic. There was no humor in her tone, and, even without seeing her, he could tell that whoever it was wasn't kidding around. "Don't move, either of you."
"Not moving. Copy that." Dean affirmed. There was a glint in his eyes, as though to say that he knew something neither she or Stacey did. There was a look of urgency in his sister's eyes, a panic as though she was silently asking him what the hell she was supposed to do to help him, but he gave no indication of worry. Instead, he winked at her. "You know... you should know something, miss... when you put a rifle on someone, you don't wanna put it right against their back. Because, it makes it real easy to do," He turned fluidly and grabbed the gun from her, and he cocked it. "That."
But Dean's smugness was short lived. Within that same second he had disarmed the mysterious woman before him, her fist collided with his face, and he fell back against his sister. The blonde girl reclaimed her rifle, and it was swiftly pointed back towards them. She didn't appear to be much younger than they were, and her long blonde hair fell gracefully over her shoulders into delicate waves. She was pretty, petite, but there was something fiery about her. Wrapped around her jeans was a small apron, and it indicated they had finally found someone who worked there.
"Sam?!" Dean called out through the hand pressed to his face. "Need some help in here!"
"Sorry, Dean. I can't right now." Sam's voice rang through the empty bar towards them. "I'm a little... tied up."
They glanced towards him as he walked slowly through the door behind the bar. His hands here pressed to his head, and, as a woman followed him through, it was clear why. She held a small pistol, aimed to the back of his skull.
A frown came to her face as she looked from Sam to his siblings, and she glanced between them, curious. "Sam? Dean? Winchester?"
"Yeah." Sam and Dean answered, confused.
"Son of a bitch." she breathed, and her attention turned to the small girl whose arms were looped beneath Dean's from where he had stumbled back against her. "That must make you Stacey."
"Mom, you know these guys?" The blonde girl asked, a frown creased at her brow, as though silently asking her mother whether she should lower her rifle or get a better aim.
"Yeah, I think these are John Winchester's kids." She lowered the gun from the back of Sam's head, and any ounce of anger or wariness in her features dissipated into a laugh. She appeared to be in her forties, with pale skin and red hair. Her face was kind, welcoming, and her smile was suddenly so warm to them. "Hey, I'm Ellen. This is my daughter, Jo." She looked towards Dean, and offered a look of apology. "Let me get you some ice for that."
Jo promptly lowered the gun, and she offered a smile towards Dean and Stacey, somewhat sheepish. "Hey."
"Hey." Dean and Stacey repeated, confused.
Something changed in Stacey's expression, and she narrowed her eyes at the girl before them as she took a step closer. "Do I know you?" she pressed, curious. "I feel like I know you. In fact, I'm sure that I know you."
Jo studied her carefully, and for a long moment she appeared lost. But a look of realization washed through her face, and suddenly she looked terrified. "Yeah, we've met." She nodded. "Missouri. I was in your ER."
Stacey continued to stare at her, and she tried to think through every blonde girl that she had ever met there, puzzled. But then it dawned on her, and she wondered how she could have ever forgotten her. "You're hunters." she resolved. Suddenly, she remembered every little detail of their meeting.
Jo looked away for a moment, and she studied the floorboards beneath her boots. She sighed, as though ashamed. "Please don't mention this to my mom." she pleaded in a hurried whisper as the door behind the bar opened again.
Ellen approached them, and she held out some ice wrapped in a small towel towards Dean. "Thanks." he nodded, and he pressed the cold substance against his throbbing cheek.
"Did you say you'd met before?" Ellen asked, and she looked between Stacey and Jo, curious.
"Oh, uh, no, no." Stacey shook her head, and Jo offered her a look of thanks. "Your daughter just really looks like a girl I went to school with. Long time ago, it's nothing."
"Nicole Brennan?" Dean interjected, and Stacey looked to him, confused. "Yeah, I remember her. She's right, you do look a lot like her." He looked towards Ellen, so confident in his words. "She and Stacey were in the school play together. Before they got thrown out for setting fire to the stage, that is."
"Huh." Ellen narrowed her eyes, but she seemed to buy it from them. Really, what reason did they have to lie to her? "Right."
Stacey found herself smiling, because Dean's talent for effortlessly backing up her lies with a ridiculous story or made up fact was an attribute she had long since forgotten he possessed. He shot her a look, as though to tell her that she would be explaining herself the second they left that place, before he returned his attention to the two women before them.
"So, you called our dad." Dean stated, and he looked towards Ellen as he spoke. "You said you could help. Help with what?"
Ellen frowned, as though the question had surprised her. "Well, with the demon, of course." she replied, upbeat. "I heard he was closing in on it."
Dean was lost. As far as he had known, their father had kept himself to himself when it came to hunting the demon that had killed their mother and destroyed their family. He had never known of anyone else being involved in the one hunt he had never managed to solve. "What, was there an article in Demon Hunters Quarterly that we missed? I mean, who are you? How do you know about all this?"
"Hey," Ellen held up her hands in defense. "I just run a saloon. But hunters have been known to pass though here now and again. Including your dad a long time ago. John was like family once."
"Oh yeah?" His eyebrows raised, as though to say he wasn't sure he believed her. "How come he's never mentioned you before?"
Ellen sighed, and she looked away from the three siblings who watched her intently for a moment. "You'd have to ask him that."
Dean shook his head, and it was clear that his already short patience was wearing thin. "So, why exactly do we need your help?"
Ellen scoffed. "Hey, don't do me any favors." she snapped. "Look, if you don't want my help, fine. Don't let the door smack your ass on the way out. But John wouldn't have sent you if—" But she stopped, and a look of realization drained the colour from her face. "He didn't send you." she concluded, and the look on each of their faces confirmed that. "He's alright, isn't he?"
Dean looked away from her, because it was a question that he just wasn't prepared to answer again. Stacey opened and closed her mouth, unsure of what to say, because talking about the details of her father's death was something that she couldn't force herself to go into yet. And Sam sighed, because it was clear that neither his brother or sister were willing to break the news to them.
"No. No, he isn't." he stated, and there was a sorrow in his words. "It was the demon. We think. It, uh, it just got him before he got it, I guess."
The look on Ellen's face was one of grief, sorrow, pain, loss. Whoever she had been to their father, however she had known him and however long ago it had been, whatever had happened between them to make their dad never want to mention her, it was clear that the news of his death had hit her, hard. "I'm so sorry." she offered, sincere.
"It's okay." Dean muttered, uninterested in hearing anyone else say how sorry they were for their loss. "We're alright."
"Really?" Ellen didn't appear convinced. "I know how close you and your dad were."
"Really, lady. I'm fine." he snapped, and his tone warned her away from pressing him any further.
Stacey shot him a look of disapproval, and she saw him bite back another comment. He took a short breath to compose himself, and he looked away from them. Stacey looked back towards Ellen, and she gave a tight smile, as though to say it was nothing personal from him. "You said you could help us, if you can, we could use all the help we can get right now." she said, honest. As far as she was concerned, they weren't in a position to be turning down help, no matter where it came from.
"Well, we can't." Ellen replied, gesturing between herself and Jo. "But Ash will."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "Ash?" he asked. "Who's Ash?"
A smirk tugged at the corner of Ellen's lips. "Ash!" she bellowed, and her voice echoed around the bar.
The man who had remained passed out on the pool table throughout their entire exchange jolted awake, and he sat up, startled. "What?" he sounded confused, maybe even drunk. "It closin' time?"
Sam looked from him to Ellen, dubious. "That's Ash?"
"Mm-hmm." Jo smiled. "He's a genius."
Dean looked at Sam, and Sam looked towards Stacey, who shrugged. Skeptical as they might have been, they didn't have offers of help coming from anywhere else, what did they have to lose by hearing the guy out? Dean threw up his hands in defeat, and he moved to sit at the bar, as though to say he was ready to listen. Stacey stood beside him, while Sam sat on the stool to his left. Jo busied herself behind the bar and poured each of them a glass of water.
Ash approached them, and Sam reached inside his jacket for a brown folder, one which neither of his siblings had been aware of him carrying. He wore a simple flannel shirt, with the sleeves torn off, and his hair was styled perfectly into a mullet that could have made Billy Cyrus jealous. He looked like a classic rock fan, and, it appeared, he drank like one, too. There was something about him that made him instantly likable.
"You've gotta be kidding me," Dean mused as Ash took a seat beside him. "This guy's no genius. He's a Lynyrd Skynyrd roadie."
Ash chuckled, and he nodded. "I like you." he quipped, amused.
"Just give him a chance." Jo stated, and she threw him a look that promised he wouldn't be disappointed.
"Alright." He opened the folder that Sam had placed on the bar, and he hoped that it would make more sense to the man sitting beside him than it did to him and his siblings. "This is about a years worth of our dad's work. So, uh, let's see what you make of it."
Ash pulled the papers from the folder curiously, and he began to rifle through them. His eyes flickered between the sheets, scanning the words so fast that there was no way he could really be reading them, and he shook his head. "Come on," He sounded surprised, in awe, even. "This crap ain't real. There ain't nobody can track a demon like this."
Sam smiled a little. "Our dad could." he replied, and there was a pride behind his words. One, Dean noted, he had never heard from Sam before where there father had been concerned.
"There are non-parametrics, statistical overviews, prospects and correlations. I mean, damn." He looked between the siblings, and he noticed they all appeared as puzzled as each other at his words. "They're signs." he clarified. "Omens. Uh, if you can track 'em, you can track this demon. You know, like crop failures, electrical storms..." He glanced up at Dean. "You ever been struck by lightening? It ain't fun."
Sam frowned. "So, can you track it, or not?"
"Yeah, with this... I think so. But it's gonna take time. Uh, give me..." He trailed off, and for a moment he appeared lost within a deep thought. "Fifty one hours." He rose from his stool to leave, and there was a confidence behind the way he moved.
"Hey, man?" Dean called after him. "I, uh, I dig the haircut."
A smirk came to his face as he ran a hand through his mullet. "All business up front. Party in the back." He nodded, and with a final flick of his hair, he disappeared into the room behind the bar.
As he left, Jo came around the other side of the bar, and her eyes were locked upon Dean. He checked her out tiredly, and he rose from his seat to follow her, he wasn't sure why. In that moment, it seemed the most likely thing for him to do in that situation, and he followed his instincts as though chasing some sense of his former normality.
"Hey, Ellen, what's that?" Sam pressed, curious.
Ellen turned and she followed his gaze towards a brown folder behind the bar. "Oh, I was gonna give it to a friend of mine." she said, and she took it to pass to him. "Take a look, if you want."
There were some newspaper clippings attached to the front, and in red marker; Couple Murdered, Child Left Alive, Medford, Wisconsin.
Sam looked towards Stacey, and he raised an eyebrow. "How would you feel about taking a job?" he asked, genuinely curious. His tone left the door wide open for her to decline, and she knew for a fact that, should she choose against it, nothing more would have been said about it.
Stacey nodded. "What have we got?" she asked, and she pulled the folder closer towards herself.
Out of earshot of his siblings, Dean took a seat opposite Jo in a booth by the window. There was a small smile tugging at the corner of her pink lips, and he found himself struggling to force one back. Everything suddenly felt so different. There was a beautiful girl sitting across from him, a glimmer in her eyes and a flirtatious smirk at her mouth, and he just didn't have it within himself to give anything in return.
His gaze traveled towards where Ellen was talking to Sam and Stacey, and he looked back to Jo. "So, how'd your mom get into this stuff, anyway?" he asked, curious.
"From my dad." she answered. "He was a hunter. He passed away."
Dean noted the pain in her eyes at the mention of her father, and, honestly, he understood. "I'm sorry." he stated, genuine, sincere.
But Jo simply shook her head. "It was a long time ago, I was just a kid." She regarded him for a moment, as though unsure of her next comment. "I'm sorry to hear about your dad."
Dean nodded in acknowledgement. "So, you seem to know my sister. What's that about?" he asked. He was curious, but, more than that, it was an attempt to steer the conversation away from the unwelcome subject of his father.
Jo smiled a little. "It's a long story. From a long time ago." Dean raised his eyebrows, as though to say he wanted to know, and she nodded. "Uh, my mom isn't crazy about hunting. For obvious reasons. I mean, she has nothing against those who do it, but, not me. I got to that age where I was curious about my dad, about what happened to him. And, I wanted to be like him. I painted him as some big hero in my own mind. I wanted to do what he did. She didn't like that. I heard about this hunt, some guys were in here talking about it, I wasn't in the best place. I was confused, grieving, so I span her some lie and high-tailed it down to Missouri. Vampires. A lot of them. I was in way over my head."
Dean listened to her carefully. "What happened?"
"They found me before I found them. Couple of them came to the motel room, they had me tied up to a chair, and..." She trailed off, shaking her head. "They were feeding on me. I suppose, it's better than the alternative. I managed to get away, but I was hurt. I left it as long as I could without going to a hospital, until someone found me passed out in a parking lot. Your sister was there when I was brought into the ER, and she saw the bite on my arm. I remember her seeing it, the look on her face, and then I passed out. When I woke up I expected cops, questions, but there was just her. She didn't let anybody else into my room, she just sat there and waited. She asked me if they'd turned me, I said no, and she let me go. No questions, no judgement, she said she understood. She didn't want answers, or an explanation. She didn't want to hound me with questions about what had happened. I don't remember ever being as scared as I was when I woke up there, and she just let me go. She saved me a lot of trouble that night."
Dean quirked a brow. "You never told your mom?"
Jo chuckled. "Would you?"
Dean smiled, and he considered the idea that her mother wasn't someone he'd like to be on the wrong side of. "Yeah, I get that." he huffed a laugh. "So, I guess I got fifty-one hours to kill. Maybe tonight we should, uh..." He trailed off, and he looked up to face her. He sighed, depleted, and shook his head. "You know what, never mind."
Jo frowned. "What?"
"Nothing." There was something inside him that just couldn't go through with it, however much he wanted to. "Just, uh, wrong place, wrong time."
But Jo didn't appear shocked, and she offered him a knowing smile. "You know, I thought you were gonna toss me some cheap pick-up line." Dean chuckled, almost embarrassed. "Most hunters come though that door, think they can get in my pants with some pizza, a six pack, and side one of Zeppelin Four."
"Well..." Dean smiled, and his eyes found hers. "What a bunch of scumbags."
Jo narrowed her eyes. "Not you."
Dean huffed, and he nodded. "I guess not."
"Dean!" Sam called over to him. "Come here, check this out." He threw an apologetic look towards Jo, and he pushed himself to stand before he crossed the bar towards where Sam and Stacey were sitting at the bar. "A few murders that Ellen caught wind of, not far from here." he explained, pushing the folder towards him. "Looks to me like there might be a hunt."
"Yeah?" Dean raised a brow. "So?"
Sam sighed. "So, I told her we'd check it out."
For a moment, Dean looked unsure. He looked as though he wanted to say no, that he was trying to think up some excuse to do anything other than take a hunt. But, it occurred to him, what else did they have to do? He couldn't face the idea of sitting in a motel room for two days waiting to see if Ash could find anything for them, and the less time spent sitting around avoiding talking about their father, the better. Maybe keeping busy was the best thing for them to do.
Dean reached for the folder, and his eyes scanned the research quickly. His eyebrows raised, dubious, and he huffed a laugh. "You've gotta be kidding me. Killer clown?"
"Yeah," Sam nodded. "He left the daughter unharmed and killed the parents."
"Ripped them to pieces, actually." Stacey interjected. "The family was at this carnival that night." she added, reaching up to point at one of the newspaper clippings.
"Right, the Cooper Carnivals." Sam stated.
Dean still didn't appear convinced. "So, how do you know we're not dealing with some psycho carnie in a clown suit?"
"Well, the cops have no viable leads, and all the employees were tearing down the shop. Alibis all around." he told him. "Plus, this girl said she saw a clown vanish into thin air. Cops are saying trauma, of course."
Dean regarded him for a long moment, and a faint smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Well, I know what you're thinking, Sam. Why did it have to be clowns?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Oh, give me a break."
At that, Dean laughed. "You didn't think I'd remember, did you? I mean, come on, you still burst out crying whenever you see Ronald McDonald on the television."
"Well, at least I'm not afraid of flying." he countered, smug.
"Planes crash!" Dean retorted, defensive.
"And, apparently clowns kill." Sam argued.
"Guys." Stacey cut in, looking between them, amused. "Back to the murders." She took the file from Dean and pulled out another couple of news articles, handing them to him. "According to the file, 1981, the Bunker Brothers Circus, same motive. It happened three times, three different locations."
"Huh." Dean looked over it carefully. "It's weird, though. I mean, if it is a spirit, it's usually bound to a specific location, you know, a house, or a town, how is it moving from city to city, carnival to carnival?"
"Cursed object, maybe?" she offered, but she sounded as lost as he did. "Spirit attaches itself to something and the carnival carries it around with them?"
"Great." Sam huffed. "Paranormal scavenger hunt."
"Well, this case was your idea." Dean muttered, and he looked up to him, almost accusing. "By the way, why is that? I mean, you're awfully quick to jump on this job. It's not like you. I thought you were hell bent for leather on the demon hunt."
"I don't know." Sam sighed. "I just think, this job, it's what dad would have wanted us to do."
Dean frowned. "What dad would have wanted?"
"Yeah." Sam raised an eyebrow, as though he didn't see the issue that his brother clearly did. "So?"
But Dean shook his head, because it was something he wasn't going to get into again. "Nothing. Let's hit the road."
Stacey offered Sam a smile of reassurance, because their brother's hot and cold attitude left both of them feeling as though they were walking on eggshells. There was no way to understand what was going on inside his head, because he wouldn't give a single thing away.
Between them, they said their goodbyes to Ellen and Jo, with the promise that they would return once the hunt was over, before they headed out to the car. Dean's mood, once again, hit rock bottom when he was confronted with the sight of the minivan.
"You want me to drive?" Sam offered, as though he assumed it would make him feel any better.
But Dean shook his head. "No. The only thing worse that driving this thing around is being driven around in this thing by you."
Stacey huffed a laugh as she climbed into the back. "Come on, the quicker we get this over with, the quicker we can get you back to your car."
Somehow, that made him feel a little more positive about the whole thing, and he nodded. "Yeah. Let's go."
Cooper Carnival — Medford, Wisconsin — 04:34PM
The squeak of the minivan almost certainly announced the Winchester sibling's arrival to the carnival, and Dean couldn't seem to slouch any further down in his seat in attempt to not be seen driving it. As they came to a stop, immediately they were met with a scene not typical of the average fun-fair.
"Check it out," Dean nodded towards a small group of people. "Five-oh." There were a couple of detectives talking to three members of the carnival, all dressed as clowns, and the three of them climbed out of the van to get a better look. "You guys stay here, I'm gonna go see what I can see."
Neither Sam or Stacey had the chance to say a word before their brother stalked off towards the group.
"How are you feeling?" Sam asked her, cautious. "Being back on a case."
Stacey frowned, because, truthfully, she hadn't given it much thought until he had asked. "I'm alright." she replied, sincere.
Sam opened his mouth to say something else, but he quickly closed it again. He pushed his hands further into his pockets as a woman, no taller than three foot, approached him. She was wearing a clown costume, and Stacey could almost feel the nerves radiating from him. The woman came to a stop before them, and her eyes locked with Sam. Her stare bore right into him, and all he could do was stare back at her. Slowly, she took a step closer, before she continued on her way without a word.
Stacey looked to him and raised a brow, and she was sure she could see the faint glisten of sweat at his brow.
"Did you get her number?" Dean's voice broke through his thoughts, and there was an amusement to his tone.
Sam simply scowled at him, as though to say he hadn't seen the funny side. "More murders?" he pressed.
Dean nodded. "Two more last night." he told him, his voice low so to be sure they weren't overheard. "Apparently they were ripped to shreds. And they had a little body with them."
"Who fingered a clown." Sam remarked, blunt.
Dean paused, and he turned to him, perplexed by the comment. "Yes. Sam. A clown. Who, apparently, vanished into thin air."
"Dean," Sam sighed. "You know, looking for a cursed object is like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles. They could be anything."
"Well, it's bound to give off EMF, right?" Stacey suggested. "Maybe we just have to scan everything."
"Oh, good," Sam huffed. "That's nice and... inconspicuous."
Dean's eyes scanned the carnival, looking for some kind of plan to jump out at him, before his gaze settled on a sign in the distance. Help Wanted. S. Cooper.
"I guess we'll just have to blend in, won't we?" he muttered, nodding towards the sign. "Come on."
Dean marched them towards the first tent they could find, and together they entered. There was a man in a suit throwing daggers at a large target, with scary accuracy. Each one of them landed effortlessly in the bulls-eye.
"Excuse me, we're looking for a Mr Cooper," Dean stated. "Have you seen him around?"
The man on the stage scoffed. "What is that, some kind of joke?" he asked, annoyed. Slowly, he turned, and he removed the sunglasses from his face. His eyes were clear and white, and Dean visibly cringed.
"Oh, god," He shook his head. "I'm—I'm sorry. I—"
"You think I wouldn't give my eye-teeth to see Mr Cooper?" he continued. "Or a sunset, or anything at all?"
Dean glanced towards his brother and sister, helpless. "You wanna give me a little help here?" he asked quietly.
Sam shook his head. "No, not really."
Stacey offered him a thumbs up. "You got this, bro."
"Hey, is there a problem here?!" An angry voice came from behind them, and Dean turned to see a short man in a red cape standing in the entrance to the tent. There was a metal bar in his left hand, and he didn't appear afraid of using it.
"Yeah," The man on the stage gestured towards where Dean was standing. "This guy hates blind people."
"No, I don't." Dean stated, defensive. "I—it's just a little misunderstanding."
The short man's eyes widened. "Little?!" He raised the metal bar in his hand towards Dean. "You son of a bitch!"
"No, no, no, no!" Dean held up his hands, flustered, and the fact that his brother and sister were doubled over laughing behind him wasn't helping his case. "I'm just... I... could somebody just tell me where Mr Cooper is?! Please?!"
"Dean," Stacey called, and he looked towards her. "Through there."
Dean frowned, and he looked through the gap in the tent to a small trailer. Outside, there was a small piece of paper taped to the door, written on it was Mr Cooper. "You're both dead." he muttered, before he stalked past them.
Sam and Stacey shared a smirk between themselves before they followed his lead. Dean came to a stop outside and banged on the closed door with the side of his fist. There was the sound of movement inside, someone muttering under their breath, before the door swung open.
An old man frowned down at them, as though asking why they hadn't already explained why there were there. "Yeah?"
"Uh, hi." Dean offered a smile. "I'm Dean, this is Sam, and Stacey. We're here about the jobs."
For a moment, he was sure that he was going to slam the door in their faces, but he narrowed his eyes, curious. "Come in." The three of them followed his lead into the small trailer. It was cramped, with odd objects everywhere they turned. There was a small desk littered with papers in the middle. "Well, you kids picked a hell of a time to join up." Mr Cooper stated, and he sat down at his desk. "Take a seat."
Dean glanced down at the three available chairs opposite him; two were normal, the other was pink with a large clown's face painted on it. He knew his brother hadn't yet noticed, and a smirk came to his face. He shoved Stacey down onto one of the normal chairs, and, as he saw the colour drain from Sam's face as he realized, he beat him to the other one. Sam scowled at him before he gingerly lowered himself to sit on the only available seat left, fidgeting and uncomfortable.
"We've got all kinds of local trouble." he continued, as though he hadn't even noticed their antics.
Dean frowned at him. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, a couple of folks got themselves murdered." he muttered, as though it was something that didn't concern him in the slightest. "Cops always seem to start here first. So, you three ever worked the circuit before?"
"Uh, yes, sir." Sam lied. "Last year through Texas and Arkansas."
Dean and Stacey gave an enthusiastic nod as though to back up his story.
"Doing what?" he pressed, curious. "Ride Jockies? Butcher? ANS?"
"Yeah, it's, uh, little bit of everything." he muttered, unsure. "I guess."
Mr Cooper looked between them, and he nodded. "You three have never worked a show in your lives, have you?"
Dean sighed, defeated, and he held up his hands in defeat. "No." he admitted. "But we really need the work. Oh, and, uh, Sam here's got a thing for the bearded lady."
Sam shot him a look, as though to tell him he was anything but funny.
"You see that picture?" Mr Cooper pointed towards an old photograph towards the side of his office, hanging on the wall. "That's my daddy."
Sam narrowed his eyes at the picture, and then looked back to him. "You look just like him." he observed. They were identical.
"He was in the business." he told them, and there was a pride behind his words. "Ran a freak-show. 'Til they outlawed them, most places. Apparently displaying the deformed for entertainment isn't dignified."
Stacey scoffed. "Imagine that." she muttered.
Mr Cooper shot her a look. "So, most of the performers went from honest work to rotting in hospitals and asylums. That's progress, I guess. You see, this place, it's a refuge for outcasts. Always has been. For folks that don't fit in nowhere else. But, you three? You should go to school. Find yourselves a nice partner. Have two point five kids. Live normal."
Dean opened his mouth to respond, but he didn't get the chance. Sam leaned forwards, and his eyes locked with the man opposite him. "Sir? We don't want to go to school." he stated, blunt, serious. "And we don't want regular. We want this."
Mr Cooper looked between the three of them one last time, and he sat back in his seat with a sigh. "Fine." he caved. "Whatever. You're on a weeks trail. Unpaid. Go round the back and get yourselves a uniform. Any trouble..."
"No trouble." Sam assured. "We won't let you down, sir."
Mr Cooper nodded, and he waved them off without another word.
The three of them headed out of the trailer, and into the back room where they found a row of red jackets hanging neatly on a rail. Dean pulled one off and tossed it towards his sister, before grabbing one for himself.
"I'd forgotten about the god-awful costumes." she remarked as she pulled up the zip. "I smell like a popcorn machine."
"Could be worse," Sam muttered, hesitantly sniffing at his own uniform. "I smell like some kid's puke."
Dean cleared his throat, and he looked towards him. "That whole, uh, I don't wanna go back to school thing, were you just saying that to Cooper, or were you, you know, saying it?" Sam said nothing, just continued on his way towards the exit of the tent. "Sam?"
Sam sighed, and he blinked away the brightness of the sunlight. "I don't know."
"You don't know?" Dean pressed, skeptical. "I thought once the demon was dead and the fat lady sings that you were gonna take off, head back to Wussy State."
Sam shrugged. "I'm having second thoughts."
Dean appeared dubious, and he raised an eyebrow at him. "Really?"
"Yeah," Sam admitted. "I think dad would have wanted me to stick with the job."
"Since when do you give a damn what dad wanted?" Dean retorted, a little harsher than he had intended. "You spent half your life doing exactly what he didn't want, Sam."
"Since he died, okay?" he snapped. "Do you have a problem with that?"
Dean regarded him for a long moment, and he seemed to bite back a comment. "No." he replied, blunt. "I don't have a problem, at all."
With that, Dean turned and walked away without another word, and Sam dropped down to sit on a bench behind him. He rested his head against his palms, and he released a long sigh. He already knew everything that Dean wanted to say to him but wouldn't. And it left him feeling guilty, confused, and hurting.
Someone sat down on the bench beside him, and he glanced up towards his sister.
"You know, ever since we left the Roadhouse, you've looked like you're thinking way too hard about something." she mused, upbeat and cheerful. "What's on your mind, kid?"
Sam opened and closed his mouth, because, honestly, he wasn't sure where to start. Since they had lost their father he had found himself swamped with thoughts about everything. But, one thing seemed to stand out above the rest. Her. His concern for his sister was growing by the minute, because he simply didn't understand what was going on inside her head. He couldn't comprehend the decision she was making, and he wasn't sure that she could, either.
"Stacey, are you sure this is what you want?" he asked her, almost hesitant, as though he assumed it to be a delicate situation to approach with her. It hadn't been spoken about since they had left Bobby's, and he could only imagine that now, being stuck in the middle of a hunt, she was starting to wonder what the hell she was doing. He considered the idea that maybe she was there out of obligation, that she didn't want to leave them so soon after they had lost their dad. He had toyed with the idea that she was lost, grieving for their father and the daughter she had lost and she simply hadn't known what else to do. But, why was he speculating so much when she was sitting right beside him, not appearing to be trying to hide a thing. "I mean, what you're walking away from, it's a big decision."
Stacey nodded in agreement, and she looked out ahead at the many people around them, enjoying time with their families, their friends, not a care in the world or a single thought or knowledge towards the darkness that they were all caught in the middle of at that carnival. She sighed, and she returned her gaze to him. "I know." she admitted. "And, I'm not pretending that it's going to be easy, Sam. I'm not under some illusion that anything is ever going to be simple for me again, but... I don't know." She threw him a knowing look. "You don't agree with what I'm doing, do you?"
"It's not about whether I agree, Stacey." he replied, nonchalant. "This is your choice. I just..." He trailed off, and he shook his head. "I guess, I just don't understand. You have a choice. Why choose this life over that?"
"Sam, why does this bother you so much?" she asked, curious, because it seemed to bother him a lot more than it bothered Dean. "I know you and I haven't been perfect for a long time, but we used to be so close. We were a team, Sammy. You and me and Dean. Why can't we be like that again? Why is it such a bad thing that I wanna come back to my family?"
Sam sighed. "I'm just worried about you." he stated, genuine. "Look, I know it's different, but I almost had what you've got, Stace. I almost had the career, the girl, the family, the home, all of it. And, if I could go back, I don't know what I'd do. If I hadn't lost Jess that night, if I hadn't left her... who knows? Maybe I wouldn't be here. Maybe I'd have that life now. And, I'm not sure it's something I could walk away from."
"This is different, Sam." she murmured. "It's so different, can't you see that? I'm sorry about your girlfriend, I really am. You didn't deserve to go through that. And, it shouldn't have happened. But, Matt and I..." She sighed deeply. "We weren't you and Jess. Maybe that's the point. Maybe that's the difference. You didn't choose to lose her, Sam. And, I'll bet you'd give anything to have her back. I walked away from him. I didn't even question it. How is that the sign of a healthy relationship? I love him, I do. But, we're not what we used to be. After everything, I don't think things were ever going to be the same again. I'm not sure I want them to be."
Sam regarded her for a long moment, and he thought carefully on her words. "You know, all this time, I thought everything was so perfect for you. From the minute I came back to the life, when I lost everything, I was jealous, Stacey." he said, and he almost sounded ashamed of himself. "That night at the hospital, when I found out you were married, when Dean told me that you'd been pregnant, before I knew what had happened... I asked myself why I never got that life. I thought you had everything I thought I wanted."
"Sam, nobody has a perfect life." she countered. "Matt and I, we were happy, I'm never going to pretend that we weren't, but some things just aren't meant to last forever. That's just how it is. I was kid when I met him, I've changed. He's changed."
"You don't know that it couldn't last forever." he pondered. "What if you went home to him tomorrow? What if you pretended none of this had happened? Five years from now, Stacey, you could still be happily married, you could have a baby, a family..."
"I have a family, Sam." she stopped him, blunt. "You are my family. Dean is my family. The two of you, this life, before I met Matt, it was all I'd ever known. And, you know something, I was happy. I was happy before I met him, and I'll be happy after he's gone. I don't want that life anymore, I don't wanna keep pretending that I'm somebody else. This, hunting, it's all I ever wanted when I was a teenager, it was the only thing I ever saw myself doing." She paused, and she thought on her words for a moment. "You know what I think the difference is between you and me? I got a choice, Sam. You didn't."
Sam frowned, confused. "What do you mean?"
"Sam, when I left home, when I told dad that I wanted to go to college, he didn't bat an eyelid. You know why?" He looked to her, and he gave a slow shake of his head. "It was because I told him that I'd stick with the life, that I'd still take hunts with them when I could. He called me all the time while I was at college because he didn't have time to research on the road, or because there was a hunt closer to me and he wanted to have a head start before he and Dean showed up." She sighed, almost apologetic. "It wasn't fair what he did to you. When you left, everything exploded. It was fighting and arguments and he pushed you too far. Do you know why that was?" Sam shook his head again. "Because he was terrified of losing you."
"Stacey..." Sam looked down at his lap.
"It's true, Sam." she pushed. "I never stood up to our dad. You did. And that's what he didn't like. That's why it all ended the way it did. I stuck with the life because it was easier to do both. I never told him that I didn't want to be a hunter, so he thought that when I went away to college, I'd come running back and get right back on the demon trail with him. With you, he thought it was an escape from him, the life, from finding the thing that killed mom. He knew that you didn't wanna come back to the life, and that's why he pushed you away like he did. It wasn't right, and it wasn't fair, but it's true. Dad knew when I left that I'd come back, with you, he knew that you wouldn't."
"I never thought about it like that." he murmured.
"I never forgave dad for how he treated you, Sam. Dean called me that night, he told me what happened, that you'd gone, what dad said to you, what you said to dad," She huffed a laugh. "I spoke to him that night, I told him what I thought, and he didn't show his face again for weeks. If there was a hunt nearby, he'd send Dean, because, honestly, I think he was ashamed he'd let things go so far. You knew him, Sam, as well as I did, he was too proud to come chasing you to apologise and admit he was wrong." She looked to him, and she smiled. "But I do know something else. If he was nearby, he'd come and see you. He'd make sure that you were safe, that you were happy. If he was in California, he'd always come and check on you."
Sam frowned at her. "How do you know that?" he asked, because, honestly, he wasn't sure he believed her.
"I just do, Sam." she affirmed, and there was a confidence behind her words. "Ask Dean, it's true. Dad never stopped loving you, Sam. And he never stopped being proud of you, whether you were a hunter or not. That much I do know."
Sam sighed. "Stacey, are you happy?" he asked, sincere. "I just want you to be happy. I don't want to see you stuck back in this life. You could have so much more."
"I'm happy, Sam." she assured, and there wasn't a hint of doubt in her words. "Being with you and Dean makes me happy. Having my family back makes me happy." She reached out and gave his hand a soft squeeze. "Stop worrying about me, alright? I'm fine."
Sam nodded, as if to say that he was willing to take that from her. "Okay."
"And, you know something else, Sam?" She shifted a little on the bench to face him properly. "I know that you're grieving for dad, and I know that you're trying to do what you think he'd want, I understand that. But, don't let it go too far. If this life isn't what you want, Sam, you need to get out, before it's too late. If you wanna go back to college, if you want that life back, you need to go for it. No one's gonna hold it against you."
Sam regarded her for a long moment, because it had been a long, long time since somebody had encouraged him to consider returning to college. Truthfully, he wasn't sure what he wanted anymore. He wasn't sure he could even remember how to live normally. Maybe it was something he had to think about. He looked to her, and he smiled. "Thanks, Stace." he murmured, sincere.
Stacey opened her mouth to reply, but something stopped her. She felt something soft hit the side of her boot, and she looked down to see a small, red ball at her feet. There was a little girl running towards them, her brown hair swaying in the breeze. "Sorry, miss." she said, and there was a bright smile on her face.
"Don't worry about it, sweetie." Stacey smiled as she picked up the ball and handed it to her.
Without another word, the girl ran back to her waiting mother, who offered a tight smile towards her and Sam. They watched them in silence for a moment.
"Hey, Mommy, look!" The little girl shouted brightly, pointing at something in the distance. "A clown!"
The girl's mother frowned, and she appeared confused. "What clown?" But she seemed to brush off any concern she had. "Come on, it's time to go home."
Sam and Stacey shared a look. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" she asked.
"Yeah." Sam nodded. "We need to find Dean."
Minivan — Wickliffe Road — Medford, Wisconsin — 05:54 AM.
Stacey rubbed at her tired eyes, and she took a long drink of her now lukewarm coffee. It turned out, whether her occupation was hunting or medicine, she just wasn't cut out for working the night shift. She stretched out her legs across the back seat of the minivan with a groan, and she heard a small crack as her muscles relaxed. The only sound in the car was the slow and steady breathing of Dean as he dozed lightly in the driver's seat. Her gaze wandered towards where Sam sat beside him, staring absently towards the house they were watching, and she frowned as she thought back to their earlier conversation. Something had occurred to her in that few hours they had sat and waited for any sign of danger towards the family sleeping inside their home; she didn't know anything about her younger sibling anymore. And that hurt.
After she had left home, she had stayed in contact with both of her brothers. But she had never seen Sam. Her father and Dean had called her regularly with a nearby hunt they had wanted her to join them on, but Sam was never with them. Dean's answer was simple, each time she had asked, he was back at the motel working on something for school. Now, she knew, he was applying to colleges and plotting his escape from that life. The thought that she hadn't been there for him when he had needed someone to understand, when he had craved for someone to listen and encourage him to follow his dreams, pained her. And she blamed herself for the way things had turned out between him and their father.
Stacey knew, had Sam taken the same approach as her when he had left, had he told their father he intended to come back to hunting, that he would continue to look for leads on the demon while he was away and that he would join them for a hunt when he could, it would have ended very differently. Maybe their entire family wouldn't have been ripped apart that night. Perhaps her brothers wouldn't have ended up being little more than strangers for almost four years.
Maybe, if things hadn't ended the way they had, she and Sam wouldn't have ended up strangers. From the night that Sam had left for college, Stacey hadn't heard from or spoken to her brother until the night they had shown up at the hospital. With Dean, she had spoken to him almost every day until he had walked out of her life, but never Sam.
Now, that seemed like another lifetime ago.
"Hey, Sam?" Her voice was soft, so not to disturb their brother. "Can I ask you something?"
Sam glanced back to her, and the hesitance in her voice seemed to confuse him. "Sure."
Stacey thought on her words for a moment, and she considered the idea that maybe what she was about to ask was insensitive. "What was she like?" she asked, curious, but he didn't appear to be following. "Jess." she clarified. "I mean, I don't know anything about your life since I left for college. The last time I really knew anything about you was when you were sixteen."
Sam was silent for a long moment, and he appeared to be lost in his own thoughts. "Uh," He shook his head, and he shifted in his seat to face her. "She was kind. She was patient. She was really funny. Just, one of those girls, you know, everybody loved her. She wanted to be a nurse, that's what she was studying at college. She just wanted to help people, to make people happy."
Stacey found herself smiling at the thought. "How did you meet her?"
"I, uh, I had a friend, Brady." He furrowed his brow, because it had been a long time since he had thought about the man he had once been so close to. "He introduced us. He said he just knew that we'd hit it off, so I asked her out for a coffee." He sighed deeply, and a soft smile came to his face. "That night, the night that Dean came back for me, we'd been to a Halloween party. She went as a nurse, and I remember, when I saw her outfit, she was so excited that one day she'd have a real nurses uniform. You would have loved her, Stacey. She would have loved you. I wish you could have met her."
There was a sorrowful look in her eyes as she listened, and her heart broke at the thought of something so dark happening to her brother while she was sitting at home with no idea he had even returned to the life. "I'm sorry I wasn't here." she replied, sincere.
But Sam shook his head. "It's not your fault, Stacey." he assured. "Dean cut you out. How were you supposed to know?"
Stacey shrugged. "I don't know, Sam." she sighed. "Do you ever just think about how messed up this family really is? I mean, something tragic happens and people turn to their families for support, that's when everyone comes together, but... us? We're the opposite. We don't tell each other, we don't even think about telling each other."
"Yeah, we're pretty messed up." he agreed, glum. "Or, maybe not so much anymore. When was the last time the three of us spent this much time together? Maybe things can change. Maybe you were right, maybe we can be a family again."
Stacey opened her mouth to answer, but she quickly closed it again.
Dean stirred slightly, and he pulled a rough hand down his face. "What's going on?" he mumbled, his words thick with sleep.
Stacey glanced towards him, and she huffed a laugh at his appearance. He looked tired, confused, and as though he would love nothing more than to crawl into bed and go back to sleep. "Nothing." she said quietly. "No sign of any murderous clowns yet."
"About that," Sam looked towards his brother, incredulous. "Dean, I cannot believe you told Papazian about the homicidal phantom clown."
Dean raised an eyebrow, as though to say that he didn't see an issue. "No. I told him an urban legend about a homicidal phantom clown. I never said that it was real."
He reached down for his gun, and he brought it up to his lap. Sam's eyes widened, and he reached out to push it back down.
"Dude, put that down!" he scolded.
Dean rolled his eyes. "Oh, and get this." he continued as though Sam hadn't interrupted. "I mentioned the Bunker Brothers Circus in eighty-one and their evil clown apocalypse. Before Mr Cooper owned Cooper Carnivals, he worked for Bunker Brothers. He was their lot manager."
Stacey raised a brow at him. "So, what? You think whatever the spirit is attached to, Cooper just brought it with him?"
"Something like that." Dean shrugged, and he shook his head in disbelief. "Man, I can't believe we keep talking about clowns."
"Hey." Stacey sat up a little straighter behind them, and she leaned closer to the window. "Check it out."
A light was switched on at the house, and it illuminated the dining room onto the dark street. The small girl they had seen at the carnival crossed the room towards the front door, and she disappeared from sight. Without a second thought, the three of them bolted from the minivan and raced across the street towards the house.
Dean opened the front door to the house, and the three of them entered in silence. A floorboard creaked above them, and they nodded between each other. Without making a sound, they headed up the stairs, Dean in front and gun aimed, ready to shoot anything that moved. They paused behind a wall before the hallway, and footsteps approached.
"You wanna see mommy and daddy?" A little girl's voice asked, innocent and unafraid.
Stacey glanced around the corner of the wall, and she looked on at the small girl from the fair. She held the hand of a man in a clown costume, and his face was painted with white and red paint. She was starting to understand why Sam found them to be so creepy.
As they came closer, Sam and Dean nodded between each other, and they moved. Sam swept up the little girl in his arms and shielded her as gunshots rang through the air. The clown hit the ground with a thud, and the only sound in the house was the high-pitched screams of the little girl in Sam's arms. Dean and Stacey shared a look of confusion as the clown simply lay there on the floor, motionless. But, as Dean cocked his gun once more, his head lifted from the soft carpet, and he offered a sickening smile. He raised the gun to shoot him once again, but the clown vanished before their eyes. A window at the end of the hallway smashed, and a plant was knocked over by an invisible force as something invisible ran away through the garden.
A bedroom door was slammed open behind them, and the little girls parents looked on at them in horror.
"What are you doing to my daughter?!" The woman screamed towards Sam. "Get out of my house!"
The girls father looked murderous, and he appeared prepared to attack.
"Mommy! Daddy!" The young girl cried. "They shot my clown!"
The parents looked lost, confused, but the Winchester siblings didn't stick around to answer their questions. Without waiting to see what would happen, they bolted back down the stairs and straight back towards their waiting car. Without a word, Dean turned the keys in the ignition and the tyres screeched against the tarmac as he sped away.
Minivan — Medford, Wisconsin — 07:04 AM.
Dean didn't stop driving for anything. There was a determined frown fixed upon his face to get them as far away from that house and those murderous parents as he possibly could before any police could catch up to them. He drove in the direction of the carnival, far enough that they wouldn't have too much of a distance to walk, but far enough away that they could safely ditch the car and never look back at it. He pulled off into a small side road, thick with trees and foliage, somewhere that a car wouldn't be seen by somebody driving past.
"Come on," he instructed, before he opened his own door. "Get your stuff."
Between them, they grabbed their bags and anything that could be used to trace the minivan back to them. Dean removed the licence plates from the front and back, and he shoved them deep within his duffel bag.
Sam raised a brow. "You really think they saw our plates?"
"I don't want to take the chance." he muttered. "Besides, I hate this friggin' thing, anyway." He slammed the trunk closed, and the three of them set off walking down the road. It was quiet, secluded, and there was nothing but trees and fields to their left and right. "Well, wasn't a complete bust." Dean stated, a little more optimistic. "We know we're not dealing with a spirit. I mean, that rock salt hit something solid."
"Yeah. So, a person?" Stacey suggested. "Or just a creature that can make itself invisible? And, for some reason, dresses up as a clown for kicks?"
Dean pondered on her words, and he looked to his brother. "You see anything in dad's journal?"
Sam shook his head. "Nope." he muttered. "Nothing."
He pulled out his phone, and Dean raised a brow. "Who are you calling?" he asked, curious.
"Maybe Ellen or that guy Ash will know something." he suggested. He scrolled through his contact list, and his thumb hovered over the call button for a moment. "Hey, you think, uh... you think dad and Ellen ever had a thing?"
Dean shook his head, as though the idea was ridiculous. "No way."
Sam shrugged. "Then why didn't he tell us about her?"
"I don't know," Dean mumbled, uninterested. It was clear that he didn't want to discuss it. "Maybe they had a falling out."
"Yeah," Sam huffed a brief laugh. "You ever notice Dad seemed to have a falling out with just about everybody?" Dean simply nodded, nonchalant, but gave no reaction, and Sam lowered the phone from his ear. "Come on, don't get all maudlin on me, man."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Sam huffed in annoyance. "I mean, this strong silent thing of yours. It's crap."
Dean shook his head. "Oh god, Sam, leave it alone."
"I'm over it." he snapped. "This isn't just anyone we're talking about here. This is dad. I know how you felt about the man."
"You know what, back off, alright?" Dean chided, and it was clear the subject was irritating him more and more each time it was brought up with him. "Just because I'm not caring and sharing like you want me to—"
"No, no, no. That's not what this is about, Dean." Sam countered. "I don't care how you deal with this, but you have to deal with it, man." Dean said nothing, simply shook his head and continued walking, his eyes fixed upon the dusty road at his feet. "Listen, I'm your brother, alright? I just want to make sure that you're okay."
"Dude, I'm okay. I'm okay!" he snapped. "I swear, the next person who asks me if I'm okay, I'm going to start throwing punches. These are your issues, Sam. Quit dumping them on me!"
Sam frowned at him. "What are you talking about?"
"Guys, can we not do this, please?" Stacey interjected, but her words appeared to fall on deaf ears. Neither brother took any notice of her, or even acknowledged that she had spoken.
"I just think it's really interesting, this sudden obedience you have to dad. It's like, oh, what would dad want me to do? Sam, you spent your entire life slugging it out with the man." He came to a halt, and he turned to face him. "I mean, hell, you picked a fight with him the last time you ever saw him. And now that he's dead, now you wanna make it right? Well, I'm sorry, Sam, but you can't. It's too little, too late."
Sam regarded him for a long moment, and a frown formed at his brow. "Why are you saying this to me?"
"Because I want you to be honest with yourself about this." he pushed. "I'm dealing with dad's death! Are you?!"
Sam stared at him, and for a while he said nothing. He was lost deep in thought, and he looked as though he wanted to cry. But he shook his head, and he composed himself. "I'm gonna call Ellen." he muttered, before he turned away from them and walked away down the road.
Stacey sighed as she watched after him, and she glanced towards her elder brother. "Little harsh, don't you think?" she asked, but there was no annoyance in her tone. She sounded concerned. Maybe more towards him than their brother.
Dean shook his head, because, honestly, he didn't need it. "Don't start with me, Stacey." he muttered, defensive.
The tone took her by surprise, and she raised her eyebrows. "I'm not starting anything with you, Dean." she countered, a little offended. "Dean, I am with you here, alright? I get that you don't wanna sit and talk about things, I get that you're dealing with this in your own way, that's fine. But, Sam is hurting, the same as you. He's trying to deal with this the best he can. We all are. Don't jump down his throat for being worried about you."
Dean sighed, and a look of remorse flickered through his features. He thought carefully on her words for a moment, and he nodded. "I'm sorry." he mumbled, sincere.
"Don't apologize to me, Dean. I get it." she assured. "More than you think I do. But, Sam's different. He always has been. He doesn't shut himself away and pretend things haven't happened. Sam's way of dealing with things is worrying about everyone else. You know that. Just, go easy on him, alright?"
Dean looked towards him as he returned his phone to his jacket, and he raised a brow. "Anything?"
Sam nodded. "Rakshasa."
"Bless you." Stacey muttered, and Sam rolled his eyes. She squinted up at him through the rising sunlight and raised a brow, curious. "Alright, I'll bite, what the hell is that?"
"Ellen's best guess." he offered. "It's a race of ancient Hindu creatures, they appear in human form, they feed on human flesh, they can make themselves invisible, and they cannot enter a home without being invited first."
Dean thought on his words for a moment, and he nodded. "So, they dress up like clowns, and the children invite them in." he thought aloud. "Why don't they just munch on the kids?"
"No idea, not enough meat on the bones, maybe?" He shrugged. "Apparently, Rakshasas live in squalor. They sleep on a bed of insects. And they have to feed a few times every twenty or thirty years. Slow metabolism, I guess."
"Well, that makes sense. I mean, the Carnival today, the Bunker Brothers in eighty-one. Probably more before that." He thought about it for a moment, and he looked between his siblings. "Who do we know that worked on both shows?"
Sam narrowed his eyes. "Cooper?" He nodded, because things were starting to make a lot more sense. "You know, that picture of his father, it looked just like him. Who knows how old he really is."
"Alright, so we've got a guy." Stacey raised her eyebrows. "Did Ellen say how to kill him?"
"Legend goes, a dagger made of pure brass." Sam offered.
Dean snapped his fingers. "I think I know where to get one of those."
"Well, before we go stabbing things into Cooper, we're going to want to make damn sure it's him." Sam stated.
Dean huffed, and he rolled his eyes. "Oh, you're such a stickler for details, Sammy." he mused. "Alright, we go back tonight. I'll round up the blade, you and Stace go check if Cooper's got bedbugs."
"So, we've got all day to kill, right?" Stacey suddenly sounded so much more optimistic. "Motel? Shower. Bed. Sleep. Yeah?" Dean simply stared at her. "Yeah? Is that what we're doing?"
"Fine." he muttered. "Let's get some breakfast and then I promise I'll find you somewhere to shower and nap, deal?"
Stacey grinned up at him as though Christmas had come early. "Deal."
"You know, I wish all women were as easily pleased as you," he remarked. "A cold shower in a dive motel and a lumpy bed, you're over the freakin' moon."
"And, breakfast on you," she countered. "You did just say that, right?"
"No, I said we'd go and get breakfast somewhere, nice try, Stace." he said, and he shoved her playfully in the arm as he spoke. "Besides, girl on a doctor's wages, I think breakfast should be on you."
"She's right, Dean." Sam pondered. "You did kinda imply it was on you."
Dean looked to him, incredulous. "Oh, I get it, you've got yourself a little sidekick, now you're gonna start getting smart." He shook his head as he continued down the road. "Give me strength."
Behind him, he heard Sam and Stacey chuckle, and he couldn't help the smile that came to his face.
Cooper Carnival — Medford, Wisconsin — 11:19PM
There was something about the carnival that was somewhat eerie during the night. Everything that was so lively and bright during the day was suddenly dark and silenced. Everything was abandoned. Where there were usually children running around, playing and laughing, was darkness. The rides and arcades that were full of movement and music were motionless and abandoned. It was like a ghost town.
"Alright, I'm gonna go find us a blade." Dean stated. "You two go and find out if Cooper is our guy."
Stacey nodded in understanding. "Right." she affirmed. "Be careful."
"You know me," Dean threw her a cocky smirk. "Careful is my middle name, Stace."
There was a fond smile on her face as she watched him walk away. "He hasn't changed, has he?"
Sam huffed a laugh in agreement. "Not one bit." he mused. "Come on, let's go find Cooper."
Together, they approached the trailer where they had undertaken their unofficial interview. The lights were turned off inside, and there was no sign of anyone being home. Slowly, careful not to make a sound, Stacey approached and she peered through the small window in the door.
"I can't see anyone." she murmured, and she pulled out Dean's lock picking kit from her back pocket. The lock here was much easier to crack than that of the Roadhouse, and it was open within seconds. She glanced back towards her brother, who simply gave her a nod of encouragement to continue inside.
There was nobody there but them, and Sam wasted no time in heading towards the single bed towards the side of the trailer. He ripped back the sheets and pulled a small knife from his belt. He stabbed at the exposed mattress, and he ripped a large tear through the fabric. Inside there was nothing but springs and feathers, definitely nothing that could arouse suspicion.
"Uh, Stace?" he looked to her with a frown. "I don't think it's Cooper."
The sound of a shotgun being cocked behind them made them both jump, and they turned quickly to be faced with Mr Cooper. There was a confused frown on his face, and he took a better aim towards them. "What do you think you're doing?" he accused.
Stacey held up her hands on instinct, her mouth opened and closed, but she couldn't think up a plausible excuse to justify what he had found them doing. She looked towards her brother for some kind of help, but his face matched hers perfectly. They looked like nothing more that two teenagers caught bunking off school, guilty and busted.
"We, uh..." Sam stumbled over an excuse. "We were just... I..."
Mr Cooper narrowed his eyes. "Get out of here." he warned. "Both of you. You're fired."
Sam and Stacey didn't wait for him to change his mind, they hurried out of the trailer, and he slammed the door closed behind them. "What now?"
Stacey shook her head, lost. "Let's go find Dean."
But they didn't have to. Before they could make a move to follow where their brother had gone, he sprinted past them.
"Hey!" Sam called out, and Dean came skidding to a halt. He turned, eyes wide. "So, Cooper thinks that we're a couple of peeping Tom's.. but it's not him."
"Yeah," Dean breathed. "So I gathered. It's the blind guy. He's here somewhere."
"Well, did you get the brass blades?" Sam pressed.
But Dean simply shook his head. "No. No, it's been one of those days."
Sam pulled a hand down his face, and suddenly he appeared so focused. "I've got an idea. Come on."
Dean and Stacey followed him on instinct, and the three of them ran into the fun house. They stood in a long room, and there were mirrors surrounded by different colored neon lights all around them. Slowly, cautious, they headed down the long corridor, before a door slid closed between them out of nowhere. Sam was on one side, while Dean and Stacey were on the other.
"Oh, that's just great." Dean muttered. He attempted to open it, but it wouldn't budge. "Sam?!"
"Dean! Stacey!" Sam called back through the thin door. "Find the maze, okay?!"
Dean stepped back, and he looked to his sister. "Stay close to me, you hear?" Stacey nodded, but she said nothing. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm good." she answered, but he wasn't convinced.
Dean stopped walking, and he looked down at her seriously. His hands rested to her shoulders, and his eyes found hers. "Listen to me, Stace, if you don't wanna do this, go. It's alright."
"Dean, I'm good." she assured. "Come on, we need to find Sam."
For a moment he looked torn between arguing with her or continuing, but there was no time to stand around. He nodded, and he continued through the fun house. Stacey was right beside him, and he made a conscious effort to ensure that he could see her from the corner of his eye. It hadn't been until that moment that he remembered what it was like to have her hunt with him. Stacey was more than capable of taking care of herself, he knew that, and she had proved it to him a million times in the past, but there was always something in the back of his mind that was terrified something could happen to her. He had forgotten how much he worried for her.
The two of them rounded a corner and found their brother, seemingly wrestling with the pipes of a large organ. They both appeared confused, until they realized, the pipe that he was trying to break from it was made of brass.
"Guys," Sam called towards them. "Where is it?"
"I don't know, man." Dean replied, confused. "I mean, shouldn't we see it's clothes walking around or something?"
Something hard collided with Dean's chest, and he was forced back against the wall. He looked to his sister, and his eyes went wide. He opened his mouth, about to ask what the hell her problem was, but a large knife flew against the wall where he had been standing.
"Thanks for that." he stated.
Out of nowhere, another came flying towards him, and it pinned his sleeve to the wall. Another came, and this time pinned his wrist up by the cuff of his jacket.
"Sam!" he yelled. "Hurry up!"
At his words, the brass pipe came loose, and Sam turned. "Where is it?!" A knife flew past his head, and he narrowly moved back enough to dodge it. He looked towards the source, and he and Stacey moved slowly towards it.
"I don't know." Dean's eyes searched frantically for some sight of it, but he saw nothing. He tugged against the knives holding him against the wall, but they were stuck deep within the surface. "Be careful!"
Something caught his gaze, and he reached up desperately towards a small lever in the corner. He tugged at it, and more and more smoke began pouring from the organ. It left a barely noticeable outline of an invisible man, but it was enough.
"Stacey!" Dean yelled, frantic. "Behind you."
Stacey turned on instinct, and her fist collided with something solid. Though she saw nothing, something before her let out a pained groan. Sam appeared behind her, and he forced the brass pipe forwards into the figure she had punched. He felt it hit something solid, and blood poured from the end at his hands. He let go, and the pipe remained buried within the creature. Dean managed to pull the knife holding his wrist free, and, with two hands, he easily freed himself from where he was pinned.
Slowly, he reached up and retracted the lever. As the smoke began to dissipate, everything became so much clearer. The three of them stood and looked down at a clown costume and a bloody pipe on the floor before them.
"Huh." Dean observed. He looked around slowly. "I hate fun-houses."
Sam snickered, and he bent down to pick up the pipe. "Let's get the hell out of here."
Harvelle's Roadhouse — Central Nebraska — 10:01AM
Ellen set down three beers in front of them with a smile. "You kids did a hell of a job back there." she said, and there was a note of pride in her tone. "Your dad would have been proud of you."
Sam smiled, and he nodded. "Thanks."
The back door behind the bar flew open, and Ash appeared. He held the folder of their father's research and a bizarre looking laptop in his hands. "Where you guys been?" he asked, almost excited. "I've been waitin' for ya."
"We were working a job, Ash." Sam stated, amused. "Clowns?"
"Clowns?" Ash frowned, as though he had never heard anything quite so ridiculous. "What the fu—"
"You got something for us, Ash?" Dean interrupted.
Ash set his laptop down in front of them. It appeared to be home-made. There were different parts added to it, and there was a lot of exposed wiring.
"Did you find the demon?" Sam pressed, curious.
Ash shook his head. "It's nowhere around." he told them. "At least, nowhere I can find. But, if this fugly bastard raises his head, I'll know. I mean, I'm on it like Divine on dog dookie."
Stacey raised an eyebrow, perplexed. "What does that mean?"
"I mean," He turned the laptop screen to face them. There were numerous pages open, tracking anything and everything they could have thought of. "Any of those signs or omens appear, anywhere in the world, my rig'll go off." he stated, and he sounded so proud of himself. "Like a fire alarm."
Dean reached out towards the laptop, and Ash threw him a stern look. "Do you mind?" he asked, his finger still hovering over one of the buttons, but Ash's face didn't change, and, slowly, Dean retracted his hand. "Yeah."
Sam appeared nothing but astounded. "Ash, where did you lean to do all this?"
"M.I.T." he replied. "Before I got bounced for... fighting."
His eyebrows raised, surprise. "M.I.T.?"
Ash nodded, and the obvious shock seemed to offend him. "It's a school in Boston." he stated, blunt.
"Okay." Dean turned to him. "You give us a call as soon as you known something?"
"Si, si, compadre." Ash replied, and he pulled the laptop back towards himself.
Dean took one last sip of his beer before he set it down on the bar, and it was there for a brief second before Ash picked it up. The three of them rose from where they sat, ready to leave, but Ellen stopped them.
"Hey, listen, if you kids need a place to stay, I've got a couple of beds out back." she offered.
Dean smiled, because maybe they had found someone with a genuinely kind heart that they could count on to be a part of their lives. "Thanks, but, uh, no." he said. "There's something I gotta finish."
Ellen nodded in understanding, and she and Jo waved them off as they left the Roadhouse.
Dean looked towards his sister as they headed towards their car, and he ruffled her brown hair affectionately. "First hunt back." he commented. "You did good, kid."
Stacey smiled up at him, and she linked her arm with his. "It's nice to be home."
Home. It was a word that touched Dean, and he wasn't sure why. They hadn't really had a home since they had been young children, a home that he doubted either of his siblings could remember. Yet, to Stacey, that wasn't what she considered home. To her, home was where they were right now, home was hunting with her brothers, it was sitting in a car for hours watching someone else's house as they waited for an evil creature to show up, it was taking down monsters together and watching each other's backs, it was ridding the world of one malicious creature at a time to make the world a safer place. It was just the three of them being together.
And, for the first time in a long, long time, they were.
Something told him that perhaps everything could be alright. And, in that moment, he was more than willing to believe it.
Souix Falls, South Dakota — Bobby Singer's Home — 03:55PM
There was one fact that Stacey had never doubted in her life; there was only so long somebody could hold everything inside and pretend they couldn't feel it before everything around them exploded. Looking out at the scene before her, she was pretty sure it had finally happened. The Impala was in a much more concerning state than it had been when she had left Bobby's home that morning. And so was her brother.
Dean was leaning up against his car, his head buried deep in his hands. He looked a wreck.
Slowly, tentative, she approached. Her fingertips gently traced the side of his car, feeling the deep dents and scratches that she could only assume had been made by the crowbar beside him. The windows were smashed, the side was completely destroyed, and the bonnet was marked with numerous dents that she couldn't imagine how he would fix. Her heart broke to see him, and his car, like that.
"What happened here?" she asked. Her voice was soft, understanding, patient.
Dean shook his head, and he looked up to face her. There were tears swimming in his eyes, ones that she knew he would refuse to let fall. "It's my fault, Stacey." he stated, and the pain in his words twisted in the pit of her stomach. "This... all of it. It's because of me."
Stacey frowned, and she moved to sit down beside him. "Don't say that, Dean."
"It's true." he muttered, disheartened. "I know it is."
Stacey cleared her throat, because, truthfully, she didn't know what to say. "Look, Dean, I know this is hard, but, sometimes, these things happen. It's not fair, but it's the truth."
"You're lying to me, Stacey." he scolded. "These things don't just happen." He took a short breath, and he looked to her. "You look me in the eye and you tell me that I should be alive right now. You look me in the eye and tell me that dad should be dead."
Stacey opened and closed her mouth. "Dean—"
"You can't, can you?" He shook his head at her. "You know something, Stace. I know you do."
"I know that you're grieving." she stated, blunt. "And I know that you're not thinking straight. Dean, please, just, hear me when I tell you this. What happened to dad, it's not your fault. You need to understand that." Almost hesitant, and unsure of the reception she would receive from her actions, Stacey moved towards him. She pulled him closer and wrapped her arms around him, and her hand gently found his hair. "I'm so sorry, Dean." she whispered.
Dean shook his head, as though to say that she had nothing to apologize for, and he hugged her back tightly. He took the comfort from her that he knew he needed, but that he had denied himself since it had happened.
Stacey blinked the tears from her eyes, and she tried to swallow the guilt she felt. She was lying to his face, and that hurt more than she could imagine. What was she supposed to do? Dean was outright asking her if he should have died in that hospital, and she knew for a fact that it was true. Their father had sold his soul for him, he had all but admitted it to her, and she couldn't bring herself to tell him what she knew. The news would destroy her already broken brother, and she couldn't put him through that. But how long was she supposed to lie to him about it? Dean was never going to stop looking for an answer to their father's untimely death, and she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep up the act that she was as much in the dark as her siblings.
"I'm with you, Dean." she murmured. "We'll get through this. I promise."
Dean sniffled against her shoulder, and she was sure she felt his tears against her shirt, but she said nothing as he held her a little tighter. His hands gripped the material of her clothes, and his shoulders gave the smallest of shakes.
Eventually, she knew, it would all come out, and it would be a painful day when it did.
But, until then, she did what she could. She held her brother in her arms and did what she could to comfort him.
That was all she could do. And, for him, in that moment, it was enough.
Super long chapter, I know. I think I got carried away. Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed. I'll have more up for you soon. Have a lovely weekend!