A/N: I have been sitting on this story for so long... So many months... Unfortunately, I've never been too pleased with it and kept editing and rewriting in an endless cycle of descending madness. I've also been struggling with mental health issues and have had no motive or drive to post anything, but I'm about to go on vacation for the holidays and with the stress of family I'm forcing myself to finally post this. The story's complete, I have the other chapters written, and they'll hopefully be posted over the next few days.
School was Sam's refuge, a place for him to be normal. Well... as normal as he could be as the transfer student who arrived in the middle of the year but still managed to upstage the smartest kid in class on the pop quiz on his second day of school. But he enjoyed it nonetheless. Even the bullies had a certain comfort to him with the way they thought they were the worst thing Sam would ever face. Their attempts at bullying were laughable too, Sam had faced much worse than the little pranks they came up with at his middle school in California two years ago.
But better than his peers and the feeling of normalcy that came from them was the knowledge. Sam loved learning everything he could in school, he loved doing his homework and writing reports and essays and required reading. Things he could take back to his motel and work on while his dad hunted were his favorite, but he enjoyed all forms of learning. Maybe that was why he was so good at research, why his dad asked him about lore before calling for Bobby. And while a part of him didn't want to be in the hunter life (though he'd never tell his dad that), his abilities and knowledge with the research and lore were his proudest moments.
Maybe when he was an adult, he could get out of hunting and help Bobby out. He'd still be helping people, his dad couldn't argue against that. Maybe he could even teach younger generations of hunters, pass on the knowledge that he gained over the years. He couldn't deny the appeal of that.
Maybe he could create a hunting school one day, help train better hunters with all the knowledge that he would acquire through his years. He could even get other hunters to help him teach, like his dad or Bobby or Pastor Jim... Maybe even his mom and Dean.
He couldn't stop a smile from spreading across his face at that thought. As far as teachers went in the family, Sam never would have pictured his older brother as one. Sure, he'd pass along knowledge as he grew older, but being an actual teacher didn't suit Dean's style or attitude. He just couldn't see Dean walking into a classroom with his leather jacket and rebel personality teaching a bunch of kids about math - maybe history... Dean would be a fun history teacher. But Dean also wouldn't have the patience to handle a classroom full of rowdy kids. He was great one-on-one, but not twenty-something.
Which was why he was so shocked when Dean walked into his social studies class.
He was different, his hair combed back into something proper and not the windblown style Sam was used to seeing on his brother. But it was definitely Dean wearing a blue kitted cardigan, tan slacks, and black-framed glasses.
"Class," Mr. Thomason called, "This is our new assistant teacher, John Bonham. I expect you to treat him with respect."
A girl sitting next to Sam giggled as she saw Dean, another girl in front of her looking back with a smile. Great. All the girls in his class were going to have a crush on his brother... his sweater-wearing brother.
"Hello, everyone," Dean waved, though his movements seemed somewhat awkward and voice a forced friendliness. "I hope we can all get along." His eyes scanned across the classroom, studying the kids that he would now be responsible for as he kept that obviously fake smile on his face. Then his eyes landed on Sam, confusion filling his face for half a second before he pasted the smile back up. But his eyes never left Sam, and he could see the questions floating in them.
Sam was right when he imagined Dean as a fun history teacher. Not even halfway through the class and he had already won over all his classmates with his one-liners to everything Mr. Thomason said. Mr. Thomason wasn't that happy about it, but it kept the class focused on what he was saying so he didn't frown too much at Dean's antics.
They couldn't talk during class, but that didn't stop Dean from sending him glances the whole hour. Sam did his best to ignore him, though he couldn't deny his curiosity for the situation. Dean was obviously here on a job with the fake name and outfit, but Sam hadn't heard of anything strange in his school. There was a witch in the town that his dad was going after, but she had no connection to the school... And Dean definitely wouldn't get a side job as a teacher's assistant under a fake name just for some extra cash.
All questions had to wait until lunch though, when Sam and Dean both had free time.
Dean was waiting for him outside his math class when the lunch bell rang, smiling at him as the other students stared. "Mr. Winchester, if you wouldn't mind coming with me for a moment, Mr. Thomason would like to talk to you about your last assignment."
The kids listening in ooh'ed at him, thinking he was in trouble. They were mostly the school bullies and resentful smart kids who scored lower than him on the last test, all of which Sam didn't bother caring about their opinions. So he hefted his backpack higher and followed Dean down the hall and to a stairway in the back of the school that was long since vacated.
"Dude, what are you doing here?" Dean rounded on him as soon as they were alone. "Is dad here too? I was in the teacher's lounge this morning and didn't see him."
"No," Sam shook his head. "He's on a witch hunt in town, I'm just here for school. Is there a job or something? Why are you here?"
"A witch?" Dean's eyes widened slightly before he glanced around. "There's been kids disappearing from the school, but that doesn't sound like the work of a witch..."
A chill went down Sam's spine. "Disappearing? How?"
"They stay after school for whatever reason, lingering teachers report smelling something sweet, but no one ever sees the kids again. It happens every ten years, and this is the time it normally starts."
Every ten years... that would explain why his dad hadn't heard about it. Yet. Why the witch hunt had taken precedence. "How did you know about it? Ten years is a long time to see a pattern."
Dean smiled slightly, his hands shoving into his pockets. "It's kinda... It's a family tradition? I guess? Our great grandpa came here when he heard of a missing kid, but he couldn't find anything. Ten years later he sees another missing kid flyer, teachers talking about a sweet smell. It got passed on to our grandpa, then Mom. It's like the family's own white whale. But I'm going to be the one to figure it out, I won't let another kid be taken."
"I can help too."
"No," Dean's eyes shifted, hardened, as he shook his head. "It's too dangerous for you. You need to pull out of school."
"Sam, I mean it. I don't want to risk you getting taken too."
"I won't get taken," Sam's eyes rolled, but he couldn't stop his smile. It always left him warm inside to know that Dean cared about him...
"I'm not taking that chance."
"Well..." Sam shrugged, his smile turning sly, "The next school is thirty miles away and I have no way to get there... So looks like I'm stuck here."
Maybe it was the way Dean said his name, or the heavy sigh that followed it, maybe even the barely concealed worry in his eyes, but Sam softened to him and straightened up. "I promise to be careful, Dean. I won't stay late and I'll run away if I smell anything sweet. Besides, it would be good to have a student on your side, it wouldn't be suspicious for me to ask other kids about it, see if anyone knows anything. C'mon, Dean, we can work together, figure this out as a team. It could be a family case...!"
Family, the magic word. All the tension left Dean as his shoulders sagged and his head bowed. He let out a breath and ran a hand over his face, "Fine. But I take point on this, you do everything I tell you to."
Sam gave a grin and nodded along. "Yeah, promise."
"Good. Now go eat, talk to your friends and see what you can find out." Dean reached out to ruffle his hair, Sam swatting his hand away playfully, but they were both laughing as Sam rushed off. The excitement of getting to hunt together nearly electric between them. The ultimate form of family bonding in the Winchester family.
Once back in the lunchroom, Sam glanced around the students. He hadn't made many friends at this school, knowing he wouldn't be staying long... He hated goodbyes. But there were a couple of kids that he talked with that might know something.
He swung by the lunch line to grab an apple (if that's what it could be called, it was smaller than his fist and somewhat soft, what was supposed to be a bright red peeling was so dark it was almost black.) before going to find his peers. Which wasn't hard, they weren't apart of any cliques so they had a table to themselves in the back. They were too smart to be average but not smart enough to be the smart kids, they weren't jocks but couldn't be considered geeks either, definitely not popular... Though one of them did play with the school orchestra, but the orchestra kids didn't have a table to themselves. When Sam had shown up at school, his three would-be friends ate in their own classrooms by themselves, but they had started following Sam to the lunchroom after he started talking with them and the trio had become friends themselves. And while Sam was sure if he wanted to, he could call them friends as well... He didn't want to have to tell them goodbye when he left in a few weeks.
But Sam had brought three friends together, so he could count that as a win. They would no longer be alone at school, even after he left.
"Hey," Sam greeted as he pulled out a chair. The three looked up at him with wide eyes.
"Sam!" One of the boys, James, shouted, dropping his fork onto his plate to lean forward towards Sam. "What happened? Some guys were saying that Mr. Thomason called you back to his classroom! What did you do?"
Sam let out a chuckle and shook his head. "It's nothing, I just forgot to cite one of my sources on the last essay." He lied easily, though he hated it. Why did high schoolers have to gossip so much? But he forced his face to stay calm as he leaned forward a bit, "Though, coming back, I heard some of the teachers talking about a ten year anniversary coming up for one of the students? Do you guys know what they were talking about?"
James and the other boy, Will, shook their heads, but the third one... Tyler looked uncomfortable as he pushed up his glasses, a tell for when he was nervous. Sam zeroed in on him, tilting his head to make eye contact. "C'mon, Tyler, you know all the local legends around here, right? You have to know what they were talking about."
Tyler fidgeted in his seat, his head down as his fork pushed at the school's best attempt at spaghetti. "I... I shouldn't really say..."
"Man, stop being so mysterious and just tell us." Will laughed, balling up his napkin and tossing it at Tyler. That got a smile from the boy, his shoulders dropping just a bit.
"It's not really a legend, more like a cold case the police can't figure out." He let out a sigh before straightening up to look at Sam. "Ten years ago, a student disappeared from the school after they stayed late to help with their club. No one could find her, or any one that might have taken her. It was like she had just vanished. The few teachers and students that were still in the school reported smelling a really sweet scent at the time they think she was taken, almost overbearingly sweet they said. Police think that whoever took her drugged her."
Their table was quiet for a time while they took the information in. Sam already knew all of that though... He needed something new if he was going to be of any help to Dean. "That's crazy," He muttered. "Did the police ever have any suspects? Any idea what might have happened?"
"No... No one ever stayed on their suspect list for long. But there was, uh... there was a student... He said he thought he heard music coming from a classroom, his head got really fuzzy after that. Said he woke up in the hallway, missing the last hour of his memory."
"Really?" Sam's interest peaked, "What happened to him?"
"Nothing really, he got checked out in the hospital but they couldn't find anything wrong with him. His parents were freaked though, so they moved away not too long after."
"Wow..." James started, "You know a lot about this."
"My dad's a cop, he worked the case when it happened."
Will suddenly chuckled, leaning over the table a bit. "Music and a disappearing student... It sounds like that old fairy tale of the Pied Piper."
"But that only happened once, and all the kids went missing in the story." Tyler shook his head and pushed his glasses back up when they slid down his nose. "This is one kid every ten years, no one's ever been able to figure it out either. It's really weird..."
"Wait," James' eyes widened, "every ten years? What does that mean? Is it some kind of weird serial killer thing?"
"No one knows, the police have never been able to find anything out. And what's really scary is that the ten year anniversary is coming up, so someone is probably going to be taken again."
Sam tuned them out as they started freaking out over the information, he'd gotten what he wanted anyway. The nearby student had heard music as well as that sweet smell... Could the tale of the Pied Piper have been true and it was just another monster? Instead of going for groups of kids, this one just went for singles? He had never heard of his dad or Uncle Bobby mention anything about the Pied Piper being real, but maybe they didn't know? If it was a monster from a different country that somehow ended up here, or if it was hibernating and no one's been around when it was awake long enough to catch it, that would explain why they wouldn't know of it. He'd talk with Dean about it, maybe he had heard something.
The rest of the day went by much faster as Sam stayed lost in his head whenever he could, his mind buzzing with the possibility and theories for what the monster was. Though he made sure to pay somewhat attention in class for instances like when his math teacher decided to call on him to answer a question on the board. Sam knew the answer of course, but he couldn't help but get the feeling that his teacher didn't like him.
He didn't get a chance to talk with Dean again while at school, but he did spy his car following him down the street as he walked back to the motel. Sam hid a smile as he turned down another street, Dean's car turning as well.
Glancing around to make sure that no one was watching and that they were far enough away from the school, Sam stopped on the sidewalk and waited until Dean pulled up next to him. His brother leaned across the seat and opened the door with a grin.
"Need a ride?"
"I'm not supposed to get into strange cars," Sam smirked as he climbed in, "but I think I could take you on if I needed to."
"Oh, you think, huh?" Dean laughed, driving away as he closed the door. Sam faltered for a moment, watching his brother drive with one hand on the wheel and his elbow resting on the open window, the sun shining against his hair and illuminating his outline. Sam couldn't tell if it was just the setting sun and its lighting, but something seemed different about Dean... He seemed... lighter. Happier. It made Sam feel happier as well.
"Yeah," He finally answered, his voice lifting in an air of confidence. "I think I could."
"We'll have to put you to the test later on then, see if you're all talk or not."
Sam rolled his eyes, but kept a smile as he looked out the window. A part of him couldn't help but imagine himself traveling with Dean for hunts, sitting shotgun with the windows down and radio blasting as they drove above the speed limit. Normally Sam would complain and tell him to slow down, but other times he would close his eyes and enjoy the wind in his hair and his brother's awful singing next to him. Eating together in small diners, driving into sunsets, camping out in fields to look at the stars... They'd go on so many adventures together.
"So where do you wanna go?" Dean asked, his voice helping to strengthen the daydream. "Think Dad'll get mad if I show up at the motel?"
Sam's eyes opened, daydream officially broken at the mention of their dad. "I don't think so, Dad's been pretty cool since I was in the hospital. He even called Mom at some point to ask her about a case."
Dean's head snapped to him, eyes wide and eyebrows raised. "Dad called Mom? When?"
"Uh..." Sam's eyes drifted to the side as he wracked his memory, "Three weeks ago? I think? There was a Scottish monster that showed up in Montana, a bodach. She helped him figure out what it was and how to get rid of it."
A smile slowly spread across Dean's face as he looked back to the road. "So that's why she left the room..." A chuckle left him as he leaned further back into the seat. "Man, wouldn't it be crazy if they got together again? We'd go on group hunting trips and get to see each other more than once every few months..."
Sam had had the same thought many times since his stay at the Roadhouse, especially after his parents had made up in his hospital room. He knew it could never happen, his dad was now incapable of staying in one place for longer than two weeks, his restlessness growing even more when he wasn't hunting, but it didn't hurt to dream.
When they arrived at the motel, Sam pulled out his textbooks and homework before he tossed his backpack on the floor near the door. "I talked to some kids at lunch about the disappearances. One's dad is a police officer that worked on the case ten years ago, so he knew a bit more about the case." He put his things on the end table near his bed before sitting on the edge of the bed. "Last time there was another kid that almost got taken too. He said the last thing he remembered was hearing music coming from a nearby classroom, as well as an overpowering sweet smell, before he woke up in the hallway with the last hour of his memory missing."
Dean's eyebrows lifted as he pulled out a chair from the table, "There was another kid? Mom never mentioned that..."
Sam shrugged a shoulder, "Apparently his parents were really scared about it and moved away after the hospital couldn't find anything in his system or find the kidnapper. Which is understandable... One kid goes missing in the school, then your son wakes up with an hour missing from his memory, it would be enough to freak any parent out."
"Yeah, I get that." Dean's arms crossed over his chest as he thought, eyes darting in the space before him. "So it seems like the monster doesn't just grab kids, it lures them. Music and smell... probably some kind of hypnosis."
"Maybe it's like the Pied Piper?"
"That's just a fairy tale."
Sam raised an eyebrow, staring blankly at his brother. "Really? You're going to say that something is a myth in our line of work?"
Dean held up his hands in defense and laughed, "Okay, okay, put away the bitch face, Sammy. And I thought your puppy eyes were dangerous..."
"Eyes are a very important form of communication, it's vital to a hunter's survival to learn to communicate through your eyes in case you can't speak." Sam nodded proudly to himself before opening the end table drawer and pulling out two of the books he had in there. "Anyway, the Pied Piper was probably just a really powerful witch. I don't think the witch Dad is hunting is connected to the school, since his just seems to be a lady trying to get revenge on her cheating husband and his mistress. I doubt she'd have anything to do with the kids disappearing over the last... what? Fifty or so years?"
"No... Probably not. But that doesn't rule her out as a suspect, she could have gotten her magic books and crap from our witch." Dean sighed as he leaned back in the chair, "I hate witches, always getting their body fluids all over the place and killing animals..."
Sam glanced at him, shrugging a bit as he flipped through one of the books. "I don't think this witch would be killing animals... I'm more willing to bet kids are her victims."
Dean straightened, inhaling deeply. "Yeah... You're probably right, especially if it's the same witch for all these years; using some kind of immortality spell with the kids." Their eyes met and Sam could see the worry hidden in his brother's eyes. "I know we already went over this, but you gotta promise me, man. You do everything I tell you to, and you can't stay late at school, no matter what. You can't let yourself get caught by this thing."
"I promise," Sam smiled, nodding. "Besides, if it is a witch, then it's fine. We know how to take them down."
"Witches are dangerous, Sam."
"So is literally everything else, Dean."
"I mean it-"
"I'll be careful. I promise."
Dean stared at him for a long moment, eyebrows just slightly pushed together in his badly hidden concern as emotions flashed through his green eyes. Sam was always surprised at just how well he was able to read his brother after knowing him for such a short time; he knew what the slightest frown meant or the silent meaning behind just a single look. It was as if they had never been apart.
"Sammy," Dean finally said, his voice thick with emotion. "I can't lose you, you understand that, right? After all the time we were apart... losing you now... It would kill me, man. I can't lose my little brother."
Sam felt his face soften, smiling at his brother and nodding in understanding. "I know, Dean. I'll watch out, I don't really want to be a witch's sacrifice."
They shared a smile, Dean relaxing somewhat before Sam tossed the other book to him. He glanced briefly at the title before sighing and resigning himself to a day of research.