Here's the story, of a man named Brady...
Real Life strikes again! So sorry for the delay - there will be more but it will be sporadic at best.
Big thanks to everyone who reviewed and messaged me in the interim. You guys make me feel needed, even when I haven't thought about this story in close to a year. So much love for you.
This chapter was a bitch to get through, but I finally did it!
“Dad’s gonna be pissed,” Sam said for about the millionth time, staring out the window at the fast approaching Las Vegas skyline.
“I don’t care,” Dean replied tersely. “And neither do you, so stop bitching.”
Sam had come home the night before to find his father not home yet and Dean wearing a hole in the kitchen linoleum with his pacing. After dinner, a heated discussion, and a phone call to Caleb in which they had discovered John had dropped a hunt for what may have been the first time ever, the two had decided something was wrong and that they were going to find out what it was.
Now, sixteen and a half hours of driving later, both were tired and worried. They’d discussed every single reason they could think of at length, each more far-fetched and frightening than the last. Dad could have been in an accident, he could have been cursed, he could have been arrested, he could have been possessed. In their line of work, anything was possible.
“He’s gonna yell at me again,” Sam continued, fixated on that fact for some dumb reason. “I mean, I’m skipping school. And he told us not to come down after him on a hunt ever.”
Dean rolled his eyes and sighed. Sam’s usually impeccable grammar was slipping, a sure sign that he was worried. He was a crack shot, a brilliant historian and linguist, and could take out a trained policeman with his bare hands, but Sam was still only 17 and a kid in a lot of ways – especially when it concerned their father.
“I’d be more freaked if he didn’t yell,” Dean told his brother. Sam nodded solemnly, seeing the truth in that. If Dad didn’t get angry there was definitely
He sat up straighter as Dean exited the highway, automatically pulling out the driving instructions to the address Caleb had given them.
“Turn left there,” Sam said, barely moving his head to indicate where he meant. Dean nodded and took the turn.
The motel was only about six minutes from the highway, in a slightly seedy part of town that seemed far removed from the Vegas in the movies. Though neither had been hunting in nearly four months, they slipped easily into the routine – Sam stayed with the car while Dean, who was older and therefore less likely to be questioned, booked a room under a false identity. Once they were settled (which pretty much meant parking the car, since they had no intention of staying and thus did not bother to unpack or even enter their room) Dean kept watch while Sam picked the lock on their father’s door.
The room was empty, which considering it was almost noon was not really a surprise. John could have been catching up on sleep or doing research, of course, but since he was not there it was very likely that he was out doing legwork.
Far more worrisome was that the room showed very few signs that their father was staying here at all. John was not a neat person; when he was working on a case he spread out his materials on every available space to better spot patterns. This room was practically spotless, only the open suitcase in the corner and the mussed sheets showing that he had even been there.
After a few moment’s search Sam found the case file for the Grimalkin hunt. Newspaper articles, internet printouts, photos, and handwritten notes, all stacked neatly in a plain manila folder and stashed under the bed next to a duffel bag full of hunting supplies.
“So he really did give up the hunt,” Dean said, frowning at the folder over Sam’s shoulder. “Weird.”
“He figured out which bar the Grimalkin was stalking,” Sam told his brother thoughtfully. “We could try there.”
Dean shook his head. “No, if he’s given up the hunt that won’t help. There’s something else going on here.” He looked around the room, blinked, and then strode over to the nightstand.
“Ha. Let’s hear it for company-monogrammed stationary.” He held up the plain blue sheet, indicating the logo across the top. “St. Josephine’s Hospital downtown.” Turning the paper towards himself, he frowned. “It’s a phone number.”
“So hospital or phone call?” Sam asked, cocking his head.
“Hospital. The area code of the number is in California. I doubt he’s there.” He folded the paper into quarters and stuffed it in his pocket. “Let’s go.”
“Wait,” Sam said, examining the nightstand for himself. He pulled out the Gideon Bible that was in every motel room, knowing his father always used it to hide important documents. “There’s something in here.”
Dean watched with growing alarm as his brother pulled out and unfolded a slightly crumpled piece of parchment-colored, official-looking paper. Sam froze, his normally cat-like eyes widening almost comically.
“What?” Dean asked. No response. “What is it, Sammy?”
Hearing his nickname seemed to bring Sam out of his stupor. He wordlessly handed the paper to his brother.
“What the mother fuck?!
“So what’s the verdict, Doc?” Buffy asked. She was cuddled in bed with her mother, Dawn on the other side.
Dr. Johnson smiled at them.
“Joyce is free to go. As a matter of fact, she should get home and get some serious rest very soon. No work for at least a week.” He grinned wider, conspiratorially. “I’ll write you a note.”
“Yes!” Dawn hissed, doing a happy little shimmy. Buffy felt like dancing herself, but she contained it.
Dawn sobered immediately.
“You cannot take a plane. In the unlikely event of a relapse, there’s just no guarantee of getting her help in time. I would recommend that you avoid air travel for maybe six or eight months.”
Joyce leaned back against the pillows with a sigh. “Alright. Thank you, Doctor.”
The doctor nodded and left, and Joyce blew out a frustrated breath.
“I guess I’ll have to rent a car to get home, huh?”
“I’ll take you.”
The Summers girls looked up. They’d all but forgotten John was in the room.
“My truck’s not big enough for all four of us,” John said quietly, “but the girls can take a plane home and I’ll drive you. California’s not that far. You’re what, four hours away?”
“Six,” Joyce told him. “Two hours north of LA. Are you sure, John? Shouldn’t you be getting back to Portland?”
John shook his head. “It’s no trouble. I’m used to driving around a lot, and usually without company.”
“You just don’t want to say goodbye yet,” Dawn accused. John reddened slightly but didn’t answer her.
Joyce considered for a moment, then nodded. “Alright. We’ll book a flight as soon as we can and once the girls are on the plane we’ll head out.” She fixed John with a look. “You had better call your sons.”That
caught Buffy and Dawn’s attention.
“Sons? You have sons? Plural?”
“Are they like you?” Dawn asked under her breath. Buffy shot her a What’s that supposed to mean?
look, but Dawn ignored her, listening intently to John’s phone conversation.
“Dean. Hi. Look, something’s come up, I’m gonna be away for a few more days, I need you to – what?” John frowned. “Where am I? In Vegas, kid, I told you.”
He blinked in confusion, then realization dawned and he narrowed his eyes.
“I’m at a hospital, if you have to know. Why? Where are you?”
The answer made him drop his head into his hands with a resigned sigh.
“You didn’t. You wouldn’t, not after I explicitly
told you not to.”
The voice on the other end of the line got louder, but not loud enough that Dawn could make out the words, though she was trying as hard as she could. The voice sounded deep, though, which meant it was likely John’s son was her age or older.
“Dean, you – oh, no. Don’t tell me you hijacked Sam, too.” John’s voice turned steely. “He’s supposed to be in school, Dean!”
More arguing from the other end. John cut him off mid-sentence.
“Alright, look. Get your asses up here, room 317. We have some talkin’ to do. And for God’s sake, keep your voice down. We’re in a hospital.”
He hung up.
“Everything alright?” Joyce asked. John rubbed a hand through his hair, then dropped his hands to his lap, playing with his ring absently.
“Dean decided to come looking for me, and he dragged Sam along. Goddamnit, it’s a sixteen hour drive, he must have left right after I called yesterday and driven all night.”
He stood abruptly.
“I’ll take them elsewhere. You shouldn’t have to see us fight.”
“No, John,” Joyce said. “Stay. We need to talk to them anyway.” She gave him a meaningful look.
“Wait, you mean, your sons are here? In Vegas?” Buffy asked.
“I mean, they’re here, in this hospital.”
Dawn immediately jumped up, straightening her clothes and examining her hair in the fuzzy reflection in the window. Buffy rolled her eyes but got up as well, moving to stand between her mother and the door.
Joyce smiled softly.
“I feel like I should fix my hair, or something. Put on real clothes.”
“You look fine,” John told her, but Buffy pulled a travel-sized brush from her purse and handed it over anyway.
Joyce had enough time to brush out her hair and hand Buffy back the brush before there was a knock on the door.
Dean’s knock was met by a flurry of muffled motion behind the door. A few moments passed, and then the door opened.
Whoa. “I told you he was gonna be pissed,” Sam told his brother, half scared and half giddy. Dad was okay. At least, he looked okay.
“Get in here,” John growled, pulling the door open all the way.
Dean went, with Sam trailing behind him. Habit made him scan the surroundings, taking the room in with a glance.
It was a solitary hospital recovery room. The woman on the bed was about his dad’s age, blonde and pretty enough for an older woman. The two younger girls were obviously her family, sharing physical traits with her and with each other.
It took a moment to sink in that this was probably the woman his father had married.
Now Sam was certain his father was under a spell. Even if he would do something as stupid and impulsive as get married in Vegas, he would never marry a woman who already had children. That was beyond the realm of reason.
Dean’s eyes were taking in the room, as well. Sam saw that his gaze lingered a moment too long on the elder of the two girls, but just a moment. He was too preoccupied to ogle women.
He held the marriage certificate out to his father.
“Care to explain?”
John seemed to deflate.
Joyce felt for him. He’d been about to scold his children, that much was certain. But it was hard to yell at your kids when you’d just done something way more stupid, and they knew it.
Buffy was across the room in two strides, leaning over the older boy’s shoulder to see what was on the paper.
What had John said his name was? Dean. Dean and Sam. Dean had his father’s build, Sam had his coloring. Both had his eyes.
Buffy’s face drained of color, and Joyce and John shared a pained look. Dawn grabbed the paper out of Dean’s hands and read it. Her eyes widened. She dropped her hand to her side, and suddenly the four of them were one united guilt-inducing wall of shock and disappointment.
“Tell me this is a joke,” Buffy said quietly, staring them down. “Tell me you were high or under a spell or held at gunpoint or something.”
Joyce shared another look with John. He seemed at a loss, so she took over.
“We’d been drinking, Buffy,” she said gently. “It was a mistake, that’s all.”
“A mistake you’re going to fix, right?” That was Sam, and he sounded a little desperate. “It was only last night, you should be able to get an annulment right away. Right?”
A pause, then John shook his head. “I had to sign for a medical treatment as Joyce’s next-of-kin. Annulment is out.”
“How dare you?”
John looked up. Sam’s cat’s-eyes bored into his.
“How dare you do something like this? After everything we …” He trailed off, took a deep breath, and started again, more vehemently. “After Mom? How could you do this to her memory?”
John narrowed his eyes, half in anger and half in confusion. “Don’t tell me how to treat your mother’s memory. I was married to her for six years. You only knew her for six months. You barely remember her.”
Joyce’s eyes widened and her daughters mimicked her. Harsh. That was uncalled for.
Sam’s lips thinned, his eyes blazed.
“I’m only saying what Dean is thinking, since he won’t.”
John’s gaze snapped to Dean, who was white and shaking. Dean lifted his chin, his jaw tight with anger and disgust. Before John could think of something to say to wipe that horrible, accusing look off his face, Dean turned and was gone.
John sank back onto the bed, his head in his hands, not caring that he was showing weakness to his son. Joyce rubbed a comforting hand across his back.
“Should you go after him?”
John shook his head. “We’ll end up yelling at each other. He should cool off first.”
A glance at Sam told Joyce he thought his father was taking the coward’s way out. She shared a concerned look with her daughters.
“I’ll go,” Dawn said, standing. “He won’t yell at me.” She pointed accusingly at John.
“You. Do something about him.” Her finger moved to indicate Sam, and then she left.
Buffy snorted. “When did she grow up?”
“Right about the time her mother collapsed in the kitchen in front of her,” Joyce reminded her gently. She held out her hand to Sam.
“Hi. I’m Joyce.”