Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy nor the Supernatural characters. They belong to their respective creators and I make no money of this. Sadly. Hollow Springs is my invention, as are the people in it. The location of the town was picked by pulling up a map of the USA and looking for a nice, empty spot of land. Not meant to offend anyone living roundabout there. Please don’t bitch at me about the car. It’s love. You’ll know what I mean when you read it.
A/N: One, thank you Anneliese
for beta and cheerleading. You're wondertastical and you know it.
Two: This story started out as a tag to Jus in Bello
. Then it grew AU. Then it grew a Buffy. Then it grew a plot and then
it grew a prequel. This is that prequel. Woe is my brain.Three: Reader participation
. Over the course of this story, I would muchly like you to let me know what pairings you would like to see in the sequel. Don't tell me now, just wait a few chapters until you have an opinion and then share. Twosome, threesome, sex with trees. You know I write it all.
And last but not least, some people call this a prologue. I call it a teaser. You can punish me by reviewing.
EDIT: Art made by the talented Ava. Go check out her art. And her stories, too.
+Star, Cross and Dirt
“Christ,” Dean cursed rather loudly, shaking out the hand he had just used to punch his opponent in the jaw. “What the hell’s that guy made of? Lead?”
Then, not really expecting an answer, he spun to check on Sammy who’d had his back for most of the action but had somehow gotten lost in the chaos of a good old fashioned bar fight. Winchesters versus a gang of rowdy bikers that had just lost horribly to Dean’s pool hustling skills. It was a classic scenario.
Sam, feeling his brother’s searching look before he even called his name, raised a hand to wave limply, worrying at his front teeth with his tongue. He had a nasty scratch from a flying beer bottle on his left cheek but otherwise seemed unharmed. Dean breathed a silent sigh of relief and finally took the time to assess the damage they’d caused as the bar’s occupants that had not been involved in the fight started popping back up out of their hiding places of choice.
No less than seven men in full biker regalia were strewn about the room, along with roughly two dozen bottles and glasses. Three chairs were broken, splinters all over the place, along with two tables. A life time of making do told Dean that only one of them was a lost cause. The other could be easily salvaged. Two broken picture frames and three pool cues were added to the tally.
All in all, the bar’s interior looked a lot better than it could have, which alleviated his guilty conscience somewhat. The owner of the place wasn’t to blame for his dick-headed customers. Still, if the fight hadn’t started – and mostly stayed – on the small dance floor, there’d be a lot more wood and glass littering the floor.
Soundlessly his brother came to a halt next to him, both of them focusing on the people crawling out from behind their tables, apprehensive. None of them looked likely to attack them in defense of the idiots on the floor. Dean had won his money fair and square and there were witnesses for that. While that didn’t mean much in places like this, the fact that seven men were out cold and the two brothers were still standing did.
Dean had taken out four, Sammy had taken three at his back. They may have looked like college kids with attitude but they had laid out their opponents in less than five minutes.
Plus – Dean looked down to check and yep – his flannel shirt had gotten pulled up his back by a lucky grab, leaving the shining metal of the gun tucked into his waistband very, very visible. No wonder no-one was approaching them.
armed. He hoped no-one had unfrozen enough to call the cops yet.
Tucking the shirt back down where it belonged, Dean flashed the timid looking waitress his best conman grin, ignoring the way she flinched back slightly. Can’t get them all, right?
“Dean?” Sam asked wearily without looking at him.
“Yeah?” Dean returned, not
saying Sam’s name, in case someone did
call the cops but the kid never seemed to remember that little detail.
The ritualistic response was cut off by the sound of Alice in Chains’ Rooster
sounding from the front pocket of Dean’s jeans. He frowned, digging around until beer-sticky fingers closed around his cell phone and pulled it out, checking the display before flipping it open.
It was Bobby.
“Yes?” he answered, tersely.
Bobby immediately picked up on it and stifled whatever he’d been about to say in order to ask, “Bad time?”
“Kinda,” Dean admitted, conveying both that yes, it was a bad time and no, they were not about to have their asses handed to them by a pack of ravaging werewolves or something similar.
He could practically hear Bobby nod and scratch his beard. “Call me back. I got a job for you boys.”
Nodding at the phone, Dean agreed and hung up without saying goodbye.
“Got a job,” he told his brother as he stuffed his phone back where it belonged and dug his winnings out of another pocket. He peeled five twenties off the bundle, hesitated, looked around and then added another because he’d been having real, honest fun before the fight had broken out.
He slapped the money on the bar top, grinned at the waitress again and then spun on his heel, marching out, Sam half a step behind him.
The entire room was still dead silent. Armed, dangerous and doing random ‘jobs’. Great. People were going to start thinking they were the mob.
Half an hour later saw Sam and Dean in the positions they were most often in: Dean behind the Impala’s steering wheel with Sam riding shotgun, a pile of papers and newspaper clippings on his lap as he sorted through potential hunts.
The pile had grown enormously in the month since the Devil’s Gate had opened as all the demons that had escaped started causing bloody, deadly mischief all over the place. It had gotten so bad that their only way of prioritizing hunts had become vicinity. The closer the job was, the faster they could get there, get it done, and move on.
At least now, with the Colt again, they had an easier time of actually getting rid of the demons they hunted – permanently.
And, although neither of the Winchesters was ever going to say it out loud, lest they jinx themselves, things seemed to have settled down. The first wave of demons had been mostly defeated and those that were left had gone to ground. At the moment, they were actually enjoying their first downtime since killing Azazel.
Today, however, Sam was looking for one very specific clipping instead of randomly sorting through the pile, his cell phone wedged between his ear and shoulder as he told Bobby, “Hold on a second, I almost… here it is. Unexplained coma cases in Hollow Springs, Colorado. But Bobby, the thing’s over two months old.”
Dean strained to hear the older hunter’s answer but couldn’t make out much over the rumble of the engine so he simply settled back, content to wait until Sam was done.
Five minutes later Sam nodded at nothing in particular, “Yeah, you’re right, that is
strange. We just entered Wyoming so we’re not too far away. I gotta talk to Dean first, but we’ll probably check it out. I’ll…”
He trailed off as Dean waved a hand in front of his brother’s face and then nodded when Sam looked at him, giving his silent approval of whatever was going on. He trusted Sam and he trusted Bobby’s research. If they thought there was a hunt to be had and Sam thought it worthwhile, he was okay with it.
“Dean says okay. We’ll call you tomorrow after we’ve checked things out, okay?”
Another thing that had changed since the Devil’s Gate: The check-ins. Once upon a time Dean would have chafed – did chafe – against regularly calling in with anyone, be they Bobby, his father or even Ellen. They did whatever they wanted to, whenever, wherever and owed no explanations to anyone. But with that literal black cloud looming over all of them and Dean’s time slowly but surely trickling away to nothing, well, he suddenly found that calling in with Bobby to let him know where they were and what they were planning wasn’t such a bad thing.
If they got trapped, hurt or stuck somewhere, Bobby would move heaven and hell to find them. It was a new kind of comfort.
Sam said his last goodbyes and flipped his phone shut, wriggling in his seat to stuff it back into his pocket. Then he jammed his loose research into the glove compartment and toed off his sneakers and pulled his knees to his chest, folding his giant body sideways into his seat, leaning against the door.
Dean said nothing, waiting for his little brother to hammer out the details and facts in his head. He would explain as soon as he had it all lined up.
“You heard about the coma cases?” At Dean’s nod he continued, “It started three months ago. Teenaged girl failed to wake up one morning. No sign of disease or trauma that anyone could find. She just fell asleep and was gone. Since then, seventeen more people have gone to sleep and never woke up.”
“Why didn’t some other hunter take the job months ago?” Dean asked, knowing perfectly well how hunters worked. It was rare that something this big was left alone for any period of time, especially once Bobby had caught wind of it. Since he had stopped hunting everything he found himself the man had started a sort of hunting central. He found a job, called a hunter he knew was close, and gave it away. Three months was too long for a job to be left undone.
“Apparently, someone at the Roadhouse said they were going down there to check it out. Nobody knows who that was or if they even went. Loads of people died when the Roadhouse went down and everyone’s been busy since. It slipped to the bottom of list, I guess.”
“Alright. We got anything else?”
“No connection between the victims that Bobby could find. Various ages, ethnicities, jobs, genders, sexual orientations. There’s no common factor in any of their lives except that they all live in Moffat County. At first he thought Shtriga, but those usually only take kids because there’s more life force in them.”
“Could it be a Shtriga that’s somehow limited? Injured? So it has to take whatever it gets?”
Sam frowned, digging his toes into the upholstery and stopping immediately when Dean slapped his leg for defiling his car with his smelly feet. “I don’t know man. Could be, but seventeen victims? Shtrigas don’t take that much.”
“Eighteen,” Dean corrected.
“You said that one girl plus seventeen others. Makes eighteen. Use your fingers and
your toes, Sammy.”
Instead of complaining about the use of that stupid childhood nickname – he hadn’t in a long time, not since Dean had gotten himself electrocuted and almost killed, not since he’d had to imagine life without anyone calling him Sammy ever again – Sam rolled his eyes and smirked. People tended to look at his big brother’s ripped jeans and bright smile and file him away under stupid eye-candy but fact was, Dean was smart. Probably as smart as Sam was. He just had absolutely no interest in using those smarts for anything but the job he loved.
“Whatever,” he said, just so Dean wouldn’t have the last word.
People always said no-one could pick a pattern like John Winchester. Sam was the only one who knew that half of the time it had been Dean who had put together the patterns from the clippings, notes and maps left out by their tired father.
And now there were only ten months, twenty-nine days and twenty-one hours left until Sam would have to find his own patterns without his big brother’s callused hand and acerbic advice to shove him in the right direction.
He closed his eyes as Dean cranked up Blue Oyster Cult – not Don’t Fear the Reaper
, not now and never again – and let himself drift to sleep, the presence of his brother soothing him better than anything else could.
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