Dreams and Demons
See Chapter 1 for warnings, notes and disclaimer.
Old City Sanctuary
Will Zimmerman’s Room
In the days that had passed since he woke up in the infirmary, Will had plenty of visitors during the day. Even after he was pronounced well on the road to recovery and allowed to move back to his own room, everyone found time to pop in and check up on him, and make sure he didn’t need anything. Well, most of them. Kate just wanted to harass him and a few of the more taciturn residents seemed simply to want to lay eyes on him. Things were normal enough, considering what had happened.
Kate wasn’t comfortable with real displays of affection, so she hid behind sarcasm and jokes. The Big Guy showed he cared by taking care of all the little day-to-day things, and preparing all of Will’s favorite foods. He knew so many of them that Will suspected some of his personnel files had been perused. Henry wasn’t uncomfortable with emotion, he just didn’t know how to express it in his non-furry form, and he got them back into their usual routines of work and movie nights with barely even a bump.
However, they all looked at him, out of the corner of their eyes, when they thought he wasn’t aware of it. They couldn’t know that he was always aware, that their worry battered at him like a physical thing. Helen was the only one who seemed able to act normal around him, likely because she had dealt with loss and trauma so much more than everyone else. Whatever the reason, he was grateful for the slices of normalcy spending time with her could give him. As the days went by though, she started asking, gently, about his experiences while he was unconscious. He made vague excuses about being uncertain, though he felt guilty for lying to her, he wasn’t ready yet. He couldn’t even try to find the words that could explain his experiences with Kali in a way that someone could relate to.
He missed her. Every single minute, every single day, he missed the sense of Kali’s presence inside his mind, the feeling of total rightness it gave him. Losing her left an ache he imagined was the emotional version of phantom limb syndrome. Logically, he knew the facts of the situation, those he’d been aware of and those explained to him after the fact.
After the Macri died, he’d accepted that he needed to die so that his spirit could contact Kali. There was no other way to communicate with her and ask for her to spare his people. The facts didn’t help the emotions he was trying to deal with after having been tied so closely to something so beyond human. It was frustrating that there were often no words to explain it all. Goddess didn’t really come close to describing her, it was simply the closest English word he could find. Telling people he’d been telepathically linked to a super abnormal wasn’t the truth either. The closeness he’d felt, the exquisite layering of thoughts and feelings, and the unconditional love and acceptance was something that he simply couldn’t put aside.
Fortunately, Helen seemed to understand that certain things wouldn’t – couldn’t – be discussed after one look at the emotions in his eyes. She still urged him to talk, but not in specifics. It made the days slightly more bearable, as long as he was distracted. Between physical therapy and the drone light duty work that Magnus would allow him to do, he managed to keep busy enough to get through the days. The nights, however, were another matter entirely. Will didn’t want the fact that he was suffering from insomnia becoming public knowledge. It would only worry everyone more. Rather than wander the halls, which had been his cure for sleepless nights in the past, he curled up on the bench seat below his window and tried to read, or to write in his journal. Neither happened all that frequently, for two reasons.
The first was the dreams. Every second day or so, he would fall asleep with no problem, and the dreams would come. They started off innocuously enough, but they never stayed that way. He would see two men, obviously connected in some way, likely family. In every dream they would fight the most horrible monsters. He couldn’t out his finger on why, but he knew they weren’t abnormal. Some of them looked human, but they were so twisted and evil that it showed through their skin, and their eyes were wrong; some were black, some red, and once or twice, they were yellow. Other times, the monsters weren’t human looking, but they radiated a level of hatred and a hunger that always stayed with him after he woke, clinging to him, roiling his stomach and making him feel like he needed a shower.
As if the evil in the dreams wasn’t bad enough, sometimes the men weren’t quite fast enough and they would be hurt. All he could do was watch, a helpless observer, just like he had been as a child. He wouldn’t be able to sleep for a night, or sometimes two, after he had one of the disturbingly nightmarish dreams. But sitting up awake was not a relief. He would get his journal out, and try to sort through his thoughts, make some sense of everything that happened. The thoughts in his mind didn’t want to coalesce into the patterns that were some familiar and comforting. Instead, there was an overwhelming sense that everything that made him who he was had shifted. He was different in some fundamental way that was at once vitally important and just beyond his grasp.
As a doctor, he understood that it was normal and expected that a near death experience would bring about some degree of emotional turmoil. Add to that the normal grieving process for any loss, and it made sense that he was upset, and that his subconscious would attempt to help him process and resolve things. He’s explained that very point to any number of patients, past and present, but that wasn’t much help while he was wide awake after yet another round monster versus human in his dreams.
Tonight had brought a new twist: there was only one man facing off against the creature, whatever it was. Despite not knowing him, even Will could feel the weight of his sadness and isolation. It was ridiculous to feel sympathy for a figment of his own imagination, but he did. He was self aware enough to admit that ever since he had come back to himself, he had been feeling alone. His friends were wonderful but they couldn’t put things back the way they had been before.
Even if they weren’t real, at least the dreams were giving him something to focus on beyond feelings of bereavement. Sometimes you had to take your distractions where you could get them. Staring out into the darkness without really seeing it, Will reminded himself that he was a well adjusted person who had been through a lot of strange happenings. Eventually, he would adjust to this one, just as he had all the others.***
It was always harder to get going after the dreams. It had been hours before he dozed off for a few scant hours of intermittent sleep. He had only managed that much because his body was so exhausted it shut down his brain in self-defense. He was hardly going to get back to normal ignoring the work that needed doing. As a concession to the fatigue that dragged at him, Will made only a brief stop in his office. Then he detoured to the kitchen and poured himself an oversized mug of coffee. After a moment, he grabbed another mug and poured one for Henry. The werewolf was a disgustingly early riser and by now, Will knew he’d gotten into whatever project had his attention and let his coffee go cold. He hadn’t specified why he wanted to see Will first thing this morning, but it never hurt to arrive with gifts, especially if it turned out to be an unpleasant conversation.
There was no sign of Henry when he got to the lab. Will wasn’t worried, since he often had to get up close and personal will all kinds of equipment to work his special brand of magic. “Henry?” he called. “I brought you a coffee.”After a moment, Henry appeared from behind a stack of metal components piled beside a table placed in one of the back corners, well away from any of the more sensitive computers and electronics. After the fiasco with the new ultrasonic weapon, Magnus had declared that Henry was no longer allowed to fix anything near equipment that wasn’t broken.
“Thanks, man.” Accepting the mug, Henry rubbed a hand over his face and then took a long sip. “I was just about to come find you, figured you’d be up by now.”
“Are you okay?” Will asked.
Stifling a yawn, Henry was quick to shake his head. “No, no, no, I’m fine. But I want you to look at something and see if you see the same thing. I’ve looked it over a couple of times, and I’ve triple checked everything, but it’s been a long night. Your eye for detail is better than mine…or anyone else’s really.”
“Alright,” Will answered, curious to see what had pulled Henry in so thoroughly. He’d been up all night, and was edgy. Will didn’t think it was all from caffeine. “Why do I get the feeling whatever this is, I’m not going to like it?” he remarked, coming closer to the main display monitor hooked into Henry’s workstation.
“Just look,” was all Henry said, but his eyes were bleak, and his voice was uneven.
At first the information on the screen seemed random, financial statements from companies with no link. Then Will’s brain supplied where he had seen all the names before. “These are all Cabal front companies.” He knew he was right, but Henry answered anyway.
“Yep.” A pause, while Will noted the droop to his shoulders, the pinched look around his eyes, and the compression of his lips that indicated serious unhappiness. “Magnus asked me to keep everything we had on them, just in case.”
“Why are you rehashing ancient history?” He kept his tone gentle, but if anything, Henry looked even unhappier at the question.
“Look at the dates for the transaction activity.”
It only took a few seconds for the pattern to emerge. “These are all within the last six months,” Will noted as he saw the dates. “This doesn’t make any sense. When they took Ashley, Druitt practically dismantled the Cabal singlehandedly. There aren’t enough of their people left to generate this much activity. There sure as hell aren’t enough people to be generating this much income.”
“Yeah, I know,” Henry told him. “I’ve been running a trace program on the Cabal holdings, such as they were after tall, bald and scary was through with them. I figured it couldn’t hurt. But with everything so crazy busy, I let it go. I remembered it yesterday, and I was hoping you would tell me that it wasn’t what I thought it was.”
“I wish I could. By the looks of this, not only have they somehow found a new source of income, but it looks like they have had a major recruiting drive.”
“Great, just what the world needs. More corporate drones with no soul,” Henry remarked. “So I guess this means what I thought it did, then.”
There was such reluctance in his tone that Will wished he could disagree. There was only one possible next step. It was the last thing he wanted to do, knowing the wounds it would rip open, the inevitable hurt it would cause, but that didn’t make it less necessary. “We need to tell Magnus, right now.”***
Old City Sanctuary
Of course it was raining, and not just a nice little shower or a short squall. No, any minute now Dean expected to sprout gills or see a guy with a really big boat go floating by. The streets were more lake than road, the rain was coming down in sheets that were nearing horizontal and obscuring everything but a few inches in front of him. He continued his slow and careful way up the gentle spiral of the road he was on. Damned if he was going to just abandon his baby to the elements and walk because of a little water. He had gotten wet enough at his last stop for coffee and food that the heater had turned the interior of the Impala into a sauna. Once again, he looked at his handwritten directions on the passenger seat and shook his head.
This is what he got for going off on wild goose chases, when he should know better. He and Bobby had already tried all the solid leads on Sam they could scare up. Hell, they’d even covered some of the sketchier ones. In point of fact, Bobby had told him in no uncertain terms that it was time to try to move on and live life the way Sam had asked. In a place he rarely even acknowledged, let alone looked, something inside of Dean said he had to keep looking, that this was important, and not just for Sam.
There was a part of him that wanted to insist that the reason he hadn’t found anything was because there was nothing to find. Hell, he was on a first name basis with an angel. You’d think if there was a way to rescue a soul, a winged altar boy would know. Dean had tried calling Castiel, more than once, but there had been no answer. There was no way of telling whether that meant he was busy, or that he couldn’t help. Until he was given reason to think otherwise, Dean clung to the idea that things were just too chaotic in heaven for the angel to lend any assistance. It was possible that there were more celestial rules or some crap like that in play, but breaking rules had never been a problem for Dean, no matter who set them.
After few minutes of crawling up the road, a gate loomed in front of him in the pale headlight beams. When he pulled up, Dean noticed the intercom box. He was hoping meant someone was actually around to answer it. Lowering his window reluctantly, he hit the button marked “talk”, which produced a muted tone. “I’m looking for Dr. Helen Magnus,” he explained, trying for his most who-me-I’m-harmless innocent tone and mustering up a wide smile for any cameras he might be displayed on. He wasn’t stupid enough to believe they weren’t there because he couldn’t see them.
“A great many people are looking for the doctor. What makes you think she would want you to find her?” The voice seemed amused, which Dean speculated was likely because with the window down he was doing a spectacular impression of a drowned rat.
“My name is Dean Winchester. She knows my bother Sam,” He refused to use the past tense on principle, but paused to consider how best to present the situation. He already knew she was an expert on weird things, given the times Sam had called her. Knowing she knew about monsters didn’t mean he could just march up to the gate and announce he wanted the good doctor’s help to rescue his brother from Hell. That sort of thing tended to be more of a fast track to a straight jacket than a conversation starter.
Before he could make up his mind what to say, there was another muted click, and the gate swung open. The amused voice didn’t speak again, but that didn’t matter. Dean knew an invitation when he saw one, and rolled through the gap as quickly as the torrents of water would allow. Even in the watery darkness, the structure he drove up to was impressive. It looked to be more of a castle than private research facility. Then again, there had to be some serious bucks behind being able to ditch the nine to five grind and research whatever it was they had their noses stuck into here.
Resigning himself to being completely soaked, he checked to be sure his gun was secure in the holster under his jacket and swung out of the car to dash to the door illuminated by a single light just ahead of where he’d parked. In better weather, even he may have spared a moment to admire the well tended courtyard, but right now his goal was getting under cover.
The door opened before he could knock and an exotic looking woman in a battered pair of jeans and a low cut tank top gestured him in. “Get in here before you drown. Boss’ll be right down,” she told him in a lazy almost-drawl that belied the careful appraisal she was giving him. Dean didn’t care so much about the once over when she handed him a warmed towel and closed the door behind him.
“Thanks,” he managed, before making sure his shirt was arranged properly to cover his gun and shrugging out of his jacket and engulfing his head and shoulders in the towel.
Dean admired the girl’s reflexes as she caught his coat before it could hit the floor. She tossed it onto a coat rack tucked into the corner.
“I’m Kate,” she told him, smiling a little at the puddle that was forming around his feet. “I’d ask how your trip was, but I think I can guess the answer already. I doubt it was pleasure that brought you out on a night like this.”
Shrugging off the thinly veiled question, Dean continued to dry off. “I’m known for my crappy travel luck. You said your boss was on the way down. Is your boss Helen Magnus?”
Just as the girl opened her mouth to answer, a tall, elegantly dressed brunette swept into the room. “Well, opinions vary on who has charge of our Kate,” she told him, shaking his hand in a firm grip. “But, yes, I am Helen Magnus. I’m very pleased to meet you Dean. I’ve heard a great deal about you. I am sorry that Sam isn’t with you, though. Is he alright?”
Trying to decide what he thought of the aristocratic woman, Dean tried for a non-straightjacket answer. “That’s kind of what I came to talk to you about,” he began, flashing his most charming smile. “But it’s kind of a personal matter.”
“Of course. Why don’t we go into my office,” Magnus replied, smiling as she gestured down the hall and moved to walk beside him. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to meet you immediately. We had an internal matter come to our attention this morning that has managed to consume most of my day, I’m afraid.”
Accepting the apology with a nod, Dean tried not to gape at his palatial surroundings. Even his inexperienced eye recognized quality antiques and art when he saw them. “No problem,” he assured her. It wasn’t more than a few minutes before they came to a set of French doors, which she opened and ushered him into the room beyond.
Whatever he might have expected, the spacious and blessedly warm office wasn’t it. There were enough bookshelves that he might have thought he was in a library, except that the shelves held a collections of strange objects that he couldn’t have named if he tried, mixed in with more of what looked to be antiques, this time, of the medical variety. Several framed diplomas flanked a cheerfully burning fireplace on the far wall. His first impulse was to saunter over to inspect them. Not wanting to offend her before he had a chance to speak, he sat in the overstuffed chair that was before the desk and waited while the doctor claimed her chair.
“So, Dean, why don’t you tell me what happened to Sam? I can’t think of any other reason why you would be contacting me. Add to that the fact that I haven’t heard from Sam in months, and I would guess we have a very serious problem.” Magnus’ tone was matter-of-fact, but her probing gaze that told Dean it would be a very bad idea to attempt to lie outright. Even if the woman specialized in the unexplainable, it didn’t make it any more likely that his story would be believed. Maybe coming here had been a bad idea after all, he reflected. Now that he was here, he had absolutely no idea how to frame even a simple request for information. Maybe his request wasn’t the best starting point.
Taking a deep breath, Dean reminded himself that even if he came off looking like a lunatic, it was worth it to find Sam. “Look, you’re right. Something has happened to Sam,” he admitted. “But before I can even try to explain it to you, I was hoping you might be able to tell me a little bit about what it is you do here. What happened isn’t exactly a story I can tell to,” he paused, searching for a word he could use without screwing this up, “Well, nearly anybody. If you aren’t going to be able to take me seriously, then I don’t see the point to wasting your time or mine.” The thought of leaving empty handed made him break out in a cold sweat, so he was quite proud of how calm he managed to sound.
Sizing up the man across from her, Helen would have smiled if the situation weren’t so serious. Dean so perfectly matched his brother’s description that she felt as if she knew him, at least somewhat. After only a few seconds to think it over, she decided she was going to have to go against protocol in this case. Normally, she wouldn’t divulge anything about what the Sanctuary, other than the official line. This was different. Whatever had happened to Sam, she was going to help. In order to do that, she had to convince Dean that she could not only be trusted, but also be useful.
Given the depth of his skepticism, that was going to be easier said than done. Even though he dealt with what he considered supernatural beings every day, his view of such creatures was very black and white, and he wasn’t likely going to find exposure to her world and all that it entailed a comfortable experience. Still, he would grow as a person, and that was always a positive, no matter what the circumstances.
“Much of our work here involves protecting those who would never be accepted in the outside world,” she began, unconcerned that he was watching her so closely. “Before I explain my work to you, I should tell you that I know you and your brother are hunters, and I am fully aware of most of the creatures who are your usual targets.” When Dean would have interjected, Helen held up a hand to forestall his question, having already guessed what it would be. “I was aware of hunters as a group before I met your brother while he was attending university. With that information and some clues from his actions, it wasn’t difficult to put two and two together.”
Well, so far the woman was confirming what he had already managed to guess for himself. The real issue wasn’t whether or not she was up on all her latest monster lore, but whether or not her knowledge extended to angels and demons. If not, she was still just as likely to want to lock him away in this Sanctuary of hers as believe him. Sam seemed to think her contacts were extensive. Telling her had to be worth a shot.
Most people tended to think of heaven and hell as subjective concepts, until they had been there. Helen Magnus didn’t seem to be like most people. “Alright, that makes things easier then. I don’t have to explain about things that go bump in the night because you already know monsters are real,” he told her, pausing when it looked like she wanted to argue, but she gestured at him to continue. “The thing is, it wasn’t a monster that took Sam, not exactly.”
Arching an eyebrow at him, Magnus leaned forward in her chair. “What does that mean, not exactly?” she asked him.
Rather than answer her directly, Dean cut to the chase. “What do you know about angels or demons?” Careful to keep his tone even, he watched closely for her reaction but she only looked at him calmly.
“I assume you don’t mean the mythological constructs, but the real thing. I will have to admit to only a limited knowledge of demons, and none on angels, though I assume by your question that they are real as well.”
Uncertain he had heard her correctly, Dean had to ask, “You mean you’re actually going to sit there and tell me you’re just willing to take my word for it that angels and demons exist?”
Rather than anger, frustration, or even fear, Magnus seemed more amused by his revelation than anything. “Why don’t we dispense with the obligatory phase of disbelief and get back to the business at hand. I’ll hypothesize you are telling the truth; you can prove it to me later. Now, tell me what happened to Sam.” It was a command, and this was a woman who expected her commands to be obeyed. Since it was in his best interests to do so, Dean opened his mouth to answer but before he could get a word out, the doors to the office opened and two men paused in the doorway, mid-argument.
“We still need more information before we can start drawing conclusions,” the first one was insisting. Fairly tall and slender, he had trendy looking glasses and short, dark hair that was going every which way, likely from having fingers run through it repeatedly.
“Yeah, that part I agree with,” the other was shorter and stockier, his well worn T-shirt and jeans were just this side of ragged, and he was frustrated. “But the fact that we need more information proves my point. There’s more going on here than we know about and we should at least think about asking outside the Sanctuary network to find out of anyone else has been keeping an eye on them.”
“Right, because we want whoever is back in charge of them to know we’re looking,” the first one retorted as they came all the way into the office.
Before the argument could continue, Magnus spoke just loud enough to talk over both of them. “Gentleman, as important as I am sure your current disagreement is, I would very much appreciate it if you could continue it elsewhere, without my input for the moment. As you can see, I am otherwise occupied.” Her words brought both of them up short. Dean resisted the urge to smile at the identical looks of guilt they both wore at the reprimand. After letting them squirm for a moment, Magnus took pity and smiled slightly at both of them. “This is Dr. Will Zimmerman,” she nodded at the taller, bookish looking guy Dean would have pegged as the academic type. “Among other things, Will is the psychiatrist here at the Sanctuary. The gentleman with him is Henry Foss, our resident tech expert.”
As Helen gave his name to the men, Dean shifted in his chair to nod at both of them. When he made eye contact with Henry, he was rewarded with a slightly sheepish smile. But when he looked directly at the shrink, well that’s when things got a little bit awkward, and he hadn’t even made it to his explanation of what happened to Sam yet. All he did was say hello, but Will had gone chalk white and was staring at him like he had seen a ghost. Hell, if Dean hadn’t known better, he would have almost thought he was one. This had to be some kind of new record. Not even five minutes in the other man’s company, and already he was weirding him out.***
Guests were nothing new at the sanctuary. Will remembered several of Magnus’ contacts had mentioned a young man had been looking for her. She hadn’t had a name, because whoever he was, he was smart enough to use aliases. Even the introduction hadn’t rung a bell for him. But looking at the stranger for more than a handful of heartbeats made the other voices in the room fade away, though he noted with a detached corner of his mind that they were all still talking.
It was the man from his dream, the one left alone. It didn’t make any sense. A dream couldn’t possibly be sitting in Magnus’ office, wearing a charming smile. Knowing everyone was expecting a certain reaction from him, Will took a deep breath and tried to calm down.
Obviously, he was mistaken; lack of sleep and stress had conspired against him, that was all. Still, the more he looked, the greater the sense of familiarity pulled at him. With an effort, he managed not to tremble, and stepped forward to offer his hand. “Nice to meet you. Please, call me Will.” He hoped he sounded normal. The loudest sound in the room was the thud of his heartbeat in his ears. He managed to shake hands and exchange a few more pleasantries without anyone noticing his distress.
Dean was starting to get a little uncomfortable. Considering his tolerance for weird, that was saying something. Though he was trying to act blasé, the doctor was getting more and more worked up the longer he looked at Dean. Dean couldn’t remember the man, or his name, ever being part of a job.
Both Helen and Henry were looking concerned at the reaction Will was having, so he knew he wasn’t just imagining it. That just left the question of what to do about it. He considered letting it slide, but that really wouldn’t help. There was no telling how long it was going to take to get the help he needed, and he really didn’t like the idea of having to deal with man’s creeped-out vibes the whole time.
While Dean was trying to figure things out, he listened to Magnus attempt to move others along by explaining that Dean was there to discuss a sensitive personal matter regarding his brother, Sam.
The knowledge that Dean was Sam’s brother had Will’s pulse jumping all over again, as he felt himself start to tremble again, despite his best efforts. The dreams had featured two men, and he was sure they were family somehow. Now one of them appears out of nowhere and he has a brother, who just happens to know Magnus. That was just too far past the bounds of coincidence. Rather than receding, the room seemed to come into hyper focus, overly loud, too intense.
“Okay, that’s it,” Dean exclaimed. “You keep staring at me, and acting like I slept with your girlfriend of something.” He didn’t stand up, fearing if he did the spooked psychologist would outright bolt, ruining his chance to talk to Magnus about Sam. He turned to the woman, hoping she could get the shrink sorted out. “What gives? Is this just part of the package deal around here, you see if you can freak out everyone who comes poking around?”
Shaking his head, Will tried to recover his composure, not wanting to embarrass himself further. “No, we don’t and it isn’t. I’m sorry,” he apologized, upset at the thought that he had lost control, no matter what the cause. “I’ve had some stuff happen lately that you wouldn’t believe if I told you,” he explained. “I guess it shook me more than I thought, and you look a lot like someone I thought I knew.” The explanation was true enough. It would make his friends curious, but they would just have to live with it.
While he was willing to consider the idea that he had dreamed of a man he had never met, did not mean he was going to talk about it with anyone. A tiny voice in the back of his mind tried to suggest that maybe he should say something, but he ignored it. There was no reason to worry anyone until he knew if there was anything to worry about. For all he knew, it was just something that happened when you died and then came back again. Even if he had dreamt of Dean, that didn’t make him dangerous. Will would wait, and watch the other man to see what happened. If he ended up having to tell anyone about the dreams it would be for a damned good reason. He would cross that bridge when he came to it.***
Though Will’s behavior was concerning, Helen kept her face carefully neutral as he made his apologies to Dean and followed Henry out of the room. When Henry met her eyes on his way out, obviously worried, she gave the minutest shake of her head. Whatever was bothering Will, if he genuinely thought they needed to know, he would have told them. In the meantime, she had quite enough to deal with. “I apologize for the interruption and the awkwardness,” she told Dean. “As Will said, he was recently put through some very traumatic experiences, and I think he must still be a little shaken.” Careful to be sure that Dean understood that the trauma hadn’t been Will’s fault, she nonetheless kept the statement generic enough to protect his privacy.
“Okay,” he accepted the statement at face value, even though he had an idea of how much more complicated the situation probably was, he didn’t need to get up close and personal with anyone else's trauma. “Where were we?” he asked.
Magnus nodded at him. “You were telling me what happened to Sam,” she prompted.
Dean took a deep breath, and decided to just plunge right in. “He’s missing, but it’s complicated. He wasn’t kidnapped or anything. There’s this war between the angels of heaven and the assorted demons of hell. The angels are dicks, and not helpful when you need them. But the demons are worse. Sam and I were both pretty directly involved in starting an apocalypse. When it came right down to it, he thought he had to jump down into the Pit to make sure that Lucifer would stay in the cage he needed to be in.” Everything was said in a rush, because once he got going it poured out of him.
To her credit, Magnus didn’t look overly shocked by what he was saying, though her eyebrows rose. “I assume you think that is a complete explanation, but I can assure you that isn’t the case. We’ll set that aside for now. You’re telling me that Sam is in Hell, Dean. He isn’t missing, he’s dead. No matter where he ended up after that, I am not sure what kind of help you think I can give you.” He could see the sympathy on her face.
“That’s the problem, doc. I don’t know if he’s technically dead or alive. I don’t know where he is in terms of afterlife, but it doesn’t matter. Trust me, no part of hell qualifies as somewhere you want to visit.” His tone went bleak, and Dean knew his eyes were flat and empty, but he couldn’t help it. “I’m not an idiot. I know I might not be able to get him back, but I still have to try.” And now came the part that was hard to admit. “I tried everything, every lead I could find, but the legit information about all the different levels of hell is a little sparse. I hit dead ends with everything that I could find, and the same with every one of my go-to guys for information.”
He watched as Magnus paused for a moment, he just hoped she wouldn’t call in the men in white suits. “So you’re hoping to take advantage of the Sanctuary network, in the hopes of uncovering new information. I see your point. Unfortunately, we generally run towards large volumes of information about abnormals, but less about the paranormal or occult.”
Feeling despair welling up inside him again, Dean nodded. “Okay, well it was a long shot. I had to at least ask,” he told her, hiding the hopeless feeling as best as he could manage.
Helen shook her head. “I didn’t say I couldn’t help you. I simply wanted you to understand that I may not be able to help you. I will try. We will see what our intelligence has to say on the subject, and I will check with some contacts of my own outside the Sanctuary network. In the meantime, we have very comfortable guest suites. The weather is horrendous and you look exhausted. You are also favoring your right shoulder; my guess would be a recent injury aggravated by your travels.” Her voice returned to the tone of command. “If you wish my help, I insist you stay here and rest and recuperate while my people and I see what we can find out.”
Staying hadn’t been on the agenda, no matter how implacable the lady seemed to be. Before she was even finished speaking, Dean was shaking his head. “I’m sure there’s a decent hotel around here. I appreciate the offer, but I’d be more comfortable in my own space.”
Dean bristled when she burst out laughing. “Oh, I am sorry Dean. I don’t mean to laugh at you, but really if having your own space is your only concern, believe me when I tell you, I can make sure you have plenty of that. In fact, if you really want me to, I can put you in a whole wing all by yourself. I can promise that our quarters are cleaner and better appointed than anything you will find in a motel.” She paused and smiled warmly at him. “And besides, since I am well aware of what your particular job entails, you don’t have to worry about hiding the tools of the trade. How many motels can you say that about?”
The lady made a good point, Dean had to admit. But that only raised another question. “So you don’t care if I have to make some slight modifications in your guest quarters then? Nothing personal, but in my experience, even the most security conscience people have some holes then their defense.”
“I want you to be comfortable here. You may make any changes that are necessary for you to feel safe. I would prefer there was no permanent damage though.” A tinge of apprehension crept into her voice as she gave his rough clothing another appraisal.
“Alright, then you’ve got yourself a houseguest,” Dean agreed, grinning at her discomfort. It made more sense to stay close to the center of things anyway, and the good doctor had made very valid points. It never hurt to try and gather more information. He got the feeling that no one got so much as a syllable out of Helen Magnus that she didn’t want to share, but it didn’t mean the same was true for all of her colleagues. “And I promise not to cause any permanent damage,” he assured her.***
Old City Sanctuary
Helen Magnus’ Personal Residence
Helen waited until all her administrative tasks were done for the day to curl up with a phone in one of the more modern but comfortable chairs in her sitting room. The day had been long enough that she was certain if she had a seat in her bedroom she would fall asleep, so this was her attempt at a compromise. She’d remembered to hunt up the phone number she needed before she settled into her comfortable perch. Stifling a yawn, she picked up the handset to dial, then waited while it rang with the slightly distant quality of an overseas call. “Thank you for calling the ICWS. How may I direct your call?” asked the cheerful female who answered.
“I’d very much like to speak to Rupert Giles please. It’s Helen Magnus calling,” she replied quietly, unsurprised when she was put on hold after only a moment. The hold music was tolerable at least, classical at a well modulated volume. There was a soft click, which told her that the call had been transferred, then a familiar voice sounded in her ear.
“Helen, my dear, it has been far too long. Much as I would love to play catch up, I have a feeling that this is not a social call. In fact, I was going to be calling you within the next few days, but I’m sure we’ll get to that. How can I help?”
“It’s nice to hear your voice as well, Rupert. But you’re right. I’m afraid this isn’t a social call.” She outlined the details Dean had given her about Sam’s ordeal, and her own suspicions on the matter. Once she’d covered all the pertinent details, she got down to the real reason for her call. “All things considered, I feel more than a little out of my depth. I am not expert on angels, demons, or any of the occult. That was always your department. I know you must be busy setting up your new infrastructure, but when I realized what I was dealing with, I had to call.” She didn’t give him time to answer with pleasantries.
“Can you look into your library, or have someone you trust do so and see what you can come up with, old friend? I can’t tell you why exactly, but something tells me this boy is important, and I’d hate to see him lost if there is anything I can do about it. There have been enough people sacrificed on both sides of the ocean in the last few years.” Shaking off her suddenly somber tone, Helen quietly laughed at herself. “Listen to me, I must need more sleep than I thought,” she half apologized.
There was a pause on the other end of the line, but that didn’t worry her. Rupert rarely did anything without thinking it through completely, and she had just dropped a lot of information neatly in his lap.
“I know just the person to have look into this. She’s a genius with a computer and quite nearly one of the best researchers I’ve ever known,” Rupert answered. “And as for busy, I am never too busy for you, my dear, as trite as that may sound. Things are going well setting up local headquarters for all of the Slayers. We had some bumps in the road establishing the school that is the lynchpin of our new training program, but things have smoothed out recently, so I am sure Willow won’t mind devoting some time to your particular problem. I assume the time frame is as soon as possible?” he asked.
“Even sooner than that, if you can manage it,” Helen answered, feeling a bit lighter now that an expert was on the case, even if he was a bit far flung. With her problem dealt with for now, her mind turned to the earlier portion of the conversation. “Now what was that you were saying about calling me?”
Another slight pause, this one with a hesitation she might not have noticed if she hadn’t been paying attention. “Well, as much as I would prefer not to reopen a painful subject, I was actually planning on calling to tell you that it seems there has been a great deal of activity from your former Cabal. They don’t seem as former as you might like,” Though he was careful to keep his tone modulated, Helen knew Rupert was unhappy to be the bearer of bad tidings.
“Yes, I know,” Though she hadn’t declared the war on them that John had, she had every bit of the hatred he did for the organization that had stolen her daughter and been responsible for her death, even if they hadn’t done the deed themselves. The thought of them rebuilding in any capacity made her feel angry and sick at the same time, and her shoulders knotted with tension. “It seems Henry and Will noticed much the same thing from the pattern of financial activity,” she explained.
“I’m afraid I have to tell you that the resurgence of the Cabal isn’t quite that simple. Most of that financial activity you mentioned seems to be coming from one place, but it isn’t any of the usual channels, Helen. From what we can tell, all of the relevant businesses have backers from the demon world. We haven’t been able to ascertain if they are all unified under one high level demon or not, but the connections are very definitely in place, regardless of who is pulling the strings.”
All Helen could do was blink. Of the possibilities that had come to mind, this was one had not occurred to her. As her mind caught up with the implications of what she had been told, she went cold all over. “I won’t bother asking if you are sure, because I know you too well. I don’t like any of the scenarios that leads to though,” she said unhappily. “More to the point, I suddenly find it rather too coincidental that I have a demon hunter in residence when we most need information about demons,” she confided.
“I would question the timing as well,” Rupert agreed. “So long as you keep your guard up, the young man could be a valuable source of information. Historically speaking, when Hunters aided Slayers, the outcomes were very positive. Perhaps the same can be said for you.” Despite his assertion though, the older Englishman paused, and the slightest thread of tension roughened his voice for the first time. “Be careful, no matter what you decide to tell the boy. I’d hate to see anything happen to you, after all this time,” he told her.
The caution brought a slight smile to her face, and Helen hastened to reassure him. “I’m always careful, especially around volatile young men. I promise to take all the recommended precautions against demons too, once I know what they are.” They talked for a few more minutes, and Helen secured his promise that he would call her the minute he had any information that would shed any light on Sam’s situation or the Cabal’s ongoing activities.
Once they had hung up, she prepared for bed on auto pilot, while contemplating the best way to approach the now changed situation. She had planned to limit Dean’s access to the real work of the Sanctuary until she knew whether they could help him or not. Caution was simply too much a part of her work life to dictate otherwise. Knowing there would be things he knew she needed to learn, it seemed only fair that the exchange of information be more equal. It was only a matter of moving up the time table. Decision made, she slid into bed, making herself comfortable under her blankets and adjusting her pillow to the proper position so she could fall asleep.***
Old City Sanctuary
Waking up in such a richly appointed room was a bit jarring, Dean had to admit. It definitely wasn’t a room for laying around in, not that he was prone to it anyway. He had managed some solid sleep rather than a nightmare, so at least he could get out of bed with some energy. Though the bathroom was as luxurious as the rest of the room, he opted for a short shower, and dressed quickly. He wasn’t certain what the day would bring, but whatever it was, sooner was better than later. If the food matched the rest of the place, he owed it to his stomach to get moving. He half expected the door to be locked, but it turned easily. He headed down the hall, hoping he would be able to follow his nose to food.
He’d only been walking for a few minutes when he struck gold, or maybe better: he smelled bacon frying. Dean couldn’t help but grin.
Out of habit, he was quietly padding down the hallway, letting the ambient noise cover his foot falls. Before he cleared the door, a gruff voice called out, “Good morning.” Dean paused and looked around for cameras as the voice continued, “Breakfast will be ready shortly. Magnus has asked that you be given a tour of our facility this morning. Kate will be here soon to be your tour guide.” The voice was pitched lower than he was used to, and had odd emphasis. Unable to spot any eyes in the sky, Dean mentally shrugged and moved in to the kitchen to take a seat at the large table.
“Good to know,” he replied, leaning back in his chair. He was doing his best to just blend into the background and not make any waves, but even his nonchalance had limits. When he looked up, it was all he could do not to stare. The breakfast chef had turned to look at him directly, gaze calm and assessing but his gaze wasn’t what had caught Dean’s attention.
The sheer amount of hair on his face was a little startling, but paired with the Neanderthal cast to his features, he looked more like he belonged in a cave with a club somewhere than dressed in a neatly pressed suit, with an immaculately white apron over it. He didn’t offer his name, or otherwise add to the conversation, which gave Dean a moment to gather his thoughts. He hadn’t stayed alive this long without learning to roll with the punches. He filed the odd man under things to find out about and left it at that, being careful to turn his attention to the fixtures in the room. Whoever the cook was, this was his home, his turf, and somehow he didn’t seem the type to enjoy being turned into a zoo exhibit.
He couldn’t help hoping Kate would be there soon. Whatever tall, dark and furry’s deal was, he didn’t seem thrilled about Dean’s presence. He had a sixth sense for people who disliked him, and the guy in the apron was setting it off in spades. Dean made a note to try to win him over. People who kept their mouths shut learned a lot from those who didn’t.
When Kate made her way to the kitchen, the big guy handed her a cup of coffee without trying to talk to her, so Dean figured she wasn’t big on mornings. With the ease of long practice, he kept his mouth shut and demolished a tasty breakfast. As they were finishing, Henry and Will wandered in. They were more awake than Kate, but not by much, though they managed to mutter thanks to the chef, who merely nodded at both of them.
When Kate announced that she would be taking Dean on the full tour, whatever that was, everyone perked up. Will’s eyes only widened slightly, and he covered quickly, but Henry was anything but subtle, doing a double take at his female colleague. For her part, Kate only nodded slightly at them, and led the way out of the kitchen, without bothering to check if Dean was following her. After everything he’d seen in the last few years, he would have thought the Sanctuary couldn’t surprise him, but that had been before breakfast, and now he really didn’t know what to expect.
“Wait.” It was the chef again, who still hadn’t bothered to introduce himself. He hadn’t moved, and wasn’t presenting himself as a threat, but something in his voice immediately stopped Dean in his tracks. “I know what you are, boy,” he began, a carefully controlled anger simmering under the words. “Those that are here are under our protection. That means you keep your Hunter instincts –and your weapons— under control.” The threat was veiled, if only barely, but Dean nodded.
“Duly noted,” he answered as respectfully as he could manage, given that he had no idea why the other man disliked him, and he never had taken threats well. Even as they tried to avoid notice, it was clear that both Henry and Will were wondering what the conversation was about. Dean ignored their curiosity and followed Kate out of the room. There was no way for him to control what the other man had to say about hunters, and he wasn’t planning on knowing these people long enough for it to matter.***