Forging an alliance
Connor turned to Sam. “Now that you’ve heard my life’s story, let’s hear yours,” he encouraged.
“Sure, why not?’ agreed Sam with an ease that would have caused the vein in his father’s temple to start pulsing in fury. John Winchester remained a man of secrets, who adamantly believed; the less revealed about the supernatural the better. Usually, this was one of the few points of agreement John and Sam shared, but tonight stood a long way from usual. Tonight Sam not only discovered another hunter was attending Stanford (a Champion, no less), he also discovered the girl he’d been going in mental circles about could face the supernatural with a fearlessness seldom seen in Sam’s experience. He didn’t know what would happen tomorrow with Luis and Zack, but he knew Connor and Jessica were on his side. He wanted to repay the faith Connor had shown him with a leap of faith of his own.
“Just don’t expect my life to be nearly as exciting as yours,” Sam warned. “To start with, I didn’t know about the supernatural until I was eight. I thought Dad was some sort of travelling salesman and Mom had died in a car accident when I was a baby. My older brother, Dean, and I had been left in a motel in Nebraska for a couple of weeks while Dad was on a job. It was Christmas break so I didn’t even have school to relieve the boredom. I wasn’t allowed to leave the room and felt more than a little stir crazy. Dean, who was twelve at the time, was even more frustrated with the situation then me since he had been charged with protecting me in Dad’s absence. I had seen glimpses of my Dad’s journal, but was never allowed to touch it. I knew Dean would enforce Dad’s rule so I snuck the journal into the bathroom while Dean was watching TV, and started to read it.”
“I’m guessing it was more than a list of sales contacts,” suggested Connor.
“A lot more,” Sam agreed. He up ended the last of his whiskey before continuing with his own private horror story. “I started with how Mom really died. Dad was woken by Mom’s screams coming from my room. He rushed up the stairs, and at first everything seemed alright. Then he noticed something dripping on the pillow next to me. He looked up and saw Mom pinned to the ceiling, bleeding from a cut in her belly. Flames started flying out around her; consuming her. I was screaming in my crib, so Dad got Dean and me out of the house. He tried to go back for Mom, but he couldn’t get past the flames. The authorities wrote it off as bad wiring. The few people he told about what he saw that night thought he was crazy, so he sold his part of the garage and went searching for his own answers. He never found the thing that killed Mom, but he did find a lot of other evil things to kill along the way.”
Though Jessica felt reluctant to hug Connor when he had shared a similar tragedy, there was no hesitation to embrace Sam. Something about his puppy dog eyes seemed to beg for comfort. “I’m sorry you went through that,” she offered.
Sam shook his head as he pulled back. “I was too young to remember much,” he assured. “I wasn’t even a year old. In a lot of ways, I think it was worse for Dean. He was four; old enough to form memories, not that he ever talked about it. Even Dad wouldn’t talk about that night if he could avoid it. I wouldn’t even know what Mom looked like if it weren’t for a few pictures. I
just wish I had a few memories of her that were my own.”
“I got to talk to Darla once,” admitted Connor. “I talked to her spirit anyway. She was sent by the Powers to try and steer me away from a really bad decision. I almost listened to her, but I was so weak; so pathetically needy for Cordelia’s attention . . . the thing possessing Cordelia claimed Darla was just a magic spell cast to lead me astray.” Connor grimaced, realizing what happened next wasn’t a story he was willing to share. “Let’s just say I made a mistake by listening to Cordelia, instead of Darla, and things went quickly downhill from there.” In some ways it was the worst of Connor’s returned memories, because he would never be able to make amends to the girl he’d put in danger and then failed to save. It remained the biggest reason he didn’t feel he had the right to claim the title Champion. Deciding it was time to get the conversation back on topic, Connor asked, “What did your father say when he realized what you’d done?”
“He didn’t know for a while,” Sam replied. “Once I’d wrapped my head around the idea of the monsters, I confronted Dean. He tried to cover for Dad, until I showed him I had read Dad’s journal.” A smile crossed Sam’s face at the memory. “Dean told me we had the coolest dad in the world; a superhero who fought monsters. Then he swore me to secrecy, with threats, of course.”
“So how long before your Dad figured you were in on the big secret?” asked Jessica.
“I’m not sure,” admitted Sam. “Months passed and he . . . he never said anything, he just started leaving his research out were I might find it, and talking about hunts where I would hear him. I was nine when I told Dad I afraid of the thing in my closet. He handed me a forty-five caliber loaded with consecrated iron rounds.”
“So how did your first hunt go?” Connor asked eagerly.
“Terrifying,” Sam admitted with a chuckle. “My hands were shaking so bad I almost dropped the gun.”
“Where were your father and brother?” asked Jessica, not liking the idea of a terrified nine-year-old with a loaded gun.
“The thing in my closet was a Porshtaw,” explained Sam. “They feed off of the fear created by children’s nightmares, but only children. Once you hit puberty you’re no longer a target, for them at least. Bobby thought it had something to do with hormone levels. Anyway most Porshtaws will feed off a child’s nightmares for two or three nights and then move on, but sometimes they’ll attach themselves to one child for months on end. It can lead to mental breakdowns, hospitalization, and in rare cases death.”
“Death,” Jessica was aghast, “from just nightmares?”
“When a Porshtaws feeds they drain off some of the child’s life energies, flavored with a little fear, of course,” Sam began. “If the child’s nightmares continue for more than a couple of days it can put a serious dent in their sleep cycles. Not only are they tired from the constant nightmares but they’re also growing weaker from the feedings. My Dad brought us to that town because he’d read a news article about a child’s chronic nightmares triggering a fatal asthma attack. He told me he could take me to Pastor Jim’s where I’d be safe, and he would try to keep hunting the creature, but since Dean was too old to attract one it meant another child, maybe several other children, would be attacked before he could kill it. That was the first time I played bait. Dad and Dean rushed in when they heard me scream, and Dad took it down with one shot.”
“After that Dad started training Dean and I. Dean loved it, he couldn’t wait for the next hunt; the next town; the next adventure,” detailed Sam. “I didn’t mind the research so much, but most days I wanted to practice soccer not bow hunting. I hated the constant moving from town to town; always being the new kid. Even on those rare occasions when I made friends, it never lasted more than a few weeks.”
“It might have been easier for him to home-school you,” suggested Jessica. Then as if just realizing she had spoken out loud, she explained, “Did I mention I’m an education major?”
“Dad seemed to prefer enrolling us in a new school every couple of months,” said Sam. “Dean wanted to start hunting full time the day he turned eighteen, but Dad insisted he get his diploma first.” Sam smirked at the memory. “The only time I ever saw Dean work an end-around on Dad came a month after Dean’s eighteenth birthday. Dean told Dad he had pulled himself out of school that day and had no intention of going back. I thought Dad was going to have an aneurism his face was so red. He ordered Dean to go back to school, saying Winchesters weren’t drop-outs or quitters. Dean didn’t say anything, just slammed a piece of paper on the table. It showed he had passed the GED with high scores, especially in the math and science sections.
Dad was torn between proud and irritated.”
“Soon the two of them were off hunting, or hustling since Dad rarely took money for what he did. I kept going to school and became their researcher for the next couple of years.” Sam sighed, “The closer I got to graduation the more Dad talked about us not being tied to my school schedule. He assumed I would follow him and Dean into the family business, but it was the last thing I wanted. I filled out eight hundred scholarship and grant applications, trying to find a way to pay for the Stanford acceptance I had already received. When I got the letter saying my essay had won a grant large enough to earn a Bachelor’s degree I was so happy. I couldn’t wait to finally get a chance to live a safe and normal life. I knew Dad wouldn’t like it, and Dean would take my leaving hard, but . . .” Sam remembered how his dream of college became an all encompassing solution to his problems; the ideal he clung to when he was fighting with Dad or alone again waiting for his father and brother to return from a hunt.
“They didn’t take it well,” said Connor, easily reading Sam’s expression.
Sam’s earlier smile turned bitter. “I believe coward and traitor were two of the more polite insults Dad tossed at me,” Sam recalled.
“He called you a coward for wanting to go to college?” demanded Connor, sounding angry on his new friend’s behalf. He remembered the way Sam led a rabid werewolf away from others; the way he turned and fought the monster. Coward didn’t apply to Sam Winchester.
“I wasn’t exactly calm either,” assured Sam. “I called him a bad father, whose obsession destroyed his sons’ childhoods. I also told him Dean was more of a parent to me than he ever had been. It was probably the most accurate thing said during fight, but it was also unfair of me to pull Dean into the argument; especially when he was trying so hard to get the two of us to quit yelling at each other.” Sam used to regularly get angry at Dean for siding with Dad. Almost a year and a half of time and distance changed his perspective enough to see Dean’s main priority had always been protecting family. For Dean that equated into following their Dad’s orders. “Anyway, Dad finally got tired of trying to convince me to listen to reason, or at least his version of it and threw out an ultimatum: ‘If you walk out that door, don’t you ever come back again!’” Sam sighed, “I took him at his word and packed up my stuff. Dean drove me to the local bus station and shoved a wad of cash at me; everything he’d won hustling pool the week before. He didn’t say much else, but I could tell he was disappointed in me too. He probably figured I was shirking my responsibilities.”
“But he paid for your bus fare,” pointed out Jessica. “He couldn’t have been that unhappy.”
“You don’t know Dean,” countered Sam. “He can be absolutely furious with you, but he’ll still do whatever is needed to protect you.” Sam grinned as he admitted, “I gave him so much shit that last year about being Dad’s good little soldier, it’s a wonder he didn’t beat me daily.” His smile slipped away. “I never understood how he could put so much faith in Dad, and he never understood how I could want to do any thing with my life other than hunt.”
“Did you hate hunting that much?” asked Connor.
“I didn’t hate researching or tracking the things we went after. I actually liked puzzling out the who, what, when, where and why. Helping others, sometimes even saving whole families, was great. What I hated was Dad leaving us locked in a motel room for weeks on end with too little food and money. I hated watching Dean stitch up Dad and vise versa after a monster got too close. I hated that everything we owned came from credit card scams and hustling pool and poker. But most of all I hated that we were always chasing the next creature, the next ghost, the next monster. We must have lived in a hundred different places over the years, but I never felt like I belonged in any of them.”
“Well, you’ve been at Stanford for a year and a half now, right?” asked Connor. “Do you feel like you belong here?”
Sam grimaced. “More like I’ve been pretending,” he admitted. “Tonight is the first time I’ve come close to feeling like I belong.”
“That’s because you do belong,” assured Jessica taking Sam’s hand. Sam smiled in return.
Connor snorted, “What a couple of girls.”
While Jessica tried to look offended, Sam just laughed, “You and Dean would definitely get along. I should introduce you.
Maybe I can convince him to stop by the next time they’ve got a hunt in the area.” No one commented on John being left out of the equation.
“When was the last time you talked to him?” asked Jessica. “Is he hunting nearby?”
Suddenly Sam looked a bit sheepish, “We haven’t actually talked since I left. He texted me right before New Year’s break, but I was cramming for an exam and didn’t get back to him.”
“Shame on you, Sam,” Jessica teased.
“Selfish-younger-sibling-syndrome,” declared Connor. “I’ve seen it before. The younger sibling gets involved in something new and completely ignores their big brother’s existence.”
Jessica laughed, “That sounds like the voice of experience speaking.”
Connor frowned, “It is. Abigail is fourteen, and recently discovered boys. The only time she talks to me is to tell me how incredible Justin YouTube is. Seriously, if I hear one more thing about his hair I may have to hunt the punk down on principle.”
Now it was Jessica’s turn to burst into giggles. She knew all about the popular boy-toy phenomenon Connor described. Several of the younger students she tutored in high school professed to love Justin.
Sam, meanwhile, was dwelling on the fact that he had been neglecting his brother. “I should call Dean; let him know how important he is to me,” he suddenly declared.
“You should definitely do that,” Connor agreed smirking into his drink. He figured it related to blood loss more than consumption, but Sam was definitely feeling the liquor. Fortunately for Sam, Jessica consistently supplied her new friend with water, snacks (at least those she wasn’t tossing at her companions) and the last of the Gatorade. Sam’s hangover would be secondary to his sore muscles in the morning. Jessica was also more than a bit tipsy, as proved by her continued giggles over his Justin comment. One of the downside to his ancestry was his high tolerance to many poisons. Alcohol was, after all, a recreational poison. Despite that Connor felt more relaxed than he had since his Quor’toth memories returned, some nine months before. He knew it wasn’t because of the liquor so it must be the company. Connor’s laughter joined Jessica’s when Sam misdialed his first attempt to reach his brother.
Closing time was just moments away at the no name Kentucky bar in which Dean sat. He had finished hustling pool about half an hour ago and was nursing a beer while John cleaned out a few other patrons playing darts. Dean didn’t hear his cell ring over the too loud country music, but he felt it vibrate and quickly pulled it out to check the caller ID. Immediately recognizing his little brother’s number, Dean slapped a couple bills on the bar and headed out to the parking lot. “What’s wrong, Sammy?” he demanded in a rough tone, while he tried not to imagine all of the trouble his baby brother could have gotten into without him.
“You are the most awesome big brother in the world, Dean,” Sam announced. “Even though you were mad about the way I left, you still drove me to the station and gave me bus fare. You’ve always answered all of my texts even though I’ve ignored some of yours. I know I’m a selfish excuse for a kid brother, but I just wanted to let you know what an awesome brother you are.”
Relief that Sam wasn’t in danger was quickly followed by irritation, “Dude, are you drunk dialing me?”
“Drunk dialing? I’m not drunk,” Sam protested a little too loudly. Dean heard laughter and a male voice murmuring in the background. “How many whiskeys?” Sam asked, clearly speaking to someone else. Dean heard the male voice again followed by a sigh from Sam. “Okay, I may be a little drunk,” admitted Sam embarrassment filling his voice.
“Frigging light-weight,” grumbled Dean as the happiness at hearing his brother’s voice after far too long, battled with anger at Sam for only calling because he was drunk. Even upset, Dean relished hearing the sound of Sam’s voice and wasn’t quite ready to end the conversation. “So what have you been doing at Stanford when you’re not drunk dialing your awesome big brother?”
“Going to class and studying, of course,” replied Sam.
“Sounds fabulous,” commented Dean sarcastically.
“I think you might like it more than you expect,” suggested Sam. “There’s a mechanical engineering class that revolves around breaking apart common appliances and devises to make new ones.” It was something he had watched Dean do on more than one occasion during their youth.
“I suppose that wouldn’t totally suck,” Dean allowed, “but I’m probably better at it than the professor running the class.”
“Well you could use the Advanced Latin class,” Sam countered. “Your pronunciation stinks.”
“Is that what you’re taking?” asked Dean, knowing he couldn’t argue Sam’s assessment. He felt almost starved for information on Sam. Swinging by Stanford with their Dad to spy on Sam from a distance wasn’t the same as talking to him.
“No, I tested out of Advanced Latin,” said Sam. “Right now I’m working through Advanced Greek. I’ll start Sanskrit in the fall.”
“They teach Sanskrit?” asked Dean surprised.
“Yeah, and languages aren’t the only hunter friendly courses offered. I’ve already finished Wilderness First Responder and Wilderness Medicine; Jujutsu for finding weak spots in armored opponents; Data Mining and Analysis is great for showing you ways to find the next hunt. Even Dad would be impressed with my Monsters, Ghosts and Other Fantastic Beings class. I’m positive Professor Holt is in the know; too many of the books in his office match ones I remember being in Uncle Bobby’s library, and the lore he highlights in class is always spot on.”
“Wait. These are classes you’re taking?” confusion filled Dean’s voice. “What the hell, Sam? I thought you left to get away from hunting.”
Silence filled the line before he finally heard Sam sigh. “I was burnt out on hunting Dean. If I hadn’t stopped, I would have gotten one of us killed. I still don’t know how you and Dad can keep doing the job week after week without it wearing on you. I know you love traveling from place to place, but for me, never having a safe haven to land at was exhausting. I tried to talk to Dad about setting up a base of operations somewhere. Uncle Bobby works out of his salvage yard. Pastor Jim has only moved once in all of the time we’ve known him. Others manage to hunt while maintaining a semblance of normal, but Dad wasn’t interested in changing his ways and I just didn’t have it in me to follow him any more. Be honest Dean, those last couple of months things were only getting worse. Dad and I are too much alike in all the wrong ways.” Dean heard a groan from Sam. “I don’t want to talk about Dad anymore. Can’t you tell I’m trying to convince you to come visit me? Just think of all of the hot co-eds I could introduce you to.”
“I thought you just attended classes and studied?” teased Dean. Sam’s answer had been far more revealing than anything he’d been able to pry out of the sullen teen leaving for Stanford a year and a half ago. Dean remembered Sam approaching John, more than once, about carving out a set territory or making a base of operations; ideas John swiftly dismissed. At the time Dean had taken Sam’s angry reaction as over the top teen dramatics. Yet he knew hunting was too hard for some. He’d seen the way it broke Martin Creaser after Albuquerque and he knew Martin wasn’t the only hunter in an insane asylum. For the first time Dean considered being glad Sam left.
“Dean, I’m diligent, not dead,” Sam insisted. “Even I know which girls top the ‘most likely to jump your bones’ list.”
“Well, when you put it that way, I suppose I could find the time to swing by Palo Alto, assuming I’m already in the area on a case, of course,” Dean suggested as nonchalantly as possible.
“Cool,” Sam sighed. “I miss you.”
“Sammy, I refuse to have a chick-flick moment with you; especially over the phone,” Dean warned. “So how about we hang up and you go sleep it off.”
“Jerk,” Sam tossed out in a familiar and comfortable ritual.
“Bitch,” Dean threw right back. A moment later a click let him know the call was over. Through a window Dean could see John settling up their tab at the bar. Looking down at his cell again Dean realized he felt better than he had in months. For a while now he had wondered if Sam hated him as much as he seemed to hate hunting. Knowing Sam never felt that way, lifted a huge weight from his shoulders. Recalling Sam’s first words to him, Dean repeated, “‘The most awesome big brother in the world.’ You’re damned right I am, Sammy.” With a smile on his lips he headed for the Impala.
“Did I just hear your brother call you a bitch?” Connor teased.
“It’s Dean’s version of an affectionate nick name,” Sam tried to justify.
“Once again, I’m glad to be an only child,” decided Jessica. Making herself more comfortable, she admitted, “I feel like it’s my turn to reveal my deep dark past, but honestly tonight is the first time I’ve come face to face with the supernatural.” After a moment of hesitation, she added, “Unless you count some weird dreams I used to have.”
“What kind of weird?” Connor asked looking suddenly hopeful, “the x-rated kind of weird?” A wiggle of eyebrows accompanied the question.
“You wish,” Jessica taunted. “No, they were dreams I had when I was like eight years old.” At Sam’s encouraging nod she continued, “I would be walking through a field or along a beach; sometimes climbing a tree or up a mountain side. Beside me would be a man who looked like my father but I always knew he wasn’t. I called him Abba.”
“Isn’t the word Abba Greek for father?” remember Connor.
“Yes,” confirmed Sam, “but it also means Daddy in Aramaic. In fact, it was how Jesus was said to refer to God.” Sam looked at Jessica. “Did you dream you were visiting with God?”
Jessica was surprised. She had mentioned her dreams to others in the past but no one else picked up on the significance of the name Abba. “Yes, I did. At least, I believe God visited my dreams. I’m sure there are lots of people who would assume they were just the product of an over active imagination.”
Connor leaned back in his chair and kicked his feet up on his desk. “Well, I’ve seen enough of the strange and bizarre to be willing to suspend my disbelief. What did you and God talk about in your dreams?”
“I was only eight at the time,” Jessica pointed out. “So we would talk about homework, the class bully, even why Grammy Moore was sick. Other times He would tell me stories and teach me things.”
“What kinds of things?” asked Sam, ever curious.
“It’s funny, a lot of it I don’t remember unless something triggers it,” admitted Jessica. “Like being able to understand some Latin even though I never took a class in it, or getting irritated with a horror movie showing an exorcism gone bad and thinking, ‘of course it went bad, you did it wrong.’”
“Hollywood always does the exorcisms wrong,” Sam noted seriously.
“Wait,” Jessica started searching her pockets, “I’ve got something here He showed me how to do. Abba said it would keep me safe. I had the sudden urge to draw it a couple of weeks ago.” She pulled a somewhat frayed piece of paper with an intricate drawing of a five pointed star within a circle surrounded by flames radiating out in all directions.
Sam took the paper amazed by what he was seeing.
“Isn’t that a protection circle,” asked Connor shifting to get a closer look.
“Yeah,” agreed Sam, “but a really powerful one. I don’t know as much about this stuff as Bobby, but I’m pretty sure having this symbol is enough to stop even an upper level demon from possessing you.”
“I’m sold,” announced Connor. “I don’t suppose God gave you any previews on how your life would turn out?”
Jessica laughed, “Abba did say I would have an important choice to make one day.” Jessica bit her lip and asked Sam, “Did you mean what you said to Dean about wishing you could carve out your own territory to protect? Couldn’t you do that here with Stanford?”
“It’s not a bad idea,” Connor chimed in. “Angel wanted me to come back to Stanford and lead an ordinary life, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to look the other way when situations like the werewolf pop up. Maybe if we got a bit more proactive about keeping an eye on the campus we could prevent others from getting hurt like tonight.”
Sam was torn, this was exactly what he had wanted when he’d first joined his father and brother hunting, but he had replaced that dream with the one of a normal college life a while ago. “Do you really think we could pull off balancing our class loads and hunting at the same time?”
“It’s not like we’re on top of a Hellmouth,” Connor pointed out. “It’s been nine months since my memories returned and in that time this is only the third occasion where I’ve run across something supernatural on campus. Heck, the first time was a totally benign guardian spirit. If we stick to just patrolling the campus; keeping our eyes and ears open, I think it’s totally doable.”
Sam found himself liking the idea more and more, but still felt compelled to not make it too easy. “So what was the second occasion?”
“Oh, just a stupid guy trying to put a curse on his cheating girlfriend,” explained Connor. “Not that I couldn’t sympathize, but curses always come back to bite you in the ass. I confiscated his curse book and replaced it with a how-to manual on replacing your cheating girl with a better one. I turned the curse book over to Angel who locked it away: Problem solved.”
Sam considered a moment longer before flashing the others a wide smile, “Okay, I’m in. Starting tomorrow, assuming we survive the hangovers that I know are coming,” turning to Connor he directed, “and if you’re immune to hangovers, I so don’t want to hear about it,” to which Connor merely grinned. “Starting tomorrow the three of us take on the duty of protecting Stanford from all supernatural evil. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” replied Connor taking Sam’s hand in a firm grip.
“I’m in too,” volunteered Jessica, placing her right hand on top of their clasped ones.
“Alright then, it looks like Stanford has a team of hunters to protect it,” declared Sam, feeling as though his life had irrevocably shifted during the last few hours. Even with the likeliness of a hangover and bruised muscles from tangling with the werewolf, Sam found himself looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.
Author's note: For those wondering where the group with Jessica, during the werewolf attack, came from; Luis Jackson is the guy in the zombie costume doing shots with Sam and Jessica at the beginning of the Supernatural pilot, Zack Warren is Sam's friend framed by a shape-shifter for murder in 'Skin'. April, Jessica's roommate, I created myself.